Saturday, May 31, 2008
  Flooded with news

Yep, it's all over the UK media, or in a rag called Metro - which, I am informed, is a free morning newspaper and "probably the most read paper in London". Metro reports that on Tuesday and Wednesday next, June 3rd/4th, flooding in Jakarta "will exceed last November's roof-high levels in the hardest-hit areas."

Now, I don't want to say "I told you so", but I did, on November 28th last year.

It is, of course, encouraging that City Hall is using sandbags to raise the sea walls to a height of 2.5 metres in anticipation of a tidal swell of 2.2 metres. Let’s hope that there isn’t a storm or some other unforeseen circumstance which will render these belated efforts worthless, but are City Hall merely responding to a reminder from the World Bank?

I only ask this because City Hall apparently only started these works yesterday, having thought about them for a week. Permanent repairs, using stone and raising the walls to a height of 3 metres will have to wait until the end of a "tender procedure".

Public Works Agency head, Wisnu, is quoted in the Post as saying, "We hope to pick the winner in June or July so the construction can be finished by December."

Thanks Wisnu for reminding us that privatisation of public services is a waste of time, money and resources. The welfare of millions of Jakarta residents and visitors is being put at risk because tax payers' money is being spent on non-essential bureaucratic and, based on past admittances, probably corrupt practices.

Doesn't Jakarta's Public Works Agency have the competent staff and equipment to handle its own public works?

Whoops, that's a stupid question, as anyone who's been anywhere on Jakarta's roads over the past year or so will know.

Another worry is that I can find no mention in the local media of what preparations are being made by Jakarta's mayoralties to provide emergency accommodation and welfare services to the next batch of Indonesia's refugees.

But, hey, I'm all right because I live on a rise in south Jakarta and far from the sea.


11:30 am |
Thursday, May 29, 2008
  Two Years And Counting.
-----In a rotten society, the élite are the source of the rot.
------ Vladimir Bukovsky

Two years ago today the Sidoarjo Vocanic Mudflow started.

50 Olympic-size swimming pools could be filled with the daily ooze of mud.

Three metres is the depth of collapses of the mud volcano as the rock strata below are emptied of the mud, and the exuded mud presses downwards. The resulting caldera, a large basin-shaped volcanic depression, could be as much as 146 metres deep

Too many excuses
Lapindo Brantas Inc. was drilling for oil on land allocated for agriculture but failed to sheath the drill. They say the catastrophe was a natural disaster, connected with the Yogyakarta earthquake that had taken place a few days previously. However, if true, then their geologists had not prepared adequately.

Three weeks later
SBY orders Lapindo Brantas Inc to compensate the victims

Three months later
The area within a two-kilometre radius is declared off limits by the Indonesian Geological Association.

Four villages were initially inundated.

2,000 'refugees' are 'housed' in Pasar Baru market, Sidoarjo. They have received no food allowance since May 1st.

If the victims could provide complete documentation of their losses - house and land title deeds etc. - they were to be paid 20% compensation immediately. Some have, most haven't.

The remaining 80% was to be paid by the end of last month.
(Update: According to the Presidential Spokesman, Andi Mallarangeng, as of Wednesday 11 families have been paid the remaining 80%)

Eleven more villages have been inundated.
Residents are not (yet?) entitled to compensation. They have set up temporary camps on an abandoned toll road.

About 12,000 families have been displaced

How many beggars are there in Sidoarjo?

How long must they wait?
(Update: The two largest political parties in the House of Representatives, Golkar and PDI-P which control 244 of the 550 seats, say that they have no plans to expedite action on behalf of the dispossessed of Sidoarjo.

Political expert Indra J. Piliang from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said he was worried by their silence and thought it was possible the issue would be brought to the forefront during next year's general election.)

The Jakarta Post, which published the photo below by Indra Harsaputra, has this story as today's lead on the front page. They report that the National Commission on Human Rights has labelled this man-made disaster a "gross violation of human rights".

On the back page, Lapindo Brantas Inc. has a half-page colour advertorial, in Indonesian, saying what a wonderful job they've been doing on behalf of the refugees. And look at the nice houses they're building which the victims can buy with the 80% compensation money they're owed.

(Update: Andi Darussalam Tabusalla, Lapindo vice president, said his company had offered the victims new homes if they had valid property documents for the homes they had lost.

Those without valid property documents were offered empty land instead. They were given the option of selling this land to developer PT Wahana Arta Raya.)

$9.2 billion
That is the current wealth of Indonesia's richest man, Abdurizal Bakrie, the Minister of Welfare. His family are the majority shareholders in Lapindo Brantas Inc.

There are demonstrations in Jakarta today. Motorists are asked to honk their horns as they pass the Bakrie HQ in Jl. Rasuna Said.

I hope this Ibu, still 'temporarily' housed in Pasar Baru market, Sidorajo, appreciates the irony of honking at those fat capitalist pigs.


9:30 am |
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
  I've found some good news for Rima

If any of you think that I tend towards the negative too much, then allow me too to highlight an Indonesian who has developed an outstanding invention, and selflessly refused to patent it. And Rima ought to know about him.

The Jakarta Post yesterday had a feature article about Joko Sutrisno, one which I think they also ran last year. Whatever, he has put together a piece of equipment, an electrolyser that is installed in a motorbike or car and which utilises neutral (distilled?) or rainwater - H2O. Using electrical currents, it is able to generate energy through explosions that can help the machine run and save in fuel consumption in the process.

"An engine makes a motorbike or car run through explosions," said the 52-year-old, a junior high school dropout. The explosive power of water is found in hydrogen. Joko said burning hydrogen was good and its octane rating reached 130. This compares with the rating of premium fuel, which is only in the 80s, and Pertamax, with a rating of 94.

He said the more efficient burning decreases carbon emissions. Oil use also becomes more economical. It is cleaner because it partly emits water in place of carbon.

Since he has no commercial interest, Joko said he did not want to patent his invention. He hopes people will make the device themselves since its construction is simple and the materials easy to find. He uses transparent soy sauce bottles because they are cheap, easy to find and safer.

He charges customers about $10.

In the good ol' US of A, you can pay c.$50 for a manual and about $60 for materials. Perhaps they don't have plastic soy sauce bottles there. Another company, Hydrorunner says that electrolysis or splitting water as it is also known, has been around for over 50 years.

It is a simple science experiment conducted in any middle school.
In order to earn from this technology, Hydrorunner have made a significant scientific discovery not in the manufacture of hydrogen but in the control of it.

Apparently Joko dropped out of his junior high school, so his scientific background is somewhat limited in developing a pre-programmed computer that is specifically designed for any EFI internal combustion or diesel vehicle.

Contact the Jakarta Post if you want to donate your empty soy sauce bottles to Joko.


12:00 pm |
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
  Rima has found some good news

Like beacons in the night, her post about innovative caring folk in this country merely highlights the crass mediocrity of some (most? all?) of the political élite.

After writing about some high school girls who have found a way to dissolve polystyrene with orange peel, she ends her post with some wishful thinking.

I hope soon someone will come up with some other extract to dissolve and destroy corruption and corruptors.

There's a very good analysis of Indonesia's corruption in the latest e-newsletter from Inside Indonesia. Ari Kuncoro, a lecturer in economics at the University of Indonesia, suggests that the regional decentralisation program launched in 2001 with the resultant diffusion of power and authority is the key factor in the growth of bribery here.

In Suharto’s Indonesia, corruption was centralised and predictable, somewhat like that in communist Russia or South Korea. Indonesia and India were about equally corrupt, but Indonesia’s economic performance was better.

Corruption in post-Suharto Indonesia is quite different. Centralised corruption - one-stop shopping - is ... gone, replaced by a more fragmented bribe collection system. Today many players, from central ministry and other government officials, through legislative members at the national and local levels, to local officials, soldiers, and police officers, are demanding bribes. Their failure to coordinate their bribe-taking behaviour will likely result in a higher total level of bribes.

Of course, the way to stop corruption is for everyone to take a stand and refuse to pay beyond the official fees. That is most probably more wishful thinking, or would be if it weren't for a trial which got underway yesterday in Germany.

Reinhard Siekaczek, 57, a former senior manager at Siemens admitted building up an elaborate system of slush funds and shell firms at the request of his superiors to help Europe's biggest technology group win overseas contracts through bribes.

On the opening day of Germany's biggest post-war corporate corruption trial, Siekaczek described how managers signed off "commissions" on yellow Post-It notes which could be easily removed in case of raids or investigations.

Siekaczek, is the first of up to 300 accused among Siemens' current and former staff to stand trial in a corruption scandal that the group itself admits involves at least €1.3bn (£1bn) in siphoned-off money.

I await with interest to see a mention of Siemens Indonesia.


3:30 pm |
Sunday, May 25, 2008
As I get older
I value information more. You open a paper and see another first-person column, and you know it's unlikely you're going to learn anything new about the world. But obviously I believe people will learn something very valuable from me in this feature.
- novelist Nick Hornby in the Observer

I agree with Nick.

On the other hand ...

According to BlogThing, my Blogging Type is Confident and Insightful which tells me that (I've) got a ton of brain power, and (I) leverage it into a brilliant blog. Both creative and logical, (I) come up with amazing ideas and insights. A total perfectionist, (I) find (my)self revising and rewriting posts a lot of the time. (I) blog for (my)self - and (I) don't care how popular (or unpopular) (my) blog is!

How true. So how come Jakartass is no longer the number 1 English language blog in Indonesia, Patung?

Should I Be Worried?

A fourth right foot still in a trainer shoe has been found off the Canadian coast. Two of the feet are size 12. Police have not released the size of the others.

My feet are size twelve - and I wear trainers ....

CCTV boom has failed to slash crime

Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe.

I mention this in case the Indonesian police decide it's time to cash in some of their brown envelopes.

Unreliable Witness

Witness? Or Witless?

Withit or Without it?

Where Withall?

I don't actually know, but you can be certain that neither does An Unreliable Witness. But he doesn't care, so neither should you.

Join me and become a fan.

Slush funds?

Back in Blighty, whilst Parliament is in session, in London, Members of Parliament generally don't live in their constituencies, so some have lengthy commutes. MPs have to disclose full details of spending on their second homes as they are eligible for public money to cover certain expenditures. These accounts are now in the public domain.

It's almost the same system in Indonesia, except that legislators here rarely have any involvement with their constituents as they are nominees of political parties and are not, therefore, directly elected as representatives. That said, they do have a 'grace and favour' Jakarta home, and houses back in whatever part of Indonesia they call home.

It's fascinating to learn that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown claimed £32 for lightbulbs last year.

What do you think would be the likely sum claimed here?

Sex? It's written all over your face

According to research conducted at Durham University in the UK, your face is a good giveaway if you're after a one night stand or a long-term relationship. If you're Caucasian, or indeed not, have a look at the pictures here and see who you'd prefer to link up with ~ and for how long.

World Alarm Clock (flash)
Thrill as you watch species become extinct.
(About 75 a day)
Gulp as oil gets pumped out of the ground.
(About 92 million barrels a day.)
Shiver as you gaze at the temperature risng.
(.01 degree per annum)
Try and count each baby as it's born.
(c. 400,000 a day. By contrast, there are about 160,000 deaths.)
Best news? Three times as many bicycles as cars are produced.


7:00 am |
Saturday, May 24, 2008
  Students are revolting

So what's new? Loads of folk are a pain in the neck but it's usually best to ignore them or tell them to piss off. In Indonesia one immediately thinks of politicians with personal agendas and the 25 million Indonesians who constitute ten percent of the middle class who, according to Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono, are the only ones with "the capacity, the ability to enjoy the trappings of political democracy because they've had their social economic, basic needs met."

The problem is that these middle classes, who can afford to send their children to the universities, and politicians are causing massive traffic jams in major conurbations throughout the country in protest against a hike in fuel prices.

Indonesia, once a major oil exporter able to subsidise fuel for domestic use, is faced with major budgetary constraints due to those subsidies and needs to reduce them in order to attempt the nigh on impossible feat of staving off national bankruptcy. Therefore, yesterday saw a 28.7% rise in the price of subsidised fuel.

Given that the last fuel price rise took place in October 2005 and that the global price of a barrel of oil is now around $135, it does make a lot of sense to withstand the self-centred criticism. The government has initiated a social welfare programme whereby registered poor families are to receive Rp.100,000 (c.$11) in cash and 15 kg of rice per month for the rest of the year.

All seemingly sensible and fair, except .....

This is Indonesia where a government's writ is not large. It appears that there are regents and mayors who have refused to comply with the government's scheme; they generally belong to PDI-P, the party of former President Megashopper, and Golkar, formerly Suharto's manufactured source of power and headed by Vice President Jusuf Kalla. He has warned local authorities who have said that they won't distribute the cash that they face administrative sanctions.

I can't see anything in the news about extreme sanctions being enacted against those elected officials and bureaucrats who enrich themselves from the funds.

There's a Presidential election next year.

Politic Amagni
Politics needs blood,
Politics needs crisis,
Politics needs human beings,
Politics needs votes.
That's why, my friend, it's evidence,
Politics needs violence -
Politics is violence.
- fr. Dimanche á Bamoko.
Amadou & Miriam.
prod. Manu Chao. 2005



1:00 pm |
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
  Ten years of democratisation?

With the fall of Sukarno, Indonesia has won a second chance. Not all countries get that opportunity. Now the challenge for both Indonesians and their friends is to see that it is not squandered like the first.
- John Hughes. The End of Sukarno. pub Archipelago Press. 1967/2002

Forty years later, the same could be said for the end of Suharto, which happened ten years ago today, except it is now time to ask whether the third chance is being squandered.

My instant reaction is, yes, it is. The seeming lack of development of the infrastructure and/or deterioration is the most obvious sign, with nigh on 50% of the population lacking electricity, 40% reputedly living below the poverty line, school buildings collapsing within sight of multi-storey shopping malls, and evidence of widespread corruption among legislators and bureaucrats of all levels.

A trawl through the Jakartass archives may suggest that it is a litany of complaints, but that is because I'm still, after more than 20 years, trying to make sense of it all. Besides, if everything were hunky-dory, then who would want to read about sugar-coated cuteness and celebrities?


The cult of selebritis, whilst not being unique to Indonesia, is a cover-up for the vacuum that exists in many people's lives. Struggling for survival does not allow much time for individual initiative and self-esteem, so gazing at the navels of dangdut stars is a simple pleasure for many of the masses.

In most parts of Indonesia, you can see umpteen folk seemingly 'hanging out'. As documented by Bambang Aroengbinang, there are some 40 million living on less than $2 a day, yet most are somehow scratching a living. They may be peddling peanuts to motorists stuck in the traffic jams on the toll roads, busking on the buses, scavenging for scraps, but they outnumber the beggars.

My heading is taken from a special edition of Inside Indonesia, an online magazine well worth subscribing to, if only because although its articles are easily digested, they are written by academics and researchers with a broader bandwidth and greater networking power than me.

All the articles point to the emergence of political parties, direct elections and the notion that since reformasi in 1998 people have power.

Indo Demo

How much power is debatable given that there are very few political parties which do not have ties to the old Suhartoist New Order, including the military - (scroll through the comments for 'Sarwo Edhie').

Yet, as we 'celebrate' 10 years of someone, anyone, other than Suharto at the helm, we are witnessing the emergence of an Islamic-based party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) which is finally challenging the hierarchical hegemony of the still-entrenched forces of before, having won the gubernatorial elections in West Java and North Sumatra, admittedly on a low turnout of electors. Their candidates were not immediately associated with the past and were successful because they developed their grassroots appeal, much of it through community networks based on local mosques.

For a secular westerner, such as myself, it is worrying to see parties base their political and social platforms on a particular interpretation of their religion. Some ruling parties, in such places as Tangerang, west of Jakarta, and Padang in West Sumatra have imposed rules on non-adherents. These are generally discriminatory against women, and the electoral victors are generally in favour of polygamy. Tangerang, for example, has a curfew - for women only, and West Sumatra has an imposed Islamic dress code. In the latter case, this is particularly perverse as Padang is the provincial capital of the Minang culture, a matrilineal society.

God, or rather the differing interpretations of Her powers, has led to flurries of communal strife: in Maluku, Central Sulawesi and here in Jakarta, it has been ostensibly between Muslims and Christians. Elsewhere Muslims have battled Muslims and some have randomly targetted anyone within range of their explosives.

It is going to take a generation for a people's democracy to become healthily rooted. What we are witnessing now is largely camouflage, a curtain-raiser.

As Vedi R. Hadiz suggested in her article What you see is what you get, the types of social interests that have come to preside over Indonesia’s democratic institutions remain largely those that were nurtured during the New Order. These social interests have now reorganised and reinvented themselves as ‘democrats’.

Predominant in virtually all the institutions of governance today, many former New Order officials and hangers-on found that authoritarianism was no longer required for that purpose. This was possible because of the absence of coherent, genuinely reformist social coalitions that could take advantage of the state of flux that existed immediately after Suharto’s resignation in May 1998.

Of course, this partly accounts for the continued and more widely-spread bad habits of corruption, collusion and nepotism which are regularly reported in the press, and therein perhaps lies the country's salvation. Apart from some high profile legislators being caught, hands outstretched, with 'prominent' businessfolk, we are also now witnessing police, prosecutors and bureaucrats being questioned as either witnesses or official suspects by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

The recent detention of the Bank Indonesia Governor, Burhanuddin Abdullah, in connection with the misappropriation of $11 million from the bank has got many parliamentarians worried as they were the reputed recipients of the funds.

Cleaning up the institutions of state management - the tax, immigration, police, judiciary, local government etc. - and making bureaucratic procedures open and transparent is the key to reformasi. Once those who have been acting with an arrogant sense of impunity start losing their immunity from prosecution, then society can strengthen communal ties.

It has taken a rock group, Slank, Indonesia's most popular band, to further crack the edifice when they recently played their latest release, Street Gossip, outside the offices of KPK found new fans.

"Want to know the mafia in Senayan/Who draw up laws, draft bills for bucks?"

Certain parliamentarians, based in Senayan, threatened to sue the group for defamation, a notion hastily rejected when one of their number was caught red-handed in a Jakarta hotel accepting a bribe. Other MPs, including some from the prominent anti-graft party, PKS, recent winners of gubernatorial elections, have handed back $A120,000, hopefully recognising the shame and embarrassment they have caused, both to themselves and to the society they purportedly represent.

This week Indonesia celebrates its past, almost as if there were no tomorrow.

Well, there won't be unless Indonesians, and foreign investors, recognise that Indonesia's natural resources cannot be selfishly exploited any more. They are a finite repository of all that their Gods have created. Indonesia belongs to a much wider world.

It is the failure to recognise this that is my main concern, and it is this that is the main impediment to the growth of a flourishing democracy, one that recognises that our differences are the key to unity.

Although it was the Memorandum of Understanding signed on 15th August 2005 between the Government of Indonesia (GoI) and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) which paved the way for direct elections and a guaranteed degree of autonomy, that finally ended 30 years of guerrilla warfare, it was the 2004 tsunami which was immediately responsible for the cessation of hostilities.

It may, therefore, take another catastrophe for Indonesia, a tectonic shift maybe, to undergo the necessary major societal surgery which will ensure its survival as a unified country recognised as a mature member of the world's community.


5:30 am |
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
  National Awakening or National Enlightenment?

Today is a national holiday, a red day in the calendar, because it is Hari Raya Waisak which commemorates Buddha's Enlightenment. Today is also the centenary of National Awakening Day.

The nation's politicians will make their obligatory pilgrimages to temples around the country and those who believe they are more élite than others will be seen at Borobodur Temple, a world cultural heritage site.

Elsewhere, in their mansions, twelve legislators with their entourage of 12 House staff members, two legislators' wives and one husband and one staff member's wife, will be recovering from jet lag. They have all just returned from an all-expenses paid , including $500 per diem 'pocket money', 'comparative study' trip to Argentina. This was supposedly to learn about the presidential election system. The agenda allocated two days for the study - and seven for sightseeing.

A Yahoo search for '100 years awakening of Indonesia history' produced very little. However I was interested to read an invitation to a seminar organised by the Indonesian Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic.

It is expected that during the seminar, the meaning of National Awakening (1908), National Youth Pledge (1928) and National Reform (1998) will receive special attention. It is also hoped that there will be significant attention given to serious matters on the impediments faced by Indonesia as the reason why after 60 years of independence this country is still unable to fulfill its promise to the people.

The National Reform movement (Reformasi), which is 'celebrating' it's 10th anniversary is but a pebble, and not yet a sizeable stepping stone on Indonesia's path to National Enlightenment. There are too many rivers to cross as the nation waits for the cronies of the Cendana clan to move aside. They are still have powerful friends in the judiciary. Witness the potential disbarment of prominent human rights lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis. The case against him, an alleged conflict of interest, was brought by a lawyer, Hotman Paris Hutapea, described four years ago as "the embodiment of Jakarta's filthy rich."

Can it really be a matter of conflict of interest when the judiciary and lawmakers are renowned for their links to business interests?

There is little evidence of National Enlightenment; this is a nation still sleeping or, at best, wandering in a blinkered daze. When official representatives of the country can state (above) that "this country is still unable to fulfill its promise to the people", I trust it is not a blithe capitulation to the mood of National Greed.

If it's not, then please allow me to join in and give a loud wake up call.



5:30 am |
Sunday, May 18, 2008
  I Had A Brussels Sprout Last Night

The term Brussels sprout is a countable noun whose plural form is Brussels sprouts. A commonly used alternative form is brussel sprout, whose plural is brussel sprouts. However, linking the name with the Belgian capital of Brussels would argue against dropping the last "s" in the first word (although the Dutch name for the city is "Brussel").

Excuse that bit of grammatical pedantry, but to generations of Brits and, as I discovered last night, probably Canadians too, Brussels sprouts are one of the most loathed vegetables. A mini-cabbage, loads of them are grown on a stalk and picked just in time for the traditional Christmas dinner where they are a side dish set alongside a large roast bird. If it's a turkey, then its leftovers can last a week, and cold sprouts are blah, eew and yuk.

Luckily last night did only last the one night.

I was a guest at the BritCham FA Cup Final Dinner Extravaganza With Everton FC, it said on the invite, except that Everton FC didn't make it as due to "demands from their partners to intensify activities in Thailand, India and China" they regretted that they could not "do justice to Britcham and Indonesia at this time."

However, the sponsors did. I was seated at the Jakarta Post table and discovered that I was the only connection with my daily read, having had a few letters published, a book review and an article. Oh, and I do know columnist Simon Pitchforth, who is pretty scathing about sponsors and marketing in his MetroMad column today.

The venue was the SuperDuper InterContinental and if not seated at a table close to one of the four wall screens, then folk were sat in the terraces. This was an important distinction because we nobs had a free flow of food and booze whilst the proles had a fixed menu and had to fork out for anything consumed over and beyond their allotted ration.

Our menus were different too. Whilst the proles had to make do with Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas, or Bangers and Mash, we got Scallop and Mushroom Pie, Beer Battered Cod Fillet and Brussels Sprout with Cheddar Cheese Sauce. We also got Salamagundi and Rumbled Thumbs, which one of our group, a fellow vegetarian, decided was the "random unknown".

It must be mentioned that the evening was in aid of in aid of Giving Kids A Sporting Chance, an initiative to provide learning and opportunities for 'disadvantaged' children through the region. And as befits a charity do, there were a number of local dignitaries present. These included Our (new) Man in Jakarta, Martin Hatful, and Ray Bigger, a former referee and now ESPN pundit, who runs his own "people development' company in Singapore.

In Ray's well-practiced speech, he described footballers as being 'uneducated', which I did feel was a gross generalisation. Sure, many of the game's superstars may be shallow in their worldly outlook, but that comes from being cocooned in a world of fans' make believe. In the lower divisions players have lower incomes and subsequently a greater motivation to learn skills needed to live a fulfilling life once their playing days are over.

Which could lead me to question if there is merit in sending three local kids for trials with ManYoo and Leeds, but far better to mention that the final was watched by at least half of us. The others continued chatting or, in the case of a few sponsors, went off to pastures anew.

The first half of the match seemed to be an even match, with Cardiff, who finished one place below Charlton in Tier 2, giving a good account of themselves - until Portsmouth scored the only goal of the match. The second half was less free-flowing, unlike the Carlsbergs which kept passing my lips, so I can't really comment about it.

And the evening ended, for me, disappointedly. It's not because I failed to win the door prize of a Nokia phone, or the consolation prize of a box of Carlsberg beers; my little moan is because whilst all these prizes and acknowledgements were taking place, the broadcast of Portsmouth celebrating and Cardiff looking deflated in their loss was switched off.

The magic of the FA Cup is that little clubs get to take part. For most the season, seemingly unimaginable results occur until the final itself. For Brits, it's a day when shops are empty and pubs are full. The arrival of the teams and pundits pontificating are all part of the build up to the match itself, and the conflicting emotions afterwards need to be witnessed.

It's a time for reflection, the post-coital cigarette, and we were denied that in order to appease the corporate world.

Still, thanks to that sprout, my first in over 20 years, last night will always be memorable.


12:00 pm |
Thursday, May 15, 2008
  A Few Thoughts

From now on I will be deleting all anonymous comments.

When I have posted anything about my ongoing legal case on my Performing Monkeys blog, I will mention it here. That is where comments about the case and why we are pursuing it should be posted. In fact, this afternoon I have posted the comments in my post below as a post.

This is partly because I'd like to welcome Antisthenes as a commentator - whoever he is.
Good News?

Palm oil companies operating in Indonesia pledged to stop expanding plantations into forests in response to growing global criticism about deforestation and to promote more sustainable products.

Executive director of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI), Didiek Hadjar Goenadi, said here Monday palm oil companies would focus on utilizing idle land, including former
forest concession areas, to maintain Indonesia as the world's largest crude palm oil producer.

In late 2006 Ecological Internet launched an international protest campaign on this matter - bringing to the world's attention how oil palm plantations on carbon rich tropical rainforest peatlands were destroying biodiversity, global climate and orangutan habitat.

As an aside, I do wonder who is responsible for declaring certain areas of land to be "idle".
Bad News?

I've recently received a circulated email with pictures which purport to show Japan's "hottest food" - dead babies or fetuses which can "be bought at ¥10,000 to ¥12,000 from hospitals to meet the high demand for grilled or barbequed babies."

It is a seriously disturbing email. Could it be a very sick hoax?
Do you remember the first time music made you cry? How about the time when you first learned how utterly immense the universe is? Or kissed someone you knew you would never see again? Are you still able to recall those impossible and lonely and ecstatic moments? Are you capable of opening your heart to wonder?

Some highfalutin words there, not mine, but I don't think they are so much hyperbole because they refer to an album I've just received which has left me gob-smacked with a shivery spine.

They refer to Virgínia Rodrigues and her album Nós.

What a voice.

This album is to touch whatever we used to think of as God.



5:30 pm |
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
  A Blow Against Labour

The following was published on 8 May 2008 by HukumOnline, the major library concerned with Indonesian legal matters, and is reproduced with their kind permission.

It relates to my legal case against BPK Penabur claiming unfair and arbitrary dismissal, a claim that we lost in the Industrial Relations Court, albeit having gone through the necessary initial process of negotiation under the auspices of the Ministry of Manpower. Our appeal, to the Supreme Court, is being lodged today.

The decision is of major concern to every employer or employee in Indonesia, and especially expatriates. I have not editorialised the article in any way, but in the weeks (months? years?) to come I will be adding a commentary to my Performing Monkeys blog (where your comments will be welcome - probably) whilst seeking to publicise those details of malfeance, intimidation and possible corruption of which we have documentary proof, not least because we are worried about the implications for all former colleagues, both expatriate and Indonesian.

Industrial Relations Court Decision - A Win for Employers

The Industrial Relations Court (Pengadilan Hubungan Industrial / PHI) located in the Central Jakarta District Court has handed down an interesting decision that has implications for the employment of expatriates across the board. This particular dispute arose between a number of teachers who believe that they have been unfairly, arbitrarily, and unilaterally dismissed contrary to the provisions enshrined in the Labor Law (Law No. 13 of 2003) to protect them.

In a blow to labor of all forms in Indonesia the PHI has sided with the employers in this case. Why is it a blow? The decision expands the previous interpretations of the provisions of the Labor Law in a manner which clearly favors employers over their employees. This brings into question whether employees have any real employment security once an employer decides to terminate their services for any reason, real or imagined, in a unilateral manner.

The Labor Law is presumably to enhance and protect the interests of both parties in this situation and to ensure this occurs a limited interpretation of the provisions must be applied. Limited in this sense refers to interpretations that comply not only with the spirit of the provisions but with the wording of those provisions as well.

An interesting aside to this case is that there was a previous mediated decision formulated by the Labor and Transmigration Office of West Jakarta that indicates that the Respondents in this case were in breach of the provisions of the law. This mediated decision made an award to the Plaintiffs. However, there was a stipulation that if either party disagreed with the award then they could proceed with an action in the PHI. In this case the Respondents chose this option. It is worth noting that the PHI did not give any consideration to the mediated settlement decision of the Labor and Transmigration office despite the document being entered into evidence.

Of most interest to employers in this decision is that Specified Term Employment Contracts (Perjanjian Kerja Waktu Tertentu / PKWT) cannot morph into Unspecified Term Employment Contract (Perjanjian Kerja Waktu Tidak Tertentu / PKWTT) even where the employer fails to renew the expired PKWT. The reasoning offered by the PHI was that the Labor Law requires expatriates to be on PKWT.

The literal reasoning and application of the provision above flies in the face of the creative interpretation offered by the PHI with regard to the language of PKWTs. The Labor Law at Article 57(1) seems to explicitly suggest that a PKWT must be in Indonesian. One of the claims of the Plaintiffs was that the only contracts they had were in English. However, the PHI held that the contracts in English fulfilled the necessary requirements under the law.

For employees it is important that they understand that once they have been terminated that the “clock is ticking”. This means that the prevailing laws and regulations only allow for a certain amount of time to elapse before any claim must be lodged. It is important to note that the PHI made specific reference to matters that were submitted outside of the stipulated time frame.

However, in a win for employees, the PHI held that if an individual was engaged into employment after the mandatory retirement age then an employer could not rely then on Article 167 to terminate the employee because they had entered mandatory retirement age.

The decision was determined on 8 April 2008 and read out in open court on 17 April 2008.

The Plaintiffs have already commenced the process of appeal.


5:00 am
Monday, May 12, 2008
  We did, thanks.

Have a lovely time, that is.

3 nights and 2 days of relatively pollution free living is balm for the soul and other poetic stuff.

If we'd stayed a bit longer, we might have partook of a Balinese Boreh: this is a centuries-Old recipe using purely and simply on herb and spice.

Yep, there's nothing like a weekend of good food, or so we were told. After all, we are what we eat, and who's to quibble over mealtime rituals, eh?

We didn't have time to try the Tropical Fruit Bath. This treatment begin with a hour massage the followed with blended fresh papaya to the body as mask then cover with plastic sheet and leave for 15 minute.

No, we didn't have time for all that because the aim of the weekend was to get reacquainted with Son No.1 and his wife A, and to get acquainted with two-year old K.

These are her hands and one of her Dad's.

Son No.1, who's in the posh hotel business (rather than the homestay we booked for his tribe) did tell me that the only comment about his website came from a GM who really liked the writing about Jakarta. Apart from the fact that I wrote that bit, ahem, it lead into a discussion about writers, and he told me the tale of a journalist/football reporter friend of his who's written a few well-received books about marital life and has now been commissioned to write a book about what an expectant father can expect before the arrival of a boy or girl.

Sadly, although his friend and marital partner have been practicing steadfastly, she has yet to get the happy news of expectancy, or, as Son No.1 put it, "they've been working their butts off to get pregnant."

I suggested that therein probably lay the fundamental reason for their failing.

And thinking of missing children, it is ten years ago this month that the Suhartoist military thugs were 'disappearing' student activists and shooting them from the toll roads overlooking campuses.

Suharto may have gone, hallelujah, but the responsible generals have yet to be brought to task, so I ask you to remember all those parents who continue to seek closure.

My written memoir of that period can be found in my May 1998 archives.


6:00 pm |
Saturday, May 10, 2008
  Whilst I'm away ....

You might like to check out a couple of photoblogs I've come across ~ or rather they've come across Jakartass and given me a link.

is a traveller, and his recent photos are of Indonesia.

Then there's Bob Rose, a photographer, whose site covers scenes of Jakarta and Indonesian musicians. He's planning a book on aspects of Indonesian music which I'd be interested in reading.

One of my students, 17 year old Aditya, is planning to become a graphic artist when he grows up leaves school. He's posted some of his photos on Deviant Art, a site worth a rummage through as it hosts the nascent and otherwise unpublished works of photoshoppers and experimental photographers.

Someone who is a graphic artist, and of some renown, is my mate Derek Bacon. Have a look at his site and look out for the covers he's done for the Economist magazine.

If you're looking for a Green Lifestyle, then look no further than their site. It's in Indonesian, but, hey, it's more vibrant and more regularly updated than Green Indonesia, which I did hope would be an English language version. If I only had the time.

And finally a couple of titbits related to emails I have received.

1. From the end of trading on the 13th of May, Merdeka Coffee will not be available from any of the Periplus outlets nationwide. Go to their site and order directly if you want fair-trade local coffee.

2. Pangea Day is a global film event to be held on May 10 - today. A defining element of Pangea Day is the idea that people from around the world come together or self organize their own "watch party" events and tune in at the same time.

This being Indonesia, you can watch the movies on Star World via satellite or Kabelvision on Sunday May 11th at 2am. This, you'll note, is a different day, so not "at the same time" because most Indonesians are asleep at that time and not with people "from around the world" - unless you invite them round to your place,

But not mine. As I said, we're away.

And probably asleep.


9:00 am |
Friday, May 09, 2008
  Worried about my health?

Don't be.

Research has established that "gangly men are less likely to develop Alzheimer's". The "study (also) suggests (that) a healthy upbringing protects against the degenerative disease". I was weaned on a postwar diet of free milk and orange juice, and rationing was in force so there wasn't junk food around. Also, my parents brought me up as a vegetarian, which I remain to this day.

Given that Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease of the brain, consider yourselves lucky that, other factors notwithstanding, cross your fingers and hope not to die, you'll be able to read Jakartass for quite a while yet.

Whilst I'm waxing autobiographical, you may be interested in the following email I sent yesterday.

Greetings namesake,

I was checking the stats of my blog 'Jakartass' and discovered that someone had googled 'namesake+indonesia+anti-pornography'

Obviously, in my paranoia I thought that someone was out to get me. Except they weren't and didn't.

Sure, they got Jakartass - my last post in fact. So I clicked on the other google links and got this, which turns out to be a very readable, albeit somewhat right-wing, blog, "the idle musings of a former soldier, former computer geek, former pastor and now full-time writer. Contents guaranteed to offend the politically correct and anal-retentive from time to time. Life should be taken with a large helping of laughter and sufficient firepower to keep it tamed."

And he posted this about yet another namesake.

I'm not as stupid as that one. You're obviously not either!

And neither is our namesake who was co-author of the original SpongeBob books.


We're out of town until Monday meeting, here if you're really interested, and greeting Son no.1 and his family, including the first sighting of Our Kid's first niece.


12:00 pm |
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
  Here's an interesting question.

If an Indonesian blogger writes something that is critical about one of the so-called, generally self-styled, élite, then how should the seemingly maligned person react?

Browse through my archives, or use the search facility, and you'll see that at various times I've criticised Abdurizal Bakrie, but not just because he's become Indonesia's richest man from exploiting Indonewsia's natural resources, Yusuf Kalla and Fauzi Bowo for making particularly asinine and offensive remarks about issues of major concern to the rakyat (population at large), and Adam Suherman for being particularly arrogant in his ownership of the now grounded by diktat rather than incompetence Adam Air.

I also regularly comment on the Cendana Clan, but generally in connection with their former cronies who are continuously reinventing themselves in order to cling on to their ill-gotten gains.

I wrote a few days ago about journalists being concerned that the criminal code, essentially those articles dealing with defamation, are occasionally used to muzzle them.

In my legal action against my erstwhile employers,
I've criticised their philosophy. Within a day or so we'll be launching a major publicity offensive about the case. Meanwhile, as their major complaint against me was that in writing about the issue, and naming the top officials responsible (which I took from their respective websites) I was "in breach of etiquette".

The judges rightly dismissed this point.

However, exercising one's judgement when writing about a society, especially when one isn't certain about one's rights within that society, isn't easy. It can be a thin line.

If I were an Indonesian, with the full voting rights of a citizen, and I had, for example, information about corrupt judges, would I have the courage to name and shame them on this site? Or would I use my language powers and insinuate, infer and, thereby, implicate? As an English language 'expert', I could hide behind my floridity.

But if I wrote in Indonesian, would I have the same protection?

Or would I suffer a similar fate to
Raja Petra, a Malaysian blogger who, on Tuesday, was charged with sedition for allegedly implying the deputy prime minister was involved in the sensational killing of a young Mongolian woman.

"Allegedly implying"?*

Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin, who has not denied that he linked Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak to the slayings, pleaded innocent to the charge, telling reporters later that he should have the right to hold the powerful accountable for wrongdoing.

Critics slammed the charge, which carries a maximum punishment of three years in jail, as a blow to freedom of speech.

"Raja Petra has done a lot to raise people's awareness of issues," said Nurul Izzah Anwar, an opposition member of Parliament and daughter of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

That the issue is already in the public domain seems to be irrelevant.

So, my question is, are Indonesians prepared to write about rights, to stand up when it counts?

Are there limits to 'our' freedom to comment? Or are we restrained, as I am at 5 o'clock this morning, by our limited access to the internet?

*Read what Raja Petra wrote here.


6:00 am |
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
  I've seen the future ...

...... and it scares the hell out of me, or might if I wasn't an unashamed idealist and probably too old to actually be part of it.

Although I am one of the internet's leading lights (in Indonesia) with at least 200 folk a day (on average, on a good day) popping by, I still value a degree of anonymity. Yes, I do know that my name and infamy can be tracked from this site and through the various widgets and gadgets I've embedded in my template I can also easily find out who comes from where.

However, unless my visitors have come from what appears to another interesting site, I rarely bother tracking anyone. Honestly. But if we bloggers publish on the net it's because we want our thoughts to be read, so it's only fair to allow others to have a peruse. Although Jakartass may sometimes appear to be the work of someone suffering from ADD and my posts can appear to be random, I suggest that it's curiosity and happenstance rather than any sense of logic which generally predetermines what I comment on.

I'm not anti-social, although friends may disagree, but I have only signed up to Facebook in order to browse family photos. I do not have a Friendster account, nor have I accepted invitations, often from complete strangers, to join other so-called social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Live Journal, FullaShyte, etc., nor do I bother with instant communication gizmos such as Twitter or Windows Messenger.

I do like spontaneity but not at the expense of privacy. I have been known to chat, when I can get a word in edgeways, on JakChat, but, hey, I also like to chat face-to-face with some, but not all, of those I meet online.

You'll note that I've personally placed the only adverts I have on Jakartass; they are not generally part of the editorial content. This is not because I don't need an additional source of income - I do - but because having inflicted my point of view on you, why should I inflict additional crap?

There are well-known dangers to giving away too much personal information, something teenagers especially should be aware of. And now there is a newer development on social networking sites, both insidious and invidious. Having tracked the online clicks of their members, operators are now selling advertising which is specifically geared to the profiles and posts In your 'private' space you are likely to find personalised ads, offering you medicines, planned parties - whatever matches your condition.

Socialising is yet another commodity being sold to the highest bidder. There can be little sense of spontaneity if your every posted thought is monetised - by a faceless someone else. But there is worse.

Telephone sheep
Again, thanks to J-Walk Blog

The problem is not that those wishing to control your every thought can block access to particular sites, as readily witnessed in China and recently here. After all, those of us who are fairly au fait with the internet soon find ways to bypass the censorship. Now, however, it is the machines which are proving to be more effective for monitoring and controlling.

Everyone and his cat seems to have an i-Pod. Were you aware that these and, say, Blackberries can only be modified by their manufacturers? This may mean a certain immunity from the trojans, trolls and spammers who plague the rest of us on the net, but this also means that you are virtually imprisoned, locked in to certain systems whose operators can read your emails, follow your hyperspace trails and build up a 'real' profile of you, unlike the pseudonymous profile you post on your social networking sites.

Jonathan Zittrain says that tethered appliances make censorship easier. In North Korea, the 38-year-old professor of "cyberlaw" at both Oxford and Harvard universities notes, radios are manufactured so they can't be tuned to non-official sources. Controlling a Chinese dissident's communications with the outside world is far easier if they pass through a mobile phone; on the wide-open internet, the authorities fight a constant losing battle, shutting down each new chatroom or messageboard as it pops up.

So now I have yet another reason to remain a Luddite.
Jonathan Zittrain is the author of The Future of the Internet And How to Stop It, pub. by Allen Lane.


8:00 am |
Sunday, May 04, 2008
  It's in the news
..... so it must be true!

This post is in honour of yesterday's World Press Freedom Day, although surely everyday should be one. I would have posted this yesterday if I hadn't had one of those aggravating WTF days and if I had had more than .5kbs of internet access. Most of the headlines and quotes have been taken from the Jakarta Post which, to quote my good friend and Post columnist Simon Pitchforth, has been my portal on Indonesia for just over 20 of its 25 years

Meanwhile, journalists are seeking a review of the Criminal Code which is used to muzzle the press.

They say that Articles 207, 310 (i and ii), 311 (i) and 316, which deal with defamation and libel, run counter to Article 28E of the Constitution on freedom of expression and Article 28F on freedom to obtain and distribute information, as well as Article 19 on civil and political rights in the Universal Human Rights Declaration of 1948.

Also, the recently passed bill on electronic information and transactions is now posing another threat to our press freedom.

- Commodity speculations stir up energy and food crisis
Atma Jaya University professor Agustinus Prasetyantoko said that with predictions of a slowing global economy and crisis fears, oil demand and prices are expected to fall. But what has happened is that prices keep on rising. It shows that market speculation plays a big role in determining prices.

- UN appoints rapporteur on the right to food
Professor Olivier de Schutter said, "We are paying for 20 years of mistakes. Nothing was done to prevent speculation on raw materials (e.g. biofuels, palm oil). He accused the IMF of forcing indebted developing countries to invest in export cash crops at the expense of food self-sufficiency."

- Astra profit rises 76%
PT Astra International, Indonesia's biggest publicly traded company by sales, reported first-quarter profit rose 76 percent on higher car and motorcycle sales* and rising palm oil prices.

- Bakrie Sumatera Plantations Q1 profit jumps 794% (!!!) helped by stronger prices of palm oil prices.

Mayday Rallies
On Mayday, coincidentally a public holiday here because it was also the 'anniversary' of Christ's Ascension, some 200 protesters rallying in front of the Wisma Bakrie in Kuningan, South Jakarta, about the effect of the Lapindo mudflow were arrested by South Jakarta Police for not holding a police permit for a rally.

In Sidoarjo, Lapindo Brantas, the Bakrie company mandated by SBY to pay compensation to the homeless victims because most agree they are responsible for the volcanic mudflow, have ceased paying the food allowance to the victims of their malfeasance. They have also yet to pay the agreed compensation. Refugees from the mudflow have taken to begging for food from passing motorists.

- The Humpuss Group celebrates 24 years
No big deal, you might think, but the big cheese behind it is one of Soeharto's brats, Tommy, who has served time for ordering the murder of a judge who ordered him to serve time. No less than 49 companies have allowed themselves to be associated with the Humpuss Group's self-congratulatory half-page full colour fluff in the Jakarta Post

- The missing finger that never was
One lucky company has had plenty of international media exposure. On three separate occasions. Over two years.
More stats and lies

- Foreign arrivals up 15.7 percent
The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) said on Friday that the number of foreign arrivals jumped from 1.41 million in the first quarter of 2008 from 1.22 million in the same period last year.

They also said that the average length of stay for foreign tourists decreased 0.06 to 2.69 days in February from 2.66 in the previous month.

The average length of stay? Meaning that some tourists stay for even less time?


* Motorcycle sales jump 125% in seven years.
Motorcycle ownership jumped from 10.5 million in 2000 to 23.7 million by the end of last year.

Is this something to be proud of? Where are the figures for users of public transport?


12:00 pm |
Thursday, May 01, 2008
  Another Mayoral Election

I'm cynical about 'democracy'. I believe that whoever you vote for, the government always gets in. If you do vote, you have to live with the consequences. If you don't vote, then you can always say that the consequences are nothing to do with you.

Londoners have a choice today, essentially between incumbent and unpopular Ken Livingstone and incompetent yet populist Boris Johnson. The electors do have other choices, unlike Jakartans last year, but they also have proportionally weighted representation so that second-choices have a value.

I haven't lived in London for over 20 years, but I am a Londoner and, cor blimey Guv, it's a heritage I'm proud of. I'm also a Ken fan, having campaigned for him when he started on his political path back in 1973/4 by trying to get the votes of we "hippy squatters" (© The Times) in Lambeth. He was elected, as was John Major who went on to become Prime Minister, the successor to Margaret Thatcher.

Later, as Leader of the Greater London Council (GLC), Ken promoted such schemes a 'Fares Fair' policy whereby children could travel throughout the city at a subsidised rate, thus escaping the ghetto-like housing estates in which they were virtually imprisoned due to the poverty trap, and primary and secondary housing co-operatives which went some way towards enabling 'Housing For All'.

Margaret Thatcher, the arrogant Tory Prime Minister, dissolved the GLC at the behest of the upper middle classes of the outer-London boroughs who resented subsidising those who lived in the deprived inner-city, often due to their poverty, ethnicity and/or other perceived societal disadvantages, and thus benefitting most from the GLC policies of the time.

I've never liked Ken
as I always felt he was far too left wing and uncompromising for my outlook. Yet, as a fellow Londoner, I have generally believed that he has had the well-being of Londoners at heart. I do not believe that he is someone seeking self-glorification or financial rewards. Above all, his current legacy is a city which has a future because it has promoted public transport above private gas-guzzlers, which welcomes tourists, and is a place residents can be proud of. (I wish I could say the same about Jakarta!)

Boris Johnson is not a Londoner and has absolutely no experience of running a bureaucracy. He is a man with no substance, and little no empathy with his fellows. In fact, he is capable of offending entire countries!

Here are some of his other sayings:

On transport
"I don't believe [using a mobile phone at the wheel] is necessarily any more dangerous than the many other risky things that people do with their free hands while driving - nose-picking, reading the paper, studying the A-Z, beating the children, and so on."
Daily Telegraph, 2002

On Africa
"Right, let's go and look at some more piccaninnies."
· Reported remark, while visiting Uganda, to Swedish Unicef workers and their black driver. Observer, 2003

George Bush and Iraq
"He liberated Iraq. It is good enough for me."
Daily Telegraph, 2004

On sex
"I've slept with far fewer than 1,000."
· On whether he has slept with fewer than 30 women, like Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.
Daily Telegraph, 2008

On obesity
"Nothing but their own fat fault."

As a Londoner, I urge all readers who are eligible to vote today to do so. Don't live to regret your inaction. This also means that even if you don't want to vote for Ken, for everyone's sake, don't vote against him. Today, consequences do matter!

A Word After

So I failed to influence the vote and Boris was the choice of those Londoners who don't experience the deprivations of living in inner-city areas, but prefer to commute in their gas-guzzling SUVs.

However, shortly after being elected the new Mayor of London, he publicly told Ken Livingstone: "I think you have been a very considerable public servant and a distinguished leader of this city. You shaped the office of mayor. You gave it national prominence and when London was attacked on July 7 2005 you spoke for London.

"And I can tell you that your courage and the sheer exuberant nerve with which you stuck it to your enemies, you have thereby earned the thanks of millions of Londoners even if you think that they have a funny way of showing it today."

Johnson made clear that he still envisaged a role for Livingstone, who had suggested he would have offered his Tory rival a job if he had held office.

"When we have that drink together, which we both so richly deserve, I hope we can discover a way in which the mayoralty can continue to benefit from your transparent love of London, a city whose energy conquered the world and which now brings the world together in one city.

And that is the core of my support of Ken through the years: he has always worked hard for London, particularly in defence of its multi-culturalism. If Boris, and Gov. Fuzzy Bodoh here, have just half of Ken's commitment towards improving the lot of their city's residents and denizens, then there may be cause for optimism.



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