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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.
A Strategic Solution To End The Conflict In Papua
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
A Strategic Solution To End The Conflict In Papua

Jannus TH Siahaan, commentator on defense and security issues, in Tempo (May 4, 2021)

Summary by Made Ayu Mariska (Photo credit: Frida Skjæraasen/Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation -Norad)

A Strategic Solution To End The Conflict In Papua

The government’s decision to classify the armed criminal group in the provinces of Papua and West Papua as terrorists might be the wrong step in solving the ongoing conflicts. By classifying the group as terrorists but keeping military actions secret, the government will only receive more criticism from various parties for violating human rights.

Instead of labelling the Free Papua Movement (OPM) as a terrorist group, the government needs to carry out widespread education nationally to achieve consensus from the Indonesian public that the OPM is a rebel group that wants to establish an independent state and destroy the unity and integrity of the Republic of Indonesia. Indonesia must convince the international public at the UN that the conflicts in Papua are an internal, not an international, affair.

Beyond military and diplomacy issues, the economic and social problems in Papua must be addressed. The government must take Papua’s development to the next level. The region suffers from more than just a lack of infrastructure, Papuans struggle with poverty, unemployment, and social inequality, while witnessing their rich natural resources being exploited. The government has to increase their presence to deal with sociocultural and environmental-protection issues.

Fiscal spending for social and cultural development must be determined proportionally, along with the budget for environmental preservation, in addition to the establishment of fundamental regulations for protecting the environment and cultural development. The regulations related to social order must be addressed humanely and with environmental nuances, not only taking into account economic considerations, but also the sustainability of Papuan culture and environment.


Sinovac Vaccine Shows That China Can Make Good-Quality Products
Friday, March 26, 2021
Sinovac Vaccine Shows That China Can Make Good-Quality Products

Friska Yolanda, journalist, in Harian Republika (March 18, 2021)

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


Sinovac Vaccine Shows That China Can Make Good-Quality Products

Hearing the phrase “made in China”, many people immediately think of a low-quality, mass-produced product. This is not completely wrong but it is also not so true. Not all products made in China are of poor quality. This stereotype, however, has developed so widely that it tars other products from China that are of good quality, including vaccines.

Countries in the world have started to vaccinate their citizens to create herd immunity to Covid-19 so that the pandemic ends and community activities can return to normal. Since the pandemic hit, a number of countries have immediately developed vaccine-related research. Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, and a number of other pharmaceutical companies are competing to develop a Covid-19 vaccine using various methods.

For developed countries, funding is not an obstacle. It is different from developing countries, especially poor countries. Indonesia has chosen the Sinovac vaccine. This vaccine from China was doubted because of its efficacy – only 65 percent – which is key to meeting World Health Organization (WHO) standards. The doubts come from people who either believe more in Western products, or are anti-vaccine adherents, or hate China, or simply do not like the government's efforts at all.

Many are reluctant to be vaccinated first. They want to see the results and the impact on the volunteers who receive the injections first. To convince the public, President Joko Widodo was the first person to be vaccinated in Indonesia using the Sinovac product. Some alleged that it was not actually Sinovac, while some said that what the president got was not a vaccine but a vitamin. 

Whatever the brand, vaccination is one way to end the pandemic. Millions of victims have fallen, and the economy has stagnated due to restrictions on activities. Vaccination is the way out so that our lives return to normal.



Do Not Regulate School Uniforms Based on Faith
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Do Not Regulate School Uniforms Based on Faith

Laila Afifa, editor, in Tempo (March 6, 2021) 

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Abdul Rahman)

Do Not Regulate School Uniforms Based on Faith

The government policy on uniforms and attributes worn by students at state elementary and middle schools deserves support. The decision underlines the government's resolve to not interfere in matters concerning students' religious beliefs. Therefore, the reaction by the Indonesian Ulema council (MUI) asking the government to give regional governments the authority to regulate school uniforms in line with student's religions is a step backward. This must be strongly opposed. As public education institutions, state schools must not reflect any religion.

The concern from the MUI that the government decision will see the end of local wisdom is also mistaken. Uniforms based on the teachings of religion will instead lead to a uniformity of culture. This will bring about an end to the diversity that is a characteristic of Indonesian culture.

It is important to realize that school policies requiring students to wear uniforms based on religious teachings are a form of political intervention in students' bodies, particularly females. Whatever form it takes, this type of pressure must be rejected. So must the banning expressions of religious faith such as when headscarves were banned in schools.

Politics that tries to force students to wear the same clothing gives rise to discrimination. The duty and responsibility of the government is to guarantee every student, no matter what their religion or faith is, the freedom to express their beliefs. The government must protect them from threats and pressure from any person.

Indonesia is not a state based on religion. This nation was born from agreement among various religious and faith groups. Efforts to move the nation towards the values of a particular religion must be prevented because this would lead us towards fragmentation. President Joko Widodo must not hesitate in clearly emphasizing this.


Scenarios for the US Dollar Under Biden
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Scenarios for the US Dollar Under Biden

Haryo Kuncoro, professor of economics at the State University of Jakarta School of Economics and research director at the Socio-Economic and Educational Business Institute, in The Jakarta Post (January 27, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Scenarios for the US Dollar Under Biden

US President Joe Biden’s treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has emphasized her commitment not to interfere with the US dollar. Her statement has given rise to various interpretations. It could be an initial signal that Biden's economic policies will tend to be pro-market and that market forces will determine the value of the dollar. 

Yellen has probably already anticipated the second interpretation. The commencement of vaccination in the US raises optimism about a faster-than-expected economic recovery in the second half of this year. This has triggered discourse about the US central bank gradually reducing its bond-buying program to sustain the nation’s economic recovery. The two policies above, if they are really implemented, will undoubtedly shake the global market. 

The first-round impact will work directly on the commodity markets. The volume of trade will fluctuate in accordance with the dynamics of US dollar. If the dollar strengthens, exporters will suffer, and importers will benefit.

How about Indonesia? If both US economic policy scenarios prove correct, Indonesia will face a flight of foreign capital, which in the short term will depreciate the rupiah. Imports of raw materials, equipment and machinery will shrink, which will further affect production capacity. If the US economy quickly recovers, Indonesia can seize export opportunities and offset the pressure for the rupiah’s depreciation. 

Indonesian products can fill the role of Chinese products that are subject to high tariffs. Indonesia's share of non-oil and gas exports to the US ranks second after China. In another scenario, Chinese products that should be destined for the US will be transferred to other countries, including Indonesia. In addition, North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America are wide open to become potential markets for Indonesian products. 


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.


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. 


Policy Leadership in a Crisis
Monday, December 21, 2020
Policy Leadership in a Crisis

Riant Nugroho, Chairman, Institute for Policy Reform, in Jakarta Globe (December 17, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Muchlis Jr/Cabinet Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia)

Policy Leadership in a Crisis

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo made a bold decision when he announced that the coronavirus vaccine will be available for free for everybody. He volunteered to be among the first to get inoculated. His remarks make it clear that the government remains committed to saving people, while at the same time encouraging skeptical Indonesians to take the vaccine.

From the perspective of public policy studies, future leaders can take two lessons from Jokowi’s decisions. First, policy leadership is the key to excellent governance. Policy scholars argue that excellent public policies are more effective tools to help achieve one country’s goals than its natural resources and other variables. Still, they are important but not the key determinant. Policy excellence depends on the capability of the top leader in formulating policies, turning them into actions and controlling their implementation across the nation. The main task of the head of government is therefore concerned mainly with policy development and deployment.

Jokowi has never attended public-administration or public-policy schools. However, he has proved himself to be a fast learner during his remarkable journey in public office – from the mayor of Solo to the governor of Jakarta to the president of Southeast Asia’s biggest country. Early in his second term as president, he is already extremely skilled at policy leadership – a subject rarely taught in public-policy schools. Indeed, the second lesson is that policy leadership is the key requirement for any future leader and has to be taught as a core competence in national leadership training institutions.


Pandemic Showcases Systemic Gender Inequality
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Pandemic Showcases Systemic Gender Inequality

Namira Samir, doctoral student at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in The Jakarta Post (December 15, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Alexandra Koch/Pixabay)

Pandemic Showcases Systemic Gender Inequality

The Covid-19 pandemic has required almost all events to go virtual. Information about conferences and seminars has been disseminated through digital posters containing the speakers’ photographs. One cannot close one’s eyes to the male favoritism in Indonesia’s institutions. It is a rarity to find an event with an equal number of men and women. Even those that do include women put them into gender-dictated roles such as chairperson. 

Why is this the case?

Indonesia may have fewer problems than other countries with equal pay between genders, but the problem we have is no less systemic than the wage issue. Women need to receive the same acknowledgement for their leadership capacity and their understanding of issues within their field. Both men and women have important things to say, and by putting on a blindfold regarding this matter, we allow the perpetration of gender inequality.

Systemic gender inequality requires the attention of everyone – both men and women, regardless of their occupations or backgrounds. How can one claim that progress has been made when male favoritism in leadership has not been addressed? In promoting women in leadership, developing countries mainly appreciate empowerment in terms of their ability to run their own small and medium-sized enterprises. That matters. 

But gender inequality also persists in the formal sector – a sector that upholds the highest standards of giving decent wages and protections to its workers but does not actually have a clear vision when it comes to gender inequality in leadership. 

As much as it is the responsibility of policymakers, it is also our duty – that of individuals, men or women – to make a difference, wherever we dedicate our time and knowledge. If each of us passes on the acknowledgement of gender inequality in leadership to our friends, families and colleagues, a revolution will come.


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.