COVID-19 and Indonesia’s reliance on the military

Previously, I mentioned two individuals at the helm of handling the Covid-19 pandemic in Indonesia: Doni Monardo, the head of the Covid-19 Task Force, and Achmad Yurianto, as the official spokesperson. Doni Monardo is an active-duty military officer, while Achmad Yurianto used to be a military doctor. In a sense, military experience seems to be a common thread.

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The recent Natuna standoff and Indonesian responses

The year 2020 kicked off with a major bang. The United States assassinated General Soleimani, bringing the two countries closer to the brink of war. In the Southern hemisphere, Australia’s bush fires continue to blaze and Jakarta experienced its worst flood in decades. At sea, however, is where tensions are more evident, particularly between Indonesia and China.

What happened?

Since 19 December 2019, 65 Chinese fishing vessels have trespassed into Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone off the Natuna islands. The Natunas are located just outside of China’s Nine-Dash Line (9DL for short). Though Indonesia is not an official claimant in the South China Sea dispute, the Natunas EEZ proximity with the 9DL makes it easy for Chinese fishing and Coast Guard vessels to trespass. 

This is not the first time Chinese vessels have encroached Indonesia’s EEZ. Three similar incidents occurred in 2016 in March, May, and June respectively. The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged a formal diplomatic note in response to the March incident. The June incident involved hot pursuit and warning shots by the Indonesian Navy, which prompted a stern response from China. 

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Sketching out Jokowi’s Caribbean economic strategy

This is a rejected commentary piece, which I thought would be better posted here than being forgotten on my hard drive.

Recent achievements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in the Caribbean include the recent establishment of diplomatic relations with Barbados and the first full-fledged diplomatic visit to Suriname after 26 years in 2019. Looking from the MOFA’s performance report in 2018, the Caribbean seems to have gained renewed attention having been absent from foreign policy discourse since the Yudhoyono administration. 

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A volley of misguided higher-ed policies and now, we’re supposed to import university presidents?

In 2016, Minister for Higher Education, Research, and Technology (just “DIKTI” for short), Mohammad Nasir, proposed importing university presidents to chair in national universities. The proposal was buffeted with negative criticism and eventually died down. Three years on, it has resurfaced.

Why did this proposal resurface? According to the Jakarta Post, Nasir, speaking on behalf of the government, basically wants to “get local universities listed among the top 200 universities in the world.”

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Student-professor relations

Starting from a Twitter thread by @roythaniago (see below) which basically compiled a bunch of complaints students had to their professors, I also want to chime in with my own two cents.

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No easy way in the battle against misinformation

In light of the recent 22 May riots in Jakarta, the Ministry for Communication and Information (KOMINFO) enacted a “soft ban” on social media and messaging applications. Instagram and Facebook were blocked (surprisingly, Twitter was left alone), while WhatsApp users could not share images or documents (but could still receive and send text messages). The three-day ban was a preventive response to potential misinformation surrounding the Jakarta riots. However, despite the ban, as much as 30 pieces of fake news still fell through the cracks. The ban was also easily circumvented using VPN services. The ban has been criticized left and right on grounds of infringement of civil liberties.

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Fostering a healthier national security debate in Indonesia

The military needs to loosen their grasp on information so everyone is on the same page in the national security debate.

The Jakarta Post ran the following headline, “Indonesian Air Force to fly jet fighters to wake people for ‘sahur’”. This isn’t the first time JP has ran such a loaded headline, but this particular one is amusing as it ignited a short scuffle on Twitter between a national security academic and the official Twitter account of the Indonesian Armed Forces.

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