Saturday, March 31, 2007
  Gizza Job

I can do that ....

Toilet guide

If you are in eager to relieve yourself but fail to find a toilet in Wuhan, Hubei, you can ask a special toilet guide to show you the way. However, there are no free lunches. The service costs 3 jiao (3.8 cents) per time.

Special toilet guide has become a new profession in Wuhan The city has reportedly hired at least 10 such toilet guides. They are distinguishable by their red armbands. The special toilet guides, who can earn up to 10 yuan ($1.29) a day, mainly patrol the city's busy areas and scenic spots.

More than two years after I attended the launch of National Movement for the Socialisation of Standard Public Toilets in Indonesia there have been few signs of progress, except in Aceh. It may have taken a tsunami, but the World Toilet Organisation is building communal toilets in the province of Aceh.

The 13 locations (11 in Banda Aceh, Aceh Besar and 2 in Meulaboh) identified are in densely populated areas and communal focal points: schools, mosques, kindergarten, orphanages, community centers and town focal points.

Prior to the Tsunami, the sanitation facilities in Banda Aceh and Meulaboh mainly consisted of simple unlined tanks called "septic tanks" percolating human excrements and contaminants directly to the groundwater. With the rise in the water table, the "septic tanks" are flooded with ground water. This caused serious pollution of the groundwater, and many NGOs working in Banda Aceh and Meulaboh realized this could cause an epidemic.

And in Jakarta post-flooding?

Where are the communal or public toilets, even one like this, in this shithole of a city?

Could some of the 2 or 3 million enterprising yet unemployed folk in town set up a toilet guide service?

Please !!!


12:30 pm |
Thursday, March 29, 2007
  Grumpy Old Sod

Apparently, that is how some view me. Why else would they send me this link?

But, old or not, I think I have every right to bt grumpy. Not because England are not the world's best exponents of what Pele called 'the beautiful game'. Not at all because of that, oh no. In fact, all Charlton supporters are very happy because none of our players, who've recently shown tremendous commitment to our cause, were involved, even, in the case of Luke Young and Scott Carson, as unused substitutes.

Nope, it's nothing personal. If you live in Indonesia you have every right to be grumpy, grouchy, peevish, irritable and bad-tempered for any number of reasons.

For example, no sooner do we hear that the legislators in the national parliament have decided to not buy a laptop dancer computer for each legislator, than news emerges from West Sumatra that each Padang city councillor is being allocated one, albeit at a cost of Rp.20 million each, a full $200 cheaper than the ones originally intended for the greedy bastards in Jakarta.

The idea is that in having computers, there will be less paper needed, fewer erasers for typing errors and, according to local councillor Zulherman, "would speed discussions".

Really? There is no mention of technical assistance in the Jakarta Post report so presumably all the councillors are computer and internet literate. Presumably too, none of the e-documents sent to each councillor (and the bureaucrats responsible?) will be erased, unlike those in the Jakarta Post which remain current for only one day. (This is why I now rarely link to my main local news source.)

West Sumatra has a sad history of corrupt politicians. In 2004, the Padang District Court found 43 members of the West Sumatra provincial legislative council guilty of corruption involving the 2002 provincial budget. Not only did this verdict mark an important page in the country's history, but it could also encourage efforts to follow up corruption cases involving lawmakers in other regions.

Councillors know this and have organised meetings to discuss how to avoid the fate of their predecessors. In West Sumatra alone, hundreds of local legislators at both the district and city level have been accused of corruption, 43 of whom have been brought to court and found guilty and sentenced to average prison terms of 4½ years.

The prosecution of those 43 councillors came about thanks to the efforts of the local populace. I trust that they remain sufficiently grumpy to continue their search for clean governance and will question the need for yet another perk for their elected representatives.

Just because a decision has been made does not validate it and giving laptop computers to politicians, even as a loan, is not a good idea. There is too much scope here for access to pornography and computer games, none of which would be of benefit to the tax payers of Padang whose city government has introduced rules which are supposedly based on sharia law.


12:00 pm |
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
  Wednesday Witterings

Blogging Power?
Yesterday, following public protest, the House of Representatives leaders cancelled plans to give legislators free laptops. House speaker Agung Laksono deemed the cancellation was necessary due to numerous questions over the use of the laptops.

What, not the outrageous cost? Or the sheer arrogance of those who dreamed up the scam?

A few more readers' blogs.

Spew It All is the pseudonym of a history student in Melbourne.
When rumination and contemplation are producing enormous contents and the body is unable to absorb, the only way to keep yourself in sanity is to spew it all.
I'm glad s/he didn't choose the pen name Vomit.

Ming Yi proudly proclaims "I am an Indonesian" is a student of the Faculty of Law at Gadjah Mada University, Yogya and an infrequent blogger.

Devi Girsang is a medical student. Love reading, writing, traveling, shopping, chatting, and (mostly) sleeping. (She's) perfectionist (yes!), combination of sweet and rebel; friendly, polite, love making friends, however (she) can’t stand liars and hoaxes, allergic to bullshit, high-tempered, debate lover (sorry, can’t help it), and shopaholic.

IndoInside have written to me:
Our goal with this English e-magazine about Indonesia is to bring inside news to our loved ones abroad and all young with Indonesian roots.

It's a good-looking site, easily navigable, but you have to read the complete post - by either clicking the title or 'read more' link - if you want to leave a comment. (Thanks for letting me know, Tjok.)

Finally, I've no idea who's behind the following blogs and would be grateful if whoever is responsible for them would email me. In terms of news about Indonesia in readily accessible form they are going to be worth returning to.

Cempaka Projects

News on New Projects in Indonesia

Cempaka Nature
News, Subjects Related to Nature, Agriculture and Environment in Indonesia


General news or articles related to Business in Indonesia (A country in Transformation)

And back in Blighty ......

Don McPhee R.I.P.
One of the reasons I've always liked the Guardian newspaper is because it is a pleasure to look at. There are lithographic etchings to illustrate nature ramblings and there are photographs to capture what it means to be British.

Don McPhee, who has recently died of cancer at the early age of 61, was perhaps the Edward Hopper of British news photography. His extended obituary pays tribute to an artist whose visual eye in many ways defined the paper's appeal, a sense of recognition. A picture can truly mean a thousand words.

This photograph is but one in the slideshow found here


6:30 am |
Sunday, March 25, 2007
  Our Politicians Are Children

I was going to celebrate National Shutdown Day today and not blog, but then I checked their website.

We've teamed up with the National Laptop Foundation, a new non-profit organisation launching on World Earth Day, to help underprivileged children, the elderly and schools and doctors in third world countries have access to the internet, by recycling & refurbishing old unwanted & broken computers.

I can't find the National Laptop Foundation on line, but cursory googling found this site and this one which are about providing American children with laptop computers, and there are loads of other initiatives including clockwork and solar-powered computers for those who live in areas without mains electricity.

To me, computers are but a tool - an expensive pen and inexpensive post office. Mine is also a diary and an all-round information source, an encyclopaedia. It's my filing cabinet and notebook, my easel and photo album. It's also my sound system and I wouldn't want to live without that. I don't take it with me, in the same way that I don't carry my TV or refrigerator. I don't think I need a laptop as I can carry loads of files on my USB flashdrive or on a CD.

I can see that a knowledge of computers and how to work them is of great importance. I bought my first one, a Commodore Vic 20, some 25 years ago for Son No.1 to play with and learn on. He now has a company website under construction and Our Kid has a Friendster page and a computer he calls his own. Early familiarity with computers has a value.

The price of computers continues to come down and refurbished laptops, suitable for most people's needs, can be purchased in Jakarta for as little as $500, which is twice the price in, for example, the UK. I should, therefore, be applauding the news that the House of Representatives is proceeding with a plan to procure laptops for all 550 legislators.

I am somewhat surprised that they haven't already got one to complete their sets of electronic gadgetry - two or three handphones, palm organiser, iPod et al - but if a laptop computer will empower them as much as lap dancers, then go for it I say.

Or rather, would have said until I noticed the budget - Rp. 21 million (US$2,300) per unit. As the proposal also includes the provision of 'expert staff' to train the legislators, there is a strong indication that far from being a priority need, this is another scam being perpetrated at the expense of the populace.

Arbi Sanit, a political analyst at the University of Indonesia, said he doubted the laptops would improve the House's overall performance.

"Legislators behave like soldiers, whose necessities, from pants, food, electricity, telephones and foreign trips, are financed by the state, while their constituents are left malnourished, sick and uneducated," he said.

"If the House is committed to improving its performance, it should repair its operational system and internal rulings and set itself a minimum target of tasks to achieve. At the same time, legislators should change their mindset."

Ah, the mindset of children. Gimme, gimme. And like little children, once these legislators set their minds on something, a laptop Barbie doll perhaps, they are incapable of flexibility.

Speaker Agung Laksono (of Adam Air infamy) said here Friday it was impossible for the House to suspend the laptop procurement because it was already approved and included in the 2007 state budget following a House decision in October 2005.

So, if it takes a year and a half for decisions that benefit the legislators themselves to be activated, what chance is there for the rest of us, eh?

Rather than a National Shutdown Day of computers, perhaps we should call for one of parliament. But the cynics among you would say that no-one would notice. Why bother?


3:30 pm |
Saturday, March 24, 2007
  Ways and (Hidden) Meanings

The ways of Indonesia's transport industry are indeed mysterious.

Following the recent crashes and disappearances of aircraft, Indcoup has already highlighted one of the latest developments in the air transportation sector. That the powers-that-be have 'traditionally' been Javanese is well known. What is encouraging is that the headhunting for the new head - what else? - of the Directorate-General for Indonesian Air Transportation should have been conducted on an island, Papua, which depends on air transport more than the nouveau riche of Java who have had the 'benefit' of budget airlines for a few years.

Of course, public relations are at an all time low, in spite of so-called audits of the airlines. It's little wonder that Indonesia's bookshops report a resurgence in the sales of Erika Jong's masterpiece, Fear of Flying, originally published in 1973.

A team set up by the government to evaluate transport safety following the disappearance of an Adam Air jet carrying 102 people in January has recommended that airlines found to have violated safety standards be shut down. Budhi Muliawan Suyitno, the director general of civil aviation at the transport ministry, said 20 aviation companies had been put into three rating classes with the lowest batch for airlines that only meet minimal standards of safety.

Actually, as reported in the Jakarta Post, none were in the top class and the seven in the bottom class, including Adam Air, have been given three months to get their act together.

Getting our heads out of the clouds and coming down to earth, it's good to read a scathing editorial in the Post.

Jakarta's ... administration must be realistic and acknowledge that the core problems haunting this city's traffic situation have yet to be properly addressed.

News has now reached Jakartass of further innovations in the transport industry. Rather than shouting about monorails, subways, more Busway routes and electronic road pricing, as is the usual custom of the City Government, a feasibility study into a new form of environmentally-friendly road transport is being conducted on the outer island of Sumba where this photograph was taken.

Given Indonesia's rapidly depleting oil reserves and the high unemployment rates here, Jakartass is pleased to note that workers at Pertamina petrol stations will be offered alternative work.


1:30 pm |
Thursday, March 22, 2007
  March 22nd

Originally, Jakartass was set up as an attempt to improve my writing style, which inherently means thinking. So, it’s a diary of sorts and I wrote: Your mother may have told you that it’s not the done thing to read others’ diaries, but in so far as Jakartass is concerned, my life is an open book. I hope you enjoy the read.

And some do. I'm always grateful when others online deem Jakartass worthy of a permanent link. But why? is my occasional cry. Like a tramp panhandling to raise money for a $ex change op, I sometimes beg to differ.

Check these out and maybe you will see what I mean.

Makara Futsal Club
You will be pleased to note that although I get an honourable mention, my portrait is not among those on display.

Stainless Steel could very well be the metal of the 21st Century. Its beautiful shiny lustre and ability to combat corrosion, with the fact it is 100% recyclable, make it the man-made metal whose time has come. Less than a century old, stainless steel has become an integral part of our everyday life.
Yep, that's Jakartass - an integral part of (y)our everyday life.

Nugy Blog
Gold, E-commerce, Career & E-book WELCOME TO OUR WEBSITE.... In here we will guide you step by step to become FINANCIAL FREEDOM..... FREE of DEBT and FREE of ROUTINE DAILY JOB This will including how we can have EARLY RETIREMENT.
Yes please, yes please ~ except it's just a bit too late for me.

A regular reader here is Senopati Wirang. He is a seeker of intelligence, which begs the question of why he comes here. His blog intel oh intel ... is in Indonesian apart from this Disclaimer Notice: All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed in this blog are my own. This is not necessarily reflect any official or views of Indonesian Intelligence Agency or any other Indonesian Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying Indonesian Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.
A bit like Jakartass then.

Living La Vida Loca
Sketch book, Interesting findings from internet, Daily ramblings..all wrapped into one.
Only a little bit like Jakartass then.

Kappachan has largely given up writing in English but she remains a regular reader here.

Papa Doh blogs in Indonesian from Sidoarjo. I hope he can continue to post local news about Lapindo's malfeance.

Radon Dhelika also blogs in Indonesian, but from Singapore. Both eye and brain pleasing.

has a feeds page with digests of posts from her favourite sites. Jakartass is in interesting company.

Anyone anywhere who wants to get the flavour of Paris could do no worse than check out Le Spectateur , a Malaysian in France who thinks and then forgets. This has been on my blogroll for quite a while.

Paris has long been one of my favourite cities, one that I'll never forget. (Gilda, ça va bien?) Why isn't there an equivalent blog about Jakarta? One with a great layout and cool photos and a guide to the good flea markets, le Metro, the bread shops, and the public transport ..... oh!

Tutu Tupai is, as far as I can make out, a street artist, although he/they may be a collective. Most cities are basically shitholes in their seeming anarchy, with all kinds of pollution and chaos hiding whatever beauty there may be. I've long advocated murals and carefully designed graffiti for bare cement walls and this site is a record of part of that artistic movement.

Oh, and he hasn't given me a link but I think he deserves one.


9:00 am |
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
  March 21st

Every so often, we bloggers give ourselves a pat on the back and set about lauding (laundering?) our achievements. That, of course, is the main function of the blogosphere. Naturally you will disagree with such pomposity but given that today is the third anniversary of Jakartass, I think I'm allowed to feel a little smug. I've posted nigh on 1,000 snippets and articles, and I'll let you know when that magic figure arrives, probably next month.

This seems to be a good time to assess 'where I'm at', so here are some stats taken from the Top One Hundred Referrers (from a total of 3180) which I hope will tempt you to explore other sites. Some 30672 visitors (55.63%) are referred by websites and some 24336 (44.13%) arrive having googled something I wrote. As this total is 55,008 and is at variance with this page which shows a total of 81587 unique visits since I set up this stats account two years ago, don't take the following too seriously.

Top Topics
Mainly thanks to a link from Priyadi in Indonesia who contributed 1,364 hits (4.74%) and Jeff Ooi in Malaysia (1,323 - 4.31%), plus a few specialist forums (785 - 2.56%), some 4,600 have read my post on Adam Air's 'couldn't give a damn' approach to the public.

Until that recent disaster, Charlton Athletic were the most popular topic. With 1664 hits (5.42%) the aggregator Forever Charlton is my top football referrer. However, in second place is one of my daily reads thanks to its general good humour and optimism, the blog of Frankie Valley which has so far contributed a whopping 880 hits (2.87%).

Number 3 is Indonesian Playmate, Tiara Lestari with 378 referrals (1.57%) , thus going some way to proving Indcoup's theory that tits make hits.

Expats in Indonesia
Indcoup, with 3830 hits (12.48%) is way ahead of The Reveller (1212 - 3.96%). Both are friends and former colleagues. In third place is Oigal (452 - 1.49%) who I've never met but hopw to share a Bintang or two with someday.. Another ten expat bloggers in Indonesia contribute 1576 (4.48%), for a grand total of 6,618 referrals (22.41%).

Indonesian Bloggers
Way ahead of everyone in this category is Priyadi with 2,770 (9.03%) referrers here. In second place is Yosef Ardi with 836 (2.72%). In third place is Tiara Lestari (see above). Another twelve local bloggers have contributed 1,330 visits (4.11%) for a grand total of 5,592 referrals (18.34%).

Bloggers in other countries
Apart from the one link from Jeff Ooi - see Topics above - most of the referrals from abroad are mutual exchanges. Thus Madame Chiang in the Philippines, Chris Myrick in China, The Swanker in Australia, and serial blogger Aangirfan, a collective of nuns in Monaco (eh?), offer a regular dripfeed of visitors (about 0.75% each), for a grand total of 2310 referrals (8.19%), including Jeff Ooi.

There are many visits to Jakartass from feeds and aggregators, such as, Blog Indonesia, Bloglines, Blogwise, BlogFriends and Expat-Blog. These total 3190 referrals (8.23%).

The other 43% have drifted in because of something I wrote - such as "Paul Schole's penis". I know, don't ask.
I have few conclusions to make from all this, but I am pleased that my readership is eclectic. There is no way that I will ever be fully assimilated into Indonesia, even if I take citizenship, but that I'm not just catering to expats is rewarding.

My next post will include links to some surprising sites which will demonstrate that I cater to a broad church.


7:30 am |
Sunday, March 18, 2007
  Justice is truly blind

You're the family's breadwinner and you've lost all your material possessions and the means for replacing them, maybe because the plane you were on crashed and you have to spend the rest of your life as paraplegic.

Or maybe, to cut costs, an oil company did not take every recognised precaution whilst drilling and released the pent up power of a mud volcano which destroyed your home and industry.

You would expect compensation, wouldn't you? Whether it was directly from the company responsible or their insurance company is of little matter to you - it's the welfare of your family which is paramount.

Now suppose that you've been sentenced to life in prison for murders (or terrorist outrages) you didn't commit. Whilst a life in prison is marginally better than the death sentence if you're truly innocent, you've still lost your family and you cannot support them.

Now imagine that three, twelve, eighteen or even twenty years later you are free after your legal team and friends outside have campaigned for your release and a series of trials have confirmed that you were wrongfully convicted.

What a relief, eh?

Well, not quite. In the UK, once you have been financially compensated for your time away from normal society you are faced with a horrendous bill, but not from your lawyers who were probably recompensed through the legal aid system. What you must pay is a sum for the "living expenses" you incurred in prison.

British law lords have said that the deduction should not be seen as board and lodging, but as expenses prisoners would have had to pay from their earnings if they had been free.

This week, Vincent and Michael Hickey lost their battle for full compensation for their wrongful conviction in 1979 for the murder of newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater. It has taken ten years since their release for this petty yet crucial legal precedent to be set. For 18 years, the Bridgewater Four were, to put it bluntly, kidnapped by the British state.

The Birmingham Six also served eighteen years and more for a crime they did not commit, and will also lose part of their justly awarded compensation.

Anyone who has spent a couple of decades inside for a crime they did not commit, or been vilified as a bomber or a child killer while in jail, will say that no amount of money will ever compensate them for the damage and time.

But if there is a logic to deducting B&B expenses from a wrongly convicted person, why should it stop at the costs of board and lodging?

Why not indeed? And why restrict this to the innocents? Give each released prisoner a bill for services rendered inside. Better yet, charge every prisoner for meals, laundry, and for access to the exercise yard whilst they are in society's custody.

Here in in Indonesia, there are already 'special' charges for special arrangements. This is how a Bali bomber can get hold of a laptop computer to plan more outrages, and it is commonly known that the bigger drug rings are organised inside.

And in China, relatives get charged for the bullet that executes their loved ones.

So, penal systems can be operated by market forces. Imprison those who can afford to pay and execute the rest. Or better yet, hound them to death.

Too many miscarriages of justice take place worldwide. You may be familiar with the film In The Name Of The Father, an emotive account of the Guildford Four.

For the four people who had lost their youth, a personal trauma of equal intensity lay in store. As Gareth Peirce, Gerry Conlon's solicitor, put it: "They come out with no money and no counselling. They have no references, it's difficult to open a bank account, you can't get a mortgage. You don't belong."

Little things - the pace of life and the gadgetry invented since 1974 - caused panic. They found the noise of traffic and crossing the road frightening. "You're inadequate, you've no skills," said Conlon.

But the most serious effects of 15 years in prison, most of them in category A, was psychological. Three years ago Adrian Grounds, a psychiatrist at the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge, examined Conlon and four of the Birmingham Six who were released in 1991. He found that they were suffering from irreversible, persistent and disabling post-traumatic stress syndrome. He compared their mental state with that of brain damaged accident victims or people who had suffered war crimes, he said.

Spare a thought for the family of Sally Clark.

Sally, aged 42, was released in 2003 having been wrongfully imprisoned for more than 3 years, falsely accused of the murder of her two sons. Sadly, she never fully recovered from the effects of this appalling miscarriage of justice.

She was found dead at her home on Friday.


12:30 pm |
Friday, March 16, 2007
  Living In Cloud Cuckoo Land

Playboy Editor in Indonesia Found Guilty
.... Protesters Call for Death Sentence.

Eh? The Indonesian edition of the magazine .... did not feature nudity and was not as risqué as other magazines on sale in Indonesia.

More than 150 members of the Indonesian People Forum (FPI) said Erwin Arnada, the editor of Playboy Indonesia, should die for his crimes, chanting "hang him, hang him."

So what would they shout if Playboy did have tit pictures? "Hang, draw and quarter him"? "Boil him in oil."?

It's surely time these FPI lot grew up and, at the very least, learnt how to masturbate. They are just a bunch of wankers after all.

Aren't there more important things to focus their energies on? Such as ....

Risk Free Locations

The National Coordinating Agency for Land Survey and Mapping (Bakosurtanal) thinks it has come up with a wonderful wheeze to earn a few rupiah. Using geo-spatial technology and data in a business plan "can guarantee that all aspects that could hamper the continuation of a project in a region will be included and considered". At least, that is what the Bakosurtanal head, Rudolph Matindas, is reported, in the Post, to have said on Wednesday.

The use of such technology has apparently been useful in disaster mitigation in Aceh and Nias, for the mapping of borders, and a survey of evacuation routes around Mt. Merapi in Central Java. However, other bureaucrats criticise the agency for not co-ordinating enough with their institutions.

The idea of siting your business in a risk-free location is obviously a good one, so let's hope that Bakosurtanal does get its act together. Meanwhile, as a public service Jakartass is pleased to offer investors the following map based on nearly twenty years of experiencing life, risks and all, in Indonesia.
Somewhere in this beautiful country, possibly hidden in the haze, is Sumatra where, amidst the frequent earthquakes, landslides, floods and the occasional volcanic eruption, some good news has emerged.

The call of a Sumatran Ground-cuckoo Carpococcyx viridis has been recorded for the first time, giving conservationists further encouragement in efforts to save the elusive bird from extinction. The recording was made from a lone ground-cuckoo, brought to conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) after being trapped by local hunters.

“We were extremely lucky to have recorded the bird’s unique call,” said Firdaus Rahman, of WCS’s Indonesia Program. “Our team will use the recording to hopefully locate other Sumatran Ground-cuckoos, and to eventually secure their protection.”

You can help, too. Listen to its call and try and locate it on the map above.


6:00 am |
Thursday, March 15, 2007
  More Questions, Bloody Questions

Yet another survey of expats has been published, but this one doesn't personally affect me. I wasn't asked because I'm not an Asian expat, I'm European. And this one is conducted annually by ECA International which is in the self-perpetuating and lucrative business of servicing multi-national conglomerates.

When an employee is sent on an international assignment, the differences the expatriate and family will experience and the impact on their lifestyle is often compensated for as part of the remuneration package. ECA's location ranking system measures the quality of expatriate living conditions in 240 locations around the world and assesses the level of difficulty the expatriate will experience in adapting to a new location.

Naturally, you have to pay but how much is subject to the following: Membership is subscription based, but some products and services are available to non-members. Please contact us providing details of your requirements and someone will get back to you to discuss your needs.

So you'll have to take my word and that of the Jakarta Post that ECA has done a good job in reporting that Singapore is considered to be the best place for Asian expats to stash their cash. I presume that's why the city state is rated above both Basel and Geneva in Switzerland.

Singapore may have press and political restrictions, but that's of little concern to businesses seeking to relocate there. After all, the city state is working to improve its image as a place for fun and entertainment, with new restaurants and bars springing up and two multi-billion dollar casinos on the way.

Indonesian businessfolk may also prefer Singapore because there isn't yet an extradition treaty between the two countries. Besides, here there is a lack of casinos with the slight risk of prosecution for corruption. Without access to the full data, we can only hazard a guess as to where Jakarta is in the survey of 254 locations worldwide.


Another survey is reported today in the Jakarta Post. Given that it was conducted by the 'respected', i.e. often quoted in the local mass media, Indonesian Survey Circle (Lingkaran Survei Indonesia), I would have expected the results or a press release about it online. But no, there is nothing more recent than a poll from December last year purporting to show that Vice President Josef Kalla won't become President in 2009 because he's not Javanese. And the previous one leads to very strong misgivings: The Perception on the Aids for Yogyakarta Earthquake Victims. Do these people have a hidden agenda?

Today's poll apparently reveals that the party of the last president, Megawati Soekarnoputri, PDI-P is now the most popular, with Golkar, now headed by Kalla and once Suharto's vehicle of faux electoral legitimacy, down in second place.

The Post makes a great song and dance about all this, suggesting that her party's support, 22.6%, up from 18.43% at the 2004 General Election, is a reflection of its oppositional stance in parliament. Maybe so, and few would say that they are experiencing a better life under SBY. But what the Post neglects to mention is that SBY's Partai Democratik has more than doubled its support, up to 16.3% from 7.45%.

Finally, here's one of another set of questions, a regular feature in the Guardian of the week's weirdest news stories. Personally, I think the inclusion of this particular question is weird; as anyone who lives here can tell you, all the suggested scenarios are feasible.

Why are the Indonesian police threatening to sue the cigarette maker PT Djarum?
A For portraying the police as drug addicts in a poster campaign.
B For saying police don't enforce laws on the selling of tobacco to children.
C For portraying police as sleeping on the job in adverts.
D For saying that police officers are their best customers.


11:00 am |
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

At last, and in response to a letter writer in today's Jakarta Post who asks for some good news, here it is. Indonesia is no longer alone at the bottom of Asia's corruption table.

It's now second from bottom!

The survey, by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), is a matter of perception. This is partly because it's not actually online for those of us who aren't subscribers and the cost of a subscription is US$575 per year for on-line access to one country, obviously way beyond my means. Or needs.

Also, the survey was conducted on (only?) 1,476 expatriates in Asia from January to February. In my personal, first-hand, experience, corruption increased in this period, yet I wasn't asked for my views. This may be because I'm not classified as a businessman and intellectual bloggers aren't considered to be political or economic risks. Maybe too, these results are skewed because of the feel good factors of post-Christmas and pre-Imlek euphoria.

Have a look at last year's figures for a more detailed comparison.

Singapore is still top, up from 1.3 to 1.2.
Hong Kong is up to second, with a score of 1.87 from 3.13.
Japan fell from second to third with a 2.10 rating.
Macao remains 4th, albeit down from 4.78 to 5.11.
Taiwan is up to 5th with a dramatic leap of .32 from 5.91.
Malaysia remains 6th, but less trusted with a score of 6.25, down from 6.13.
China is now 7th, up one place, with a score of 6.29
South Korea, to their horror, fell from 5th to 8th with a score of 6.30, down from 5.44.
India is down the rankings at 9th but up on its score of 6.67.
Vietnam is up a bit at 10th with a score of 7.54.
Indonesia and Thailand both received scores of 8.03 out of 10, equal 11th.
And propping up this list of infamy come the Philippines with a score of 9.40.

Stats are really exciting, aren't they? Oh.

"If you have knowledge of good and bad, then logically you know that corruption is bad.
But in Indonesia, sometimes corruption is considered a good thing ..."
- Emha Ainun Najib, preacher and poet

What is perhaps more relevant is the perception of the public, and another piece of research conducted last year makes much more interesting reading, not least because it's free. Published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, and written by Benjamin A. Olken, it is entitled Corruption Perceptions vs. Corruption Reality.

This paper examines the accuracy of beliefs about corruption, using data from Indonesian villages. I find that villagers’ beliefs do contain information about corruption in the road project, and that villagers are sophisticated enough to distinguish between corruption in the road project and other types of corruption in the village.

The magnitude of their information, however, is small, in part because officials hide corruption where it is hardest for villagers to detect. This may limit the effectiveness of grass-roots monitoring of local officials. The findings illustrate the limitations of relying solely on corruption perceptions, whether in designing anti-corruption policies or in conducting empirical research on corruption.

So, don't trust all you read.

Except, of course, for the plain, uncorrupted truth as brought to you by Jakartass.


10:30 am |
Monday, March 12, 2007
  Little Things
........ please little minds.
(And, as my granddad used to say, little pants fit little behinds.)

Don't spoil a ship for a happerth of tar, is another one he said often, but I'm not going to spoil this polemic by trying to explain its historical significance.

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. Substitute cents and dollars or ringgit, and I'm sure you'll get the point. Think pointillism, wherein the whole depends on the combination of tiny dots and the spaces in-between.

Pointillism is a style of painting in which small distinct points of primary colors create the impression of a wide selection of secondary colors. The technique relies on the perceptive ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to mix the color spots into a fuller range of tones.

Color television receivers and computer screens use tiny dots of primary red, green, and blue to render color, and can thus be regarded as a kind of pointillism.

So every little thing counts for something, and, if you fancy yourself as a bit of an artist you can practice it here.

On Thursday I went up to Mangga Dua to my computer consultants and they erased, literally, the dirt from a connection and I then went in search of a power supply adaptor for the external hard drive I keep my collection of music on. Power was going in but not coming out.

In the entire mall devoted to electronic goods, not one adaptor could be found, not one. The solution? Buy a new casing because that had an adaptor, a different one. And the cost was out of all proportion to my basic need.

Why? I asked. If a shoe lace snaps do I have to buy a new pair of shoes? If a button comes off my shirt, should I throw my shirt away?

The simple answer is yes; taps (faucets to my American readers) regularly leak, but you have to buy a new one rather than taking it to bits and inserting a rubber washer. But I do know a guy on a pedestrian bridge in West Jakarta who sells laces.

My father had a row of shelves along the walls of the garage he built at the bottom of our London garden. These shelves were lined with used tobacco tins in which he kept, carefully sorted nails, screws and other small stuff, such as tap washers and grommets, which one day he would find useful. Or maybe not, but who can foretell a need?

I keep bits of this and that too: scraps of knowledge, notes of bon mots which I may yet find a use for in Jakartass. For example, if at first you don't succeed, don't try sky diving.

Everything has a value, except it seems in the mall-ignorant world of consumerism. Disposable incomes are wasted on non-disposable, and often non-recyclable, waste. We are told repeatedly that our finite resources are being used up at a rate which is so fast that alternatives have yet to be found or developed. So surely we all have to do our bit, however small and insignificant that may be.

So if you're interested in a power supply unit, model no: 26W-12-5, which lets power in and stops it coming out, then drop me a line or check out FreeCycle-Jakarta.


2:30 pm |
Saturday, March 10, 2007
  A Waiting Game

Whizzing along beside Jakarta's clogged thoroughfares in an air-conditioned Trans-Jakarta limited stop bus is generally a pleasure. Yesterday it wasn't, but then it was a Friday evening, so what with commuters trying to get home or off to their weekend pleasure resorts and the fact that some of the busway routes don't yet have their full complement of buses does add somewhat to the current inconvenience.

What also adds is the perennial moan: queuing, or the lack of it. The illustration, borrowed from the Maverickid blog, shows only part of the problem. These folk may look orderly, but it's absolute mayhem when a bus pulls up. You may have thought you were at the head of the queue, but there is always someone who'll manage to squeeze in front of you.

This, and the reviews of a book by Dr Joe Moran, Queuing for Beginners, to be published in May, on the histories and meanings of daily habits 'from breakfast to bedtime', got me pondering about the psychology of waiting.

, Joe suggests that we should reclaim the lost art of killing time and celebrate the boredom of just hanging around. If it weren't for my need to earn enough to support my family, I would agree 100%.

Most of you reading this will have a symbol of 'success', a handphone. Regular readers may well stop reading further at this point because you know how much I dislike these intrusions. And I have yet to be convinced that I'll need one.

"Sorry - I'm going to be late because some lumpen ijjit was too busy shouting into my headspace with his/her h.p to notice that they were originally behind me in the queue. So they've stolen my footspace on the bus."

Reliance has been abdicated from self to gadget: "Hello, Search and Rescue? I'm stuck up this volcano and the only survival gear I've got is this handphone .... hello .... hell .... help ..... Shit, the battery's dead."

No-one needed instant messages eight years ago, so who needs them now? Folk are so busy living in the instant that there's no time for reflection of what has been and what might be. Or, indeed, what is. It seems that a nation of zombies is being cloned to flow along life's conveyor belt.

How else to explain Adam Air's continued popularity with folk anxious to save a couple of dollars in their quest to get somewhere a few minutes faster. What are they saving? How could their savings in time and money be better spent?

How about having an encounter with someone?

A couple of days ago I rushed up to Mangga Dua to get my computer fixed ~ and all it took was an eraser to clean connections!! My speediest route is the Bogor-Kota commuter train, a journey for stoics, described here and here.

The first train came, but was going to Tanah Abang. A second train came, stopped and .... the doors didn't open. This was a shame as it was an express train straight up to North Jakarta. Another train came along and I boarded. The next stop is Manggarai which is apparently going to be Jakarta's main train hub at some time as loads of lines converge here, including the one to Tanah Abang which my train was, I discovered, unexpectedly heading for.

So I got off, found a perch and waited next to a guy who thought I was Dutch, or Australian or ... Anyway, he was from Timor Leste which were the only two words I understood. In Indonesian I asked him if he spoke Indonesian and he answered me in one of the many dialects of the former East Timor, possibly Tetun. (The number of languages listed for East Timor is 20. Of those, 19 are living languages and 1 is extinct.)

So we tried to communicate in his Portuguese and my virtually extinct Spanish. This didn't work either but, we did board the right train together and shared a mandarin orange bought from one of the many itinerant vendors who enliven commuter train journeys.

He got off before my stop. We smiled, wished each other well and I didn't regret one instant of my lengthy wait.


4:00 pm |
Thursday, March 08, 2007
  Reflections on March 8th

Dave Jardine hoped that the following article would be published today, International Women's Day, in the Jakarta Post. It wasn't, so Jakartass is, as always, pleased to publish it. Please note that this remains the copyright of Dave so please contact him if you wish to republish it.

August 17th is rightly considered to be the most propitious date in Indonesia's national calendar, marking as it does the Proclamation of Independence but what of March 8th? After all, it was on this date in 1942 that Dutch colonialism was effectively brought to an end. Whatever the efforts of the Dutch post-WW2 to restore their 300-year plus rule in the East Indies, March 8th 1942 had seen the illusion of white supremacy swept away.

Wounded by the defeat in 1905 of Russia by Japan, badly mauled by the collapse of the British in Singapore in February 1942, this notion of white supremacy took a fatal blow with the Dutch capitulation to the Japanese. 'Orang putih lari' (the white man has run away) was etched into the consciousness of the colonized subject peoples of Southeast Asia.

For the Javanese this was the fulfilment of the centuries-old Djoyoboyo legend which had it that alien white rule would come to an end with the arrival of a "yellow-skinned race from the North", to wit the Japanese. There is an important lesson in this for those who dismiss the power of myth.

No sooner had the Dutch surrendered than Indonesian men began wearing the black peci hat in public, a symbol of their sense of identity.

March 8th 1942 meant imprisonment for all Dutch and Allied citizens in the Indies, military and civilian alike. Conditions in the prison camps were direful. Many Dutch, British, Australian and other Allied POW were sent to work on forced labour projects such as the Pekanbaru Railway in Sumatra and the even more infamous Death Railway in Thailand. Dutch women were forced into prostitution to 'service' Imperial Japanese troops, a fact which Japan's current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the latest cynical commentary by a Japanese leader on the issue of 'comfort women' chose to ignore.

What is often overlooked and was in fact consequential for Indonesia's history immediately post-independence is that many amongst the Dutch believed that the British had more less rolled and over and given up their possessions in Southeast Asia without a real fight. The speed with which the Imperial Japanese forces swept through Malaya and Singapore was deemed to vindicate this belief.

This belief took the form of active resentment amongst some Dutch post-war but it is was singularly lacking in realism. In fact, the truth is that the British were ill-prepared for the Japanese onslaught, not least because of their failure to recruit sufficient locals in Malaya and the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Penang and Malacca into the defence forces, a failure rooted in racial conceit, disdain and suspicion. The Dutch, likewise, had done little to prepare the population of the Indies for defence in the event of an attack from outside.

With the British it was hardly a matter of not having given the matter some forethought. As far back as 1922 a Staff College exercise held at Quetta in India had analyzed Japanese intentions and options and, according to one historian, 'concluded Japan would not be able to operate at such a long distance from their home base". This effectively overlooked the possibility of the capture by the Japanese of European bases intermediate between Japan and Malaya and the East Indies, to wit French Indo-China. When Vichy France surrendered the French colonies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to Japan, it gave up to Tokyo the strategically vital Cam Ranh Bay naval base as well as the airfields, thus shortening Japan's supply lines greatly.

All of this was consequential for Dutch power, cut off as it was from the Nazi-occupied Netherlands and any possibility whatsoever of being re-armed from there. Britain had in fact drawn up a plan called Operation Matador for the forward defence of its SE Asian colonies. This required intervention in Thailand and the positioning of British troops and planes in the narrowest part of that country, the Kra Isthmus. This would of course have taken place without the approval of the Thais and would have subjected Thai territory to an assault by Japan.

For various reasons Operation Matador was never put into effect. Not least amongst these was the constant wrangling between the British military command in Malaya and London with the latter refusing to allocate more troops and planes for Malaya's forward defence. It was agreed that the period required for the adequate relief of colonial Malaya and the Straits Settlements would be 180 days, which, being half a year, conferred all the advantages on the Japanese. Even in the light of this consideration the Foreign Office would not respond to the entreaties of the GOC Malaya Major-General Lionel Bond when in August 1939 he pleaded for adequate forces to defend the airfields at Kota Bahru and Alor Setar in northern Malaya.

The Dutch meanwhile had even less adequate defences for their East Indies colony. Indeed, March 8th 1942 predicates August 17th 1945. By demonstrating the vulnerability of the Europeans to a well-organized and determined attack by an Asian force the Japanese kicked away the ladder of 'supremacist' belief on which European colonialism rested. That they in turn should turn out to be such cruel and brutal occupiers - let us not forget the hundreds of thousands of Indonesian 'romusha' (slave labourers) and the 'comfort women' - was of course also consequential for Indonesia as it made the Indonesians doubly determined not to endure further foreign rule.

© David Jardine, Mapagan, Central Java


4:00 pm |
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
  What is it with Jakartass and airplanes?

A lot of superstitious folk think that SBY is jinxed. How else can you explain the catalogue of disasters that rained down on Indonesia since he began his reign as President? This week has seen landslide fatalities in Flores, massive earthquakes in West Sumatra which have set off volcanic eruptions and now, this morning, yet another plane crash.

Maybe there's another explanation for some of these though. No sooner do I write about plane crashes, or near crashes, than one happens, and it wasn't even a budget airline. Sorry folks.

A Boeing 737-400 owned by state airline Garuda burst into flames on landing in Yogyakarta, Java at 0700 (0000 GMT). Survivors say large numbers of passengers escaped through the emergency doors before the plane burst into flames. It had reportedly shaken violently before landing.

Ghouls can see loads of fotos, as we say in these parts, here, here, here, and here.

Regarding the earthquakes which hit West Sumatra, we haven't heard anything other than what's in the news media. We do know that work is progressing towards the soft opening of Hotel Rimbo, but we haven't heard of any aftermath in the neighbouring town of Lubuk Sikaping which is 4 hours driving and therefore about 250 kilometres north of Padang.

As is now all too customary, our thoughts are with those affected in all these disasters, natural or otherwise.


3:00 pm |
  British Airways Flight 9
is also known as the Jakarta Incident.

A couple of weeks ago when commenting on the further woes of Adam Air, I added a footnote from Son No.1.

Further Indonesian aviation news reaches the UK that a Singapore - Sydney BA flight had to make an emergency landing in Bali after smoke engulfed the flight cabin.

Problem was that apparently the BA crew had problems making the Balinese Air Traffic Control understand the meaning of the word ‘Mayday’.

I subsequently received an email from Ken S. in Oz who wrote: It may be coincidence, but there has been a program aired in Australia recently that covered the BA near disaster that occurred in the early 80's. This may be some slightly confused rehash of that.

And Son. No.1 responded thus: Nope, he’s referring to something very different and much more famous – as highlighted in this link the classic British understatement: which has been on a TV documentary recently.

The one I highlighted would not be considered newsworthy, so you won’t find note of it outside the travel industry – it just seemed very apt at the time you were blogging.

We Brits are noted for our sang froid and stiff upper lip. Imagine you are a passenger on Flight 9 on June 24th 1982, a British Airways flight en route to Auckland, New Zealand, from London. Somewhere over Indonesia, having taken off from K.L., you hear the following announcement: "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress."

The reason for the engines failure was that the plane had flown into a cloud of dust and ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung. The ash, being dry, did not show up on the weather radar, which is designed to pick up the drops of moisture that form clouds.

The aircraft was diverted to Jakarta in the hope that enough engines could be restarted to land there, as it would first have to climb over the mountain. The aircraft was able to glide far enough to exit the ash cloud, and all of the engines were restarted (although one failed soon after as the aircraft climbed back into the cloud), allowing the aircraft to land safely.

Although the airspace around Mount Galunggung was closed temporarily after the accident, it was re-opened days later. It was only after a Singapore Airlines 747 was forced to shut down three of its engines while flying through the same area nineteen days later, that Indonesian authorities closed the airspace permanently and re-routed airways to avoid the area, and a watch was set up to monitor clouds of ash.

Now you have something to ponder the next time you gaze at the many volcanoes you can see below as you fly from Jakarta to Bali on your budget airline.


6:00 am |
Sunday, March 04, 2007
  Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous

That's such a snappy headline, that I'm surprised I haven't used it before. After all, there are recurring themes in Jakartass, a reflection of my lifestyle and obsessions, one of which has long been on folk who love conspicuous consumption.

For example, what can you say to someone like the acquaintance of mine who has just bought a BMW car so he can commute into the city's traffic jams?

Or to someone who uses two handphones at once?
Is that one for each ear?

No doubt these folk are regular readers of Jakartass. After all, I do regularly find links to sites that can improve their self-image, albeit by fucking up things for everyone else.

Here's a site that these delusional folk should bookmark.

Bottled Water of the World
The voice for bottled water connoisseurs and their accompanying lifestyle. With a keen attention to the epicurean life, FineWaters provides information on the products, places, events and passion that define the purity of fine living.

Water is Life - Enjoy It

One such product is Ice Rocks which are secured ice cubes made from spring water and ready to be frozen.

Ready to be frozen ???? By whom? Decisions, decisions. What should the rich and infamous do? Presumably rich Indonesians and expats here can employ a pembantu whose sole responsibility is to freeze the 'secured cubes'. One can be employed for about the cost of two cases of 10 Thousand BC which is 'ultra-premium' water derived from an environmentally protected glacier.

I'm not sure what that blurb actually means. "Derived water" could mean that it's taken from one of those rapidly melting glaciers we keep hearing about or is, in fact, taken from down stream. And is any glacier actually "environmentally protected"? Aren't they melting because we humans have caused global warming?

Whatever, this supposedly 10,000 year old water (only?) costs $54 a case of 12 and furthermore it is bottled and corked to the sound of inspirational music -- much like playing Mozart to a baby in the womb -- and served to aficionados who shudder at the thought of table water containing more than four parts per million in total dissolved solids.

Wow! Music tastes better when bottled with inspirational music?

Such as? Handel's Water Music?
Or Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival?
(An appropriate song for the 1.1 billion people without access to potable water worldwide might be CCR's Have You Ever Seen The Rain?)

Or ....? (Suggestions welcome)

I'll let Stephen Lower, a retired professor of chemistry from Vancouver, debunk the mineral industry claims. "All water is about 4.5 billion years old, having been liberated from the rocky material that accreted to form the Earth," says Lower. "That some of it may have been tied up in glaciers for the comparatively tiny span of 10,000 years strikes me as inconsequential."

See? Their claims just don't hold water.

Thong sandals may have been deigned (sic) as beachwear, but that is hardly the only place they are seen these days. Casual and comfortable, they are great to have around in spring and summer as a quicker, cooler alternative to trainers. The only real drawback to thongs is that it can be tough to find a stylish and high quality pair, especially for men. The Louis Vuitton AIX Thong is one possible solution. It is made of ultra-soft black calf leather and has a padded insole for comfort. The sole and the outer strap both bear the Louis Vuitton signature logo.
Price: $420.

So, do Asian wearers of these scraps of shoes overcome their ingrained generational habits and direct the soles of their feet at all and sundry?


2:00 pm |
Friday, March 02, 2007
  If Indonesia were a horse .....
.... Jakarta would be its arsehole.

That is a quote from Monkeys In The Dark by Blanche d'Alpuget, a novel set in Djakarta in 1966 in the interregnum between the 'communist coup' and the New Order of Suharto sending Bung Soekarno into exile.

I've been asked by my editor at Marshall Cavendish to provide some quotations for Culture Shock - Jakarta which is due to be published later this year. So far I've come up with the following from my personal 'library' and I'd like some help to fill in the blanks.

Also, if you can provide better quotations than those you see, in terms of appropriacy, wryness or just because you like them, please leave a comment or email them to me. Due acknowledgements will be made with our profuse thanks.

1. First Impressions
"So, what's Jakarta like?" I asked the Australian behind me. "Well, mate," he said, breathing in sharply, "it's no oil painting - I'll tell you that for nothing."
- Derek Bacon, the original and now co-author.

2. Land and History

3. People

4. Fitting Into Society

5. Settling In & Transport
Because of the city's outdated sewerage and drainage system, two-thirds of Jakarta is inundated each rainy season when all municipal and central government offices close down, there are traffic snarls and stranded vehicles, and up to 250,000 people in need of shelter.
- Bill Dalton's Indonesian Handbook 1980 pub. Moon Publications

6. Food and Entertaining
For the novice, one word is vital: pedas. It means the spicy and pungent hotness that burns the beginner's mouth. Remember that Indonesians chewed chillies when you sucked boiled lollies.
- Ivan Southall Indonesia Face To Face c.1964 pub. Malaya Publishing House, Singapore

7. Enjoying The Culture
In all probability, Indonesia can still offer the greatest variety of primitive scenes and entertainments of any country on earth.
- Norman Lewis An Empire Of The East 1995 pub. Picador

8. Learning the language
... it's a profitable language; for French translation exercises at school you got marks, sometimes for Indonesian translations you get rupiahs.
- Ivan Southall ibid.

9. Doing Business
"If you have knowledge of good and bad, then logically you know that corruption is bad.
But in Indonesia, sometimes corruption is considered a good thing ..."
- Emha Ainun Najib, preacher and poet

10. Fast Facts


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