Archive for May, 2019

   May 13

Jakarta candidate Anies Baswedan surging in polls, but some claim there’s a cost

Anies Baswedan listens to Julie Bishop in the Jakarta suburb of Menteng in March 2016, when he was a minister in the Indonesian government. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah Jakarta: In 2010 the Japanese magazine Foresightnamed Indonesian university rector Anies Baswedan among 20 global figures – including Vladimir Putin and David Miliband – to watch over the next 20 years.
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The cover story predicted that Mr Baswedan – a former student activist opposed to authoritarian leader Suharto, a prominent political analyst and one of Indonesia’s youngest university presidents – would be a future leader.

It seems Foresight showed considerable, well, foresight. Seven years later, Mr Baswedan is contesting gubernatorial elections in Jakarta, considered by many a dress rehearsal – or at least a proxy war within the political elite – for Indonesia’s 2019 presidential race.

Mr Baswedan’s ticket is supported by the Greater Indonesia Movement (Gerindra), the party chaired by Prabowo Subianto, President Joko Widodo’s rival in the 2014 elections.

“Anies … is widely seen as using this election to get his political career back on track, while at the same time testing the water for Prabowo Subianto’s next attempt for the presidency in 2019,” writes political analyst Yohanes Sulaiman in New Mandala.

And the latest survey from Indikator Politik Indonesia – one of the most trusted polling firms in the country – shows Anies is neck-and-neck with the polarising incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok.

As support wanes for the third candidate, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, after several lacklustre debate performances and embarrassing Twitter outbursts by his father, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Baswedan’s popularity is in the ascendant.

Neither Mr Purnama nor Mr Baswedan are expected to win the majority required for victory in the February 15 election, which would mean they would have to face off in a second election in April.

Indikator executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi believes Mr Yudhoyono’s votes would flow to Mr Baswedan in a runoff, as supporters of the two Muslim candidates come from similar backgrounds: “We still have two months to go and everything can happen, but based on the current situation the momentum is with Anies.”

But at what cost? The Foresight profile said Mr Baswedan’s neutral, fair and consistently balanced views had earned him the trust of all communities, including many political elites. “He is a moderate Muslim who consistently stands in the middle, not affiliated with any political party or group,” it said.

But Mr Baswedan’s moderate reputation has been eroded during the election campaign by his aggressive courting of the Islamist vote.

In January he sparked controversy by giving a speech to the hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI), which has spearheaded mass rallies in the capital, with protesters calling for Ahok to be jailed and in some instances even killed for allegedly insulting Islam. Anies Baswedan, once known as a global voice of moderate Islam, campaigned at FPI HQ. Will this pic be remembered as the day moderates die? pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/AlvgGmmByz— Evan A. Laksmana (@EvanLaksmana) January 1, 2017

At the time one of Mr Baswedan’s campaign spokesmen, Anggawira, told Fairfax Media that Mr Baswedan attended meetings with different groups every few days.

“People know where he stands on Islam, it’s not something created in one day or visit. His position is well known by everybody, it’s clear in the media, he was an activist as a student … he’s an educator.”

When pressed by Metro TV anchor Najwa Shihab on whether he shared the FPI’s belief that Jakarta’s governor must be a Muslim, Mr Baswedan replied: “When we talk about verse from the Koran, it’s clear, it is stated there. As a Muslim, I abide by al-Ma’ida 51.”

It is verse 51 from the fifth sura or chapter of the Koran that has landed Mr Purnama in so much hot water. It is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of non-Muslims.

Others say the scripture should be understood in its context – a time of war – and not interpreted literally.

Islamist hardliners have consistently used the verse to urge Jakartans not to vote for Ahok, who is Christian.

Mr Baswedan and Mr Yudhoyono both attended a “mass prayer” at Istiqlal Mosque, an event some dubbed the “112 [February 11] march”, which police eventually allowed on the condition people stay within the mosque and that it not feature any political speech.

This was ignored: religious leaders told the crowd of about 100,000 people to vote for Muslim leaders and participants brandished placards that said things like “It is forbidden to pick an infidel leader”.

Mr Baswedan told the BBC he had simply conducted morning prayers and stressed that he had not exploited religious sentiment during the election campaign.

“I never talked about religion, never talked about any sura, not even once. Other people used it and made all of this happen,” Mr Baswedan said.

But Indikator pollster Mr Burhanuddin is among those who believe Mr Baswedan has damaged his moderate reputation.

“The only way of beating Ahok is to use religious sentiment because 75 per cent of Jakartans perceive Ahok has done a good job,” Mr Burhanuddin said, adding that the strategy had worked for Mr Baswedan up until now.

“For Anies this is really a big game. If he fails to win the election, it is all just finished for him – his reputation as a pluralistic, inclusive Muslim figure is just finished. He is just like other politicians – using everything to win the election even at the cost of his reputation.”

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   May 13

A-League: Liaoning Whowin express interest in Newcastle Jets midfielder Ma Leilei

SHOP WINDOW: Jets midfielder Ma Leilei has attracted interest from Chinese Super League club Liaoning Whowin after a series of eye-catching performances in the A-League. Picture: Getty ImagesMA Leilei joined the Newcastle Jets on a modest contract in a bid to kick start a career he hopes leads back to China and the riches on offer in the Super League.
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The 27-year-old is not there yet, but his 12 A-League appearances, the past five in the starting side, has attracted the attention ofLiaoning Whowin.

Liaoning Whowin, who are in the Hunter on a three-week pre-season camp, have recently added Socceroos Robbie Kruse and James Holland to a roster that includes former Bundesliga star Anthony Ujah and Zambia captain Chamanga.

Chinese Super League (CSL) clubs are permitted five overseas players but only three can be used in a game.The new regulation has increased the demand –and salary –of quality Chinese players.

Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna confirmed that Liaoning Whowin had “shown a bit of interest” in Ma but said any deal was a long way off.

The CSLwindow closes at the end of the month, with the competition starting on March 3.

“Clubs will have a list and it will depend if they get the first choice, second choice…there will be a lot on maneuveringbefore the window closes,” McKinna said.

Ma is contracted to the Jets until the end season and it would take a lucrative transfer fee for the club to release him early.

“He has done very well,” McKinna said. “You see the reception he gets when he comes off the park, the fans appreciate him.”

Liaoning Whowin, who finished 10th in CSL last season, will get a first-hand look at Ma in a friendly against the Jets next Wednesday.

“Leilei will probably have half a game, “ McKinna said. “The idea of him coming here was to get back into China.He is not on a big salary. He came here to prove himself. His biggest problemwas that he wasn’t fit.Because they have changed regulations in the Super League, Chinese players are more valuable.When I was coaching therefive years ago, Chinese players were on $30,000 to $40,000 a year, unless they were a national-team player. During the last five years the salaries have gone through the roof. A couple of the boys I had atChongqing are picking up $500,000 US net.”


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   May 13

Shocking Close the Gap report shows need for new relationship between black and white Chinans

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivers the Closing the Gap report at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares The latest Closing the Gap report makes for grim reading. Photo: Ben Plant
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The big question went unasked and unanswered when Malcolm Turnbull presented the ninth – and perhaps the most disappointing – annual Closing the Gap report on endemic and profound Indigenous disadvantage.

Why, half a century after ns overwhelmingly decided the Commonwealth had a duty to make laws to benefit the First ns, is the gap still so wide?

Why, nine years after all tiers of government agreed on a comprehensive strategy to close it, is just one of seven targets – and arguably the softest one – on track to be met?

Why, 20 years after the landmark report on the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families, are Indigenous children nearly 10 times more likely to be removed by child protection authorities than non-Indigenous children?

Why, after all of the revelations of institutionalised cruelty in the Northern Territory’s juvenile justice system, was a 12-year-old boy tasered as he attempted to run from police last week?

And why, after all the inquiries and all the dollars spent, is the gap actually widening in some critical target areas, like deaths caused by cancer and infant mortality?

The Prime Minister is a glass-half-full politician and he chose to focus on the positives when he presented the report to Parliament on Tuesday, like the fact that there is no employment gap for those with a university degree.

So did the report, which began with the words: “This ninth Closing the Gap report showcases real successes being achieved at a local level across the country – by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.”

This reflects the idea that you make progress by celebrating success, but the self-congratulatory tone was out of order and it won’t work if the deeper question of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous ns is not addressed.

Turnbull also referred to three positive developments of his own making: the recasting of his Indigenous advisory council; the secondment of one of the country’s foremost experts on Indigenous health, Ian Anderson, to his department; and the appointment of an Indigenous member of the Productivity Commission to evaluate programs with a budget to do the work.

Each is important, but these are incremental steps when a paradigm shift is required. For all the talk about doing things with Aboriginal people, not to them, the bottom line is that far too many Aboriginal people feel excluded, disrespected, disempowered and discriminated against – every day of their lives.

Bill Shorten acknowledged as much when he called for a new approach, based on listening to those on the other side of the gap. “We must forget the insulting fiction that the First ns are a problem to be solved,” was how he put it.

What is needed is a new relationship, and the best path toward one is being charted by Indigenous ns in a series of dialogues on what constitutional recognition should look like and mean.

Momentum is building toward having an Indigenous body recognised in the Constitution to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a voice in the Parliament and a say in decisions that affect them and their rights.

If such a proposal is endorsed at an Indigenous constitutional convention at Uluru in May, it might just represent the best chance for a fresh start. The question then is whether the politicians will grasp it?

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   May 13

Michael Flynn’s resignation leaves China one less friend in Trump’s White House

‘s ambassador to Washington Joe Hockey will praise the “value of mateship” at a speech in Chicago this week. Photo: Wolter PeetersThe roller-coaster that is dealing with a Trump presidency just took another stomach-clenching dip.
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Trying to get to know a White House deliberately staffed by outsiders, n officials had placed a lot of store in Michael Flynn as someone well-disposed to occupying the crucial job of National Security Adviser.

n ambassador to Washington Joe Hockey is set to praise the “value of mateship” at a speech in Chicago this week on the US- relationship, and it’s a safe bet he hoped to count Flynn as a mate.

Flynn, after all, was the battlefield commander in Afghanistan who in 2010 broke with the chain of command to share sensitive US intelligence with n soldiers.

He was lauded by former n army chief Peter Leahy in January as among a modern breed of “fighting generals” with little time for bureaucracies or the politics of Washington.

Flynn was also in the room for Donald Trump’s now infamous phone call with Malcolm Turnbull and was hoped to be a voice to reinforce the long-standing alliance ties between the two nations.

But Flynn’s slipshod attitude towards proper process has brought him undone – no small event at a time when railing against “fake news” is employed as an excuse to cover up all manner of mistakes.

Flynn had special notoriety on this score. “Flynn Facts” was the nickname given to his penchant for conspiracy theories and unwavering confidence in his own righteousness long before “post-truth” became a phrase of the mainstream.

But despite what some saw as his dangerous and confrontational ideas, there was still hope, in the manner of sensible official advice to make sense of what are unsettling times, that Flynn was a man could deal with.

No more. His resignation in disgrace over what he did or didn’t tell Russia’s ambassador only underscores the difficulty of searching out the comforting and familiar at a moment of radical change.

The lesson for is simple. While it’s nice to go to the carnival with friends, we will have to get accustomed to hanging on alone for a wild ride.

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   May 13

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council unaffected by NSW merger policy change

Tim Overall: The administrator believes people support the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council. Photo: Jay CronanThe New South Wales government’s change in policy on regional council mergers will not affect those that have already amalgamated – including Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.
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Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Tuesday the government would push on with mergers in Sydney but those pending in regional areas would no longer go ahead.

Queanbeyan and Palerang councils were among 44 merged last May in a controversial move that led to legal action from a number of local government organisations.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council administrator Tim Overall said it was business as usual for the organisation after a video meeting with staff from Ms Berejiklian’s office Tuesday afternoon.

“My focus has always been Queanbeyan, but my position has been that if the government was going to merge councils it was very important that we get behind the government’s initiatives in that regard and make them highly successful, those mergers, and being appointed administrator, that’s what I’m about,” he said.

“My view is anecdotally, based on the feedback I’m receiving right across our local government area, whether it’s in Queanbeyan, Braidwood, Bungendore or even further afield, is that there’s general support for the merger.”

Federal Eden-Monaro Labor MP Mike Kelly attended a protest against forced amalgamations last week in support of the seven councils merged to three within his electorate.

“The result of these council mergers is the stripping away of democracy from our community – people were not given a vote on the mergers or the people who run these new councils,” Dr Kelly said on Tuesday.

“Today’s announcement did not even discuss bringing forward council election, so the extended reign of unelected administrators continues.”

Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro – who represents Queanbeyan as part of the Monaro electorate – vowed last month to put a stop to mergers in bush areas.

“Local councils in the bush have done their fair share to contribute to stronger local government in NSW, and today we draw a line under local government amalgamations in the regions,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This decision has been made to ensure that we put an end to the confusion and uncertainty for those councils locked in drawn-out legal battles.

“I am looking forward to the local government elections in September to restore local decision-making to our regions.”

Snowy Monaro Council will also stay merged. Yass Valley Council, Bega Valley and Eurobodalla remain unaffected.

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