TIME Aviation

Row Over Budget Airlines Erupts in Indonesia After AirAsia Disaster

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 29 : AirAsia aircrafts on the strip at Soekarno Hatta International Airport near Jakarta, on December 29, 2014. Malaysia, Singapore and Australia  have deployed planes and ships to assist in the Indonesian search for the missing AirAsia flight near Borneo while flying from Surabaya to Singapore with 162 passengers on board.   (Photo by Agoes Rudianto/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
AirAsia aircraft on the strip at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport near Jakarta on Dec. 29, 2014 Anadolu Agency—2014 Anadolu Agency

Proposed restrictions on ultra-low fares have enraged Indonesian travelers

A political row between Indonesia’s Transport Ministry, low-cost air carriers and the flying public is threatening to overshadow the ongoing salvage operation for AirAsia Flight QZ 8501, which crashed on Dec. 28 soon after leaving the Indonesian city of Surabaya for Singapore.

Indonesian news portal Detik reported Wednesday that bargain tickets offered by low-cost carriers — some of which go for as little as $4 — were to be banned.

“This is so that the airline has enough financial room to raise the safety standard,” said Transport Ministry official Hadi M. Djuraid. “We have no problem if they lower the service standard … but lowering the safety standard isn’t allowed.”

AirAsia didn’t immediately respond for TIME’s request for comment on the policy shift. However, Indonesian social-media users were scornful because the nation’s 250 million people increasingly rely on air travel to hop around the world’s largest archipelago, as well as travel abroad for leisure and work.

Some 700,000 Indonesian migrant workers are dispersed around Asia, chiefly in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, with remittances sent to family back home reaching $6.6 billion in 2009.

Any restrictions would also not be good for airlines such as AirAsia, already reeling from allegations by Indonesian officials that Flight QZ 8501 was only cleared to operate a few days each week, but crucially not on the Sunday when it crashed. AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes vehemently denied this was the case in a statement on Wednesday, describing the mix-up as “purely an administrative error.”

“We have the right to fly Surabaya-Singapore. We had flown that schedule and had rights for seven days a week,” he stated, according to the Straits Times. “We have secured both slots as well as approval from both Indonesia and Singapore.”

Nevertheless, Indonesian authorities have suspended five more key AirAsia domestic flight routes from Surabaya pending an investigation. The Surabaya-Singapore route had already been halted.

Indonesian authorities also criticized AirAsia Captain Iriyanto, who piloted QZ 8501, for apparently not picking up the air-traffic control’s weather-briefing document before his flight, as they claimed regulations require.

However, Fernandes defended his staff in a statement issued to CNN Wednesday, saying that the same meteorological data is disseminated electronically to all flight crew by AirAsia, whose practices mirror those of many other airlines.

Commercial airline pilots also rallied to Iriyanto’s defense. “Don’t make things up and say pilots are at fault if they don’t undergo briefing. It is not part of the required procedures [before taking off],” senior pilot Sardjono Jhony Tjitrokusumo said in a written statement, the Jakarta Globe reported. “Don’t suddenly become an aviation expert, as if you know everything about the industry. Please be wise.”

TIME Aviation

More Bodies Are Being Recovered From the AirAsia Disaster

Government official tries to calm a family member of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport
A government official, left, tries to calm a family member of passengers on board AirAsia Flight QZ 8501 at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, Indonesia, on Dec. 30, 2014 Beawiharta—Reuters

But bad weather is stirring up sediment and hampering the search

Seven bodies from AirAsia Flight QZ 8501 have now been recovered from the waters off Indonesian Borneo, including one in a trademark red flight-attendant uniform, as friends and relatives of those who were on the ill-fated Airbus A320-200 struggle to come to terms with the fact that all 162 passengers and crew are presumed dead.

It has emerged that many of the passengers who boarded the flight that left Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport for Singapore early Sunday morning — only to vanish from radar 42 minutes after takeoff — were ethnic Chinese families going on year-end holidays to a destination highly popular with Indonesian Chinese.

The victims included one student and seven graduates of St. Albertus, a Roman Catholic high school in Malang, a town near Surabaya, according to Anne-Marie, a member of the school’s alumni association. The group was traveling with family members. One of them traveled with her fiancé — the two planned to marry next year — his mother and father, who was also an alumnus.

“Many are shocked,” Anne-Marie tells TIME. “Especially because all of them died with their families too.”

The Jawa Pos, a regional newspaper, reported Wednesday that in total 35 residents of Malang had been lost in the disaster.

Officials have meanwhile pinpointed the location of the wreckage on the bottom of the Java Sea, their search greatly aided by two fishermen who brought recovery teams to waters where they said they saw and heard an explosion on Sunday.

Bodies were first spotted about 100 miles (160 km) from Central Kalimantan province, in southern Borneo. A sonar scan later uncovered what is now understood to be the fuselage of the plane on the seabed.

Poor weather is hampering efforts to recover more victims. Lashing rain has stirred up sediment in what is already murky water, and salvagers must sift through a large volume of assorted flotsam — such as discarded fishing nets, shipping refuse and plastic waste — from this busy maritime thoroughfare in order to recover parts of the aircraft.

Working in their favor, however, is the shallowness of this part of the Java Sea — around 100 ft. (30 m). The search for the sunken flight data recorder can be simply conducted by divers using hand-held locators instead of submarines. There is also the likelihood that debris will not have spread far.

“When a plane hits the sea it’s quite normal to get a minimal amount of floating wreckage and for it to be quite concentrated,” David Newbery, a Hong Kong flight captain and accredited aircraft-accident investigator, tells TIME.

Indonesian President Joko Widowo said Tuesday that the priority would be the recovery of bodies from the stricken aircraft. After that, crash investigators will have to piece together what exactly caused the plane to come down, with bad weather still presumed to be a contributing factor.

“To the family members, I feel your loss in this tragedy,” he told those gathered at the Surabaya airport late Tuesday. “I pray you find the strength and will to face this challenging time.” On Wednesday, he issued a national call for restrained New Year celebrations in the wake of the disaster.

The East Java provincial government has canceled a planned New Year’s Eve concert in Surabaya. Instead, Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini will hold an interfaith-prayer meeting.

Ujang Iskandar, the district chief overseeing Pangkalan Bun, the Central Kalimantan town nearest to where bodies and wreckage were seen, has issued an order banning “noisy parties, music and fireworks” out of respect for the AirAsia victims, and will also lead an interfaith-prayer gathering.

TIME indonesia

Papua Remains a Killing Field Even Under New Indonesian President Jokowi

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A Papuan activist delivers speech at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Jakarta on Dec. 10, 2014, during a protest against the killings of teenagers in the Papuan town of Enarotali two days earlier Adek Berry—AFP/Getty Images

The death of five high school students in skirmishes with Indonesian soldiers demonstrate the huge task ahead for Jokowi

The vivid images that emerged from Indonesia’s Papua province this week are pretty gruesome: teenage boys in school uniforms lie in a pool of blood, surrounded by shell-shocked residents. They are a grim reminder of the ongoing human-rights abuses in the country’s easternmost corner, wracked by a low-level armed separatist movement and heavy-handed military crackdown for about half-century.

On Monday, five high school students, aged 17 to 18, died in the town of Enarotali after security forces allegedly shot at a crowd of about 800 Papuans — many of whom were pupils — protesting on a soccer field, not far from the military and police offices. At least 17 civilians were wounded, including women and children. A sixth victim died on Tuesday, Papuan media reported.

The ill-fated protest was sparked by a brawl between troops and local residents, including children setting up Christmas decorations, shortly after midnight — it ended with a 12-year-old boy being beaten by rifle butts and stones thrown at the military personnel. The U.N. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have since called for an independent investigation into the deadly shooting.

The killings raise doubt on the commitment of new Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, whose election victory has buoyed hopes that the world’s largest Muslim majority nation may finally address rights abuses, self-determination grievances and economic inequality — issues that have long plagued the resource-rich provinces of Papua and West Papua.

However, the most recent shooting is “one of hundreds” of rights-abuse cases documented by HRW over the past 15 years in the Papua region, says Andreas Harsono, the group’s Indonesia researcher. “None of these have been resolved. If anyone is ever put on trial, he would be sent to jail for a few months, but no military men nor policemen have ever been fired because of human-rights violations in Papua.” Indonesian police and military have denied involvement in the Monday shooting — the army chief of staff even suggested the Papuan rebels were behind the incident.

Jokowi, who traveled to Papua and West Papua during parliamentary and presidential campaign seasons, has shown plenty of goodwill gestures to the troubled region. In a June visit, the then presidential candidate told an adoring crowd of his family’s close affinity to the Papuans’ homeland. “My wife was named Iriana because her grandfather was a teacher who was deployed to the then named Irian Jaya for quite some time,” he said, referring to the old provincial name of Papua.

Just weeks after his election victory, Jokowi met with Papuan politicians and leaders and promised to boost dialogue between Jakarta and the two provinces. In October, the President made Yohana Yembise his Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, the first Papuan woman appointed to the Cabinet.

The Papua region, which has some of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, is the only remaining area plagued by armed separatist conflicts in Indonesia. (East Timor voted for independence in 1999 and Aceh rebels reached a peace deal with Jakarta in 2005.) While the two Papuan provinces are currently a virtually no-go zone for foreign reporters — two French journalists making a documentary on Papua’s insurgency were arrested last August, jailed for more than two months and later deported — Jokowi has spoken about lifting media restrictions.

Conversely, though, Jokowi has been heavily criticized not only for naming a hard-line retired general, Ryamizard Ryacudu, as Defense Minister, but also for supporting an increased military presence in the region, including a plan to establish a new military command. Indonesian rights activists say the higher number of security forces could trigger even more violence in Papua.

And like the Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians in China’s periphery regions, Papuans are also worried of the influx of new migrants into their homeland — a number that is likely to increase if the new Transmigration Minister could push a migration program to Papua from other islands, especially the densely populated Java. “It is seen as an attempt to Indonesianize Papua,” Harsono tells TIME.

One day after the shooting, in an International Human Rights Day event in the southern Javanese city of Yogyakarta, Jokowi reiterated his human-rights commitment. “The government is paying attention and committed not only to resolve past human-rights abuses but also to prevent rights violations from being repeated in the future,” he said

That may be reassuring to some, but Papuans and human-rights activists are demanding more concrete actions, not just promises, from their new leader. “After nearly two months in power, nothing has been realized yet,” Harsono says about Jokowi. “There have been no significant changes.”

TIME indonesia

Indonesia Reaches Racial Milestone With Chinese Governor of Jakarta

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, with his wife Veronica Tan, poses prior to taking the oath of office to become the governor of Indonesia's capital Jakarta on Nov. 19, 2014 Tatan Syuflana—AP

For the first time in 50 years, a non-Muslim will be calling the shots in Indonesia's capital city

Sixteen years after anti-Chinese riots wreaked havoc in the Indonesian capital, newly installed President Joko Widodo has inaugurated an ethnic Chinese politician as Jakarta’s new governor.

Joko held the position until he became President. The appointment of his onetime deputy Basuki Tjahaja Purnama as successor is seen as a significant shift in Indonesian politics. The Christian politician, whose brash and combative style of leadership has earned him many supporters as well as detractors, is the first ethnic Chinese to fill the role.

In interviews, Basuki, popularly known by his Hakka nickname Ahok, recalled how during the disturbances of 1998 he and his family joined neighbors in the predominantly Chinese district of Pluit to defend their lives and property, using sticks, Molotov cocktails and machetes.

But his political rise marks a watershed in ethnic and religious tolerance in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population. The last time Jakarta was led by a minority governor was from 1964 to ’65, when then President Sukarno appointed a Christian artist, Henk Ngantung, to the job.

Religion and ethnicity can still be hot topics in Indonesian politics. During the presidential election earlier this year, Joko’s popularity was hit by smear campaigns that falsely accused him of being both a Christian and of ethnic Chinese descent.

The hard-line Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, has also staged violent protests opposing Basuki, saying Muslims should only be led by Muslims.

However, the mainstream Muslim population appears to be indifferent toward Basuki’s religious background. Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Islamic mass organization, is giving support to him. “As long as he is just and siding with the people, he is our governor,” said NU chairman Saiq Aqil Siradj last week. Leaders should be judged based on their honesty and dedication, he added, “not religion.”

Basuki, 48, became known nationwide after YouTube videos of him berating incompetent city officials went viral. Similar clips of other local leaders admonishing their subordinates have surfaced and been shared widely since then. But the new governor faces a mounting challenge in administering a city that is plagued by traffic gridlock and massive flooding problems.

TIME Hong Kong

Not Just Sex Workers: Here’s What We Know About the Hong Kong Murder Victims

Hong Kong Women Killed
In this Nov. 3, 2014, file photo, a high-rise apartment building, foreground center left, where two women were found in a flat rented by British banker Rurik Jutting, stands among other buildings in Wan Chai district in Hong Kong Vincent Yu—AP

The media has been quick to describe as "prostitutes" the two dead women found in the Hong Kong apartment of British banker Rurik Jutting. The truth isn't that simple, and one victim may not have been a sex worker at all

The arrest of young British banker Rurik Jutting, who was charged last weekend with killing two women in Hong Kong, has drawn the world’s attention to the city’s darker side, with current and former financiers coming forward with breathless confessionals of cocaine-fueled nights and easy sex.

But all of that is a world apart from the lives of the two victims — young Indonesian women brutally murdered just days apart in the district of Wan Chai, where posh apartment buildings, like Jutting’s, sit in uneasy proximity to topless bars and sleazy nightclubs.

Both Sumarti Ningsih, 23, and Seneng Mujiasih, 28, first arrived in Hong Kong to work as domestic helpers. They were among hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians in the city — mostly Thai, Filipina and Indonesian women — who work to support their families back home, or to fulfill a modest dream like building a house or saving for a small business.

Sumarti, from Cilacap, a town in southern Java, was a single mother with only a primary school education, but described as “very thoughtful and smart” by her mother Suratmi, 49. Her parents, who are farmers, tell TIME that she worked as a nanny when she was 18, shortly after she left her husband and gave birth to a baby boy in 2009. Life was a struggle.

“She said she didn’t have enough to eat when she lived with her husband,” her mother tells TIME.

Two years later, in 2011, she went to Hong Kong, leaving her son in the care of her parents. She worked as a domestic helper, managing to send around $250 home every month. That’s more than twice what a girl without much education can expect to make in Java working as, say, a shop assistant or in some similar role.

After working as a domestic helper, Sumarti found a job — illegally — in a Hong Kong restaurant as a waitress. Then she returned to Cilacap in 2013.

She wasn’t there for long. Back in Indonesia, she took a DJ course, and then traveled to Hong Kong at least twice more, staying for months at a time. The most recent, and the last, visit began in August, when she arrived on a tourist visa. On each visit, Sumarti returned to the same restaurant to make money for her son’s education and her parents’ daily living expenses.

Other Indonesian women in Hong Kong take on similar work, particularly those who overstay their domestic-helper visas.

One such overstayer was the second victim, Seneng Mujiasih. Her family lives in Indonesia’s Southeastern Sulawesi province, and she began working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong some years ago, but her contract was terminated in 2011 by her employer.

Finding a new employer meant paying large sums — the equivalent to many months of wages — to an employment agency. Instead, Seneng, known as Jesse Lorena to her friends, chose to stay on and work illegally in Hong Kong, taking on whatever job she could find.

“She wanted to save money to build a house for her mother,” says Eni Lestari, an adviser with the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong, who spoke with the victim’s friend. Seneng is said to have lived in a cheap boarding house not far from Jutting’s luxury apartment building, J Residence, where the rent on a 350-sq.-ft. flat costs around $2,800 per month — seven times a domestic helper’s wage.

There are around 6.5 million Indonesians working overseas, sending home $7.4 billion of remittances last year. Many of these migrant workers are women working as domestic helpers in the Middle East and East Asia. Almost half of Hong Kong’s 320,000 domestic workers are from Indonesia.

Although the city offers legal protection to domestic workers, including a mandatory minimum wage and days off, rights activists blame draconian immigration restrictions and Indonesia’s employment regulations for making the women vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Newcomers incur huge debts to employment agencies. In a case that shocked the world, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was tortured for months by her employer before she was sent home emaciated and disfigured in January. Despite her plea for help, her agency had refused to intervene because she still owed them money.

Strapped for cash, mired in debt or simply wishing to earn more, some migrant workers, including overstayers like Seneng, take on other kinds of work, from other cleaning jobs to washing dishes or waitressing in restaurants or, in a comparatively few cases, selling sex. Sometimes they do all of the above, moving fluidly between the lives of sex worker, migrant worker and illegal alien.

In interviews with Indonesian-language media, Seneng’s friends said she had been an occasional sex worker. Sumarti’s mother believes that her daughter was not. “I believe she actually worked, and was not doing anything bad,” she tells TIME. “I know my own daughter. She said she worked in a restaurant, and when I called her, she said she worked from early morning to late in the evening.”

Eni slams the media for quickly and pruriently painting the women as mere prostitutes. “We should understand that nobody come here to work illegally or do an immoral job,” she tells TIME. “They are forced by circumstances to do so.”

Unfortunately, those same circumstances persist for millions of Indonesian women. Every day, at Hong Kong’s glittering international airport, more arrive, with the modest aim of earning enough to feed and house their families.

Sumarti was due to pass through the same airport on her way home on Nov. 2. Instead, back in Cilacap, her grieving parents are now waiting for her body.

“Right now I only wait for the return of my daughter’s body as soon as possible,” says her mother. “I am very shocked, and cannot accept it. Whoever did it to my daughter has to get the heaviest punishment.”

Read next: How to Spot a Sex-Trafficking Victim at a Hotel

TIME indonesia

Indonesia’s New President Appoints a Cabinet of Compromise

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, adjusts his cap next to Vice President Jusuf Kalla, front right, and surrounded by members of his new Cabinet at the presidential palace in Jakarta on Oct. 27, 2014 Adek Berry—AFP/Getty Images

Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was elected on a mandate of change but must now work within political realities

Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo — the first Indonesian from outside the military and political elite to hold the country’s top job — has unveiled the Cabinet that will help him run the world’s fourth most populous nation for the next five years.

However, while the new leader has touted himself as a harbinger of change, his Cabinet includes several figures that reflect compromise and the reality of political patronage, suggesting that the wunderkind of Indonesian politics may need to temper the expectations of voters.

The market appeared unimpressed, with the Jakarta Composite Index falling 0.6% on early Monday afternoon, and the rupiah changing little, Bloomberg reported.

On a positive note, he made his appointments in conjunction with the Corruption Eradication Commission (known by its Bahasa Indonesia initials of KPK) and the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), the anti-money-laundering agency — a step forward in a nation beset by graft.

“I selected the ministers carefully and meticulously,” he said. “That’s important because this Cabinet will work for the next five years, and we want the chosen people to be clean figures, hence our consultations with the KPK and the PPATK.”

The antigraft commission rejected eight of the candidates submitted by Jokowi, forcing him to find last-minute replacements.

Besides technocrats and newcomers, the 34-strong lineup, which was sworn in Monday, includes clients of his party’s chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri and politicians from other coalition parties.

With Jokowi holding no leadership position in his own party (the Indonesian Democratic Party–Struggle, or PDI-P), and having to rely on coalition partners, appointments from within the political establishment are inevitable if disappointing to some.

“Realistically speaking, Jokowi can’t be fully independent from the political parties’ push and pull,” says Metta Dharmasaputra, executive director of Jakarta-based business research company KataData.

Reducing costly fuel subsidies and lifting economic growth are among the monumental tasks awaiting the new President. His choice to appoint experienced technocrats, such as the Coordinating Minister for Economics Sofyan Djalil and Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, to key economic posts has won praise. He has also picked a technocrat and anticorruption activist, Sudirman Said, to lead the graft-ridden Energy Ministry.

Signaling his commitment to a more religiously tolerant Indonesia, Jokowi retained the incumbent Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, a moderate and highly respected Muslim politician.

Eight female ministers were appointed to the 34-strong Cabinet — a record number. For the first time in history, Indonesia has a female Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, who was ambassador to the Netherlands until recently. Indonesia also has a female Forestry and Environment Minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, a Nasdem Party politician. The appointments have been hailed by women’s activists, but political analyst Philips Vermonte, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said in a tweet, “This is quantity, not quality.”

The public and analysts are also less than impressed with the inclusion of Megawati loyalists in the Cabinet (two of whom are women): her daughter Puan Maharani; her former Trade Minister, Rini Soemarno; and her former army chief, retired general Ryamizard Ryacudu, who is known for his hard-line views on separatist conflicts and who was barred from traveling to the U.S. after his troops were implicated in killings of two American citizens in Papua in 2002.

Puan has been made Coordinating Minister of Human Development and Culture, a senior post, despite her having no experience in administration. Meanwhile, critics have long rejected Rini, the new State-Owned Enterprises Minister, on account of her alleged implication in several scandals, including the Bank of Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI) case, and a furor over the purchase of Sukhoi fighter jets.

The BLBI scandal revolves around the fate of $71 billion of Bank Indonesia bailout funds given to banks affected by the 1997–98 financial crisis; misuse of the funds led to huge state losses that threatened to bankrupt the central bank. The KPK questioned Rini as a witness last year because it was believed she knew about the so-called “release and discharge” documents that were given to some debtors even though they didn’t fulfill their obligations. In the Sukhoi scandal, she allegedly ordered the State Logistics Agency chief to make a $193 million deal to purchase from Russia four Sukhoi jets and two Mi-35 helicopters, which was outside his jurisdiction, and without involving parliament.

“Jokowi is spreading the patronage around among his coalition,” says Aaron Connelly, Indonesia analyst and research fellow of the East Asia program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

Megawati isn’t the only political figure to have foisted her people on Jokowi. An acolyte of Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s, from his hometown in South Sulawesi, was given the agriculture portfolio.

Some foresee difficulties ahead. Indonesia’s diplomats and defense officials have not traditionally seen eye to eye. With Megawati’s military man Ryamizard as Defense Minister, and Jokowi’s choice of a career diplomat like Retno (who is said not to be very familiar with the military) as Foreign Minister, Connelly says the antipathy will continue and two ministries are likely to “struggle to get on the same page.”

TIME indonesia

Indonesians Outraged by the Scrapping of Elections for Mayors and Governors

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Indonesian activists and students chant during a protest against a new bill on local elections outside the parliament building in Jakarta on Sept. 25, 2014 Adek Berry—AFP/Getty Images

The move by an outgoing parliament is seen as a blow to democracy and a bid to undermine President-elect Joko Widodo

The Indonesian parliament voted to scrap direct elections for regional office-bearers early Friday — a decision that critics say is a step backward for democracy in the world’s fourth most populous nation and biggest Muslim-majority country.

When Indonesians woke up to the news, many reacted with anger and fury. “A Democratic Betrayal,” read the Jakarta Globe headline on Friday.

It was former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s Gerindra Party, and his Red-White Coalition partners, that pushed to have district chiefs, mayors and governors indirectly voted in by local parliaments, as they were in 2005. Under the new legislation, governors from Prabowo’s coalition, which controls 31 out of 34 provincial legislatures, are expected to dominate the country.

The bill was passed just days before the current lawmakers end their term on Sept. 30, and weeks before Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is inaugurated as President on Oct. 20.

Supporters of the move say direct elections are expensive and rife with fraud — a point dismissed by opponents, including Corruption Eradication Commission officials, who say indirect elections invite even more corruption.

The initiative is seen not only as an attempt by Prabowo — who lost the July election to Jokowi but has yet to congratulate him — to undermine his rival even before he resumes office, but also as a bid by the widely distrusted political elite, of which Prabowo is a leading figure, to wrest power from ordinary people.

“Society will need to be prepared for leaders who are going to obey local parliaments more than they serve the people,” says Titi Anggraini, executive director of Perludem, an NGO focusing on elections-related advocacy.

Much of the anger is directed at outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, widely known by his initials SBY. He and his Democratic Party, which controls nearly a third of the parliamentary seats, said they would support direct elections. But, in the end, many Democrat lawmakers absented themselves from the voting when their demands for revisions were not meant, dealing a blow to Jokowi’s coalition and allowing the bill to pass.

The hashtag #ShameOnYouSBY was the top trending topic in Indonesia, and worldwide, on Friday. “Congratulations Pak @SBYudhoyono – now you have a legacy as the President who let democracy move backwards,” said Ima Abdulrahim, executive director of the Jakarta-based think tank the Habibie Center, on Twitter.

“Two generals have killed our democracy: Prabowo and SBY,” tweeted Luthfi Assyaukanie, of the Freedom Institute think tank, referring to the fact that both men are former military officers.

Yudhoyono later told journalists in Washington, D.C., where he is on a state visit, that he was “disappointed with the process and the result.”

Direct elections have been credited with the emergence of popular and untainted regional leaders who are not party oligarchs. It has given rise to humble politicians like Jokowi, who began his career as the mayor of the Javanese city of Solo; his deputy governor, Basuki T. Purnama; Ridwan Kamil, mayor of the nation’s third largest city, Bandung; Ganjar Pranowo, governor of Central Java; and Tri Rismaharini, mayor of Indonesia’s second city, Surabaya. All of them have opposed indirect elections, with Basuki even quitting Prabowo’s Gerindra Party over the issue.

“Do you know that with indirect elections, all of the regional leaders are practically under the instruction of the political elite in Jakarta?” tweeted Ridwan. He and other regional heads vow to challenge the legislation in the Constitutional Court. Perludem has promised the same.

TIME indonesia

With the Election of Joko Widodo, Indonesia Writes a New Chapter

INDONESIA-ELECTION
Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo gestures after delivering his victory address in Jakarta's port district of Sunda Kelapa on July 22, 2014 Romeo Gacad—AFP/Getty Images

For the first time, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, and third biggest democracy, has an Everyman for President

Indonesians woke up Wednesday morning to something completely new: a President who did not hail from the political or military elite.

The previous evening, the country’s electoral commission, the KPU, declared the governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo — popularly known as Jokowi — President-elect of the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation and third biggest democracy. After a highly polarized campaign, Jokowi and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla, won more than 53% of the vote, or some 8 million more votes than their rivals, former general Prabowo Subianto and his No. 2, Hatta Rajasa.

Unlike many established figures who dominate the political arena, the 53-year-old Jokowi came from a humble provincial background: he grew up in a riverside slum in Solo, Central Java, and does not have ties to an influential family. After a career as a furniture entrepreneur, he started in politics as mayor of his hometown less than a decade ago — and this rapid rise, along with the level of electoral enthusiasm and volunteerism his candidacy generated, has invited comparisons to U.S. President Barack Obama (the two were even born in the same year). Many see Jokowi’s win as an augury for a more mature era in Indonesian politics.

“His candidacy would have been improbable just a few years ago,” says Aaron Connelly, East Asia research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, who focuses on Indonesian politics. “This has not historically been a country in which parents told their children that they could grow up to become President.”

The bitterly contested presidential election also marks the first time that social media and the Internet played a major role in overseeing the electoral process. Taking advantage of the raw data that the KPU released on its site, concerned citizens set up websites to monitor the counting. One such site is Kawal Pemilu, or Guard the Election. Hurriedly built by Singapore-based IT consultant Ainun Najib and a couple of Indonesian programmers working for a Silicon Valley company, it was an instant hit, showing the official vote recapitulation, updated every 10 minutes by volunteers, of which there were around 700. “We wanted to fulfill the calls to guard the election by showing the data openly,” Ainun tells TIME.

With this level of openness and scrutiny, the election is being hailed as Indonesia’s most transparent and democratic. But that hasn’t stopped the loser from complaining that the poll has been “defective.” Prabowo, a former general with a tainted human-rights record, has refused to concede defeat. He initially called for the public to wait for the official count, but as it became clear the victory wasn’t his, he began attacking the KPU, accusing it of not properly investigating what he alleged was massive vote fraud — an accusation the commission has rebutted. On Tuesday afternoon, hours before the KPU’s announcement, he declared that he would not accept the official tally. His decision was widely derided by citizens and legal experts alike. (“The Indonesian people are grateful because we have escaped from the catastrophe of having a heavily stressed-out presidential candidate [as leader],” one Twitter user said.)

On Wednesday, Prabowo’s team says they would challenge the result in the Constitutional Court. Already, however, there are signs that his coalition is falling apart. During the past two press conferences on Sunday and Tuesday, in which Prabowo lambasted the KPU, running mate Hatta was conspicuously absent.

The victor, meanwhile, has been basking in congratulations. In his midnight victory speech on Tuesday, delivered at Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta’s old port, Jokowi said, “This presidential election has given rise to new optimism for us, for this nation … It is time for us to move together.” Stirring stuff, but winning the election, it must be said, was the easiest task on Jokowi’s list. Now comes the hard part — of governing a sprawling archipelago of 18,300 islands that has emerged, blinking, into democratic daylight.

TIME Malaysia

Anger, Agony and Disbelief as Malaysians Awake to News of MH17

Malaysia Malaysia Airlines
An electronic board displays "Pray for MH17" at the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport on July 18, 2014 Joshua Paul—AP

First a jet vanishes over the Indian Ocean. Now this

Updated: July 18, 2014, at 02:25 ET

Malaysians are reacting with shock and anguish to the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. The Boeing 777 was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and crashed in an area controlled by pro-Russia rebels — just months after the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

“The Ukrainian authorities believe that the plane was shot down,” said Prime Minister Najib Razak in a statement. “At this early stage, however, Malaysia is unable to verify the cause of this tragedy. But we must — and we will — find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone can be left unturned.”

There were 283 passengers and 15 crew aboard Flight 17. Of those, 154 people were from the Netherlands. There were also 27 from Australia, 43 from Malaysia (including the crew and two infants), 12 from Indonesia (including another infant) and others from Europe, the Philippines and Canada, according to a statement posted Thursday by Malaysia Airlines.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that distressed relatives have gathered at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to await news of family members. In between sobs, Akmar Mohamad Noor told AP that her older sister was on the flight, returning to Malaysia to celebrate Eid with the family for the first time in 30 years.

“She called me just before she boarded the plane and said, ‘See you soon,'” Akmar said.

There are reports that furious relatives waited for hours at the airport, unable to speak to officials from Malaysia Airlines and prevented from entering operational areas by security guards.

“We have been waiting for four hours. We found out the news from international media. The Facebook is more efficient than MAS,” one man said to waiting media.

Malaysian news outlet the Star gave blanket coverage to the crash Thursday morning, but, seeking a human dimension to the tragedy, most readers were drawn to a simple, poignant story on the worried messages left by colleagues on the Facebook page of cabin attendant Angeline Premila, believed to have been on the downed flight.

The Malaysian Insider reported on the extraordinary fate of cabin crew member Sanjid Singh, who reportedly swapped shifts so that he could be aboard Flight 17. Months earlier, his wife, also a Malaysia Airlines cabin crew member, had swapped out of the now vanished Flight 370 at the last minute, saving her life.

News site Astro Awani also carried news of the families of other crew members. Relatives of flight 17’s chief steward, Mohd. Ghaffar Abu Bakar, 54, said they heard the news on TV. The father of cabin attendant Nur Shazana Mohamed Salleh was unaware his daughter, 31, was aboard Flight 17 until informed by her friends late on Thursday evening. “She had asked us to send a photo of her nephew … She sounded cheerful,” he told journalists regarding his last communication with her on July 16.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Twitterverse is abuzz with the news about the crash. “Following the uproar over the disappearance of MH 370, now [we are] shocked by MH17 that crashed in Ukraine. Oh God,” said @tracy_elcia, writing in Bahasa Malaysia.

Many users were in disbelief with the two successive tragedies that befall the country. “My dear God. The MH370 case is not finished, the MH17 case arrives. #PrayForMH17 #PrayForMH370,” said @apizshahh.

In the deeply religiously Muslim-majority country, some Twitter users turned to God for consolation. “Nightmare?? Only Allah knows what was happening.. #prayforMH17,” said @mohdzarulhiqmi.

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