Indonesia harbours terrorist cells with perverted Islamic values and Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group (ICG) is one of those with a deep understanding of these groups. Such is her influence that this year Time magazine has named her as an Asia Hero.
Forecasting the future is rarely a rewarding exercise. Calamities averted earn you little credit, yet warnings that go unheeded ~ weakened levees in New Orleans or radicals preaching hate in London’s mosques ~ only serve as unwelcome evidence exposing ill-prepared governments. Sidney Jones knows the feeling. She’s the Jakarta-based Southeast Asia project director for International Crisis Group, an NGO headquartered in Brussels and headed there by the plain-speaking former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.
Two months before the 2002 Bali bombings, Jones released a meticulously researched, prescient report on the danger posed by Jemaah Islamiah (J.I.), the Southeast Asian network of extremists now widely believed to have masterminded those attacks. Few paid heed at the time, but after the attacks, Jones’ thorough descriptions of the background and training of key J.I. members proved invaluable to the multinational investigative team. “That’s the advantage of having long-term contacts and a real depth of field experience,” says Jones, whose 13 years working with Muslim prisoners in Indonesia as a human-rights advocate gave her wide access to the country’s Islamic militants.
Certainly SBY appreciated her efforts as he made a point of meeting her a couple of months ago when she returned from a period of exile in Singapore imposed by President Megawati’s regime.
The government of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri refused to extend Jones’ stay permit and work visa in May last year at the request of the intelligence authorities following her revealing reports on Indonesia’s poor human rights record and communal conflicts around the country.
So whom has she upset this time?
The immigration office has denied American terrorism expert Sidney Jones entry to the country without explanation despite the fact that she is in possession of a temporary stay permit and work visa.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yuri Thamrin confirmed yesterday that a ban had been imposed on Jones. “I’ve received information from our clearing house that the restriction is being applied to Ibu Jones. However, there is a possibility that it will be reviewed in due course,” Yuri said.
The clearing house is a special government committee consisting of officials from the foreign ministry, intelligence agency, Indonesian military, the police and the immigration office that has the final say on whether to allow foreign researchers and journalists to visit Indonesia or conflict-prone areas across the country.
Jakartass has a work permit and temporary stay permit, as do the vast majority of my friends and colleagues. I’ve no intention of being heroic, so you may understand my reticence in naming names or in offering overt criticisms of Suharto’s cronies who continue to pull the levers of power.
So, over to Sidney’s lawyer, noted human rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis, who condemned the entry ban.
“I’ve called Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin, but he said he was not aware of it. So, who did this? This will be a real set-back for our democracy if we ban people simply because they are critical.“
Further evidence of the êlite’s inability to admit wrongdoing and their power to get even comes with the news that former state auditor Khairiansyah Salman, who helped reveal corruption cases in the General Elections Commission (KPU) has been named a suspect in the investigation into the embezzlement of haj funds at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
He allegedly received Rp 15 million (US$1,500) in transportation allowances in 2003 from the treasurer of the haj management directorate general at the ministry.
The money was believed to have been used to influence audit results on the haj funds by a team of auditors from the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), which included Khairiansyah.
What makes this case interesting is that based on data from prosecutors, 18 other state auditors also accepted money from the ministry to cover up graft cases, yet Khairiansyah has seemingly been singled out and, without condoning his alleged crime, this is surely a trifling amount to bother with?
Could it be because Transparency International recently awarded Khairiansyah an Integrity Award for his whistle-blowing? He returned the award this week so as not to tarnish the conferment of the prize and vowed to continue with his commitment to combating corruption.