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Cablegate: East Nusa Tenggara--Muslim Radio and Politics in a Christian

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RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0051/01 2831007
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101007Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0071
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0014
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0063
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0073
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0012

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TAGS: PGOV PHUM KISL KCOR ID
SUBJECT: EAST NUSA TENGGARA--MUSLIM RADIO AND POLITICS IN A CHRISTIAN
STRONGHOLD

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1. (SBU) Summary: In Christian dominated East Nusa Tenggara
(NTT), Muslim residents play an important political role. The
Chairman of NTT's Indonesian Islamic Council told visitors from
ConGen Surabaya that relations between religious and ethnic
communities have stabilized on the island of West Timor since
the influx of refugees from neighboring Timor Leste. While
political party support follows ethnic/religious lines,
perceptions of good governance often outweigh such affiliations.
Increased dialogue has led to increased cooperation to help the
neediest members of the community. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Pol/Econ officer and Pol/Econ Assistant met with the
Chairman of NTT's Indonesian Islamic Council at his boarding
school, orphanage and radio studio in Kupang on 2 October.
Abdul Kadir Makarim told us that relations between religious and
ethnic communities in NTT have largely stabilized after seven
years of friction, heightened by the arrival of refugees from
areas bordering newly independent Timor Leste. Support for
political parties has tended to follow sectarian lines in NTT;
however local races have proven that voters are willing to cross
religious lines to elect a solid candidate.

In a Forest of Church Steeples, Muslims Still Matter
--------------------------------------------- -------

3. (SBU) While the religious center of gravity in NTT is
overwhelmingly Christian, the Muslim population is still an
important factor in NTT political life. NTT's provincial
statistics show a mix unique to this Catholic majority province:
Catholics 53%, Protestants 33%, and Muslims 9%. Makarim insisted
that the number of Muslims throughout NTT, and particularly in
Kupang, was higher, perhaps 13%. He suggested that Muslims who
have moved from other provinces and kept their residence cards
have not been captured in national statistics. Makarim
speculated that in Kupang alone the Muslim population is as high
as 25%. This is due to a large number of business people and
civil servants from majority Muslim areas of Indonesia.

What Kind of Christian Does a Muslim Vote For?
--------------------------------------------- ------

4. (SBU) NTT's majority parties, Golkar (with 37% in the last
election) and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle
(PDI-P with 19%) tend to draw support from the majority of NTT's
Protestants and Catholics respectively. We asked Makarim,
himself a Golkar member for some 30 years, who Muslims
supported. He explained that Muslims supported Christian
candidates with a solid good governance platform, although there
is some support for Islamic parties - National Awakening Party
(PKB) has four seats and Crescent Star Party (PPP) one seat in
the 55-seat provincial house of representatives.

5. (SBU) Makarim used Kupang's Mayor Daniel Adoe, a protestant
and former Golkar cadre, to illustrate. Adoe left Golkar and
beat the anointed Golkar candidate with the strong support of a
swing vote from the Islamic PKB. Adoe's reputation for clean
government and plans for artesian wells in the municipality were
the cornerstones of his success, Makarim explained. Makarim
himself was offered, but has not accepted, an offer by PDI-P to
run for Vice Governor alongside the Protestant Candidate Frans
Leburaya. The ability of NTT candidates to agree on strategy
and form coalitions across religious lines reflects a pragmatic
approach to political life and a trend away from religion-based
parties according to Makarim.

The Voice of HAM
--------------------

6. (SBU) Makarim owns and operates Suara HAM 88.5 FM, a radio
station with the signal strength to reach listeners within a 45
km radius of Kupang. The name "Suara HAM" means "the sound of
Human Rights" in Indonesian. Makarim explained that advertisers
are reluctant to buy spots on a station solely focused on human
rights issues so he often says that these are simply his
initials; H. A. M. A music request program was in progress
during our meeting; however discussion and call-in talk shows
that address the concerns of religious communities are frequent
themes. Makarim attributes the frequency and quality of
dialogue among religious groups to an increase in cooperation
and harmony among NTT's religious communities. While charity
was once provided by each group to its own neediest members, now
charity and food aid is distributed without regard to religious

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affiliation.
MCCLELLAND

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