Wednesday, November 30, 2005
  SBY reads Jakartass

Less than a week after the country refused entry to American researcher Sidney Jones, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the lifting of the ban on Tuesday, blaming the incident on the government of his predecessor Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng said that Susilo had only learned about the expulsion from media reports (Jakartass?).

You may recall that I suggested, ever so politely, that the previous regime may have been responsible for Sidney's re-exile.

SBY sought an explanation from Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo Adi Sucipto and Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaluddin.

"The ban was issued based on a decision made by the previous government. The President asked (the ministers) whether the ban was relevant to the current situation. It turned out that the reasons were irrelevant," Andi told reporters.

John Aglionby probably reads Jakartass

Yes, John and I do cover the same stories. It doesn't bother me too much that the Guardian's correspondent has a wider readership than I do, partly because by linking to his articles I can demonstrate my prescience.

On August 10th I suggested that troops withdrawn from Aceh and Maluku would be sent to West Papua.

In yesterday's Guardian, John reported on an announcement from the Indonesian military that a new division of some 10,000-15,000 troops of the élite strategic reserves would be created specifically to be based in West Papua.

The territory is home to the world's largest gold and copper mine, run by a subsidiary of the American firm Freeport-McMoran, and the Anglo-American oil giant BP is developing a massive natural gas field which is expected to be generating revenues of around £55m a year.

The military has yet to become an organ of the state and has to find some 60% of its own budget. Suharto allowed the military to establish business conglomerates in return for their backing of his regime.

That he left the country bankrupt means that the state has yet to have the financial resources to properly fund the military. The consequence is that they need to engineer problems in provinces rich in resources in order to keep going.

Foreign journalists and most researchers and aid workers are banned from Papua but, ironically, tourists are not.

Ironically, John? Tourists have money and generate income for the military-owned resorts. I doubt that your Guardian expense account is of interest to anyone but your editor.

It's possible that both SBY and John read Indcoup too.
And the Jakarta Post.


4:30 pm |
Monday, November 28, 2005
  Education Matters

"What does our respectful job mean if we are sidelined with nobody greeting us or talking to us? When will our school buildings improve their grade from just a chicken coop? Here is buried the remains of a teacher, who died of starvation after living on a salary that runs out in only one day."

These are lines from his poem read by a noted educator and a former rector of Jakarta Teachers Training Institute, Winarno Surachmad. Unfortunately they were read in the presence of Josef Kalla, the Vice President, at the 60th anniversary celebration of the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI) held yesterday in Solo.

And JK took umbrage.

Kalla said he understood that teachers were not paid well enough, but maintained that such an expression of pessimism was unnecessary.

"I know our school buildings are not that luxurious, but I'm convinced they are not like chicken coops. I know your salary is low, but it will not run out in just a day," Kalla said.

"If we all work hard, our economy will improve and everybody will be well-paid."

Prior to his departure back to Jakarta later in the day, Kalla said the poetry was offending. "Teachers form the nation's soul and character. If you mock the nation, who will respect it? This country needs high spirits to develop," Kalla explained.

High spirits and low salaries are an unbalanced distortion. Where is the dedication if teachers have to take secondary jobs to support their families?

Kalla is, of course, a millionaire from his business interests. New entrants to the teaching profession earn less than Rp.1 million ($100) a month.

Teachers with small take-home pay have no spare money to buy good books to increase their relevant knowledge. Many do not even have enough money to subscribe to newspapers.

Some teachers are lucky enough to have regular obyekan (incidental money-making projects) at schools during office hours. While others have to do side jobs after work.

But not many teachers are willing to become ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers or sellers of lottery tickets. Most use their spare time to choose safer more "socially acceptable" jobs such as private tutoring.

In urban areas, as elsewhere, there is a drift towards a guiltless, indeed self-righteous, middle-class acceptance of the superiority of private education. So-called National Plus schools have mushroomed here in Jakarta. The majority seem to have a profit motive as their raison d?être with only notional regard towards educational excellence.

It's hard being a parent having to select the best school for our kids. I venture that it's even harder being a caring professional teacher.

It's surely time for SBY and his government to recognise their responsibility towards the future well-being of Indonesia (and his own legacy) by agreeing to implement the constitutionally obligated 20% of the budget towards education. Take a leaf out of the Jakarta administration by implementing a living allowance ~ an extra Rp.1 miilion per month this year, to be doubled next year.

Offer teacher upgrading courses, both skills and subject based, with incentives for dedication to the job. The extra pay and recognition can only make the profession more rewarding.

Happier teachers will make happier students. And one less worry for we parents.

Put Kalla in detention and make him write 100 lines.
I must respect teachers.



6:00 pm |
Sunday, November 27, 2005
  Well I never.

Hev you ever tried to write enithing with er keebored without the letter Eh or Wi? It isn't eesi, let me tell u.

Ho hum.

I wish I were here
or here.


4:00 pm |
Saturday, November 26, 2005
  Shooting The Messengers


Indonesia harbours terrorist cells with perverted Islamic values and Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group (ICG) is one of those with a deep understanding of these groups. Such is her influence that this year Time magazine has named her as an Asia Hero.

Forecasting the future is rarely a rewarding exercise. Calamities averted earn you little credit, yet warnings that go unheeded ~ weakened levees in New Orleans or radicals preaching hate in London's mosques ~ only serve as unwelcome evidence exposing ill-prepared governments. Sidney Jones knows the feeling. She's the Jakarta-based Southeast Asia project director for International Crisis Group, an NGO headquartered in Brussels and headed there by the plain-speaking former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.

Two months before the 2002 Bali bombings, Jones released a meticulously researched, prescient report on the danger posed by Jemaah Islamiah (J.I.), the Southeast Asian network of extremists now widely believed to have masterminded those attacks. Few paid heed at the time, but after the attacks, Jones' thorough descriptions of the background and training of key J.I. members proved invaluable to the multinational investigative team. "That's the advantage of having long-term contacts and a real depth of field experience," says Jones, whose 13 years working with Muslim prisoners in Indonesia as a human-rights advocate gave her wide access to the country's Islamic militants.

Certainly SBY appreciated her efforts as he made a point of meeting her a couple of months ago when she returned from a period of exile in Singapore imposed by President Megawati's regime.

The government of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri refused to extend Jones' stay permit and work visa in May last year at the request of the intelligence authorities following her revealing reports on Indonesia's poor human rights record and communal conflicts around the country.

So whom has she upset this time?

The immigration office has denied American terrorism expert Sidney Jones entry to the country without explanation despite the fact that she is in possession of a temporary stay permit and work visa.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yuri Thamrin confirmed yesterday that a ban had been imposed on Jones. "I've received information from our clearing house that the restriction is being applied to Ibu Jones. However, there is a possibility that it will be reviewed in due course," Yuri said.

The clearing house is a special government committee consisting of officials from the foreign ministry, intelligence agency, Indonesian military, the police and the immigration office that has the final say on whether to allow foreign researchers and journalists to visit Indonesia or conflict-prone areas across the country.

Jakartass has a work permit and temporary stay permit, as do the vast majority of my friends and colleagues. I've no intention of being heroic, so you may understand my reticence in naming names or in offering overt criticisms of Suharto's cronies who continue to pull the levers of power.

So, over to Sidney's lawyer, noted human rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis, who condemned the entry ban.

"I've called Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin, but he said he was not aware of it. So, who did this? This will be a real set-back for our democracy if we ban people simply because they are critical."


Further evidence of the êlite's inability to admit wrongdoing and their power to get even comes with the news that former state auditor Khairiansyah Salman, who helped reveal corruption cases in the General Elections Commission (KPU) has been named a suspect in the investigation into the embezzlement of haj funds at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

He allegedly received Rp 15 million (US$1,500) in transportation allowances in 2003 from the treasurer of the haj management directorate general at the ministry.

The money was believed to have been used to influence audit results on the haj funds by a team of auditors from the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), which included Khairiansyah.

What makes this case interesting is that based on data from prosecutors, 18 other state auditors also accepted money from the ministry to cover up graft cases, yet Khairiansyahhas seemingly been singled out and, without condoning his alleged crime, this is surely a trifling amount to bother with?

Could it be because Transparency International recently awarded Khairiansyah an Integrity Award for his whistle-blowing? He returned the award this week so as not to tarnish the conferment of the prize and vowed to continue with his commitment to combating corruption.


3:00 pm |
Friday, November 25, 2005
  Fallen Heroes

Suharto remained in power because of Golkar, a political grouping he created to give a semblance of democracy in the elections held every five years. The nation's bureaucrats had to belong if they wished to keep their jobs.

They are still the largest political party, presumably due to their largesse. In case you, or they, think that last sentence is libellous, consider the news that at the end of their three day national leadership meeting currently underway, they are going to award Dedicated Service Awards (Anugerah Bhakti Pratama) to loads of Suharto cronies.

There is a problem though. Suharto himself will not accept one unless the party "clarifies" his status before the courts.

Eighty three-year-old Soeharto is a prime suspect in several graft cases but the Attorney General's Office has never taken the cases to court, accepting claims that he is too disabled to face trial.

A supposedly independent team of doctors set up by the AGO, and his defense lawyers say the former autocratic leader is too brain damaged to properly answer lawyers' questions.

But he's not too brain-damaged to seek clarification, which presumably means 'sweeping under the carpet', of the many slurs against his integrity.

George Best is another about to meet his maker. An entire nation will mourn his passing, unlike the gentleman mentioned above. It won't be for who George is now, a failed alcoholic, but for what he was forty years ago ~ possibly the greatest footballing talent the UK has ever produced. Yes, better even than Wayne Rooney.

My memory is fading, but not as badly as George's, and I have to rely on mine for the following as I can find very little online about the one match I saw him play live. (If I'm wrong about the date, could someone let me know? Please?)

It was at Wembley, England v Northern Ireland on, presumably, 10th November 1965. I have one abiding memory.

George was playing his first game having recently been suspended for having thrown mud at a referee. England's line up contained many who were about to be stars of the following year's World Cup. I stood behind one goal.

Seemingly unaware of the boos echoing around the stadium because of his recent behaviour, George weaved his way around and through our world class defence and had just the goalkeeper, Gordon Banks, to beat. He didn't because that would have been too easy.

So he dribbled the ball away from the goal, past the defenders, and restarted for the goal. Again he rounded the defenders, this time including the goalkeeper. He scored into the empty net and the stadium erupted. From then on he was our hero. England won that match, but George had won our hearts


Update 8.30

So George has died.

Some years ago Jakartass could be seen trundling around rice paddies as a founder member of a local expat football team we called The Wankers ~ we weren't that good.

For a while we had a Brit called Alan playing in midfield. Alan had class, a lot more than the rest of us, but then he had been a professional player with Bournemouth until knee knack got him. One of his team mates was George Best, then in the latter stages of his career.

Alan later joined the Vikings, a Danish expat team; something to do with the nationality of his girlfriend. Alan left Jakarta and at his farewell match I told him that I felt honoured to have played both alongside and against someone who had played alongside George.

Alan understood what I meant.

And so will millions of British football fans.

Rest in peace, George.


4:00 pm |
Thursday, November 24, 2005
  Chickens Come Home To Roost

That Indonesia is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world is common knowledge. Well, it is if you are a regular reader here. But never let it be said that Jakartass is blinkered to corruption in other regimes.

Money does not corrupt people. What corrupts people is lack of affection. Money is simply the bandage which wounded people put over their wounds
Margaret Halsey

General Pinochet (90 tomorrow) of Chile is now uinder house arrest having been charged with tax evasion and corruption. He is unloved.

The investigation by the Chilean authorities includes alleged secret payments of more than £1m from BAE to General Pinochet, but these are not the subject of yesterday's charges against the dictator.

Yesterday, a senior executive of British Aerospace (BAE) was arrested in connection with a £60m "slush fund" to secure huge arms contracts in Saudi Arabia.

If we did not take great pains, and were not at great expense to corrupt our nature, our nature would never corrupt us.
Lord Clarendon

In the USA, the Republican party was yesterday facing a fast-growing corruption scandal with potentially serious implications for next year's elections after a well-connected Washington lobbyist pleaded guilty to bribing a congressman and other public officials.

More reading

A Brief History of Sleaze (UK)

The Wheel of Shame (Canada)

Corruption Roll Call (USA)

It's said that 'power corrupts', but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
David Brin

Gen (ret) Suharto is also unloved and, by the definition above, of unsound mind. So are the following folk named last year by Transparency International as the Top Ten in the All-time Corruption League.

Suharto: $15-35bn (Indonesia, 1967-98)
Ferdinand Marcos: $5-10bn (Philippines, 1972-86)
Mobutu Sese Seko: $5bn (Zaire, 1965-97)
Sani Abacha: $2-5bn (Nigeria, 1993-98)
Slobodan Milosevic: $1bn (Yugoslavia, 1989-2000)
J-C Duvalier: $300-800m (Haiti, 1971-86)
Alberto Fujimori : $600m (Peru, 1990-2000)
Awaiting extradition from Chile.
Pavlo Lazarenko: $114-200m (Ukraine, 1996-7)
Arnoldo Aleman: $100m (Nicaragua, 1997-2002)
Joseph Estrada: $78-80m (Philippines, 1998-2001)
Still in jail.


5:00 pm |
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
  Uniform Treatment

It seems that new blogs, in English, are surfacing in Indonesia on a daily basis. At last.

Indonesia Anonymus is a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. We are not native english speakers (or writers, in this case), so please excuse our grammar. We call ourselves anonymus because we could not decide whose name should be put as a writer. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.

They are executives, with 'counterparts' offices' in Jl. Sudirman in Jakarta's expensive business district. On Monday they wrote about their office boy, although they prefer the term 'office assistant' because their duty mainly is to assist us in doing something that we are too stupid to do, such as fixing paper jam in photocopy machines or sending a fax without mistakenly sending it to Timbuktu. Don't laugh. It actually happened.

Young Joni received scant respect from security personnel, dressed as he was and driving a motorcycle. His last straw was when a group of security guards dragged him to an office at the basement and strip-searched him, suspecting him of concealing a weapon. They found nothing of course, but since that moment, Joni hated them. So our heroes conducted an experiment whereby one of them volunteered to visit 10 offices twice, once dressed as a messenger and once carrying his Nokia and dressed in a suit.

Well, I'm sure you can guess the results, but do read the whole article and bookmark this blog.

Jakartass has visited many office towers in Jakarta and I cannot recall any unpleasantness. I won't comment on which building is the most thorough in terms of security, but I'm sure many expats have noted how easy it can be sometimes to enter with but a cursory check of our belongings, let alone a strip search.

I promised Anonymus a plug because they offer valued insights which are beyond me, and fellow.caucasian expats. We may object to being called a bule and the constant "Hello misters", but, by the same token, we should surely object to positive discrimination.

Great stuff, guys (and gals?) and welcome to the blogosphere. I hope you like the plug I promised you.

Incidentally, the English is fine, and I'm not just saying that because you emailed ~ excuse me while I let them lustily blow my trumpet ~ "A plug is much appreciated. Especially coming from Jakartass. It's an honour, really."

An honour? Thanks, but I'm more than pleased to think that my efforts as Jakartass are encouraging Indonesians to express themselves. This is my contribution to reformasi.


6:00 pm |
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
  Michelle Leslie Is Outbakrie

Indcoup has been following the story of the cover up of the story behind Michelle Leslie's drugs bust and 'lenient sentence'. (My Toast has been covering her uncovering.)

Michelle modelling Muslim garb

Jakartass, of course, will not cast aspersions about the integrity of any member of SBY's Cabinet and their children or their power to get the judiciary to bend the 'facts' in their favour in order to have the Aussie model (34 - 24 - 36) permanently banned from Indonesia.

That would be most unwise of me.

So, if you want to know what I'm not going to relate, then why not read the Australian press and see how far advanced reformasi is.

Or isn't.


7:00 pm |
Monday, November 21, 2005
  What A Tangled Web We Weave

I'm somewhat bemused, not to say pissed off, to discover that I'm one of those who've offered Worldwide Acclaim Success and Good Testimonials on Transjakarta Busway Projects. PT Pamintoro Cipta, 'Engineering and Management Consultants', based here in Jakarta, have linked to a whole host of my posts rather than the one which says I like the busway but ....

It would have been nice to have been asked first if it was OK to quote me.

It is true that bloggers' efforts are in the public domain and I don't begrudge other bloggers or, as occasionally happens, journalists using my thoughts as pegs for their own perspectives. The blogosphere is essentially an exchange of news, ideas and opinions. Free speech is essential. What I do object to is the use of what I dribble forth for commercial use.

A similar controversy is brewing in the UK. Tim Worstall, a blogging self-publicist, has just had a book published ~ 2005 Blogged: Dispatches from the Blogosphere . He has written to Jakartass a couple of times suggesting that I might wish to contribute to a couple of his projects. I don't.

And neither did Inspector Sands, who wrote: A couple of months back I was e-mailed by somebody seeking to use an excerpt from Casino Avenue in a "best of British blogging" anthology. I politely declined, and later found to my horror it was billed as "the big events of 2005, as seen through the "eyes of some of the world's most opinionated bloggers". Not something I really want to be part of. And if anybody's going to be making money from this, it'll be me, thanks.

The comments, all pseudonymous you'll note, on this post show a remarkable synchronicity of cynicism.

I'm glad someone's raised the issue of this book. It feels exploitative to me: you cut and paste other people's writing, then add your name to it and cream off the royalties.
I do hope that he's distributing all the money he receives for the book amongst all the people he's used (in more senses than one).

OK, rant over.

Now for some more folk who've recently entered the Indonesian blogosphere.

Wimar Witoelar is a noted commentator on Indonesian affairs and has turned his website into a blog, thus allowing interaction.

Rain In The Distance
A Bali lover who writes well.

Sexy Chef
Has recipes in Indonesia but the pictures whet the appetite.

Shinta is a care giver in California and is presumably an Indonesian expat. She's linked to Jakartass. Thanks S. and I wish you Happy Birthday for last Friday

And finally, Gus Dur, the half-blind cleric and former president, is online. It's not a blog, but still a useful source of his temperate thinking.


6:30 pm |
Sunday, November 20, 2005
  Money For Nothing

Rp.170,000, about £9, seemed to be a bargain for the computer desk I bought at Carrefour for Our Kid. It came in a box stamped Self Assembly.

Unfortunately that doesn't mean that it assembles itself. After eight hours of effort, there are vital bits such as screws missing and the chipboard has had its chips, destined for recycling at the local dump.

I should have checked the net for a suitable guide on how to Assemble Furniture from Kits. Then I wouldn't have bothered. Still, I could have spent a lot more.

Ho hum.

If you don't mind spending money on nothing, you may enjoy the following:

Sandwich wrappers
Same old, same old packed lunch?
Then wrap it in a designer plastic zipper sandwich bag.

Santa's Coming
A sweet dispenser from Ann Summers..
Goodness Santa, what an enormous ..... smile!
Santa just loves to shoot his sugary stuff and you'll love to eat it.
Ho ho ho!

And whilst on the subject of teeth rotting foodstuffs .....

Jones Soda Company are purveyors of many finely flavored beverages.
Such as: Brussels Sprout with Prosciutto, Cranberry Sauce, Wild Herb Stuffing, Pumpkin Pie, Broccoli Casserole, Smoked Salmon Paté, Turkey & Gravy, Corn on the Cob, and Pecan Pie.

I think I'll stick to Bintang beer and watching the clouds go by.

Thanks to J-Walk Blog and Blog On A Toothpick.


1:00 pm |
Friday, November 18, 2005
  SBY has urged Jakartass not to jump to the conclusion that certain government officials are involved in corruption without sufficient evidence. If I do, I risk being charged under the law for defamation, he said.

So, without jumping to any conclusions ~ I'll leave them to you, dear reader ~ I'll just copy and paste from the Jakarta Post the following for your perusal:

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will soon issue a presidential instruction regulating government officials' roles in dealing with projects funded or initiated by the state.

"There should be clear rules of the game for these kinds of officials in order to create good governance and prevent corruption," he said on Thursday aboard the presidential aircraft heading to South Korea where he will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting.

Susilo dubbed such government officials -- who misused their authority to enrich their family or business groups by securing government projects -- as "dwi-fungsi (dual-function) politicians".

"Dual-function politicians are government officials who are running their businesses at the expense of the state. Not necessarily by being directly involved in these (businesses) but through their family or groups," he said.

Susilo said the instruction would arrange the relations between government officials and their families or business groups when dealing with projects funded by the state or regional budgets, or projects initiated by the government.

The instruction also regulates the need for business entities owned by officials' families or business groups to make a disclosure of their relation to officials during a tender process for a government project.

Under the planned instruction, government officials are not allowed to provide or leak information to their families or business interests regarding a tender process, which could cause unfair competition in the tender.

Information leaked by officials that could lead to insider trading in capital markets will also be prohibited.

Susilo said he would use the instruction to try to prevent the country's economy from being controlled by only a small group of businessmen, which could create economic oligarchies.

"I know that some cases of nepotism are hard to prove. But everyone should bear in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect crime. There is always ways (sic) to prove that they are guilty," Susilo said.

"I am currently investigating certain officials who it is indicated have misused their authority for the interests of their families or groups of businesses. (However) I must have strong evidence before I can take necessary action against them," he said.

The President's Cabinet includes several prominent businessmen -- Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Aburizal Bakrie, Minister of Transportation Hatta Radjasa, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Fahmi Idris, State Minister of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Surya Dharma Ali, State Minister of State Enterprises Sugiharto and Minister of Forestry Malam Sambat Kaban.

A good source on family connections within the élite political and business circles is Yosef Ardi's blog.

So we learn that Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the minister for development planning and the top candidate to replace Jusuf Anwar as the minister of finance is married to Tonny Sumartono (an economist, and reportedly an advisor to Astra Foundation/YDBA).

!n 2001-2, Ani was the independent commissioner at listed automotive giant PT Astra International Tbk. She resigned from Astra in January 2003 and was replaced by another economist Mari Pangestu who is now the trade minister. Juwono Sudarsono (minister of defense) was also appointed Astra commissioner in early 2003 with Mari Pangestu.

Ani was also commissioner at Unilever Indonesia for sometime.

Then there's Aburizal Bakrie, referred to a few days ago, who is currently the Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy. a former chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce. State-owned gas transmission and distribution company PT Perusahaan Gas Negara (PGN) Tbk awarded PT South East Asia Pipe Industries (Seapi), a subsidiary of his family firm, PT Bakrie & Brothers, a lucrative contract to supply pipelines.

Pertamina, the state oil company, is well-known for its history of nepotism and corruption, dating back to the Suharto era and Ibnu Sutowo. The black gold in the oilfields controlled by Pertamina in the East Java regencies of Bojonegoro, Tuban, and Blora is sought after by major oil companies.

These include PetroChina which is reportedly lobbying Vice President Jusuf Kalla through his brother-in-law Susanto Supardjo.

And so it goes.

Now, how should I conclude this post?

Sorry, but SBY has advised me that it would be unwise to .........


4:00 pm |
Thursday, November 17, 2005
  Global Heating

I don't like cold weather so I like living in a hot country. Last night, however, tested our tolerance. I was feeling comfortable when, all of a sudden, it felt as if someone had lit a fire nearby. It was a dry heat and I didn't start actively perspiring, which happens when humidity levels rise.

'Er Indoors and our neighbours also commented with the local version of "Phew, wot a scorcher!" so I looked up weather.com and this is what I found.

I've heard of the wind chill factor making cold weather feel colder, but never a heat feel factor. The whys and wherefores of last night's phenomenon elude me so I'm more than happy to give a plug to Calvin Jones who wrote to me as follows:

Hi Jakartass,

I've started a climate change blog and thought a good way to promote it would be to find people blogging about similar issues and tell them what I'm doing. My blog is based on climate change but this takes in energy policy, renewable energies, carbon capture storage, ecology, peak oil, poverty, politics ... etc.

Hope it is of some interest.

It is, Cal, it is.


5:30 pm |
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
  You'll Wonder Where The Yellow Went ...

When You Brush Your Teeth With ..... Siwak-F

Some years ago when poverty-stricken and suffering from excruciating toothache and a near mortal dread of dentists, I took myself off to the Royal Dental Hospital where I'd heard that dental students did whatever dentists do, only for free.

Their supervisor informed me that my molars were in such rotten condition that he wouldn't allow his students anywhere near them. I grimaced, such was the pain, and pointed out that his students wouldn't find a better set to work on. He agreed and five, or was it eight?, injections later, another gap appeared in my gums.

It still makes me cringe to even think about it ~ oh, and you too? ~ but I only mention it because I had to sit through an office discussion recently about the merits of different toothpastes and powders. Of course, the colleague who recommended imported Sensodyne at Rp.25,000 (c.US$4) a can soaks his teeth in a glass overnight.

If, like me, you don't understand why anyone would want to earn a living by sticking their fingers into halitosis-ridden orifices, then do come back tomorrow. Those of you who want to learn more may be interested in some research I've been doing into why I haven't visited a dentist since I arrived in Indonesia way back when.

I started off by visiting Toothpaste World. Their Indonesian collection doesn't feature Siwak-F, my chosen brand (because it's the cheapest and tastes good), but does have a picture of Hazelnut Chocolate Toothpaste (eh?) as well as their collection of infamous Darkie/Darlie toothpaste from Asia.

Get your memorablia here

From SinoSplice Blog: Hong Kong's Hazel & Hawley Chemical Co. would probably still be hawking Darkie toothpaste had the company not been acquired by Colgate. The Darkie brand's Al Jolson-inspired logo, a grinning caricature in blackface and a top hat, was as offensive as its name. Colgate bought the company in 1985, and then ditched the logo and changed the product's name to Darlie after US civil rights groups protested. However, the Cantonese name - Haak Yahn Nga Gou (Black Man Toothpaste) - remains (in China).

Da Xiangchang Comments:

A common perception among the Chinese is that black people have the nicest, whitest teeth, hence the toothpaste. This toothpaste goes waayyyy back. I think my grandparents have even heard of it. But is Darkie Toothpaste any worse than Aunt Jemima products in America? Of course, the name 'Darkie' is a lot more offensive, but Aunt Jemima taps into all the slavery days where some house slave cooks for the white family. So I don't know. Both seem equally offensive to me.

I'll admit that I used to find imported Darkie/Darlie a most refreshing way to start my day, but being a good housekeeper, some might say a tightwad, I was pleased to find an acceptable cheaper, at Rp.6,700, substitute in Siwak-F which is produced locally.

I've now discovered that it's halal. In other words, it is one of the few toothpastes which Muslims are encouraged to use. You see, it contains a natural Miswak Powder (Salvadora Persica) for Reducing Plaque, Remove tartar and Prevents gum infection.

And what is miswak?

The miswak is a natural tool for brushing the teeth. It is taken from the roots and branches of particular desert trees. It differs from one region to another, but in Arabia and Asia it is taken from the Arak tree.

The Prophet [sallallahu alayhe wa sallam (SAWS)] recommended Muslims to clean their teeth using a miswak every day; especially after waking, when performing wudhu, before salah, when reciting the Qur'an, before sleeping, and when the mouth smells bad.

There are many ahadeeth that speak about it. Following are some of them:

A'isha said that the Prophet (SAWS) said, "Ten things are natural (for one to do): Trimming the moustache, growing a beard, (using) the miswak, sniffing up water, cutting the nails, washing hands, plucking armpits, shaving pubic hair, and conserving water".

There are a few things in that list that I don't do regularly ~ sniff up water? pluck my armpits? ~ and my miswak comes in a plastic tube rather than being the root source. I think I'd prefer chewing the root; it would cut down on toothbrushes. After all, this technique has been well-proven over the centuries.

The activity of keeping the mouth clean dates all the way back to the religious figure Buddha. It has been recorded that he would use a "tooth stick" from the God Sakka as part of his personal hygiene regimen. (I have already told you that Jakartass is ecumenical.)

The alternatives have not been so successful.

In 23 - 79 AD the practice of oral hygiene included:

* Drinking goats milk for sweet breath

* Ashes from burnt mice heads, rabbits heads, wolves heads, ox heels and goats feet were thought to benefit the gums. (This probably wouldn't go over very well today)

* Picking the bones out of wolves excrement and wearing them (maybe in the form of a necklace?) was considered to be a form of protection against toothaches.

* Washing your teeth with the blood from a tortoise three times a year was a sure bet against toothaches as well.

* Mouthwashes were known to consist of pure white wine, or (get ready for this one) old urine kept especially for this purpose.

So, there you have it.

By the way, I smile with my lips only slightly parted because I really do need to see a dental surgeon.


5:30 pm |
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
  Brief Encounters

Some days, like today, I am fortunate in being able to come home by bus. As the route terminates just beyond my office I get a seat, an open window to catch the breeze and the pleasure of paying a mere 5% of the expected taxi fare.

Of course, there is the problem of that open window which allows the intake of noxious fumes. Still, if I care to come out of the cocoon of stoicism I surround myself with, generally with a good book, I can gaze at pretty girls and the other facets of city life. A musing time, as it were.

Today was briefly different and it wasn't because the buskers were actually musical. The best ones always travel by train.

What caught my eye were two identically dressed barefoot men, possibly in their thirties, navigating their way southwards along the footpath, where it existed. They wore black shorts, from which protruded muscular legs, and white-ish shirts with a sweatband made from the same rough cloth. They had tote bags, of the same material, slung behind them. They seemingly ignored those of us sweltering in the gridlock

I realised that this was my first sighting of the semi-mystical Badui. I had heard of this group of some 5,000 - 8,000 people, and knew that they live in West Java, about 120 km from Jakarta, in the Kendeng mountains at an elevation of 300-500 meters above sea level. Their homeland is contained in just 50 km² of hilly forest area.

I also knew that there are two groups of Badui, the Inner and the Outer. No foreigners were allowed to meet the Inner Badui, though the Outer Badui do foster some limited contacts with the outside world.

The Baduis observe many mystical taboos. They are forbidden to kill, steal, lie, commit adultery, get drunk, eat food at night, take any form of conveyance, wear flowers or perfumes, accept gold or silver, touch money, cut their hair. Other taboos relate to defending Badui lands against invasion: they may not grow sawah, use fertilizers, raise cash crops, use modern tools for working ladang soil, keep large domestic animals.

That much I was aware of and that the 'modern world' is inevitably eroding their lifestyle.

The Badui Luar (Outer) make up the remainder of the Badui population, live in 22 villages acting as a barrier to stop visitors from entering the Sacred Inner circle. They do follow the rigid taboo system but not as strictly as the Dalam (Inner), and they are more willing to accept modern influence into their daily lives. For example, some Luar people now proudly sport the colorful sarongs and shirts favored by their Sundanese neighbours.

In the past the Badui Luar only wore only their homespun blue-black cloth, and were forbidden to wear trousers. Other elements of civilization (toys, money, batteries) are rapidly infiltrating especially in the villages to the north, and it is no longer unusual for an outer Badui to make a journey to Jakarta, or even to work outside as a hired hand during the rice planting and reaping seasons.

I cannot judge where these two were heading. Perhaps to Bandung?

I only ask because in 1997 Sabah Habas Mustapha, whose English name is Colin Bass, recorded an album of Sundanese music, Jalan Kopo, there. The lyrics of the first song on the CD are about his encounter with a Badui.

In a "Masakan Padang" restaurant I noticed a sprightly looking old man with laughing eyes chuckling to himself. His skin was clear and healthy, he wore a black smock over a white shirt and his strong, muscular legs protruded from his traditional batik sarong. When he saw me his face broke into a hearty laugh. "You like that?" he said, "Ok for some but all this driving drives you crazy, this my transport." He patted the soles of his bare feet.

I asked him in which direction he was travelling. "To Bandung, to visit a friend, do a little business" he replied in the modest but confident tone of a man at peace with himself, "And you? You want to walk too?", he laughed, his radiant, gap-toothed smile gently mocking my superficial understanding of his world. I bade him good journey and returned to my squid.


6:30 pm |
Monday, November 14, 2005
  Water, water everywhere

Except in our taps.

A report produced by PAM Jaya shows that as of December 2004, only 3,041,999 residents, or 34 percent of the city's total population of 8.7 million, have access to treated tap water, leaving the majority reliant on ground water.

Here at Jakartass Towers on the southern outskirts of the city we've got a well which produces enough water for our daily needs. It's relatively clean with a bit of grit and tastes okay after boiling, although we do have a large bottle and dispenser for when we have power cuts ~ our pump needs electricity.

Further north, the extraction of (under) ground water is such that Jakarta is sinking and sea water is seeping in.

PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya warned on Friday that unless the government found new water sources, the capital could suffer a severe water crisis as early as 2008.

However, experts disagree.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a hydrologist with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), said there was nothing to worry about. "Jakarta has great potential to benefit from the use of untapped ground water resources in the upstream areas, like in Puncak and Bogor in West Java, where water is abundant. Channeling ground water from the upstream areas would be cheaper than using costly treated river water."

The problem is that reservoirs take water which would otherwise become groundwater, that is if the surrounding hills of Puncak hadn't been denuded of trees in order to build resort complexes for Jakartans to use at weekends. This deforestation is also also a major cause of the regular flooding here after a cloudburst.

Sutopo continued: "It's our own fault as we never seriously took into account the issue of water conservation when we started developing the city. No wonder that now we see the city's water supplies reaching critical point."

Ah, water conservation. Now there's a good idea. Any visitor to Jakarta in the hot dry season should be as bemused as I am at the sight of gormless servants idly hosing down the streets whilst gossiping away with all and sundry and the vast amount of water wasted to keep cars nice and shiny for the traffic jams that lie in waiting.
A thirsty ostrich

Or are humans lemmings?

It is rumored that lemmings intentionally self-destruct (sacrifice themselves) by jumping off cliffs or running into rivers to drown when population exceeds available resources. If lemmings talk to one another, what do they say?


6:00 pm |
Sunday, November 13, 2005
  Cross Cultural

As you may have noticed, I was cross on Friday. Most long-term expats here have days like that. However attuned we think we are to local life, there remain regular what-the-f***? and why-don't-they? moments.

Simon Pitchforth has a regular column called Metro Mad in the Sunday edition of the Jakarta Post. I usually find myself nodding with recognition.

When I was a child, my first experience with the law occurred when I was riding my bicycle home one evening. It was already dark and I had no lights on my bike. A policeman stopped me, told me I was breaking the law and endangering people and ordered me to dismount and push it home.

Fast-forward 20 years and I'm sitting on my Honda at a red light in Jakarta, near my office, watching rider after rider steam past me, straight over the crossroads paying no heed whatsoever to the traffic lights in front of them.

So what links these two stories together, aside from a predilection for two-wheeled thrills? Well, it's revealing of cultural attitudes to the law. In our first bicycle light related encounter with the law, a common rite of passage in one's dealing with the police in the West, our hero's (me in short trousers) respect for rules and laws is reinforced and he learns that a sanction will be imposed if they are broken. It would have been inconceivable for me to try and give the officer who stopped me 50 pence (about US$1) from my pocket money in order to let me continue my ride home.

But not inconceivable here, eh Simon?

Simon continues ...

Our second example shows just how futile local attempts to crackdown on corrupt judges and politicians and to get high-profile tax dodgers to cough up, are. If you can't even get people to stop at a red traffic light, then what's the point? You'll never eradicate corruption from the top-down if such disrespect for even the most basic of laws is buried deep within the Indonesian psyche.

(You'll have to register and login to read the entire article railing against the 'brick wall of cultural intransigence'. Maybe Simon could post his articles in a blog much as another Jakarta Post contributor, Surabaya-based Duncan Graham does.)

I think Simon has it slightly, but only slightly, wrong on that one. There is another factor at work, as described by Brandon at Java Jive.

Mungkin mereka mau bertemu Allah
(Maybe they want to meet Allah.)

Without throwing exaggeration or frustration into the mix, I can honestly say that I've never seen a city with worse drivers in all of my life. It's not so much that people are sleeping at the wheel - because they know they're making poor decisions. When you have gigantic buses storming along at 120km/hr ON THE SHOULDER, you know there's just a different respect for lives.

Talking of respect for lives, Brandon was sick recently and actually visited a doctor.

There's no way this was a common cold, but it's been years since I've had the flu - and I couldn't remember how that felt. I decided I should finally get to the doctor. He literally laughed at me when I asked if there's any chance it could be bird flu - so is that Indonesian for "yes, you will die soon" or "not a chance"?. He quickly responded with, "If you had bird flu, you would have been dead yesterday and wouldn't be standing in front of me now." What a warm human being.

I asked for some pain killers and maybe something to help me sleep. Once I got home, I checked out the painkiller on the 'net. Oddly enough, the drugs he gave me were specifically marketed towards menstrual pain!?!

Who cares, cause they sure helped.

In today's Observer, John Pilger offers a couple of valuable insights.

Being tall invests you with an authority you have no right to - and you're not likely to be mugged. But in parts of southeast Asia, where if you stand out someone might shoot you, it's a huge disadvantage.

That's one fear I don't have here, although having my pocket picked is something I have experienced. Four times.

There's one photograph from Vietnam by Philip Jones Griffiths that shows a very large GI having his pocket picked by a tiny Vietnamese woman. It told the whole story of the clash of two cultures and how the invader could never win.

And there you have it. It can be difficult to adapt completely to so-called 'Asian values'.


2:30 am |
Friday, November 11, 2005
  Thank God It's Not Friday For Much Longer

I don't actually mind the early start; it's something you get used to and Indonesians are supposedly the earliest risers in the world. Work was fine, especially as I generally get home about 3.30.

But not today. A massive thunderstorm, the sort which the Jakarta Post report on their front page the next day, created a moat around the workplace. We eventually waded out and found a cruising taxi which dropped us off at various points. It was still raining, but as I suspected that the loop-de-loop route to access my street which goes under the toll road would be flooded to a depth of half a metre, I decided to use the footbridge and walk home through the kampung, in spite of the drizzle.

I found my way blocked by a couple of sub-machine toting Brimob (the army's mobile brigade) blocking my way. Below, the toll road south was empty of traffic and the four parallel lanes were also devoid of traffic. Why? Because Josef Kalla was on his way to Halim airport and vice presidents aren't allowed to sit in traffic jams with the citizens who he is supposed to serve.

Five minutes later I reached my road only to find that I was expected to wade through vast puddles because of the ojeks (motorcycle taxis) were parked on the jalan kaki (footpath). I was furious and made them move so I could pass by. Once I had, one presumptious oik muttered something about orang bule ~ a racist term ~ so I went back and gave him some aggressive Anglo-Saxon.

He won't be rude to me again. And I've now lost my voice.

It sure didn't take long for the patience and calm engendered by the fasting month to fade.

Others too seem to have returned to type.

For example, have a read of Bart's Expat Newsletter. He has 'published' a letter from Ross McKay which is both historically inaccurate and histrionic.

Recently there has been a major drive, spearheaded by the Jakarta Post, towards historical revisonism, regarding the 'events' of 1965, when the P.K.I. Communists tortured and murdered many of Indonesia's top generals, and the little daughter of another famous soldier, General Nasution. Demands that survivng Red traitors be rehabilitated surface often.

Sadly, the J.P. version appears to have no rational foundation, but is based on open sympathy with Communist dictatorial systems, as exemplified in a recent editorial eulogising Vietnam. Their gushing praise for the heinous tyranny of Ho Chi Minh was expressed in tandem with apparently non-ironic quotes from his hypocritical use of fancy 'rights' language to mask a regime as brutally oppressive as Mao or Hitler.

Well, that seems to be telling it like it wasn't. After all, the involvement of the CIA in the events of 1965 ~ the US embassy supplied the names of so-called communists and America used events here as a war game before they intervened in the ultimately lost war in Vietnam (Cambodia and Laos) ~ are well-documented.

Why did you publish this crap, Bart? Did Ross pay you in order to publicise his next novel, Red Jakarta?

Something else that's simmered over the day is that Miss Bryt Pookie is in serious breach of 'netiquette'.

No, it's not her self indulgent writing ~ all bloggers are self publicists, check stats etc. ~ although her post today does indicate that she's not yet in touch with her inner self.

I. Hate. This. Office. So. Much.

The hypocrisy. The hypocrites. The backtalk. The backstabbing. The backstabbers. The stupid rules. The narrow minded, paranoid people. The we -have -been -here -long -before -you -were -born -and -that -makes -us -smarter/better/holier -than -thou act and look they've been showing me. The boss who's not sure what he wants and keeps changing his mind.

What gets my goat is that she has a section of links headed A Complete Waste of Time
(That's you, Isman. Good to have you in my blogroll.)
Capricorn Today
(Her horoscope)
Go Fug Yourself
"Fantastically bitchy... great fun, unless you are famous." - The Guardian
(My sentiments today.)
Saddam's Cyber Palace
(This site shows the cost of the Iraq War ever-increasing. And why not?)
J.K. Rowling Official Site
(I prefer J.R.R.Tolkien, but at least she's got teenagers reading.)
Weird Asia Overview
(In depth reviews of really crap Indonesian movies ~ worth a browse.)
And ...

It looks as if I'm in good company (and thanks for the extra hits).

Hey kid, we've all got sites we do and don't like, but it's infra dig to have a go at those you haven't got any beef with. You don't like backstabbers?

Well, neither do I, so please cut it out.


6:15 pm |
Thursday, November 10, 2005
  National Heroes Day

Today has seen the annual pilgrimage to the National Heroes cemetery in Kalibata, South Jakarta, to put flowers on the graves of those deemed worthy of remembrance.

The prerequisite for a hero's funeral is simple: being a recipient of a state medal (like the Bintang Mahaputera, Guerrilla's Medal and the Kartika Eka Paksi medal). Most of these recipients are former military men, which explains why a majority of names etched on the gravestones in Kalibata and other local heroes cemeteries are preceded by a military rank.

That means that many Suharto cronies are there and that Munir isn't.

Many say rights activist Munir deserved to be declared a hero after he was fatally poisoned, allegedly by people who regarded him a traitor for revealing to the world the brutal abuses that occurred in this country. But as far as administrative requirements are concerned he has little chance of being buried next to men whose career was built around defending the very institutions that Munir fought against.

These men are still doing their utmost to be avoid being implicated in his assassination, which is one reason that 70 American congressmen have urged SBY to make "a clear legal move" to resolve the murder and to publish the report of by the now-defunct independent fact-finding team that has indicated the involvement of several high-ranking officials from the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).

Former deputy chairman of the fact-finding team Asmara Nababan, however, said the President had been reluctant to act on the team's recommendations because of "political bargaining with certain parties."

"I guess the President is powerless against the power of the suspected murderers, and that is why he (the President) seemed to drop our recommendations," said Asmara, a former secretary-general of the National Commission on Human Rights.

"I also think that the President is worried about the political impact if he pursues the mastermind behind the murder," he said.

Presumably the mastermind behind the murder plot also has a plot awaiting him in the Kalabata Heroes Cemetery.

However, Jakartass, not a great admirer of the military and police forces as you may have noticed, would like to nominate the officers behind the detective work which finally led to the end of the hunt for terrorist mastermind and Indonesia's most wanted man, Malaysian bomb-maker Dr Azahari bin Husin.

Allegedly the mastermind of the 2002 bombings in Bali and three other deadly attacks in Indonesia, he was killed yesterday when he set off a massive blast to avoid capture.

National Police chief General Sutanto said that police were alerted to the location of the hideout, in Malang in East Java, by a member of Azahari's terrorist network, identified only by his initials of C.H., who was arrested on Wednesday morning in the Central Java capital of Semarang.

C.H. had been arrested following the identification of one of the three suicide bombers in October's Bali restaurant blasts.

This has been a truly heroic effort of detection, not that their work is over.

Police Chief Sutanto expressed hope the public would help police to track down other terrorists, including Azahari's main cohort, fellow Malaysian fugitive Noordin Mohammad Top.

Police had spent three years hunting for Azahari, who is accused of playing key roles in a series of terror attacks that killed about 250 people. While his elimination is a clear blow to regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, Indonesia remains at risk of further bombings. The network has reportedly attracted many recruits and Noordin, who specializes in training suicide bombers, may well be seeking vengeance.


5:00 pm |
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
  Good News, Bad News

From today's Jakarta Post.

GN Indonesian officers have detained five people, including a former soldier, over the beheading last month of three teenage Christian girls in the volatile eastern region of Poso.
BN Two senior high school students in Poso were shot by unidentified men at around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, more than a week after the conflict-prone town was shocked by the beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls.

GN The Berlin-based Transparency International has named former State Audit Agency (BPK) auditor Khairiansyah Salman as one of the winners of its Integrity Awards for 2005 for his part in exposing corruption cases in the General Elections Commission (KPU). Transparency International said in its website that Khairiansyah "has shown that one whistleblower can tackle corruption".
BN Khairiansyah Salman is protected under the Corruption Eradication Commission's witness protection scheme. There are also unproven reports that Khairiansyah received kickbacks from the Ministry of Religious Affairs in connection with a graft case involving former minister Said Agil Husein Al Munawar.

Sourced from Yosef Ardi and Indcoup.

GN State-owned gas transmission and distribution company PT Perusahaan Gas Negara (PGN) Tbk awarded a US$84 million contract to PT South East Asia Pipe Industries (Seapi), a subsidiary of PT Bakrie & Brothers Tbk, to supply pipes for the Labuhan Maringgai-Muara Bekasi undersea gas pipeline project.
BN Aburizal Bakrie is a former (?) chairman of PT Bakrie & Brothers and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce. He is currently the Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, but maybe for not much longer. So is he getting ready to further line his nest?

GN Aburizal Bakrie is a family man.
BN His son was reputedly (or maybe not if the family are to be believed) in the same car as Michelle Leslie, the Australian model recently busted in Bali for the possession of two ecstasy tablets. She is facing a sentence of 15 years. The others in the car face a life sentence. Of immunity.


6:15 pm |
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
  What are words worth?

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."
William Wordsworth

A site that has a Link Popularity Score of 1,000-5,000 is considered average. A site with a Link Popularity Score of 20,000 is considered popular. Sites with a Link Popularity Score above 100,000 (such as the J-Walk blog responsible for today's closing link) are Internet "Icons".

Jakartass has a score of 2,685, so that means that, based on the number of pages that link to this page from the various search engines, Jakartass is pretty average. I am intrigued by the number of French sites. Pourquoi ça?

What may intrigue the readers of the estimable and widely read Diamond Geezer, specialist in all things London, is that his score is less than mine, at 2,285. .

I'm not interested in one-upmanship and the only reason for mentioning this little fact is that over the last three days DG has been asking himself if he blogs too much. It's crossed my mind too. Whether there's too much Jakartass, that is.

I blog too much: Well I do, don't I? Too many words, too much content, too many links, too many photos and, most importantly, using up too much of my time. Yesterday's post may have been rather concise, but that's because I'd looked back at the seven posts I'd written over the previous week and noticed that five of them really were rather on the long side...

I blog too regularly: I blog every day. Without fail. I took last Christmas off, and the Christmas before that, but otherwise I stick something up on my site every single day. Even at weekends. Which is unnatural, isn't it? It's an addiction, I tell you.

But then DG has spent a lot of time analysing both his blogroll, which I don't think I'm on. He discovered similar statistics to the 10 most recent blogs to link to him (which does include Jakartass): Interesting... half with less than 7 posts, approximately a third with more than 7, and one serial blogger.

On average, DG posts 1.7 times a day.
My average is 1.

I also try to post everyday.


We've probably got it about right. We've both got a regular readership. Mine can be determined by a daily glance at my site stats. Taken at random, the following is a recent list of search engine enquiries which have brought folk here:

1. Yahoo: link:http://www.naturetravelspecialists.com (an interesting site)
2. AOL Search: kray twins hales (Derek Hales - Charlton legend)
3. Google: jakartass.blogspot
4. Google: indonesian girl tien from bandung
5. Yahoo: artpad record drawings
6. Google: jakartass
7. Google: 1950s quotes tally ho jolly good
8. Google: poetic view of "feminine odor"
9. Google Images: mickey porn
10. Google: marco kusumawijaya (of Jakarta Green Map)

1, 9 and 10 come from posts I've written.
5, 7 and 8 come under the Eh? category.
4 is probably related to a comment about Ibu Tien Suharto I left yesterday in a local blog.
3 and 6 are self-explanatory. It's nice to be sought after, but why not just bookmark this site?

Five bloggers who have, and given Jakartass permanent links, are:
1. Tayho, who Loves the Smell of Coffee in the Morning, blogs, not very often, from Vietnam.
2. Kappachan who writes in bahasa, admires Jakartass and is a university student.
3. Koolgeek who is a Malaysian traveller currently in China.
4. Soulful Girl who works in a Jakarta hotel and writes in both languages.
5. Java Richo, an expat in Singapore who has a blog called Nude News. Interesting writing but read it alone.

It's back to work tomorrow so I'll have less time to devote to navel gazing. Perhaps I can restrict myself with a I hour circle on the wall above my computer.



1:00 pm |
Monday, November 07, 2005
  If you pay peanuts ...

The prices I quoted yesterday are of little relevance to the 15.6 million low-income households which the government decided are eligible for grants of Rp 100,000 (US$10) a month, paid at three-monthly intervals for the next year, to compensate for the increased costs of living following the fuel price rises.

Identifying those eligible ~ and for the full list of criteria see Duncan Graham's site ~ has proved problematic.

Although the cash transfer program (CTP) is intended for the poorest members of society, a subsidy from the rich as it were, too many sticky fingers have hovered around the pot, often to the exclusion, deliberate or otherwise, of many deserving cases.

There are a couple of criteria which particularly interest me, ignoring the fact that as a vegetarian I don't "consume meat, milk and chicken only once a week".

1. To be eligible, a household head should "have resources of no more than half a hectare if a farmer, or earn less than Rp 600,000 (US$ 60) a month if a worker."

As an Idul Fitri 'gift' for low-paid workers in Jakarta, the Jakarta administration has increased the minimum wage to Rp 819,100 (about US$81) for 2006, an increase of 15 percent from the current Rp 711,843.

The 15 percent increase granted by the administration is below the inflation rate between January and October this year of 15.65 percent and is much lower than the Rp 1,203,015 demanded by labor unions.

Does this mean that some households will now be ineligible for the grants as their income will be above Rp.600,000?

Perhaps they should move to the outskirts of town, Depok perhaps, where the Chairman of the Depok chapter of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) Inu Kertapati said that the minimum wage in Depok could not be equal to that of Jakarta because of the economic differences between the two cities.

At these wages, folk may be better off not working anyway. Help is at hand.

Two weeks ago, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Fahmi Idris said, "Others estimated that there could be up to two million workers forced out of work, but our study showed that the number would be only as much as one million."

"Only" a million? That's all right then.

2. To be eligible a household should "have a head who hasn't been to school or beyond primary school."

Ah, education.

On Monday last week, the State Minister for National Development Planning Sri Mulyani Indrawati said that the government would tie the scheme with requirements - including the family providing education for their children and implementing family planning - by April next year.

One may argue against this interventionist approach, but Jakartass believes that these are laudable aims, or would be if there were labour-intensive programmes introduced simultaneously.

Inevitably there is a problem with this: schools throughout the country are in urgent need of repairs and refurbishing. Also, teachers, as in many 'developed' countries, are undervalued and underpaid; vast numbers moonlight to earn extra income.

The government has to increase its education budget and is doing so incrementally.

In 2004, the Megawati government allocated only 6.5 percent of the total central government spending.

This year, the government allocated Rp 24.6 trillion (US$2.4 billion), or 9.29 percent of the total budget, for the education sector through both the national education and religious affairs ministries.

For the 2006 state budget, the government has proposed a total of Rp 31.3 trillion for the education sector, or 12.01 percent of the planned expenditure.

One problem to be resolved is that these increases are unconstitutional.

In mid-October, the Constitutional Court ruled in a judicial review of the National Education Law that the government must allocate at least 20 percent of the state budget for education, in accordance with the 1945 Constitution. The court also ruled that the allocation should take effect immediately, rather than through gradual increases.

The head of the Budget Committee's working team for budgetary spending, Achmad Hafiz Zawawi, said the committee had held lengthy discussions on whether the 20 percent allocation for education would be based on the Rp 350 trillion in total budget expenditures or just on the expenditures for the country's human resource development programs and state agencies.

In the end, Hafiz said, the committee would likely agree to base the allocation on the Rp 180 trillion allocated for state agencies.

Ah, creative accounting at work. Again.

Stiil, it is good to see that the government is striving to make a structural change to society. This should please at least one Blog Owner, a modest Indonesian who is more interesting than he suggests.


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  • Indonesians Living Abroad Forum - as it says in the title

  • Expat Bloggers in Indonesia
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  • Jenny Q - an expat wife
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  • Spruiked - Brett's take on things
  • Indoprism - an expat family
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  • Amor Fati - good links
  • Metro Mad - Jakarta Globe columnist
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  • Most Curious - née Betty Loves Blogging
  • The Mad Rotter - Henk loves Indonesian music
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  • Indonesia Matters - loads of stuff
  • The Opinionated Diner - and NZ music
  • Patrick Guntensperger - has opinions on current issues

  • Selected Aseanist Blogs
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  • Brommel - usually in Indonesia
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  • Agam's Gecko - musings from Thailand

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