Tag Archives: Indonesia

Indonesia Natural Answer to Asian Piracy

 

Screenshotted from the International Chamber of Commerce site on 9/10/2014, this map's pointers each indicate a piracy-related incident having taken place in 2014.
Screenshotted from the International Chamber of Commerce site on 9/10/2014, this map’s pointers each indicate a piracy-related incident having taken place in 2014. Two hotspots clearly stand out: the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, and the waters surrounding Indonesia.

In the first nine months of 2011, 352 pirate-related incidents took place across the globe (though it is worth mentioning that an estimated two-thirds of such incidents are slipped under the radar in order to duck the associated insurance raises and bad publicity), with close to 15% of these taking place in the waters of southeastern Asia. During the same period of the next year, only 233 ships were affected by piracy; regardless, the number of attacks recorded in the Asian region rose, now accounting for over 20%.

The International Maritime Bureau director, Pottengal Mukundan, while ‘’welcom[ing] the successful robust targeting of pirate action groups […] in the high-risk waters off Somalia’’, emphasized that ships travelling through the Malacca Straights and the South China Sea should remain particularly vigilant. The 1997 Asian financial crisis, from which some communities have yet to recover, combined with the rugged and unpredictable coastlines, have allowed the waters of the region to become rife with pirates (in 1999, almost three fourths of incidents took place in Asia).

 

Jakarta, for a number of reasons, has both national and regional incitements to lead the anti-piracy effort.

Executed parallel to regular patrols and escorts, a strategy that ‘’has brought significant results’’ in the Gulf of Aden, encouraging economic growth in Indonesia, a member of the G20, would further reduce the number of altercations on the sea: studies relating mostly to Somali and Nigerian waters highlighted long-term decreases in piracy when local economies were boosted, although also noted higher rates preceding elections as unscrupulous candidates sought to fill their campaign chests. Given the new Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, is the first businessman to head his country, hopes are high that he will be able to reproduce the economic revitalization of his mayoral district at the national level.

Map of Chinese claims, which overlap with many other nations' territories.  Indonesia's Natuna Islands, located in the southwest, are not specifically indicated in this Wikipedia map.
Map of Chinese claims, which overlap with many other nations’ territories.
Indonesia’s Natuna Islands, located in the southwest, are not specifically indicated in this Wikipedia map.

Such an involvement, especially in ‘’the world’s most pirate-infested waters’’, is certain to increase Indonesia’s standing in the region, in which tensions periodically surge due to territorial disputes between China and various members of ASEAN, whose headquarters are in Jakarta. While solidifying its position as mediator for the aforementioned disagreements, flexing its naval might in a crackdown on piracy may avert a showdown with Beijing—similar to the symbolic 1996 naval exercise organised by Indonesia, which was perceived to have deterred Chinese attempts to hijack Western development of natural gas production—, whose ten-dash line map may or may not include the Indonesia island of Natuna Besar. Given the Indonesian navy proudly proclaims itself to be a green-water navy, disassociating itself from the blue-water navies which ‘’tended to be aggressors’’, an impressive response to the pirates roaming national waters may be the most powerful, yet plausibly deniable, statement of strength Indonesia can make.

 

Perhaps a more important question is why other nations would not take up this mantle; after all, the pirates between Yemen and Somalia are largely warded off by forces from NATO, CTF151, and EU Navfor. Somalia, however, has no functioning navy, contrary to the southeastern Asian states that refuse such foreign navies and armed guards.

This Wikipedia picture is cropped to indicate the waters claimed by Indonesia.
This Wikipedia picture is cropped to indicate the waters claimed by Indonesia.

Even if this were not the case, the competing interests of China, India and the United States make it unlikely any would succeed in gaining control of the operation. The crucial role the Malacca Straights play in the global shipping sphere, and the conflicting interests of the nations in question—China’s pseudo-Monroe Doctrine; India’s Look East policy; and the American non-confrontationist attitude and pivot to Asia—all mean political manoeuvring around this issue will be prickly.

Indonesia seems well-placed to fill this void; and perhaps the businessman who is to take office as Indonesia’s president in October will prioritize securing a region through which almost half the world’s trade is shipped.

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China to Join and Expand Anti-Dengue Project

The dengue virus, transmitted by mosquitoes and threatening over half the world’s population, is described by the WHO as ‘’a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children’’. Symptoms include a high fever, vomiting, swollen glands, rashes or muscle pains; however, the virus ‘’occasionally’’ mutates into severe dengue, adding bleeding gums, severe abdominal pain, and fatigue to the list. The next 24 to 48 hours of this stage may end with the death of the infected: no vaccine or specific treatment has been developed for the dengue virus, which can have a mortality rate of up to roughly 20%.

‘’Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries in Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-east Asia and the Western Pacific. […] Cases across the Americas, South-east Asia and Western Pacific [, the three most heavily-impacted regions] have exceeded 1.2 million cases in 2008 and over 2.3 million in 2010.’’ (again quoted from the WHO page relating to dengue fever) Almost 100 000 000 new cases are discovered yearly in the tropical regions, with over 40 000 deaths being tied to this disease.

 

In an innovative push to eradicate this disease, which today has spread to threaten Europe and the United States, four countries—Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Vietnam—will be releasing hordes of genetically-modified mosquitoes. With research beginning in the Australian University of Monash in 2008, it was eventually discovered that a bacteria taken from fruit-flies could severely hamper a mosquito’s ability to carry dengue fever.

This intracellular bacteria, dubbed Wolbachia, spreads amongst the mosquito population as they reproduce. If a contaminated male reproduces with a non-infected female, the eggs will be incapable of turning into larvae. However, if it is only the female who is infected, she will transmit the bacteria to the following generation. Wolbachia cannot be transmitted to humans.

Following tests in laboratories mimicking natural settings, Australian researchers released over 300 000 mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia in two northeastern towns. Four months later, 100% of the first town’s mosquito population and 90% of the second’s was infected with the disease. However, two weeks after that survey, rates had dropped to 95% and 81% respectively. Those responsible believe the dry season may have attracted external mosquito populations to the experiment towns.

That experiment equally proved that it is very rare for the virus to spread far beyond the release point: it appears infected mosquitoes were found outside of the towns on only three occasions. This should allay legal concerns, if two neighbouring political entities disagree on whether or not to use the genetically-modified pseudo-vaccine.

Another technique tested in Brazil, involving a transmittable gene devastating mosquito populations, has reduced dengue fever levels by 85% and mosquito populations by up to 90%. Indonesia and Vietnam are also experimenting with mosquito-borne counters to this disease.

 

Recently, southern China has seen an explosion of dengue fever cases: the number of reported cases in Guangdong ballooned from 6 089 to 8 273 in three days, over 15 times the rates at this time last year. The provincial capital, Guangzhou, hosts 6 986 of those affected by the worst epidemic of recent history.

While China’s record on transparent disease-fighting operations is unimpressive, it is logical that this fairly simple technique would appeal to Beijing. The subtlety is undeniably higher than the hecatombs targeting cattle and the sealing off of the Jiuxian township following an outbreak of foot-and-mouth north of the capital.

 

It also seems logical that China would attempt to distribute this genetically-modified weapon to various African nations threatened by the dengue fever: this fits with the emphasis on soft power China is giving Africa, most notably by serving as mediators in the South Sudanese civil war (although officially the mediators are continuing ‘’peace promotion work between South Sudan and Sudan’’, not intervening in another nation’s internal affairs) and preparing Benin to tackle a potential spillover of Ebola from neighbouring Nigeria.

Dengue fever is present throughout sub-Saharan Africa, or in regions worldwide between the latitudes of 35-North and 35-South and with an altitude below 1 000 meters. Members of the same genus include the West Nile virus, the yellow fever virus, or the tick-borne encephalitis virus; it is not clear if the techniques currently being employed by Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, or Australia are capable of counteracting these viruses as well.

Indonesia to Crack Down on Terrorism Amid I.S. Threat

According to the United Nations (2012), the International Monetary Fund (2013), and the World Bank (2013), Nigeria ranks 37th, 38th, and 23rd respectively in lists of world economies (however, one must note that Nigeria recalibrated its economy in 2014, hence after the surveys, for the first time since 1990). This is despite, again, 50% of the population having an income of under 732$ per annum. In order to take this fact into consideration, one should use the Human Development Index (HDI). Instead of using only the national GDP, the HDI index also considers life expectancy and educational standards. Using this measure, Nigeria falls to 152nd place.

This flagrant difference between the illusion touted by the politicians of Abuja and the reality inflicted on many of the Nigerian non-elite has allowed for the birth of a now thriving anti-state extremist group, Boko Haram. While the group may have its roots in religion, the perceived discrimination almost certainly plays a greater role in the group’s survival nowadays. In the words of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, ‘’nothing is more destructive than the gap between people’s perceptions of their own day-to-day economic well-being and what politicians and statisticians are telling them’’.

 

The same statement now applies to Indonesia, the world’s sixteenth-largest economy according to the three sources named above. Regardless, Indonesia ranks 121st on the HDI index. This is partially due to almost 12% of the 237.6 million strong population under the poverty line, with 50% of the population surviving on under 2$ a day. With the previous Indonesian administration having made headlines with corruption scandals, the frustration and distrust created by the clear distinction between classes can be exploited just as easily in southeastern Asia as it has been in Nigeria.

Rallies and meetings in support of the Islamic State (IS), previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have taken place across Indonesia, some even taking to the streets of the capital Jakarta. On the 31st of July, a new Youtube video worried many in the governmental circles: a group of young Indonesians, with their leader presumed to be a wanted Indonesian terrorist (Abu Muhammad), stood on Syrian soil and called for their countrymen to join the cause.

While the threat of Indonesian jihadists returning currently seems relatively low—out of the estimated 11 000 foreign fighters in Syria, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict believes only fifty or so are from the archipelago—, a terrorist resurgence centering on the IS call seems possible. From his place in jail, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the alleged spiritual leader of the extremist group responsible for killing over 200 people in the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, has pledged support to the Middle Eastern caliphate.This move has led to fears that IS propaganda may provide the spark needed to revive certain Islamist groups that are even now ”recruiting police and soldiers”.

 

According to the Jakarta Post, the initial government response was weak to the point of being almost reluctant. In their words, it is ‘’only after mounting public pressure [that] the Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring order access to ISIL websites blocked[, having] previously said the ministry could not block the ISIL video without any prior complaints’’. The article continues, highlighting the fact that the ministry ‘’barely takes action’’ against websites advocating and advising on terrorism, even after security agencies highlight their existence, while proactively targeting websites hosting pornographic material.

The two largest Islamic organizations of the country, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, have condemned the video, as has the Foreign Minister. On August the 4th, the Indonesian government also ordered a ban on supporting the Islamic State, repeating a warning against joining the group. The National Police has also targeted local supporters of IS, although it apparently remains unknown whether or not the suspects have been apprehended.

 

We're back on the right track *hug*
Map indicating the religious majorities in Indonesia.
Image taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Indonesia

With Indonesia growing increasingly aware of the threat posed to it by this reemerging extremism, it seems likely that inefficient frontline officials such as the aforementioned Communications and Information Minister will be replaced, that security cooperation with nearby countries also combating religious extremism (notably Malaysia and the Philippines), as well as tougher restrictions on support for the IS. Given the fact that Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, one would presume any laws attempting to target extremist indoctrination and propaganda would be specific to the IS, and not allow any sweeping surveillance of mosques or interventions. An intensified crackdown targeting the remnants of other terrorist groups, given the possibility of regrouping around the new caliph, may also be in order.