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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.
Amid the Pandemic, the Constant Battle Against Malaria
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Amid the Pandemic, the Constant Battle Against Malaria

Elly Burhaini Faizal, Staff Writer, in The Jakarta Post (October 13, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Oberholster Venita/Pixabay)

Amid the Pandemic, the Constant Battle Against Malaria

Transmission of Covid-19 in Indonesia has continued unabated and expanded to malaria-endemic areas, especially the country’s eastern provinces, such as East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Maluku and Papua, forcing authorities there to step up vigilance to prevent a double burden of disease. Plasmodium – a parasite that causes malaria in humans – can damage the immune system, which is why malaria patients are prone to other infections, including Covid-19. Health Ministry data in April revealed an upward trend of malaria incidences in Indonesia and an increasing number of high-malaria areas.

It will take more time and effort to combat the vector-borne disease because the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has laid a heavy burden on the healthcare system. With all attention and resources centered on Covid-19, the question is: Can Indonesia succeed in achieving its malaria elimination goal by 2030? There was a significant decrease in malaria cases from 2010 to 2014, according to Annual Parasite Incidence (API) data. But from 2014 to 2019, the control gains seemed to stagnate. Progress toward malaria control targets has stalled in some provinces, such as Papua, where a rise in the number of incidences has been reported. The high malaria incidence in some areas is a cause for concern particularly because there is no end in sight for the Covid-19 crisis.

Covid-19 poses a huge challenge to the malaria control and prevention program. Many health workers feared they would contract Covid-19 if they carried on with their field work. Similarly, the general public are reluctant to seek out health services for the same reason. Movement restrictions placed by authorities to curb the spread of Covid-19 had in fact affected the mass distribution of long-lasting insecticide bed nets, leaving the majority of at-risk communities unprotected from mosquito bites and increased transmission. Early and ongoing border restrictions between countries had resulted in disruptions to supply chains and raw material shortages, which later affected access to drugs and diagnostic tests for malaria.

With just only one decade left for the Asia-Pacific to achieve its malaria elimination goal, countries may need to take “unprecedented” measures to ensure malaria services such as case finding and disease treatment can continue running.


Will Covid-19 Generate Momentum for a Shift to a Stronger Economy?
Monday, August 3, 2020
Will Covid-19 Generate Momentum for a Shift to a Stronger Economy?

Arief Rosyid, head of the youth division of the Indonesian Mosque Council, in Republika (July 29, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: A Gromico/ILO)

Will Covid-19 Generate Momentum for a Shift to a Stronger Economy?

Crisis creates momentum for change. On the one hand, a crisis may be seen as something frightening but on the other hand it can open the door of opportunity for a nation to improve itself and advance. The question for us is whether Indonesia is going to use the momentum of the pandemic to shift to a better direction.

Many remain happy to stay in their comfort zone and maintain the status quo. Nevertheless, there is momentum to improve a number of factors and important sectors, especially health and the economy. Many have warned that the pandemic will destroy the world economy. But what we have seen from the reaction of people in Indonesia provides room for optimism: a high level of social concern and the emergence of a collective consciousness to help those in trouble.

We need to leave aside our differences and prioritize our shared goals to emerge strong from this pandemic.


In the Pandemic, Competence is Essential but Difficult to Find
Monday, August 3, 2020
In the Pandemic, Competence is Essential but Difficult to Find

Okky Madasari, novelist, in Jawa Pos (August 2, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: F Latief/ILO)

In the Pandemic, Competence is Essential but Difficult to Find

In the beginning, politics was a noble undertaking, which the philosopher Aristotle said was as honorable as that of a teacher. Like a teacher, a political practitioner brought benefit to other people and developed policies that improved lives. People bestowed trust and honor on them.

But that was before, or rather an ideal, a theory, certainly different to the reality today. In America, Europe and even our beloved country, politics has become a matter of scorn. Without any competence or track record of public concern, individuals emerge to contest elections. They ask to be chosen without offering any honorable outcome that is credible. They ask to be trusted even though they have never done anything except enrich themselves and their family.

Now, the pandemic is affecting all of them. They cannot hide the number of deaths. The economic impact cannot be minimized. Covid-19 is a reminder that to be a leader, competence is an essential ingredient, one that is difficult to find at this time.


The Political (Re)constructions of Sukarno and Pancasila
Thursday, July 30, 2020
The Political (Re)constructions of Sukarno and Pancasila

Julia Suryakusuma, author, in The Jakarta Post (July 22, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Prayitno)

The Political (Re)constructions of Sukarno and Pancasila

To construct and reconstruct is a basic human activity. We build physical things, then they deteriorate and get destroyed. So we reconstruct and build them up again. But when we talk about social constructs, they exist in people’s minds to interpret the world. In no field is this so true as in history and politics with regard to both events and figures where interpretations can be distorted and manipulated, and you can even kill someone more than once. This happened to Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president who served from 1945 to 1966. From the start of the Suharto New Order military dictatorship (1966-1998), there have been various attempts at de-Sukarnoization.

It is now 22 years since the so-called end of the New Order, but the attempts to further reformulate the Pancasila (Five Principles) ideology Sukarno used to create a united Indonesia are still going on in the form of a controversial bill which aims to reduce the five principles into three and even one. Who knows what the motive is behind this bill? But luckily, deliberations have been postponed. Only postponed? Why not scrap it altogether?

The brouhaha over Sukarno’s legacy, including that of Pancasila, is a clear indication of our immaturity as a nation – and certainly that of our lawmakers. What with the coronavirus pandemic still unabated with its long-term effects such as poverty, decline in education and the health system, and the rise in domestic and sexual violence, do not our House of Representatives members have a better sense of priority of the nation’s and people’s needs?


Vote Buying and the Pragmatic Public
Thursday, July 16, 2020
Vote Buying and the Pragmatic Public

Umbu TW Pariangu, lecturer, Universitas Nusa Cendana, in Republika (July 15, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: USAID)

Vote Buying and the Pragmatic Public

The permissive attitude of the public toward vote buying has the potential to influence the regional elections in September. The Syndicate for Elections and Democracy (Sindikasi Pemilu dan Demokrasi) found in a survey that majorities in Sumatra, Java and Kalimantan were prepared to accept cash from candidates for local leadership positions at the elections. In Sumatra, 62.95 percent were prepared to accept money, while the figure was 60 percent in Java and 64.77 percent in Kalimantan.

Asked why they were prepared to accept money, they responded that good luck could not be rejected, that the money represented lost income while they were voting, and represented a useful addition to money for daily needs. In Sumatra, 57 percent admitted they would vote for candidates who gave them money, while 50 percent would do so in Java and 60 percent in Kalimantan.

The findings are not a great surprise. Economic pressure can be blamed for a loss of rationality among the public and a victory for pragmatism. People are no longer afraid of the coronavirus; they are afraid of poverty and hunger.


Diplomacy During the Pandemic
Monday, July 13, 2020
Diplomacy During the Pandemic

Retno LP Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, in Kompas (July 9, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Violaine Martin/United Nations)

Diplomacy During the Pandemic

The global crisis caused by Covid-19 has made it essential for Indonesian diplomacy to adapt rapidly in line with dynamic challenges in the current environment. No less than 215 states and territories are affected. The number of cases continues to creep upward, while at the same time panic grows over the impact on the global economy.

In the midst of such global panic, every nation has had to focus on meeting the requirements of their domestic situation. As a result, from the beginning of the pandemic, the diplomatic priority for Indonesia has been to fulfill two factors: the safety of its citizens both inside the country and overseas, and the availability of medical supplies.

Global solidarity is the key to emerging from this crisis. In April, we signed the UN General Assembly resolution on “Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019”, which was supported by 188 states. At the same time, increasing self-sufficiency is important. Indonesia, for instance, is dependent on imports for 95 percent of its pharmaceutical ingredients.


The Minimal-Contact Economy
Friday, July 3, 2020
The Minimal-Contact Economy

Bambang Brodjonegoro, Minister for Research and Technology of Indonesia, in Kompas (June 23, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Said Safri / Shutterstock.com)

The Minimal-Contact Economy

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating economic impact on Indonesia. A number of practices which have no precedent in this republic such as working from home, social distancing and large-scale social restrictions that have been in place for three months have shaken our economy. Economic activity involving lots of human labor has more or less stopped, including in the informal sector. Many economic activities that require a physical presence no longer operate, leaving a part of the public without income.

As a result, in addition to the slowing economy, unemployment and poverty are increasing. While this is a disturbing situation, the example of other countries that were hit earlier made it clear that the coronavirus spreads quickly and takes many lives. There was no choice but to limit social interaction.

How long will this last? There is no clear answer, although the ideal would be to find a vaccine. However, this will take time, and economic activities cannot be stopped. As free people, humans do not wish to be detained for very long.


The Plight of the Sugar-Cane Farmers
Thursday, June 18, 2020
The Plight of the Sugar-Cane Farmers

Khudori, member of the Food Security Council Working Group, in Republika (June 16, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: PK Niyogi)

The Plight of the Sugar-Cane Farmers

The sugar cane harvest season is upon us again. Since May, farmers have been cutting their cane and taking it to factories for processing. Sadly, like years before, they are doing so just as prices collapse. They face a dilemma: If they process their cane, they will suffer a loss. If they do not, they know it is likely that the market will be filled with imported sugar.

Panicking because of a shortfall in the market and rising prices for sugar, the government since March has been handing out import licenses. In total, 1.14 million tons is being imported. As a result, the market has been overwhelmed with sugar. 

According to Guntur Saragih, a member of the Commission for the Supervision of Business Competition, there are indications of cartel practices in the supply of sugar to the market. Importers, distributors and traders play with the price to the point that the consumer has to pay heavily. Every opportunity for such manipulation needs to be firmly closed so that farmers can get a reasonable return.


Islamophobia in Europe – Muslims Should Mobilize
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Islamophobia in Europe – Muslims Should Mobilize

Yuri Octavian Thamrin, Indonesian Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, in Republika (June 10, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Pete Souza/The White House, 2015)

Islamophobia in Europe – Muslims Should Mobilize

Despite Europe’s high level of development and culture, Muslims there have suffered many horrific experiences. Georgetown University Islamic Studies professor John Esposito sees Islamophobia in the West as a phenomenon related to terrorism such as the 9/11 attacks in the US and the ones in Paris in 2015 and Brussels in 2016. But Islamophobia cannot be accepted with any excuse, not least because it endangers Europe’s own interests.

As a “social cancer”, Islamophobia is destructive to the democratic values, pluralism and tolerance of the people of Europe. It needs to be uniformly opposed. But it looks to be strengthening in the EU, especially since right-wing populist political parties continue to advance. Their electoral support has grown from 10.6 percent in 1980 to 18.4 percent in 2017. They continue to play the politics of identity and stir up fear.

The number of Muslims in Europe is sufficient to play a role in the mainstream, and they should no longer remain on the periphery. They must become professionals and entrepreneurs who deserve to be respected by the public. They need to organize to defend their rights and create a good relationship with the media, parliaments, governments and other institutions. 


An Unconscionable Prisoner Policy
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
An Unconscionable Prisoner Policy

Usman Hamid, Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, and Veronica Koman, human rights lawyer, in The Jakarta Post (May 25, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Marcel Gnauk/Pixabay)

An Unconscionable Prisoner Policy

The United Nations is right: It is impossible to practice physical distancing and self-isolation in an overcrowded prison. We therefore applaud the decision by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly to release almost 40,000 prisoners at risk from the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet Minister Yasonna’s policy falls crucially short: Prisoners of conscience are excluded from the policy, despite the UN urging that “political prisoners should be among the first released”.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government has detained 69 prisoners of conscience (PoCs) on treason charges, a record in recent times for Indonesia. The majority of them, 54, are indigenous Papuans. All are peaceful activists who have been detained for political expression -- simply carrying flags, organizing or participating in peaceful protests, or being members of political organizations. No one should ever be arrested or detained solely for exercising their human rights.

The majority of these PoCs were arrested during and in the immediate wake of the 2019 West Papua uprising that took place from August 19 to September 23 last year. These protests against racism and for self-determination, likened to an “earthquake” of anger and hope, took place in towns and villages throughout Papua.


Economic Recovery Sidelines SMEs and Cooperatives
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Economic Recovery Sidelines SMEs and Cooperatives

Suroto, Director, INKUR (Induk Koperasi Usaha Rakyat, or People’s Cooperative Effort), in Republika (May 18, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Danumurthi Mahendra/USAID)

Economic Recovery Sidelines SMEs and Cooperatives

Looking at the scheme for the recovery of the economy, I doubt if this will improve the purchasing power of the public, which the Covid-19 crisis has damaged far more than the monetary crises of 1998 and 2008. The virus has affected both upstream and downstream sectors of the economy where micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and the cooperatives operate, representing 99.3 percent of Indonesian enterprises, contributing 57 percent of GDP.

The recovery scheme envisages a leading role for major companies, including the state-owned enterprises. The role of MSMEs and cooperatives is minimal. Out of the state funding of 318.09 trillion rupiahs (US$21.5 billion), MSMEs and cooperatives get only 34 trillion rupiahs (US$2.3 billion), and that in the form of interest subsidies.

I suspect there is a hidden agenda in this program in which certain elements have lobbied for a leading role in policy. Our recommendation is for a bigger role for the MSMEs and cooperatives.


The President Should be Supreme Commander in Covid-19 War
Thursday, May 14, 2020
The President Should be Supreme Commander in Covid-19 War

R Siti Zuhro, Senior Researcher, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, in Kompas (May 14, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Cabinet Secretary of the Republic of Indonesia)

The President Should be Supreme Commander in Covid-19 War

A while ago, the public was shocked by video of a regent from North Sulawesi stating that regulations from the central government regarding assistance for the public during the Covid-19 crisis were confusing and created problems for his region. The comment was understandable. As a local leader dealing directly with the public, people like this have to provide a sense of security at a time when the central government is seen as having taken too long to adopt policies.

At the central level, ministries and central government institutions have not developed the unity required to confront the crisis so it is hardly surprising that problems emerge when they should be developing synergies with local governments. Communication and coordination with local governments are critical. Indeed, leaders at the village level represent the front line in serving the public and must be involved.

The president should be the “supreme commander” in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic. The assumption is that if the president is the supreme commander, decisions can be made more rapidly, with better focus and integration.


Education During the Pandemic
Friday, May 8, 2020
Education During the Pandemic

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, Chairman, Democratic Party, in Media Indonesia (May 8, 2020) 

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: King Fajr / Shutterstock.com)

Education During the Pandemic

Along with virtually all parents at this time, my wife and I have to accept responsibility for helping our child study at home. Like others, we have to admit that explaining various lessons and assisting our children in their schoolwork is not as easy as we thought. And it now appears that the face of education in Indonesia is going to be changed enormously because of the pandemic. 

Online education is not simple. It requires personal discipline and certain facilities. I am grateful that I am able to assist our child. But I am also aware of the complaints of many other parents and people working in the education system about the availability of smartphones or laptops and an internet connection. In simple terms, online learning has the potential to expand socioeconomic inequity. Some are facing the very difficult choice of spending on food for their families or paying for their children’s education.

The potential for students dropping out of school is high. There are already indications of higher drop-out rates in Papua, North Maluku and Jakarta, all areas badly affected by the pandemic.


The Spirit of Prayer in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic
Friday, April 24, 2020
The Spirit of Prayer in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Muhammad Rajab, Director of Islamic Studies, Tazkia International Islamic Boarding School, Malang, East Java, in Media Indonesia (April 22, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Gunawan Kartapranata)

The Spirit of Prayer in the Midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Conducting the requirements of Ramadan this year will without doubt have to come within a different environment. The opportunity to take part in practices such as the evening tarawih prayers will be disturbed, if not cancelled. In previous years, it has always been a problem for mosques to accommodate all the people who want to take part in these prayers but this time around mosques will be less than full, and perhaps even empty.

Nevertheless, the spirit to fulfill religious practice this month should not be allowed to weaken. Tarawih can be performed with your family at home. Indeed, if this is done to avoid damage to the public, the benefits are doubled. We need to understand that the spirit of Islam in blocking all forms of damage is extremely high. This provides the opportunity to make Ramadan this year more meaningful, weighty and perfect if it is combined with a strong “social jihad”.


Amid the Politics, Where is the Empathy?
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Amid the Politics, Where is the Empathy?

Azyumardi Azra, Director, Graduate School, and rector (1998-2006), Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, in Kompas (April 16, 2020) 

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Denis Moskvinov / Shutterstock.com)

Amid the Politics, Where is the Empathy?

The struggle against the Covid-19 virus is going to be a long one, especially in Indonesia. The worst scenario is if attempts to enforce social distancing fail or regional lockdowns are not able to control an undisciplined population that continues to move from hot zones to other areas. If that happens, the number of coronavirus cases could climb to over two million.

What is clear is that there are already many victims. These include those who have died but also those who have been affected economically. In the Jakarta area, it is estimated that since a lockdown was introduced on April 4, as many as 5.28 million people have been affected in addition to the 7.05 million already unemployed.

Indonesia is lucky to have a long tradition of philanthropy. Yet very few officials have been willing to donate all or part of their wages to help those affected. There is no political empathy among senior officials or the political elite. Meanwhile, the parliament and government are going ahead with discussions of the highly controversial work-creation bill.