Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Breaking the Long Hiatus

Oh my! Is it one year already?

That was one very long hiatus. No, I didn't go anywhere. No, I'm not that busy. A lot of things happened during this one year, but there was nothing that kept me THAT occupied and prevented me to updating the blog.

No, my good sir. I have no sophisticated and convincing excuse to explain why I had not updated my blog that long. My one and only explanation is something very dull and boring: laziness. Plain and simple laziness. My old arch-nemesis: laziness.

I have always been a lazy person. That is something I have realized for a long time. And since I'm a logical (or have aspiration to become a logical) person, I know that laziness is bad and that I need to control it. One of the reasons I first blogged was to combat my persistent, recurring, and stupid laziness. The idea was simple: to combat laziness, I have to have motivation. I love writing and, in general, expressing my thoughts and opinions, and therefore having a  blog would be an excellent exercise for me, I thought. I would be doing something I like, which is a motivation in itself. I would just have to learn to do it in a more regular, consistent, and disciplined manner. And maybe, if I have loyal readers to this blog, I would be even more motivated to have the discipline to maintain it. In addition, I would improve my English writing skills. Ah, how perfect it all seemed then.

And how very wrong.

Because even if one does something one love, when one has to do it in a regular way, the thing that one loves becomes a routine, and as routine sets in, boredom comes, and boredom is married to laziness. And, finally, once laziness comes in, it becomes very difficult to kick it out. One needs to find a new source of motivation, which was something difficult to find I mean, I could no longer rely on the I-love-writing motivation, right? There has to be other new and fresher motivations for me, that would enable me to restart this blog.

And I found it. That motivation. I found it at last, after lengthy discussions (note that it is in plural) with many friends regarding the upcoming presidential election. I found that I disagree with so many things that they say or do (for example siding with one candidate, or sending stupid news and lies), and I lack the proper outlet to express it. I tried to give my opinion to some of them, orally or in group chats, but they were always met with resistance and denial. In addition, I found that the outlets available (such as the whatssapp group chats) to me is very limited and I could not present my opinions completely before some other guys attacked me and cut me off mid-sentence.

That is why I return to blog. This is my private and public place at the same time. Private because this spot belongs to me and I can express my opinions fully without having some other people cut me off mid-sentence and not giving me the chance to complete my statements. It is also public because other people can still read my writings and opinions and have the chance to give comments if they feel like it. This is the motivation I need to re-start my blog, and restart it I did.

I don't know if I can maintain this blog regularly for the next few months. But I do know that I have a lot of things in my chest that I need to let out. This blog is the means to do that.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Ratification Status of Various Human Rights Treaties by Southeast Asian Countries

I made this file for personal use. I think maybe I will need it somewhere in the future. I decide to share this because I think this can come in handy for other people. If you come across any update or mistakes, please let me know.

Go here for the dropbox link.

A brief note:

I need to make my remarks on the reservations and declarations as brief as possible, so the wordings are not really accurate. If you want to get accurate wordings of the reservations and declarations you can go: which is the main source I use for this document.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Briefing Note on ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism

Several weeks ago, I attended a training on ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. The facilitator, Yuyun Wahyuningrum, is a prominent human rights activist from a Jakarta-based NGO, Human Rights Working Group (HRWG). The training was really useful for me and I believe that it is important for anyone interested in working in developing human rights agenda in the region. Herewith I am attaching a link to the briefing note of the training. I hope this can be useful for you:

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Don't use "Bahasa" to label our language, please

It annoys me to hell every time I hear somebody call the Indonesian language as "bahasa". That is not the proper term for it, which should be "bahasa Indonesia".

Bahasa in Malay/Indonesian means "language". How do you feel when you hear somebody label the English language as "language"? I know that would sound really weird for me. Most people would label it either as English, or in full as the "English language". But nobody in their right mind would call it simply as "language". 

The same goes for Indonesian. Either use the word "Indonesian" or the Indonesian language. Or if you really want to use a Malay/Indonesian term, use bahasa Indonesia. Never use only Bahasa. 

Human Rights Issues of the Week: Killings of Terrorist Suspects

Human rights issue of this week is last week's killings of 4 terrorist suspects in Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia, on Saturday, 5 January 2013. The suspects were killed by the Indonesian Special anti-Terrorist Squad, Densus 88. According to the police, the squad had to shoot to kill in order to protect themselves against possible suicide bombers. Several suspects were wearing vests, who later on were confirmed wired with bombs.

The shootings sparked a debate regarding the conduct of Densus 88. Critics accused them to be 'trigger happy' and did not really try to capture the terrorists alive to be brought to trial. The day before, on Friday 4 January 2013, the squad carried out an operation in Sulawesi, where they also killed two terrorist suspects and captured the other four.

The police seems to have a legitimate basis of action. Their lives were threaten by the possibility of suicidal attacks from the suspects. On the other hand, the number of killings are very high. The total suspects of both operations in Nusa Tenggara Barat and Sulawesi are 11 people, however, the police only managed to captured 5 people alive, while the other 6 were killed. This begs the question: how hard the police tried to convince the suspects to surrender alive.

On this issue I really cannot take any position yet, unless I can get more information later on. Right now, I can see that the squad has a legitimate reason to shoot. However, I do feel that some kind of assessment and evaluation on how Densus 88 operate should be carried out. Densus 88 should be placed under public scrutiny and cannot be allowed to move outside and beyond the law. There has to be an accountability mechanism that the public can see. Only then we can be sure that the unit's actions are legitimate and are necessary for public safety and security.

Links (all Indonesian. Sorry, I couldn't find any news on this in English):

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Human Rights Issue of the Week: Female Motorcyle Driver in Aceh

Human rights issue of the week in Indonesia is a controversial bylaw from the city of Lhokseumawe, in Aceh province, that bans female motorcyle driver to sit astride on the motorbike. Local government, who proposed this bylaw, said that such action is considered "un-Islamic" and therefore should be banned.

The local mayor said that the law does not ban women to ride motorcycle and that they can still sit astride when they are driving. However, when a woman becomes a passenger she has to sit side-saddle. Proponents say that this bylaw is aimed to protect women, because by sitting astride they might provoke "immoral behavior" from the men who see them.

Obviously, this law quickly garners a lot of criticism both from inside and outside Aceh. Critics say, correctly, that this law is degrading to women, because it assumes that women are the source of immoral behavior. Rather than protecting women by creating stronger legal framework to punish sexual offenders (who are mostly male), this law seeks to put women as the object to be controlled and regulated.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that applies strict Sharia law. This bylaw, however, will only apply to the city of Lhokseumawe and not to the whole province. Some activists are calling for the central government to strike down the law because it contradicts law no. 39/1999 on human rights.

This event is the latest of a series of controversies involving the application of sharia in Aceh. In 2011, the Aceh government forcibly shut down a punk music concert in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, detained about a dozen of punks and sent them to a re-education camp. They declared that punk music is 'un-Islamic' and therefore should not be allowed in Aceh.

Indonesia city to ban women 'straddling motorbikes'  from BBC
Lhoksheumawe larang perempuan duduk ngangkang (in Indonesian)
Indonesia's Aceh punk shaved for 'reeducation' from BBC

Thursday, 3 January 2013

ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

Association of Southeast Asian Nations finally officially adopted its long awaited  ASEAN Human Rights  Declaration at the ASEAN Head of States meeting at 19 November 2012. You can see the declaration here.

Before the official announcement, observers and critic had  been afraid that the coming Declaration would not be up to the international standards of human rights protection. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) -  the drafting committee - was heavily criticized, in particular for its lack of transparency. AICHR did  open many consultation process with civil society organizations. However, observers said that these consultations often effectively went one way, with representatives from the civil society giving inputs and ideas with relatively minimum response or feedback from members of AICHR. Also, the general public were not given many opportunities to see the draft of the declaration. The civil society had no way of knowing whether their recommendations were incorporated into the declaration or not.

Another issue is the composition of AICHR. In accordance to its Term of Reference (see here), in particular article 5, each member of AICHR represents his/her own government and is accountable to his/her government. Critics say that this would compromise the independence of the Commission. Many questioned the sincerity of ASEAN to build a true human rights regime in Southeast Asia.(i)

When the Declaration was announced, it was received with mixed responses from civil society organizations in Southeast Asia. Critics point out that several provisions in the declaration have the potential to weaken ASEAN members' commitments towards human rights because they set a lower standard compared to the existing international human rights conventions and treaties.

Reading at the Declaration, I would say that the most problematic provisions are paragraph 6 - 8 of the General Principles. I quote them below (emphases are mine):

6. The enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms must be balanced with the performance of corresponding duties as every person has responsibilities to all other individuals, the community and the society where one lives. It is ultimately the primary responsibility of all ASEAN Member States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

7. All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. All human rights and fundamental freedoms in this Declaration must be treated in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis. At the same time, the realisation of human rights must be considered in the regional and national context bearing in mind different political, economic, legal, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds.

8. The human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person shall be exercised with due regard to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others.  The exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others, and to meet the just requirements of national security, public order, public health, public safety, public morality, as well as the general welfare of the peoples in a democratic society.

The three paragraphs above contain some words that echo the Asian Values Debate of three decades ago(ii). In short, proponents of the Asian Values say that human rights principles should be adjusted into the national and regional context to be applicable. Asian communities, they continue, put more emphasis on the importance of the group (society or the community) over the individuals, and that individuals should put forward their obligations and duties towards the community before claiming their rights. In addition, for Asian societies public morality is an important issue and that the state should act as its guardian. At least, this is what their proponents claimed.

The main problem with these three paragraphs is that they provide an opportunity for governments to not provide maximum human rights protection to its citizens. The term "national and regional context" is a handy  excuse for governments to not fulfill certain human rights obligations. The concept of "duties" is also useful   to shift responsibilities away from governments to the individual citizens. And "Public morality" is a vague concept. Often times it is used to justify repressive actions against certain groups, in particular LGBTs and women.

However, even with these flaws, I remain an optimist. I think the AHRD should be considered as "a living document"(iii). Meaning that its eventual understanding and interpretation will pretty much depend on the actions of ASEAN members in the future. Also, this is the first broadly-based non-binding human rights declaration  for ASEAN(iv). The next step after this is to produce a more binding human rights document in the form of ASEAN Convention on Human Rights. Such document will have greater impact for the building of a human rights regime in the future. We hope, if it ever happens at all, the document will be more progressive than the one we have now.

End notes: 
(i) There is also an issue related to ASEAN's principle of non-intervention. For more discussion on this principle and its relation to building a human rights regime in Southeast Asia, please go here.
(ii) For an introduction on Asian Values go here. You can also read a dissenting article from Amartya Sen on why Asian Values actually do not contradict universal human rights values here. There is also a good wikipedia article you can read as a reference point of the debate here.
(iii) I am borrowing this phrase of "AHRD is a living document" from Yuyun Wahyuninggrum, from Human Rights Working Group (an Indonesian based NGOs Coalition) at a conference in Bali, November last year.
(iv) ASEAN has at least two other human rights declaration before the AHRD: the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women  and the ASEAN Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children