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Ukraine: The East-West tug of war – Counting the Cost – Al Jazeera English

Ukraine: The East-West tug of war – Counting the Cost – Al Jazeera English.

As tension continues in Ukraine, we analyse why the country remains economically torn between Russia and the EU.

 Last updated: 01 Mar 2014 09:38
It was the bloodiest week in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history. The president fled, an opposition leader left jail after three years and, with the dust now settling, a clearer picture is emerging about the dire state of the country’s finances.Ukraine’s political crisis began with the economy; ousted president Viktor Yanukovich wanted to align with Russia, while his opposition was looking to Europe – which prompted what almost amounted to a bidding war.

On the Russian side, Moscow had earmarked $15bn to inject into the Ukrainian economy.

The European Union had offered just $800m and while Ukraine would get great access to EU goods and services, it would not actually be able to get its own products into the continent.

Things are now worse, as Ukraine says it needs $35bn over two years, and Standard & Poors says the country, the central bank and its state-owned oil companies have about $13bn worth of debt to repay. Although it has $18bn in reserves, that is not enough to run an economy.

On this week’s Counting the Cost, we look how Ukraine remains torn between Europe and Russia and which side offers the best deal. We speak to Dmirty Sologoub formerly an economist with the IMF, but now head of research Raiffesien Bank Aval in Ukraine.

Nigeria’s ‘missing money’ 

In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has suspended Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the central bank for “financial recklessness and misconduct”.

Sanusi had earlier exposed all sorts of corruption in Nigeria’s oil industry, alleging that $20bn had gone missing from oil sales.

Speaking exclusively to Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege in Lagos, Sanusi said the money that disappeared in the last 19 months was supposed to be given to the central bank by the state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

His allegations mean losses in public money could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. The ex-governor says he will not be surprised if he is jailed for speaking out.

Nigeria is one of the world’s largest oil producers. Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of state revenue, although as little as one percent of Nigerians are thought to benefit from the wealth.

Many people we spoke to in Abuja about Sanusi’s ouster told us they thought the missing money might be used to fund election campaigns. Nigerians go to the polls next year to vote in presidential elections. But Sanusi thinks the public money may have already been squandered.

Ndege also spoke to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister.

Over-fishing in Indonesia

In Indonesia, over-fishing is depleting fish stocks. The government has introduced marine-protected areas, but for some fishermen that is not enough.

They are using increasingly aggressive means to put fish in their nets, and food on their tables. Many fishermen, who wish not be identified, admit they use explosives.

Despite using desperate measures they still cannot compete with the big boats catching all the fish. They also now have to travel a lot further to find tuna.

Millions of Indonesians are dependent on fish for their income and nutrition. The government has introduced measures to make sure fish populations will grow back, but this might be too little too late. With aggressive fishing techniques not being banned, traditional fishermen have only a slim chance to pass on their skills to the next generation.

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reports from Benoa, Indonesia.

Activist Post: Human Rights group calls on World Bank to acknowledge role in the mass killing of one million Indonesians

Activist Post: Human Rights group calls on World Bank to acknowledge role in the mass killing of one million Indonesians.

Activist Post

The Oscar-nominated documentary THE ACT OF KILLING was projected on the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. Thursday in an action by the East Timor and Indonesian Action Network. The group is calling on the World Bank to acknowledge its role in the 1965 military coup in Indonesia that lead to the massacre of an estimated one million civilians. The World Bank helped prop up the corrupt government of Suharto, the general who lead the coup and ordered the mass killings. The Bank sent the Suharto regime $30 billion in development aid over the course of three decades despite knowing $10 billion had been looted by the government.

“THE ACT OF KILLING powerfully highlights the ongoing impunity within Indonesia for the 1965 mass murders,” said John M. Miller of the East Timor and Indonesian Action Network. “Tonight we highlight the World Bank’s support for the Suharto regime, which knowingly backed his corrupt government while his post-coup body count climbed. We urge the World Bank to acknowledge its role in Suharto’s many crimes and to apologize and provide reparations to the survivors. Institutions like the World Bank must also be held accountable for their financial assistance to the murderers and decades of support as they continued to violate human rights.”

“The World Bank gave $30 billion dollars to a dictator who killed an estimated one million of his own citizens,” said THE ACT OF KILLING filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer. “The murderers spent years profiting off of their heinous crimes with the World Bank and other global financial institutions footing the bill.”

THE ACT OF KILLING, currently Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary feature, has been recognized as one of the best films of 2014. The film has received over 60 awards including Best Documentary from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). While the mass killings of 1965 are an open secret in Indonesia, the government has never acknowledged or apologized for sponsoring the murders. THE ACT OF KILLING, which has been shown in thousands of private screenings and is available free online throughout Indonesia, is empowering victims’ families to demand reparations from the government for the first time.

About East Timor and Indonesian Action Network

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. In 2012, the government of the Democratic Republic Timor-Leste awarded ETAN the Order of Timor (Ordem Timor) for its role in the liberation of the country. More information about ETAN can be found at: http://www.etan.org

About THE ACT OF KILLING

In THE ACT OF KILLING, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and executive produced by Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, the filmmakers expose a corrupt regime that celebrates death squad leaders as heroes.

When the Indonesian government was overthrown in 1965, small-time gangster Anwar Congo and his friends went from selling movie tickets on the black market to leading death squads in the mass murder of over a million opponents of the new military dictatorship. Anwar boasts of killing hundreds with his own hands, but he’s enjoyed impunity ever since, and has been celebrated by the Indonesian government as a national hero. When approached to make a film about their role in the genocide, Anwar and his friends eagerly comply—but their idea of being in a movie is not to provide reflective testimony. Instead, they re-create their real-life killings as they dance their way through musical sequences, twist arms in film noir gangster scenes, and gallop across prairies as Western cowboys. Through this filmmaking process, the moral reality of the act of killing begins to haunt Anwar and his friends with varying degrees of acknowledgment, justification and denial. More information about the film can be found at http://actofkilling.com/.

Mass exodus as volcano erupts in Indonesia – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Mass exodus as volcano erupts in Indonesia – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Booms from Java’s Mount Kelud heard 130km away, while about 200,000 people flee as ash, sand and rocks rain down.

Last updated: 14 Feb 2014 09:11

A major volcanic eruption in Indonesia has shrouded a large swathe of the country’s most heavily populated island in ash, triggering the evacuation of about 200,000 people and closing three international airports.

Indonesia’s disaster agency said two people died on Friday in the overnight eruption of Java’s Mount Kelud, considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes on the island.

“A rain of ash, sand and rocks” reached up to 15km from the volcano’s crater, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “Sparks of light can be continuously seen at the peak.”

The smell of sulfur and ash hung so thickly in the air that breathing was painful.Insaf Wibowo, Kediri resident

Nugroho said about 200,000 people from 36 villages in eastern Java were being asked to evacuate.

Television pictures showed ash and rocks raining down as terrified locals fled in cars and on motorbikes towards evacuation centres.

Booms could be heard at least 130km away in Surabaya, the country’s second-largest city, and even further afield in Jogyakarta.

Kediri, a normally bustling town about 30km from the mountain, was largely deserted as residents stayed indoors to avoid the choking ash.

“The smell of sulfur and ash hung so thickly in the air that breathing was painful,” Kediri resident Insaf Wibowo told the Associated Press news agency.

Two people were killed when the roofs of their homes collapsed under the weight of the ash and volcanic debris, the disaster agency said.

Tremors on Friday continued to wrack the volcano, which had been rumbling for weeks, but scientists did not expect another major eruption.

Ring of Fire

The 1,731-metre Mount Kelud has claimed more than 15,000 lives since 1500, including around 10,000 deaths in a massive 1568 eruption.

The last major eruption was in 1990, when the volcano kicked out searing fumes and lava that killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds.

It is one of some 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier this month another volcano, Mount Sinabung on western Sumatra island, unleashed an enormous eruption , leaving at least 16 people dead.

Sinabung has been erupting on an almost daily basis since September, coating villages and crops with volcanic ash and forcing tens of thousands from their homes.

Coffee to Soybean Wagers Climb on Brazilian Drought – Bloomberg

Coffee to Soybean Wagers Climb on Brazilian Drought – Bloomberg.

By Luzi Ann Javier  Feb 10, 2014 4:19 PM ET
Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg

A woman harvests coffee beans at the Ponto Alegre estate farm in Cabo Verde, in the… Read More

Hedge funds raised bullish commodity bets to a 15-week high after a drought in Brazilthreatened crops from coffee to soybeans.

The net-long position across 18 U.S.-traded commodities climbed 15 percent to 900,330 futures and options in the week ended Feb. 4, the biggest gain since August, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Investors turned bullish on arabica coffee for the first time since July 2012 and soybean wagers rose by the most in almost three months. Brazil is the biggest exporter of both crops.

The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Agriculture Index of eight commodities rose 3.3 percent last week, reaching an eight-week high Feb. 6. In Brazil, also the top sugar grower, the driest January since 1954 drained dams and scorched plants. Extreme global weather also is threatening other crops with too much rain hampering Indonesia’s cocoa harvest and freezing temperatures damaging U.S. wheat.

“Agriculture is probably the best hope for a decent commodity run this year,” said Peter Sorrentino, who helps manage $4.4 billion at Huntington Asset Advisors in Cincinnati. “These weather issues will definitely have a decided positive influence on prices.”

The S&P GSCI Spot Index of 24 raw materials gained 2.1 percent last week. The MSCI All-Country World index of equities rose 0.8 percent, while the Bloomberg Treasury Bond Index slid 0.1 percent. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index, a gauge against 10 major trading partners, dropped 0.8 percent. The S&P GSCI Agriculture Index rose 0.2 percent at 4:18 p.m. New York time.

Coffee Bulls

Money managers held a coffee net-bullish position of 7,981 contracts on Feb. 4, the CFTC data show. That’s the first bet on a rally since July 2012. Prices for arabica, the variety favored by Starbucks Corp., surged 23 percent since Dec. 31, the best start to a year since 1997.

Plantations in Brazil are enduring dry weather just when rain is needed the most for tree roots to absorb nutrients as the beans begin to grow inside the coffee cherries. Rain may be “too late” and there isn’t enough time to reverse the damage to trees and beans, Terra Forte, a Sao Joao da Boa Vista-based shipper, said in a report.

Hot, dry weather cut potential soybean yields in as much as 40 percent of Brazil’s growing areas, Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland, said in a report Feb. 7. In Kansas, the top winter-wheat-growing state, 35 percent of the crop was in good or excellent condition, down from 58 percent on Dec. 30 after sub-zero temperatures swept the nation, the government said Feb. 3. The Indonesian Cocoa Association sees the nation’s crop dropping to the lowest in a decade as rains in the third-biggest grower hurt flowering and delay the harvest.

Goldman, Citi

Raw materials from copper and corn to sugar and coffee will be have supply surpluses this year after a decade-long bull market spurred producers to build new mines, drill more wells and expand planting of crops. Banks led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. say commodities are heading for losses in 2014. The S&P GSCI Agriculture Index tumbled 22 percent last year, the most since 1981, after U.S. crops recovered from the worst drought since the 1930s.

Inventories of soybeans around the world will equal 26.7 percent of consumption this season, up from 23.5 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Jan. 10. Corn stockpiles will equal 17.1 percent of use, compared with 15.4 percent a year earlier. Global coffee production is set to exceed demand for a fourth season, pushing stockpiles to a five-year high, according to the USDA.

Supply ‘Buffer’

“We’re not in a precarious situation for crop supplies like we were a year ago,” said Kelly Wiesbrock, a managing director at Harvest Capital Strategies in San Francisco, which oversees $1.8 billion. “We do have a buffer today in the event that we have below-trend yields this year. It’s unlikely we see drastic price reaction.”

World food prices fell in January to a 19-month low, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said Feb. 6. The Rome-based group’s index of 55 food items is 4.5 percent lower than a year ago.

The S&P GSCI Enhanced Commodity Index, Goldman’s preferred measure, will drop 3 percent in the next 12 months, the bank said in a Jan. 12 report. Precious metals will lead losses with a 15 percent drop, while agriculture will decline 11 percent.

Money managers increased their net-bullish soybean holdings by 20 percent to 146,533 contracts, the highest this year. Prices gained 3.8 percent last week, the most since August. Cocoa wagersgained 7.2 percent to 83,038, a second straight increase. Investors held a net-short position of 52,963 in wheat, compared with 62,501 a week earlier.

Gold Wagers

Wagers on a gold rally slid 2.1 percent to 59,408 contracts, the first decline this year, the CFTC data show. Federal Reserve officials said Jan. 29 they would trim monthly purchases of bonds to $65 billion from $75 billion, after a $10 billion cut announced in December. Bullion rose 70 percent from December 2008 to June 2011 as the Fed pumped more than $2 trillion into the financial system.

Gold rebounded 5.6 percent this year after a 28 percent decline in 2013 that was the biggest since 1981. About $1.6 trillion was erased from the value of global equities in 2014 amid signs of slow economic growth in China and a slump in emerging-market currencies. Sales of gold coins by the U.S. Mint rose 63 percent in January to the highest since April.

Copper Inventories

Investors became bearish on copper before prices capped the biggest rally this year. Funds are holding a net-short position of 6,832 contracts, compared with a net-long of 11,735 a week earlier. Futures in New York rose 1.2 percent last week, the most since Dec. 27. Inventories at warehouses monitored by the London Metal Exchange declined 16 percent this year to the lowest since December 2012.

“Commodities, especially base metals, might be getting to close to a point where investors have discounted something close to a worst-case scenario,” said Sameer Samana, a senior international strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors LLC, which oversees about $1.4 trillion. “There will be pockets of strength. The issue in Brazil could be a catalyst.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Luzi Ann Javier in New York at ljavier@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Millie Munshi at mmunshi@bloomberg.net

Are We On The Verge Of A Massive Emerging Markets Currency Collapse?

Are We On The Verge Of A Massive Emerging Markets Currency Collapse?.

Currency CollapseThis time, the Federal Reserve has created a truly global problem.  A big chunk of the trillions of dollars that it pumped into the financial system over the past several years has flowed into emerging markets.  But now that the Fed has decided to begin “the taper”, investors see it as a sign to pull the “hot money” out of emerging markets as rapidly as possible.  This is causing currencies to collapse and interest rates to soar all over the planet.  Argentina, Turkey, South Africa, Ukraine, Chile, Indonesia, Venezuela, India, Brazil, Taiwan and Malaysia are just some of the emerging markets that have been hit hard so far.  In fact, last week emerging market currencies experienced the biggest decline that we have seen since the financial crisis of 2008.  And all of this chaos in emerging markets is seriously spooking Wall Street as well.  The Dow has fallen nearly 500 points over the last two trading sessions alone.  If the Federal Reserve opts to taper even more in the coming days, this currency crisis could rapidly turn into a complete and total currency collapse.

A lot of Americans have always assumed that the U.S. dollar would be the first currency to collapse when the next great financial crisis happens.  But actually, right now just the opposite is happening and it is causing chaos all over the planet.

For instance, just check out what is happening in Turkey according to a recent report in the New York Times

Turkey’s currency fell to a record low against the dollar on Friday, a drop that will hit the purchasing power of everyone in the country.

On a street corner in Istanbul, Yilmaz Gok, 51, said, “I’m a retiree making ends meet on a small pension and all I care about is a possible increase in prices.”

“I will need to cut further,” he said. “Maybe I should use my natural gas heater less.”

As inflation escalates and interest rates soar in these countries, ordinary citizens are going to feel the squeeze.  Just having enough money to purchase the basics is going to become more difficult.

And this is not just limited to a few countries.  What we are watching right now is truly a global phenomenon

“You’ve had a massive selloff in these emerging-market currencies,” Nick Xanders, a London-based equity strategist at BTIG Ltd., said by telephone. “Ruble, rupee, real, rand: they’ve all fallen and the main cause has been tapering. A lot of companies that have benefited from emerging-markets growth are now seeing it go the other way.”

So why is this happening?  Well, there are a number of factors involved of course.  However, as with so many of our other problems, the actions of the Federal Reserve are at the very heart of this crisis.  A recent USA Today article described how the Fed helped create this massive bubble in the emerging markets…

Emerging markets are the future growth engine of the global economy and an important source of profits for U.S. companies. These developing economies were both recipients and beneficiaries of massive cash inflows the past few years as investors sought out bigger returns fostered by injections of cheap cash from the Federal Reserve and other central bankers.

But now that the Fed has started to dial back its stimulus, many investors are yanking their cash out of emerging markets and bringing the cash back to more stable markets and economies, such as the U.S., hurting the developing nations in the process, explains Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at BlackRock.

“Emerging markets need the hot money but capital is exiting now,” says Koesterich. “What you have is people saying, ‘I don’t want to own emerging markets.'”

What we are potentially facing is the bursting of a financial bubble on a global scale.  Just check out what Egon von Greyerz, the founder of Matterhorn Asset Management in Switzerland, recently had to say…

If you take the Turkish lira, that plunged to new lows this week, and the Russian ruble is at the lowest level in 5 years. In South Africa, the rand is at the weakest since 2008. The currencies are also weak in Brazil and Mexico. But there are many other countries whose situation is extremely dire, like India, Indonesia, Hungary, Poland, the Ukraine, and Venezuela.

I’m mentioning these countries individually just to stress that this situation is extremely serious. It is also on a massive scale. In virtually all of these countries currencies are plunging and so are bonds, which is leading to much higher interest rates. And the cost of credit-default swaps in these countries is surging due to the increased credit risks.

And many smaller nations are being deeply affected already as well.

For example, most Americans cannot even find Liberia on a map, but right now the actions of our Federal Reserve have pushed the currency of that small nation to the verge of collapse

Liberia’s finance minister warned against panic today after being summoned to parliament to explain a crash in the value of Liberia’s currency against the US dollar.

“Let’s be careful about what we say about the economy. Inflation, ladies and gentlemen, is not out of control,” Amara Konneh told lawmakers, while adding that the government was “concerned” about the trend.

Closer to home, the Mexican peso tumbled quite a bit last week and is now beginning to show significant weakness.  If Mexico experiences a currency collapse, that would be a huge blow to the U.S. economy.

Like I said, this is something that is happening on a global scale.

If this continues, we will eventually see looting, violence, blackouts, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks in emerging markets all over the planet just like we are already witnessing in Argentina and Venezuela.

Hopefully something can be done to stop this from happening.  But once a bubble starts to burst, it is really difficult to try to hold it together.

Meanwhile, I find it to be very “interesting” that last week we witnessed the largest withdrawal from JPMorgan’s gold vault ever recorded.

Was someone anticipating something?

Once again, hopefully this crisis will be contained shortly.  But if the Fed announces that it has decided to taper some more, that is going to be a signal to investors that they should race for the exits and the crisis in the emerging markets will get a whole lot worse.

And if you listen carefully, global officials are telling us that is precisely what we should expect.  For example, consider the following statement from the finance minister of Mexico

“We expected this year to be a volatile year for EM as the Fed tapers,” Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said, adding that volatility “will happen throughout the year as tapering goes on”.

Yes indeed – it is looking like this is going to be a very volatile year.

I hope that you are ready for what is coming next.

Wheelbarrow of Money

Thousands displaced by Jakarta deadly floods – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Thousands displaced by Jakarta deadly floods – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Indonesia is regularly affected by deadly floods and landslides during its wet season [EPA]
Several Indonesians have been killed and thousands displaced by deadly floods in Indonesia’s capital.

More than 10,000 Indonesians have fled their homes in the capital due to flooding that has left five dead, an official said on Sunday, with people using rubber dinghies and wading through waist-deep water to reach safer ground.

“So far 10,530 people in Jakarta have been displaced by floods caused by heavy rains,” disaster agency official Tri Budiarto said.

Buildings in some parts of the capital, which has a population of 10 million and is regularly afflicted by floods during the six-month rainy season, were half submerged, with roads blocked in many areas.

The floods have subsided but houses were wrecked, and furniture and belongings were damaged, so people have not been able to return

Christian Laotongan, disaster agency chief, Sulawesi

Five people have so far been killed in the past week due to flooding, officials have said previously.

Budiarto confirmed the toll and said those killed had either died by drowning or being electrocuted.

However the floods were yet to reach the same level as last year when the central business district was left under water.

Sulawesi damage

On the archipelago’s northern Sulawesi island the death toll from flash floods and landslides rose to 19.

Around 40,000 people were still displaced following flash floods and landslides on the island earlier in the week, local disaster agency chief Christian Laotongan said.

“The floods have subsided but houses were wrecked, and furniture and belongings were damaged, so people have not been able to return,” he added.

Rescuers on Saturday recovered the body of a woman from a landslide in Tomohon city, Laotongan said, bringing the death toll in the area to 19.

Indonesia is regularly affected by deadly floods and landslides during its wet season. Environmentalists blame logging and a failure to reforest denuded land for exacerbating the floods.

Indonesia recalls Canberra ambassador over Yudhoyono phone tapping attempt | World news | theguardian.com

Indonesia recalls Canberra ambassador over Yudhoyono phone tapping attempt | World news | theguardian.com.

 

Indonesia’s foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, demands an explanation from Australia over spying revelations. Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, is asked about the affair

Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Australia following Guardian Australia’s revelations that Australian spy agencies attempted to listen to the private phone calls of the Indonesian president and targeted the phones of other senior figures in Jakarta, including his wife.

The Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, confirmed on Monday that he and the president had contacted the ambassador in Canberra and told him to return to Jakarta for “consultations”. He added that Indonesia was reviewing all information-sharing agreements between the two nations, a damning move given the new Australian government’s pledge to combat people-smuggling in the region.

Natalegawa said any tapping of Indonesian politicians’ personal phones “violates every single decent and legal instrument I can think of – national in Indonesia, national in Australia, international as well”.

He added: “It is nothing less than an unfriendly act which is already having a very serious impact on bilateral relations.”

Natalegawa said summoning the ambassador was “not considered a light step” but was the “minimum” that could be done to “consolidate the situation”.

“The ball is very much in Australia’s court,” he said, calling for an official, public explanation from Canberra.

He expressed frustration at the response he had received from the Australian capital, adding he would be speaking with the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, later on Monday. Natalegawa dismissed any suggestion that phone surveillance was “common practice between countries”, saying: “I have news for you: we don’t do it, we certainly should not be doing it among friends.”

Natalegawa said he would be examining whether the phone tapping revelations were in violation of the Lombok treaty signed by the two nations in 2006, which aimed to enhance bilateral security co-operation.

The foreign minister, known for his reserved demeanour, spoke in an unusually forthright manner. He said he would be “quite flabbergasted” if tapping the private phone calls of the president had relevance to Australia’s security interests.

“I need quite desperately an explanation how a private conversation involving the president of the Republic of Indonesia, involving the first lady of the Republic of Indonesia, how they can even have a hint, even a hint of relevance impacting on the security of Australia,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, the deputy Australian ambassador to Indonesia, David Engel, was called to the foreign ministry for talks. After a 20-minute meeting, he described talks as “very good”.

 

Jakarta summons Australian envoy over spying – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Jakarta summons Australian envoy over spying – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English. (source)

The latest revelations suggest even internet giants Google and Yahoo were spied on by the NSA [Reuters]
Indonesia has summoned Australia’s ambassador to explain media reports his embassy in Jakarta was used to spy on Southeast Asia’s biggest country as part of a US-led global spying network.The chief US diplomat in Jakarta was called in earlier this week over similar allegations, while China on Thursday demanded an explanation from the US after the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported Australian embassies across Asia were part of the US spying operation.

News of Australia’s role in a US-led surveillance network could damage relations with Indonesia, Australia’s nearest Asian neighbour and a key strategic ally.

“Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has demanded an explanation from the Australian ambassador in Jakarta about the existence and use of surveillance facilities in the Australian embassy here,” Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“The reported activities absolutely do not reflect the spirit of a close and friendly relationship between the two neighbours and are considered unacceptable by the government of Indonesia.”

The Herald said its reports were based on US whistleblower Edward Snowden and a former Australian intelligence officer.

Snowden leaks to other media have detailed vast intelligence collection by the US National Security Agency (NSA) on allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting protests and a US review of intelligence gathering.

‘Reached too far’

In an unprecedented admission following revelations the US spied on its European allies, US Secretary of State said on Thursday that his country’s US surveillance programme did go too far at times,

“In some cases, I acknowledge to you, as has the president, that some of these actions have reached too far, and we are going to make sure that does not happen in the future,” he said.

Kerry said that what Washington was trying to do was, in a “random way,” find ways of determining if there were threats that needed responding to.

Recent allegations and reports of widespread spying by the US National Security Agency have caused a major rift in trans-Atlantic ties.

Kerry justified the surveillance in broad terms, citing the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, as well as attacks in London, Madrid and elsewhere to argue that the US and other countries have had to come together to fight “extremism in the world that is hell-bent and determined to try to kill people and blow people up and attack governments.”

He said US intelligence had since 2001 averted attacks with intercepts of communications.

But he acknowledged, without going into specifics, that at times it had been too much.

Kerry also sought to give assurances that such steps would not be repeated.

“I assure you, innocent people are not being abused in this process, but there’s an effort to try to gather information,” Kerry told a London conference via video link.

 

Indonesians rally against fuel price hike – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Indonesians rally against fuel price hike – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

 

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