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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.

Zuckerberg Did Not Ban Trump To Save Democracy
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Zuckerberg Did Not Ban Trump To Save Democracy

Javed Anwer, technology editor, India Today, in Daily O (January 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Zuckerberg Did Not Ban Trump To Save Democracy

It is no coincidence that on the day US lawmakers formalized the election win of Joe Biden, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a ban on Donald Trump. It seemed like a principled tech CEO standing up to stop the abuse of his platform. But the reality is different. It is a move as self-serving and odious as it can be.

The ban on Trump has nothing to do with saving democracy, as Zuckerberg says. It is a volte-face, an attempt to change colors before the new US administration takes the power and goes after Facebook. For years, Zuckerberg and Facebook turned a blind eye to everything the ultra-right and Trumpists did. It allowed them to communicate, to meet together, run campaigns that have no place in a civilized society, and amplify hate posts. All in the name of free speech. Facebook allowed and defended its actions again and again when its platforms were used to distribute misinformation and fake news.

Facebook is all about convenience and profit. Like other tech companies, Facebook might have built its empire on grand words – bringing people together, free speech, community and all that nonsense – but it too is hollow like the rest of the Silicon Valley. It is not about principles. It never is. This is the reason why in India Facebook gladly allows some politicians to say whatever they want, even if these lead to the poisoning of society or harm to people. The company will continue to play pal with regimes, even if they use Facebook in a way it should not be – that is, until the winds change. And then Facebook and Zuckerberg bend the way the wind is blowing.


The state must protect tenants during emergencies
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
The state must protect tenants during emergencies

Sonam Tshering, lawyer, in Kuensel (January 16, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

The state must protect tenants during emergencies

The news of possible evictions and an increase in house rents particularly with no sign that the pandemic lockdown will be eased is a grave concern. The slogan of “stay home, stay safe” would be defeated unless the government immediately suspends evictions including the issuance of removal notices, threats of imposing late payment penalties, or increasing rents. The government went as far as suspending some laws such as pay-revision measures. His Majesty the King’s waiver of loan interest did not seem to have any positive impact on tenants.

Many countries issued a temporary ban on residential evictions to combat the pandemic’s economic effects, anticipating that many tenants will not be able to pay their rent. Our government so far has remained reluctant to take any action against landlords for political or other reasons.

When it becomes impossible to pay the rents due to state-imposed lockdowns or restrictions, failure to pay rents can be excused at least till such tenants can resume earning income. If landlords evict tenants by force or enter without permission, the tenant may report the matter to the police, possibly charge their landlords for harassment, assault, trespass, and other relevant provisions.

The government must understand that fighting against this pandemic does not mean mere lockdowns or threats of incarceration or testing or imposition of numerous restrictions depriving people of their livelihood. Since the fundamental right to livelihood has been deprived by the state, the state has the responsibility to protect these groups. With no indication that the lockdown will be eased any time soon, the least the government can do is immediately to issue orders suspending any form of eviction until the current situation normalizes.


Landlords Too May Be Hurting
Monday, January 18, 2021
Landlords Too May Be Hurting

Yang Jong-gon, journalist, in Seoul Economic Daily (December 15, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Jens-Olaf Walter)

Landlords Too May Be Hurting

The “benevolent landlord campaign” was started to encourage rich landlords to play their part in the pandemic by reducing or eliminating rent payment. Although the idea was conceived by the government to promote voluntary goodwill, it was not difficult to imagine how this could further divide people by pointing the finger at a group of “greedy” people. 

The truth is not all landlords are fabulously wealthy. In fact, there are many who funded their properties with loans, and given the ongoing recession and closures, it is not difficult to imagine their own financial strain. Closures of businesses lead to financial losses for property owners. Covid-19 does not discriminate. Everyone bleeds, whether they own or rent. 

To add fuel to the voluntary campaign, the non-abiding landlords may now face the risk of becoming outright criminals as the authorities are proposing to force a halving or even an elimination of rent payments altogether. If the goal is to help those in need, one might ask why not also help the landlords in distress. To ensure fairness, at the very least, they must also be offered an extended timeline for loan and interest payments. 

Favoring tenants’ concerns over those of landlords may be popular, but what is popular may not be fair. Before playing favorites among its constituents, the government must remember the risk of further dividing the public in this time when more mutual support and social cohesion are desperately needed.


Cremation Or Burial: A Choice Made By Neither Politics Nor Religion
Monday, January 18, 2021
Cremation Or Burial: A Choice Made By Neither Politics Nor Religion

Tharindu Dananjaya Weerasinghe, senior university lecturer, in The Island (January 13, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Vlog Inc on YouTube)

Cremation Or Burial: A Choice Made By Neither Politics Nor Religion

There are many religious, social and cultural rituals and customs associated with death. We know that they are unique to each society, to each religion, and to each culture. Sociological and anthropological research studies show that whatever the rituals and customs, they are established for the benefit and restraint of the living.

Not all the decisions in a country should be made by politicians. When all the decisions in a country are made by politicians, everything in that country becomes chaotic. The government should not negotiate with politicians to resolve the issue of cremation of coronavirus deaths. For that, the government should negotiate with relevant religious leaders.

Not everything in a country or a society is governed by law. If the issue of the cremation of those who die of Covid-19 is a religious one, the solution must be found within the religion itself. If it is a cultural problem, solutions must be found in the culture concerned. If the cremation is forbidden by God’s order, what needs to be done at this moment is not to change the common law of the country, but to ask for God’s permission.

Environmental protection should also be at the top of the agenda to be implemented in the face of coronavirus deaths. It should be in the opinion of the experts who have studied scientifically what is happening to the groundwater layer of Sri Lanka by burying bodies. It cannot be determined by political or religious ideology or by what other countries are doing. 

Appropriately, the easiest solution for religious leaders is to pray to their God and seek God’s permission to cremate the dead. The permission will surely come from God, the embodiment of love and kindness.


Asia’s Rise Doesn’t Necessarily Mean the West’s Decline
Friday, January 15, 2021
Asia’s Rise Doesn’t Necessarily Mean the West’s Decline

Funabashi Yoichi, journalist and Chairman of the Asia Pacific Initiative, in The Japan Times (January 13, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Shealah Craighead/The White House)

Asia’s Rise Doesn’t Necessarily Mean the West’s Decline

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a growing geopolitical perception of Asia’s rise and the decline of the West. While the pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to economies in both the East and West, East Asia has a much easier path to recovery. China is acting as an engine of growth. After emerging from the dark tunnel of the pandemic, East Asia may well be hailed as the winner and the West the loser.

The Covid-19 crisis could solidify the perception of Asia-Pacific Asianism that has arisen with China’s evolution into a global superpower. But the post-pandemic world is no seesaw game in which East Asia rises and the West falls. First, the pandemic is not yet over. No country in either East Asia or the West has found the optimal response to the pandemic that balances the three concerns of protecting citizens’ lives and health, the economy and livelihoods, and freedom and privacy.

The US-China conflict is another unknown. American distrust of China, which has deepened over the course of the Covid-19 crisis, is unlikely to lessen under the Biden administration. American values and strategic interests have been threatened by China’s military-civilian fusion industrial policy and its expanding “closed sphere of influence” in the Asia Pacific, its growing threat to the American way of life, and the weakening of the US network of alliances. Meanwhile, US allies and partners have high expectations for an American comeback in Asia.

East Asia has no desire to exist within a dichotomy, whether in relation to the United States and China, China and Japan, or East Asia and the West. Many East Asian countries rely on the US for their security and on China for their economy. They must retain some ambiguity to walk a delicate diplomatic tightrope.


The Helplessness Americans Feel
Thursday, January 14, 2021
The Helplessness Americans Feel

Rafia Zakaria, attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy, in Dawn (January 13, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Joe Flood)

The Helplessness Americans Feel

Ever since 9/11, and arguably even prior to that, Americans believed that terrorism was a Muslim problem. Such was this belief that in the post-9/11 years the Department of Homeland Security was created to protect the US from Islamist militancy. And as everyone in South Asia and the Middle East experienced, that was hardly all of it.

In Afghanistan, where the 9/11 terrorists had hidden, a military campaign (still ongoing) killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. In Iraq, a functioning infrastructure of governance was dismantled, nearly a million innocent Iraqis were killed and several millions more rendered refugees. The weight of the cumulative carnage spanned decades and its true measure is still not known. In the US, every Muslim became a terror suspect, and mosques were filled with undercover FBI agents trying to find terrorists.

Those days lasted until Jan 6, 2021. Until then, and despite the rising number of home-grown white supremacist terror attacks, Americans still believed that terrorism was a Muslim problem, inextricably tied to something about the faith. If anyone, particularly a Muslim, interjected, the retort would be something like, “Yes, maybe not all terrorists are Muslim, but so many are”. It would be the beginning of a pointless argument, the only value of which was how it exposed the extent of American Islamophobia.

Perhaps Americans who are watching in disbelief can use this time to consider the position of Pakistanis who watched their country slip into chaos and carnage for the entire duration of America’s so-called war on terror. The helplessness they feel is the helplessness that Pakistanis felt – wanting to do something but not knowing what to do, also knowing that the intoxications of extremist ideology are such that those who have been affected by them cannot be easily converted to reason and rationality.


The Government Has Caused Enough Confusion about Covid-19
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
The Government Has Caused Enough Confusion about Covid-19

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod (January 10, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: The Government Public Relations Department, Office of the Prime Minister)

The Government Has Caused Enough Confusion about Covid-19

Confusion, confusion and more confusion can be expected if the government does not learn from its missteps. As it tries to contain the second outbreak of coronavirus, new regulations were passed, then hours later repealed. It was not clear which parts of the country would be in lockdown, when in-house dining at Bangkok restaurants would end, or whether use of the contact-tracing app is mandatory. Things change with little notice.

The government of General Prayut Chan-ocha is like a cook trying to come up with a dish by catering to various tastes. In this case, the prime minister is trying to strike a balance between protecting public health and safeguarding the economy. Face it – the government cannot keep on borrowing money and avoid the economy sinking into an abyss. Prayut must have learned that by now you cannot save people if you push more of them into unemployment and destitution.

So instead of imposing a nationwide lockdown, the government will not even use the word because doing so would imply there would have to be state compensation for workers. Bear with Prayut and his men while they try to figure out how much of a non-lockdown lockdown is too much or too little. We could have expected better communication among themselves, better coordination and more certainty before issuing orders.

Confusion over restaurant dine-in rules, for example, shows that Prayut, despite trying to relegate authority to all governors to decide how best to control the outbreak, still clings to power and will reverse decisions by others to whom he relegated powers if he disagrees with them. For Prayut, decentralization is easier said than done. Let us hope there will be fewer U-turns, more listening, greater sincerity and less confusion. The public deserves better.


Neglecting Renewables Could Undermine Energy Independence
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Neglecting Renewables Could Undermine Energy Independence

Elrika Hamdi, energy finance analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) Indonesia, in The Jakarta Post (January 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: US International Development Finance Corporation)

Neglecting Renewables Could Undermine Energy Independence

The government is arbitrarily creating a domestic market for energy products that other countries are moving away from. But undergoing an energy transition is now inevitable for every country. No country is immune to the rapid disruption occurring in the global energy sector. Renewables are now cheaper than any fossil fuel in most parts of the world.

Indonesia is no exception. The sharp decline in power demand due to slower economic growth has forced the State Electricity Company (PLN) carefully to rethink its investment plans. Going forward, it is committed to providing clean and sustainable energy for Indonesia in line with government expectations, a measure likely to be attractive to ESG (environment, social and governance) investors.

Despite this, the government appears to favor the opposite strategy. While nations across the globe are competing to accelerate the development of inherently deflationary technologies in solar, wind and storage, the Indonesian government seems to be focusing on centuries-old technologies that have previously failed to gain market share.

Indonesia is blessed with many energy options. The government’s concerted effort to use conventional domestic fuel sources, albeit with good intentions, is contrary to the global, technology-driven energy trends of the last five years. Indonesia has many renewable and sustainable fuel options that could be prioritized instead. For instance, solar and wind are free and have no related price risk.

When considering investments in increasingly obsolete energy infrastructure, the government should weigh the costs of achieving energy independence and the subsidies required to feed fuel sources of the past. Investing in cheaper, deflationary renewable energy projects is the better option for PLN and the government.


Do Not Gloat Over Disarray in the US
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Do Not Gloat Over Disarray in the US

Sandip Roy, radio host and novelist, in The Times of India (January 9, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer)

Do Not Gloat Over Disarray in the US

The images of rioting Donald Trump supporters running amok through the halls of the US Capitol were shocking. But many around the globe were surely smirking that the self-appointed moral policeman of the world not only had feet of clay but also wore Viking horns and furs.

Many parts of the globe from Chile to Iran know only too well that the United States happily jettisons its own pieties about democracy when inconvenient. Ever since the bitter elections and its chaotic aftermath, the US has been understanding the meaning of schadenfreude, the pleasure one feels in the misfortune of others. A Chinese state-owned tabloid put out side-by-side images of Hong Kong protesters storming the city’s legislature in 2019 and Trump supporters inside the Capitol building.

The Indian police have been accused often of watching passively when people were being beaten up by goons. We shake our heads when Trump tweets, “There are things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots.” But an Indian Prime Minister once seemed to downplay a full-on massacre when he said, “When a big tree falls, the ground shakes.”

What happened in the US might feel shocking but it is not so surprising. Trump’s election had given majoritarianism on steroids a new mainstream respectability. But we gloat at our own peril. While we point fingers, in the words of the poet WB Yeats, at what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards the Capitol to be born, we forget that this creature, pumped up by conspiracy theories, fake news, and nationalist resentments, is not unique to America at all. Neither is it just slouching anymore.


Trumpism: A second American Civil War?
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Trumpism: A second American Civil War?

Richard Heydarian, political scientist, in his Horizons column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (January 12, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Trumpism: A second American Civil War?

“America, the rock against which fascism crashed in the last century, may have begun to slide,” former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright cautioned a few years back. But despite its political troubles, America’s formal democratic institutions have remained largely intact. This is not a Weimar Republic.

Yet, one cannot fully discount the prospect of a “second civil war” in a country with a long history of civil strife; not to mention, notorious levels of gun violence and heavily armed far-right militia groups, who recently descended on Washington, DC. And when combined with toxic partisanship, where up to 40 percent of the electorate sees the other side as downright “evil”, you get a particularly precarious situation.

For the past four years, outgoing President Donald Trump has been largely described as a “populist”. His liberal critics, however, have gone so far as to portray him as a fascist. The circumstances of Trump’s rise to power are telling. For years, he skillfully established a cult of personality combined with his unique brand of “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) nationalism. But the element of para-military violence was largely missing. Nor did Trump employ the kind of state-sponsored violence seen in post-Weimar Germany or its Italian counterpart. Courts and the opposition-controlled Congress also remained functional.

However, the violent assault on the Capitol, the ultimate symbol of American democracy, has raised serious questions as to whether Trump is just another “populist”. Perhaps a better way to understand what is happening is to refer to a much older concept: demagoguery. Demagogues like Trump do not go gently into the night. They fight back, often at the expense of the whole nation.

America is a flagship democracy; the world has a direct stake in hoping that ultimately the better angels of America’s nature prevail.


This Year's General Election Will Hinge on the Coronavirus Situation
Friday, January 8, 2021
This Year's General Election Will Hinge on the Coronavirus Situation

Noguchi Takenori, political journalist, in The Mainichi (January 7, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Official Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet)

This Year's General Election Will Hinge on the Coronavirus Situation

What kind of questions will Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide be posing to the public when this year’s general election comes?

Suga has not wavered from his time as chief cabinet secretary to Abe Shinzo in brushing off concerns of a renewed spread of infections and introducing the Go To Travel campaign. It was not so much that he fell one step behind in implementing measures, but rather that he took a confident gamble that economic activity and prevention of infection could be compatible – and lost.

After falling short in November-December's three-week challenge to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Suga administration’s approval ratings plummeted. There have been murmurs within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that they cannot fight an election with Suga as leader. If approval ratings continue to stay low, it may spark discussion on who will be the "face" of the party in the election. That would mean efforts to bring Suga down, either through the September party leadership election or even sooner than that, before the general election.

How would Suga respond? He will likely ask the public to evaluate his main policy achievements, such as bringing down cellphone rates and establishing a digital agency. If the Tokyo Olympic Games are held this summer as planned, there may well be economic fruits of the Go To Travel campaign as well. Suga thus far has taken the stance that if one gambles and wins, public opinion will follow without further explanation. Just because he is now prime minister, his way of thinking and operating cannot be expected to change overnight. Even if he faces protest from his own party, Suga likely wants to put everything he has to a referendum – or a snap general election, but it will all depend on the coronavirus situation.


The President as Whistleblower: How will the Vaccine Probe End?
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
The President as Whistleblower: How will the Vaccine Probe End?

Satur C Ocampo, activist and politician, in his At Ground Level column in The Philippine Star (January 2, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Simeon Celi/Presidential Communications Operations Office)

The President as Whistleblower: How will the Vaccine Probe End?

Did President Rodrigo Duterte blow the whistle? He disclosed that many soldiers had already been inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine. Immediately, there was widespread uproar:

At least two Cabinet members, three military officers and the presidential spokesman tried to do damage control, confirming what Duterte had said but giving varying justifications. We learned from their uncoordinated responses that the vaccine had come from China’s state-owned pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm, and that they had been administered to the president’s close-in security personnel without registration or authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as required by law.

A judge ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate. The FDA and the Bureau of Customs said they would do their own probes. Sounding like a whistle-blower, the president was quoted as saying in a meeting with the FDA and other health officials: “I have to be frank. I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie. Many [soldiers] have been vaccinated.” Then he hastened to add that the vaccination was “just for the select few, not all soldiers, because it is not yet policy”.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon did not find the statements of Duterte’s men credible. “They have twisted themselves into knots trying to find excuses,” he said. “They are lying through their teeth in a bid to protect those who are principally involved in the illegal shipment of the unauthorized vaccines to the country. They cannot hide the truth.” Those who caused the illegal importation and use of the unauthorized vaccine must be held responsible, he stressed, concluding that “otherwise the environment of impunity is enhanced”.

Let us wait and see what will happen in the promised investigations, impelled by Duterte’s perhaps inadvertent whistleblowing. Remember what happened to other whistle-blowers in the past: They get ignored.


Why Britain’s and Europe's Attitudes Towards Beijing Differ
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Why Britain’s and Europe's Attitudes Towards Beijing Differ

John Ross (known in China as Luo Siyi 罗思义), senior fellow, Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, and from 2000 to 2008, director of economic and business policy for the mayor of London, in Global Times (January 4, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China)

Why Britain’s and Europe's Attitudes Towards Beijing Differ

UK relations with China have gone from the best in Europe to among the worst. Meanwhile, the EU rejected US pressure over the EU-China investment treaty. 

The US has launched aggressive policies to block China's national rejuvenation and has subsequently forced other countries to adopt similar measures. Yet, these measures also damage the countries pursuing them. The risks in doing so have been made worse by the recession caused by Covid-19. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that, in the period up to 2025, China will account for 31 percent of world growth, with the US at only 11 percent. 

Any country subordinating its economic policy to the US is therefore aligning itself with a relatively stagnant economy. While it is clearly economically irrational for any country to give into US pressures, a number of countries such as Australia and Canada are constrained by their political and military links with the US. In many developing countries, however, governments are successfully refusing to adopt anti-China policies.

Between these contrasting extremes, Europe presents a complex situation. Economically, it is logical for the EU to seek good relations with China. Yet, the EU also believes it must rely on the US for military protection. The EU has attempted to establish a path where it follows an independent economic policy, which has led to a successful investment treaty with China, while refusing to be drawn into any political clash between Beijing and Washington.

Historically, London has been far more subordinate to Washington. Today, the UK’s medium-sized economy is unable to pursue an independent path from the two huge economies of the US and EU. As US-EU tensions mounted, Britain once again chose Washington. If the US is hostile to China, the UK will inevitably follow suit. The EU, however, will follow its own path.


The Missing Policy Pillar in the Time of Covid-19
Thursday, December 31, 2020
The Missing Policy Pillar in the Time of Covid-19

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan, journalist, in The UB Post (December 24, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Byamba-ochir Byambasuren/ILO)

The Missing Policy Pillar in the Time of Covid-19

All policies carried out by developed, developing and emerging markets can be categorized into two main pillars: supporting households and citizens, and supporting businesses and keeping jobs. When the pandemic hit, the government leaned more towards supporting households, through increasing the child money allowance, improving food coupons and such. On the employment side, the government reduced the social security premium and assisted through unemployment support, which lasted till November. Although household support will continue through to the end of the presidential election in June 2021, there is not much policy targeting retainment of jobs, supporting businesses, and avoiding bankruptcies.

Unless the government addresses the missing pillar, a vicious cycle will harm the people and economy alike in the medium to long term. A cycle of poverty usually starts with unemployment as businesses shed employees or close doors, which concurrently pushes households into poverty as unemployed workers struggle to find a new job.

What is missing – money or political will? It cannot be true that there is no support to save businesses because politicians are such cowards and refuse to spend. If Mongolia is to become a country that propels children to compete on the world level in the near future, we must ensure that their parents at least have a secure job to facilitate that opportunity.

If ailing jobs and companies disappear, it will be at least few times more expensive to create new ones and, more importantly, it will take years to recover to levels prior to Covid-19. Meanwhile, the socio-economic costs will devastate not just the poor, but everyone except the super-rich. In seven months, our country may have a new president, prime minister, and minister of finance. For those seeking the top jobs of the country, one message: Do the right thing and do it now!


In 2020, National Leaders Abandoned Human Rights
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
In 2020, National Leaders Abandoned Human Rights

Usman Hamid, Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, founder of Public Virtue, and lecturer at the Indonesia Jentera School of Law, in The Jakarta Post (December 20, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau)

In 2020, National Leaders Abandoned Human Rights

This year Indonesia witnessed a rollback of human-rights reforms. Marking this regression was President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s security approach to tackling Covid-19, opting for an economic agenda and the imposition of hyper-nationalism, which resulted in a further turn towards authoritarianism and state control of the internet. 

Covid-19 exacerbated this through the securitization of all social and political life, enabling security actors to clamp down on political opposition by means of legal instruments, including handling the pandemic. Instead of implementing science-based policies, President Jokowi chose a military-dominated structure that produced a hardline security approach to public-health matters. 

In April, the National Police headquarters instructed officers to act against “hoax spreaders” and those who insulted the president and his administration. The police launched criminal investigations into around 100 cases related to the government’s response to the pandemic. The government and the House of Representatives passed the Job Creation Law to strengthen further business interests, while undermining workers’ and environmental rights. The National Police issued another directive intimidating and criminalizing critics of the law, increasing the rise of cyber-authoritarianism. 

All of this happened against a backdrop of increasing online intimidation in many forms that included credential theft, spam calls, digital harassment, as well as abusive intrusions into online discussions. Criminalization by the state apparatus under a draconian cyberlaw is not the only instrument of internet control. Media reports have implicated the government in the deployment of an army of pro-regime trolls, trained to debate anti-government forces on the web. 

While 2020 will no doubt be remembered as the year Indonesia – and the world – faced an unprecedented health crisis, we should remember it as a year when the country’s human rights crisis deepened, when our civic space for protests and public criticism shrank, and when Indonesia’s leaders abandoned human rights.