Two stories about the tsunami 1. Two months on 2. TwoT-shirts "I went to Banda Aceh and survived the tsunami" "My daughter went to Banda Aceh after the tsunami and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"
Tube Gossip Every time I switch on the radio, there's a bloody Australian telling me to cheer up
Two- Two It's hard to function on five hours kip, but how often do we expat Addicks get our live fix? Yes, I roared when we scored. And woke up 'Er Indoors. Great match.
Tootired to think? Try Squashed Philosophers Or Einstein's Theory of Relativity - In Words of Four Letters or Less Say you woke up one day and your bed was gone. Your room, too. Gone. It's all gone. You wake up in an inky void. Not even a star. Okay, yes, it's a dumb idea, but just go with it. Now say you want to know if you move or not. Are you held fast in one spot? Or do you, say, list off to the left some? What I want to ask you is: Can you find out?
The passing of Hunter S. Thompson has lead to miles of print, much of it focussing on his penchant for living life on the edge, fuelled by drugs, booze and danger.
Goddammit. He was a role model? (He was for Johnny Depp who played him on screen.)
Or could it be an element of envy? Been there, done that, but didn't get paid.
His targets were tyranny, corruption, power, guns and above all, drugs. Contributors to the Jakartass sister paper, The Observer, have suggested a number of places which H.S.T. would have felt at home in, places which still exude a heady mix of beauty and filth, companionship and trepidation: all the places which make you feel, on having got out of them alive, more alive. These include Bangkok, Baghdad, Nablus and Cardiff (eh?).
Rich Simons, in today's Jakarta Post, recommends Jakarta. And why not? H.S.T. could get up at 11, p.m. that is, first head over to Blok M, then absolutely go berserk at Stadium until dawn, where he would inevitably hook up with some suave generals and a couple of crazed, filthy rich expats and ride Harleys down to the golf course.
He would then head over to Jalan Jaksa for a curry breakfast with the most intoxicatingly intelligent group of ne'er-do-wells the world has ever known.(Hey Rich, how come your article isn't online?)
There is yet another reason that H.S.T. would like it here: there are guns. Jakartass is an aging hippie, so has never held one, but I have seen plenty. One memorable occasion a couple of years ago, I had disembarked at Batam airport and was awaiting the return of the toothpick which was part of my lethal hijacking kit.
Another passenger got served first. I watched as he reloaded his pistol and sub-machine gun.
Once upon a time, Jakartass had a collection of Flying Ducks which hung on the many walls of my bedsit. This was my link to an honourable tradition. Our ancestors decorated their caves with figurines made from mammoth ivory. Mine were made from plaster of Paris.
Modern collectors have a wider range of interests. Or should we talk about obsessions? For example, where is the historical interest in the McDonald's Mr. Men Collection currently doing the internet rounds?
This points to the need for online collections. Czech out (pun intended) this range of tea caddies. This personal site serve as presentation of my tea caddies collection. It's my pleasure to introduce you 1.300 different tea caddies from the whole world. The large sets are from Twinings, Jacksons of Piccadilly and Kwong Sang. Everybody who can give me more information about tea caddies and their producers, please be so kind and contact me. Thanks for your visit, enjoy your stay.
Jakartass is pleased to have a number of correspondents who email me rather than leaving comments. Today I welcome M., a one-time colleague but now more fruitfully employed in a major financial company in town. He also supports AFC Wimbledon which was established by genuine, community minded football fans.
I'm sure you've been following the Adiguna murder story. (The trial started yesterday.) A guy in my office knows someone in the family, and he tells me they own over 300 luxury houses in Jakarta alone, as well as the Hilton. The contempt this nation has for its poor never fails to amaze me.
I like your blog, but don't share your unbridled optimism at all. Things are not getting better. Corruption IS Indonesia. What are the reforms on nationality law since Suharto's demise? Sweet FA. And you think SBY's clean? He's a Suharto man through and through. His kids study overseas and he has a multi billion rupiah luxury house and many luxury cars. On an army general's salary of Rp.3 million a month, that would be difficult.
I've never suggested that SBY is a 'Mr. Clean.' He could not have become President without massive financial back up or the support of major military players. However, if he is to leave a legacy, then he has to bend with the forces of reformasi. Eradicating corruption is also the key to the regeneration of Indonesia's economy.
Corruption is a way of life in Indonesia. There is nothing furtive about it, as there is in the West. And even if your corruption lands your nation in economic trouble, you can get away with it - as long as you know the right people. Ibnu Sutowo does.
It wasn't as if Ibnu Sutowo didn't have presidential approval to line his own pockets and those of relatives and friends. Back in the early sixties, when Sukarno had appointed him supervisor of the newly-established national oil industry, the story goes that a politician reminded his president that Ibnu Sutowo was a 'notorious corruptor'.
President Sukarno is said to have replied: I know that, but as long as he can provide the state's coffers with 10 million American dollars I will allow him to steal for himself one million American dollars.' Sukarno believed America had become rich through its gangsters because 'corruptors are inventive'. Indonesia, he said, needs inventive people.
There's no doubt Ibnu Sutowo is inventive. By the time he was sacked in 1975, when even the smokescreen he had set up to hide Pertamina's difficulties could no longer conceal the extent of the damage to the national economy, he was comfortably cushioned by a vast array of other business interests.
The Indonesia Documentation and Information Centre (INDOC), based in Leiden, Holland, provides this list of Sutowo interests: motor-cycle and vehicle imports; assembly and distribution agencies including Mitsubishi, Toyota, Daihatsu, Mercedes, National Motors and Chrysler: Westinghouse electrical goods; cement and steel construction; shipyards: real estate: and livestock and fertilizers.
Not only was Ibnu Sutowo's accumulation of wealth questionable, said INDOC: it was not even being invested in productive areas. Instead, he was spending it on luxury living and land and speculating abroad.
That the Pertamina chief and his top men were siphoning off revenue was no secret But the government didn't seem to mind as long as Pertamina maintained a satisfactory flow of cash into consolidated revenue. After all, Ibnu Suwoto's oil empire was not the only one in Indonesia to be built on nepotism and military patronage.
Among Ibnu Sutowo's closest friends was the president's wife, Mrs Tien Suharto, known widely as Madame Tien Per Cent, whose 'benevolence' and 'foundation' work continues to flourish in Jakarta. Ibnu Sutowo, careful to stay on good terms with contacts in high government and military circles, was able to find money to 'subsidize' a wide variety of projects suggested by fellow generals approaching retirement.
Soon Ibnu Sutowo was branching off into other areas on behalf of Pertamina ~ civil aviation, office blocks, hotels, tourism.
Occasionally he even spent Pertamina money on projects which could have some benefit for the Indonesian people as a whole: there were natural gas developments in East Kalimantan and South Sumatra, and a steel plant in West Java.
Ibnu Sutowo's big mistake came in 1973 when the OPEC countries flexed their oil muscles. With the promise of oil leaping from $4 to $11 a barrel, he suffered a rush of blood to the head. To finance Pertamina's diversification programme, he launched himself into an orgy of short-term borrowing. Soon Pertamina faced a due bill of $2 billion at a time when oil revenues had failed miserably to meet expectations.
In desperation. Pertamina's boss turned to the Middle East for long-term money to meet short-term bills. Ibnu Sutowo thought he had pulled off a rescue act but then the deal fell through. American creditors, beginning to turn the thumbscrews, were soon abetted by London banks.
Almost overnight. Indonesia's image as a model of stability and solvency dissolved. Rough calculations at the time, by various accounting formulae, indicated that Pertamina's activities had landed Indonesia $I billion in debt.
Ibnu Sutowo, though remaining nominally in charge, handed over the running of Pertamina to the government which, in turn, was forced to hand over its management to foreign financiers willing to bail Jakarta out.
But Suharto could not just sack the man who had for so many years provided him, the country's first lady and many generals with extravagant amounts of extra income derived from corruption. An instant dismissal of the man who for so many years has been regarded as Indonesia's financial wizard could quite easily shake the position of the Suharto government.
Enemies of Ibnu Sutowo demanded that the government get back the money he had in Switzerland and other countries 'because the money has been stolen from the people'. There was talk of him having $4 billion outside the country.
It was not until March 3. 1976. That Suharto was able to 'honourably' discharge Ibnu Sutowo and seven other directors of Pertamina. Ibnu Sutowo left soon afterward for the United States, where presumably he still had friends, but it was not long before he was back in Indonesia looking not the slightest down at heel.
In July last year, when Vice President Adam Malik's daughter was married at the presidential palace at Bogor, Lieutenant General Ibnu Sutowo, that 'notorious corruptor', was among the honourable guests.
Cynics in Jakarta suggest it was Ibnu Sutowo's detailed knowledge of corruption among the city's élite which ensured that he was 'cleared' by the inquiries which followed the Pertamina scandal.
Occasionally his name has surfaced. When he was in the US. an oil tanker owner filed a suit against him in New York over the loss of a vessel. But nothing came of that. And in Singapore a court hearing drags on in which the widow of Ibnu Sutowo's right hand man. Waji Tahir. is looking for the missing $30 million which she says was her husband's share of the Pertamina action. While the trial proceeds at snail's pace. Indonesian defence department officials are being accused of pressuring her to withdraw the case.
Meanwhile, the 70-year-old general goes his merry millionaire's way, making money with the flair that nearly brought Indonesia to its knees.
A further development against corruption includes the signing yesterday of an M.O.U. between the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the Directorate General of Taxation in the Ministry of Finance. As the Jakarta Post says, the ball seems to be rolling and there can be no turning back.
Good fighting talk.
And talking of fights, Members of Parliament are reportedly putting pressure on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to fire Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh, who is spearheading the government's campaign against top-level corruption.
Saleh is known as Mr. Clean, so are some of them worried that they could lose their parliamentary immunity against prosecution?
Following the publication of the report released last week by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the Indonesian conservation group Telapak entitled The Last Frontier, which exposed the international criminal syndicates behind the massive looting of merbau trees from Papua, it's encouraging to see some government action.
Since 1991, the species has been recorded as threatened in Indonesia. This very attractive wood is one of the most valued timbers throughout South East Asia. It is stronger than Teak and is one of the most decay-resistant timbers known (when not in contact with the ground).It is usedfor flooring, furniture, panelling, fine joinery, decorative turnery, cabinet-making, musical instruments, specialty items and is also a dye source.
"The profits are vast as local communities only receive around $10 for each cubic meter of merbau felled on their land, while the same logs fetch as much as $270 per cubic meter in China," said the report.
According to the report, 300,000 cubic meters is smuggled out of Papua province every month to feed China's timber processing industry. That represents a 'retail' value of $828 million a year.
Last night, SBY summonsed Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban, Home Affairs Minister Muhammad Maruf, Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) chief of general staff General Adam Damiri (who was representing TNI commander General Endriartono Sutarto), National Police chief General Dai Bachtiar and Immigration Director General Imam Santoso to a meeting and ordered the arrest of illegal logging tycoons and their backers in the military and police.
So, is this good news?
Yesterday, before the meeting, Kaban told a hearing with Parliament's Commission IV on forestry that the judiciary lacks the courage to tackle illegal logging.
He said his ministry had reported 59 businessmen allegedly involved in illegal logging to the police and the Attorney General?s Office, but none of the cases had been investigated.
The minister said he believed the powerful tycoons were untouchable because certain officials from his ministry, the police and the Attorney General's Office were involved in their networks.
"They run a well-organized network, which is backed up by abundant funding resources. They are as slippery as eels put in a pond of lubricating oil," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.
The bureaucracy, which is obviously part of that network, reacted passively to the Transparency International report issued last week which showed that Jakarta is the most corrupt city in the nation. The main problem as stated by Todung Mulya Lubis, a leading human rights lawyer and member of the TI-Indonesia board, is that businessmen support good governance, but on the other hand many of them voluntarily offer bribes, whether simply to show gratitude or to win contracts.
That there has long been an uncrushable Papuan separatist movement is understandable. There are parallels with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in that local people have been disenfranchised from a share of their region's wealth. Tycoons, with the military offering protection through spurious claims that they are putting down separatist movements, have no regard for the sanctity of life, whether forests, people or animals.
The customs agency, airport security and the Soekarno-Hatta Animal Quarantine office often work in cahoots with smugglers to bring protected animals out of the country, a source at the Soekarno-Hatta Animal Quarantine office says. "There are a lot of parties involved, you can't just blame one agency," said the source, who wished to remain anonymous, when asked to comment on the smuggling of 50 emerald monitor lizards to Croatia in November.
Jakartass believes ~ but then I remain an unashamed idealist ~ that there are definite signs of improvement. GAM, in talks with the Indonesian government in Helsinki, is considering the proposal for special autonomy, although it has yet to drop its demand for independence. OPM, the Free Papua Movement, decided in August last year to lay down arms and pursue self-determination from Indonesia through peaceful means.
Of course, the cessation of armed struggles would attract foreign investors who, in my humble opinion, can be just as rapacious as gangsters. But with the eyes of the world on Indonesia, and Aceh in particular, and a president prepared to act authoritatively rather than in an authoritarian manner, then true progress is possible.
It's now up to the rest of us to throw away those brown envelopes we keep handy.
"I just saw jakartass.blogspot.com. Excellent. Naturally, I expected the creator to work within these quality standards.
If only my own company would have a fantastic page like that. The color scheme is fresh. The code is completely uncluttered. Glorious. It must have taken eons to finish the page. There are 92,325 characters in the underlying source, which is a superb length for Yahoo.
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Seeing Jakartass, I'm simply so inspired.
A site where you can just watch and enjoy." -- William Campbell, Best Links
If you want a bit of mutual computer-generated back slapping, type in the URL of your own site.
For more important news of what's happening regionally ~ when you've had your fill of watching and enjoying this site, of course ~ go to Simon's World for his regular round up of Asian blogs.
Prescience? Not so much foreknowledge as I said it first.
'Er Indoors has been quite het up about the kidnapping of the two Metro TV journalists. I told her not to worry because a. Metro TV has been the regular channel here for communications with the militants in Iraq, and b. as Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim nation, Iraqi religious groups wouldn't want to antagonize potential allies.
And news is just in that the hostages have been released. A video shows a masked militant reading from a notebook: "Based on the goodwill they showed, and respecting the feelings of brotherhood and Islam between the two countries, and respecting the Indonesian anti-occupation role, we decided to release the two journalists without any conditions and ransom."
On Friday, I briefly commented on the power plays within the military circles. SBY, as commander-in-chief, has yet to choose a new head of the armed forces. Does he go with one of the entrenched or one of the entrenched?
He has four to choose from: Gen. Ryamizard Riyacudu, Lt. Gen. Djoko Santoso, Air Marshall Djoko Suyanto and Adm. Slamet Soebijanto who remain to varying degrees trapped in the conservative mind-set that persists in setting the TNI apart from other public institutions because of its perceived role as the guardian of the state.
In its editorial today, the Jakarta Post agrees with Jakartass that the future of our democracy rests in the depth and sincerity of the social, political and economic reforms we are now undertaking. The potency of these reforms depends on the degree to which the TNI is willing to cede to civilian supremacy.
Jakartass is going to make another prediction. The Indonesian government has rejected warnings in travel advisories issued over the weekend, (by the Australian and New Zealand governments) which said terrorists were planning attacks against foreign aid workers involved on relief efforts in areas stricken by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami.
Any attacks would be provoked by Indonesia's own Islamic loonies, the FPI and the MMI. These thugs are the vigilante groups which have stirred up inter-communal strife in Maluku, Sulawesi and the bars of BlokM and elsewhere in Jakarta.
Authorities, meaning the military and others who plunder the nation's resources, have targeted GAM, the 'terrorist' group seeking self-rule for Aceh. Having declared a unilateral ceasefire in order to facilitate the relief effort, GAM has condemned the presence of these groups in the refugee camps in Aceh . A second round of talks between the government and GAM is currently underway in Helsinki.
In the end I'm glad I couldn't get the BBC commentary last night; something to do with a badly-spelt URL. Local TV was showing a re-run of Liverpool v Man. Utd. And the reception was lousy so I went to bed and wrestled with dreams.
I can't say that being partisan has turned me against the pampered bunch of Mercedes-driving 'stars', or with the sense that 'when I were a lad' I could have played better.
Jakartass as a lad
However, I daresay I could still take them on at some sports. Perhaps notSwamp Soccerwhich is played on a genuine, wet Finnish bog, but I have excelled at some of the following team sports.
Stoolballis a possible forerunner of cricket, rounders and its offshoot, baseball. Originally recorded as being played in North Wiltshire, North Gloucestershire and near Bath in 1671, it now has a national associationwithrules.
There areregional variationsof this bat and ball game, such as Bat and Trap, Nipsy and Knur and Spell.
Perhaps the oldest game which I have an affinity with, though not because Jakartass is particularly venerable, isRinging The Bullwhich, although first recorded in 1838, was probably taken to England by early crusaders.
This is an indoor game the aim of which is to swing a metal ring which is dangled from the ceiling on a rope, onto a metal hook on the wall. Originally, the hook was a bull's horn. Quite often the hook is embedded in the nose of the head of a bull on the wall.
Bar Billiards is another sport which has early roots, though no-one seems quite sure about the where or when. Skittles guard holes in which one attempts to pot balls. It is still played in Southern England pubs, although the emergence of American 8-ball pool has led to a steady decline.
Jakartass is not enamoured of this new-fangled game with its crass commercialism and large pockets, and neither has beenThe Reveller(scroll down). In Indonesia, pool is known by the locals as Billyard. Unfortunately, this is not the real gamerequiring a zen-like concentration which was taken to North America by the Spaniards in 1565.
Billiards Jakartass is on the right
The closest game played here isCaromwhich is alsoplayed in the UK. This game is played on a board like a small square snooker table made of wood with pockets in each corner. On the board are nine black disks, nine white disks, one red Queen disk and one larger white Striker. Players flick the Striker from their side of the board in an effort to get their own colour disks into the pockets.
Javanese playing Carom
My Brit readers may be reminded of the game Shove Ha'penny. The name obviously dates the game to the pre-decimalisation era. So what's the game called now? Shove quidcoin?
Carombole,or Carom Billiards, is, I believe, the game which links the pub going pool playing idlers with the unemployed carom playing idlers. The latter can't afford waist-coats.
I also rarely wear a waistcoat, so, in the immortal but slightly mangled words of Rabby Burns, I must be a solitary joiner. Why else would I, likeInspector Sands, continue to support Charlton?
There seems to be a lot happening in Indonesian at the moment which may or may not bode well. There are mixed messages on the corruption front (see below), gangsters, both civil and military, on the prowl, power plays for overall control of the military and a realignment (reinforcement?) of the military link between Indonesia and the USA.
A view that Jakartass shares is that the common link is greed. Read the following extracts from local news sources and note the Papua connection.
Indonesia Seeks Kissinger's Help President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has reportedly asked controversial former US state secretary Henry Kissinger to help reduce negative views of Indonesia in America.
At his press conference in Singapore, SBY did not mention whether he was referring to negative perceptions of the Indonesian military's brutality, the country's endemic corruption, weak law enforcement or other matters.
Kissinger has long been a controversial figure in Indonesia, as in many other parts of the world, where the US has been accused of undermining democracy to serve its political and business interests.
US government documents declassified last year reveal that Washington supported Indonesia's 1969 brutal takeover of West Papuadespite overwhelming Papuan opposition and United Nations' requirement for genuine self-determination ... and that Kissinger, who was former US president Richard Nixon's national security advisor at the time, played a key role in Washington's ultimate decision to ignore the fact that West Papua's "act of free choice" referendum was a sham.
Kissinger has profited handsomely from his support for the Indonesian takeover, becoming a director of New Orleans-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, which operates the world's biggest gold mine in Papua province.
Indonesian Timber Smuggling Racket Exposed A new report released by EIA/Telapak, entitled "The Last Frontier", exposes the international criminal syndicates behind the massive looting of merbau trees from Indonesia's Papua Province. Illegal logging in Papua typically involves the collusion of the Indonesian military, the involvement of Malaysian logging gangs, and the exploitation of indigenous communities.
US government documents declassified last year reveal that Washington supported Indonesia's 1969 brutal takeover of West Papuadespite overwhelming Papuan opposition and United Nations' requirement for genuine self-determination.
Police Certain Munir Poisoned During Flight More than five months after outspoken human rights campaigner Munir died while on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, police have concluded he was poisoned by one his fellow passengers and are now focusing their inquiries on the background of an off-duty Garuda Indonesia pilot.
The pilot now under investigation, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, left the plane when it arrived at Changi at 11.40pm Jakarta time and did not rejoin the flight.
Munir's colleagues have said Pollycarpus is no ordinary pilot but may be a covert intelligence operative. Their investigations have revealed that he piloted flights - ostensibly for Christian missionaries - in Irian Jaya (now Papua) province over 1985-87 when the military was attacking separatist rebels in the territory.
Footnotes These are some other headlines you may have missed this week.
The files reveal that parliament has been systematically misled over government involvement in bribery, which stretched across the world, from Venezuela to Saudi Arabia to Indonesia and has involved "commissions" of up to 100% on the contract price.
President Again Vows to Combat Corruption President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has yet again reiterated his commitment to combating bureaucratic corruption and other hindrances to badly needed foreign investment. 'I don't care' about graft report: Minister Government officials appeared indifferent when responding to a survey by Transparency International Indonesia (TII), which ranked Jakarta and the customs office most corrupt institutions.
"I don't care," was the simple response of Minister of Finance Yusuf Anwar, who oversees the customs service, on Thursday when commenting on the survey findings.
A Canadian reader has emailed me to ask if the place safe these days for your average 'bule' foreigner who could easily be mistaken for an American?
Now, as I wrote earlier this month, I feel the word bule is inherently racist. Still, being mistaken for an American could, I suppose, be marginally worse. Actually, some of my best friends etc. etc. ... (Hi Peg & Gene)
I would expect most Canadians to be used to being mistaken for their southern cousins, so, in terms of personal angst, that's something D.M will have to sort out for himself. As for living and working here, I rarely have problems. I do not live an expat lifestyle with a 'hardship allowance', subsidized schooling, an apartment or housing in a complex with a car, driver, other servants and swimming pool.
The majority of my colleagues are Indonesians who often have problems in dealing with my ideas yet, by and large, they listen and accept the notion of different approaches. This doesn't actually mean that they immediately accept our values and systems, but with a high degree of flexibility and an eye on the long-term goals, which are shared, I do feel that what I have to offer will eventually be accepted, on Indonesian terms.
My expat social circle is similar. Friends are settled here with Indonesian families; our children may, like Our Kid, attend what are called National Plus schools which have an international bias to their curricula, albeit at a lower cost than International Schools. We are happy here and, having a grasp, in my case minimal, of Bahasa Indonesia, have been assimilated into our communities.
Naturally, there are times when we wish to gather and exchange news and views. This may be in local bars on a regular basis or for special gatherings, such as the DJ Testimonial Quiz night last weekend. (The Carlisle United team were a valiant second and came out quids in with T-shirts and meal vouchers as bonuses to a very pleasant evening.)
Have a browse of the Living in Indonesia site for a fuller flavour of life here. You'll also find links to the various embassies which offer travel advisories, which tend to be over-cautious
Is Jakarta (and most of the rest of the country) safe? Hey, yes. At long, long last, the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival (JakJazz) returns. Last held before Suharto abdicated in '98, security concerns and the economic meltdown put paid to one of the greatest weekends in our social calendars. This year it is being held on the weekend of 4th to 6th March with proceeds going to the tsunami victims.
Amongst the Americans appearing are James Brown (Papa's Got A Brand New Zimmer Frame), Earth, Wind & Fire, George Duke and Laura Fygi. Sure, they'll be staying in the Hilton which the venue, the Convention Centre, is part of, and overall security will be tight, but where in the world isn't it?
Don't bother answering that question - it isn't safe for Indonesians in Iraq at the moment. Two Metro TV journalists have been seized. This is not the first time Indonesians have found themselves on the frontline there; last October two young women were abducted, but were later released unharmed. Interestingly, it was Metro TV (which) aired footage from Al Jazeera showing the women wearing Muslim head scarves and staring expressionless into the camera. It is possible that the journalists are being offered a scoop by their captors.
This morning, 'Er Indoors is at the funeral of the grandson of a friend who has died from narcotics abuse. A deeply disturbed young man, much loved and supported by his family, he died in his sleep yesterday.
Also today, family and friends of Ida, Masli and Abral are gathering in Jakarta to celebrate the lives of daughters Cut Nong, 12, Novi, 22, and Yuli, 24, wife of Abral, and their year old daughter lost in Banda Aceh.
Compared to other childrens' television series, Alfred J. Kwak is exceptionally sad. In the second episode, just after Alfred is born, his entire family dies when they're hit by a car. Alfred gets raised by Henk, a mole. In the last episode (the 52nd) Henk also dies.
A happier fate eventually ~ and I do mean eventually ~ befalls
Still in Sumatra, there are reports of further killings of Acehnese by the Indonesian military this month and it is thought that the decision of the government to re-settle the people in semi-permanent barracks-style camps could be misused by the military to control the population.
For this and other reasons, last week two human rights groups called the U.S. Department of State's plan to allow Indonesia to again participate in the full International Military Education and Training (IMET) program short-sighted, a betrayal of the numerous victims of human rights violations by the Indonesian military (TNI), and a serious setback for justice.
Corruption Watch~good news? The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) will collaborate with state comptrollers from foreign donor countries to audit all financial aid channeled to tsunami-stricken Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.
"It has been nearly two months since the deadly disaster. Yet, not a single auditor has been deployed at the devastated areas to make an account of the channeled funds," BPK chairman Anwar Nasution said yesterday.
Bad news "Places of worship are abundant and filled to capacity, some 200,000 people also perform the haj pilgrimage every year. But corruption is still rampant," said Muslim cleric Solahuddin, also deputy chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
Some prominent corruption cases have even occurred within the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Definitely good news Ukman Sutaryan, 68, the former West Java Deputy Governor, from 1994-1998, has been sent to Kebonwaru prison in Bandung after receiving medical treatment at Hasan Sadikin Hospital in the city.
Ukman, who was convicted for the embezzlement of over Rp 5 billion (approximately US$546,000 at current exchange rates) from the West Java budget, managed to delay his detention for several years as the case dragged on.
This, slightly edited, post was originally written in July 1992 on the last day of a visit to Siberut Island, off the coast of West Sumatra, with my son number one. He and the rest of the group were off hunting with a few of our hosts, eager to see the use of blowpipes ~ nothing was caught; westerners are not very stealthy.
I was recovering from a very sprained hamstring, which I had suffered whilst playing football back in Jakarta, so I sat alone, except for the shaman and his family, and put down my thoughts for our guide Tonik's testimonial book.
It was a gruelling week for me; my glasses steamed up constantly in the humidity of the forest and it rained every day. This meant that our overnight sleeps in the uma (settlement longhouses) were in dry clothes with our wet gear being re-donned the following mornings as we prepared to trek on. My pulled hamstring had been only a minor handicap, but the trek didn't aid its recovery.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Never again, I say, only half in jest. But I?ll never forget.
We are still in touch with Tonik, a Minang, and I hope our mutual respect and co-operation continues as Hotel Rimbo gets off the ground. Ask for him in Bukittinggi.
A Tonik for the troops
You're a Friend of the Rainforest, but until now you've confined your involvement to demonstrations and petitions. But that's in your cities and towns.
Go trekking with Tonik through the rainforest of Siberut and discover just what it is that you've felt passionate about.
The torrential rain, the mud and slime, the tree trunk pathways you'll fall off, the leeches that suck, the thorns that sting and the spiders - the big spiders - that jump.
It's then that you'll ask yourself - why? For me, there's only one answer - the people.
Whilst we cannot adapt ourselves to life in the forest - and we've got backpacks, Swiss army knives, strong shoes, a book for bedtime and a torch to read it by, and we've also got strong porters to carry our food for the week, bedrolls and mosquito nets - the Mentawai have had c.4,000 years to find their balance and harmony.
We were privileged to share their life for a few days and to be part of a fairly rare communal celebration, the initiation of a new medicine man/shaman.
You've read that tropical rainforests are the repository of untold wealth in terms of future drugs for the benefit of sufferers from all manner of diseases. Whilst we have access to modern science, scientists are rapidly reasoning that we need to go back in order to step forward.
What we witnessed - and became participants in as family guests - was the culmination of six months of formal preparation and a lifetime, nay, several generations-worth, of experience.
To describe is to formalise. The symbols had their place and their meaning. So did the dances and trances, and the slaughtering of three pigs in honour of and for the three sponsoring shamans from neighbouring, i.e. somewhere on Siberut, villages.
We were told, Tonik told us, that each dance focussed on an aspect of forest life. Each plant, each animal, each facet of village life was celebrated by the four shamans, occasionally supplemented by an older woman - the women generally stayed in a separate room - or a young man dressed in T-shirt, who danced in an anti-clockwise moving circle whilst stomping their feet in unison, with accompaniment provided by 2 or 3 hand drums and a clanged piece of iron. Basic rhythms from dusk to dawn. Those of us who vainly tried to sleep weren't allowed to for long.
What it meant for the Mentawai was sharing and caring, and a reinforcement and, thereby, a continuation of a life under threat, yet slowly changing.
You see, we came and have fleetingly passed by toting our baggage and preconceptions. The younger generation now sport western-style clothes and shun tattoos. We flash by with our instant photos and leave our traces. I left some holograms cut from expired credit cards (which were worn as pendants on the shamans' necklaces). Others have left keys and keyrings as similar adornments.
In a land where time is measured by sunlight and moon phases, some sport watches, which don't actually work. Safety pins dangle from ears and loin cloths, made from leaves, bark or old cloth, cover the nether regions.
The Mentawai have no one God because every living thing has its place in their world. As I write this sentence, one of our porters who attends elementary school in the government village of Madobak shows me her school textbook - How To Be A Muslim.
But, she tells me, she still eats pig.
Change will come. We are part of that process. We must be sensitive and appreciate and respect the integrity of these people. Our baggage is ours.
We cannot live as they live. But, like them, we can be generous in spirit and demonstrate respect for each other through a degree of sensitivity towards their life.
These people are not picturesque, although we sought and received permission to take photographs. We are the curiosities with our curiosity. What we leave behind must be of benefit or, negatively speaking, of limited damage.
Many thanks to Tonik for his sensitive guiding. I trust we will be fondly remembered by the Mentawai. I can't say that the newly initiated shaman fixed my pulled hamstring but in letting him try and later dancing with another, I hope this is so.
Footnote Jakartass has been given a plug by Gadling, a blog - an online magazine - about "engaged" travel.
Amongst their links, there is a fascinating online article of 8 pages about an Ubud, Bali, based outfit which organises tours to Papua. It makes fascinating yet, in the light of what I have written above, disturbing reading.
On a planet crowded with six billion people, isolated primitive cultures are getting pushed to the brink of extinction. Against this backdrop, a new form of adventure travel has raised an unsettling question: Would you pay to see tribes who have never laid eyes on an outsider?
I'm 31 according to this appraisal of my childishness.
Except, I'm a Dog which makes me 23, 35, 47, 59, 71 or 83. Or 95. You decide.
People born in the year of the dog are usually candid, honest, generous, righteous, studious and energetic, which makes it easy for them to attract the favor of the opposite sex. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. And yes please.
They are kind-hearted, always ready to listen to and share other people's cares and burdens. They know how to get along well with others. Sometimes they will protect the interests of other people even by sacrificing their own. If there's someone often paying a handsome reward, he must be a person born in the year of the dog. But financially better off than me.
They seldom lose their temper, even when they're abused by other people. They do, however, flare up sometimes, but only for a moment, and never out of jealousy. When they have conflicts with others, they always try to make compromises instead of harboring hatred in their hearts. True.
When they are determined to do something, they will hold on to the very last. Let go, let go!
They always choose respectful careers, and are sure to achieve success by conscientious hard work. And sheer brilliance.
They always guard themselves from abuse, and will only make friends with people in whom they have full confidence. That's me and Sid then.
Gifted with a special sensitivity, they have keen insight into other people's minds. Dividing others into either friends or opponents they will not judge a person without foundation, but once they have developed an opinion of somebody, it is difficult for them to change it. So, you've got one shot to convince me.
Usually they will give you good advice. Pragmatic by nature, they can help those who boast to overcome their shortcomings. They often think it necessary to point out other people's mistakes so as to help them develop an objective view of themselves and the reality. Stop bragging and listen to me. You're a berk.
Though they don't value money very much, they have an unparalleled ability to bring in money when they are in need of them. The poorhouse has beckoned a few times, that's true. But I'm not in debt. By much.
They always appear to be in high spirits, but actually in their hearts there is a shadow of pessimism. Sometimes they worry too much, imagining dangers around every corner. Not sure about this last bit. WATCH OUT !!!
I'm also a typical Aquarian, which means that I don't believe in astrology. It also means that I'm humane, frank, serious minded, genial, refined, sometimes ethereal, and idealistic, though this last quality is tempered with a sensible practicality. I'm also quick, active and persevering without being self-assertive, and express myself with reason, moderation and sometimes, a dry humor.
Aquarius is said to govern the legs from knees to ankles and the circulation of blood, its natives are susceptible to ailments particularly in the legs and ankles, such as cramps, and are also liable to spasmodic and nervous complaints, as well as wind, catarrh, diarrhea, dropsy, goiter and delirium tremens - so that the avoidance of alcohol is important for those Aquarians who have a taste for it. What? Even on my birthday?
When asked about my favourite part of Indonesia, I invariably reply West Sumatra.
The Minang culture of the province is noted for its matrilineal family structure, which is one reason for the spread of Padang restaurants throughout Indonesia ~ the menfolk leave to seek their fortunes elsewhere and are therefore much less insular in outlook than other groups. This could be one reason why the ubiquitous "Hello mister" is rarely heard there, although western visitors are much rarer than, say, in Yogyakarta or Bali.
I have regularly linked to Hotel Rimbo, an eco-tourism project being developed in Lubuk Sikaping just north of the Equator, which is the vision of a good friend of mine. When it is time to 'retire' from the fray here in Jakarta that's where I'll be and when this blog will cease. (Rimboass anyone?)
Following my post yesterday, I got to reminiscing about a visit made to the island of Siberut, a night's boat journey from Padang, the capital of the province, in July 1992 with son number one. At that time, there were already concerns about the raping of the forests of the island and the effect on the native hunter-gathers, the Mentawai.
One of the first Europeans to comment on the Mentawai Islands was Sir Thomas Raffles. Visiting in the last century when he was vice-governor of Benkulu, he wrote, in a letter to the Duchess of Somerset in 1821, "I made further discoveries in these Islands, where I found a population more likeable still and, if possible, still more ingenuous. If I continue in this direction, I may expect somewhere to find the Garden of Eden, and descendants of our first parents."
For the past century, attempts have been made to 'Christianise' the Mentawai, a process continuing today. In tandem with this process has been the attempt by successive governments to 'Indonesianise' these gentle people. The avowed intent was to 'modernise' this 'primitive' culture, although the real reason was surely to exploit the cheap timber and the potential for a coconut oil industry, requiring thousands of non-Mentawai immigrant workers.
When we visited, there were strong rumours that Suharto's youngest and most-hated offspring, Tommy, the convicted murderous criminal, was the malignant figure behind this rape of the fragile environment.
After 1950, when Indonesia gained independence, an all out assault on the old Mentawai culture began. Families were ordered to move from the jungle, from their communal homes, or 'uma' and into small modern houses with tin roofs; conversion to Islam or Christianity was ordered by Sumatran government decree and women were forcibly sterilized by doctors. It can only be described as an attempted genocide.
Most damaging to the culture as a whole, the shamans, who both symbolize and hold the secrets of the spirit traditions, were persecuted. Until the late 1990's a shaman encountering government officials was likely to have his head shaved to symbolically diminish his status; his rituals were banned; army units were sent into the forest to confiscate his 'magic boxes'; he was forced to wear clothes and uma were regularly burned down. Even tattoos, symbols of strength and power, were outlawed.
Thankfully, there are now a number of NGOs concerned with their plight including the surfing community which, as I have weak ankles and appalling eyesight, I previously felt little kinship with. Two local expat-organised groups, SurfAid and Electric Lamb Mission are currently more focussed on relief efforts in Aceh although not without problems.
I'll return to this topic later, but not tomorrow as that's a special day.
By request Thank you for trusting us in providing your internet service. We are glad to inform you that soon you will be enjoying our new mail service system with spam and virus free, commencing on December 11, 2004.
So, how soon is soon? I had 57 spam messages today; take a bow Indosat.
My Jakartass emails come via a different ISP which does provide a spam and virus free-service. And so I can post the following by request:
SurfAid International Four years ago, physician and surfer Dr. Dave Jenkins chartered a luxury yacht in the Mentawai Islands with one goal in mind: to find perfect waves. The surf proved to be everything he had hoped for. What he also found, though, were the Mentawai islanders - mostly women and children - suffering and dying from the ravages of malaria and other preventable diseases. Troubled by the inequity of lifestyles and moved by compassion, Dr. Jenkins went on to establish SurfAid International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the alleviation of human suffering through community-based health programs. With the support of volunteer doctors and nurses, the international surfing community, and most importantly the Mentawai people themselves, SurfAid has come to exemplify the healing power of cross-cultural partnerships.
And now nearly six weeks after the tsunami, SurfAid continues to expand its emergency response to provide desperately needed medical attention to remote coastal villages of Simeulue Island in Aceh. SurfAid is reaching a population of over 20,000 to prevent the widely-predicted next wave of disaster through communicable disease control and health-education clinics. SurfAid is also funding reconstruction, household and food supplies which are being distributed in partnership with private surf-industry relief operations, Sumatran Surfariis and SSRO. Subscribe to their newsletter for more information.
Blog readers want to see more: a - q includes lots of stuff which Jakartass gives such asclever, concise political opinion (most readers prefer these consistent with their own views) and great finds: resources, blogs, essays, artistic works.
Blog writers want to see more: a - h includes constructive criticism, reaction and feedback, 'thank you' comments and why readers liked their post, and requests for future posts on specific subjects.
A friend recently described this blog as being "even-handed". Well, that certainly wasn't my intention, but in the spirit of his praise I offer you a couple of contrasting stories.
BP a.BP makes record profits b.BP slammed for rights abuses c. BP's operations in Indonesia d. BP has a notorious reputation, but exhaustingly attempts to parade the company off as a socially and environmentally responsible company. e.BP in Aceh ~ the Baptist Press, that is Tom showed me that it's time to focus on the living. Yes, the devastation is like nothing the modern world has seen before. But as Christians mobilize in the face of seemingly insurmountable anguish and destruction to carry aid and perform acts of service and selflessness, the survivors of Aceh - as well as the people of Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, and Thailand - will see the difference of those who come as the hands and feet of Christ Jesus. *Names changed for security reasons.
Presumably this means Jesus Christ, not Tom.
Investment a. Ethical Funds Some investors feel that there are no standards which can be created for ethical investing since each individual has their own set of values and morals. If no standards are created, however, then even the most harmful investments can be called "ethical" by some. Fortunately, there are several basic values that most people share:
Avoid Causing Illness, Disease & Death
Avoid Destroying or Damaging the Environment
Avoid Treating Honest People with Disrespect
b. Vice Fund It is the Advisor's philosophy that although often considered politically incorrect, these and similar industries and products ... will continue to experience significant capital appreciation during good and bad markets. The Advisor considers these industries to be nearly "recession-proof." - Vice Fund Prospectus
The following are some links to blogs and sites which have come to my attention through my tags and referring sources.
First off, there is the Fiction Writing Blog, which has seemingly used Jakartass as source material. To be honest, I have problems enough in living in the real world, let alone fictionalising it.
Then there's Netlex Blogs 2.0 in French (eh?) who've got Jakartass as a permanent link. Merci beaucoup. C'est un honneur. Mais pourquoi?
Another permanent link is from Belize Jungle Dome. ALL staff seem to be blogging there ~ what a lifestyle! This is an eco-tourism project I'm very interested in because I very much hope to have a major involvement in Hotel Rimbo in West Sumatra within a year or two.
Finally, anyone here who has seen the Oscar-nominated film, In the Name of the Father (available here as a pirated DVD for less than $1), may be surprised, yet pleased, to hear that 16 years after their convictions were quashed, the Guildford 4 have finally received a public apology from British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
It was one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in British legal history. Three Belfast men and an English woman spent 15 years in prison after police fabricated confessions for the IRA bombing of the Horse and Groom pub in Guildford in 1974.
At the time of the Guildford Four's sentencing (on October 22, 1975), presiding judge Sir John Donaldson stated that he regretted they had not been charged with treason, for then he could have sentenced them to death.
There were more than 100 discrepancies in the Guildford Four's confessions.
The IRA bombers who actually confessed to the bombing are currently in prison, but not for this outrage.
It's not so different here in Indonesia. There are many perpetrators of evil acts who go unpunished. These may be oldish links, but they're still valid.