Sinar Mas Faces Sanction from Industry Body

An industry body for sustainable palm oil on Thursday accused Indonesian giant Sinar Mas of breaching its principles, and warned that it could face expulsion. Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART) has been struggling to repair its image after Greenpeace alleged the Indonesian firm was devastating rainforests and habitats for endangered species like orangutans.

The name-and-shame campaign by the environmental group has led several foreign buyers to cancel major contracts, but SMART said last month that an audit it had commissioned had cleared it of the charges. In a rare public censure, the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — an industry group of producers, environmental groups and food companies — said it had found “serious non-compliance” on the firm’s part.

“The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil takes all infringements of its Code of Conduct and Principles and Criteria very seriously,” the Kuala Lumpur-based RSPO said in a statement on its website.

“Members who have been found to not be in compliance and who continue to be in non-compliance with the RSPO regulations could ultimately face sanctions, including the suspension and, eventually, the termination of their membership of the RSPO.”

The industry group said SMART was found to have failed to “work towards implementation and certification of the RSPO Principles and Criteria”.

The RSPO was formed in 2004 to establish stringent social and environmental criteria including a ban on clearing forests in order to plant the crop. SMART, the Indonesian palm oil unit of its Singapore-listed parent company Golden Agri Resources (GAR) and part of the Sinar Mas agri-industry empire, commissioned the audit in February after Greenpeace made the claims.

The environmental watchdog accuses SMART of widespread forest destruction, including clearing primary forests and peatland. SMART — part of the Singapore-listed Sinar Mas agribusiness group — has said it should not be blamed for the destruction of Borneo’s forests and that the allegations are “largely unfounded”. GAR has lost major clients including Unilever, Kraft and Nestle in the resulting furore.

Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil, which is used in everything from biscuits to cosmetics, but environmentalists say plantations are driving deforestation blamed for habitat loss and producing greenhouse gases.

How Al Qaeda Gets Stronger in Indonesia

An Indonesian police officer who quit the force to become a terrorist said Thursday he was affiliated to Al-Qaeda and had trained about 170 militants to wage jihad, or “holy war”. Mohammed Sofyan Tsauri, 34, made the comments to reporters as he appeared at a court near Jakarta for the start of his trial on terrorism-related charges.

“I’m affiliated with Al-Qaeda and in contact with Abu Sayyaf,” he said, referring to Osama bin Laden’s network and a Philippines-based Islamist militant outfit.

“I became a terrorist after I quit the police (in 2008)... What I’ve done isn’t an act of terror, it’s an obligatory religious activity ordered by God.” Tsauri, alias Abu Ayyash, was arrested earlier this year as part of a sweep of Islamist militants linked to a training camp that was discovered in February in Aceh province.

The camp was under the command of Indonesian terror mastermind Dulmatin, one of the architects of the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
Dulmatin was killed by police in March.

The former police officer could face the death sentence if convicted of charges including supplying weapons for terrorist acts. Tsauri said God guided him to meet Dulmatin in 2008 and join his effort to set up a new terrorist network in Aceh province, the most devoutly Islamic part of the mainly Muslim archipelago.

His activities included recruiting former rebels from Aceh’s disbanded separatist movement to the jihadists’ cause, supplying weapons and conducting military-style training.

“I have trained about 100 people in early 2009 and on another occasion there were about 67 people,” he said.

Indonesia’s jihadist “factions” had agreed to change tactics from indiscriminate, Bali-style bombings to more focused gun attacks that would minimise Muslim casualties, he said. He was not specific about the group’s targets, but said they included foreigners.

“You should understand already that Al-Qaeda has always had foreign targets,” Tsauri said.

“We changed our pattern from bomb attacks to a war with guns. With guns, we can be more focused on our target but bombs can hit civilians. The jihadist factions in Indonesia agreed on this method.”

He said he was betrayed by his Islamist cohorts once police got wind of their activities and started rounding up and killing members of the cell.

“I have been cheated by them. I became a scapegoat for their failure in Aceh,” he said.

Prosecutor Totok Bambang told the court Tsauri had led training exercises and supplied weapons to the group. Indonesia is struggling to deal with the threat of homegrown Islamist militants who oppose its secular, democratic system and want to create a caliphate across much of Southeast Asia.

The country has been hit by a number of deadly bombings including attacks on luxury hotels, the Australian embassy and tourist spots that have killed around 250 people since 2002.

Privatization in Indonesia Remains Uncertain

Plans to privatize Indonesia’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have existed for years but they appear not easy to implement. Each time State Enterprises Minister Mustafa Abubakar appears in parliament for working meetings, the issue comes up and is in a fierce debate. Facing members of the House of Representatives last week, again, he confirmed that some state owned enterprises were deemed ready to release their shares to the public.

The companies include steel-maker PT Krakatau Steel, national flag-carrier PT Garuda Indonesia, PT Bank Mandiri and PT Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI). The privatization of those companies, he said, will generate IDR30 trillion-35 trillion in cash should they all be put on the privatization list and release their shares this year.

"The figure does not yet include several smaller companies, like Sarana Karya, Primissima, and Paper Padalarang," he said at a working meeting with the House’s Commission VI. The House approved all privatization plans except for Bank Mandiri and BNI.

"For Bank Mandiri and BNI, we expect to obtain the House’s approval in October. Thus, the privatization process can run as expected," added Mustafa. Rapidly balanced with the usual nationalistic whistles, the government has been warned against recklessly privatizing state-state-owned enterprises.

"We at the House hope the privatization will prioritize investment from within," House Commission III member Bambang Soesatyo said last Monday.

Responding to the question of how the House views the drive for SOEs privatization , the Golkar politician said the program needed to be scrutinized closely considering that it is part of IMF’s Structure Adjustment Program for Indonesia, prescribed back in 1997.

"This program has been rejected by many strata of the people," Soesatyo said and he warned the government against privatizing companies which are of strategic importance such as those in the plantation and banking sectors.

The resilience of the national economy must not be weakened by the privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), much less make the country dependent on foreign financing sources, Soesatyo emphasized.

Ross H. McLeod, an economic researcher with the Australian National University (ANU), in his study of Indonesia’s privatization drive, noted that privatization idea came to prominence as a result of the economic crisis that commenced in Indonesia shortly after the unexpected float of the Thai baht in July 1997.

It was included as one of the policies to which the government committed itself as a condition for the provision of financial assistance by the IMF in November 1997 (GOI 1997). The rationale for this was rather vague.

Reading between the lines, the reasoning seems to have been that since private capital was fleeing the country it was necessary to persuade the markets that henceforth the government would pay greater attention to microeconomic reform as a precondition for the return of rapid growth, he said.

Among other things, this would require SOEs-previously used as instruments for the distribution of patronage by way of artificially high buying prices, artificially low selling prices, privileged access to jobs and cheap loans or even grants-to be divested.

Presidential order

Against such an enigmatic atmosphere with regard to the privatization plans came the order from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that ministers must do a thorough evaluation of all SOEs by 2013. He made clear his stance of the matter when speaking at the opening of the Indonesia Business-BUMN Expo and Conference (IBBEX) 2010, in Jakarta, Thursday.

"From ministers, especially the coordinating economic minister and the state enterprises minister, I want an incisive evaluation within three years. If SOEs are still inefficient, not productive, and not profitable and with no prospects, something will have to be done," President Yudhoyono said.

Towards getting that done, he added, the ministers could merge, reform, restructure or even liquidate the companies. Indonesia currently has 141 state-owned enterprises operating in various sectors. State firms booked Rp 45.3 trillion in net profit during the first half of this year, an 18.26 percent increase from Rp 38.3 trillion in the same period last year.

Economist Faisal Basri of University of Indonesia recently said that SOEs were mostly inefficient and this bleak condition has been due to corruption.

"SOEs will remain a cashcow to ruling politicians and their cronies because our election costs are unusually high. No one can offer subtle loyalty in the form of campaign funding other than SOE executives, who are also vying to remain in power," he said.

Cases of corruption in SOEs are becoming more sophisticated, Faisal said, with numerous proxies making the graft less apparent to the public.

How US Sees Terrorism in Indonesia

US ambassador to Indonesia Scot Marciel said terrorism issue in Indonesia would not affect cooperation between the two countries’ governments.

"Every country has problems and so do the US and Indonesia," he said after visitign the Pabelan Islamic boarding school in Magelang, Central Java, here on Thursday.

He said Indonesia as a developing country is facing a terrorism problem but the US will continue to develop cooperation with Indonesia in fundamental areas such as education, healthcare, environment and welfare improvement. During a meeting with board members and students of the boarding school Marciel said Moslem community in the US is an inseparable part of the US community.

He admitted that some of the US citizens have not yet known Islam and therefore they are afraid of it. He said Muslims in the US have not informed the people much about Islam.

"But in the last 10 years however some US Muslims have started to know that Islam is a good religion that needs to be respected," he said.

He said the US is a diverse country with people from various backgrounds including in terms of culture and origins. He said Muslims in the US are not a separated community but integrated.

"We have no problems although it is not perfect we are improving. Muslims are also our brothers," he said. Before being assigned to Indonesia, Marciel lived in Virginia and his children also have Muslim friends from Indonesia and Iran.

"They played together and had no problems. They came to our home and we also visited them," he said.

He said in the US there are also schools like the Islamic boarding schools managed by community members or churches but basically the students are the same namely studying math, natural and social sciences.

"Religion is not taught at public schools in the US but it is in private schools," he said.

Why Should Indonesia Still Expect Obama's Visit?

President of the United States Barack Obama is expected to come to Indonesia before the end of 2010 after he has earlier canceled his two previous planned visits, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.

"In his opening speech at the UN General Assembly this morning, one of Obama’s statements contained an announcement that he would visit Indonesia in the near future," Marty told the press here on Thursday or early Wednesday in Indonesia.

The foreign affairs minister made the statement during a press conference led by Vice President Boediono which was also attended by Head of the Indonesian Capital Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), Gita Wirjawan, Chief of the Presidential Working Unit for Development Control and Supervision (UKP4) Kuntoro Mangkusubroto and Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Dino Patti Djalal.

"Obama’s planned visit to Indonesia would be as part of his tour of a number of countries like India," Marty said.

Although Obama has canceled his two previous visits, Indonesia would prepare everything based on the standing procedures for his coming visit. Marty said that Obama’s planned visit indicated that Indonesia remained an important and a priority country to visit for the United States.

Asked on the certainty of Obama’s visit to Indonesia, Marty diplomatically said he could not ascertain whether or not the plan would be canceled again.

"I have no idea what would happen in the coming several months, where a plan cannot be realized. But we will remain to prepare for his planned visit," the foreign minister said.

Obama has canceled his plan visit to Indonesia on March 23, 2010 over a health bill issue. He again canceled his planned visit on July 13-19 due to an environmental problem offshore Lousiana as a result of an oil spill in the gulf of Mexico.

Ahmadinejad Holds Koran and Bible at UN General Assembly

The U.S. delegation has walked out of the U.N. speech of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after he said some in the world have speculated that Americans were actually behind the September 11 terror attacks.

The Iranian president said some believe the attacks were staged in an attempt to assure Israel's survival. He did not explain the logic behind the belief. Mr Ahmadinejad made the claim as he attacked the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And he declared that threats by U.S. religious groups to burn the Koran were an act of 'evil'. He held up a copy of the Muslim holy book, saying 'the truth cannot be burned'.

The leaders of more than 192 nations are gathered at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan - near where the 9/11 attacks took place - for the annual General Assembly.

President Barack Obama also addressed the summit today. He challenged the UN to push for peace in the Middle East in order to create an independent Palestine and secure Israel within a year.

Exhorting world leaders to push past years of cynicism and pessimism, the U.S. President urged them to press forward with renewed determination. In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he admitted the peace process had encountered 'few peaks and many valleys'.

But he warned that without an agreement, 'more blood will be shed' and 'this Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity'.

As Obama spoke, Israel's seat in the hall sat empty because it was a Jewish holiday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was present, listening to the president through a translator's earphone.

Obama's call for a Palestinian state drew a burst of applause from throughout the hall but his one-year timeline is hugely ambitious. He made no mention of the militant Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip and refuses to accept Israel's right to exist.

The failure of past peace efforts has left both sides with rigid demands and public ambivalence about the value of a negotiated settlement. Obama spoke with resolve of the need to address trouble spots around the world, but he tended first to the economic concerns that abound both at home and abroad.

'There is much to show for our efforts,' he said, recalling the economic turmoil of years past. 'We cannot - and will not - rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity for all Americans and for people around the globe.'

Obama also defended his administration's approach to engaging Iran in negotiations over its nuclear programme - an effort that has failed thus far. In July, the administration imposed a new set of sanctions on Iran but he said: 'The door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it.

'But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear programme.'

Iran recently has indicated interest in restarting talks with the West, and on Wednesday the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany offered Iran another chance to enter negotiations.

Obama also spoke to the promotion of human rights, open government and democracy - familiar themes from a president who has pushed for international cooperation against repression and tyranny.

'Make no mistake: The ultimate success of democracy in the world won't come because the United States dictates it. It will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed,' he said. 'There is no soil where this cannot take root.'

Obama drew applause in mentioning U.N. efforts to protect the rights of women, and he urged all nations to act against oppression.

'Do no stand idly by, don't be silent when dissidents everywhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten,' he said.

The president devoted his greatest attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, underscoring the urgency of overcoming the hurdles that he has met less than a month after relaunching direct negotiations between the parties.

Abbas is threatening to walk out of the talks if Israel does not extend a slowdown on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank that is set to expire next week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not extend that partial freeze.

The looming expiration appears to have stalled the negotiations, which got under way in early September in Washington between Abbas and Netanyahu and then moved to a second round in Egypt and in Jerusalem last week.

That second round ended inconclusively with little visible progress and without the expected announcement of a third session. Obama underscored the administration's position that the settlement moratorium should be extended, saying it 'has made a difference on the ground, and improved the atmosphere for talks.'

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the administration's special Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell have been meeting with officials from both sides and other interested parties this week in New York but seem to have made little headway.

Faced with the real possibility of the collapse of negotiations, Obama implored the international community to get behind the idea of peace and forget favoritism to one side or the other.

'Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine,' he said.

'And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means - including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.'

Obama urged the U.N. in its 60th year to look beyond past Middle East peace failures and get on with the task at hand.

'We can come back here, next year, as we have for the last 60, and make long speeches about it,' he said. 'We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate.'

'Or we can say that this time will be different, that this time we will not let terror or turbulence or posturing or petty politics stand in the way.'

Jessica Alba Gives in to Naked Ambition

She's very publicly stated that she wouldn't ever do gratuitous nude scenes - so we can only presume from these pictures of Jessica Alba that the script of her latest movie must have been very good indeed.

The fact it's an arthouse action film based on Mexican B-movies called Machete makes Ms Alba revealing her birthday suit all the more baffling - not that we imagine her admirers are complaining.

The Latino star told Scarlet magazine in February that she would never bare all for the cameras, saying: 'No, I'll never do a nude scene. I can act sexy and wear sexy clothes but I can't go naked.'

The Sin City
star she continued: 'I think I was always very uncomfortable about the way my body developed, and I remember my grandmother would freak out and throw a towel over me if she saw me wearing just a bra and panties.

'I come from a very Catholic family so it wasn't seen as a good thing to flaunt yourself like that. I can handle being sexy with clothes on but not with them off.'

The 29-year-old however has had no qualms appearing in her birthday suit in new Robert Rodriquez movie Machete.

The movie also stars Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Rodriguez, Don Johnson and ex-con Danny Trejo in the lead role as Machete.

An arthouse 'Mexploitation' action movie, it tells the story of an ex-Federale, or above the law cop, who launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss when he betrays him.

The film has already opened in the U.S, where so far it's taken $21million. It opens in the UK on 26 November.

Fantastic Four
favourite Jessica meanwhile next appears in movie An Invisible Sign - presumably with her clothes back on.

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