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Indonesia’s Jokowi kicks off new term at heavily guarded ceremony

Yahoo – AFP, Haeril HALIM, October 20, 2019

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (C) said his final term would be
aimed at eradicating poverty (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo was sworn in for a second term on Sunday, as helicopters flew overhead and troops kept watch in the capital Jakarta -- days after Islamist militants tried to assassinate his top security minister.

Foreign heads of state, lawmakers and political rivals looked on as Widodo, 58, and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, 76, read an oath to start a five-year tenure leading the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.

Outside parliament, red-and-white Indonesian flags dotted parts of the city, but celebrations were muted with supporters outnumbered by some 30,000 security personnel deployed amid fears of another attack.

Demonstrations were also banned on Sunday as extremist violence continues to plague Indonesia.

Several thousand supporters, many wearing T-shirts bearing the leader's image, watched the ceremony on a big screen near Jakarta's national monument.

"I was worried Islamic (hardliners) would take over the country if he lost," supporter Suprihatini, who goes by one name, told AFP.

"I'm Muslim, but I don't want that kind of movement here," the 53-year-old added.

Widely known as Jokowi, the president said his final term would be aimed at eradicating poverty and catapulting the nation of some 260 million into a developed country with one of the world's top five economies by 2045.

"I'm calling on ministers, public officials and bureaucrats to take these targets seriously," he told parliament, adding that officials not committed to his goals would be sacked.

In Jakarta, supporters carried a 200-metre (655 foot) Indonesian flag along the streets, while Jokowi fans erected a seven-metre (23 foot) tumpeng in his honour -- a towering rendition of a popular cone-shaped dish -- in the country's second-biggest city Surabaya.

'Critical times'

Jokowi, a popular, heavy metal-loving former businessman from outside the political and military elite, was hailed as Indonesia's answer to Barack Obama when he was first elected in 2014, partly on a roads-to-airports infrastructure drive.

But his leadership has been under mounting criticism after a wave of crises that threaten to cast a shadow over his final term.

Challenges facing the president range from nationwide anti-government demonstrations -- in which three students died -- and smog-belching forest fires that sparked diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbours, to deadly unrest in Papua province and a slowdown in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.

It marked a stark reversal of fortune just months after Jokowi scored a thumping re-election victory against a former military general.

"This is the weakest point in Jokowi's political leadership," said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

"It's a test for the president in critical times."

Protests erupted last month across the archipelago that were among the biggest student rallies since mass demonstrations toppled the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.

Jokowi's inauguration comes a little over a week after the country's chief security minister was stabbed in an attack by two members of a local extremist outfit allied to the Islamic State group.

Two suspects were arrested at the scene, while dozens of suspected militants have since been detained in a country-wide dragnet following the assassination attempt on Wiranto, a former general who goes by one name. The 72-year-old is recovering in hospital.

Jokowi's new term also comes amid criticism that Indonesia's two decades of democratic reforms are being eroded under the watch of a man once lauded by Time magazine as "A New Hope".

Choosing conservative cleric Amin as vice president has also thrown Indonesia's reputation for tolerant Islam into question.

Jokowi's administration appeared caught off guard in September's protests that saw thousands of students hit the streets to demonstrate against a raft of divisive reforms, including banning pre-marital sex and changes that critics said would weaken the anti-graft agency.

Indonesia police fire tear gas at students protesting sex, graft laws

Yahoo – AFP, September 24, 2019

Protesters set fires and threw rocks at riot police in Makassar on Sulawesi
island to protest against a new criminal code law (AFP Photo/DAENG MANSUR)

Jakarta (AFP) - Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters outside Indonesia's parliament Tuesday as thousands demonstrated nationwide against a new criminal code that would, among other things, outlaw pre-marital sex and weaken the country's anti-graft agency.

Protesters covered their faces and scattered in all directions as chaos erupted in the centre of the sprawling capital, Jakarta.

Police also fired teargas at rock-throwing protesters in Makassar on Sulawesi island, while demonstrators broke down a barrier outside the governor's office in Semarang on Java island.

"(We) forcibly dispersed student because they were carrying out anarchist acts, damaging government property and throwing stones at police," said Dicky Sondani, a South Sulawesi police spokesman.

The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered 
across the Southeast Asian archipelago (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered across the Southeast Asian archipelago -- including in cultural capital Yogyakarta and holiday hotspot Bali -- for a second day in a row.

On Tuesday, lawmakers debated a wide-ranging legal overhaul including hundreds of new laws that would criminalise pre-marital sex, restrict sales of contraceptives, make it illegal to insult the president, and toughen the Muslim majority country's blasphemy laws.

"We want the bill which is being debated to be revised," said Jakarta university student Amel.

"The police were excessive teargassing us. We weren't being violent," he added.

A vote on the bill was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but President Joko Widodo last week called for a delay in passing the proposed changes after a public backlash.

Riot police used water cannon against protesters in Sulawesi (AFP Photo/
Andri SAPUTRA)

The mooted changes could affect millions of Indonesians, including gay and heterosexual couples who might face jail for having sex outside wedlock, or having an affair.

Widodo's call for a delay came as the Australian embassy in Jakarta issued a fresh travel advisory, warning that the legislation could put unmarried foreign tourists in the crosshairs.

Millions of tourists visit Bali and other beach destinations in the Southeast Asian nation.

Widodo this week stood firm on plans to pass a separate bill that critics fear would dilute the investigative powers of the corruption-fighting agency -- known as the KPK -- including its ability to wire-tap suspects.

The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered 
across the Southeast Asian archipelago (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

Updating Indonesia's criminal code, which dates back to the Dutch colonial era, has been debated for decades and appeared set to pass in 2018 before momentum fizzled out.

A renewed push this year, backed by conservative Islamic groups, was met with a wave of criticism over what many saw as a draconian law that invaded the bedrooms of a nation with some 260 million people -- the fourth most populous on Earth.

An online petition calling for the bill to be scrapped garnered half a million signatures, while hundreds of thousands took to social media to vent their frustration.