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President cancels state visit to the Netherlands after human rights court case; Christian worshipers attacked by radical Muslims; Visiting Russian fighter jet technicians die of methanol poisoning; Jakarta Composite Index surges to new heights; Public offering of shares for national airline put on hold; The sweetest change in town.
Top News: A furious President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono abruptly cancelled a state visit to the Netherlands as his plane was minutes away from takeoff in Jakarta Oct. 5 after a Holland-based Indonesian separatist group filed a lawsuit against him in a Dutch human rights court.
Yudhoyono said the court case, as well as planned protests during his four-day visit as guest of Dutch Queen Beatrix, were an insult to Indonesia’s “dignity as a nation.” However, the president also said he bailed out of the trip over concerns that the court might try to arrest him — the court has since rejected the lawsuit — despite his immunity as a head of state.
The lawsuit by the exiled South Maluku Republic, a tiny fringe separatist group, stems from the arrest and alleged torture of at least 21 of the group’s members by police during a visit by Yudhoyono to Maluku province last June.
Leaders of a Protestant church were attacked and stabbed by radical Muslims as they marched to attend an open-air Sunday service on the outskirts of Jakarta on Sept. 12 after local authorities sealed their church.
The brutal attack — in which Asia Sihombing, an elder of the Batak Christian Protestant Church in Bekasi, West Java, took a knife in the stomach — was the latest incident in a months-long dispute between minority Christian groups and radical Muslims in the area. Despite having the world’s largest Muslim population, Indonesia is a secular country with small but influential Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist minorities.
A few days after the attack, which stunned the nation, police arrested the local leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, an extremist group known for violence, for instigating the attack. Regardless, interfaith activists say that religious intolerance is growing in a country that prides itself on its diversity.
Three Russian engineers who worked for aircraft producer Sukhoi were found dead in their apartments at an Indonesian air force base on Sept. 13. The incident took place at Hassanuddin air base near the city of Makassar, where the Russian specialists were servicing the Sukhoi combat jets purchased by the Indonesian government from Russia.
A forensic examination found traces of methanol, a poisonous alcohol used as fuel and solvent, in the bodies of the three dead specialists, suggesting poisoning. Investigators also found methanol in their apartment.
The day after the deaths of their co-workers, two other Russian technicians at the air base were rushed to hospital with symptoms of methanol poisoning. They later recovered.
Money: Indonesia’s stock exchange posted four consecutive record-breaking days in late September as part of an incredible two-year run that made it the best performer among major Asian markets in 2010. On Sept. 27, the Jakarta Composite Index surged 2.1 percent, breaking the 3,500 mark for the first time.
Indonesia’s buoyant economy — economic growth for the second quarter was 6.2 percent — fueled by domestic consumption, exports, and a stable political climate, is turning heads and drawing billions of new investment dollars into the country.
National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has postponed a much-anticipated initial public offering until early 2011 as the company continues to grapple with debt restructuring. The state-owned carrier had planned an IPO for November, but as the government weighs details of the offering and the company’s finances, officials said Sept. 22 that it would be pushed back to next February.
On Sept. 30, the Indonesian government also postponed a $1.5 billion rights issue by Bank Mandiri, the country’s largest lender by assets, until next year in order to make way for a share sale by Bank Negara Indonesia.
Elsewhere: Despite a formal agreement, many modern retail stores — the “naughty” ones, some say — are still giving their customers small change in the form of candy, instead of coins, according to the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation.
The group said on Sept. 11 that about 10 percent of modern retailers still slipped their customers candy in lieu of small coins, despite an agreement in July between the Association of Indonesian Retailers, Bank Indonesia and the Ministry of Trade. Local banks often have no or little supply of coins and bills with nominal values of Rp 50, Rp 100, Rp 200, Rp 500 and Rp 1,000, leaving retailers with little choice but to give bemused customers back their change with an equivalent value in candy.