This is an idle question, at least for the next four weeks in my case. Those interested in my ongoing legal process will no doubt be pleased to know that on March 27th the presiding judges at the Industrial Relations Court will issue their verdict. There will be a further week for both sides to lodge arguments about the fine details. We fully expect that we'll be seeking higher compensation based on documents, or the lack of them, which have yet to be presented to the over-worked Lordships.
For example, our employment contracts and letters of dismissal were in English, whereas they should have been in Indonesian in the first instance. Although this was a fundament of our case, we still had to provide certified translations, a procedural matter. That several clauses run counter to Act No.13, 2003 concerning Manpower ~ for example, the notion of a probationary period in a supposedly fixed-term contract ~ I suppose means that the added expense we've incurred thereby further helps prove our case.
Of course, the major question is how come BPK-Penabur were unable to provide the original documents filed with, presumably, the Departments of Manpower, Education, and Immigration, and the police, in order to process the multitude of permits and visas which enable an expatriate to legally work and reside here.
We can usefully ask why, on a number of occasions, several of us had to leave the office when officialdom was due to visit. We had presumed that our papers were in order. This naturally leads to thoughts of criminal investigation, but we'll leave all that to Depnaker to sort that out once our case is settled. That'll be when Media Sekolah, a new-ish weekly tabloid with the lofty aspiration of 'Building Indonesia Through Education' (Membangun Bangsa Melalui Pendidikan) will be publishing a major expose of the network of (supposedly) Christian schools who flagrantly disregard not only the laws governing employment but also the ethics of their religion. Media Sekolah also produce documentaries about corruption for such TV programmes as SERGAP (on RCTI).
Was it Woody Allen who commented that "Those who can do, those who can't teach, and those who can't teach think they can manage schools." That certainly seems to hold true for too many establishments here in Jakarta. There are other former employees of Penabur who have initiated legal proceedings, the Singapore International Schools franchise network is reportedly embarrassed by the number of judgments awarded against it, and other profit-centred schools are beginning to fear the wrath of fee-paying parents.
First thing on a Monday morning as I try to get across Jakarta in order to do battle with a bunch of bored hormonal teenagers is not the time for a stressful taxi ride.
Yesterday I was first a bit peeved as my driver weaved from the right to the centre of the toll road to the left lane and then back again. I've always felt that staying in one lane is probably quicker and it's certainly more efficient as it covers less distance. The meter fare may also be Rp.500 less. But I noticed that the gaps between the vehicles in front were of varying length as we sped up and slowed down. It was then that I realised that the driver was more tired than I.
I fed him extra-strength Plonks to suck on until we reached eventually reached my destination. I told him to park in a side street and have a nap. The plonker probably didn't.
My tarif lama (old tariff) taxi driver this morning got us as far as the the entrance to the toll road before deciding he didn't want to go as far as I did, so he pulled over having signalled a taxi behind us. "No charge," he told me. Dead bloody right, I thought, as I noticed that the awaiting taxi was charging the more recent tariff.
So I waited for the next tarif lama to appear and we reached the toll booth. "Check the change," I told him, because you can expect a bit of mini-corruption when you hand over a large note. Did he?
I made him stop, get out and stroll back to collect the Rp.2,500 we'd been short-changed, and then lectured him about how if you look after the pence (cents for my dollar-centric readers) then the pounds (dollars) look after themselves.
Of course, he'd only been in Jakarta a month, so he didn't know where the toll roads go to.
Whether the weather be fine, Whether the weather be not, Whether the weather be cold, Whether the weather be hot, We'll weather the weather, Whatever the whether, Whether we like it or not.
It's bloody cold here in Jakarta. In more than 20 years living here - without the 'benefits' of air conditioning - I've never had to wear two layers of clothing for such a long period. To make matters even more uncomfortable, we're suffering power cuts in Java and Bali, apparently on a rotational basis, because the weather is preventing the anchoring and unloading of coal ships which supply the country's largest coal-powered generator, Tanjung Jati in Jepara, Central Java. Coal stocks ran out yesterday.
Apparently the waves are too big, which may be good news for those surfers attracted here because it's Visit Indonesia Year. That Denpasar, Bali's capital, is suffering from floods due to heavy rainfall, much as Jakarta did a couple of weeks ago, probably doesn't matter to them as surfers do it in the wet. (And Frieda Pinto from India isn't fazed either: "Everything in Indonesia are great, I had never thought about it. The moment i come here ...'')
We had a four-hour power cut on Wednesday evening, from about 4 to 8.15. We were not alone as the neighbouring East Jakarta township of Bekasi was also affected. 'Er Indoors rang the state electricity company, PLN, to find out the reason and was told that a thingamijib at a sub-station had to be replaced and everything would be OK at about 8 o'clock. It was.
This leads one to ask whether the outage was planned. Struggling through the rush hour traffic jams with the correct spare part is a logistical nightmare at the best of times, but unexpectedly? No way, Budi.
I've spoken with several friends this week about the seeming incompetence of state authorities in not have the foresight to build up stocks of fuel. After all, even this site has a five-day weather forecastand fishermen around the coasts were given ample warning to stay ashore.
Another grievance is that in spite of a community network which binds citizens and residents to the state apparatus, consumers are never given warning about pending power outages. Computers crash, security devices don't work and folk are jolted on escalators and in lifts until generators cut in. Lives are at risk, but absolutely no warnings are given.
When I ask why, my Indonesian friends look at me incredulously. "But this is Indonesia," they tell me.
It is the neglect of these responsibilities which leads to the many WTF moments here, and if anyone would care to outline how people could be educated to respect those who they serve, then please do email me.
Those good folk at Indonesia Anonymus have. Every one of their posts is eagerly awaited because although they write infrequently what they write is always well-researched and balanced. They don't pontificate; they educate with a great sense of humanity as all their many fans will attest and their article entitled Education: is it all about the money? is already attracting very positive feedback.
You may want to know what I think about Castro's resignation. I'll keep it simple: watch out for politicians talking up the notion of encouraging "a peaceful transition to democracy" for Cubans, because you know the globalising vultures are circling and eyeing up future grabs.
Anyway, regular readers know that when my life gets too hectic or stressful for me to post what I hope is a well-reasoned opinion piece, then I tend to put up a few links which I've been saving for such a time.
And this is the time.
The Matambo-Neilson Family have been here for a year now and their account of coping with life as a young family in the international development field and having regular WTF moments makes for engaging reading.
For example, you know it's time to escape (Jakarta) when: 1. You create elaborate fantasies about how to systematically wipe out all motorbike riders. 2. You create elaborate fantasies about which kinds of NATO banned weapons you could mount on the hood of your Kijang. 3. You greet each day with the phrase, "I f***ing hate this city" 4. You have amazed yourself with a newly created mental calendar which accurately counts down the days until the next Singapore trip. 5. You are coughing up foreign substances throughout the day even without having a cold. 6. You feel happiness when someone does something for you after being asked "only" 3 times. Dilligaf has been chronicling WTF moments for a bit longer and we can all think of rational reasons for this. Can't we?
To be or not to be .... anonymous that is.
An old debate has resurfaced in the Indonesian blogosphere about the fact that many expat bloggers here, including yours truly, choose to publish under a pseudonym.
This headline of the past 10 days refers to which country, Britain or Indonesia?
Spot the difference from the following two extracts.
1. Education has increasingly become a commercialized entity, with students being geared into entering the work force. The education system is heavily biased toward intellectualism with examination grades as a parameter for success. The system is not aimed at creating wholesome, independent individuals. It is nothing but a hollow institution with no clear vision for where it is heading.
2. Our insistence on having frequent high-stakes tests and on ranking schools publicly by the results has driven the majority of educators into giving children only what they need to know for exam results, and nothing more. The bleak narrowness of such an approach has damaged both learning and pupils' motivation.
And this is a reader's comment about one of the articles I've quoted from:
Most schools are in essence holding pens and indoctrination centres. The primary purpose of the 'education system' is the maintainance of the status quo. Opening minds, realising potential, understanding what is unjust in our society, encouraging the confidence to take on the structures that block progress - are the very last things we want for our young people - aren't they?
Education is very much on my mind at the moment. It's not only because I have an ongoing case against an educational institute which refers to its teachers, both local and expatriate, as Performing Monkeys , and because Our Kid is about to 'graduate' from primary school (SD), and enter junior high (SMP), a process involving scholastic and IQ tests, as well as an immense amount of funds.
The issue of education in Indonesia is crucial in determining the future of the nation. It is at the root of the blind consumerism and greed which we witness daily, from the highest echelons of Bank Indonesia to the lowliest traffic policeman. The lack of morality and concern for the community in which we all live is seemingly endemic.
Thanks to all of you who've sent me birthday greetings, though I'm a little bemused as to how you knew. Have you been digging in my archives?
A couple of days ago a birthday card arrived from my father back in Blighty on the south coast. Yesterday the postman delivered another card and he asked 'Er Indoors if it was my birthday. She said "yes" and he wished me "selamat ulang tahun".
I scanned the handwriting on the envelope and saw it was from my father. Oh, I thought, another one? He must be getting forgetful ~ he'll be 89 in a month or so. I opened the envelope and pulled out the card. It was meant to be delivered for Xmas - last year.
I'm also posting a really excellent article by Dilligaf - When the oil runs out and the plantations run dry … This is a 'review' of environmentalists' who think similarly to myself about the growth of plantations - biofuels rather than a cut and paste.
The Beatles' song Across the Universe pays thanks to Guru Dev who taught Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who, in turn, taught millions of followers including, for a while, the Beatles.
The Maharishi died last Tuesday, 5th February, aged 91 in Vlodrop, The Netherlands. Last year he "prepared for death by retiring to concentrate on silence and study the texts which had first inspired his teaching."
By coincidence, or serendipity, I hadn't used the following story from last month; perhaps I was waiting for an opportune time to use it. That's cosmic, man.
On midnight of Monday, 21st January, the National Aeronatical Space Agency (NASA) started to beam a song towards the North Star, 431 light years from Earth.
However, fears have been voiced that malevolent aliens will tune into the broadcast and the transmission raises questions about what we would want aliens to learn about our world.
Douglas Vakoch of the Seti (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) Institute, Mountain View, California, says, "Before sending out even symbolic messages, we need an open discussion about the potential risks."
The song was, of course, Across The Universe, drawing congratulations from former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, who mused that it marked "the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe."
This all leads to the flippant thought that there might be more appropriate songs: Fly Me To The Moon might be too parochial, so suggestions would be welcome. What might be more interesting is to consider the most inappropriate songs or groups. ..............................................
Bill Guerin R.I.P.
From Asia Times Online Bill Guerin passed away the weekend of 2/3 February in Jakarta. Bill, a correspondent for ATonline since its early days in 2000, had lived in Indonesia for 20 years and specialized in Indonesian political, business and economic analysis. He was an easy-going gentleman, though he liked to call himself a "dour old Scot".
Bill spoke fluent Bahasa Indonesia, and hosted a television political talk show, Face to Face, broadcast on two Indonesia-based satellite channels. He was also an accredited journalist to correspondent.com and his editorials on global issues were distributed by GlobalVision News. His dedication to Asia Times Online, though, never wavered over the years and he could always be relied on to produce copy on time, invariably accompanied with a cheery note.
He was a good friend to Jakartass, mainly online, and gave me great encouragement in the early days of my 'writing career'. All who knew him feel sad at his passing and our thoughts go to his family.
In a pickle Pickling is the preservation of food in brine (salt water) or vinegar. Or volcanic mud? To be in a pickle means to be in a quandary or some other difficult position. This certainly applies to the mudflow victims of East Java. ............................................. There are not many strangers in a strange land who do not hanker for a few home comforts. Our tastes may differ but the sentiments are similar. We Brits stock up on supplies of Marmite whereas Aussies favour the much sweeter but still savoury flavour of Vegemite. They're lucky in that several branches of the local supermarket, Hero, occasionally stock it.
Having been out of the country for more than 20 years, I am aware that if I were to return to Blighty I'd have to rediscover my favourite brands. I wasn't aware, for example that Cadbury's chocolate, which is available here, is not made by the Quaker-owned benevolent employer of old.
Like many of the grocery products my mother used to stock the larder with, it is now a Premier Foods product. I'm tempted to say that is a shame because the history of chocolate makes interesting reading. It's not only the symbolism of chocolate being a sensual taste sensation and reputed aphrodisiac, though that may be connected to the intentions of the giver and the eroticism of eating, say, a strawberry cream.
What I've always found interesting is that the original chocolate manufacturers, the Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry families, were Quakers.
The Cadbury company is worth special mention for its enlightened attitude toward employees. This Quaker-owned chocolate company was the first firm to grant its workers a 5-day work week. Also, sports facilities, medical facilities, schools, kitchens and community gardens were built for the employees.
In 1893, the Cadbury brothers purchased 120 acres near their factory (to help workers escape the slums of Birmingham). 144 cottages were built for Cadbury workers and for the public at large. By 1915, rates of death and infant mortality in the Cadbury development were half those of Birmingham as a whole.
It is not important that an alternative history has it that they converted an already built housing estate intended for the middle classes rather than their employees, the working class.
The Fry family is best represented in social reforming by Elizabeth Fry (1780 - 1845), who married into the family, albeit a banking brother, and is noted for her campaigning for prison reform in the early 19th century.
There are four Rowntree Trusts which are funded from the legacies of the Quaker chocolate entrepreneurs and social reformers Joseph Rowntree and Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree. They continue to fund social policy research and development and to promote democratic reform and social justice within the UK.
Nostalgic Brit foodies should look at this Premier Foods page - Hovis, Mother's Pride and Nimble (eh?) breads, Crosse & Blackwell and Campbells soups, Bisto (aah!) are in their portfolio, as are Sarson's vinegar and Branston, Haywards and Sharwoods pickles.
The final jar of Pan Yan, a distinctive spicy, apple-based spread, rolled off the production line in 2002. Two years later, the list of ingredients went up in flames when fire swept through the Branston pickle factory in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, burning it to the ground.
Following a radio appeal for its return, Premier launched a public appeal for full or even nearly empty jars in order for their laboratories to analyse the contents. They will soon be organising a tasting session among connoisseurs of the product.
So that's good news for UK citizens; a massive conglomerate can still be responsive to public demand.
If only that were true here in Indonesia.
Today's Jakarta Post has two main stories. The second lead has SBY asking the country's media to exercise self-censorship because the era of government control over the press is at an end. He also said that the media should not get involved in business or political issues. Whether this is a warning shot before the next presidential election, one can't be sure. After all, most of the media is owned by business and political interests.
What is clear, however, is that before the next campaign he surely must find a different financial backer, one who doesn't feature in today's lead story.
SBY initially appointed Abdurizal Bakrie as Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, presumably because he headed up a major conglomerate and had been chairman of KADIN, Indonesia's Chamber of Commerce. That he remains in SBY's Cabinet can only be because he was also a major contributor to SBY's successful election campaign.
It certainly can't be because he takes his current job as the Minister of People's Welfare seriously. This was a position once held by Suharto's eldest daughter, Tutut, in his last cabinet, and she too lost most of her credibility with the public due to her seeming disregard of, or aloofness from, public concerns.
The vast majority of Indonesians believe that Lapindo Brantas, a Bakrie Bros company, was, through the incompetence of its drilling engineers, responsible for the Sidoarjo mudflow. The company has been ordered by SBY to pay compensation to the thousands of families and the many industries displaced by the still-flowing mud, which has the consistency of hot chocolate. For nigh on three years, many families have been refugees, unable to rebuild their lives or to create a home environment of any substance because Lapindo still owes them the agreed compensation. They don't even have larders to fill.
A year ago, Lapindo were instructed by SBY to pay approximately $380 million in compensation. There was to be an initial 20% to be paid forthwith: about 2% of the 10,277 affected families have yet to receive this down payment. There was also to be a payment of Rp.500,000 per 'victim': 897 families have yet to receive this. It is not known how many, if any, of the affected families have received the promised further 80% compensation. Possibly none?
The families are angry, very angry, and yesterday thousands of them clashed with security personnel at the site of a proposed housing development in Sidoarjo being built by a subsidiary of Lapindo Brantas, PT Minarik Lapindo Jaya.
Minarik vice president Andy Darussalam said, "This is purely a business offer: we're not forcing the mudflow victims to relocate to the housing. Each house has its own price and mudflow victims can buy the houses with the remaining 80% of the compensation money."
In a country which regularly provides 'what-the-f**k' moments, have you ever heard such cynical, self-serving tosh?
You may recall that last December I notedthat Aburizal Bakrie and his family had seen their net worth blow out to $5.4 billion, up from a mere $1.2 billion in 2006. And now the Bakrie Boys aim to profit from the mere $380 million they have delayed paying out?
This leaves a very sour taste so, this being the week to celebrate St. Valentine, I offer this ode to the Bakries.
Roses are red, Violets are blue. Onions are pickled. I wish they were too.
Where are the Cadbury's, Fry's and Rowntree's of Indonesia?
Master Of All He Surveys .... or allows to be built without proper environmental audits.
There are few who live here who have not thought that they could do a better job than whoever occupies the governorship of the urban blight some of us call 'home'.
Thomas Belfield is an Urban Studies student based in Hawaii who has chosen Jakarta as his field (eh?) of study. Thomas has the advantage of having both an academic objectivity as well as distance. He is, therefore, able to put his thoughts into language which avoids Jakartass-isms when talking about Governors Sooty and Fuzzy Bodoh.*
Feel free to comment and add your own suggestions. .................................... *Give the latter his due: he is making an effort to re-create Jakarta's parks. However, this is mainly by evicting successful markets which have traded on green areas with City Hall permits (= illegal levies) for up to 30 years.
Organizations like theIndonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) have criticized the city administration for evicting small traders while turning a blind eye to big businesses that occupy former green areas.
Selamet Dayroni, the executive director of the Jakarta office of Walhi, said, "Hotels and malls in Senayan, for example, occupy designated green areas.To address Jakarta's green area problem, the city should also evict these businesses. Don't single out powerless people."
In response to the criticism, Fauzi told the Jakarta Postthat evicting big hotels and malls was impractical.
"Would it be realistic to demolish shopping centers and hotels to restore green spaces?"
According to this Property Market Overview of the Greater Jakarta area including the 1st quarter of 2007, the amount of both retail and office space increased but the occupancy rate and selling rate decreased. Meanwhile the average rent rate and selling price increased. Many businesses are relocating to office buildings with lower rental and service charges.
In other words, it would be feasible for the Governor should call a halt to further construction of malls because there are already too many. He could also issue a regulation ensuring that evicted market vendors are entitled to mall space at a low rental and service charge cost.
Owners and operators of illegally built malls should be given options: demolish, or provide an equivalent land area which can be turned into a recreational park/water catchment area. In addition, their malls should be converted into 'zero-energy' consumers.
Some of this could surely be funded by City Hall which contravened it's own spatial plans in order to facilitate the initial construction of these malls.
That's my two-pennerth. Be sure to read Thomas' more exhaustive manifesto.
That's a Happy Imlek, Tet and Chinese New Year to you, a year in which Indonesia is expected to suffer 3 major volcanic eruptions.
Jakarta-based feng shui expert Master Tan told the Jakarta Post that "the mounts of Anak Krakatau, Merapi and Kelud, which last year did not generate a relatively huge explosion, may spew their infernal lava this year."
Other cataclysmic events are predicted. These include the "careers of several stars crumbling" and a number of graft allegations which will be made by politicians hoping to put one over on their rivals. So, same old, same old then.
My predictions are fairly predictable as well. Jakartass will have another year of hard graft, which will inevitably mean that my posts will be as sporadic as they have been recently.
However, I have posted on Green Indonesia another accumulation of local 'green' news I have recently gleaned, but not as much as I would have hoped.
I've also posted further Thoughts Outside The Indonesian Box. You can now read Roy Voragen on the obligations of Jakartans to accept their fate. (Does he mean that Jakartass is redundant?)
However, there will be good news waiting at year's end, and I'm not referring to the local busway corridor being a boon to my travelling arrangements. No siree. I'm referring to the culmination of the legal case I've brought against my erstwhile employers.
There is a well-known expression in English about pride coming before a fall. There are very strong rumours about the network of Singapore International Schools having to come to terms with employment regulations in order to avoid further litigation brought by dissatisfied staff. Happy teachers make happy students and, ultimately, happy parents who, after all, pay the student fees.
It is surely only a matter of time before the Penabur directors, who are still seemingly more concerned with their bottom line than educational standards, also see the light. They must be concerned that there is gossip - from court officials - that Badan Pendidikan Kristen Penabur has other cases, some criminal, in process against them.
With permission from our legal team because our case is now being heard in open court, I can now post specific details online. Read about it here on Performing Monkeys.
Today I am publishing the first of a series of essays by 'guests' who were given the general guideline to 'think outside the box', an idea stimulated by something SBY said.
It is hoped that these essays will spur new approaches to solving some of the myriad problems faced in this country, one which, whatever our ethnicity, we call home. As Jakartass I may not agree with the opinions given, but as a pluralist I welcome them, as must we all. Therefore comments and debate will be welcomed, although clichés, personal abuse and spam will not. I would also welcome more contributions, so please email me if you haven't already made a commitment to join in.
Miko is a frequent commentator here and regular readers will know that we don't always see eye-to-eye, but he's no fool and when we meet, albeit too infrequently, we enjoy each other's company.
His essay What If No-One Owned Land? can be found here.
Jeez. Watching the rain falling non-stop all day, spreading a greyness across the skyline of West Jakarta as the tops of apartment blocks disappeared, reminded me of similar days 'back home'. It has been a very grey day.
The sky emptied, roads flooded and I knew, just by looking out the window, that getting home was going to be hell. There were no mikrolets (mini-minibuses) passing because the road was under half a metre of deluge; there was seemingly no way to get to the toll road and catch a bus.
However I managed to cadge a lift from someone I know who was passing quite close to Jakartass Towers in South Jakarta. What is more she has a TV in her car. For nigh on an hour and a half we were stuck in the longest tailback I've ever been stuck in, but it certainly wasn't the longest in town. No siree. And as we watched Metro TV it was quite pleasant hearing about Soekarno-Hatta Airport being shut down and the Istana Negara (Presidential Palace) being flooded.
But that tailback ..... aduh. We ran out of things to talk about, swapped sweets and snacks, watched a documentary about how the next ice age is going to wipe us out, maybe as soon as next year, and stared at the tailgate of the truck in front of us as we inched onwards to where the toll road into town separates for those going north and those of us going south.
And it was north-west Jakarta which was flooded. Nothing was moving in that direction and as we travelled south, giggling madly because we'd never been on such an empty toll road, not even at night, we stared at the traffic not moving in the other direction.
Yep, it seems my prediction is coming true: the city is gradually tipping into Jakarta Bay, and there ain't nothing SBY can do about it. He had to mix with us proles when first he got snarled up at Pondok Gede toll gate and then later in Jakarta's main drag, Jl.Thamrin, when his posh Mercedes had engine trouble he had to swap comfort for expedience and drive on in a Mercedes SUV.