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Jakarta Post

Wrapping up the decade: What made the news from 2015 to 2019

  • Ghina Ghaliya, A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil and Marguerite Afra Sapiie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, December 31, 2019   /   07:26 pm
Wrapping up the decade: What made the news from 2015 to 2019 A collapsed mosque is pictured in Palu, Central Sulawesi on Oct. 1, 2018. A 7.4-magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami hit the province's Donggala regency and Palu on Sept. 28. The string of disasters, in addition to subsequent soil liquefaction that followed, claimed a total of 4,340 lives and damaged tens of thousands of buildings (AFP/Jewel Samad)

The 2010s will end with the closing of 2019, and as we prepare to welcome the 2020s, many of us are reflecting on what has happened in Indonesia over the past 10 years.

The Jakarta Post has rounded up some of the most important events of the past decade as they appeared in our newspaper's headlines.

Here is part two of our decade in review: what made the news from 2015 to 2019.


KPK-police standoffs: The “Cicak lawan Buaya “(Gecko versus Crocodile) saga continued as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named on Jan. 13 then-sole candidate for National Police chief, Budi Gunawan, a graft suspect just days prior to a scheduled confirmation hearing at the House of Representatives.

The KPK accused Budi ─ whose nomination was met with public outcry ─ of accepting bribes and gratuities following an investigation into alleged ill-gotten funds amounting to Rp 54 billion (US$4.28 million) in his bank account.

In what seemed as a retaliation, the police arrested then-KPK commissioner Bambang Widjojanto on Jan. 23, accusing him of giving false testimony to the Constitutional Court in a case he was litigating in 2010. His arrest was lambasted by many, who argued that it was an attempt to hamper the antigraft body’s decision to crack down on graft within the National Police, implicating police generals.

First execution under Jokowi’s watch: Five foreigners and an Indonesian woman convicted on drug trafficking charges were executed by firing squad on Jan. 18, sparking international outcry against what the government dubbed as necessary to combat rising drug trade.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo turned down clemency requests from the six death-row inmates despite appeals by the Brazilian and Dutch government to spare their citizens, who were among the foreigners ─ comprising those from Brazil, Malawi, Nigeria, Netherlands and Vietnam ─ shot to death for their crimes.

Haze crisis: Sumatra and Kalimantan were covered in haze caused by land and forest fires from August to October, making international headlines as the thick smog also spread overseas and affected neighboring countries.

A research by team of public health and atmospheric modelling scientists from Harvard and Columbia universities estimated the premature death of 100,000 people due to the disaster, with 91,600 people killed in Indonesia, 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore.

Approximately 425,377 people from six affected Indonesian provinces suffered from acute respiratory infections (ISPA) caused by the smoke, according to the Health Ministry.

Setya’s Freeport case: Then-energy and mineral resources minister Sudirman Said reported then-House speaker Setya Novanto to the House ethics council on Nov. 16, alleging the then-Golkar party politician of misusing Jokowi and Kalla’s names to demand shares and projects from a local unit of American mining giant Freeport-McMoran, PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), amid the latter’s ongoing negotiations with the government to extend its mining contract for one of the world’s largest gold and copper deposits in Papua.

The case, which led Setya stepping down from his position as House speaker, as the council found him guilty, attracted wide public attention, driving many people to dub it “papa minta saham” (father asks for shares).



Thamrin attack: Deadly blasts and gun attacks occurred on Jan. 14 on Jl. MH Thamrin at the intersection in front of the Sarinah shopping complex in Central Jakarta, killing at least eight people and injuring 19 others.

The police later named Aman Abdurrahman ─ an Islamic State (IS) ideologue ─ a suspect and the mastermind behind the bombings and shootings, said to be inspired by the November 2015 Paris terror attack. Aman was later sentenced to death after being found guilty for inciting the attack on June 2018.

Solar eclipse: Millions of Indonesians witnessed the moon blocking out the sun in a total solar eclipse that unfolded over the country on March 9. The rare natural phenomenon ─ which scientists predicted would appear again in around 350 years ─ was largely visible in parts of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi.

Indonesian shuttlers’ glory:  As Indonesia celebrated its 71st Independence Day, good news arrived from Brazil with Indonesian mixed doubles pair Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir having won gold medals after beating Malaysian pair Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying at the Rio Olympics on Aug. 17.

The achievement of Tontowi and Liliyana, also the winners of All England for three consecutive years, from 2012 to 2014, as well as the World Championship in 2013, marked Indonesia’s first gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Rise of 212 movement: The year is about to end on a starker note as thousands of Muslim conservatives and activists flocked to the National Monument on Dec. 2 in a street protest known thereafter as the 212 rally.

The protest, which further amplified sectarian tensions that engulfed the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election campaign, demanded the prosecution of then- governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was accused of blasphemy, while he sought reelection.


Top graft buster assaulted: KPK top investigator Novel Baswedan ─ who for years had continuously faced threats while doing his job ─ was attacked with acid thrown at his face by two unidentified men when he was on his way home after performing dawn prayer at a mosque near his house in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, on April. 11.

The attack, which severely injured his left eye, came as the Jakarta Corruption Court continued its trial for a megacorruption case surrounding embezzlement in the e-ID card project ─ of which Novel was one of the investigators ─ that incurred Rp 2.3 trillion in state losses and implicated a number of politicians.

Ahok jailed for blasphemy: Less than a month after losing the gubernatorial race to his challenger and now-Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, Ahok was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by the North Jakarta District Court, which found him guilty of blasphemy for suggesting that some people had abused a Quranic verse to block his reelection bid.

Factory fire:  Forty-seven people were killed and another 46 injured in a blaze that engulfed a fireworks factory on Oct. 26 in Kosambi, Tangerang. The details of the incident worsen the horror as the building was reported to have been locked during the fire, causing the slow evacuation of the victims, while an explosion at another building near the main door of the factory also halted the evacuation.

Evading investigation?: Setya Novanto was rushed to Medika Hospital on Nov.17 in Permata Hijau, South Jakarta, following a car accident that happened hours after he went missing to avoid being detained by the KPK over alleged graft.

Prior to the accident, Setya ─ who at that time was put on KPK most-wanted list ─ had dodged 12 KPK summonses for questioning in the graft case, citing various reasons such as illness, work assignments and immunity as a lawmaker. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the case in April 2018.



Zohri hustle to spotlight: On July 11, Indonesian sports took the limelight with sprinter Lalu Muhammad Zohri crossing the finish line first and clinching the gold medal in the men's 100-meter race at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) U-20 World Championships in Tampere, Finland.

Notching up the fastest time of 10.18 seconds and beating American duo Anthony Schwartz and Eric Harrison, both clocking in at 10.22 seconds, Zohri made history by becoming the first Indonesian to win a gold medal at the U20 worlds.

Making history:  Jokowi opened on Aug. 18 the 18th Asian Games at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, marking the second time the country played host to Asia’s biggest sporting event, having previously done so in 1962.

Jakarta and Palembang hosted the Games, which ran until Sept. 2. The Indonesian squad finished fourth in the overall medal tally, making it the country’s greatest achievement throughout its participation in the Asiad. The national squad collected 31 gold medals, 24 silvers and 43 bronzes – thanks to pencak silat athletes, who won 14 gold medals.

The event was celebrated with many smaller events in the city before and after, including with some 65,000 people performing the poco-poco dance on Aug. 5 at the National Monument, in an attempt to break a Guinness World Record.

Rare celebration: Thanks to Asiad, Indonesia witnessed then-incumbent and presidential candidate Jokowi sharing a group hug with rival Prabowo, who was also the chairman of the Indonesian Pencak Silat Association (IPSI), and pencak silat athlete Hanifan Yudani Kusuma after the latter won a gold medal in the pencak silat men's class C final on Aug. 29.

Central Sulawesi quake: A 7.4-magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami hit Donggala regency and Palu in Central Sulawesi on Sept. 28. The string of disasters, in addition to subsequent soil liquefaction that followed, claimed a total of 4,340 lives and damaged tens of thousands of buildings, according to the provincial administration.

Almost half of the fatalities, namely 2,141, occurred in Palu ─ which was most affected by the earthquakes and tsunami ─ while 289 people died in Sigi regency, 212 in Donggala regency and 15 in Parigi Moutong regency. Approximately 667 people were declared missing, while another 1,016 bodies were unidentifiable.

212 reunion ahead of 2019 race: Islamist groups and figures supporting Prabowo’s candidacy held a major rally marking 2016’s 212 rally on Dec. 2, which saw the first and largest gathering of people in a show of opposition to Jokowi’s administration since the campaign season kicked off in September.

The Gerindra Party chairman himself attended the event alongside other notable figures, including Anies Baswedan and other officials from political parties supporting Prabowo and his running mate Sandiaga Uno.



Jokowi reelected for final term: The General Elections Commission (KPU) announced Jokowi and running mate Ma’ruf Amin as the winners of the 2019 presidential election on May 21, beating the incumbent’s archrival Prabowo and Sandiaga Uno. Jokowi’s victory, however, was challenged by Prabowo’s camp, which later lodged an election dispute petition with the Constitutional Court.

Dispute closed at court: The Constitutional Court slammed shut the last chance for Prabowo to overturn April’s election result as the nine-panel bench rejected the losing candidate’s claim that there had been "systematic, structural and massive" election rigging that inflated Jokowi's tally.

Blackout: A massive power outage ─ the largest one in more than two decades ─ hit the western part of Java on Aug. 4, lasting for more than six hours and affecting 21.3 million customers, including industries and households.

Moving from Jakarta: Months after announcing a plan to relocate the capital from Jakarta, Jokowi announced on Aug. 26 that his administration had picked East Kalimantan regencies North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegara to host the country’s new capital. The government targeted to start the development ─ projected to cost up to Rp 466 trillion ─ by the end of 2020.

String of protests rock Papua: A series of rallies broke out in Papua and West Papua in August in response to a racial abuse case in which Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, were called “monkeys” over alleged desecration of the national flag on the nation’s 74th Independence Day on Aug. 17.

The demonstrations spread nationwide, with some cities seeing the rallies descend into riots, with calls for a Papuan referendum on self-determination as Papuan protesters carried banned Morning Star flags, a symbol of the Papuan independence movement.

Students lead the way, again: Tens of thousands of students in cities took to the streets on Sept. 23 in what seemed to be the beginning of a string of nationwide student protests many described as the largest since those of 1998. The rallies, which lasted days, saw young people demanding an end to what they described as attempts to roll back two decades of political reform.

Jokowi’s Indonesia Onward Cabinet: The President attracted public and media attention on Oct. 21 to 22 as he summoned dozens of figures who were later tapped as members of his second-term Cabinet to the State Palace. Some old faces from Jokowi’s first-term Cabinet made their returns while some new faces ─ including professional and politicians ─ surprised the public as they appeared unlikely to join the rank.

Harleygate saga: National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia saw its former president director sacked on Dec. 5 following the discovery of his alleged involvement in the smuggling of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and upmarket Brompton folding bicycles on board a new Airbus plane from France.

The drama in the state-owned enterprise also saw four other former directors dismissed from their positions for their alleged involvement in the high-profile smuggling case. Garuda Indonesia’s board of commissioners has appointed acting directors to replace the sacked executives.