While the official count won't be available for another week, polls show that president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won reelection. Yudhoyono set up and backed an anti-corruption effort that has been successful, and very popular. Yudhoyono also cracked down on a lot of the cronyism and favoritism that fed the corruption for decades, and hobbled economic growth.
Indonesia will increase its defense budget 20 percent for next year. This year's spending is $4 billion. It was $3 billion in 2007 and 2.6 billion in 2006. Most of the additional money in the past few years has gone to maintenance. Ships and aircraft have been largely out of service, or dangerous to operate, because of low defense spending over the last decade. Ships and aircraft are particularly essential for a country that consists of 6,000 inhabited islands (and twice as many uninhabited ones.)
July 17, 2009: Suicide bombers, who had registered as guests, attacked two luxury tourist hotels in the capital, leaving eight dead and some 50 wounded. Splinter elements of Islamic terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiah (JI), were the prime suspects. That's because terrorism experts have been warning that JI (a local group that models itself on al Qaeda), while much diminished after a series of terror attacks between 2002-5, still has adherents who are eager to kill for the cause. But Indonesia proved to be a hostile environment for Islamic radicals. While a few percent of Indonesians embraced the conservative form of Islam Saudi Arabia has been exporting for decades (with missionaries and money for mosques and religious schools), the majority preferred the milder form of Islam that had developed when pre-Islamic religions merged with Islam over the last 800 years. This sort of religious blend, which is common throughout the world, with other religions as well as Islam, is considered heresy by Islamic radicals (who first appeared in the 1970s).
The 2002-5 terrorist attacks mobilized public opinion against JI, and hundreds of key members were arrested. This included most of those responsible for the attacks that killed hundreds of people. But some of the terrorists fled the country, and others went into hiding. Terrorism experts believe that those who went deep underground, have been developing more careful methods of operating, to avoid being turned in by the many Indonesians who oppose Islamic radicalism. But in the wake of the two recent attacks, police believe they know some of those responsible, and will catch most of those responsible for planning and carrying out this attack.
An unexploded bomb was found and defused in one of the hotels, and a car bomb went off elsewhere in the capital, killing two. So far, no one has taken credit for the attacks. This is not unusual, as Islamic terrorists in countries with strong anti-Islamic terrorist attitudes, the terrorists know it's safer just to terrorize and not give the police any additional information by issuing a press release.
July 16, 2009: In Papua, near the Grasberg mining complex, there have been five encounters, with one or more armed men, in the past five days. Shots were fired each time, and so far, three are dead and 12 wounded. All the attacks have occurred on a 65 kilometer long road between the nearest large town (Timika) and the mine, and police have warned mine employees to avoid the road.
July 13, 2009: Police said the OPM Papuan separatist rebels were suspects for recent shootings, but OPM denied any involvement. Police reported that the bullets indicate the use of a high velocity, possibly military type, rifle. Locals believe the shooting is the result of a feud by gangs that extract gold from the ore that the mine has already processed. These gangs are believed to contain some company employees, and/or members of the police. Corruption and criminal behavior in an operation as large as Grasberg is expected, but the use of high power rifles to attack other employees and the police seems odd.
July 12, 2009: In Papua, a security guard at the site of yesterday's attack was killed by gunfire, and two others were wounded. Two policemen were wounded in a gun battle that following the killing. Another dead policeman was later found 20 kilometers away. Police said the OPM Papuan separatist rebels were suspects.
July 11, 2009: In Papua, a car with five Grasberg employees was ambushed, and an Australian employee was hit five times and killed.
July 8, 2009: Presidential elections were held, with polls showing incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono far in the lead for another five year term.
In Papua, someone set several fires at the Grasberg gold (and copper) mine. This operation employs 20,000 people, and plans to produce 2.2 million ounces of gold this year, and 1.3 billion pounds of copper (up from 1.2 million ounces of gold this year, and 1.1 billion pounds of copper last year.) Gold is currently selling for about $930 an ounce, and copper for about $2.30 per pound. That means Grasberg is producing about $2 billion worth of gold, and $2.5 billion worth of copper this year. It's the biggest business in Papua, and the largest source of tax income for the national government.
July 6, 2009: Conservative clerics called for top Islamic scholars to ban Facebook for Moslems (because men and women can communicate and arrange illicit sexual encounters). This caused a public outcry by Moslem Internet users who point out the positive benefits of social networking sites. As usual, the conservative clerics demonstrated how small their constituency is, and how unpopular their views are.