Tuesday, May 31, 2005
  I'm bored

The same old issues reverberate.

The Corby case will not go away.

The 'Free Schapelle: Boycott Bali: Give us our Girl Back' campaign will soon appear on t-shifts, baseball caps, car bumper stickers, and refrigerator magnets -- not to mention the exclusive magazine contract, the book, the TV mini-series and the movie.

There's an article in the Bangkok Post which is basically a précis of the newsletter Travel Impact Newswire sent from Thailand. This has loads of extracts from a lengthy list of links

There is irrationality ~ "I will never go to Indonesia ever again. All Australians have given everything to the Indonesians and this is what we get in return. Thanks Indonesia, the Balinese are the ones that will suffer."

And a 'Boycott Bali' website ~ We believe that the only hope for Schapelle Corby is a political solution. The Australian and Indonesian Governments need to understand that Australians will not accept this decision and we, through our own democratic choice (eh?), are prepared to harm the economy of Bali by volunteering to ban holidays in Bali for as long as Schapelle Corby is in jail.

There are also welcome signs that some are prepared to stand back and look at the issue unemotionally.

Professor Tim Lindsey, director of the Asian Law Centre at the University of Melbourne, says, "double standards about issues such as the death penalty in Asian drug cases feed Southeast Asian anxieties about neo-colonial, arrogant and racist attitudes in Australia and perceptions that we are the insular and xenophobic white tribe of Asia.

"It is time we focused more on building links, on repairing the catastrophic decline in Indonesian studies and language skills in Australia and engaging, rather than demonising and shunning a neighbour, just because it has an Australian on trial."

Those of you who want it all can subscribe by writing to Imtiaz Muqbil, the editor of the newsletter, giving your company name and title. (Travel Impact Newswire is the Asia-Pacific's first email travel industry news feature and analysis service. Mission Statement: Dedicated to reporting with Integrity, Trust, Accuracy and Respect the issues that impact on the Asia-Pacific Travel & Tourism industry. Distributed every week to senior industry executives, consultants, academics and media globally.)

And Jakartass would like another topic.

How about the fact that the State Intelligence Service is still refusing to co-operate with the inquiry into the assassination of human rights activist Munir?

Former National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Gen. (ret) A.M. Hendropriyono has further displayed his aversion to a fact-finding team set up by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to probe the death of human rights activist Munir, and equivocated as to whether he would fulfill a summons from the team.

Hendropriyono's lawyer Syamsu Djalal, who is a former military police chief, said, "And I'm sorry to say this, but who's this Munir anyway that a presidential regulation had to be issued? A lot of people die, but no regulations are ever made for them."


The same old, same old arrogance is displayed by the same old figures. Boring.

So let me end on some good news. For the first time ever in Jakarta, today I spotted two immobilised cars; they'd been wheel-clamped.

But they were still blocking the traffic.



6:30 pm |
Monday, May 30, 2005
  Another Blogger Ahoy.

Hurrah. Apart from Java Jive with Brandon's ever evocative photographs and the continuing Bali Blog which is, of course, actually set in another world, life has been very lonely in the Indonesian expat blogosphere.

Three Jakarta-based expat blogs seem to have folded this year, and there weren't that many to start with ...

Indo Ian, a colleague of Brandon, is probably too busy being a new parent, so good luck to him.

Geoffrey M.G. wrote to me shortly before the Indonesia Reconstruction Conference but I've heard nothing from him since and he hasn't posted on Beyond Wallacia recently, which is a shame.

And Blacky's Blog got off to an interesting start but quickly petered out.

So ~ sound of a drum roll ~ it is with great pleasure that I welcome Indcoup which is written by a good friend and an occasional contributor to both this blog and the Jakarta Post.

As he says, "I've got a bit of time on my hands, so I've set up a blog. I'm trying to mix nastiness and ill taste with parody to produce something a bit different."

With his flying start, and the Corby case was an easy one to start with, it seems as if I'll have to look to my laurels whilst avoiding a duplication of links.

IndCoup may like to register with a new blogroll of Expat Blogs and join Jakartass, the first blog registered from Indonesia.

Elsewhere, in China to be precise, Asia Pundits has been set up by Chris Myrick.

The concept behind this blog is to be an aggregator of the best English-language Asian blog content available (which) will offer short-posts with links to multi-partisan sites; and hopefully written by a multiple of partisan authors.

This seems to fill the gap left by Simon's World which no longer offers a bi-weekly round up of regional posts, and was/is, I opine, a valuable service.

Whilst on the subject of expat bloggers, I whole-heartedly recommend Madame Chiang, a regular visitor. I'm not saying that just because she's given Jakartass a permanent link (which I've reciprocated). I like her style of writing, the perspective of an Essex girl working abroad. (Thanks for the link to Waiter Rant and a hilarious post. This reminds me of the time ... )

Another blogger I'm going to mention because she's had a look here is Sandra Gidley's RomseyRedhead. Sandra is M.P. for Romsey and in the Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet with responsibility for women and older people.

OK, she's not an expat, and I would have voted for the Greens but, hey, Jakartass is a believer in true democracy ~ that of the blogosphere.

I've saved the best to last. And I'm not referring to the Paris Hilton Observer who's also visited.

Have a look at Katie Greenwood's tale of losing her job as a volunteer in rural Malawi, Geography Fieldwork. Beautifully written, poetic at times, this is a truly personal account of life away from home comforts. Read through the archives and work your way up to now. I think she'll get over her angst, if only because of the self-knowledge accrued from her blogging.

I sent this link to a good friend of mine in the UK who was a VSO worker in Malawi some 20 years ago. E. has this to say: Looks as if Katie is a peace corps volunteer - and quite a lot has obviously changed - Nkhata Bay now has electricity and internet access! Some great photos too. Yet so many are now dying of AIDS.

20,000 hits under the belt.
A reminder. It looks as if Wednesday or Thursday that magic number will appear on my hit counter. If you can send me a screenshot of it, although I'll accept the nearest number if it isn't spot on, I'll send you a CD of MP3 tracks so you can hear for yourself that my musical tastes reflect my supposed ADD.

Believe me, having just received a load of MP3s from my mate, Del Boy, these sounds may be seriously weird.



4:30 pm |
Sunday, May 29, 2005
(This site is best viewed using Mozilla Firefox. It will look better and you ought to feel better than if using IE.)

James Lovelock
Ecosystems are here to regulate the earth and keep the climate equitable, not to provide food for us. The problem with our Christian traditions is that we think God gave us everything and we can do what we like.

Perhaps Christians should consider the Jesus diet.
"Jesus ate primarily natural foods in their natural states - lots of vegetables, especially beans and lentils. He would have eaten wheat bread, a lot of fruit, drunk a lot of water and also red wine."

Sounds good to me, but not Gordon Ramsey, a celebrity chef who I'd never heard of.

Pity the vegetarian
In an upcoming edition of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay is to be found handing out pizza to passers-by. A guy called Bob turns up. He explains to Ramsay that he has been a vegetarian for eight years. Ramsay says they have prepared a vegetarian pizza and offers him some. After Bob has eaten the pizza, Ramsay falls about laughing and says - wait for it - the pizza had Parma ham on it all along. Bob is upset. Ramsay, still guffawing, observes that Bob hasn't 'come out in a rash', offers him some more pizza, and yells to his kitchen staff that they've 'converted a vegetarian'.

...would Ramsay have played the same prank on a Muslim? Maybe Ramsay could shout down to the kitchen: 'Hey guys, we've converted a Muslim!' or something like that, just to make sure they realise that something funny is happening, as opposed to something devastating, disgusting and against all their beliefs.

He's a "gray, sad moron."

Crying while eating may be OK if you can't reach the salt cellar. Personally, I only shed tears when I've bitten into one of those little green chilies.

Pizzas By Post

Not just another Internet Pizza Server, THE pizza portal and the home page of the leading supplier of e-Pizza on the web, Pizzas by Post Ltd sends fresh virtual pizzas by e-mail, and has a site devoted to all things pizza. Pizzas are our business. (Well actually virtual pizzas are our business, at least on the web site at the moment, but that doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, does it?)

Jakartass is a windbag?

Not anymore. Beano Drops work like freakin' magic. It is a food enzyme that helps stop gas before it starts. I know it sounds kind of gross but Beano is sort of like a mold that eats all of your gas for you. The food enzymes in Beano are harmless and pass right through eating the gas as they go. It is amazing what this product will do.

Directions: Add 5 drops of Beano to your first bite of any problem food and you can spend all day in a crowded elevator if you want.

At the other end, most bad breath originates from the bacteria on the tongue-not from the stomach, not from something eaten, but from the back of the tongue. The tongue is a fertile breeding ground for the offensive foul odor-causing germs. Tongue Cleaning (such as with this tongue scraper) is clinically proven to be the single most effective way to reduce bad breath.

I'm sure these would be useful for competitors in the International Federation of Competitive Eating, which is, of course, American, and participants in the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival who are probably not.

But I do wonder when they'll have their Last Supper.

Pass the fish please.



11:30 am |
Saturday, May 28, 2005
  Just Curious

I'd be grateful if anyone could refer me to a reference to the Corby Case in the British media. All I can find is this.

7pm update.

I have found this from the Guardian. However John Aglionby lives here so I'm not sure it really counts.

In this 'era of globalisation' I remain faintly bemused about how parochial ~ and we're talking continents here in the case of Australia ~ news can be.

The morning after.
Silly me. I should have checked the Beeb, but perhaps my post was online quicker. Thanks to the 3 email correspondents and the comment maker who sent the link.

Has anyone anything to add to the very cogent comment giving an Australian viewpoint?


8:00 am |
Friday, May 27, 2005
  Corby gets twenty years.

It isn't life as demanded by the prosecutors and it isn't the death penaly as allowed in the Indonesian criminal code, but it's a hell of a long time for a twenty-seven year old to contemplate, with the words of her mother echoing.

"The defendant has been proven legally and convincingly guilty of having committed an act of unlawfully importing narcotics into Indonesia," Linton Sirait, the chief of three Indonesian judges, told a court in Denpasar.

Corby tried to smuggle 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of marijuana into the Indonesian holiday island of Bali in October, the court found. Corby, 27, has protested her innocence, saying the drugs were planted in her surfboard bag by a drug-smuggling ring in Australia.

Following the appeals process, which could take up to two years, Corby may well be repatriated to Australia to serve the remainder of her sentence. This follows an offer from Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer.

"I think we should be able to negotiate such an agreement with Indonesia reasonably quickly but we'll have to wait and see," he said.

"But the whole question of the transfer of prisoners can't even be considered until the appeals process is complete and the appeals have been unsuccessful. So in those circumstances it would then be a matter for negotiation with the Indonesian Government on the actual transfer, assuming that by then we had completed the prisoner transfer agreement."

Jakartass believes that this is an excessive sentence considering that the consumption of marijuana has not, to my knowledge, led to premeditated murder. Sentences for such crimes are generally much lower in Indonesia.

Furthermore, there are significant doubts in this case as to whether Corby did have foreknowledge of the contents of her surfboard bag. Allegedly, no fingerprint tests were done on the package of marijuana.

The appeal will no doubt highlight the various inconsistencies in the prosecution case. However, as a number of Australian acquaintances here have commented, it would appear that the Australian media and various individuals have demonstrated extreme arrogance in prejudging the process and outcome of this case.

Jakartass is not related to SillyAsses.



3:00 pm |
Thursday, May 26, 2005
  SBY gets yanked about.

Yesterday Bush said, "Indonesia and America may be on the opposite sides of the ocean, but we have a lot in common.

"We're both among the world's largest democracies. We both share a belief that our great diversity is a source of strength."

Today the US Embassy announced that the Embassy, Consulate General and all other U.S. Government facilities in Indonesia will be closed beginning May 26, 2005 until further notice because of a security threat.

We're used to these announcements; generally they come to nought. Of course, coming from a country which can be terrorised by a giant penis, they may well be justified in their fears.

As a souvenir of his Stateside hols, Gen. (rtd) SBY can report enhanced, if not yet full, military ties between the two countries. Indonesia can now buy 'non-lethal defence equipment', whatever that is.

This will not have pleased a coalition of human rights, labor, religious, peace and other groups (who) urged President Bush "to ensure that this first visit of President Yudhoyono advances respect for human rights and implementation of genuine justice and military reform throughout Indonesia rather than maintaining business-as-usual."

"It's a tiara. Want one?"

Where there's smoke ...

I surmised on Tuesday that Australians in Bali may prefer their own home grown. Apparently, I was right.

A Balinese drug dealer who has spent time in jail said he had smoked the Australian 'skunk' many times with friends from Italy, Germany and Australia but had never bought or sold any.

He recognised the marijuana as Australian as it was made up of large flowers or buds, while the marijuana he sells from Aceh in north Sumatra or from Malang in East Java has much smaller buds and a lot of leaf mixed in.

Kick him when he's down.

Following my poll as to whether readers thought that Soeharto should be prosecuted, there is further evidence that Jakartass readers are in tune with the prevailing mood.

In an interview in yesterday's Jakarta Post, political scientist Mochtar Pabottingi said that the wisest and most realistic thing (SBY) could say is that it is imperative to put Soeharto to trial and find the truth. But maybe not during the current administration. We may have to wait a while, the consequence being that Soeharto could pass away first. But really, that is the least Susilo could say, as a statesman. But of course, he needs to mean it.

A fond farewell
No, not Soeharto.

Graeme Le Saux has retired from football. He was an outstanding left back for, among others, Blackburn, Chelsea and, for the past two seasons, recently relegated Southampton.

In my footballing days, I played left back, although I am singularly right-footed. Like me, Graeme gave his all. Unlike me, he did it very well. And with both feet. Guts beats glory every time in my book.

Of course, guts and glory is even better. Pity I missed the European Cup Final, which was on at 2am here, where Steven Gerrard epitomised everything I've enjoyed about Le Saux.



5:00 pm |
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
  The Road to Aceh

The Guardian has another instalment of John Aglionby's monthly column on the reconstruction of Aceh. The latest is about the rebuilding of the main route down Aceh's west coast (which) has allowed food, shelter and hope to reach communities devastated by the tsunami.

As he also reports, there is a major holdup of relief supplies. More than 1,300 containers of humanitarian aid for victims of the Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia's Aceh province are stranded in the region's main port in Belawan by bureaucratic holdups and non-governmental organisations failing to establish a smooth supply chain.

Ah, the bureaucrats. There is really no excuse, especially as they've been able to put together a website ~ http://www.e-aceh.org ~ which is an effort by the Government of Indonesia and the Donor Community to bring together the many stakeholders rebuilding lives, livelihoods and communities in Aceh and North Sumatra devasted by the earthquake and tsunami on December 26, 2004.

(I've given the site a permanent link on the right - in Firefox, and floating around at the bottom of this page in I.E.)

I received an email from SurfAid International today inviting me to their annual Wave of Compassion Summer Soirée. This will be held on Thursday, June 9, 2005 at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, California.

Join us and the global surf community in celebration of SurfAid's massive relief efforts and the past year's accomplishments! This will also benefit our ongoing efforts in Hinakos, Simeulue, Nias and Mentawai Islands. Get your tickets now- - only limited quantities available!

Sorry guys. I've got to get up early on the following Friday, so I won't be able to make it.

Shame really, as I'd love to see Fish and the Seaweeds if only to find out if their music is as good as their album cover. Still, I expect you'll raise more than last year's US$85,000 and be able to continue your magnificent efforts.

Fish and the Seaweeds



5:30 pm |
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
  Corby free on Friday?

At the Atlanta airport in '83 when I first visited the USA, I was perturbed to see someone's strewn toiletries circulating around the carousel. Stupid berk, I thought; fancy checking in a plastic bag. Later that evening, at my sister's house I realised that my toothbrush was missing from my backpack. As was the plastic bag.

In '98, 'Er Indoors and I took Our Kid to Medan to visit his gran for the first time. At the hotel I tried to open our bag to get at the urgently needed nappies only to discover that we couldn't unlock it. Why? Because we'd picked up a similar looking bag by mistake. Whoops, sorry. Ours was back at the airport.

Airport baggage handlers do not have a reputation for honesty, particularly in Sydney, where 13 people have been arrested in connection with an alleged conspiracy to import millions of dollars worth of cocaine into Australia.

Schapelle Corby is awaiting a verdict, probably on Friday, in her trial on charges that she tried to import 4.1kg of cannabis into Bali.

Corby's bodyboard bag was processed at Sydney Airport's international terminal on October 8 last year, the same day a Qantas baggage handler allegedly smuggled 10kg of cocaine out of the airport from another plane.

Before this particular case, I commented that I felt that Corby had been set up. After all, why smuggle marijuana into Indonesia where it is grown? It is common knowledge that both GAM and the military control the ganja trade in Aceh.

However, it may well be that Australian holidaymakers in Bali prefer their own home-grown; hence there is a reason for the smuggling. News has also surfaced that Corby's half brother and father have convictions for drug possession. This is, of course, circumstantial evidence as is much of the case against Corby.

I am somewhat bemused, however, by the tactics of Corby and her supporters ahead of Friday's verdict. Firstly, Australian businessman, Ron Bakir, was expected to apologize on Monday to Indonesian prosecutors for accusing them of seeking a bribe to ... avoid the death penalty. Bakir is reportedly paying some of Corby's legal costs. That shouldn't give him the right to interfere in the legal process.

And why has Corby written to SBY asking for a pardon? Isn't this premature?

Corby in prison

I trust that, like Jakartass, SBY will reserve judgment until the verdict is given.



1:00 pm |
Monday, May 23, 2005
  Graft Dodgers?

I've said it before and will no doubt say it again, but there are positive signs that SBY is prepared to go after big corruptors. Whether his officials are prepared to back him remains open to conjecture. Today's Jakarta Post carries the following:

1. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has given the green light for a formal investigation into Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaluddin, and also for the possible replacement of all General Elections Commission (KPU) members, in connection with allegations of corruption that have plagued the poll body.

2. Recently disclosed alleged irregularities at 16 state enterprises may have caused more than Rp 2.7 trillion (about US$287 million) in state losses, a report from the Office of the State Minister for State Enterprises says.

Many, if not most, state firms in the country are known to be poorly managed and to suffer from low rates of return on investments, due mostly to corruption and intervention by vested interests - which often regard the companies as cash cows for their own personal use.

3. On Friday, the AGO announced that it decided to halt its graft investigation into cement company PT Semen Bosowa Maros and telecommunications firm PT Bakrie Telecom, which are owned by a nephew of Vice President Jusuf Kalla and Coordinating Minister for the Economy Aburizal Bakrie, respectively.

Lucky Djani, the deputy coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), said that prosecutors must quickly explain to the public, the legal reasons behind its controversial decision. He said that the public has grown "sick" of prosecutors' just dropping such cases without explanation, especially graft cases involving high-profile businesspeople or state officials.

What Jakartass finds most significant, however, is that apparently State Minister for State Enterprises Sugiharto has asked President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue a presidential regulation on the protection of witnesses to encourage people to report corruption at state enterprises and other institutions.

Elsewhere in the paper
, Wimar Witoelar reflects on 'ex-strongman Soeharto, still at large and larger than life'.



5:00 pm |
Sunday, May 22, 2005
  A waste of time?

According to my archives, today's post is number 400. Jakartass has a daily readership of 50+ with significantly more when Charlton is mentioned. Fewer readers seem to be interested in the goings on here in Indonesia. This may or may not be significant. Still, whoever and wherever you are, thanks for sticking with me so far.

Within the next 10 days or so I expect to receive the 20,000th hit. If you can email me a jpeg or gif screen shot of that magic number (having 'replied' to my spam blocker), I'll send you, wherever you are - from Algeria to New Zealand, a CD of varied and esoteric MP3 sounds which resound around my monitor as I tap away.

And now for something a bit different

When I'm not grafting away for another post about corruption, I usually turn for inspiration to the J-Walk Blog and Bifurcated Rivets. And why not? They provide a variety of links to sites with a sense of bemusement at the amusements and foibles of others, often with witty comments. Life doesn't have to be oh-so-serious, does it? So, thanks to them for the following.

The Magic Roundabout (or Traffic Circle if you're American)
This is ingenious, but would be a complete waste of time here in Jakarta where motorists don't have any lane discipline.

If Foodies were on Death Row ...
A last meal? A final foray in the kitchen?
So much to eat, so little time. But there are some things we simply must make time for ... before we leave this earth.

Executioners could try dismembering a chicken.
...everyone should do this at least once in their lives. It is actually quite easy when you get the hang of it, and your supper will taste much better for your having had a hand in it, so to speak.

Hung, drawn and quartered?

On a more serious note, you can see the deleted list of Texas inmates' last meals here and if you want an analysis of the nutritional values of such meals, look here.

Last meals on Texas' death row never were haute cuisine, but for many Web browsers, they held a morbid fascination. For years, the details of executed killers' final repasts were the most popular feature of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's official Web site. But now the menus - posted for most of the 313 killers executed since 1982 - are history, dropped from the newly redesigned Web site by an image-conscious agency stung by claims the site was tasteless and demeaning.

Jakartass believes that the death penalty itself is "tasteless and demeaning".

World Carrot Museum
More than you wanted to know.

UK Sucrologist Club
My Auntie Babs used to keep bowls of sugar cubes around the house. They were souvenirs of her travels. We children weren't allowed to touch them. Ants, however, were less well behaved. If she were still alive, I suspect Babs would have found this club to her liking, although the annual subscription of ten pounds seems a bit steep.

Everywhere I went in the world, I looked for sugar packets, on airlines, ferries, visitor centres, clubs, pubs. It has not taken all those years to amass over 35,000 different ones as there were periods when I didn't collect many at all, but after moving house and sorting things out I found them all again and I decided I had to put them in some sort of order, really to see if any were being duplicated.

I found the best way to store, sort and display them was to use cigarette card albums with transparent leaves showing both sides of the packet without having to take them out. These leaves can be bought in 4, 6, 8 or 10 pocket sizes which accommodate most sizes of packets. On average each album holds about 500 packets.

100 Top Grossing Films
Fancy that, I've only managed to acquire 40 of these on pirated DVDs and the majority are in Our Kid's collection. I'll admit to liking Shrek 2, at no 3, and The Incredibles at no 28 but I'm unfazed by any of the Star Wars or Harry Potter series. Jakartass is an independent fella, I suppose.

How to handwrite proper.
With text messaging, multi-choice questionnaires and computer keyboards, one could argue that good handwriting isn't important.

Believe me, it is. I can rarely decipher notes from 'Er Indoors.

Did you feel the Earth move, darling?
The great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake that generated the devastating tsunami in December was so powerful that the ground shook everywhere on the Earth's surface and weeks later the planet still trembled.

God's total quality management questionnaire
A fascinating read, but it's not interactive. A bit like praying, I suppose.

More Balls
The FA Cup Final last night, local time, was played on a "slimy top" which made it remarkable that for the first time since the 1912 game between Barnsley and West Bromwich Albion there weren't any goals from open play.

Manchester United wore black to mourn their takeover by a mate of the Bush clan. MU huffed and puffed but couldn't convert their numerical advantage ~ Reyes having been sent off a couple of seconds before the end of extra time.

Arsenal's chosen six scored their penalties and all MU players but Paul Scholes scored theirs. So the Reds won. And ANTV, the channel of choice instead of TV7, rejoined their dangdut party complete with Bintang Zero.

Joy was unrestrained here in Jakartass Towers, such is the power of genuine Bintangs, with the news that Luke Young, who's handsome visage closed yesterday's post, will be joining the England C squad on its summer tour of the good ol' USA.

Happy holidays, son.



10:30 am |
Saturday, May 21, 2005
  C'mon you Reds !

I'll be watching the Cup Final tonight, local time, in the company of a good mate and neighbour who's a genuine Manchester United supporter. The Bintangs are in and I expect some good-natured banter and rivalry in Jakartass Towers. Now you all know that I'm not an Arsenal supporter but I really do want them to win.

This is partly because they were originally from the Charlton catchment area. My father was a cost accountant at the Woolwich Arsenal when I were a lad but by then Arsenal had moved north of the Thames, in 1913 in fact.

Come to think of it, all the expat Londoners here who support variously Millwall, AFC Wimbledon and (even) Chelsea will be rooting for the London side which was the first to ever field a team without any British players.

There is a fairly simple reason for this; its ownership is British.

Manchester United, on the other hand, is now owned by an American businessman, Malcolm Glazer, who appears to look at his investment as a milch cow, a way to add to his coffers. Unlike Roman Abramovich, who attends most games and clearly loves both football and the club, Glazier shuns the limelight and is only interested in numbers.

Man U, as they're generally known, is the world's richest football club but now there is the danger of a financial meltdown, a comedownance as it were.

Glazer's ambitions are so obvious - to maximise the yield from the global brand that is Manchester United - and so little to do with love of football that he is a symbol of all that our very European country distrusts about contemporary America. He has assumed £265m of debt to buy the club, along with £275m of preference shares, so turning an object of love, loyalty and veneration into what must become a cash machine sweating as high as returns as possible from the 'franchise'.

All will be well as long as Manchester United win; but if success on the field eludes them they will quickly find themselves in a vicious circle in which the need to service debt pre-empts the capacity to buy new players .... so locking them into decline until they are bought by some Abramovich-style white knight who might or might not reverse their fortunes. They are now hostages to the capital markets, debt service and the capacity to commercialise the brand.

Understandably, the fans are not happy.

The growing wariness of America and resistance to the export of its values is part of a wider trend; it is the NHS warily guarding itself against criticism that it is opening itself up innocently to American healthcare companies preoccupied with the bottom line, however innovative their approach; it is to George Bush's foreign policy; it is the increasing tattiness of brands such as McDonald's and KFC; it is to the import of American casinos.

I don't actually know what colour shirts the two sides will be wearing in Cardiff but I'll still be supporting the Reds.

Forever Young
Charlton that is.



11:00 am |
Friday, May 20, 2005
  The Indonesian legal system

Many thanks to The Swanker for linking to an excellent article by PF Journey entitled The shadows behind Indonesia's legal system.

Primarily intended for an Australian readership concerned with the plight of the alleged drug smuggler Schapelle Corby, who awaits a verdict next week, this article sets out the varied factors which will determine her fate. It isn't as simple as we westerners may wish.

The Indonesian legal and court systems have been under the international spotlight in recent times. In a number of high profile trials of a political, commercial or criminal nature, the Indonesian legal and court systems have, at various times, angered, infuriated, bewildered, and puzzled the Australian public by their procedures, conducts, antics and outcomes.

Nothing is ever so simple, and nothing is ever black and white. The Indonesian legal system is pluralistic, complex and still evolving, just like the Indonesian nation. It has been formed and shaped by:

1. The Customary law, called Adat, individually developed and shaped in the hundreds of independent kingdoms that governed the Indonesian islands.

2. The Religious law - Islam, Hindu, Buddhist and Christianity.

3. The Roman-Dutch law left behind by the Dutch Colonial government.

4. The Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia.

Beyond the complexity, there are also the problems of codification, implementation, enforcement and, the monster of it all, corruption.

This article is an attempt to inform on these issues.

Read on ...

As I regularly write, maybe I am also a thief. It's easier that way.

Thanks to PF Journey, again, for providing a translation of a poem by Taufiq Ismail..

It's a cry from an Indonesian's heart. It expresses the frustration and exasperation of the Indonesians about corruption in their own country. They are helpless to do anything about it because it has become the norm. No one is clean anymore. Corruption has become us.

Maybe I am also a thief.

Original version - Mungkin Sekali Saya Sendiri Juga Maling - can be read here.

PS. Thanks to Teguh for pointing out my misspelling.



4:30 pm |
Thursday, May 19, 2005
  Cheques and balances

Following my posts about the pervasive corruption in Indonesia, Aangirfan reminds us that few countries are 'clean'.

Parliamentary sleaze has a long and dishonourable tradition in the UK.

Britain's Labour Party is particularly notorious: local authorities from Newcastle with the Poulson Affair in 1972, to Lambeth in 1993, to Doncaster in 1998 and to the sleaze allegations against the New Labour Party of Tony Blair.

Britain's Tories are not immune from sleaze allegations either, although generally it has been individual politicians such as Jeffrey Archer and John Major in the spotlight.

In Australia, the recent death of former Queensland National Party Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, stirred up old resentments.

Leading Aboriginal activist Sam Watson declared: "Pure and simple, Joh is a political thug who ruled this state for almost two decades as though it was his own private kingdom. His hillbilly administration was characterised by rampant corruption that infected every level of public administration and tainted the private sector. Leading business people fell into the habit of courting Joh's administration with paper bags that were filled with unmarked bills....

"Aboriginal people in particular have great cause to curse Joh and his government. For instance, many of my older relatives from the Cherbourg reserve were forced to work on Joh's peanut crops for $1 a day."

The Land of the Free (and Easy?) has Dick Cheney.

Enough said?

I doubt that any 'developed' country is totally uncorrupt but my reasons for highlighting the corruption here are twofold:

1. I live here. Corruption is all-pervasive and no resident, Indonesian or expat, is untouched. I've 'given a present' at Soekarno-Hatta Airport and paid on-the-spot 'fines' to traffic policemen. The paperwork which enables me to live and work here is 'handled' by an agent; it's easier that way.

2. The checks and balances of public accountability through a free press and access to audited accounts are not yet in place here. It will probably take a generational change to effect a clean country.

I hope I live that long......



5:00 pm |
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
  Normal Service Has Been Resumed

About 60% of my regular readership have voted in my poll and only 10% feel that Suharto shouldn't be prosecuted. I'd be interested to know why given that c.76% would like to see some form of retribution for the abuse of power during his regime. Only 13.3% express no interest in the affair. So why vote?

Thanks to all who participated.

To show that the 76% are in tune with the general population, below are many reasons taken from today's Jakarta Post. (No.6 is not online.)

1. Ex-Bank Mandiri president detained for graft
Just one day after losing the top executive post at Bank Mandiri, Edward Cornelis William Neloe was detained on Tuesday for his role in an alleged lending scam that hit the country's richest bank.

2. KPU chairman faces new blow in corruption probe
More witnesses and suspects have blamed General Elections Commission (KPU) chairman Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin for corruption at the national election organizer, making it more difficult for him to shrug off allegations over his role in the high-profile case.

3. Bukopin chief Sofyan Basir named new CEO of BRI
BRI (Bank Rakyat Indonesia) has recently been in the media spotlight for alleged bad loans dispersed to PT Domba Mas and investigations of improper tendering for its IT System.

4. Gov. Sutiyoso asked to take Jakarta KPU to antigraft body
The council's Commission A, which investigated the alleged misuse of funds by KPUD (Jakarta's Election Commission) members during the 2004 elections, said earlier it had found alleged irregularities resulting in state losses of about Rp 13 billion.

Commission A alleged the KPUD had failed to pay Rp 4.2 billion in income and value-added taxes. It also discovered questionable tenders and the alleged markup in the purchase of 180,000 vests for Rp 12 billion (or Rp 66,000 each). That price was far higher than the market price of Rp 25,000 per vest, the commission said.

The KPUD has also been accused of marking up the rental fees on the three houses it uses for offices in Kepulauan Seribu regency. According to a report from the KPUD, the rent on the three houses totaled Rp 170 million a year. However, it is believed the commission only paid Rp 25 million a year to the owners of the houses.

5. Depok graft charges 'vague'
A defense lawyer for 17 Depok councillors on Tuesday pointed to what he said were various defects in the prosecution graft charges laid against their clients for corruption some time during their terms from 1999 to 2004.

The councillors stand accused of authorizing the misuse of Rp 7.5 billion (US$797,872) out of the Depok budget to cover their personal expenses, including the payment of installments on houses and cars, and the payment of telephone and water bills, and insurance premiums.

Most of the defendants have been reelected for the current 2004 to 2009 term.
(Depok is a satellite dormitory town for Jakarta.)

6. Alleged graft puts official in hot water
The director of the Muarojambi Public Works Department had allegedly been responsible for irregularities in three projects worth Rp.788 million (US$83,829) which were awarded last year to one contractor. None of the projects have been completed. Collusion is suspected.

7. Former student activists frustated by reform results
Seven years after the fall of former authoritarian leader Soeharto, there has been little improvement in people's welfare and law enforcement, former student activists say.

Jakartass does not believe that all is doom and gloom. That these stories are in the mainstream print media and that we can openly criticise corrupt politicians and businessmen is genuine reformasi. What is needed, of course, is more action to go with the words.



4:30 pm |
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
  SurfAid Update

The arrival of a newsletter from SurfAid International serves as a reminder that there is still much work to be done in the aftermath of last December's tsunami and the subsequent earthquakes.

The SurfAid teams based in SurfAid's head-quarter offices in Padang and the Mentawai Islands, are all safe and sound following a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that shook both locations May 14th at 12:05 Indonesian time. The epicenter of the quake was just 50km west of Padang. There have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries either in Padang or Nias.

SurfAid medical team members in the field on board the Nauli - the boat used for emergency mobile medical clinics in the area - reported widespread panic. "We were anchored 50 meters away from Teluk Dalam in Southern Nias," said SurfAid team leader Angie Bexley.

"Everyone was onboard when we felt a slow rippling movement that obviously wasn't the natural motion of the waves that lasted three to four minutes. We could see people running on land. No houses fell, primarily because most of them have all been destroyed by the big quake in March. TVs got shaken off tables, fridges fell over. But people are incredibly frightened. We visited the village after the quake. People had evacuated up to the hills, but they have gradually been coming back to the village as fears of tsunami recede. This quake however has definitely re-traumatized them."

This earthquake is the third large trembler in the region in just over six weeks. The March 28 earthquake which measured 8.7 magnitude killed at least 600 people and seriously injured thousands more. Up to 40% of homes were also been wiped out in affected villages.

A second quake on April 11th caused further damage and forced SurfAid to move offices after large cracks appeared in the walls of former headquarters at Hotel Dipo in Padang.

Currently SurfAid has stood down from emergency response and is resuming public health and malaria prevention post-disaster programming in the Mentawai Islands, Nias, Simeulue and the Banyak Islands.



5:30 pm |
Monday, May 16, 2005
  Fortune favours the Baggies

Well, that was possibly the most exciting night's football all season. And it was the last. For once, TV7 did us proud, showing Southampton v Manchester United, another relegation battle, instead of the advertised Liverpool v Aston Villa. This was a genuinely gripping evening's football.

It was only ten minutes from the end of all the matches that the outcome, apart from Norwich's implosion, was clear. Every goal scored or conceded changed the possible outcome to the battle against relegation, or degradasi (degradation?) as the Indonesian commentators describe it.

The silence that met (West Bromwich Albion's second) goal told its own story, as, despite their best efforts, at that time Baggies were down. Then came the most bizarre of crowd reactions.

The fourth official held up the board to indicate that Keene was to be replaced by Valéry Mézague and pandemonium broke out in the home stands. Charlton, with an equaliser (by Jonathon Fortune) against Palace, had become West Bromwich's saviours.

TV7 showed us the pitch invasion by delirious WBA fans at the end of their match.

Elsewhere, Dave Jardine, noted Jakarta expat quizmaster, will be well-pleased that his prediction that his beloved Carlisle United would bounce straight back into the Fooball League proved true.

THORP to shut forever?

Down the West Cumbrian coast, on the Carlisle to Barrow-in-Furness railway, lies the Sellafield nuclear complex. I reported a week ago on my role as an objector in the Windscale Inquiry in 1977. Now comes the news that having over-ridden the objections and built the reprocessing plant, it may now be shut, permanently.

The owner of the Sellafield site in Cumbria, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, wants its main reprocessing facility to shut forever following a leak of highly radioactive liquefied nuclear fuel containing plutonium and uranium.

The move would bring an early end to the UK's reprocessing programme, which was conceived in the Sixties to provide plutonium for Britain's nuclear deterrent while recycling uranium for civil energy needs.


Bart Bugil's Expat Newsletter subscribers will disport knowing smiles when they read the Guidelines for Indonesian Motorbike Drivers.

For example:
I wonder if the author, Ken, has read the Indonesian Highway Code which was the second Jakartass posting in March last year.



5:00 pm |
Sunday, May 15, 2005
  Been there, done that

Thanks are due to Friskodude ~ who's currently in S.E. Asia but isn't coming here (why not, Dude?) ~ for pointing to this site which has generated the map below. Although I've now lived in Indonesia for 17½ years, and in the same house, I'm still travelling. Curiosity keeps this cat alive and there are enough 'what the f**k?' moments here to keep me interested.

Trivia fans of Jakartass may like to know that before coming here I've spent time in the following countries: Ireland, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Andorra, Spain, Morocco, the USA, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand and Fiji. That means I've been out of Blighty for a total of 25 years, give or take a day or so.

Jakartass' travels over the past 40 years

Paul Theroux has probably been to more countries than me, but his reasons for travelling are a bit more complex than mine.

"I travel to find obstacles, to discover my limits, to ease the passage of time, to reassure myself that innocence and antiquity exist, to search for links to the past, to flee from the nastiness of urban life and the paranoia, if not outright dementia, of the technological world."

He also writes better than I do, which is why I have a whole shelf of his books and why I save to disk any of his writings I find online. His visit to the rainforests of Colombia in search of yage is worth a read.

Yage is yajé, Banisteriopsis caapi: vine of the soul, secret nectar of the Amazon, the shaman's holy drink, the ultimate poison, a miracle cure. More generally known as ayahuasca, a word I found bewitching, it was said to make its users prescient if not telepathic. Rocket fuel is another active ingredient: in an ayahuasca trance, many users have testified, you travel to distant planets, you meet extraterrestrials and moon goddesses. "Yage is space time travel," Burroughs said.

Wow, man.

But Theroux didn't find it there.

Instead of eco-chic, ethnobotany, the rainforest experience, shamanism or visions, I had encountered child prostitutes, gun runners, blighted jungle, the place surrounded by guerrillas of the FARC; and the diminishing number of Secoyas seemed doomed. That village would soon be swallowed by the encroachment of oil people who were only a half-day's march through the forest. Perhaps this was meant to be my adventure, though I had not known it at the outset.

It seems that jungle trekking isn't what it used to be.

Back in February, I 'published' an account of a trek I made with Son no.1 through the forest of Siberut back in 1991. I also gave a link to The Selling of the Last Savage, an account of a trek, organised from Bali, in Papua in search of headhunters. I'd found this story on the Gadling - Engaged Travelblog which figured that Jakartass suffers from ADD, an accusation which still rankles, but once you settle into the rhythm of the blog, it's not half bad.

If you didn't read the article then, read it today in the Observer.

Everyone knows of Joe Grant.

He was born 97 years ago today and died nine days ago.
He was married to Jeannie, who died in 1991, for 70 years.
If my arithmetic is correct, Joe and Jeannie got married when he was 12.

Interesting guy. But, I hear you cry, how come everyone knows of him?

Because his creative ideas often put a memorable, identifying stamp on Disney cartoon films. These included the studio's first full-length animated film, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Lady And The Tramp (1955). He then went freelance, as it were.

He returned to Disney for Beauty And The Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995) and others.

Making generations happy is a hell of an epitaph. Lucky Jeannie.

Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Ma'am.

H.M. Good Queen Bess is stressed out. This is confirmed by the news that she is going to have her portrait painted by Rolf Harris for her 80th birthday.

I didn't know that Rolfing® structural integration has an unequaled and unprecedented ability to dramatically alter a person's posture and structure. Professional athletes, dancers, children, business people, and people from all walks of life have benefited from Rolfing. People seek Rolfing as a way to ease pain and chronic stress, and improve performance in their professional and daily activities. It's estimated that more than 1 million people have received Rolfing work.

The Rolf I first saw on TV when I was a nipper is multi-talented. This self portrait shows him practising 'structural integration'.

The Kiss

Thought for Foodies

Who'd have thought it? Pork Chocs ...

Despite the joke reviews and the fact that one other reviewer included them on her top 25 weirdest items these are no laughing matter. Yes I bought some out of curiousity and yes I ate them, as did my husband, and I have to say they make a tasty snack. Don't be put off by the jokes and comments about how nasty they look. If you are low carbing it and like pork rinds (I know a lot of people can't stand them) then you will love this snack. And the chocolate tastes wonderful.

You won't find them in Jakartass Towers. I'm a vegetarian.



11:30 pm |
Saturday, May 14, 2005
  Saturday Titbits

No folks, this headline is nothing to do with today's news that Indonesia's Artika Sari Devi, winner of Putri Indonesia (Miss Indonesia) in 2004, is joining the Miss Universe Contest.

The Soeharto government banned Indonesian women from competing in the international contest because the swimsuit competition in particular was cited as being against Indonesian culture and religious values. Criticism has somewhat faded - and Artika says she plans to join the swimsuit session.

It's also nothing to do with the Reveller's penchant for describing the lasses of Blok M.

No, Jakartass is nothing if not serious, but today there are other things to do such as ripping CDs, tidying up what I euphemistically call 'my office' and working out the odds of Charlton actually winning their all-important last match of the season against local rivals Crystal Palace, thus consigning them to the nether regions of the so-called Championship.

These are some important headlines worth reading:

Tommy Suharto's Appeal Drags On

Supreme Court chief justice Bagir Manan has placed himself in charge of a panel of judges considering former president Suharto's youngest son Hutomo 'Tommy' Mandala Putra's request for a judicial review of his murder conviction.

Manan said yesterday he was taking over the leadership of the panel and replacing all of its members because of rumours the judges had received threats or been offered bribes to exonerate Tommy.

"This has disrupted the integrity of the judges, because whatever decision is eventually reached, it will spark various assumptions."

New Police Chief Expected to Combat Graft

The next National Police chief must be an honest and influential leader, in order to combat the rampant internal corruption within the force, a legislator said yesterday.

"The police force needs a strong and problem-free leader. A figure with too many problems will not be able to improve the institution's performance," said Akil Mochtar, deputy head of parliament's Commission III on law, legislation, human rights and security.

He said incumbent National Police chief General Dai Bachtiar, who has held the position since November 2001 and is expected to be replaced in July, had failed to deal with internal corruption, collusion and nepotism.

Aceh Killings Continue Ahead of Status Change

On Thursday, the government announced it would end Aceh's one-year state of civil emergency on May 18, but said military operations against the rebels would continue.

Agence France-Presse quoted an unnamed military officer as saying seven members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) were killed in two separate clashes in Bireuen and North Aceh districts on Thursday.

It is suggested that the failure to withdraw the military and hand over security and order maintenance to the police indicates that SBY is not fully in charge of the TNI.



2:00 pm |
Friday, May 13, 2005

Aangirfan asks á propos my post yesterday if Permadi is opposed to Yudhoyono. To be honest, I don't know but I have looked up oldish news items and asked 'Er Indoors. She says that he would have garnered a lot of support if he had ever stood for the presidency.

Firstly, Permadi Satrio Wibowo, Permadi S.H . for shorter, or just plain Permadi, is best known variously as a paranormal, a psychic, a political soothsayer, an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) fraction (sic) member, a dukun, an outspoken opposition figure in the last days of Suharto and most recently as a lawmaker.

In 1995 Permadi was sentenced to a four-year jail sentence for blasphemy after allegations he called the prophet Muhammad a dictator during a seminar at the University of Gajah Mada in Yogyakarta, central Java. The seminar in April 1994 did not disturb the audience of college students. Permadi claimed that tapes of the seminar were "doctored'" and leaked by the authorities.

The government seemed to be painting itself as a defender of the Muslim faith, to the discomfort of many.

However, he first came to the attention of authorities after he predicted Suharto's downfall.

Further public accusations against Permadi surfaced in March 1995, shortly after a military leader he had contradicted accused him of political agitation.

His predictions, circulating in the form a cassette tape, ... apparently alarmed Lieutenant-General Soeyono, the Central Java military commander and soon to be chief of the general staff of the Indonesian armed forces.

"This is dangerous. That is why the police are investigating it," General Soeyono said. "The contents are not only a provocation but it is already a dangerous agitation."

In other words, Permadi was one of the numerous opposition figures jailed on trumped charges.

Until she became President, Megawati was seen as protecting the political legacy and philosophy - nationalism and marhaenism (based on the rights of rural peasant farmers) of Indonesia's founding father and first president Sukarno - her father. This was a politically expedient way of opposing Suharto, although any opposition to the then dictator was a risky business.

With her election, Permadi became a legislator. His record includes opposition to the declaration of their wealth by politicians. Legislators were given forms to fill in by the Audit Commission on Officials' Wealth (KPKPN), set up by the government as a means to eradicate corruption.

Using logic that is rare in Indonesian politics, he said personal wealth was "personal" by nature and such information therefore shouldn't have to be made public. The wealth declaration requirement was unfair, he said, adding that in any case, state officials would not make honest declarations of their assets.

Legislators from wealthy families with "old money" in particular shouldn't be audited, he asserted.

"Perhaps the officials who have to fill in the forms were rich before they became officials, so it's difficult to know if their wealth was the result of corruption or not. Those who should fill in the forms are those who suddenly accumulated wealth after becoming officials."

Yet, in 2002, Permadi was the leader of the 46-member team from the Finance and Development Supervising Body which audited the use of refugee aid funds disbursed through the provincial government from September 1999 to refugees from East Timor.

A year ago, Permadi was ready to accuse the military of being behind civil disturbances in Ambon. SBY, of course, has a military background, but he was the architect of the Malino Accord which produced a settlement of the three year long inter-communal strife, so perhaps Permadi was accusing Gen. Wiranto, another presidential candidate, of engineering a recurrence of the strife.

Earlier this year, shortly after the tsunami, Permadi declared that he viewed GAM's condition ... as being quite weak as is the case for other victims of the tsunami disaster.

Permadi was ... of the view that present conditions could be used by the TNI to make peace with GAM. "But if they don't want peace, keep wiping them out", he said enthusiastically.

Interestingly, the armed forces chief did not seem to agree.

TNI chief General Endriartono Sutarto responded by saying that it was not within his capacity to determine the TNI's position with regard to GAM. "Wipe them out or shake hands, or sleep together, it all depends on the political policy makers. I'm ready [to do as they say]", he said. What is certain according to Sutarto, is that they should prioritise humanitarian work and not an offensive operation.

In March this year, regarding the stand-off with Malaysia over the Ambalat islet, Permadi said that there was no need for Indonesia to hold diplomatic talks with Malaysia and said there was no ground for Kuala Lumpur to claim the area belonged to them.

"Everything is already very clear," Permadi said. "We find it to be unnecessary to have a dialogue with Malaysia."

My conclusion to the central question of Permadi's support of SBY is that he would prefer another president, but he is essentially a democrat and as such is an active member of the parliamentary opposition.

But then, what does Jakartass really know?



6:00 pm |
Thursday, May 12, 2005
  He was pleased to see me.

So much so that Suharto, or Soeharto if you prefer, was able to leave hospital a couple of hours later.

Whoops, sorry. The above photograph was taken on 28th December 2001. This one was yesterday.

Not everyone was happy yesterday. It is now seven years since the demonstrations and riots, following the abductions of activists and the killing of students by snipers. Their parents are still fighting for justice.

Lasmiati, the mother of Hery Hartanto - one of the four students killed in front of their campus on Jl. S. Parman on May 12, 1998, complained that four presidents had taken office since Soeharto stepped down, but there were still no signs that the truth behind the killings would be disclosed.

The director of gross human rights violations cases at the Attorney General's Office (AGO), I Ketut Murtika, said that the office was willing to resolve the case if there was enough evidence.

"Unfortunately, there isn't. The witnesses' testimony is not valid because it is only based on what they heard, not saw. It is also difficult to find people with expertise in human rights who can testify."

Murtika added that there was no clear regulation that could force military commanders to be responsible for their subordinate's wrongdoing.

Some argue that Suharto should be allowed to die in peace. Not all agree.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislator Permadi, who was a political prisoner under Suharto, said he could forgive the former president and held no grudge against him. But he said that was no reason to stop the legal process against Suharto.

He said it would be 'unjust' if all of Suharto's mistakes were forgiven merely because had fallen ill, as he had not returned any of his ill-gotten wealth to the country.

Permadi said he would not visit Suharto because he felt afraid to do so.



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