The Indonesian government's move to devolve more powers to its restive provinces got off to a rocky start yesterday, with the protest resignation of one of the key ministers charged with preparing and implementing the plan. \nJust one day after Jakarta, without fanfare, ushered in the regional autonomy package on New Year's Day, Minister for Government Personnel and Administrative Reforms, Ryaas Rasyid, tendered his resignation to President Abdurrahman Wahid. \nRasyid cited "differences of ideas" with Wahid over the formation of a special agency on regional autonomy policies as one of the main reasons for quitting the Cabinet. \n"I have long proposed the need of a special agency to handle regional autonomy policies. He [Wahid] was of the opinion that such an agency was needed ... however it is different than what I proposed," Rasyid said. \nThe president has so far assigned the preparation of regional autonomy to a directorate general of the home affairs ministry. \nCritics have said the directorate general would have insufficient leverage to garner cooperation from ministries and institutions. \nAndi Malarangeng, an expert in regional autonomy at the home affairs ministry, said Rasyid's resignation was "a great loss" to Wahid's government, calling him a "professional with clear vision." \n"There's no way a directorate general can coordinate policies of other ministries," he added, agreeing with Rasyid's viewpoint. \nRasyid said Wahid was studying his resignation proposal but the chances of the president insisting he stayed on were "very small." \nRasyid was deeply involved in preparing the laws on regional autonomy and on fiscal equity, the foundations of the drive to accord political and economic autonomy to the country's 29 provinces and more than 300 districts. \nAnother minister key to the autonomy preparations, Bambang Sudibyo, lost his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August. \nUnder the scheme the regions hold the power to appoint their own leaders and to prepare and administer their own budgets. \nBut the government will cut subsidies to the provinces and retain some 40 percent of the provincial tax income. \nIt will also retain authority in foreign, defense and monetary affairs as well as in justice. \nRasyid has made it clear that he feels there are inadequate laws in place to ensure the success of the scheme. \n"I am pessimistic ... with the absence of necessary regulations and presidential decrees to enforce the laws ... it will only burden the people," he told the Jakarta Post. \nJakarta has issued a total of 16 government regulations to support the autonomy move, but Rasyid said more than 100 presidential decrees were still needed to implement them. \nBut he said the lack of decrees should not result in chaos, telling the daily Bisnis Indonesia, that he saw one of two scenarios -- either provincial and district authorities would be overly creative, issuing their own local decrees, or just remain passive. \nHe also aired fears that the lack of laws and regulations, would result in the corrupt practices prevailing in the central government spreading to the regions. \nRasyid also criticized local politicians for emphasizing their bigger share of the pie and ability to raise revenue, rather than their obligations. \n"They forget their obligation to provide better services to the public and to empower the people," he said, according to the Jakarta Post. \nThe autonomy deal allows each district and province to seek its own sources of revenue, and many worry that local administrations, especially in resource-poor areas, may hit people hard with new taxes and levies.
FORCED LABOR: Customs officials have seized a 11.8 tonne shipment of products made from human hair on suspicion they were produced by people facing human rights abuses Federal authorities in New York City on Wednesday seized a shipment of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp. US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officials said that 11.8 tonnes of hair products worth an estimated US$800,000 were in the shipment. “The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
JUST QUESTIONS: Expelled reporter Ai Kezhu said that every member of Southeast Television had complied with the law and had not appeared on any talk shows Two Chinese reporters yesterday left Taiwan after the government revoked their accreditation and ordered them to leave amid a probe into allegations that several Chinese media outlets have set up studios and produced political talk shows in Taiwan. The two reporters — Ai Kezhu (艾珂竹) and Lu Qiang (盧薔) — worked for Fujian Province-based Southeast Television and arrived in Taiwan in December last year. The Mainland Affairs Council has launched an investigation after local media reported that Chinese broadcasters — including China Central Television, Southeast Television and FJTV — had set up studios in Taipei and produced political talk shows. Council Deputy Minister
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit