Jakarta election campaign tests Indonesia-Australia relations


By David Willis

One year ago, my local newspaper in Adelaide published an op-ed by Chris Kenny titled ‘Australian politicians could learn a lesson or two from Indonesian Governor Ahok about avoiding spin and red tape to get things done.’

Today the once-popular incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, is facing a likely loss at being elected in his own right on 19 April, after a divisive election campaign that portends further challenges for Indonesia-Australia relations in the future.

Ahok’s popularity plummeted in the months following the accusation in September last year that he had criticised the Koran, specifically the al-Maidah 51 verse which is often interpreted to mean that Muslims cannot be led by a non-Muslim. Recovering somewhat as the case played out, Ahok was still able to take a plurality of the votes, but not enough to win outright, in the gubernatorial election’s first round in February.

Ahok will now face off against former Education Minister Anies Baswedan in the second round, who has been all the willing to stoke the flames of division in the city. Anies campaigned at the headquarters of the once-fringe Islamist vigilante group FPI (Islamic Defenders Front) in January and has refused to repudiate the FPI’s assertion that Muslims cannot be led by a non-Muslim; stating only “as a Muslim, obviously I obey al-Maidah verse 51.”

Currently polling suggests that Anies is more likely than not to win on 19 April. His win will be widely read as the success of divisive tactics in Indonesian politics, with repercussions for the 2019 presidential election and Indonesia’s image in Australia.

When President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo won Indonesia’s presidency in 2014, he did so despite charges that he himself was in fact both a secret Christian and of Chinese descent. Jokowi now finds himself in a position where he has to publicly accommodate Islamist organisations like the FPI.

His ally Ahok has been charged with blasphemy and Jokowi felt it necessary in December to join the FPI and others for prayers during the December mass rally; like Anies, normalising the once fringe group.

Jokowi is now in a position where he will likely need to either further accommodate these voices or risk facing an opponent willing to employ the tactics of division in 2019.

Speculation has already risen over the future ambitions of Indonesian National Armed Forces commander Gatot Nurmantyo, the architect of the most recent Australia-Indonesia spat and a proponent of conspiratorial thinking about foreign powers, including Australia, launching proxy wars on Indonesia.

As a double-minority, both ethnic-Chinese and Christian, Ahok has faced a constant level of discrimination since assuming the leadership of Indonesia’s capital city province in 2014.

During the 2012 election Ahok and his running mate, now-President Jokowi, both were subject to attacks on their ethnic and religious identity, falsely in the case of the Javanese Muslim Jokowi.

Upon taking office after Jokowi’s election to the presidency FPI rejected the non-Muslim Ahok as illegitimate and declared one of their own governor. However, they were generally dismissed as being merely on the fringe of Indonesia’s democracy.

By the middle of 2016, Ahok looked well placed to win re-election and a full term in his own right. Despite criticism over his unrefined style of communication, the governor was broadly popular amongst Jakarta residents for his programs to improve the city.

However, as an independent politician with an active reform agenda, Ahok represented an existential threat to entrenched political and business interests.

Ahok’s campaign for re-election was turned upside down in September last year, when addressing constituents in the Thousand Islands district, he criticised his opponents’ use of al-Maidah 51.

An edited video of the governor’s address, implying that Ahok had criticised the Koran itself was shared widely on social media by his political opponents.

Political pressure quickly mounted with a series of mass demonstrations lead by Islamist organisations, including FPI which used the controversy to catapult themselves into the political mainstream, calling for Ahok’s gaoling on grounds of insulting the Koran. The pressure resulted in Ahok being charged for blasphemy in an ongoing trial.

The campaign took a particularly ugly turn last month, when banners appeared across a number of the capital’s mosques exclaiming that “This Mosque Refuses Islamic Burial for Defenders of Blasphemers.” These however were in turn pulled down by the provincial government and banners proclaiming “This Mosque is Prepared for Islamic Burial for All Muslims” came up in a number of places.

No matter the outcome of the gubernatorial election result on the 19th, Indonesia’s elites have shown themselves more than willing to exploit social divisions, while the electorate have proven themselves susceptible to such tactics.

The image this has portrayed of Indonesia in the Australian media has been largely negative, compared with a year ago. Indonesia is already perceived in Australia to be very religious, but not very inclusive. The Jakarta elections have only deepened these perceptions and will make it even harder to develop stronger bilateral ties.


David Willis is a PhD Candidate in International Relations at Flinders University and a CAUSINDY 2016 delegate.

This piece has been written exclusively for CAUSINDY.

Announcing CAUSINDY Grants

CAUSINDY is excited to announce a new program to help CAUSINDY delegates to make even more of an impact in the bilateral relations and get their ideas into action: CAUSINDY Alumni Grants. CAUSINDY provides funding and support to incubate ideas led by delegates and alumni, to help get delegates’ ideas of the ground.

 “By providing the grants and supporting their initiatives from incubation to launch we will see collaboration and impact beyond the conference”.

— Karina Akib, co-founder and advisor

Recently, three delegates gathered for a half day telkomtelstra workshop with experienced mentors from the digital space to work on initiatives from CAUSINDY 2016. Jane Ahlstrand, who dialed in from Brisbane, and John Cheong-Holdaway joined to expand jembARTan, a platform to connect Australia and Indonesia through arts. While, Celia Finch represented Kantin, an initiative led by Rey Sihotang and Stephanie Arrowsmith.

“I left the workshop filled with so much hope and motivation. The input we recieved from professionals across a range of fields helped us work towards not only getting our project off the ground but also ensuring its sustainability. The JembARTan  project just got very real!” — Jane Ahlstrand, 2016 delegate.

Are you a current delegate or alumnus? The CAUSINDY team is open to hearing about your idea and helping to get it ready to apply for a grant, please contact the key point of contact for this program, Karina Akib at karina.akib@causindy.org

Writing postcards with Rumah Cerita

By Aqmarina Andira, Content and Presentation Designer at telkomtelstra and delegate to CAUSINDY 2015 in Darwin.

14666234_10208761430527273_9137115011175449447_nUnderstanding the importance of people to people relationship in strengthening the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia, a group of CAUSINDY Alumni, Marlisa Soepeno, Dicky Wallad, Gabriel Mukuan, and Nurina Savitri came up with an idea to conduct CAUSINDY Alumni Community Engagement Program by connecting children from Rumah Cerita, a non for profit creative writing center for children which is co-founded by Aqmarina Andira, 2015 CAUSINDY delegate, with students from Braemar College where Rebecca Gregory, also 2015 CAUSINDY delegate, teaches Indonesian language. The program is aimed to initiate an early cross cultural understanding between children in Indon
esian and Australia by exchanging stories and experience through postcard writing workshop.

The session began with an icebreaking Pictionary games, where CAUSINDY Alumni introduced themselves by drawing their profession on the board, and continued with a sharing session where the children could ask further questions about CAUSINDY Alumni as well as the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia. Expanding their knowledge about professions and learning about the importance of international collaboration in education, trade, migration, and culture, the session inspired not only the children but also the Alumni who participated in the event.

14708352_10208761427647201_1116843891111544942_nGetting creative by reading, drawing, and writing a reply for their new friends in Australia who is trying to learn to speak Indonesian Language, the children from Rumah Cerita were very enthusiastic with the program. They practiced to write English, introduced batik pattern and Indonesian famous landmarks in their drawings, as well as shared personal stories about their life, their favorite things and their most memorable experiences.

Overall, it is hoped that the program will continue to help improve bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia, promote language exchange, contribute to social and cultural understanding from early age, as well as to create awareness of the importance of storytelling and literature in both countries. It is also hoped that the CAUSINDY Alumni Community Engagement Program can be held in a more sustainable manner by conducting other activities that can benefit communities both in Indonesia and Australia.

Australia Indonesia Centre Announced as a Sponsor


CAUSINDY is delighted to announce that The Australia Indonesia Centre will once again be joining us as a Sponsor for this year’s conference. The Australia-Indonesia Centre was established by the Australian Government in 2014 to facilitate research-driven innovation and build stronger relationships between Australia and Indonesia. The Centre, hosted by Monash University, is a collaboration between Monash University, the Australian National University, CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney, working with seven leading Indonesian universities. We look forward to working with AIC, in particular Director of AIC Paul Ramadge, who will be one of 5 Mentors on the CAUSINDY Review, in the lead up to and throughout the conference.

PwC Australia Announced as Minor Sponsor

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CAUSINDY is delighted to announce that PwC Australia has joined this year’s conference as a Minor Sponsor. PwC is one of the world’s leading professional services firms, bringing the power of a global network of firms to help businesses, not-for-profit organisations and governments assess their performance and improve the way they work. PwC employs more than 6,000 people in Australia, and employs 208,000 people globally across 157 countries, including Indonesia.

CAUSINDY Partners with Asialink Business


CAUSINDY is delighted to have Asialink Business join us as a Supporter for this year’s conference.

Asialink Business, Australia’s National Centre for Asia Capability, is a nation-wide initiative supported by the Commonwealth Government (Department of Industry, Innovation and Science) to assist Australian organisations to develop the capabilities needed to maximize business opportunities with Asia. Grounded in extensive market research, Asialink Business’ training programs, research, events and advocacy enable businesses to forge ahead with confidence to enter and grow in Asia.

To help Australian businesses looking to expand to key Asian markets, Asialink Business has developed a suite of Country Starter Packs. The Indonesia Country Starter Pack features in-depth research, comprehensive information and contemporary case studies, and was provided to delegates of the 2015 Indonesia Australia Business Week.

CAUSINDY Alumni meet with Chatib Basri

Sydney-based CAUSINDY alumni recently got together for gathering with former Minister of Finance in the Indonesian Goverment, Mr Chatib Basri. The event was hosted by CAUSINDY’s major sponsor, UTS:Insearch while the intimate fireside chat was moderated by Surya Setiyaputra (CAUSINDY 2014).

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Given the small group, made up of CAUSINDY alumni, UTS partners, PPIA and AIYA members, Pak Chatib was able to share his experiences of Australian Indonesian bilateral relations going back to when he was a PHD student in Canberra to today where he is a leading economic policy advisor across the region.

He spoke about the work he did while he was Minister reforming BKPM and gave his thoughts on the upcoming tax amnesty policy and the challenges the goverment might face.

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On bilateral relations he said that despite the ups and downs, there is enough commonality and collective knowledge in both countries to ride the wave. He hopes that both countries can build a better partnership to tackle Education problems in both countries.

CAUSINDY looks forward to hosting similar events with keynote speakers with its alumni in Canberra, Melbourne and Jakarta giving opportunities for young leaders to shape Australia – Indonesia bilateral relations. 



The Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth (CAUSINDY) is excited to announce a new partnership with telkomtelstra and Telstra to support CAUSINDY 2016. telkomtelstra and Telstra will be supporting through a new program called ‘Engaging Future Leaders’ that connects university students across both countries.

It’s not every day that 30 of the brightest young leaders from Australia and Indonesia come together, and this is why CAUSINDY has decided to bring high school and university students to interact with former CAUSINDY delegates across Australia and Indonesia.

Karina Akib, co-founder of CAUSINDY saidthrough our new program, ‘Engaging Future Leaders by CAUSINDY’ anyone with an internet connection can access alumni profiles and watch a special ‘Bilateral Debate’ event.” She added “we want to make it easy for anyone to learn how former CAUSINDY delegates have accelerated their careers through engagement in the bilateral relationship”. Delegates will also have the opportunity to learn more about the contemporary bilateral relationship.


The debating societies of University of Indonesia and the University of Sydney have been selected to be to be a part of the inaugural ‘Bilateral Debate’. Each team is mentored by former CAUSINDY delegates. The debate will take place live via video link between telkomtelstra’s offices in Jakarta and Telstra’s offices in Sydney on September 3rd, prior to the 2016 CAUSINDY conference in Bali. The session will be available on our website after the debate for teachers, students to use as material to learn more about the bilateral relationship.

Karina Akib said “telkomtelstra is a great example of how real collaboration between our countries can result in successful business ventures. For CAUSINDY using Telstra’s technology to connect the brightest university students from Sydney and Jakarta, we hope to expand the influence of CAUSINDY and inspire students everywhere to be part of the bilateral relationship.”  

President Director of telkomtelstra Erik Meijer said, “Telstra and telkomtelstra are incredibly excited to support CAUSINDY 2016. “CAUSINDY brings together the best minds and innovative thinkers in Australia and Indonesia with the aim of growing and strengthening bilateral relationships. We are incredibly optimistic about the opportunities that exist for individuals, businesses as well as at the government level and are proud to be a part of this initiative.”

telkomtelstra and Telstra will be involved in other parts of the program through a panel “Searching for Growth: The new economy” featuring Jamie Camidge, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances, from Telstra’s accelerator muru-D and a special event in Jakarta with Erik Meijer, President Director of telkomtelstra.

CAUSINDY welcomes telkomtelstra and Telstra to Bali in 2016, and looks forward to working with them across a number of events in the lead up to and during the conference.


Telkomtelstra is an end-to-end managed solutions provider committed to empowering enterprises in Indonesia. We aim to solve our customers’ business challenges, by helping them to optimise, grow and transform their businesses through our managed ICT solutions.

Telkomtelstra is a joint venture between PT. Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom Indonesia), Indonesia’s largest telecommunications operator, and Telstra Corporation Limited (Telstra Australia), a regional leader in enterprise services. Leveraging the strengths of both Telkom Indonesia and Telstra, we bring an unparalleled combination of deep local market expertise and global managed solutions experience.

2016 Delegates Announced!

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Today, the CAUSINDY team are excited to announce the thirty delegates who will be joining us for our fifth conference, being held in Bali this year.

The Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth is proud to work with partners including the Northern Territory Government and UTS: In search.

This year’s delegate group is one of our most diverse yet, bringing together young leaders in fields from law, communications and journalism to academia and public policy. The number and depth of applications this year was larger than ever.

Meet this year’s delegates from Indonesia and Australia.

In 2016, delegates will be directly engaging with the future of the relationship, under the theme Sustaining the Relationship. The conference program will include panel discussions, social and networking events around Bali.

Stay tuned for more news on the conference program.

PPIA partners with CAUSINDY 2016

UnknownFor the second year in a row, we are delighted to have (PPIA) Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia Australia) as a partner of CAUSINDY. PPIA, one of the biggest Indonesian students associations in the world, was established in Canberra in 1981. It supports Indonesian students in Australia by  offering a platform to expand their skills and improve their competencies while staying true to their Indonesian identity.