Palestine a foreign policy priority, Indonesian leaders tell Pompeo

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Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the presidential palace in Jakarta on August 5, 2018. (AFP / POOL / ADI WEDA)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets wotj Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Jakarta on August 5, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 05 August 2018

Palestine a foreign policy priority, Indonesian leaders tell Pompeo

  • Widodo reiterated his country's position that the |two-state solution is the only way forward” 
  • Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi says she also raised the same issue in her meeting with Pompeo

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sunday expressed hope to visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the US will continue contributing to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Widodo reiterated that Palestine is a priority in Indonesia’s foreign policy, and that “the two-state solution is the only way forward.” 

Marsudi and Pompeo met for about 30 minutes at the Foreign Ministry, and the latter left without giving a press statement. 

Marsudi said she also raised the issue of Palestine with Pompeo as “the Indonesian government and people pay immense attention and support to the Palestinian people’s struggle.”

Pompeo “didn’t reject the two-state solution,” she told Arab News. “He said it would take some time to be able to develop a peace plan.”

During his two-day visit, Pompeo also discussed plans to commemorate 70 years of US-Indonesian diplomatic relations next year. 

Marsudi said she proposed that the theme for the commemoration be “to celebrate our diversity” and “prosper together as strategic partners.” 

The “trade war between the US and China” will “affect all countries, including Indonesia,” she added. 

Marsudi said Widodo asked Pompeo to keep Indonesia on the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) list, which eliminates duties on products imported from designated countries and territories. 

In April, the US said it was reviewing the eligibility of Indonesia, India and Kazakhstan due to concerns about their compliance with the GSP, including Indonesia’s implementation of barriers to trade and investment that adversely impact American commerce. 

Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita went to the US last month to discuss the issue with Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Keeping Indonesia in the GSP would be a win-win situation for both countries, Lukita said. 

Indonesian commodities included in the GSP are rubber, car tires, gold, alumina, vehicle wiring, fatty acids, metal jewelry, loudspeakers, batteries, keyboards and music instruments. 

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo thanked Marsudi for Indonesia’s leadership role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and congratulated the country on its upcoming term in the UN Security Council.  

Pompeo and Marsudi “also discussed bilateral cooperation and multilateral engagement on regional security challenges, including the DPRK (North Korea) and counterterrorism, as well as other foreign policy issues of mutual interest,” Nauert said. 

Pompeo said he had a “productive” meeting with Marsudi, tweeting: “We reaffirmed our close bilateral relationship and strong US-Indonesia strategic partnership, as we look ahead to marking 70 years of diplomatic ties.”

Indian election reveals role of money, questionable morality

Updated 2 min 23 sec ago

Indian election reveals role of money, questionable morality

  • The report said the Bharatiya Janata Party was the biggest spender, accounting for about 45% of the total
NEW DELHI: India’s recent national election delivered a historic victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, but also exposed the influence of money, power and questionable morality on the world’s largest democracy.
Nearly 43% of the new members of the lower house of Parliament that convenes Monday for the first time since the election won despite facing criminal charges. More than a quarter of those relate to rape, murder or attempted murder, according to a report by the civic group Association of Democratic Reforms.
The loophole that allows them to take office is that they have not been convicted — in part because the Indian legal system has a huge backlog of an estimated 30 million cases and trials often last decades. When asked about the charges against them, they invariably accuse a political rival of framing them.
Since such rivalries often lead to false accusations, the main political parties say it would be unfair to bar people from contesting elections unless they have been convicted by court.
Under existing laws, only those who have been sentenced to prison for two years or more can be barred from elections.
Members of Parliament with criminal backgrounds is not a new phenomenon in India, but despite Modi’s campaign vow in 2014 to clean up corruption and the influence of money in politics, the problem appears to be only growing worse.
In the 2004 national election, the percentage of candidates with pending criminal cases was 24%, which rose to 33% in 2009, 34% in 2014 and 43% this year, said Shahabuddin Y. Quraishi, a former chief election commissioner.
The Association of Democratic Reforms found that 116 of the 303 lawmakers from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party elected last month face criminal charges, including one for alleged terrorism.
Pragya Singh Thakur, who won a seat from Bhopal in central India, is awaiting trial in connection with a 2008 explosion in Malegaon in western India that killed seven people.
Twenty-nine of the opposition Congress party’s 52 lawmakers face serious charges.
“This trend has been growing in India, leaving no political party untouched. We need to educate voters not to elect these people,” said Jagdeep S. Chhokar, ADR’s founder.
“What the Indian state has been unable to provide, strongmen promise to deliver to people in their area of influence, using gun and money power,” said Lennin Rasghuvanshi, a coordinator with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
Starting in the 1960s and ‘70s, some Indian politicians began turning to the criminal underworld for cash to win votes.
“In due course, the criminals started thinking that these politicians were winning because of their money or crimes so why shouldn’t they become lawmakers themselves? If they are people running from the police, they know that when they became lawmakers, the same police will protect them,” Quraishi said.
In Uttar Pradesh state in northern Indian, former mafia don Mukhtar Ansari has been elected to the state assembly five times despite more than 40 criminal cases pending against him, including murder.
Another don-turned-politician, Hari Shankar Tiwari, also of Uttar Pradesh, has been a member of the legislative assembly for 23 years, even winning an election while being detained on murder charges.
During the campaign, Election Commission officials and government agencies seized mountains of cash, alcohol, gold and silver, saris and expensive watches in the offices of political parties that were intended as gifts in exchange for votes.
The total value of the seized goods was $500 million, including $120 million in cash — nearly three times what was found in the 2014 general election, according to the Election Commission.
Analysts say that political parties seem to prize electability over ethics.
“They think that people with criminal backgrounds have more chances to win because of their money and muscle power,” Qureshi said.
In the days of paper ballots before electronic voting machines were introduced, gangs would use brute force to take over polling stations to rig the vote.
One reason for the increasing number of criminal suspects going into politics is the sheer cost of elections. In the general election that concluded in May, political parties and candidates are estimated to have spent about $8.65 billion. That’s double the amount in the 2014 election, according to a report by the Center for Media Studies in New Delhi.
The report said the Bharatiya Janata Party was the biggest spender, accounting for about 45% of the total. The Congress party accounted for between 15% and 20%.
Analysts say a key cause of corruption is the way political parties are funded in India. Parties are permitted to receive foreign funds, any company can donate any amount of money to any political party, and any individual, group or company can donate money anonymously through electoral bonds.
Donors do not need to disclose the party they have donated to, nor does the party have to reveal the source of its money.
Quraishi is calling for more transparency in campaign funding as well as a cap on election spending.
“The people want transparency, the donor wants secrecy. Whose wish should prevail?” he said.