Wednesday, May 31, 2006
  In The Time Of Madness ...
... we all behave in seemingly irrational ways.

In existentialist terms, I don't trust what I read or see in the media. This dates from too many years ago for me to compute when I was lying in a sick bed being tended by nuns in Beauvais, France. I was given four or five British newspapers to read and all had the story of a plane crash, but none could agree on the number of fatalities.

On April 27th I posted a review by Miko, a long-term reader of Jakartass, of Richard Parry's book, In The Time Of Madness. Richard, then the correspondent in this part of the world for the UK Independent newspaper, wrote about three distinct phases of violence in Indonesia's recent history: the ousting of the Madurese from Kalimantan by the indigenous Dayaks in '97, the 'abdication' of Suharto in May '98 and the events in East Timor from '98 - '99.

Miko's review generated a lot of comments and, such is the power of the internet, responses from Richard Parry, now based in Tokyo as the Time Newspaper Asia correspondent. He was kind enough to send me a copy.

"If you want to read it, you can, and form your own opinion. If not, it might serve to prop up a wobbly table leg somewhere ..."

Well, I have now read it and it would have to be a really appalling piece of writing to be used as a furniture prop in Jakartass Towers. It's not great literature but it is worth reading as a personal account of those Times of Living Interestingly. It's a travel diary padded out with good research: he acknowledges the writings of 21 other regional or local journalists and commentators. He also lists editorial help, erstwhile employers and editors along with family and friends who presumably gave him the time, space and advice to produce the book.

However, it is not great reporting and, to my mind, his account of his actions at that time betrays a lack of perception about the reasons for the build up of the resentment which led to those events.

"Lloyd Parry is brave. He encounters headhunters on the rampage."

But they weren't ever going to eat him, unless he too trampled on their cultural beliefs. The Madurese had, consistently, yet they too would feel that they were already victims in that they had been 'transmigrated' to a land populated by 'primitive' people by a distant central government intent on imposing Javanese values throughout the archipaelego.

In May '98 Richard was in Jakarta and witnessed the mayhem. And so did I and a lot of you.

Miko was disappointed that Richard Parry didn't "report what is happening and convey the scene on the ground in precise objective terms." To some extent, I am too. If you want to know about the emotional turmoil being endured then my diary of those days, with links to other personal accounts is online in my May '98 archives. As residents, we can be expected to offer totally subjective viewpoints

The Mandarin Hotel, just across the road from the (British) Embassy, was general HQ for the hordes of journalists and camera crews who had descended on Jakarta. I called in there every morning for breakfast, picking my way over battered aluminium cases and coils of slithery black cables to snatch what food was left at the buffet. Journalists, I reflected, have exceedingly healthy appetites. Sadly, their appetite for getting in close to the street action didn't seem quite so keen.

My impression, from the conversations going on around me, was that a lot of them were more concerned to find some local bigwig to posture in front of a camera and pontificate on what was happening, rather than get into the thick of the action and see it first hand.

M - a friend who hasn't read Richard Parry's book.

I had begun to feel nervous in my small, cheap hotel, so I moved to the Mandarin Hotel where most of the foreign press was staying. My room was on the eighteenth floor. From the window, late in the afternoon, dozens of columns of smoke were visible in every direction.
In The Time Of Madness p.141

It has been suggested to me that I should expand my account into a book. Well, thanks for the compliment guys, but it has been done for me. I wasn't going to go where journalists were expected to go, not with Our Kid (then only eighteen months old) in tow. I'm not a journalist and the only resources I now have are those provided by the internet. The only editorial help I have is mine.

So I can't improve on Richard Parry's book, which by a strange happenstance is the only 'pay' I've ever received for my blogging.


4:00 pm |
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
  I'm back .....
..... although it's no thanks to Blogger.

On Saturday I posted a review here of In The Time Of Madness by Richard Parry. Five minutes later, an expat friend called by to say that there'd been an earthquake in Yogyakarta, his wife's hometown and a favourite holiday destination for most expats.

Indcoup is another expat married to a lass from that part of the world. Do read his post.

Jogyakarta was the first town I spent much time in when I first visited Indonesia many years ago. Its attractions are many, but what makes the place really special is that its incredible cultural heritage is still very much reflected in the character of the town today. Here is a place where you can get into conversations about philosophy, art & civilization, and forget about the ways of the mad capitalist world.

My sentiments exactly, so I hastily took down my book review and posted roughly what you see below. Or tried to because that was the time when Blogger decided to bugger around. It seemed that they'd lost my template and my saved copy which I reposted was then also lost. Several times. I was offline for 24 hours and just when the Indonesian blogosphere was responding as best it could to the latest natural disaster to befall Indonesia!

Anyway, here's a quick roundup of related stuff.

SBY has moved the seat of government to Yogya to directly oversee the relief work. (The last time this happened was in 1946 (?) when the War of Independence against the Dutch was in full swing.)

Help Blogs
Obviously, it's up to individuals to help according to ability, skills, materials, wealth etc. If abroad, the International Red Cross, which is already active in the area and has launched an appeal is possibly the best option for your donations.

As Aangirfan comments, there are good reasons for not trusting the Indonesian Red Cross. But this is not the time for politics and/or Suharto bashing. That can be put on the back burner for a while.

Mind you, as Yosef Ardi has noted, there are some cronies capitalising on this tragedy to demonstrate how 'generous' they are.

The running texts of Indonesia's TV stations have apparently been focusing on the number of casualties and the amount of money donated by dignitaries like ... Kalla Family Rp2 billion, Prayogo Pangestu Rp500 million, Boy Thohir Rp100 million, Indra Bakrie Rp500 million, etc ... or the announcement from big companies in what they claimed corporate social responsibilities like ... Company A to rebuild the school, company B to rehabilitate the mosques and hospitals ... donates tents or boxes of instant noodles, tea, mineral water ... etc ... But I'm awaiting texts like ... smart guy donates a seismograph or scholarships for students in the earth sciences ...

I'm going to steer clear of frivolous blogging for a while. If you have essential information which needs networking, do email me and I'll post it here or on Indonesia Help.

Indonesia Anonymus also won't be blogging much for a while. They're in Yogya doing their bit. What's yours?

"Do find ways to help, no matter how small. It counts."


6:30 pm |
Sunday, May 28, 2006
  Big Quake in Yogya

3,000+ killed

YOGYAKARTA (AP): A 6.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Indonesia's Central Java province early Saturday, flattening buildings and killing at least 2,500 people, hospitals reported. Scores of other people were injured.

The quake's epicenter was close to the Mount Merapi volcano, which has been rumbling for weeks and sending out large clouds of hot gas and ash. Activity increased as a result of the tremblor, with one eruption coming soon after the volcano sent debris some 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) down its western flank, said Subandrio, a vulcanologist monitoring the peak.

"The quake has disturbed the mountain," he said.

In the wake of the Yogya quake, if you can, please link to Indonesia Help ~ the site Enda Nasution set up after the Aceh Tsunami. As before, there are a host of links to aid centres as well as news and views of the latest disaster to befall Indonesia.

Detik.com for internet updates in Indonesian.

BBC for internet updates in English, eye witness accounts and the map above.

Bugger Blogger
I've had major problems with Blogger who 'lost' Jakartass for nigh on 24 hours. I wanted to be more active in reporting/commenting on the quake; it would seem that other local bloggers had similar, related problems.

Being dependent on just one access to hyperspace carries obvious dangers in that our freedom to communicate is limited.

Thanks for bearing with me in the interim, and thanks to the Reveller for his help.



3:30 pm |
Thursday, May 25, 2006

Today being a holiday, I had a night down the Blok yesterday with my good friend The Reveller. I won't report the shillyshallyings on the grounds that I may be incriminated, but I will say that staying upright ain't so easy today.

Hence my heading and the following.

Most of us seem to like each other's lists and I figured that you may be intrigued /fascinated /bored (delete as you will) by the mailing lists I'm subscribed to. They aren't in any particular order.

What's Rattlin'
All the news and views related to music groups which emanated from Canterbury,UK, in the late 60s. Think Soft Machine, Gong, Caravan and the whole family of musos. I have about 150 albums and bootlegs of this music here in Jakarta.

Freecycle Jakarta
A group with the aim of recycling unwanted goods among its members. Its main achievement so far seems to be recycling emails.

Our Planet, a weekly e-magazine bringing environment friendly news direct to our inboxes.

Upstate New York Greenlights Revolutionary Eco-Megamall
After years of bickering and delays, local officials in Syracuse, New York have finally given the green light to the world's first green megamall. Developers have promised that the proposed multi-billion dollar entertainment and shopping complex, dubbed DestiNY USA, would run entirely on wind turbines, solar panels, fuel cells and biofuels while serving as a model for clean living and green shopping. The new mall would be the largest green real estate development in the world to date.

The Fiver
A weekdaily football-orientated email from the Guardian which can also be seen online in the Football Guardian.

"I just travelled all the way to London to attend Pele's book signing and arrived 90 minutes before the time only to see a line longer then a 1970s dole queue. 'Sorry, queue closed,' I was advised by Adolf Hitler's grandson, who apparently works for Books Etc. So off I trudged with not even a glimpse of the great man. I still can't understand the fuss - he wasn't that great in Escape To Victory."

RainForest Alert
Located in Perak state along the Thailand border of Peninsular Malaysia, Belum Temengor rainforests are a world-class wilderness with tremendous ecological, aesthetic and economic values including immense tourism potential. Sadly, this large and intact life-sustaining ancient rainforest marvel is now under threat from both legal and illegal industrial logging.

Belum-Temengor's rainforests provide the last refuge for at least 14 globally threatened mammals including the Sumatran rhino, the Malayan tiger, the Asian elephant, tapirs and leopards. This is the only place in Malaysia where all 10 of Malaysia's hornbills are found, flying in flocks of more than 2,000, something not found anywhere else in the world.

All About Jazz
A monthly email reminder to check out a very good site which is just as its title suggests.

Charlton Athletic News Bulletin
Of course.

b3ta is the group everyone subscribes to.

World Wide Words
is a wonderfully educational weekly email from lexicographer Michael Quinion. I like words. He likes them more and he likes more of them.

John Dutton found an item in The Suburban, a Montreal paper, dated 3 May, about forthcoming legislation that would ban smoking in Quebec's restaurants and bars: "Anna Gomez, a Côte des Neiges resident and smoker, also approves. 'I won't die if I don't smoke,' she said." Mr Dutton notes that immortality is one of the less-publicised benefits of quitting.

Having quit the evil weed just over three months ago, I was really heartened to read that.


5:30 pm |
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
  And the winner is ....

Actually, I did think it was going to me who got my special CD of MP3 sounds, including my compilation soundtrack for May 1998, because this was my screen capture: But then those good folk at Indonesia Anonymus sent me this: So, unless any of you have got one ever-so-slightly closer to 50,000, I declare I. A. worthy winners. The only problem, guys, is that you'll have to shed some of your anonymity. Otherwise how else can I get the CD to you?


9:00 pm |
  I'm too busy reading a new Greenpeace weblog about life in the Paradise Forests (which) are being destroyed faster than any other forest on the planet to post anything today.

This weblog is from activists working at the Global Forest Rescue Station (GFRS) (which) is the base camp for marking the boundaries of the Kuni, Begwa and Pari tribal lands around Lake Murray, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. Amongst the destruction, Greenpeace is working with communities to take back their land and to create a viable living from ecologically sustainable solutions.

The Rainbow Warrior is also in the region patrolling the waters on the lookout for illegal and destructive timber being shipped out of the Paradise Forests.

From this ....

to this .....




4:00 pm |
Sunday, May 21, 2006
  Eight Years Ago today, Suharto abdicated.

It can be argued that he is still pulling strings like a puppet master, even from his hospital sick bed.

Those of us who lived through those times will never forget. Books have been written and blogs have been posted. Mine can be read in the May 98 archive.

I will be editing, adding hyperlinks and illustrations as I see fit, but for now, as another working week dawns, they are ready for your perusal.


5:17 pm |
  Found Words

'Evidence of corruption in the immigration service is a matter of the utmost seriousness. It will be a body blow to whatever is left of the credibility in this area if incompetence is supplemented by corruption.'

Indonesia? No, the UK.

Limited Edition
The Philosophy of GoldVish is to manufacture each and every GoldVish cell phone as a masterpiece on its own. With Swiss craftsmanship and precision GoldVish creates on request every year a limited range of very unique customized cell phones of an unmatched level of pure luxury.

Very unique? Is that a bit more than almost unique?

If I were paying $1million for a communications tool, I'd want mine to be absolutely unique. Wouldn't you?

Jakartass is NOT for sale, but if I were, I'm worth $2,389,120 according to this site. Whoopie. Now I can buy an extra phone for 'Er Indoors.

(Thanks to Kappa for link.)

People are strange
"Like all hamlets in Agatha Christie's books and the village of Midsomer, something evil arrives and misery descends," prosecutor James Ward said. "Bottomley was no exception. In 2002, Jeanne Wilding arrived as a retired businesswoman. From then on, Bottomley became the hamlet of horrors and the hamlet from hell."

He said that three neighbours had needed treatment for depression after Ms Wilding arrived in the village, and that she was feuding with 15 different people in the area.

The dispute initially centred around an unruly clematis plant, but prosecutors claim that Ms Wilding is responsible for 250 alleged incidents over 16 months, including dumping dead animals, rubbish, dog faeces, glass and nails around the village, damaging neighbours' cars, and plying local children with alcohol.

She has also been accused of booby-trapping paint pots, dazzling neighbours' homes with floodlights, throwing compost at her neighbours and assaulting them with her wheelbarrow.

Apart from the neighbours playing dangdut music, there's little to complain about here.

Finally a reminder: Whoever sends me a screenshot showing (the closest to) 50,000 will receive a CD of Found (MP3) Sounds inc. Sounds of Living Interestingly. This latter compilation relates to the final weeks of Suharto's New Order and, obliquely, to the ersatz Chinese proverb, May you live in interesting times.

BTW. Those of us hoping that Suharto will be legally judged corrupt will be pleased to hear that he's feeling a little better this morning - the 8th anniversary of his 'abdication' - and doesn't expect to die this week.

So long as you're alive you can be pretty much whoever you want to be, but once you die, you can only be the person you really were.


11:30 am |
Friday, May 19, 2006
  Where have you bean?

There are a few Brits who wouldn't agree with the following ~ mainly those who live here with pembantus (maids).

I find this sort of thing awful - dumbing down food to that level. I think it's so disconnecting. It disconnects families. It disconnects communities. Everything now is so fast - we all demand things instantly, from instant internet access to instant food. Things like this have far-reaching effects. When everybody has to have everything instantly, where is the family? Where is sitting down and talking to each other? Where is preparing food together - even washing up together?

And what is Skye Gyngell (great name) upset about?

"Instant" baked beans on toast, a frozen, fused sandwich that goes in the toaster, (which) is to be tested by Heinz in New Zealand and if successful, launched in the UK.

I do agree with Skye. One of the great 'nostalgic' treats I have here is beans on toast (look and salivate!!) and Our Kid can cook them too. He likes his breakfast.

All you need to do is to take a half sized can of Ayam Brand Baked Beans, although, if you really insist, you can get Heinz for twice the price, open it and pour the beans into a saucepan. Heat them gently until near boiling. Of course, you could microwave them. At the same time, put a couple of slices of bread into your toaster. When done to your favoured shade of brown, remove, butter and place on a plate. Now pour on the heated beans.

Some folk like to add a sprinkle of grated cheese, but I'm quite happy with a dash of black pepper.

This is completed within five minutes. The notion of an 'instant' beans on toast is somewhat abhorrent to me, even if the beans are the upmarket Heinz variety. Where would the fun of cooking be, eh?

You might as well stick with that other standby stomach filler ......

After all, it takes just as long to peel open the top, to empty all four sachets onto the mesh of dried noodles, to add near boiling water and then wait for the dehydrated soya stuff to rehydrate and then for it all to cool down to tongue temperature.


6:00 pm |
Thursday, May 18, 2006
  Love God, Protect Creation

Over in the good ol' USA, the increasingly devastating impacts of global climate change seem to be the galvanizing force inspiring members of the clergy across the ideological spectrum to move to concrete action to save creation. The Reverend Sally Bingham launched a programme which encourages parishes in California to reduce their demand for electricity and heating fuel; (this) has grown from 140 participating congregations in 2002 to 400 in 2006. On a parallel track, it has spread to 16 other states and the District of Columbia.

"Our goal is to have an educated clergy, preaching from the pulpit so that every person of faith who claims to love God [is] committed to protecting creation," explains Bingham. With evangelical zeal, she noted that more than 1,000 congregations around the country have pledged to conduct energy audits and follow through with conservation measures.

Back in Blighty, Tony Blair has finally launched the programme he wants as his legacy ~ a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Blair purports to be a Christian too, even a creationist. And Blair said,"Let there be light." Unfortunately, he seems to have kept everyone in the dark about the cost.

Here in Indonesia, whilst local residents and, indeed the whole world, await the eruption of Gunung Merapi, the government pursues its quest to develop its nuclear programme which, like Iran's, will be for peaceful purposes.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Developing Eight (D-8) Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali last Saturday, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said that Indonesia had to develop nuclear power as an alternative source of energy, to the country from its dependence on fossil fuels. He said the government was examining proposals from several state electricity companies and state-sanctioned companies from Japan, France, South Korea and the United States, and would soon decide on a partner for building the nuclear power plant.

Well, alternative sources of energy exist here in Indonesia. Not far from Gunung Merapi is Dieng Plateau which has a geothermal power plant. Indonesia sits in the so-called Ring of Fire (see map); there is definite scope for developing further geothermal projects.

As the report also states, at village and island levels throughout Indonesia, mini- and micro-hydropower, solar energy and biomass renewable energy technologies need priority as relatively easy, low-cost development projects.

Cost is the factor which drives our energy choices; for too long the oil industry has had its own way. But, as Paul Harris says, the current American obsession is not Iraq, it is not NSA wiretapping or even the never-ending abortion debate. It is quite simply petrol prices. Americans are being squeezed at the pump, now paying more than $3 a gallon. It also undercuts the economic model of the exurbs, rendering commuting costs so painful that suddenly, at long last, living by the car alone is starting to become unattractive.

Thank God, I say. There is little political or cultural will in America to tackle the love of the car. But brutal economics might just achieve it. Whenever I see those petrol prices ticking higher I give a lonely little cheer.

And so we come back to God's creation - Nature. Here in Indonesia, with modern PV modules working in synergy with wind power and hydro power (where possible, from stream, river or ocean), and in combination with modern, efficient 12V lighting and appliances (even airconditioning), a home can be supplied with all modern comforts, from wind, sun and water alone.

Yep, as Indcoup says, if we use solar power, we have an energy system that's good for people and for the planet.

The outlook is sunny.


6:30 pm |
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
  It's good to note that, apparently, maybe, if you can believe it , that under intense international pressure the Indonesian government has virtually abandoned plans to convert large areas of ancient rainforests, prime habitat for the endangered Orangutan, into a massive oil palm plantation. The original plan called for 1.8 million hectares (nearly 7,000 square miles or 18,000 square kilometers) of mainly native forests to be converted into a mega oil palm plantation along over 850 kilometers of the Indonesia-Malaysia border.

In an abrupt about-face, the Agriculture Minister (formerly the project's chief advocate) last week announced only 180,000 hectares are now deemed suitable for oil palm development. Given long-standing objections by the Forestry and Environment ministries, the larger project is effectively dead for now. International protest in support of local rainforest peoples and conservationists is responsible for reducing the project's expanse by 90%.

What isn't so good to my mind is the recent agreement reached by the D-8 group of countries, including Iran and Indonesia, to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. You may well have read my arguments, such as here, against any further development of nuclear power until there is a 100% sure way of disposing of the waste and avoiding accidents.

Read Ahmad Qisa'i, a political science student currently in Delhi, for his thoughts on nuclear power as a green energy source.

Finally, read Yosef Ardi for details of how Minister of Social Welfare Bakrie did not get the contract to build a coal-fired power station in Cirebon. Instead his good friend Iman Taufik did. There are business connections with Bambang Suharto.



2:30 pm |
Friday, May 12, 2006
  Eight Years Ago Today

Student Demonstrations


At the start of May 1998, students were holding peaceful demonstrations on university campuses across the country. They were protesting against massive price rises for fuel and energy, and they were demanding that President Suharto should step down.

On May 12th, students at Jakarta's Trisakti University, many of them the children of the elite, planned to march to parliament to present the government with their demands for reform. The police prevented the students from marching. Some time after 5pm, uniformed men on motorcycles appeared on the flyover which overlooks Trisakti. Shots rang out.

Four students were killed.
Hafidin Rayan, 22 (Civil Engineering Faculty)
Heriyanto, 21 (Mechanical Engineering Faculty)
Elang Mulyalesmana (Architecture Faculty)
Fendiawan (Economics Faculty)

Riots of May 13-14

On the 13th of May there were reports of rioting in the area around Trisakti. President Suharto was attending a conference in Egypt and the military top brass went off to Malang in East Java to attend a ceremony. On the 14th of May, serious rioting took place in the Jakarta area. There were no signs of any uniformed soldiers on the streets.

Indonesian ethnic Chinese were the main target of the bloody riot, where allegedly Indonesian military members posed as ordinary people attacked their homes and allegedly mass raped the women. In the end, over 1,000 people died during these Jakarta riots, most having been burnt in malls and supermarkets but some having been shot or beaten. A government minister spoke of the damage or destruction of 2,479 shop-houses, 1,026 ordinary houses, 1,604 shops, 383 private offices, 65 bank offices, 45 workshops, 40 shopping malls, 13 markets, and 12 hotels.

Today, eight years later, there is still no closure for the families of those killed. The killers have never been brought to trial, nor have those who orchestrated the events been satisfactorily identified. I do not intend to conjecture the who or why behind these events. Those of us here at the time have our theories. All are agreed that on the streets the leaders of the looting and burning and the perpetrators of the gang-rapes were muscular men, wearing military boots.

Earlier this morning, SBY announced that he won't drop corruption charges against ailing former dictator Suharto, citing public anger over the proposal.

"The waves of opposing and supporting voices are getting higher and this could lead to conflict," Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters. "I have chosen to shelve this problem ... until the right time."

There are few who are ready to "shelve this problem". This has been a time to remember and I have posted my thoughts and writing from that time in my May 98 archives.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
  Waste Not, Want Not

I have just started a subscription to the Nuclear Waste News newsletter. This might seem to be a very boring thing to do but, hey, not everyone thinks so.

This is a very exciting time for a nuclear energy revival. The last 30 years have seen vast improvements in nuclear science and technology. Innovations have also come about in all phases of radioactive waste cleanup, treatment, transport and disposal. Waste facilities, like nuclear facilities in general, are now safer, less subject to human error, and more efficient than ever before.

Can you afford not to stay on top of new developments in this rapidly changing field in the U.S. and abroad?

How could I resist?

New developments, note, are "less subject to human error - safer and more efficient."

Not that there's any certainty shown. More efficient than Cherobyl can still be bloody dangerous, so there's still a chance that some nincompoop will press the wrong button.

Yep, this surely is a very exciting time.


5:00 pm |
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
  Second Coming?

I came across an expensive coffee table book today devoted to Indonesia's photographers. Unable to purchase it, I was in a library, and unable to purloin it, my pockets are too small, I merely made a note of URL of one of my favourite nature photographers ~ Alain Compost.

Unfortunately, that website is not online and his new one is under construction, but, hey, Thanks for your coming ....

So, in the meantime, read this article on the deforestation of Kalimantan which is illustrated with two of Alain's photos and enjoy this Green Peace slide show on Protecting Ancient Forests, which includes this Compost photo of a sun bear.

And when you've admired the photogenic scenery, pop over to the popular Underwater Photography Indonesia site

And when you've finished planning your next dive, pop over to Indcoup who's forecasting a Marine Holocaust planned by a British mining company. (Or is it Australian?)

Indcoup is really angry.

And so am I.


5:00 pm |
Monday, May 08, 2006
  How to appear stupid ...
.... without really trying.

There's an ad in full colour which takes up a third of the back page of today's Jakarta Post. I'm not quoting it because it's advertising a Bakrie company.


(if only the pole was higher)

Bakrie Telecom in its apreciation to our teachers,
is granting scholarship for teachers and providing
computer equipment complete with internet facilities
and esia's Fixed Wireless Phone to schools in Bogor,
Ciligon, and Serang to keep broadening and
heightening knowledge.

Bakrie Telecom wishes "Happy Education Day"
Gain more education and fly higher, Indonesia!

I'm quoting it because in spite of Bakrie's squillions, no-one could be bothered to proofread the ad before submitting it to the Post. Apart from equating education with flag flying, which may well be laudable although awkardly put, and discovering that on the Bakrie Telecom website that Esia (capitalised) is the trade name, spot the spelling and punctuation mistakes, note the incorrect particle and wonder who the ad is aimed at.

I think we're supposed to think that Bakrie is wonderful, which I may have been disposed to be if they had consulted, say, the British Council, which is full of university educated native speakers.

Except, temporarily one presumes, their website displays this message:
The British Council's website is currently undergoing maintainance.

Oh dear, chaps. Haven't you got a spell checker on your amazingly wonderful computer network?

I have long felt that if an institution wishes to demonstrate a caring commitment to its community or clientele, it should pay attention to the small details; if they can't be bothered to do that, then what guarantees are there that they give a damn about the bigger picture?

Consider these excerpts from the English pages of Batan, Indonesia's Nuclear Energy Agency.

The discovery of livestock-food supplement called Urea Multinutrien Molasses Block (UMMB) is another glorious breakthrough in livestock-food engineering. This food ingredients, which is able to stimulate sexual desire of livestock such as cow, buffalo, and goat, contains vitamin essential for the growth of such livestock. Research in food of livestock was originally directed toward animal fatting. It turns out that the UMMB has a special capability of stimulating sexual desire of livestock, and hence creating fast-breeding livestock.

After being trained and supervised for some time, nowadays farmers in Wonosobo produce by themselves the round-thin molasses blocks, called Cow Pills.

And ...

Northern seaside of West Java has been long recognized as dependable cropland for rice due to its vast area, spanning widely from Karawang to Indramayu. Even though many rice fields have been used for industrial estates, most farmers are still keeping their fields for rice plantation. In this place, the originating seeds of Cilosari rice - known as The Dragon Beard - were planted by the farmers in the neighboring areas.

Direct inspection to the rice fields and interviews with the farmers revealed that Cilosari rice variety is not only immune against the brown insects (wereng coklat) but also resistance against the attackful insects (hama beluk) - a type of insects that eats and cuts off the trunk of rice trees. Non-Cilosari rice varieties suffered seriously from these two types of malicious insects and resulted in the death of the rice trees and empty crop.

To give Batan its due, the Government Act on Nuclear Energy, Number 10 Year 1997, is actually in very good English and, hence, a worthwhile read. My only worry is that the act was seemingly promulgated With the Blessing of God the Almighty the President of the Republic of Indonesia.

The absence of an 'and' is worrying, although it should be remembered that Suharto was still president in 1997.


5:30 pm |
Sunday, May 07, 2006
  Pramoedya Ananta Toer 1925 - 2006

'Pram', who chronicled Indonesia's battle for independence against the Dutch in the Buru Quartet of novels composed in prison, died last Sunday at his family home in South Jakarta.

His writings, well-received abroad but rarely found in bookshops here, were always focussed "on the large landscape, the historical, social and political forces that came together to create Indonesia," said John McGlynn, the director of publications at the Lontar Foundation and a translator of some of his works. "No other Indonesian author has succeeded as well as Mr. Pramoedya in doing this. And no other author has been willing to sacrifice so much to educate his compatriots."

Except, I feel that Pram only preached to those who shared his viewpoint. The poor and disenfranchised are too close to the world he portrayed, a world that few had the courage to describe.

Although nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, other awards, such as the PEN Freedom-to-Write Award in 1988 and in 2004 the Norwegian Authors' Union award for his contribution to world literature and his continuous struggle for the right to freedom of expression best indicate his importance.

Following the downfall of Suharto, his nemesis, eight years ago Pramoedya continued to speak out against what he saw as the poor quality of leadership in Indonesia. Who will now continue voicing the concerns of the muted?

An era ends.


2:30 pm |
  Eras End 2

Today, tonight here, sees the end of two eras of concern to those of us from south-east London and both will be shown on Sky TV in the UK.

Unfortunately for Jakartass, it appears that only one will be shown here and that is the match between Arsenal and Wigan Athletic. There are honours at stake here ~ can Arsenal win and maybe get automatic entry into the early stages of the European Championship next season and/or can Wigan stay in the top half of the table in their first season in the top flight?

But the cameras will be focussed on the ground, Highbury, which will be witnessing its last football match because next season Arsenal move to a new stadium named after some Arabic airline. Mind you, I've never been to Highbury stadium; the closest I've been is the nearby tube station on my way to a gig at the Finsbury Park Astoria, then known as the Rainbow.

The game which will not be shown here is the one at historic Old Trafford where Manchester United entertain Charlton Athletic. There are honours at stake here ~ can Manyoo win and get automatic entry into the later stages of the European Championship next season and/or can Charlton finally beat Manyoo in Alan Curbishley's final game as manager?

The link between the two matches is geographical. Look at a map of London and you'll see Charlton on the Thames between Greenwich (pron. Grinitch) and Woolwich (pron. Woolitch), original home of Arsenal. It is possible to walk between the Woolwich Arsenal and Charlton in about an hour ~ I know, I've done it.

The link is also personal. As a lad before the First World War (1914-18) my grandfather was a fan of the Woolwich Arsenal football club. The club moved north of the river in 1913.

During the Second World War (1939-45), my father served in the Royal Artillery, originally based in Woolwich. Post-war, he found employment at the Royal Arsenal armaments factory as a cost accountant. And, when I was a lad, on Saturdays we went to Woolwich to shop at the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society.

By now you'll know that I'm a life-long Charlton fan and that one day one of the stands at the Valley will bear the name of Alan Curbishley. He took us from nowhere, or the grounds of other clubs, to a brand new stadium at our old home and the heights of mid-table Premiership football with games being shown worldwide on satellite TV. There may come a time when Charlton is a brand name with theme pubs around the globe, like Manchester Untited, but for now it belongs to 'genuine' fans.

As Curbs says of his send-off and the ovation he received from the fans for the final five minutes of last Saturday's game, "It sums up the club. They wanted to make it a celebration. The last five minutes, the way I was treated, will be a massive highlight. I don't think the club realises the goodwill they got from that. Up and down the country people know this is a proper club."

Unable to watch the match tonight and thereby to finally, albeit vicariously, say what I want to say in tandem with Charlton fans worldwide, let me say it here.



10:00 am |
Saturday, May 06, 2006
  Nuclear families, yes! Nuclear energy, no!

Deddy H. Harsono, the Public Relations Division Head of the National Nuclear Energy Agency, liked the article by Warief Djajanto Basorie which, you will recall if you scroll down a couple of days, I thought shallow and detestable. In fact, Deddy liked the article so much that he wrote a letter to the Jakarta Post.

While stressing the importance of safety and cost of nuclear power plants (NPP), the author described quite satisfactorily the reasons why Indonesia needs NPPs in its energy mix to meet the ever increasing electricity consumption.

However, there is a minor correction we wish to make. It was written in the article that, according to the chief of the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan), Soedyartomo, the oil-based fuel subsidy made by the government is enough to purchase eight NPP's from Taiwan. The correct statement by the Batan chief was "the oil-based fuel subsidy of the government is sufficient to purchase the same number of NPP's that Taiwan has".

Which is ... ?

My googling suggests six, or possibly four, i.e. less than Warief suggested.

What I also found out was that there is a very active anti-nuclear lobby in Taiwan.

In Taiwan, obviously there are no adequate places for final deposal of nuclear waste. Even for the low level nuclear waste, it may take 300 years to decay to the nature background level. The high level waste, the spent fuel, may need a hundred thousand years to decay to the nature background level. The current policy of Taipower for storing low level waste is to store them in the nuclear power plant sites.

Which leads me back to the UK where Tony Blair, rapidly losing his allure with the British electorate, believes more nuclear power stations will fill the energy gap.

Yet up at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, formerly called Windscale, they don't actually know what waste they've got.

The problems the UK faces in dealing with nuclear waste are not just about the real nasties in their pure forms - the plutonium, uranium and spent nuclear fuel which can stay radioactive for thousands of years.

In addition - because of our military history - the UK has a large number of different radioactive substances and it is difficult to be sure how these all react with each other and to other elements and conditions.

So while Finland - which is building another new reactor - has less than 30 different types of nuclear waste, the UK has 1,119, according to Nirex's latest radioactive waste inventory.

And some have been moved and they don't know where. In fact, Sellafield is now facing criminal charges!

(Nirex is the government-owned body in charge of setting standards on nuclear storage and decommissioning. It has a poor record of public disclosure.)

I'd be curious to know how Indonesia's Nuclear Energy Agency proposes to dispose of its waste. Sub-contract it to the Jakarta administration?

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Indonesia is a Country of Strategic Nuclear Concern, even though this document seems to indicate that Indonesia is already confident in its ability to operate nuclear power plants.

Indonesia is currently thought to be undertaking an ambitious nuclear power plant construction programme to meet its growing energy needs. While the perceived goal of the program is to eventually build 12 nuclear power production facilities, current planning calls for construction to commence on the first plant by 2010, with operational capability to be achieved by 2016.

Indonesia has no nuclear reprocessing facility at this time. Nor does it appear to have experimented in reprocessing operations in the past. However, with its well established nuclear research programmes it is technically feasible that Indonesia could develop the ability to reprocess spent fuel.

"Well established nuclear research programmes"?

That phrase has got me worried so I think it's opportune to investigate further. For example, did know that Indonesia has uranium mines? Did you know that Indonesia is currently a board member of the International Atomic Energy Agency?

Me neither, so here's a Jakartass Appeal.

Given that there is a strong lobby to squander several squillion rupiah on the provision of electricity through a process which is dangerous and potentially catastrophic - what if Indonesia were to become a pariah state like Iran or North Korea, a scenario considered by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (link above)? - then it is vital that Indonesians are fully informed about potential consequences.

The public has the right to know.

Although Jakartass has been and always will be an anti-nuclear lobbyist ~ a minority viewpoint by the way ~ I would value input from all and sundry on this issue.

Key Questions
(These must include the initial R&D costs, power plant purchase/construction, operation costs, decommisioning costs, reprocessing of the waste, storage of the waste (inc. for the next millenium) less the sale of electricity generated during the expected twenty years of operation.)

I know there are more questions. Please help me find the answers.


1:30 pm |
Friday, May 05, 2006
  Friday Follow Downs.

Apparently Vice President Kalla is not internet savvy so he relies on his secretary ~ "That's what they're for."

Given that underlings here traditionally only impart glad tidings upwards, that seems to suggest that we bloggers can criticise him with impunity.

I don't know if lantern-jawed Abdurizal Bakrie, the current Minister for People's Welfare, is similarly illiterate, but you might like to know that Bakrieland has a flashy Product Exhibition on at Lounge Klub Rasuna to go with its flashy website.

If you want to live in an upended shoe box (75sq.m) in Bogor and can afford Rp.250 million (c.$30,000) be his guest. Apartments in Jakarta are a little more expensive but then you are given a 24" TV, an i-Pod and a Nokia handphone as incentives.


Richard Lloyd Parry got a little bit upset with the review, by regular Jakartass reader Miko, of his book Suharto's Indonesia: In The Time of Madness. My comments didn't seem to help either but I do look forward to receiving a copy of the book.

Meanwhile, I have discovered that Richard, now the Asia Editor for The Times and the Foreign Correspondent of the Year and based in Tokyo, has a blog of his own in which he can post articles edited and shortened in the print version.

Thus I discover that he has written that drugs for serious illnesses have already been developed from jungle plants by scientists known as bioprospectors who draw on the traditional knowledge of indigenous people. But plant species which have yet to be discovered or fully analysed are threatened by logging and plantation companies as they destroy the forests for short-term profit.

Those of us who are appalled at the pure greed that threatens to destroy 'the lungs of South-East Asia' for ever, and all to house a few steroid soaked young people for a very short time in one of the most polluted cities on the planet (the Beijing Olympics if you're curious), must welcome mainstream journalists to our side. They still have a wider readership than we few bloggers.


5:30 pm |
Thursday, May 04, 2006
  Continuing Chronicles of Indovision

Having finally paid for my All Movies + All Sports + Assorted Crap package last week, you can imagine how dischuffed I was five days later to discover that ESPN, Star Sports, Star Movies and National Geographic were not going to be broadcast by Indovision as of May 1st.

Many of us assumed the worst of Indovision. Had they not paid the licensing fee? Were they going bankrupt, as Kabelvision is constantly rumoured to be? (Incidentally, Kabelvision doesn't reach Jakartass Towers. We live on the wrong side of the tracks. Literally.)

Then on the front page of the Jakarta Post we read the following:

The government is threatening to prevent international media company Star Group (owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch) from broadcasting in Indonesia, even though the company has complied with the demands of the information and communications minister.

"We are considering imposing an injunction if Star Group continues to maintain unfair business practices," ministry spokesmen Gatot S. Dewa Broto told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

He said the proposed injunction related to Star Group's decision to cancel a contract with Indonesian pay TV distributor PT Indovision, a measure considered to be unfair business treatment and which dismayed many of the company's subscribers.

"They gave us only two days' notice before we lost all the stations," said Indovision subscriber "Jakartass", who was particularly annoyed by the loss of sports programming.

Communications minister Sofyan Djalil accused the group of creating an unfair business competition by giving the distribution contracts of six popular channels -- Star Movie, Star World, Star Sport, ESPN, National Geographic, and (V) Channel exclusively to PT Direct Vision, another pay TV operator.

None of my colleagues have heard of Direct Vision so we wondered who its backers are and how big the brown envelope was. There has to be major collusion to deprive Indovision's 120,000 residential and 17,000 hotel rooms subscriber base of the FA Cup Final, the World Cup and this month's season of James Bond movies.

Getting the channels back, pending discussions, injunctions and payments - presumably both legit and not, for a couple of months means that I don't really have to blog about it all.

But then I wouldn't be able to give you the following unattributable info from within Star.

Truth to be told, I don't have a clue on the state on Indonesian play for our cable affiliates. It was explained to me once and I was amazed and dazed by the myriad of details involving who has rights to EPL, FA Cup, UCL etc etc ... and the number of cable providers and terrestrial stations. I think my mind switched off when I couldn't quite map out how the programmes are distributed.

My slightest acquaintance with any cable set-up has been with Kabelvision who sponsors that Saturday supplement that comes with your Jakarta Post each Saturday. With that, I got the impression that Kabelvision are the big boys in satellite play in Indonesia, and looks like I'm wrong.

A bit of sleuthing and - don't quote me on this ..... I have found out that Indovision and ESS .... It has resulted in ESS going more or less exclusively with Kabelvision and Astro (because we're also with Astro in Malaysia).

As for the poor timing of May 1, bugger if I know! I reckon it's poor form myself. I believe there is a fair bit of politics in this, but cannot comment further because I really don't know the facts and do not wish to find out. Which answers your question also on attribution ... errr, no thanks.

Astro? Has anyone heard of them here? Are they Direct Vision who have also helped another TV distributor, Telkom Vision receive the broadcast rights to the six channels?

As always with power plays, it's the consumer who gets screwed. I haven't done any research into who owns what because I can't stay online long enough to find out. And we know who owns the telecommunications networks, don't we. Yep, the same folk who control what we watch.

At least blogging is notionally free.

For now.


5:30 pm |
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
  I may be home late today.

So I'm posting this from the office. Until I read Yosef Ardi's blog, I didn't know why the toll road into town was empty ~ it had been shut, and why other folk were phoning in and complaining about demonstrators.

The demonstrators are complaining that the government is victimising them.

It seems that workers are upset with Vice President Jusuf Kalla's statement that government would move on with the amendment for the sake of attracting more investment. These workers are not dumb enough to read newspapers and they know exactly that labor problems only ranked seventh in various surveys about the 10 most pressing issues confronted by investors.

Praise the workers for their peaceful rallies so far! But for how long?

Not long!

A poor response from the government may lead to a bigger rally than ever, scheduled for Friday. That would be a combination of Monday and Wednesday rallies.

What a shame that I'm scheduled to be somewhere different on Friday and won't have an excuse to stay at home.


2:00 pm |
Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Introducing my grand-daughter as of 6.16am, Sunday 30th April (UK time).

And Baby Makes Three

Surprisingly impatient to enter the world, Katherine (t.b.c) was born in the corridor of Edgware Birthing Centre (most importantly, in the London Borough of Barnet!), after a mad dash from Hampstead at 5.45am. We made it a mere 10 paces through the front door!

Mother is doing very well, incredibly tired but happy, and stupendously brave - she managed the labour & birth on just 2 paracetemol (not by choice!)

Son No.1 and his lovely partner, Anna.

This makes Our Kid an uncle and 'Er Indoors and me grandparents. We feel very happy and a little bit older.


12:30 pm |
Monday, May 01, 2006
  I don't trust Indonesians

I don't trust the Brits either.
Documents obtained by New Scientist under the UK's Freedom of Information Act have revealed unsuspected problems with the country's ageing advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs). Government nuclear inspectors say they have uncovered weaknesses in the safety analyses carried out by British Energy, the company that runs the reactors.

Nor the Americans.
In a report (November 2003) on the potential for radiation leaks at Yucca Mountain, the Technical Review Board told the Department of Energy that the heat from the expected 77,000 tons of decaying radioactive waste and spent fuel would accelerate corrosion of metal waste containers DoE has designed for use at the site. DoE currently stands by the design, which is supposed to contain radioactivity for 10,000 years, but has not produced data proving its effectiveness.

Nor the Australians.
Greens MLC Ian Cohen says it is not good enough that ANSTO has failed to discover how and why one of its workers (at Lucas Heights power plant) was contaminated with radiation. "For a reactor to be operating in the heartland of suburban Sydney is crazy. Sydney-siders deserve a safe, clean, healthy city not one with a high-risk terrorist target on the edge of their backyard."

Nor the Japanese.
Japan is considering seeking help from the U.S. military after the accident at a nuclear fuel processing plant. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force's chemical warfare unit was ready to be deployed at the accident site but that it lacked relevant experience and .... U.S. forces may have the necessary know-how.

Nor the Russians.
The Carlisle (UK) evening paper 'News and Star' reports a 12-fold increase in thyroid cancer in Cumbria after the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago

Nor the Spanish.
The oldest operating powerplant in Spain, the Jose Cabrera power station in Almonacid de Zorita, will be shut down on April 30, 2006 (today). In 1994, more than 170 cracks were detected in the cover of the reactor vessel; the cracks were only repaired in 1997. Dismantling the station is expected to start in 2008 and completed in 2014 at a projected cost of $165 million, according to Spain's National Radioactive Waste Company.

Nor the Indians.
Kakrapara Atomic Power Station (KAPS), in the western city of Surat, is India's well-groomed nuclear workhorse and when it comes to controlling radiation leakage, KAPS is "our best station". That, it turns out, is bad news. KAPS may be India's prized nuclear plant, but radiation emitted from its reactors is three times as much as the international norm.

Nor the Iranians.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that Iran would halt all cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog if the Security Council imposes sanctions.

In fact, I don't trust any and every nationality which has nuclear power as an energy source.

I've said this before, here, and here, and here, and here and ....

I'll continue to rail against nuclear power as long as sloppy thinkers advocate the expansion of an energy source which is known to be hazardous and outrageously expensive.

There was an article in last week's Jakarta Post by Warief Djajanto Basorie, a teacher of journalism, about Indonesia's nuclear options.

I am not a journalist but I do try to check my 'facts'. For example, he suggests that a major leak at Windscale on the east coast of England in 1957 did not result in radioactive particles escaping the plant.

Oh yeah? Ignore the fact that Windscale is actually on the west coast of England, and note that an estimated 750 terabecquerels (TBq) (20,000 curies) of radioactive Iodine-131 were released in the accident, and milk and other produce from the surrounding farming areas had to be destroyed.

Now try to follow his arguments.

A nuclear power plant for Indonesia is now on the front burner. Soedyartomo Soentoro, head of the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan), says the nation needs 100 gigawatts of electric power by 2025. Four nuclear power plants would provide a total of 4 gigawatts.

So Indonesia needs 100 nuclear plants ~ (4x 25 = 100) ?

The most probable site is seven kilometers from the Tanjung Jati B power plant on Muria Peninsula on the north coast of Central Java. The site is in Jepara regency near Mount Muria, an inactive 1,602-meter volcano. The Muria area is chosen because of the relatively low probability of an earthquake occurring there.

Which is why the site is currently occupied by a seismological testing centre?

Geologists say Kalimantan would be a better site as it is less vulnerable to quakes. But as more than 60 percent of Indonesia's electricity needs are in Java, Bali and Madura, a future chain of nuclear plants will be built on and for these three islands.

Does this answer both my questions?

The article has, quite rightly, a focus on safety issues.

On the physical construction of the reactor, safety issues to watch out for are reactor vessel embrittlement, pipe wall corrosion and steam generator degradation. For Indonesia, an external problem would be earth tremors.

Two other safety concerns are post-power use. One is waste management. Spent fuel, nuclear fuel that can no longer economically sustain a chain reaction, is either reprocessed or stored. What is left of the reprocessing, however, is bomb-grade plutonium. This raises the anxiety level of major nuclear energy users of the highly toxic material falling into the wrong hands.

Ah, waste management, something that NO country has satisfactorily solved.

The UK government has been advised by an official panel to dispose of nuclear waste by burying it deep underground - the same solution it has already rejected three times over the last 30 years.

The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) recommended today that geological disposal is the "best available approach" for the long term management of 470,000 cubic metres of waste from nuclear power and weapons.

But CoRWM has highlighted the need for secure "interim storage" for one or two generations over "several decades". It said that there may be technical problems at sites proposed for deep disposal, as well as "social and ethical concerns".
NewScientist.com 27.4.06

"Best available"? "Interim over several decades"? "Technical problems"? "Social and ethical concerns"?

Do I detect a frisson of doubt creeping in?

Warief continues to argue that there are sound economic reasons for constructing nuclear power plants. I really can't be bothered to counter these but would point out that assuredly the only profit takers have been those involved in the initial construction.

So let's wrap this up.

Whatever the safety features and the costs investors propose in their bid, the government's immediate task is selling nuclear power plants to the public, particularly to the people who would have to be moved from the surrounding land of a proposed site.

Do you trust the Indonesian government to adequately 'socialise' its nuclear power programme?

Would you trust the Indonesian government to provide adequate compensation to those who would have to be moved? Have they ever?

Above all, do you, would you, trust Indonesians to construct and manage nuclear power plants? And secure the resulting waste products for the next millenium?



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