Categories
COMMENTARY

Papua peace is not just about iron fists, carrots and sticks

Papua peace is not just about iron fists, carrots and sticksIndonesian government must talk to opponents and dispense justice fairly if peace efforts are to work

January 22, 2020Just a few hours before Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi, the apostolic administrator of Merauke Archdiocese in Papua, issued a New Year’s Day call for the military and police to abandon heavy-handed methods in dealing with indigenous Papuans, shots rang out.

No one was reported hurt in the New Year’s Eve clash between Indonesian police and several armed separatists in Mimika Regency’s Tembagapura district, not far from where giant mining company Freeport operates.

However, the bishop’s call for dialogue and peaceful solutions to Papua’s problems was not exactly because of that clash.

Bishop Mandagi’s call had more to do with last year’s wave of violence committed by Papuans angered by discriminatory abuses such as the arrest of 40 Papuan students in Surabaya in East Java province. For allegedly vandalizing an Indonesian national flag.

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ENVIRONMENT

Banjir, Kenapa Kau Datang Saat Jakarta Lagi Krisis Kepemimpinan?

Sejumlah mobil terbawa arus banjir akibat hujan deras yang melanda Jabodetabek pada awal Januari 2020. (Foto: Jurnas.com)

Banjir besar yang melanda sebagian besar wilayah Jabodetabek -Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi- akibat hujan selama lebih dari 16 jam dari sore hari 31 Desember 2019 hingga menjelang tengah hari 1 Januari 2020- menelan korban jiwa dalam jumlah cukup besar dan disebut-sebut sebagai banjir terburuk dalam satu dekade terakhir.

Menurut data yang dikumpulkan oleh Badan Nasional Penanggulanan Bencana (BNPB) dari Pusat Krisis Kementerian Kesehatan, Kementerian Sosial, BPBD, TNI, POLRI, dan sumber lainnya, tercatat bahwa hingga 4 Januari 2020 jumlah korban banjir meninggal akibat banjir mencapai lebih dari 40 orang.

Korban meninggal terbanyak berada di Kabupaten Bogor, disusul Jakarta, Bekasi, Kota Bogor, dan Tangerang. Dari jumlah itu, 17 orang dilaporkan meninggal karena terseret arus banjir, 5 orang tertimbun longsor, 5 orang tersengat listrik, dan 3 orang terkena hipotermia atau kondisi di mana suhu tubuh manusia menurun secara drastis.

Sejarah banjir dan sikap pemimpin

Menurut catatan sejarah, banjir melanda ibukota Jakarta sejak ‘tempo doeloe’, sejak zaman kepemimpinan Jenderal Jan Pieterszoon Coen pada awal abad 17.

Karena itu dia mendirikan Batavia dengan konsep kota air (waterfront city), membangun kanal-kanal air meniru Amsterdam atau kota-kota lain di Belanda.

Pada masa kepemimpinannya banjir menggenangi permukiman warga akibat luapan Sungai Ciliwung, Cisadane, Angke dan Bekasi.

Ketika Belanda sudah meninggalkan Indonesia, banjir di wilayah Jakarta terus berlanjut.

Yang terparah -dari segi jumlah korban- terjadi pada awal tahun 2007 pada masa Gubernur Sutiyoso. Kala itu sekitar 60 persen wilayah DKI Jakarta terendam air dengan kedalaman hingga 5 meter akibat luapan sungai Ciliwung dan juga hujan local selama berhari-hari.

Menurut laporan, dedikitnya 80 orang dinyatakan tewas selama 10 hari banjir, dengan jumlah terbanyak di DKI Jakarta yang mencapai 48 orang, kemudian 19 orang di Jawa Barat, dan 13 korban meninggal di Banten. Penyebab utama adalah meninggal terseret arus, tersengat listrik, atau sakit.

Banjir memang bagian dari Jakarta. Tapi apakah pasrah pada kenyataan itu – tanpa mengambil langkah antisipatif- sebagai sebuah jawaban?

Tentu tidak tepat jika demikian.

Banjir sempat menghilng dari ibukota Jakarta selama kepemimpinan Basuki Tjahaja Purnama atau Ahok karena gencar dengan program mengatasi banjir.

Saat kepemimpinan Ahok, normalisasi sungai dan penguatan dinding-dinding saluran air dilakukan secara massif. Desedimentasi saluran-saluran air juga gencar dilakukan oleh pasukan oranye dan pasukan biru.

Ahok kalah dalam Pilgub tahun 2017 lalu dan kepemimpinan DKI Jakarta beralih ke tangan Anies Baswedan.

Dua tahun Anies memimpin, program-program normalisasi sungai tidak dilanjutkan. Alhasil, banjir kembali melanda Jakarta saat hujan pada akhir tahun 2019 hingga awal 2020.

Jadi, apakah Jakarta terendam banjir pada awal 2020 sebagai kegagalan Gubernur Baswedan?

Jawabannya bisa YA, bisa TIDAK.

Perhatikan baik-baik. Seandainya program normalisasi sungai, pembersihan saluran-saluran air yang dimulai pada masa kepemimpinan Ahok, dilanjutkan kemungkinan besar dampak banjir bagi Jakarta tidak separah yang baru saja terjadi.

Di sinilah letak kelemahan kepemimpinan Gubernur Baswedan: malu untuk melanjutkan program unggulan gubernur sebelumnya dan pada saat yang sama tidak menawarkan solusi yang efektif untuk mengatasi banjir.

Tapi kalau melihat secara objektif, sebagian daratan Jakarta memang sudah lebih rendah dari permukaan laut.

Dengan demikian kita juga tidak bisa menyalahkan pemimpin saat ini.

Saat ini dunia mengalami perubahan iklim. Hujan dan banjir yang terjadi di wilayah Jakarta dan sekitar adalah fenomena alam.

Akan lebih buruk jika tidak ada ‘breakthrough’

Menurut Heri Andreas, doktor dan peneliti dari Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), setiap tahun telah terjadi penurunan permukaan tanah dengan kedalaman mencapai 25cm di wilayah Jakarta Utara. Lebih lanjut Andreas mengatakan bahwa dalam 10 tahun terakhir, penurunan permukaan tanah telah mencapai 2,5 meter dan jika tidak dilakukan apa-apa, maka pada tahun 2050, 95% wilayah Jakarta Utara akan tenggelam.

Sebuah masalah serius bukan?

Itu artinya, siapapun yang memimpin Jakarta, tidak akan bisa mengakhiri masalah banjir ini, jika hanya pandai merangkai kata-kata (teori belaka) dan tidak mengambil lompatan besar (breakthrough) untuk mengatasi banjir di ibukota.

Banjir bukan ‘blessing in disguise’

Jika melihat sejarah banjir dan situasi saat ini, kita hanya bisa memaknai banjir awal 2020 ini sebagai sebuah sebuah berkat terselubung (blessing in disguise).

Kenapa awal yang  tampak buruk atau tidak menyenangkan ini disebut sebagai berkat?

Karena dalam perjalanan sejarah, setiap masalah besar melahirkan solusi. Semoga banjir yang melanda Jabodetabek pada awal tahun 2020 ini melahirkan berbagai langkah yang efektif untuk mengatasi agar hal buruk serupa tidak terjadi lagi. Paling tidak, jika banjir terus terjadi, dampaknya tidak lagi besar.

Kita berharap Gubernur DKI Jakarta tidak ngotot dengan pola kerjanya, tetapi membuka diri untuk bekerja sama dengan pemerintah pusat, dalam hal ini dengan Kementrian Pekerjaan Umum dan Perumahan Rakyat (PUPR) yang selama ini menangani normalisasi sungai di Jakarta dan sekarang sedang membangun beberapa waduk untuk menampung limpahan air dari dataran tinggi sehingga tidak menenggelamkan Jakarta dan sekitarnya.

Categories
COMMENTARY RELIGION

What a soldier can do to fix religion in Indonesia

Despite criticism in certain circles, Fachrul Razi’s appointment as religious affairs minister may be quite a good thing

Indonesia’s new Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi (right) and former minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin during a handover ceremony at the ministry on Oct. 24 in Jakarta. (Photo supplied by Religious Affairs Ministry)

The appointment of a former general, Fachrul Razi, as Indonesia’s religious affairs minister has drawn fire, particularly from Muslim clerics who say the post has traditionally been the domain of Islamic groups.

Giving it to someone outside their circle ignores this history and shows a misunderstanding of the minister’s function, the groups claim.

Opponents of the move include Robikin Emhas, a senior official in Indonesia’s biggest and moderate Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama. He said many of his fellow clerics were disappointed President Joko Widodo did not appoint one of them.

Lawmaker Sodik Mudjahid, one of the MPs who oversee religious affairs, doubted Razi’s ability to lead the ministry as he is not a Muslim scholar.

Their criticism seems fair because, since the ministry’s founding in 1946, Muslim clerics or scholars have headed it. Criticism from the Nahdlatul Ulama also makes sense as the organization with over 80 million members played a significant role in securing Joko Widodo and his Muslim cleric vice-president, Ma’ruf Amin, victory in this year’s election.

However, in the context of today’s Indonesia, which is under attack from radical and extremist elements, the role of a religious minister is more than just taking care of faith practices. It requires someone who can take strong action against threats to tolerance and interfaith unity.

Razi may have a mediocre knowledge of Islam, but a combination of being a devout Muslim and his military background provide him with significant tools to do this.

Widodo billed him as the man to handle radicalism, which has gained momentum since former dictator Suharto fell and the “Reform Era” began in 1998.

Reform that has seen a relaxation of restrictions on free speech has seen the rise of radical groups espousing beliefs such as Wahhabism from the Middle East that promotes a literal interpretation of the Quran. These groups included Hizb ut Tahrir, a pan-Islamist political organization that aims to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Despite Hizb ut Tharir being banned, its impact is still being felt, while the growth of the Islamic State group and its sympathizers in Indonesia has seen radicalism and terrorism become two sides of the coin.

This has been exacerbated by many Indonesian politicians cooperating with or using radical groups to achieve their goals, while the influence of radicalism has been growing among the young, especially in universities and mosques, which are being used by conservatives and extremists to target them.

Widodo has subsequently warned of a huge and divisive threat from radicalism, calling it a thorn in the flesh that will hamper economic and political growth in Indonesia.

As such, the president has instructed Razi to make radicalism his priority but also help people grow in faith and spirituality.

As a military man, Razi will more be predisposed to taking a firmer line with mosques and educational institutions and could synchronize the ministry’s efforts with other anti-radical or anti-terror groups such as the Indonesian intelligence and anti-terrorism agencies.

Clearing up scandals

Radicalism was not the only reason why Joko Widodo chose a soldier to head the ministry. He also wants to clean the ministry of scandals that have damaged two of Razi’s predecessors.

Former religious affairs minister Suryadarma Ali of the Islamic-based United Development Party (PPP) is serving a six-year jail term after being imprisoned in 2014 for graft.

The last minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, was tainted by connections to a senior party official accused of bribery in the appointment of ministry officials in East Java. Saifuddin was mentioned in several court proceedings in a case that is still ongoing.

Widodo’s appointment of Razi is likely an attempt to ensure the dignity of the ministry is not tarnished again by the dirty hands of politicians.

Razi is also expected to transform the bureaucracy at the ministry and lead the way in ending controversies around the issuing of licenses for houses of worship.

Religious minority groups in Indonesia, particularly Christians, often face difficulty in building places of worship in the Muslim-majority nation.

In the past decade, about 200 churches have suffered from this, the latest being Pentecostal Church community being denied permission to worship in Indragiri Hilir district in Sumatra. They were forced to stop using their church and move to another one, eight kilometers away.

In many cases, Christians could not build churches, despite having met all legal requirements, because of objections by Muslim communities

The problem stemmed from a 2006 government decree requiring any house of worship having to obtain approval from at least 60 residents of different religions and the village head before getting a permit.

The problem is that many groups use these stipulations to repress minority groups, and they are often supported by local officials.

This has always been a challenge for the government, particularly the Religious Affairs Ministry, and the newly appointed minister has promised to resolve it.

The day after his appointment, Razi emphasized that he is not the minister of the Muslim religion but of all religions in Indonesia. He vowed to use his authority to make sure that Islam “is a peaceful, tolerant and unifying Islam.”

He also said in settling church permit issues he will handle them on a case-by-case basis through dialogue. If all requirements are met, there’s no reason to withhold a permit, he said.

Let’s hope he lives up to Widodo’s expectations and the promise to uphold the freedoms of all religions.

Published in La Croix International Nov.6, 2019

Categories
FEATURE HEALTH TIMOR-LESTE

Mobile clinic narrows healthcare gap in Timor-Leste

Jesuit priest travels to hamlets on hillocks, serves as a band-aid for state’s medical woes

Jesuit Father Antonio Martins Abad-Santos, a Filipino most villagers know as Father Bong, celebrates Mass before performing medical check-ups on his patients in Gmanhati hamlet, Ermera district on Jan. 22. (Photo by Michael Coyne)

Mountainous terrain, inadequate modes of transportation and shortages of medical personnel and facilities have all combined to hamper efforts in Timor-Leste to provide local people with adequate healthcare.

As a result many people, particularly children, women and the elderly in rural areas often struggle to access hospitals or clinics when they fall sick or are in need of a check-up. Even access to clean water is a key concern.

However, mobile clinics such as the one organized by a local Jesuit mission is bringing healthcare closer to home — even into people’s living rooms.

Izabel Soares, 21, is among the residents of Gmanhati hamlet in Ermera district who are benefiting from the new service.

She recently took her 3-month-old baby to meet Jesuit Father Antonio Martins Abad-Santos, a Filipino doctor known here as Father Bong.

A certified medical practitioner, he runs the clinic and makes regular visits to a nearby village made even more remote by its hillside location.

Chronic back pain makes it difficult for Soares to stray far from home so the mobile clinic was a godsend on this occasion as her daughter was showing signs of malaria, running a fever and coughing.

“I don’t have to go to the hospital now to collect the medicine and vitamins for me and my baby because Father Bong brings them here for us,” she said.

Before the priest started the clinic, people had to walk to the nearest facility in Railaco about eight kilometers away.

“For young people that’s not such a problem. But for senior citizens like me, or for women, it’s a real challenge to cover such a distance by foot,” said 75-year-old Alderiano Goncalves, who lives in the same hamlet.

Goncalves has been afflicted with rheumatism for years and has to contend with seasonal migraines, fever and a recurring cough.

He met the priest for the first time eight years ago. Before the advent of the clinic he used to rely on traditional medicine supplied by local practitioners because the nearest hospital was too far from home. 

Father Bong’s visits serve as a beacon of hope for hundreds of villagers. Not only does he minister to their physical needs and ailments but also provides spiritual nourishment by celebrating Mass with them before providing treatment.

“We get both — physical and spiritual nurture,” said Goncalves, who lives with his biological child and three adopted kids. One is preparing to work in South Korea, in hope of serving as a new breadwinner for the struggling family. The Northeast Asian powerhouse is a prime destination for overseas workers from Timor-Leste.

Plazida dos Santos, 22, from nearby Naisuta hamlet, also in Ermera district, said the Jesuit priest is now working on her second child’s skin problems after treatments sought elsewhere proved ineffective.

“I’ve taken my baby to Gleno [the capital of Ermera] several times but the doctor just prescribed paracetamol and she’s still sick,” she said.

Now the wounds on her daughter’s feet have rendered her immobile, she added.

And she is not alone. Many of the children suffer from skin problems and parents are at a loss when it comes to dealing with them.

A plague of infections

Father Bong’s mobile medical clinic covers 11 areas in the two districts of Ermera and Liquica. He launched the service in 2004 as part of his pastoral duties at the Jesuit Railaco Mission.

Helped by two assistants, he heads out to local villages every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, traversing treacherous trails that require a strong sense of adventure.

“We run a mobile clinic because we don’t want to compete with the government clinic in Railaco,”Father Bong said.

“We target those people living in the mountains who cannot be reached by government clinics or medical workers,” said the Filipino priest.

“Every year I see more than 5,000 patients,” he said, adding that most cases involve an infection of some kind. He blamed malnutrition as this weakens the immune system and opens the door for infection.

“I meet lots of people with this kind of problem, such as respiratory infections, intestinal infections or upset stomachs,” he said.

The villagers often fail to prepare their meals in a sanitary way while the elderly chew betel nuts. Smoking is commonplace.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lower respiratory infections were the second-biggest cause of death in 2012 among the Timorese people after tuberculosis.

Other major threats to their mortality include ischemic heart disease, strokes, birth asphyxia or trauma during conception, diarrheal diseases, neonatal sepsis and infections or cancer of the trachea, bronchus or lungs.

The clinic cannot deal with all of these complaints and illnesses because it is part of an outreach program and not that well-equipped.

The doctor-priest is restricted to providing first aid or primary healthcare and trying to prevent people from getting more sick.

He refers serious cases to government hospitals or clinics with better facilities.

Father Bong, who was ordained as a priest in 1998 back in the Philippines, said the St. Canice Parish in Sydney, Australia has been providing financial support for the clinic’s operations for years.

“In the beginning they only offered their help for five years. But when they saw the need was there, they continued,” he said.

Healthcare challenges

Timor-Leste is struggling with a fractious young government but has achieved significant improvements in terms of its healthcare, according to a report by the World Bank in 2017.

For example, when the fledgling state gained independence from Indonesia in 2002 its healthcare infrastructure was decimated with only 20 doctors to tend to a population in excess of 1 million.

Fortunately that number has since multiplied significantly, with the government employing nearly 900 doctors as of last year.

People’s life expectancy soared from a dismal 48.5 years in 1990 to 67 years in 2014.

Meanwhile, antenatal coverage has improved and the general population are now much more aware of infectious and non-communicable diseases, officials say.

This has been helped by a health budget that has curved upward since 2008. The government allocated $67.2 million for the Ministry of Health in 2014 to build 39 clinics, among other projects.

But Bolormaa Amgaabazar, the World Bank’s country representative for Timor-Leste, has warned “the growth outlook for the Timorese economy during the next few years is subdued.”

“As such, the government is attempting to put a curb on rising public spending,” he added.

Father Bong said the nation’s woes are widespread and even the National Hospital in Dili suffers from a lack of medicine.

“The current government focuses more on bureaucracy than the quality of healthcare that’s provided,” he said.

The country has sent nearly 1,000 young people to study as doctors in Cuba in recent years, and now many have returned to plant new seeds.

“But for them to perform their duties effectively and efficiently, the government needs to upgrade its healthcare equipment,” Father Bong said.

“If the healthcare system was more efficient and the country had world-class facilities, people wouldn’t need my help,” he said.

“Then I could focus on my duties as a priest.”

This article was republished in UCA News on January 2 2019