I'm in the Union, Jack
I am occasionally asked if I would take out Indonesian citizenship. I would like a more permanent residence visa, but my usual reply is 'no' because I'll never lose my Britishness. After all, my father fought the war for the likes of
I will, I hope, retain my fondness for real ale
, decent cheese
and Charlton Athletic
. Apart from the beer, these are the cultural icons I grew up with.
Here in Jakarta, I do my (little) bit to fly the Union Jack, and I'm not just referring to Jakartass. As a warden for the British Embassy, I'm supposed to assist British residents in my area if there are civil disturbances threatening our well-being. Of course, there isn't anything happening here which isn't happening much, much worse elsewhere.
I'm not a high living expat in an exclusive expat enclave or fancy apartment. With an Indonesian family to support, I dont live apart. In other words, Jakartass is as multi-cultural
as they come, presumably as Tony Blair would wish me to be.
I'm a bit boggled, therefore, by the withdrawal of the official Brits from face-to-face dialogue with Indonesians.
Today's Jakarta Post
has a box ad from the British Consulate General stating that from Wednesday 01 February 2006 their Visa section assigns responsibilty for the administration of visa application collection and distribution to PT. VHS Indonesia
who will offer a personalised service
and perform a number of routine administrative tasks on behalf of the British Consulate General in Jakarta
. For a fee of Rp.175,000 per application.
Presumably a few salaries have been saved, including that of a proofreader for their website.
The other, once major, British presence here is the British Council
. In November 2004, they officially hand-overed
(sic) their library to the Ministry of Education.As the library is hope to be one of the best learning centres, the ministry will conduct a number of interactive and learning activities such as discussions and seminars in the near future.
I haven't visited the library since it was moved from the previous HQ of the Council in the S. Widjojo Centre in Jl. Sudirman, but my spies inform me that certain books and videos seem to have disappeared, and we're talking prime artefacts such as the complete series of Fawlty Towers.
Another much valued service formerly offered by the British Council was its English Language Teaching Centre. The last teacher moved on in July last year, thus enabling the Council to focus its efforts
on facilitating the commissioning of teacher training programmes in some English Language Teaching methodologies
As George Bernard Shaw reputedly said, "Those who can do, those who can't teach, and those who can't teach, teach teachers."
Regular readers will be aware of the poor access to the internet here. The Council believes that its clients will be better served by online services
. That may be the case back in the UK
, although those who used computers at school several times a week performed "sizeably and statistically significantly worse" in both maths and reading
. There is no study I can find that states categorically that computers and the internet are a worthwhile substitute for face-to-face teaching.
Many of these changes were supposedly made due to security concerns, and a highly paid consultant was brought from Blighty for a year to effect the move into the Bursa Efek
(Stock Exchange) building up the road. It's a plush open plan office suite which is protected by sophisticated electronic devices ~ much like the old premises. There's a nice view over the police HQ, so I expect that was a consideration too.
According to my highly-placed local intelligence sources, the S. Widjojo was never targetted by J.I. or other terrorist groups, and why should it have been? It was mainly used by Indonesians seeking further education.
This is a service they are now denied, not least because the Council, in its wisdom, chose to move to the site of one of the first bomb outrages
The consultant did very nicely, thank you. He married one of the local staff and took her back to the sunny climes of Leigh in Lancashire.