Wednesday, April 30, 2008
  It's April 30th

Do you know what you did 30 years ago today?

I do.

Although at that time I was living in north-west England, close to the Windscale Nuclear Reprocessing Plant, I had hitch-hiked down to London to take part in an anti-nuclear demonstration. (Maybe I should have started this paragraph with 'because'.)

I stayed with friends in Brixton who had another demonstration to go to the following day, Sunday 30 April 1978, and so did I. My friends worked for Lambeth Law Centre, which offered pro bono legal services to the poor of the borough, many of whom were black. We were all concerned with the rise of the National Front, an overtly racist organisation, as an electoral force.

Many folk were opposed to them and formed groups affiliated to the Anti-Nazi League and wore lapel badges suggesting that we were civil servants, like my father, teachers, coal miners or whoever against the NF.

As on the previous day, the demo started with speeches in Trafalgar Square, which were followed by a march.

We got to Trafalgar Square long after the speeches, so we tagged on to the end of what we realised must have been an immense demonstration because there were no police left to escort us. We followed a flat bed lorry on which one of my favourite groups, Misty In Roots, played Exodus, the Bob Marley song, to which we danced down the Strand, Fleet Street past Petticoat Lane and further into the Eat End of London, supposedly the haunt of the fascist thugs we were opposed to. I say “supposedly” because there were few to be seen, but we were thanked by the multi-racial onlookers.

By the time we joined the throngs in Victoria Park, we’d missed many performances by the bands who had united for Rock Against Racism.

Someone who obviously got to the park earlier than us was Eva Lake, now in the USA, who remembers the Clash, X-Ray Spex and Steel Pulse. And we both recall singing along with the Tom Robinson Band about being Glad To Be Gay.

We were united in fighting intolerance and it was a great day in British social history.

That nigh on thirty years later I am now witnessing a darkening intolerance going hand-in-hand with the deepening of Indonesian democracy is sad. Although some, such as Rima Fauzi argue that the alarming increase of intolerance among people of different groups and religions ... could be the beginning of Indonesia’s journey into medieval times, I tend to disagree.

And this is in spite of such outrages as the burning of a mosque belonging to a supposedly heretical Muslim sect, Ahmadiyah, by a mob of presumably underemployed hooligans. That the government is being urged to ban the sect, founded over a hundred years ago, and that SBY should ignore Article 28 (1) of the Constitution which guarantees the right to worship the god (or gods?) of one’s choosing is an indication that there is currently little focus on the problems facing this country other than the here and now. The recent ‘anti-pornography’ bans on dangdut singers, the suggestion that masseuses should wear chastity belts, are surely just signs of sexual immaturity. (Those men who are so easily discomforted in the presence of women should be ones put under lock and key.)

Society has yet to learn how to make its way in the world following Suharto’s abdication ten years ago. Having been bottle-fed from birth, and punished, often brutally, by Suharto's New Order, Indonesia’s emerging democracy is barely past the toddler stage. Children of just ten years old are rarely able to think beyond their immediate concerns and still tend to say still 'gimme, gimme'. This accounts both for the gross consumerism and the lack of awareness that others have a right to personal space.

If you think about motorists with their shiny cars disregarding pedestrians and ignoring the white lines painted on the roads in order to rush into the next bottleneck, you get the picture. It's just like children with toys which they won’t allow others to play with. Readers of the local news are well-aware that it is the so-called élite who are generally caught with their pants down and their hands outstretched. They are unable to offer true leadership because they have always been sheepish followers.

Yet it is the children, the next generation, that we have to look to for guidance. If they can see through the lies which their indoctrinated teachers and parents give them, and that older generations have shown little regard for the future well-being of their successors, then maybe, hopefully, the youth of today won't fuck things up so much when it's their turn to operate the levers of power.

I believe the world can be made a better place before it's too late and that the majority of today's children offer the hope and tolerance which Indonesia sorely needs.

But then, I remain an unashamed idealist.

And you?


7:00 pm |
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
  An Eulogy for Ya 'Udah
---- by David Jardine

In common with most people I had long thought it impossible to turn a silk purse into a sow’s ear. Now I know otherwise. When the peerless Jalan Jaksa emporium ‘Ya-Udah Bistro’ closed its doors last weekend that was bad enough but the scuttlebutt now has it* that the premises will become a…karaoke bar! Pass the spittoon, would you!

I was the very first customer through the gate just under seven years ago and the last one out. I can safely say I have been its most frequent visitor, even allowing for four months medical treatment in the UK three and a bit years ago. That, I think, qualifies me to make a few comments.

Owner Pedro Fauquez is a Swiss from Zurich in which city he once ran a British-style pub. He once also worked for Swissair. He knows all about catering, a field in which the Swiss excel and down the years it showed.

The motto of the ‘Bistro’ was “Quality…an understatement!” and a few blemishes apart Pedro has set the standard for others to copy, if they can. He may or may not have read James Joyce, who once said Swiss cities are so hygienic that you could eat a fried egg off the pavements. Certainly, I never doubted the cleanliness of the place, and it has been the only eatery I have ever known where the waitresses were expected to polish the menus page for page!

Price-wise it was almost impossible to beat. Where else would you get a very large bowl of Chef’s Salad for Rp.17,000, replete with fresh veg, chicken strips and boiled egg. Where else would you get top quality German sausages with a potato side dish of your choice for Rp 29,000 (c.US$3), no plus-plus?

There was over the years a real international quality to Pedro’s extensive menu. At various stages Swiss, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Thai, British, American, Mexican, Indonesian, Japanese and other cuisines have been represented.

Pedro can be gruff, a little brusque and if he got a bee in his bonnet about someone they soon found out. Hence, one or two folk got the heave-ho. And one or two silly buggers reacted rather childishly by setting up a scurrilous website called ‘Ya-udah Sucks’. Very silly buggers! Pedro over-reacted to this by threatening legal action when it would have been better to ignore it.

Beneath that gruff exterior is a very kind man and I can speak readily of his kindness and consideration towards the late Peter Sanders, a hugely popular Jaksa expatriate, and of other instances too.

Oh, and his beer was cold and cheap to the last! Only Rp 16,000 for a large Bintang right down to the wire.

There is talk of him having acquired some other premises in the vicinity. In the meantime Arthur Morgan’s ‘Romance Bar’ and ‘Warna Warni’ at the Tugu Tani end of Wahid Hasyim are the places to head and of course ‘Pappa’ café, if you can put up with certain folk!

Miss you, ‘Bistro’!
*Other scuttlebutt has recent Jakarta Governor and prospective Presidential candidate Sutiyoso being a major figure behind the development plans and that another branch of Carrefour is going to be built at the bottom end of the street. I would appreciate confirmation or otherwise of this, and whether he is as fond of karaoke as SBY.


6:30 pm |
Sunday, April 27, 2008
  Blog Blocking

The "largest InfoCom company and network provider in Indonesia", Telkom, has been intermittently blocking Blogger.com, which is probably the largest host of blogs worldwide. One look at my blogroll to the right will give you some idea of its popularity here.

Given that the majority of blogs are of the "I kissed the cat, hit the boyfriend and then went shopping' variety (and hence not a feature of Jakartass), then one must question why Telkom is taking such action.

Perhaps it should also be noted that the recent blocking of YouTube and several other sites which carried a rather simplistic video was a diktat from the President, and a rather strange one considering that he's earned a reputation for not being decisive. Public reaction and condemnation soon made the politicians see sense.

So, on whose authority is Telkom blocking Blogger?

The Rev made a formal complaint and this is the reply he received from their Customer (Don't?) Care Dept.

Thank you for your question,

All about your question we will take up until we have a problem solving, but you not in your number that bloking?

give your number to us and we will do the best for your problem.

we have a solution for your problem or you can web in www.telkom.co.id and you can call 147.

thank you for your attention.

For more rotten English, read MetroMad's column in today's Jakarta Post.


3:00 pm |
Thursday, April 24, 2008
  Just in time

Riza V. Tjahjadi of the BioTani & Bahari Indonesia Foundation has sent me an email:

If you want to know about the current hybrid rice situation in Indonesia and subscribe to the CNN channel, then watch CNN news on Friday 25 April 2008 (tomorrow).

I was interviewed by Kathy Quiano, a producer from CNN Indonesia office in my office yesterday, 23 April 2008.

And if you're really interested to know more about the players and movers - the army in league with Chinese conglomerates - then you can read lots more here.

A bit late

Thomas Belfield of Jakarta Urban Blog has been and gone back to Hawaii and he sent me this email:

Thought you would like to know that your book (Culture Shock-Jakarta) is well stocked in the Periplus Book Store at Soekarno-Hatta (International Departures).

I suppose folk who've experienced culture shock here may like to put everything into some kind of perspective, but the intent of the book is really to read it before coming.

At last!

And one more email from my inbox:

We thought it would never happen, but the time has finally come.

Since all good things must end, now is the time for the Ya-Udah Bistro to say goodbye.

So goodbye to all our customers, past and present. Goodbye to those who complained and refused to pay, goodbye to those we insulted and threw out.

And goodbye, especially, to those customers who remained loyal through all our various difficulties, right to the end.

Thus, the moon will finally set upon the Ya-Udah Bistro, Jl. Jaksa 49, Jakarta Pusat, at midnight on Sunday, 27th April.

At last!

Contrary to certain rumours, Jakartass is not a regular in Jl.Jaksa, but I did get to like Ya ‘Udah, and not only for the reasonably priced fine food overseen by Pedro, the Swiss-German co-owner chef, and the large cold Bintangs. The service has generally been impeccable, with cold towels to wipe away the street grime and sweat as you settle at your table.

Over the years, places come and go, but this is the only one wherein the waitresses greet Our Kid by name. So we’ll be there on Saturday afternoon, to say goodbye to some familiar faces and for the rest of us to work out which watering hole is going to earn our custom.


1:30 pm |
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Johan Lorbeer is a German street performer.
(Thanks to J-Walk blog)

With his still-life performances, this German artist seems to unhinge the laws of gravity. For hours on time, he remains, as a living work of art, in physically impossible positions. Elevated or reduced to the state of a sculpture, he interacts with the bewildered and irritated audience, whose appetite for communication rises as time goes by, often culminating in the wish to touch the artist in his superhuman, angelic appearance in order to participate in his abilities.

This seems to sum up what I feel about today's missive from my ISP, Indosat. Somehow it seems to unhinge the laws of customer service. Before you read it, please note that the last paper invoice I received from them was dated February 25th, 2007. Before that, it was 25th June 2005.

Dear IndosatM2 Valued Customer,

It is such a pleasant feeling to be able to greet you again. We are truly hoping that you could always enjoy our service conveniently.

Participation on Conserving the Environment
To support our commitment in providing convenient service to all customers, as well as our responsibility to support and take part in conserving the environment, we take one step at a time, start by saving paper, saving trees, and preserve resources. Therefore; commencing July 2008, billing statements for Internet Broadband 3.5G dan Dial Up Service (which I have) will be sent electronically instead of delivery by courier.

IM2 E-Billing
For your convenience, e-billing facility we provide is free of charge. The package also comes with many benefits such as:
- Fast - quick and reliable delivery process. You do not have to wait for the mail or worry your invoice delivered past due date, or even becoming lost.
- Convenient – you will be able to view your billing detail anytime anywhere, and all data could easily be saved on your desktop for future reference.
- Environment Friendly - by reducing paper source, you also take part in conserving forest in Indonesia.
- Free - no additional cost for e-billing service.
- Flexible – we offer variety form of billing service. First priority would be an electronic statement to your email address. Should you wish to receive original copy, delivery service via courier is available with additional cost of Rp. 4.000,- / invoice (plus tax 10 %).

Please be advised that copy of invoice via e-billing is considered as an official document.

In other words, they are now charging for courier service, but if you want to print out an e-bill ~ thus negating the chance to be Environment Friendly ~ then that's ok.

I wonder, too, if Indosat has weighed up the costs of storage and processing all the bills of their customers because one of the biggest growth areas in electricity consumption is the server industry.

We do hope that the information we provide could answer and accommodate what necessary in settling the administration purpose, equally you could optimize the service in more pleasant way.

Enjoy convenience with IndosatM2.

Best regards,

Nanan D. Machdi
Customer Service Manager

What I think is that the best way I "could optimize the service in more pleasant way" is to find an almost free ISP offering good customer service and a reasonable bandwidth.

Which country would be best?


5:30 pm |
Monday, April 21, 2008
  André Vltchek Comments

I've posted the following as a comment on Rima Fauzi's blog at André Vltchek's request because he says that where he is the internet connection is too slow. What? I thought, even slower than mine? ~ but that's not going to stop me complaining!

Anyway, both Rima and I (as well as Bartele) linked to the piece that André wrote entitled Pornography Ban Ignores the Starving. Many local bloggers have expressed outrage at the recent moralising from legislators and other idiots which many of us presume is being used as a diversion from the moral corruption at the heart of the state.

André, as a full-time writer, seems able to offer his righteous rants in better, more forceful terms than the rest of us.

And here's why.

Rina and all,

Thank you for your comments regarding my piece. Please correct the spelling of my second name. This way you can google
VLTCHEK and read more acid stuff that I am producing.

As Jakartass mentioned, I am not really a resident of the city ... and that's because I refuse to reside anywhere and to belong to anything. I live in Japan and Samoa and also in Jakarta, moving constantly around the globe. As a novelist and journalist I feel I have to do it - the world is evolving and I don't want to lose the beat.

I am trying to be objective about Indonesia. Although it is not easy. I witnessed some terrible things there - consequences of mass rape in small town of Ermera in East Timor (more than 10 years ago), killing in Ambon, Aceh, Papua, pogroms in Solo. I also experienced the bitterness of your greatest thinker and novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Pram wrote his last book with me. It is called "Exile" in English (Haymarket Press, Ney York) and "Saya Terbakar Amarah Sendirian" (Gramedia) in bahasa.

I also had to suck in the bitterness and pain of the victims of 1965 massacres (or call it a genocide of leftists, Chinese and non-believers) when I made a 90 minutes long documentary film "Terlena - Breaking of a Nation". There is something very, very wrong with the country.

As you probably notice, I am very tough on other nations as well. In my non-fiction book "Western Terror - From Potosi to Baghdad" I trashed our own neo-colonialism. And in my latest novel "Point of No Return" I am dealing with the confusion and disgrace of being a war correspondent in the late decades of the 20th century. As it is, I am very frustrated about the state of the world. And the more I see (I have visited more than 130 countries), the more angry I become. And when I get angry, I work. I write. That's my only weapon. Pen, computer, still camera, video camera ...

Take this as a greeting from Solomon Islands - another conflict area where I am presently stuck. Thank you for reading... And caring for what is happening around you.



7:00 pm |
Sunday, April 20, 2008
  Try Reading These

If you're in Indonesia trying to access blogs hosted by Blogger, you may find that Telkom won't let you. Why? Conspiracy theories abound, but I prefer to think that it's the typical WTF Indonesian incompetence and general lack of corporate social responsibility.

But I'm nice like that.

Certain matters, including a lengthy bout of flu, mean that I'm easing off writing for a day or so, so here are a few suggestions to keep you amused while I'm out.

Two - or is it one? - yet-to-arrive expats have both linked to Jakartass, thanks ladies, and they've made some interesting discoveries of new (to me)blogs which are hopefully of interest to you.

Maya is expecting to be in Medan come July and her friend Kay may end up in Korea thanks to one of those WTF things which regularly happen here. Wherever they end up, they show evidence of not wishing to walk in all unknowing.

Stephen Davidson's Faces of Indonesia is his celebration of the beautiful people of this country. His aim: to post Indonesian faces until something prevents me. I will take photographs of faces wherever I go in Indonesia. He also has a website for the rest of his portfolio.

Maya links to Ask Miree who answers emails on Whats New (in) Jakarta. The site is akin to a personalised Yellow Pages ~ folk have asked about "Disney on Ice" shows, restaurant supplies companies, where to fix luggage wheels and the location of kickboxing schools. She also has a newsletter, although I haven't yet received a copy.

I've also discovered a Jakarta Events site which is for the younger nightbirds.

Jak Snaps is the title of a relatively new blog by Solenn, a French free-lance journalist, and Matt, who teaches in an international school. They have been living in Indonesia, presumably Jakarta, since April 2007.

These next two expat Indonesian blogs I should have linked to before. Elyani's Place is personal but well-written, whilst Rima Fauzi is a penniless recovering shopaholic who live life by this quote: "I have the simplest tastes, I am only satisfied by the best" - Oscar Wilde. But I am so much more than that. I am a singer, a songwriter, a poet, plus size model, a wife, a lover, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a writer, a partner, a listener, a chef and a baker. Do you want to hear my music?

If she makes music as well as she writes her opinions, then probably yes.


6:00 pm |
Thursday, April 17, 2008
  Nutmeg News

In football, a nutmeg is when a player manages to put the ball through an opposing player's legs. When performed through a goalkeeper’s legs, thus resulting in a goal, it looks even worse. And that scenario seems to exemplify the latest epistle from the UK government regarding traveling through or residing in Indonesia.

The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) of H.M. Government has seemingly waited to inform us of what a dangerous place Indonesia is until H.E. Charles Humphrey CMG and his wife, Enid, recently Our Man (and his wife) at the Embassy, have retired and gone back to Blighty.

Yep, tourists and residents are urged to read the latest Travel Advisory, issued yesterday, which has changed but little in the past five years.

We advise againt (sic) all but essential travel to Maluku Province, especially Ambon, which was the scene of serious civil unrest between 1999 and 2002. The region has continued to experience violence which can unexpectedly increase in intensity. Violence resulting from civil unrest in Ambon has resulted in a number of deaths and serious injuries. On 25 April 2007, a bomb attack in a market in Ambon saw eight people injured, one of whom suffered serious injuries. The situation in Maluku and North Maluku remains unsettled.

Charles and Humphrey were interviewed for the March issue of Update, the monthly magazine of the British Chamber of Commerce. He said that "both Enid and I have enjoyed ... travelling, both officially and privately, ... but there are still a number of places unvisited. We had been planning a trip to Ternate and Banda and I think we shall slip back quietly without telling anyone and do the trip later on."

It's a good job you've retired Sir Charles, or the FCO might have demoted you, eh?

And, yes, Ternate, which is a quite magnificent island north of Ambon is well worth visiting for its very strange flora and fauna ~ and I’m not referring to the contestants in the disputed gubernatorial election. Banda, way south of Ambon, is the setting for the denouement of the British involvement in the Spice Trade of this part of the world, and the island is absolutely delightful, with remnants of Dutch villas and a fort. Sir Charles and Lady Enid are advised to read Nathaniel's Nutmeg : Or, the True and Incredible Adventure of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History, if they haven’t already, in order to really experience time travel.

Son.No.1 and I spent six weeks in the Molluccas 13/14 years ago, admittedly before the troubles erupted, and given the time I'd go back like a shot, if you'll excuse the expression.

You can find trouble wherever you go in the world, and Indonesia, whilst being no exception, is much less hazardous than most - if you discount the transport problems which the Advisory does rightly focus on at some length.


10:30 am |
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
  Every Politician MUST Blog

Yes, folks, for some time now the writing's been on the wall ~ assuming hyperspace has such limits. The power of bloggers has proved so overwhelming that "the ruling party has decreed that candidates for posts will be required to set up blogs, a turnaround for governing politicians who had derided online politicking".

Of course, that isn't here in Indonesia because, as everyone knows, Ministers and former Presidential spokesmen are more than welcome to archive their speeches and articles, much as journalists and newspaper columnists do. Juwono Sudarsono, the Minister of Defence, no longer graces the Top 100, maybe because Yusril Ihza Mahendra, the former Minister of Justice and Human Rights and soon-to-be soap opera star has slipped past him into position 97. Wimar Witoelar, Gus Dur's spokesman a few years ago, is immensely popular, presumably because he is chubby cheeked and cheeky, and has an amazing hair style which dominates the TV screen. His blog is at no.6.

(Jakartass is only at no.8, which is ok as I have no intention of becoming a media personality. Or a politician.)

As I have documented over the past week or so, overwhelming pressure from internet users forced the government's delegated and responsible Minister here has apologised for blocking websites. The Minister for Women's Affairs agrees with those of us who suggest that the notion of masseuses wearing chastity belts (rather than the male punters who could adopt those shown on this page) is ridiculous. And the losing political parties in West Java may be considering plugging into the 'people's power', the blogosphere which has got the Malaysian ruling party in a tizz. (If you can't beat them, join them, eh?)

Personally, I think hyperspace has too much waffle floating around as it is and I see no reason why I should be shunted aside by political crap from vested interests. It's all lies guaranteed to generate vitriol. For example, the following statement is virtually guaranteed to be responded to - venomously: I firmly believe that Ken Livingstone is the greatest living Londoner, and deserves to be elected Mayor for Life.

Having got that out of my system, it's only fair to point you in the direction of a few more blogs I've recently discovered, blogs which are worth keeping an eye on whatever their authorship or ranking.

I'll do that tomorrow.

Or the day after.


6:30 pm |
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
  Whose morals?

A week ago I commented on the government's wheeze to divert attention away from its failings by launching moral development courses with an extra compulsory graduation exam in Indonesian schools.

Since then, our attention has been further diverted by the blocking of several sites carrying a film which has inflamed the passions of some 100 Indonesian hooligans who haven't actually seen it.

Headlines in the Jakarta Post this past week have been about the arrests of senior police involved in illegal logging, arrests of several legislators who have seemingly been bribed to allow a protected forest to be reclassified as "an industrial forest", and the arrest of the Governor of Bank Indonesia because legislators were given cash bonuses to pass legislation favourable to Bank Indonesia.

Of course, it can be argued that the cleaning of the stables is a good thing, because not all the horses have bolted to Singapore or China. But what does this tell those school children who need courses in moral development? Do children start out as innocent lambs and get corrupted? Or are they born with original sin?

Last week I pointed out to a group of senior high school students about to sit their six, count 'em, final exams that they were lucky because next year's graduating teenagers will have to take seven. I asked them to define what attributes should be recognised in a moral code for their age group, a group old enough to vote, drive and join the armed forces. (One of the students was on crutches because outside the school, with the traffic supposedly held up by school security officers, she had been knocked down by a pick-up truck in too much of a hurry to reach the next traffic jam.)

One may expect students worrying about which universities their parents can afford to enrol them in - assuming they also manage to pass the university entrance exams - to be self-centred. Far from it in the case of this group, who were, according to their I.D. cards, a mix of Christians, Muslims and Buddhists.

I was particularly impressed with the agreed definition of their top priority: respect of each other, regardless of religion, ethic background and culture, and self-respect.

Every business letter in Indonesia starts with Dengan hormat (With respect) and generally ends with a quite unnecessary "thank you for reading this letter". It is encouraging to note that this group of teens have learnt that showing deference is not necessarily a sign of respect.

Politeness, discipline, responsibility and general non-discriminatory "caring and sharing" were other admired qualities. It is unrealistic to expect all school leavers to demonstrate self-awareness like this group does, but we can wish.

We can also be thankful that the moralising forces here have been shown up as the incompetent fools that they are, so they have been unable to take on board a malignant suggestion emanating from the Islamic Institute of Understanding (Ikim) and the Syariah Judiciary Department in Malaysia. A recent seminar proposed that "non-Muslims committing khalwat (close proximity) with Muslims should also be sentenced accordingly. The Muslims can be sentenced in Syariah courts, and the non-Muslim partners can probably be sentenced in the civil courts, to be fair to both parties.

Another proposal calls for the establishment of a rehabilitation centre for those convicted of offences related to morals and faith such as prostitution and effeminate men.

Not wishing to titillate you too much with tales of caning and sado-masochism, you'd better peruse the full story here which has been provided by MarinaM, who I'm told is the daughter of former Malaysian premier Mahathir. She makes the point that the recent elections there saw the ruling party losing touch with the population and this sharia proposal demonstrates that they have learnt very little from that debacle.

Here, in West Java, and because of their "shock" defeat in last week's gubernatorial election, the two major political groupings, Golkar, chaired by Vice President Yusuf Kalla, and PDI-P, chaired by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, have both vowed to get more in touch with the citizenry.

Could this be a sign, albeit a small one, of a sea-change in the attitudes of those wishing to govern us? A sign that they are prepared to listen rather than pontificate and moralise?

We can wish.


8:30 pm |
Monday, April 14, 2008
  Rank of Infamy

Sport on TV can be very boring. Yesterday saw the umpteenth London Marathon and the commentators got very excited by the fact that records were set, a Brit or two ended up in the top 100 and it rained; this apparently cooled down the fastest runners but maybe caused hypothermia amongst the slowest who were probably dressed as dustbins in aid of charity.

How the common folk were dressed wasn't shown by the cameras of Eurosport, though I'm sure that mums, dads and the hoi polloi out on the streets were happy to cheer on the masses.

I think Our Kid showed some interest too as I commented on the start of the race, which was my old stomping ground of Blackheath. The route went up Shooter's Hill Road, past Old Dover Road and a few side streets which I knew intimately as a teenager because that was my newspaper round and route to The Valley, past the Baptist Church which my sister and I were shunted off to on a Sunday morning ~ possibly because our parents wanted to enjoy their conjugal rights ~ and then, fleetingly, past no. 204 where we spent our school years.

Oh look, I told Our Kid, there's the end wall of the parade of shops which was the view from my bedroom window. (I wonder if anyone has discovered my first grammar school report which I hid in a crack of the bay window.)

Yesterday proved to be a better sports day for those of us who like long-distance running, golf and curling, because the one TV broadcaster monopolising the English Premier League (EPL) have been taken off the air for a number of "administrative violations". These include its unpaid (since 2005!) frequency fees of Rp.191 million ($20,000). Interestingly, the company say that in not providing service to its 140,000 subscribers, it's losing $100,000 a day.

So it looks as if Astro/Direct Vision managed to mislay its petty cash box for three years or so. Being a generous hearted soul, wishing to think only the best of others, I would like to suggest that this is a matter of incompetence and not pure greed and that Astro, a Malaysian company, has the monopoly of broadcasting rights for the EPL makes good business sense.

As I said, I would like to say that but .....

I would also like to praise Telkom, the main telecommunications provider in Indonesia. I would like to praise them for providing sufficient bandwidth for adding informational links to this post, but I can't. I would also like to thank them for being discriminative when it comes to following the government guidelines and preventing access to sites which are provocative.

However, given that access to Jakartass and all blogs hosted by Blogspot, a Google company, was unilaterally denied by Telkom yesterday I can only condemn them wholeheartedly.

I'll let The Rev speak for me.

Enemy action

This morning, Sunday 12 April, Blogspot sites are inaccessible via my ISP (Telkom). They are, however, accessible via my Anonymizer account.

Specific blogs that I tried to visit include Jakartass (thanks, Rev), Green Stump, Indonesia Now, Jenny Q and Friskodude. (See my blogroll. J) All were bounced by Telkom. When I switched on the Anonymizer service, they were all accessible. The only conclusion I can come to is that the whole of Blogspot is under interdiction by Telkom's ISP this morning.*

This is a national disgrace, and must be doing immense harm to Indonesia's international reputation. Denying people the right to freely visit established and respected web sites puts the government here in the same rank of infamy as China.

*This lasted most of the day. I used Indosat, others Linknet etc.


9:00 am |
Saturday, April 12, 2008
  Apology Accepted

The Minister of Information and Communications, Muhammed Nuh, has apologised for ordering the blocking of various sites, such as YouTube and Multiply, which host the video Fitna which upset a few lads who admitted to not having actually seen it.

Apparently there were "overwhelming complaints" from internet users and providers, not all of whom are bloggers. There were suggestions in some quarters that Jakartass was blocked for a while. As I didn't try to access this site yesterday morning, I wouldn't know. However, a number of tech-savvy friends have commented that if by some chance Jakartass was offline it was more likely to be as a result of general incompetence by whoever has their fingers on the switches than anything I said.

And what I've said is that I don't want to see images of so-called Islamic fundamentalists beheading captives or to watch the indoctrination of suicide bombers, but I would appreciate having the option of not watching.

I am prepared to think that SBY is ill-advised by certain 'experts' and he's too busy to bother himself with technical details. Besides, he has an election to think of, so whilst all this kerfuffle was happening he was out of town handing out food parcels to some impoverished farmers.

Of course, this sorry affair isn't over yet. The issue started with the government writing to YouTube last week asking them to remove the film. This was obviously tantamount to dictating to the worldwide community of internet users and, in the parlance of international diplomacy, an incredibly stupid and totally unacceptable act. The resolution of this issue is that the individual addresses, rather than the sites are blocked. There are ways around this but, given that I'm not interested in viewing the film, you'll have to work them out for yourself.

I have the feeling that this issue will resurface because Google, owners of YouTube, had this to say: "We propose that the ministry send a list of videos believed to be illegal, noting the specific web addresses. We will promptly review the ministry's list and remove any illegal videos from display to Indonesian YouTube."

This smacks of external censorship, much as practiced in China and, to varying degrees, throughout south-east Asia.

In the spirit of testing the waters, I offer this link to a post about a new animated film about the Prophet Mohammed.

Of course, I haven't seen it, and because we just don't have the bandwidth neither will the vast majority of Indonesia-based internet surfers .

And offering citizens inkless pens is the worst form of censorship.


12:00 pm |
Thursday, April 10, 2008
  Thursday Thoughts

1. Trans TV are looking for an expatriate audience to watch their show Empat Mata on Tuesday, April 15th from 21.30 - 23.00 at Studio 9 TRANS 7, Gedung TRANS TV, Jalan Kapt. P. Tendean no 12-14 Mampang, Jakarta Selatan.

The theme of the show is "I Love Indonesia" and is for expatriates or artists who are living in Indonesia. If you are interested in watching this show, please let Dewi Handayani know if you can go.

I can't, even though, as a glasses wearer, I was known at school as Four Eyes.

2. We were expecting the judge in our legal case - see this blog for background info - to make his final decision today, so we dutifully rolled up at the Industrial Relations Court at 11.30 this morning because Thursday is the only day of the week that such decisions and other court hearings are heard.

And today was the day that our judge was summoned to a meeting with his boss elsewhere in Jakarta. Not Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or tomorrow, Friday (a half day anyway). There were loads of lawyers (and clients) wasting their time until 5pm, when they were told to return next week.

Justice will be served, but not in our time.

3. From the Guardian Football Rumour Mill (Monday 8th April) and posted on Dr. Kish's site.

When Rodney Trotter gets married in Only Fools and Horses it comes to light that his middle name is Charlton, setting up this brilliant set-piece:
Del: "Mum was a big fan."
Marlene: "Charlton Heston?"
Del: "No, Charlton Athletic."

For nigh on fifty years, it's really pissed me off that Mr. Heston and Messrs. Bobby and Wee Jackie are what folk think of when Charlton gets mentioned. Try googling images of 'Charlton' and count the number of b & w images of the '66 World Cup you're offered.


6:30 pm |
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
  The thin edge of the wedge ...
........... is controlled by thick people.

The message below says that because folk are liable to get steamed up by a short film which expresses the bigotry of one Dutchman, then by the authority of the Minister of Information and Communications thou shalt not access seven websites which host a zillion other videos you may want to watch in case you find just the one.

Bapak/Ibu Pelanggan IndosatM2 Yang Terhormat,

Kami mengucapkan terima kasih atas kepercayaan Bapak/Ibu yang telah memberikan kesempatan kepada kami untuk menyediakan layanan Multimedia bagi Bapak/Ibu.

Merujuk pada Surat Menteri Kominfo kepada Asosiasi Penyelenggara Jasa Internet Indonesia (APJII) Nomor: 84/M.KOMINFO/04/08 tanggal 2 April 2008 Perihal: Pemblokiran Situs dan Blog Yang Memuat Film Fitna, maka kami memutuskan untuk menutup sementara akses ke beberapa situs sebagai berikut:
---1. Youtube
---2. MySpace
---3. Multiply
---4. Video Google
---5. Liveleak
---6. Rapidshare

Untuk kenyamanan Bapak/Ibu, kami senantiasa mencari cara yang lebih tepat untuk melakukan pembatasan secara akurat tanpa mengganggu kualitas koneksi.

Untuk informasi terkini mengenai status pemblokiran akses atas situs – situs tersebut diatas, Bapak/Ibu dapat mengunjungi website kami www.indosatm2.com.

Demikian kami sampaikan dan atas perhatian serta dukungan yang telah diberikan, kami ucapkan terima kasih.

Salam hormat,

Takim Parulasbawa
PTH Manger (sic) Customer Service

Let's ignore for the moment that the Electronic Information and Transaction Law has only just been passed by the Legislature and has yet to be signed into law by the President. We can also ignore the lack of regulations which make this new law enforceable, regulations which are expected to take a year to formulate.

The major question is whether we live in a secular or sharia state.

If the former, on what grounds has the letter been issued? If the latter, when was it decreed?

In both situations, this is overkill. Preventing a few, a very few, folk from watching a poorly made video is not going to prevent demonstrations. The police have arrested a dozen youngish lads who recently burned the Dutch flag outside the Dutch embassy in Jakarta. Few, if any!, have actually seen the movie Fitna.

And even fewer of us have sufficient bandwidth to download any video!

What next? Blogger?

What is clear is that Takim Parulasbawa, who signed the letter, is an admirer of the dog in the manger.
Mea Culpa.
I should read a bit closer rather than making assumptions. Rob Baiton has left a comment below which points out that "the Minister issued the 'Letter' under Article 21 of the Telecommunications Law (No. 36/1999) which contains similar provisions to Article 27 of the recently passed not yet enacted ITE Bill."

Still doesn't change my argument though. But it does raise the question of why they (Roy Suryo?) have bothered wasted the legislature's time when there are many more vital issues facing Indonesia.
As the days flow by the comments and emails flood in. Rather than link to all the folk who've posted their own critique of the w*nkers who deign to determine what our morals should be, I'd like to reintroduce André Vltchek, "a novelist, journalist, filmmaker and playwright", who has access to the Fourth Estate. In other words, he can get his comments published on overseas sites which cannot be blocked by the petty bureaucrats here without them creating a diplomatic incident.

Read The New Face of Indonesia’s Islamic Fundamentalism: Pornography Ban Ignores the Starving >here<.


5:00 pm |
Sunday, April 06, 2008
  Sex and (no) more sex?

A correspondent has written to me saying that she has difficulty in accessing this site because someone who sits astride his moral high horse thinks that bloggers are hackers. The someone is Roy Suryo, the moral crusader behind the pornography section of the recently enacted, but yet to be regulated, Electronic Information and Transactions Law.

This is, of course, a matter of the blind leading the blind - one wanker among many. He managed to screw $10,000 out of SBY's budget in order to set up the President's website, a typical mish-mash with little regard for the incredibly narrow bandwidth which is the bane of the 20% (an over-estimate?) of the population with access to the internet.

However, you would surely expect a self-styled expert to know the difference between blogging and hacking, wouldn't you?

Well, Roy, if you're reading this, you may be interested to know that I gave up hacking when I stubbed out my last ciggie just over two years ago.

But if it's sex that you want - or, as most of us suspect, need - then you will certainly be interested to know that some interesting research has been conducted by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, who have discovered that contrary to popular belief, the Abdopus aculeatus found in Indonesia practise sexual habits that amount to "more than just arm-wrestling".

Having titillated your fancy, you now ought to click here.

Still staying on the topic of sex, and why not, Patung of Indonesian Matters has highlighted the latest wheeze to keep women out of harm's way - chastity belts. And Rob Baiton has a picture.

That's yet more work for the Thought Police.

What I find intriguing about these puritans is that in highlighting what they dislike, they are merely turning people on. After all, rules are made to be broken.

So what are we to make of the latest wheeze of the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare? Last week, the government launched the National Movement for Good Conduct, a program that aims to promote morality among school students, with the publication of 12 textbooks on morality.

Abdurizal Bakrie said the movement was in line with the 2006 law on national education, which mandates the country's schools participate in the moral development of students. He said the movement would promote moral values that are universally accepted.

No doubt he was referring to the fact that he is now the country's wealthiest man and happy to flaunt his wealth whilst seemingly doing his best to ignore the plight of the 20,000 (and rising) refugees in East Java who remain homeless and penniless because he is not prepared to meet the financial obligations incurred by his company, Lapindo Brantas, in causing the mudflow. That he has also seemingly not complied with the presidential instruction to compensate the victims of his company's incompetence leads me to rename him Obdurate Bakrie.

Whose morals are children supposed to emulate? Is there agreement among the varied religious groupings? Is there a social safety network for those, such as I've highlighted this past week, who become the victims of immorality ? Is there a moral code for those soldiers and their generals who seemingly get away with gross human rights abuses?

There are so many breaches of morality occurring on a daily basis. There are water and rice shortages, a totally inadequate infrastructure which results in deaths from neglect, be they related to appalling roads or shortages of medical care.

The national exams, which are about to be sat by grades 6, 9 and 12, are totally inadequate and, in the case of the English tryout tests I've seen so far, not only of questionable educational value, but riddled with errors.

To misquote GBS, or maybe Woody Allen: Those who can - do, those who can't - teach, and those who can't teach - manage schools.

Instead of morality tests, a wholesale change of the education system is called for, such as suggested by Salvatore Simarmata in his essay, originally published in the Jakarta Post and now on Thoughts Outside The Indonesian Box, entitled Thinking outside the curriculum: Changing education.

An education system which encourages creativity, exploration and teamwork will build moral character. The imposition of a morality is just that, an imposition, and given that children and teenagers largely develop self-awareness through acts of independence, often termed rebellion, then this is yet another bandaid solution doomed not to succeed.

Our Moral Arbiters are barely articulate yet they dare pontificate to the rest of us. They are really unattractive people so I say go screw yourselves but be careful you don't catch AIDS.

Let the rest of us live our lives without your interference and in peace.

This logo is 50 years old today.


2:30 pm |
Saturday, April 05, 2008
  In The Unknowing

It is in the unknowing that mistakes can happen, and with situations of domestic violence not knowing what to do can have devastating consequences.

Yesterday's post coincided with the publication by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of a Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women.

This report covers 15 sites and 10 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Peru, Namibia, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Data from the report show that violence against women is widespread and demands a public health response.

Report findings document the prevalence of intimate partner violence and its association with women's physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health. Data is included on non-partner violence, sexual abuse during childhood and forced first sexual experience.

Information is also provided on women’s responses: Whom do women turn to and whom do they tell about the violence in their lives? Do they leave or fight back? Which services do they use and what response do they get?

The report concludes with 15 recommendations to strengthen national commitment and action on violence against women.

Whether the Indonesian government recognises the issue and responds effectively is an issue I hope others more qualified than I will address (and I will support).

Meanwhile I am posting slightly edited emails sent to me in response to yesterday's post as a matter of record and in the hope - an unfortunate choice of word - that the information will prove of value.

a. If there is any physical abuse/violence, the first thing to do, almost immediately, is take her to a hospital and make sure they do a thorough check up. Except for the obvious reasons, it will be very difficult to make any sort of case whatsoever without a certified proof of physical violence. As tragic as it sounds, pay the hospital if you will, make sure they make the 'visum' as severe as possible.
Also, take photographic evidence of the abuse.

b. The police will refuse to do any immediate investigation unless:
----- there's an actual crime being committed i.e. they witness the assault and they can arrest him for 'probable cause' or
----- very severe injuries have been inflicted.

Since the law for domestic abuse is very murky, the police are generally reluctant to act unless one of those two conditions are fulfilled. To have a witness - an adult - to see the beating is probably useful, but those two conditions are really necessary.

c. The police will not move to an immediate arrest for less than a permanent physical damage - so if it's only bruises etc. then the most they can do is issue a summons. They will only move to arrest after the third summons - needed to satisfy the condition for a major assault.

d. As for custody of the children, it is almost impossible for the husband to legally sue for custody, especially if there is proof of violence. Simply disappearing with the kids should be sufficient as the wife tries to file for divorce.

The madness in this country (and elsewhere - J) is that often, the woman refuses to divorce him. If she decides to go for divorce, make sure she is in a secure house with relatives and/or adult supervision in case he comes around. The RT/RW/ local police are usually cooperativ in such cases and there are no legal grounds to take the kids so long as the mother is present).

Get a lawyer.
If you can't afford a lawyer, there are quite a few legal aid groups specializing on these things, KPA (Komisi Perlindungan Anak) will help and there are a few others.

LBH APIK Jakarta (Women's Legal Aid Institute)
Jl. Raya Tengah No.16
RT. 01/09
Jakarta Timur 13540
Tel. 021-8779 7289
Fax.: 021 - 8779 3300
e-mail: apiknet@centrin.net.id

(More contact details would be welcome.)

General advice
- Ask her for what she wants, perhaps waiting a few days for her to make up her mind and consider all options (child support, etc.)
- If he is rich, you can choose to make the crazy bastard pay.
- If she wants a divorce, then secure the child(ren) somewhere and have a good lawyer deal with it
- If she wants a divorce but can't afford a lawyer, then follow the advice of the legal aid institute.

- Finally (and strictly off the record) if she wants a divorce and a payback ........... these things can be arranged.


10:30 am |
Friday, April 04, 2008
  Among The Sisters

Some thirty years ago the borough of Copeland in West Cumbria, north-west England, considered a proposal from a community group to set up and manage a refuge for battered women, victims of abusive relationships.

One elderly councillor, who I'll call Joe because that was his name, put the kibosh on the project by stating that "there's only one battered woman around here, and that's my wife. And I'm not letting her anywhere near you's lot."

Late yesterday evening a niece (S) of 'Er Indoors arrived dishevelled and distressed. She had her youngest child, aged just one, with her and her four year old was back with her mother-in-law. Her husband had brutalised her once too often by hitting her around the head with an ashtray and punching her several times in the stomach. Expecting him to arrive at any time soon, a report was made at our local police post.

Things were calm for an hour or so, until the phone calls started and the anger in my wife's voice as she castigated the c**t woke me. I disconnected the phone, only for him to drive into town and come rattling our gate and shouting his wife's name. The second time this happened, just before midnight, I was aroused enough to go after him in the street even though I was barely dressed in a sarong. Years of experience of quelling large classes of school students has given me a loud, angry and commanding voice. I used it to such effect that he drove off as several neighbours came out in their nighties.

Once they realised that this wasn't a drunken bit of craziness on my part, they were supportive.

The police arrived shortly after I'd gone back to sleep. There were four of them, one in a casual shirt and jeans with hair long enough to make me think he was a premen (street hooligan) and the other three with incipient paunches. One of these uniformed officers claimed to know me (gulp). They came in, sat, listened and offered sound support. They said that if husband was to appear again in our street we were to shout "maling, maling" (Stop Thief.) I had considered doing this earlier but, given the number of lynchings which have occurred following such a cry, I figured that this might be unwise.

The police's legal standpoint was that S. had to go to their colleagues in Bekasi, the satellite town where she had most recently been living, and make her report to them. With 'Er Indoors and sister-in-law in tow this was done this morning. Unfortunately, their procedural advice was that she had first to report to the RT (community leader) for her last address. Given that he is a member of her husband's family she was extremely loathe to do that.

So now she is in hiding.

The point of this post is to ask if there are any organisations here in Jakarta which can offer shelter and legal advice in order to arrange a restraining order and to secure her custody of her four year old. My internet enquiries have come to nowt; although I understand that there is an organisation in Bali, there must surely be an organisation concerned with this issue here in Jakarta.

If you can help, please email me. I promise to keep any information disclosed strictly confidential. Better yet, if you have a contact phone number, I'll pass this on to 'Er Indoors so she can keep this among the sisters.


6:00 pm |
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
  From the Big Bang to woof wan-bau.

I have absolutely no idea what my headline means, but then I took it from the British Council-Indonesia home page - which needs proofreading!. Apparently it's connected with"bite-sized snacks to get a taste of creative ideas from the UK about just about everything".

I love creative ideas. Don't you? Creativity is about experimenting, exploring, enquiring and learning. Great stuff. What's more, the British Council claims to "connect people with learning opportunities and creative ideas from the UK to build lasting relationships around the world."

Until two days ago, the British Council here was at the forefront of offering overseas examinations. On March 31st they stopped the delivery of all examination services as it "fits in with our move away from the direct delivery of services towards working on programmes in partnership with local partners."

So, there is no more one-stop service and you now have to hunt around if you want to sit IELTS, IGCSE, UK Universities entrance exams or various professional exams. And the "lasting relationships" in this part of the world are crumbling fast.

In their glib way, the Council sees itself as still being 'with it'. To help celebrate their 60th Anniversary, next Sunday afternoon, 6th April, in Ballroom 1B of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Jl. Jend. Sudirman, Jakarta, 100 lucky people will be attending the British Council Blogger Day 2008. If you haven't already been offered a place, tough titty, it's fully booked.

But then perhaps you should count your blessings and spend quality time with your loved ones instead. Those who do go will hear Excellent Blogging Tips and Tricks from "famous bloggers" and be able to take part in a Live Blogging Competition [which is] open for all bloggers and bloggers to be who need to simultaneously upload entries ‘interesting happenings at the British Council Blogger Day 2008’ in their own blogs live on the spot.

The judging for this live blogging competition will be based on two categories:
1. Amount of entries. The more you post entries in your blog the bigger chance you have to win the competition.
2. Creativity of the entries. The more unique you post your entries, the bigger chance you have to win the competition.

Quantity is more important than quality?

Oh dear. It seems that the British education system is suffering from the same shallow malaise as the Indonesian one.

Let's be clear about one thing, and I speak as the writer of Indonesia's favourite English language blog (and number ten nationwide), as the author of a book about Indonesia (which is the 'monetisation' of my blog, so to speak) and a Brit.

Writing is not easy. Yes, we can all rant, but if we post in haste, then we generally regret our utterances. The only times I have ever posted more or less on the spur of the moment are when I have reported earthquakes, sometimes before the official media. Enda Nasution, the moderator of the session on 'tricks', has my respect for setting up the Indonesia Help blog in the immediate aftermath of the Aceh tsunami. I joined him in posting various links, and the site was resuscitated following the Yogya quake.

Apart from those few times, I have generally ruminated and cogitated for some time before posting. This one, for example, has been worked on since Monday, albeit in my head, and subsequently re-edited. That old adage about 'sleeping on it' works wonders. I keep folders of notes which I probably won't use, yet are available as resource material if a spark of literary creation is ignited. Good writing isn't easy, and making it easy to read is even harder.

The only folk likely to be interested in the "interesting happenings" on Sunday are the folk who are there, so what will be the point of the exercise? If you want to send a spontaneous message, then text or email it. If you want to earn respect from more than your close friends, then you have to make an effort. And that takes time.

The British Council here continues to abrogate its former responsibilities of offering English language training and access to language qualifications and continued learning opportunities. It's as a Brit that I say that if all it can do now is offer gimmickry then maybe all its operations should be closed down.

Education is about a continued growth in self-awareness. If Sunday's social gathering enables those of you attending to gain the confidence to continue writing and to develop a recognisable opinionated voice, then that can only be good - for you and for Indonesia.


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