Saturday, December 31, 2005
  Honours and Dishonours 2005

At this time of the year, it is traditional in the UK to award worthy people "for services to the community", whatever that word may mean. This year's list includes Sir Tom Jones for services to Singing, Ms Emma Harriet Lamb OBE, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation, for services to Business and Dame Janet Frances Wolfsonde Botton, for services to Art and, presumably, having a strange name.

The key to getting an award here seems to be part of the (military) establishment, yet there are unsung heroes who are surely more deserving.

Jakartass Honours Even List 2005

1. Aid workers in Aceh and Nias ~ who are not on inflated expat salaries, driving around in environmentally-unfriendly SUVs or have a hidden proselytising agenda.

2. Friends of Munir, still seeking truth and justice for the slain human rights activist.

3. Corruption Eradication Commission for actually getting results and the NGO Indonesian Corruption Watch for persistence.

Jakartass Dishonourable Award 2005

Theo F. Toemion is a clear winner in that he has exemplified every one of the traits that betray reformasi.

Former Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) chairman Theo F. Toemion, fired earlier this year after attacking expatriates during a children's basketball game at a Jakarta school, has now been declared a suspect in a corruption case.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on late Wednesday (28/12/05) said Toemion was suspected of inflicting losses of Rp.32 billion ($3.25 million) on the state through the issuance of fictitious or marked-up investment promotion.

At the beginning of 2005, Theo was slated to become Indonesia's next ambassador to Nigeria. Now he is in police custody earmarked for a lengthy jail sentence.

One shouldn't gloat but .....


1:30 pm |
Friday, December 30, 2005
  Jakartass in Jakarta 2005

It seems customary at this juncture of the year to review the past twelve months and make all kinds of pledges of goodness for the year ahead. Having completed a calendar year of blogging, a total of 338 posting days, it's probably in order to add my two pennerth of pontification.

Life for resident expats in Jakarta has not improved over the past year. I can't speak for those expats on short-term postings, mainly because I don't know any. The best place to look for such insights is still the Living in Indonesia website which continues to offer a mass, I hesitate to say 'wealth', of information. An individual perspective is also offered occasionally by a perceptive newcomer from Australia in his blog When in doubt, blame the traffic.

Those of us with embedded lives here regularly blame the traffic for the continued stress levels as well as other factors such as the resulting pollution, the continuing and endemic corruption, the blind disregard for personal space, the lack of customer service and the greed of those politicians who have not yet grasped the fact that they are now dependent on the goodwill of an electorate for their continued perks.

Some things are better in Jakarta. A real effort has been made to improve public transport, with the import of second-hand buses from Japan. One route terminates near my office and heads directly across the city to the side road leading to Jakartass Towers and I get a seat with adequate legroom, although dozens have to stand. None of us understand the Japanese script which remains or those pictograms indicating those seats reserved for the lame, pregnant and aged.

Thinking of the lame (synonym: halt) reminds me that new stainless steel bus shelters are being erected everywhere. If we're lucky, or the police continue with their recent drive for greater traffic discipline, buses might actually start to stop at them just as the special Busway air-conditioned ones stop at theirs. More routes are currently being cut across traffic lanes and this augurs well for those of us opting out of the traffic jams.

With the removal of government subsidies and the near doubling of fuel costs in October, and all praise to SBY for having the courage to effect this, taxi drivers are having a bad time of it, even those who still offer the tarif lama (old rate). In general, it would appear that they are prepared to travel shorter distances than before as any income earned is income otherwise lost. This is quite a seismic shift in their thinking. However, there are still those who haven't changed their mindset, one that, according to Madame Chiang, is still prevalent in Manila.

Finally, as the year ends in Jakarta I am pleased to report that Bintang beer has not yet risen in price.

So there's still hope for the future.


4:00 pm |
Thursday, December 29, 2005
  2006 will be late!

Yes, folks, a whole second is being added to 2005 because the world as we know it is slowing down!

It's something to do with the friction of the tides affecting the rate at which the world is spinning on its axis thereby necessitating the addition of a 'positive leap second'.

It's all a bit confusing for Jakartass.

Leap years involve an extra day, traditionally February 29th, but now we're adding leap seconds. Does this mean that we live longer or shorter lives? And surely the frictional force of last year's tsunami had a major effect on the Earth's spinning axis. Do we need to add even more time as compensation for all those lives cut short?

There are many imponderables to think about.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) who decreed this momentous bit of time travel don't seem to be providing answers to the questions being asked here.

Such as how to adjust all our time pieces. There are five wall clocks and five watches in Jakartass Towers, plus one in both computers for which we use the free Atomic Clock Sync for automatic daily time corrections. This is provided by World Time Server operated by the aptly named Chaos Software Group, Inc.

Another question which needs answering is that if, as it is often stated, time is money, do we get a pay rise? And if we don't, is it really a negative leap second that is being added to our lives?

Well, that's enough procrastination. If you want to use up your extra second, why not add a comment?


11:00 am |
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
  We wuz robbed.

Yonks ago, on the very cold South Downs of England, whilst playing against a Sussex University side, I cajoled our eleven by shouting out "Come on lads, we've only got twelve men to beat."

The twelfth man, the referee, took exception to this so I became the first player from my college to be sent off.

I was reminded of this last night whilst watching 'classy' Arsenal just about overcome 'gutsy' and 'gritty' Charlton. The twelfth man was someone called Steve Bennett who's dished out the most red cards of any ref this season.

Regular readers of Jakartass will know that I'm a supporter of Charlton, but I don't think that I've mentioned that my grandfather was, as a boy, a supporter of Woolwich Arsenal, where post World War II, my father worked as a cost accountant. The football club moved across the river in 1913 so Charlton became the local club for the family to support.

I became a subscriber to satellite TV in order to watch this match, a family derby so to speak, and it's a bit of a bugger to have seen Charlton, already down 0 - ! at home, lose midfield generalissimo, Danny Murphy, to a bounced ball which was deemed to be a display of dissent.

Which it was to be fair, but by no means as petulant as my outburst all those frozen years ago.

To the match: Arsenal played 'fluent, attacking football', and so they should have done with the likes of Thierry Henry on the pitch, yet at the start they were only four points above Charlton having lost their last three matches. Charlton did beat the bottom team, Sunderland, last week, but as this was our only win in eight matches even Jakartass, the eternal optimist, put the Addicks down to lose 1 - 2 in the office sweepstake. An honourable defeat I reckoned. And so it proved.

Until Murphy strolled off to the applause of we Addicks, there was always the chance for a draw. It was not to be yet there were obvious signs of a renewed resurgence of fortitudinous rectitude ~ honest guts and passion in other words.

We're halfway through the season and Charlton have more than half the points deemed necessary to avoid relegation. If they can continue to play as well as they did last night against one of the Premier League's premier sides, then there is still much to play for.

Pride certainly. Glory? Who needs it?


9:45 am |
Monday, December 26, 2005
  One Year On

You don't need me to remind you that today is the anniversary of last year's tsunami. You'll watch it on TV and read about it in your papers

This is how I first reported it:

Boxing Day Blues

A surfeit of good food, a healthy dose of good friends and happy kids to the good and torrential rain, massive leaks and faulty electrics to the bad. That was going to be my post-Xmas story.

Then I heard the news about the earthquake and tsunami.

This makes my musings seem very trivial.
10:30 PM

You may wish to read my December and January archives as I blogged about little else. How could I?

I don't propose to discuss the progress in Aceh since then although if there has been any 'benefit', it is the cessation of hostilities between the Aceh separatist movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government. If you want wider coverage of the redevelopment in Aceh, I suggest that you visit the Guardian's regularly updated page, Rebuilding Nusa and that of the Jakarta Post, Life After The Tsunami.

All praise to those who have given selflessly of their money, time and skills, with one caveat: how come the Acehnese themselves have not been more involved in the decision making?

On a personal note, I wrote on December 30th about the family of a school friend of 'Er Indoors.

Masli, the husband of Ida, a school friend of 'Er Indoors, has rung Ida from Banda Aceh to say that there is no trace of their house or their daughters. Inside were Yuli, 24, wife of Abral, and their year old daughter, Novi, 22, due to graduate as a doctor next year and Cut Nong, 12, awaiting school results in order to enroll in junior high here in Jakarta.

Most of Abral's family is missing as well. He was in Medan on business when the tsunami struck.

Hope has been extinguished.

Today, along with SBY and umpteen dignitaries, Masli, Ida and Abral are in Aceh, for services of remembrance. They have started to rebuild their lives here in Jakarta..

A friend of theirs, widowed in the tsunami, has entrusted Masl and Ida with the care of one of her two daughters. And so a family rebuilds, slowly.

Much like Aceh.


12:00 pm |
Sunday, December 25, 2005
  Santa didn't come

We've got the dreaded lurgi, so not even nasi goreng was on the menu for Xmas.

Ho hum.


10:00 am |
Saturday, December 24, 2005
  Keeping in shape.

In many countries this is the season of over-indulgence, but not here. Jakartass Towers remains a nasi goreng zone, albeit with a chloresterol-rich cake, which is OK by me as, according to this quiz, gluttony is not one of the seven deadly sins I should be worried about. (I leave it to your imagination as to which one I scored 'high'.)

Jakarta will be quiet for a couple of days, possibly for as much as a week, but we're not going anywhere. Our Kid is, like a lot of kids around here, running a temperature and, as I type, is having a blood test at the local hospital. Hopefully he hasn't contracted malaria which has put an entire local family in hospital

Elsewhere it's good to see that local expats are already practising yoga.
This version of the gundani requires considerable strength in the neck, shoulders and back requiring years of practice to achieve. It should not be attempted without supervision.

At a bar in Blok M. The Reveller is the supervisor on the right.



11:00 am |
Friday, December 23, 2005
  My Christmas Wish List

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy
Pietra Rivoli
pub. Wiley. ISBN: 0-471-64849-3
Hardcover 272 pages

The average cotton T-shirt is a menace. First, there's the truth about cotton production as demonstrated by the Aral Sea - a misnomer considering it now closely resembles a lunar desert. Three decades of cotton production in Uzbekistan to the south, and Kazakhstan to the north, have seen to that - siphoning off the once-bounteous supplies of fresh water to feed 87,6000 square kilometres of irrigated cotton land.

For every non-organic T-shirt you buy, factor in 17 teaspoons of chemical fertiliser; conventional cotton production also soaks up 50 per cent of all the world's agrichemicals, and many of the most pernicious in the developing world, where the effects on workers verges on the catastrophic. The World Health Organisation suggests that 220,000 people a year die from pesticide poisoning. And there's not much to recommend the position of cotton farmer or garment-factory worker in the developing world either, unless you value rampant global trade inequality and grinding poverty.
Review: Observer

Norwegian Voices - Pirated Recording
Barbican, London EC2. December 8th

In recent times, Norway has gained a reputation for being the hot spot in world jazz. This was reflected in Norwegian Voices, a celebration of Norwegian music drawing on the enigmatic 'Nordic Tone'.

'In the words of the Scandinavian artist Asger Jorn, "Nordic art is dangerous, it compresses all its power inside ourselves.'

This was nowhere more apparent than in the interaction between the vocalist Mari Boine and the guitarist Terje Rypdal. The unique mix of the primal and the contemporary, with Boine's voice soaring into space, combined with Rypdal's electronics, produced something new, fresh and unexpected.

· Norwegian Voices will be broadcast on BBC R3 at 10pm on Wed 4 January as part of Late Junction's New Year Special

A Charlton win against Arsenal on Boxing day.
It's on ESPN on Monday at 19.40 local time.

I'm not optimistic that any of my wishes will come true but we all live in hopes.

Don't we?


10:00 am |
Thursday, December 22, 2005
  Indonesia going nuke??

Last week Yosef Ardi published one of the most important posts, something so significant that I cannot leave it uncommented upon.

Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) said on Dec. 13th that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Indonesian state-run electric company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) on the construction of the Southeast Asian country's first nuclear power plant.

They're going to spend a year on planning the whats and wheres.

"We hope to introduce our OPR-1000 class (light-water) reactor in Indonesia," KEPCO's spokesperson Park Yong-Seong said. KEPCO has developed the OPR 1000 class reactor, which refers to an optimized power reactor with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts.

"About the location, the possibilities include Madura (East Java) or Muria (Central Java), but if these proposals are turned down it will be no problem to move to earthquake-free Kalimantan," he said.

No problem? Ignoring the horrendous cost, the technological safety and waste storage/recycling factors, one can only hope that by 2017, when the plant is hoped to be ready for operation, no existing or emergent terrorist group will be tempted by the target.

And will a country with such poor infrastructure that it cannot even provide adequate public transport or household waste disposal facilities be able to ensure the required trained personnel?

Perhaps the most important issue, however, is the question of 'socialisation'. The Jakarta Post has no record of this deal in its archives, although on November 21st it reported on a meeting that SBY had with four major Korean conglomerates thus:

Susilo ... visited a nuclear power plant in Kori, which is managed by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. Ltd., aiming at exploring the possibility of cooperating with Korea in developing a nuclear power plant at home to help reduce the country's dependency on plants fired by fossil-based sources.

Why the secrecy?

One can only hope that commonsense will prevail, that alternative energy options, such as the abundant geothermal and solar sources, are thoroughly explored before setting out on a short-term energy project with immeasurably long-term consequences.


2:00 pm |
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
  'Tis the Season To Be Jolly

Oh, all right then. I won't get paranoid about the unwelcome news that foreigners could be kidnapped and held to ransom by the al-Qaeda-linked Jamaah Islamiyah terrorist group. Syamsir Siregar, head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) told SBY yesterday that "BIN has received credible reports to the effect that there will be a change in the targets of the operations conducted by the terrorist group - from blowing up public places during Christmas and New Year to coordinated operations to kidnap influential people."

Jakartass influential? Perhaps I should conduct a poll and if you think I am then I'll go around disguised.

I won't dwell either on a lengthy analysis of the Pollycarpus conviction for the calculated execution of a man, Munir, who had been a thorn on the side of despots and military rulers, by adding a dose of arsenic to a plate of noodles, not a drink as most of us thought. I'll leave it to Roy Tupai and the very outspoken editorial team of the Jakarta Post to flesh out the story.

But I do urge you to read both.

My first extended break of the year has started ~ Big Boss wasn't around today to tell us to work tomorrow. We all agreed that if he challenges us in the New Year we'll say that we had a prior appointment at a funeral .

So let's enjoy the Jolly Festivities which, for most of us, happen just once a year. However, have you heard of the Nutter Who Celebrates Xmas Everyday?

or does he?

It all started about 10 years ago when I was feeling a little bit sad. I decided to go home and put up my Christmas decorations, cook myself a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, have a glass or two of sherry and treat myself to a little pressie!!! This made me feel much happier, and from then on I decided to have Christmas everyday of the year!!!

10 years of Christmas dinners and mince pies has taken its toll on my once trim figure of 14st. I now weigh in at an enormous 19st!!

The approximate amount I have consumed during this time is .....
5450 Turkeys!
7360 Mince Pies!!
2350 Christmas Puddings
And a whopping 62,050 sprouts (watch out at the rear!!!)

Poo Pooing Mr. Christmas

There are sound effects too, if you're into a really grossed-out Xmas.
inc:12 Farts of Christmas
We wish you a Smelly Xmas
Silent but Deadly Night

Enough I hear you cry.

OK, but I can't sign off without referring you to a somewhat addictive site I have found (courtesy of J-Walk Blog) ~ Make your own Christmas Carols and email them to your friends.

"I don't quite know how to react. Certainly not that easy to dance to is it?"

Give me MORE.


6:00 pm |
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
  A Shitty Christmas

For the past umpteen months my colleagues and I expected our Christmas hols to start on Thursday. This evening, as I lingered a little late, my boss stated that we go on leave on Friday. I shudder to think of my colleagues' reaction when they hear the glad tidings tomorrow morning.

Someone else who is not very happy this evening is Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto who has just been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for planning the murder of a top human rights activist, Munir, during a flight on the national carrier Garuda last year.

'Planning'? I thought he was charged with the actual murder, through spiking Munir's juice with arsenic. Whatever, it has always been clear that Polycarpus was being set up and this is verified by the current head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), Syamsir Siregar who, earlier today at the State Palace, said that it still hadn't been revealed who were behind Pollycarpus.

Gossip about Siregar's predecessor, Lt. Gen. (ret) AM. Hendropriyono, has refused to die down, mainly because of Hendropriyono's total lack of co-operation with the Presidential Fact Finding Team, whose report is still gathering dust in SBY's office.

We all wish Munir's widow, Suciwati, family and friends a closure of this sad affair. Unfortunately, we must continue to Seek Truth and Justice.



7:00 pm |
Monday, December 19, 2005
  I don't give a sh*t

On the back page of today's Jakarta Post is a full page colour advertisement for Adam Air with 69, count 'em, business cards reproduced. I checked the cost, Rp.102 million (US$1,300) and this is the short editorial message.

Dear Friends,

It's been two years, we're up and flying. Start
with only 2 aircrafts and 2 destination, now
we're flying 19 fleets and 22 cities.

We realize, your support made us growing.
Therefore, let us on this great opportunities to
thanks all of you and make a commitment to
always deliver safety flights and best quality

I look forward to see you again on our flights
and thank you for choosing Adam Air.

Warm Regards,

Adam Suherman

How many language errors can you find?

I make it 10, which works out at a mere $130 each. When Jakartass went national several years ago in an Indonesian newspaper, I made damn sure that my bahasa was acceptable by having it translated by a fully bilingual speaker and then having the text proofread. There's no way I'd ever assume that I don't make language mistakes ~ even in English as you may occasionally have noticed.

I'm not blaming Adam Suherman for this almighty cockup; he's got a marketing department and, probably, an advertising agency to take care of things like that and all they had to do was to pop down to Jalan Jaksa on a Friday night, offer an impoverished English teacher there a few Bintangs to make the necessary corrections and, Bob's your uncle (but who's your aunt?), Adam Air would not look like such absolute prats.

But, if they couldn't give a sh*t about a simple thing like that, then what are the odds that they cut corners on aircraft maintenance?


Sorry Adam, but for all your expenditure, you've lost at least one potential passenger.

Update January 2nd 2007
Adam Air flight disappears.


5:30 pm |
Sunday, December 18, 2005
  Christmas Spirits

It's crossed my mind that because booze will be in short supply in Jakartass Towers this festive season thanks to the city government's recent edict, it might be an idea to look elsewhere.

With a few friends returning to the UK for the cold, I was reminded that absinthe makes the heart grow fonder. Unfortunately, this link is to a virtual museum so you won't get any free samples if you visit. Stiil, if you fancy a 25ml snifter of Absinthe Premier Fils, circa 1910, and you've got $105 to spare then tough titty. They've sold out.

And this is what you've missed, a quintessentially feminine absinthe.

For the first time ever, I'm proud to offer a bottle of one of the most famous of all the absinthe grande marques, decanted into 25ml tasting samples. Original bottles of Absinthe Premier Fils are far rarer than the equivalent from Pernod Fils and the absinthe itself is completely different - paler, with a wonderfully subtle olive green colour (still amazingly well preserved), with a warm perfumed quality and a hint of violets on the nose. The louche is beautiful, but softly translucent rather than milky in the manner of Pernod Fils.

I have just discovered that there are a few beers in Thailand that I haven't tried, including this one.

Phuket Island Lager

A premium product, packed in green bottles with unique label designs in English and Thai to give a distinctive quality presentation.

I nearly went to Phuket once, although that's another story. The reason was that ph in English is the eff sound as in phlegm, pharmodynamics, phallicism and philter. (By the by, why isn't phonetist ~ a person who advocates the use of a system of phonetic spelling ~ spelt with an eff?)

Ok, I'll stick with some exotic beers to observe my traditional Christmas. All I need is some traditional music, perhaps played with rubber bands. Rudolph The Rubber Nosed Reindeer is my favourite track on this downloadable album.

But you might prefer Howdy Doody's Christmas Party , a couple of downloadable 78's from the fifties.

This should please Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis in the Good ol' US of A who, in July this year introduced a resolution expressing the sense of Congress that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected, and that references to Christmas should be supported.

"There has been an ongoing effort by retailers and many media outlets to slowly eradicate references to Christmas and the symbols and traditions that come along with it from public dialogue," said Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis. "Common sense has been hijacked by political correctness, and the Christmas Season has become a vague, generic 'holiday season' spanning from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, representing nothing and celebrating anything.

December 25th is the federally recognized day known as Christmas, but retail chains across the country have banned their employees from wishing people a Merry Christmas. As if it could not get more ridiculous, the Christmas tree has now become a holiday tree. This is political correctness run amok. No one should feel like they have done something wrong for wishing someone a Merry Christmas," added Davis.

She won't be too happy then with Avery Ant's One Minute Rant in which he argues that Satan and Santa are one and the same, After all, they both wear red.


10:00 am |
Friday, December 16, 2005
  A Commentary

When a thread in my comments turns into a theme, I think it's only fair to publish it openly ...............

Jakartass "broke the story" of the booze ban? Don't think so mate; check out the chat rooms on the Rev's website, specifically the "Off the Blok" page. You will note that the skanks, winos, whoremongers and general ne'rdowells of Blok M were discussing this issue a full week before you got in on the story.

Now I read the Expat Forum where everyone sniffily denies any knowledge of the Palatehan brotherhood but I thought you and the Rev were at least on speaking terms. So is it fair to claim his scoop?
Miko | "December 15, 2005, 9:24 pm" | #

You're right in one respect, Miko.

The Reveller had told me of rumours about the binning of the booze. However, his forums are 'closed' to those who are not denizens of the dens of iniquity in Blok M (which I know well) and this blog isn't. You should also note that my thoughts have been contributed to the forum by a couple of members.

Before posting the story, I made the effort to speak to the Post, who told me that they had no info about it. It's been good to see them subsequently run one of their 'campaigns'. After all, their readership is on a numerical par with the Reveller's. What I'm finding intriguing is that their street vox pops focus on the abolition of the back street stalls selling moonshine to the poorer dwellers of the city; we westerners are recognised as being more upmarket in our choice of booze, so the question remains ~ why pick on us?

Whatever, the Rev and I, with others, regularly chat about events here and share the opinion that blogging is a valuable extention of the 'Fourth Estate', so I think I am justified in saying that, in this case ~ just for once ~ that I was first.
Jakartass | Homepage | "December 16, 2005, 6:37 am" | #

I think the blogs are more than a valuable extension of the fourth estate. I think they are going to be a considerable power in the future. One reads daily of lay offs at the major newspapers and media organisations around the world and serious declines in their circulation and advertising revenue.

Why is this? It is because people are fed up of being told what to think by pompous newspapers who believe themselves to be the sole repository of truth and knowledge and instead people are turning to the internet to find out what is really going on without it being filtered through the mainstream media. This is happening both on the left and on the right of the political spectrum, indeed a further effect of the new media is the increasing redundancy of old terms like "left" and "right", I won't go into that here.

I myself subscribe to several British and international newspapers online, however over the past year I have found myself checking out the "blogs" first and reading the old style newspapers last and this includes Indcoup, Jakartass and the Rev long before I can be bothered to see what the JP has to say.
Miko | "December 16, 2005, 7:31 am" | #

Thanks for your thoughts, Miko.

Of course, bloggers do it for a variety of reasons ~ personal vanity possibly being one of the foremost. I started as I wanted to hone my writing skills and as a way of letting my family 'back home' know that I'm still here, Now I'm averaging over 100 readers a day it is immensely gratifying.

What you get from most blogs is one-sided in that we set forth our personal prejudices and obsessions. What else will we write about? That I seem to have occasionally stirred debate is worthwhile but not as much as knowing that I seem to have encouraged several Indonesians to express their thoughts and concerns about local issues, in English. This obviously helps raise awareness worldwide of a seriously under-reported country, except when disasters strike.

One or two blogs have become valuable sources of information not carried by, say, the Jakarta Post ~ e.g. Yosef Ardi. However, there is no way I can see bloggers supplanting regular news sources, if only because we don't have the needed resources, money or time.

As Jakartass will never be beholden to advertisers, not even (or especially?) Google Ads, my little venture will remain what it is for the foreseeable future.

However, as I reported last Saturday, there is a notion to set up a bloggers' collective to focus on life in Jakarta. Other cities have them so why not here? The Rev is already checking out wiki programmes which can support such a venture, possibly to be called Jalan-Jalan Jakarta.

Have a look at Shanghaist in ... , Chicagoist in ... and Urban 75 in London, for ideas of what may be feasible here.

Oh, and Miko .... care to join us?

Thanks but I doubt if I could muster enough interesting things to say to get a blog going, I'm very much a comments man.

The blogs are to the old media what the pirate radio stations are to big established public funded radio stations, they keep them honest. If one follows as I do the political blogs in the US you can see them eviscerating the "alphabet" news organisations (CBS, ABC and NBC) when they try to put a political gloss on issues whilst pretending to be neutral.

As I said this is on both the left and right, and the new media is causing people to reexamine where their political allegiances lie. People who might have considered themselves conservative now discover that they have nothing in common with the current US administration and people who used to believe themselves to be liberal have become disillusioned with much of the opponents of GWB, the debates are thrashed out and people are thinking for themselves and resent "the great and the good" in their marble lined editorial offices telling them de haut en bas how to think about the relevant issues.

So it is on a local basis, the booze ban is a classic example, the Rev's people where talking about it and working out how to circumvent it and then you bringing up the possible political background to it a fortnight before the English speaking paper of record could be bothered to find out what was going on. Well done to you, the Rev and Indcoup, you are the equivalent of the penny newspapers of the nineteenth century which spread literacy and debate throughout the world and broke the establishment's hold on information for the masses.
Miko | "December 16, 2005, 7:35 pm" | #


7:00 pm |
Thursday, December 15, 2005
  So, what comes first?

Two hours of valuable blogging time has been lost this evening because ESPN were showing Charlton v Sunderland when I came home. Yes, I already knew the result (2 - 0) because the game was played last Saturday, but as this ended a terrible run of six successive defeats, I just had to watch. Come to think of it, I have to mention it if only to prove I'm not a fair weather fan.

Which leaves me only a little time to ask why the Jakarta administration is selling its shares in beer company PT Delta Djakarta. It's all very well for the chairman of the City Council's welfare commission, Dani Anwar to say that "Money from the sale, about Rp 138 billion (US$14 million), will be used to cover the Rp 104 billion funding shortage for the (free education) program." A laudable aim indeed, but to say that the shares 4.2 million shares were sold because the stock has showed little growth over the last five years just doesn't ring true.

I would have thought that such shares would have provided a consistent income; after all, beer is a basic commodity. I would be more worried if the city administration were indulging in wild speculation on the stock exchange. (Perhaps they are. Can anyone give details of the city's investment portfolio?)

Could there be a connection between this sale and the recent re-enforcement of the1997 Presidential Decree on the monitoring and control of alcoholic drinks? You will recall that Jakartass broke this story. It's good to see that the Jakarta Post has been prepared to run with it, but they have yet to tackle the key question: why?

Are fundamentalist Islamic thought police at work here? Are they bringing their influence to bear on the bureaucrats? After all, there seems to have been no debate among the elected councillors who seem to be more interested in increasing their salaries and perks than in working on behalf of all Jakarta's citizens.


7:00 pm |
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Indonesia Anonymus have done us all a favour by investigating the skills and awareness of those security guards at office blocks and hotels charged with checking incoming cars for bombs.

Out of 18 security guards we talked to, we found out that:
* 4 have had at least one training session with the local police regarding explosives and what action to take in case they found one.
* 7 have never been trained to recognize an explosive or something of that sort, but are given a briefing and shown photos of what to look for.
* 4 do not have a clue
* 3 refused to answer

Do you feel safer? Well, we do. Somehow we expected the worst, so knowing that at least some of them have some kind of training, is a relief.


Regular readers of Jakartass will know that I never offer titilations like this photo of Bambang Suharto, the second son of he-who-once-had-to-be-obeyed, and Mayangsari, a not-very-famous singer. Reputedly the photo was taken with a handphone.

I say 'reputedly' because Herman Saksono, a liberal self-centered dude living in Yogyakarta who dislikes hoaxes and nonsense myths, and debunks them on his spare time, has attracted the attention of the police for publishing this photo.

I would hope that SBY allowed himself a wry smile if he saw this crudely photoshopped picture. Fatih Syuhud however suspects that he was angry.

That, of course, would be a shame.

In a just-reborn-democratic country the ability to laugh at oneself is unlikely to emerge quickly. Once it does, however, there are likely to be mature institutions in a secure society, uninterested in salacious gossip and capable of dealing with serious matters, such as corruption, environmental damage, pollution, human rights, which are not a problem in the USA or the UK.

What? Oh ....


6:00 pm |
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
What do the following have in common?

Talaud rail
Bartel's rat
Bali starling
Enggano rat
Bawean deer
Banggai crow
Siau scops-owl
Elegant sunbird
Javan rhinoceros
Flores scops-owl
Red-and-blue lory
Celebes shrew rat
Sangihe white-eye
Long-headed hill rat
Taliabu masked-owl
Sipora flying squirrel
Sumatra water shrew
Sunda long-eared bat
Sangihe shrike-thrush
White-tipped monarch
Black-chinned monarch
Sumatran flying squirrel
Lompobatang flycatcher
Lesser small-toothed rat
Javan thick-thumbed bat
Rufous-throated white-eye
White-toothed brushmouse
Caerulean paradise-flycatcher
Roti Island snake-necked turtle

They're all uncommon, nay endangered, species native to Indonesia.

Nearly three times as many endangered species are on the brink of extinction than have died out in the past 500 years, according to a world map of the most threatened habitats. An international alliance of conservation scientists spent three years building the map, by locating the last remaining sites where species labelled endangered or critically endangered are known to be clinging to existence.

The researchers identified 794 species, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and varieties of tree, in habitats so disrupted - usually by human development - that they are now confined to just one region. In total, 595 regions were found to be home to at least one threatened species. Only a third of the sites are legally protected and nearly all are surrounded by intense human activity: logging, forest clearance or home building.
News source: The Guardian

Presumably the recently discovered Bornean red carnivore can now be added to the list.
The animal, which has very small ears and large hind legs, was spotted in the Kayan Mentarang national park in the mountainous jungles of Kalimantan, where vast tracts of rainforest still remain.

WWF warned that plans to create the world's largest palm oil plantation in Kalimantan, along the border with Malaysia's Sarawak and Sabah states, threatened further new discoveries. The scheme, funded by the China Development Bank, is expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares.

Environmental watchdogs have criticised the plan, arguing that the jungle soil in the area is infertile and that the elevation is unsuitable for palm oil.

Indonesia is losing at least 2.8 million hectares of its forests every year to illegal logging alone.

The Forestry Ministry's director for protected areas, Banjar Laban, said the potential discovery of a new mammal emphasised the urgent need to protect the biodiversity of Borneo's forests.

In the protected Kayan Mentarang forest, 361 new species - plants, insects, fish and other animals - were discovered between 1994 and 2004, he said.

"If it turns out to be truly a new mammalian species, this should really become a national pride, something that the entire nation should be proud of and work to preserve."



6:00 pm |
  Acts of Conviction

Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun are currently serving a three year prison sentence in the Indramayu district of West Java, having been convicted of 'attempting to coerce children to change their religion' under the Indonesian 'Child Protection Act.

"My first reaction," said Rebekka of the conviction, "I cry." Rebekka is a medical doctor who treated approximately 30 to 40 Muslim and Christian patients per day in her clinic in Indramayu.

Maya Anne Evans, 25, a vegan cook from Hastings, was found guilty of breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

She was arrested in October after reading out names of British soldiers killed in Iraq at central London's Cenotaph. Bow Street magistrates gave her a conditional discharge.

Demonstrators must seek police consent for any protest around Westminster under the new law introduced in August.

Maya Anne Evans said, "I just think it's a shame that you can't voice your freedom of speech in this country any more."


6:00 am |
Sunday, December 11, 2005


Baa, humbug. Can you believe it's nearly Xmas?

Well, of course you do. You can't go anywhere by train or bus* these days without being accosted by urchins clutching imitation guitars warbling 'Jingle Bells' offkey. There is nowhere you can escape from this aural onslaught. Shopping malls? They're even worse because you'll probably synch your window shopping to the strained sounds of the Massed Kindergarten Choir with their rendition of 'Away In A Manger'.

If you do stop to admire their cherubic faces, just remember that they've been rehearsing since October, not that it seems to have helped. If only they'd enlisted the help of Dr. Ian Russell of Village Carols, then I doubt that you'd go home with that severe a headache.

Then there are the 'special events'. I don't really want anyone to suggest the worst demonstration of how to really alienate shoppers, mainly because the front page of today's Jakarta Post seems to have got there before me. Fortunately the picture is not (yet) online so try to imagine this:

Children gather around a "gingerbread"house made entirely of toys and a two meter tall Christmas tree made of plush dolls and robots at ITC Kuningan on Jl. Prof. Dr. Satrio, South Jakarta. The house, measuring 3.7 x 2.45 x 2.8 meters, provided on Saturday a backdrop for photos with Santa - while his Black Elves, drawn from Dutch tradition (and blacked up to look like refugees from a minstrel show or models for Darkie toothpaste), asked children whether they'd been naughty or nice.

"I've been naughty and all I want for Kitschmas is ......

A Nativity Kitchen Timer

Of course, Christmas is a time of giving. I often wonder at this time of year what might be an appropriate gift for the 80% of the population who are Muslim. Could this be it?

Mosque Clock

Given the way we, not including Jakartass of course, flock to the malls, perhaps the best gift would be a sheep.

A baa me gift

Correspondents will no doubt swamp me with comments about being a grumpy old codger. After all, shopping is ingrained in (y)our psyches and it's only human nature to go overboard and into overdraft at this time of year. But do we consider where Santa's toys are made? It's not Lapland. No, think China and by kids in sweatshops.

I suspect Santa knows, too. After all, he has his own website and accepts payment through Paypal. But maybe not the Santa at Hamley's toy store in London who at least seems sympathetic to kids.

When I asked one little boy, 'What do you want for Christmas?', he replied, 'I just want my dad back from Iraq.' It's a tall order, even for Santa, and it really threw me. Finally I said, 'I think things over there are maybe starting to quieten down a bit and I think some might be coming home at Christmas. And I'll keep my fingers crossed and try and do my best and maybe talk to some people out there when I'm delivering to Iraqi children.' Then I went on a break because I was so choked up.

We seem to have removed most of the joy and innocence from the Season of Goodwill To All Men and, presumably, Women.

So it seems fitting to refer you to a recent news item.

Laws of Nature to be Repealed

A UN-led group hopes to repeal the laws of nature and stop the death and destruction caused by bad weather patterns, tectonic shifts, and aliens. As a result of recent disasters and extreme weather, in a move some say will only incite anger and retribution by none other than the Almighty, a UN-led group is planning to repeal most, if not all laws of nature.

I'm referring to Jakarta's buses of course. They don't 'belong' to the people as much as London's buses do, or rather did. Until last Friday, that is ....

Routemaster R.I.P.



2:00 pm |
Saturday, December 10, 2005
  Exactly like the Oscars.

In the event it was quite a small gathering last night at Ya Udah in Jalan Jaksa, but a pleasant time was had by all and dreams were made.

There was Bill Guerin from Jakarta Eye, The Reveller, Indcoup, Avin of A Long Legacy of Athletic Excellence and your social correspondent.

Best wishes were sent by Indonesia Anonymus who are out of town this weekend.

Amongst the topics under discussion were why Paras Indonesia, whose ace expat writer Roy Tupai got lost on the moebius strip that is the busway, is against SBY. Apparently it's a renegade online outpost of Megawati's PDI-P which was the last administration.

We also wondered why the Jakarta Post recycles its links on a daily basis thus forcing their stories deep into the non-user friendly archives and when there would be reasonable internet access provided by the Indonesian ISPs, Telkom and Indosat.

One positive outcome could be a Jakarta-specific site, balancing the politics and parties. After all, too often we get reviews of events which if we'd known were in the offing we might have gone to. (So I'd better give a quick plug to the Jakarta International Film Festival which has just started.)

There is no centralised information portal for Jakarta and there's far too much for we few bloggers to comment on and both Avin and the Reveller are versed in setting up sites. Watch this hyperspace for future developments, to coin a hackneyed phrase.

Meanwhile, in the wider blogosphere, voting has started for the best Asian blog, and others. Although the Indonesian blogoshere has developed substantially over the past year, in both English and Indonesian, not one of us has been nominated.

Mind you, to quote Simon who is on the list and will probably get my vote, "These awards don't do much more than stroke the blogger's ego in a high-school style popularity contest; they are a desperate attempt to garner recognition and respect of peers for the insecure, self-doubting, paranoid types that run blogs. Exactly like the Oscars."


5:30 pm |
Thursday, December 08, 2005
  A Hangover

That is what Jakartass and assorted scribes may have after our get-together tomorrow evening. If you haven't been given notification of the where and when it's because you haven't sent me an emal. However, if you can find me/us in Jalan Jaksa tomorrow evening after 6pm, can correctly identify me with the words "Hello, my blog is ........ and you must be Jakartass", I'll buy your first drink.

And I won't be posting tomorrow.

Today is different and my title remains apposite.

You may recall that a few days ago I raised the issue of the now liquorless supermarkets. I said that the Jakarta Post knew nothing about it ~ another scoop for Jakartass.

Well, they have done the legwork necessary and on today's front page they give the following information, which raises further important issues.

Jakarta inches toward new 'prohibition era'

The City Industry and Trade Agency (of the Jakarta administration) has decided to issue a circular recently, which forbids the sale of "type B" (e.g. wine, champagne) and "type C" (e.g. spirits) alcoholic drinks in supermarkets and hypermarkets throughout Jakarta.

The agency dug up and invoked a 1997 Presidential Decree on the monitoring and control of alcoholic drinks, as well as the now-defunct Ministry of Industry and Trade's Decree No. 359/MPP/Kep/10/1997 on monitoring and control of production, importation, distribution and sale of alcoholic drinks.

Firstly, I wholeheartedly agree that the sale of alcohol should be strictly controlled. So should the sale of tobacco products which are estimated to kill 600,000 Indonesians a year. (Google tobacco-related deaths*Indonesia for a mass of information on the role of multi-national corporations in pushing tobacco consumption here.)

My main concern over the creeping onset of 'prohibition' is twofold.

Firstly, any prohibition leads to mafia-type activities and, perhaps among poorer communities, the illicit manufacture of 'moonshine' with no quality control and potentially fatal consequences.

My main concern, however, is about the reasoning behind the re-emergence of these decrees.

In 1997, the Suharto clan were in power. Ari Sigit, a grandson, was notorious for his attempt to levy Rp.500 on each bottle of beer sold in Bali. The opposition to his greed was such that it led to possibly the first overt refusal to kowtow to the Cendana clan, and encouraged others to such a pitch that a year later Suharto was forced to 'abdicate'. .

In February 1996, Bali's governor Ida Bagus Oka revoked a license allowing PT Arbamass Multi Invesco owned by Ari Sigit Suharto, to collect beer taxes. Indonesian brewers and hoteliers had united to stop beer supplies to the tourist destination, refusing to pay a company-imposed surcharge of 17 cents on every bottle of beer sold on Bali.

Class B (containing 5-20%) and class C (containing 20-55% alcohol) alcoholic beverages will be available in duty-free shops. That's fine by Jakartass, but then their remains the question of who owns these shops. It's certainly not the state; word on the street is that they are owned by military figures who have been known, or should I say 'rumoured', to have had their own turf wars.

The military, of course, were the principle backers of Suharto, at least until they realised that he had, thanks to his family, lost all credibilty to lead the nation.

So who exactly is behind this 'new' policy? That there doesn't seem to have been debate among the elected Jakarta councillors and that there certainly hasn't been any 'socialisation' of the new policy is an indication that the notoriously corrupt city bureaucrats are 'rent seekíng'. Again.

Jakartass doesn't see a creeping Islamisation here, although, no doubt, there will be many zealots applauding. No. it's the creeps, the Suhartoists, who are to blame.

I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

And I'll still be buying my Xmas duty free at Changi airport on my next visa run.

Friday extra
Now that the Jakarta Post has picked up on this story, it does look as we've set the ball rolling for a little campaign. Especially as they, not I, remembered that access to duty free shops is, according to the ministerial decree, limited to members of the diplomatic corps, foreign experts working at international institutions, those travelling abroad, and those who have just returned from abroad.

Members of the Jakarta-based dipsomatic corps will have to look elsewhere.


6:30 pm |
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
  A Taxing Affair

All of us here are aware that Indonesia's tax directorate is in urgent need of reform. It is perceived as one of the most corrupt bureaucracies in a very corrupt country.

That the government is undertaking a reform of laws designed to increase its tax base and income is welcome.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has suggested that the tax law amendments currently being drafted stipulate that wrongdoings by tax officials be considered criminal acts of corruption that should be open to legal prosecution, in order to provide a sense of equality in the tax system.

The country's antigraft watchdog also opposed giving greater authority to the tax office without adequate supervision, arguing that it could lead to corruption and abuse of power, thus undermining the government's efforts to improve public services through tax reforms.

What worries Jakartass, and several expats of his acquaintance, is that the tax office is 'getting tough' before these amendments have been approved.

In 2002, every expatriate employee was supposed to get an individual tax number. I know I did, but many didn't. However, thanks to a document* which came into my possession today, my monthly salary as a non-categorised member of staff is assumed to be US$4,802. (I wish !!) There's no way I, or my employer, can afford to pay tax on that.

As all salaries are paid net, i.e. the tax due for the staff as a whole, is paid by the employer, the result is that I, my colleagues, and expats throughour Indonesia are currently being told to go to Singapore every year in order to get new residence and work permits. It is cheaper to deal with the immigration authorities, to pay the exit tax (fiskal), transport costs and subsistence once a year than to renew the documentation here which has been the norm for my nigh on eighteen years residence.

The possession of these papers after five years continuous employment with the same employer entitled their holders to apply for semi-permanent status. this is now not possible.

If any of my readers can enlighten me on this matter, I'd be extremely grateful. And if there are any of you with the knowledge and expertise to navigate the company out of this morass, then please email me or leave a comment.

By-the-by, it is assumed that Americans earn US$9,988 per month and Koreans, the most numerous expats here, US$1,729.

Is the tax office racist as well as corrupt? .

*Keputusan Direktur Jenderal Pajak Nomor KEP-173/PJ/2002 TANGGAL 3 April 2002


7:00 pm |
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
  Boediono: Appearance is more important than substance

If you haven't been following SBY's attempts to please everybody in his first Cabinet reshuffle, then what follows may not be of immediate interest, but bear with me.

Firstly, Boediono's appointment as Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy seems to have pleased everybody, from political parties to businessfolk and investors. I can't claim to have understood why, but then money and Jakartass are not synonymous.

However, I did make the effort to read Part 1 of The Indonesian Economy: Lessons from the past, in today's Jakarta Post, a paper Boediono presented first at a seminar in the Australian National University and then last Saturday at The Indonesian Academy of Sciences. It caught my eye, and mind, for its obvious truths, so I offer you the following (edited for length) excerpt from a condensed version as a taster.

Beware of possible disharmony between politics and economics.

We have seen that much of Indonesia's modern history is about powerful interactions between politics and economics. One historical truth is that the dynamics of politics and those of economics are not naturally in harmony with each other and, when they are not, setbacks in both politics and the economy eventually result.

What we need is not only a keen awareness of these facts but a conscious effort to make these two forces mutually reinforcing at every stage of the transition, rather than mutually destructive.

On the one hand, we know that to build a viable democracy with all its essential elements -- basic security, rule of law, responsible political parties, a well-informed citizenry, a professional bureaucracy and so on -- will take a long time. On the other hand, people expect improvements in their living standards now.

Our experience in the 1950s, as well as in recent years, suggests that the practice of democracy may constrain good economic policy in at least three ways.

First, the political process in a democracy tends to have an inherent bias toward the short term. Politicians put a premium on policies that deliver results now and postpone costs until later.

Only the few visionaries among them are willing to back policies that promise long-term benefits but inflict short-term costs, even when it can be established that the gain far outweighs the pain.

When politics becomes more a game of five-yearly seat grabbing contests, factors that are absolutely critical to sustaining development in the long run -- such as institutions, human resource quality, natural resources, environment and technology -- tend to take a backseat, notwithstanding lip service that suggests otherwise.

Appearance is more important than substance, and if substance is involved, "short-termism" tends to ensure that the focus is on how to divide the existing cake, rather than how to make it bigger.

Second, too much politics can result in distortion of economic policy through the undue influence of sectional and narrow interests. Pressure from political parties, business and other trade lobbies, loud noises in the streets or soft whispers in the president's or a minister's ear, and other devious forms of pressure can and do have distorting effects on economic policy.

There is one important note, though: Our own experience suggests that serious distortions are more likely to happen in a nondemocratic, nontransparent setting. Transparency prevents some distortions, but not all.

Third, democracy as we see it in practice seldom goes together with decisive, swift action when such action is required.

All of us here can give examples of short-termism, of appearance being above substance, "devious forms of pressure" and the unprofessional bureaucracy ~ obvious truths indeed.

What is, perhaps, unusual is that a leading politician should publicly acknowledge these societal ills. The rest of the article reads like a job applicant's covering letter ~ the need for a closely knit team with the full trust and backing of the president.

Well, now that Boediono has got the job I look forward to reading Part 2. Perhaps he'll present his vision in such practical terms that he'll manage to convince his new colleagues to work together for the good of the nation, rather than themselves.

And maybe the citizenry will believe pigs can fly.

Changes to Economics Team

1. Coordinating Minister for the Economy: Boediono
2. Minister of Finance: Sri Mulyani Indrawati
3. Minister of Industry: Fahmi Idris
4. Minister of Manpower and Transmigration: Erman Suparno
5. State Minister for National Development Planning/National Development Planning Board chairman: Paskah Suzetta
* Former chief economics minister Aburizal Bakrie has been appointed the new Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare
* Former chief welfare minister Alwi Shihab will be appointed as special presidential envoy for Middle East cooperation

Read Yosef Ardi for reactions from politicos to the reshuffle.


5:30 pm |
Monday, December 05, 2005

Occasionally this is lacking. Like now.

It doesn't help that internet connections have been as slow as Jakarta's traffic. Maybe it's because my biorhythms are out of sync, or the onset of the rainy season or that I nearly forgot the birthday of 'Er Indoors.

Or could it be pre-Xmas blues? Already?

Judging by his choice of, presumably pirated, DVDs to watch list, Indo-Dreaming isn't feeling too positive about the pending time off work.

And Madame Chiang is also in a mood as she directs us to consider the plight of the homeless in colder climes.

It's not as if you, dear readers, don't give me feedback, but I'm not sure that I can give you what you seek. However, googlers have visited this site in the hopes that I can offer enlightenment on a wide variety of topics, such as:

Idea's for 60 sec. videos on not smoking or doing drugs
Did I help?

Google Images: miniskirt
Not in my archives. Sorry.

Charlton Athletic is Tories club
Yep, I agree. They're both useless at the moment.

Alaska airlines flight 261 morris
Haven't been there or done that.

"All good things must come to an end" 1914 Nationalism

Siwak F
Ah, yes. Blogged on November 16th.

Who scored a barefoot goal against Gordon Banks?
Erm ... George Best?

Aunt Jemima*Al Jolson
Intriguing search. I may have to google it myself.

Google Images: acme earthquake pills
Ah yes. One of my Aceh posts. It's nearly a year since the tsunami and perhaps I ought to find out what real progress has been made,

'Er Indoors
Who said it first? Was it a TV or radio series? Help please..

Uptown Top Rankin lyrics
Let me guess. Althea and Donna?

Memorandum of Understanding on the Status of Aceh Monitoring Mission
Published early and now archived.

Paul Scholes penis
Again?? WHY?

Maybe 20% of my googlers are genuinely looking for Jakartass. Why haven't they bookmarked me?

I have.


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