Yudhoyono's foreign policies 'failing his people'

Yudhoyono's foreign policies 'failing his people'

INDONESIA - A coalition of NGOs said on Sunday that outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had failed to formulate pro-people foreign policies during his 10 years' tenure.

Migrant Care policy analyst Wahyu Susilo said that one of the indicators of Yudhoyono's failure in foreign policy was the 265 migrant workers facing the death penalty in the countries where they worked.

"Based on Migrant Care's data, there are 23 others who have been sentenced to death, while three workers, namely Yanti Irianti, Agus Damsiri and Ruyati, have been executed," Wahyu said during a discussion in Tebet, South Jakarta.

Yanti Irianti, a migrant worker from Cianjur in West Java, was executed by the Saudi government in 2008 for murdering her employer, while Agus, a migrant worker from Padang, West Sumatra, was also executed in 2010 for murder.

Saudi authorities beheaded Ruyati in 2011 after the country's Supreme Court declared that the Indonesian housemaid was guilty of murdering her employer a year before.

"Ironically, only a few days after Ruyati was beheaded, Yudhoyono told a conference that his government had made major progress on labour issues," Wahyu said.

The NGOs also accused Yudhoyono of failing to clamp down on tax evaders who kept their money in tax havens.

Khoirun Nikmah from the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) said that the country had lost at least Rp 500 trillion (S$50 billion) from tax evasion issues.

Several Indonesian businesspeople have been known to hide their money in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Singapore, Switzerland, Mauritius and Bermuda to avoid paying higher taxes at home.

"Yudhoyono should have used multilateral forums as a foreign diplomacy space to push the governments of tax havens to work together with the Indonesian government on this issue," Khoirun told The Jakarta Post after the discussion.

Khoirun said that she hoped that president-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo would do more than his predecessor in pursuing tax evaders, whose recouped money could be allocated to sectors in the country such as education and health.

Meanwhile, environmentalist organisation Walhi pointed out that Yudhoyono had failed to deliver his promise to maintain low carbon emission levels.

"The President committed to keeping emission levels at 20 per cent, but in fact he never made a single serious attempt to curb deforestation in this country," said Walhi's Irhas Ahmadi.

In August, Forestry Ministry secretary-general Hadi Daryanto told the Post that the government would proceed with plans to clear 14 million hectares of degraded forest from 2010 to 2020 because deforestation was "inevitable".

Irhas added that while on the one hand Yudhoyono always promised in international forums to control emission levels, on the other he continued to issue forest conversion permits, including licenses for the conversion of hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest area in Riau in 2008, which has led to forest fires and bothersome haze.

"Every statement [Yudhoyono] has made on environmental issues has just been to maintain his image. In reality he has done nothing," said Irhas.

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