Monday, August 31, 2009
  Ruminations On Unreligious Affairs Part 2

In my last post I highlighted the fact that some criminal gangs in Jakarta, with the connivance of the powers-that-be, appear to use their religion as a cloak for their nefarious activities.

We common folk, the rakyat in Indonesian, are seemingly powerless in the face of this anarchy, organised though it may be. The security forces keep their not so blind eyes averted from criminal activities whilst seeking international star status as pursuers of terrorists. I'm tempted to coin another label for the supposed 417 lost souls seeking to create havoc through explosive acts because everyone facing personal danger from purse snatchers, undisciplined road users or the poorly maintained infrastructure can also experience extreme fright at seemingly random times.

Of minor interest is that the crime rate rises in Ramadhan, the fasting month. This seems to please the police as they are able to wipe out a few of the ungodly, although they're probably not so pleased that they don't get their moments of fame on national TV.

A report from the International Crisis Group (.pdf) issued on 27th August makes it absolutely clear that it is an ad hoc network of Muslim fundamentalists who have been responsible for most, if not all, of the various terrorist bombings carried out in Indonesia since 2000, and the police hunt for Noordin Top and the members of his network continues apace.

Current news is focussed on the perceived foreign funding of his operations. This is not so surprising; after all, globalisation in its many manifestations, including the internet, makes it relatively easy to spread 'the word'. One would have expected that Noordin's funding would have come through Syariah banks, but it seems that cash on delivery is the preferred mode, probably because e-transfers are fairly easily traced.

Yet, is it as clear cut as we are lead to, or supposed to, believe? There is strong evidence of the involvement of the military, and possibly the I
ndonesian intelligence services, in the establishment and probable arming of the different terrorist cells.

Another blog, Spook Terror, set up by Aangirfan has a veritable cornucopia of these indications and I've picked just a few of these, plus
a few other sources. However, just because I'm paranoid etc. etc., I think I should preface them with the disclaimer used by Aangirfan.

The posting of stories, commentaries, reports, documents and links (embedded or otherwise) here does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such posted material or parts therein.

A spate of explosions in Jakarta in 2000 included a huge car-bomb blast in the underground parking lot of the Jakarta Stock Exchange. Two members of Kopassus (army special forces) were convicted and jailed for that act of terrorism.

2. Christmas Eve attacks on churches in 2000

In February 2001, the Indonesian newsweekly Tempo published a cover story suggesting links between the bombings and the Indonesian military, the TNI.

The article pointed out that Edi Sugiarto, who was quickly arrested and confessed to assembling 15 of the bombs used in the town of Medan, had long run a car repair shop in the province of Aceh. Members of TNI and Indonesia’s special forces, Kopassus, regularly went to his shop for repairs and just to hang out.

Phone records indicated that Sugiarto called Fauzi Hasbi seven times before the bombings. Hasbi was a leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), but Tempo outed him as an Indonesian government mole. In 2005, two years after Hasbi’s death, the Australian television program SBS Dateline provided additional evidence of Hasbi’s long-time links to the TNI (see 1979-February 22, 2003).

Fasbi also called Jacob Tanwijaya, a businessman well connected with the TNI, 35 times. That businessman in turn talked on the phone to Lt. Col. Iwan Prilianto, a Kopassus special forces intelligence officer, over 70 times.

In 2005, Umar Abduh, an Indonesian Islamist who worked with Hasbi, claimed that in retrospect he realized that he and other militants were completely manipulated by the government.

3. The Bali Bombs

i. The airline manifest of Garuda airlines shows that at least two generals from Jakarta visited Bali three days before the bombings and that they returned to Jakarta one day before the Sari Club was blown up.

This was confirmed by armed forces chief General Sutarto, who claimed that General Djaja Suparman was on vacation, while General Ryamizard Riyacudu (1), chief of staff, was said to have gone to Bali for health reasons.

General Suparman is allegedly one of the generals behind certain 'Moslem' militias and reportedly set up militias to counter student demonstrations in 1998.

One of these militias, Pram Swarkasa, allegedly became Laskar Jihad.

ii. On 16 October 2002 Indonesian police arrested a former Air Force officer who confessed to building the bomb. This officer was later released.

According to a news story (now removed from their archives) on 2 November 2002 in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Indonesian security services may have handled the Bali bomb.

"Some time around the 30 October 2002, senior officers in the Indonesian military HQ gave a piece of information to a military attache from a Western embassy in Indonesia - the source of explosive used in the October 12 bombing in Bali was the head of the counter-terrorism unit with the army's special forces."

The father-in-law of the officer concerned is Hendropriyono (3), who was then Indonesia's spy chief.

iii. It was reported in the Jakarta Post that convicted Bali bomber Ali Imron (aka the Smiling Bomber) had been seen in 2004 having a Starbucks coffee in a plush Jakarta shopping mall in the company of top police official Brigadier General Gorries Mere. Imron apparently also visited the Hard Rock Cafe.

After Amrozi had been arrested for his part in the Bali Bomb, National Police chief General Da'i Bachtiar had a face to face meeting with him. Bachtiar laughed, shook hands and posed for photographs with him.

4. Ambon 2000-2004

Sydney Jones of the International Crisis Group has said that in Ambon in mid-2001 a small group of soldiers from TNI (Indonesian Military) provided basic military training to Laskar Jihad, a Java-based fundamentalist militia, and supplied them with modern weapons.

Tempo magazine reported in January 2003 that Kopassus supplied the Coker Gang, a group of gangsters who are of the Christian faith directives, weapons and bombs to carry out every attack (in 2002).

5. Brig. Gen. Koesmayadi

May 22nd 1998. Prabowo was sacked as commander of Kostrad, the strategic reserve, the regiment Suharto commanded when he took power in 1965. Prabowo's friend Muchdi
(2) * ran Kopassus (special forces)

August 2nd 2000. Lt. Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu is appointed Commander of Army Special Forces (Kostrad). Brig. Gen. Koesmayadi is appointed as the Assistant of Logistics to the Kostrad Commander.

October 17 2002. The Australian newspaper The Age reports: The TNI's image is ... tarnished by the evident backing by its Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) and other elements for the Laskar Jihad, a force of Islamic fanatics set against the Christian communities in the Moluccan islands and the coastal towns of Papua.

June 25th 2006. Brig. Gen. Koesmayadi died.

June 26th 2006. At Koesmayadi's home in Ancol, North Jakarta, the army’s Military Police discover 145 weapons -"enough to equip two companies". Among them were 96 rifles, seven ungrooved rifles, 42 short-barreled rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
(1) In spite of strong lobbying, Ryamizard Riyacudu was passed over by SBY, , for the position of army chief.
(2) Muchdi was tried in 2008, but acquitted, for the assassination of Munir, the human rights activist.
(3) When A.M. Hendropriyono was chief of Indonesia’s National Intelligence Agency (BIN), Muchdi was his deputy.
To sum up, units of the Indonesian army have supplied directives, training and arms to both Muslims and Christians in the sectarian 'wars' that have plagued Indonesia since reformasi. So who has been, and probably still is, fomenting the jihad against westerners and Indonesians alike? The evidence suggests that Noordin Top also has the backing of forces separate from but in league with al-Qaeda.

And if SBY wants the army to be involved in rounding up terrorist groups, it should be a speedy operation considering army units, or renegade elements of them, reportedly set them up in the first place.



7:30 am |
Saturday, August 29, 2009
  Ruminations On Unreligious Affairs Part 1

When asked to state my religion, my answer depends on the questioner.

I may state 'me', citing the mantra that if God is in all things then I am a piece of Her puzzle. If asked to be more precise, I answer that I'm a bit of everything because I follow the basic principles, the 'good' bits of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism etc.etc. because they all have a basic premise - we should try to live together in harmony.

Taking it one step further, if labels are required, I answer that I feel most in tune with animists because they are the most in tune with Mother Nature. I don't see God as a male judgmental figure but as a nurturing mother providing all living creatures with a space to survive and thrive.

If an official asks me, I answer 'Muslim', because 'Er Indoors has that on her ID card and the law has it that Indonesians must 'belong' to a registered religion and marriages between folk of different faiths are not allowed. So I made the 'sacrifice' of leaving my atheism behind for the sake of a piece of paper. (My affection for animism came later following a visit to the Mentawai on Siberut island.)

Indonesia is notionally and constitutionally a secular state; this begs the question as to why there is a Department of Religious Affairs which, among other matters, determines which religious sects can be deemed to be blasphemous, proscribed and even sent to jail.*

It also begs the question as to the government does not act against certain groups which preach 'disharmony' and which engage in violent acts against those groups which do not adhere to the narrow-minded interpretations of their particular faith.

For those with an inquiring mind, this is a justification to search for hidden agendas among the complex network of the political élite, intelligence groups, military, and business 'interests'. Why are religious groups used to stir up communal violence?

Unless we bloggers have 'proof' provided by the mainstream media and/or other published documents to provide credence to our opinions, we have to be careful when we point fingers at the rich and powerful. So what follows is based on a Jakarta Post special report on Jakarta's underworld, a report which included 'biographies' of the mafia-type groups currently operating.

Islam Defenders Front (FPI)
Notorious for its violent attacks on bars and restaurants and Islamic groups who do not follow their fundamentalist mindset, the FPI is a splinter group of the Pamswakarsa civil guard set up by the military on August 17th 1998 to support the Habibie regime which immediately followed Suharto's 'abdication'.
Membership requirement:
Muslim and able to read the Koran.

Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR)
Although supposedly established to "merely to advocate for the revival of the long-marginalized Betawi" ('native' Jakartans', the FBR is alleged to have received backing from the Jakarta administration, the military and other opponents of President Gus Dur (who was the patron of the Nadhlatul Ulama (the largest national Islamic organisation). It continues to provide support for the Jakarta bureaucracy and Islamic groups.
Membership requirement:
Betawi and Muslim.

Pemuda Pancasila (Pancasila Youth)
Established on 28th October 1959 by then army chief A.H. Nasution to fight communism. After 1978 it evolved to enlist youths to vote for Golkar, Suharto's 'functional grouping'. Allegedly involved in the bloody riot against Megawati's PDI-P H.Q. on July 27th 1996 and the sectarian violence in Ambon in 2000. Former leader and financier Yoris Raweyai is currently a Golkar legislator. However, with Golkar now a much diminished force and funding drying up, members are now moonlighting with the FPI, FBR and Laskar Jayakarta.
Membership requirement:
all ethnicities and religions.

Laskar Jayakarta (Jayakarta Warriors)
Laskar Jayakarta is a proxy group for the police; lead by Adj. Sr. Comr. Susilowadi of Jakarta's police, it "provides unofficial security protection" in Jakarta's largest entertainment centre based around Harmoni. Laskar's top officials are former members of Pemuda Pancasila, FBR, and Forkabi, the military's family forum.
Membership requirement:
all inclusive, but primarily for native Jakartans.

Eastern Indonesia factions
Primarily from the Moluccas and East Timor, these groups have been riven by competition for the provision of 'security services', especially debt collection through intimidation. A former leader, Ongen Sangaji, is now an executive in the Hanura Party founded by former military chief, Gen.(ret.) Wiranto.
Membership requirement:
exclusive to ethnicity.

Haji Lulung group
Now probably the most successful underworld group, Haji Lulung's rise, with the backing of the Jakarta administration and law enforcers, coincided with the 'need' to oppose Gus Dur. He also benefitted from the decision of the then Governor Sutiyoso to 'clean up' Tanah Abang, Southeast Asia's largest textile distribution centre, although he attributes his success to having been a member of Panca Marga Youth, a group which brings together children of military and police officers. Haji Lulung's group now also provides 'security services' to many of central Jakarta's shopping centres and other notable sites. Haji Lulung is now a city councillor for the United Development Part (PPP), the Muslim party created by Suharto.
Membership requirement: preference to native Jakartans.

It is tempting to draw too many conclusions from the above. However, it is good to have some hard information rather than the sparse gleanings of bar gossip. I hadn't realised, for example, that Jl. Pelatahan, the Blok M nightlife area which was then under the patronage and protection of Suharto's wife, Madame Tenpluspercen when I haunted it in my bachelor days, is now the domain of the Jakarta administration and police.

Suharto was wary of the power of organised Muslim groups, especially those that thought that his version of Pancasila democracy seemed hollow because it restricted the practices of Islam to family and mosque, rather than "allowing Islam to enfold the fullness of human activity, including politics". Later, in the name of 'national development', he co-opted the mainstream Muslim organisations, going to great lengths to demonstrate that he was a good Muslim, including making the haj to Mecca in May 1991.

Jakarta's current underworld owes much to the alliances formed in those days. It does seem, however, that now he's gone, predominantly Muslim groups are, with the support of the military and police, freer to engage in the full range of human activities, including the provision of 'protection' for those premises involved in unIslamic activities such as the consumption of alcohol and prostitution.

But then, Malaysia, which is much stricter in its interpretation of how a Muslim dominated society should be run, is also hypocritical in its interpretation of what is acceptable.

Muslims in Malaysia are governed by sharia law – which forbids the consumption of alcohol – in family and personal matters. The government has therefore barred Muslims from attending a concert by US hip-hop stars the Black Eyed Peas on September 25th because the event is organised by the Irish brewer Guinness.

An official at the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture said, "Muslims cannot attend. Non-Muslims can go and have fun."

So, to sum up, being a Muslim means that u
nless you are protected you are not allowed to have fun.

I'm confused. Should I tear up my marriage certificate?

Next: Are Muslims really responsible for recent terrorist attacks?
* I'd also like to be enlightened as to why Catholics and Protestants are deemed to be two separate religions, rather than as different manifestations of Christianity.



10:00 am |
Thursday, August 27, 2009
  Camping It Up

In the long tradition of posts on Jakartass themed along the lines of 'been there, done that' coupled with 'I'm here, doing this', I was interested to learn that the latest Climate Camp, the UK's "the biggest annual environmental protest" is being set up on my teenage stomping ground, Blackheath in South London.

An aerial view of Blackheath

Julia Pendry, the Metropolitan police's chief superintendent in charge of tactics for the operation, walked on to the site to talk to organisers and struck a conciliatory note.

"The meeting was extremely useful. I have been extremely impressed by the number of people who are calm, welcoming. I got offered a cup of tea and that is how it should be," she said.

It seems that she is mindful of the Met's recent thuggery against those who feel the need to protest the international talking shops which do little to rein in greedy ^ankers and other capitalist pigs in favour of globalisation or those who emit too much hot air to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

Perhaps too, she is aware of the long history of Blackheath as a rallying ground for the disadvantaged. Way back in 1381, Wat Tyler organised a Peasants' Revolt, and in 1450 Jack Cade led a rebellion of Kentish men, Kent being the neighbouring county to the east. The women's movement for universal suffrage (the Suffragettes) nigh on a century ago also has strong associations with Blackheath.

Apart from the latter movement, none of the rebellions can be considered as being immediately successful. Perhaps the Met realises this and is therefore content to allow the Climate Campers to make their limited voices heard believing that they won't make much of a difference in the short-term.

But hey, every little counts, and if the social network engendered can grow and encourage others to vent their concern for meaningful societal change, then I almost wish I was there.

However, I am here but didn't go to a recent Flora and Fauna exhibition held on a small park ("aren't they all?") here in Jakarta. However, fellow English blogger and noted newspaper columnist, Simon Pitchforth did.

The show featured stall after stall of plants, gardening equipment and pets and made for a charming change from the consumer durables on sale at Jakarta Fair's capitalist gang bang.

As the 'pets' included a pair of comatose tigers, it would be nice to report that the local police were taking a less than conciliatory view.

Unfortunately, we have to leave that to Simon's imaginative rant.

As family groups crowded dangerously into the packed animal tents, I had a vision of some minor accident setting off a chain of events that would result in the poor creatures escaping out of the park and into the city.

All it would take would be for corpulent ibu to slip on a discarded ice cream and crash into the snake cages, bringing them down onto the floor. One of the reptiles would inevitably escape and make its way up an unfortunate bapak's trouser leg, causing him to panic and trip. He would then fall face first into the tiger cage, awaking them from their slumbers and causing them to claw furiously at his nostrils and bum fluff moustache. He would then inadvertently pull the cage door open in his desire to escape and the beasts would flee their prison and head out into the park, hunting down every defenseless bunny rabbit and child under the age of two that lay in their path. Meanwhile the marmosets would become overexcited and start lobbing fecal grenades at the hysterical throng.

I beat a hasty retreat and headed back into the less hectic flora section of the show.
Personal history note: A number of notables have lived in Blackheath. Strangely, I'm not listed.
Fanny Craddock, who lived down the road from my family, was one of the first TV cooks long before Jamie Oliver was born. I delivered her newspapers.
(Sir) Richard Branson, my sister and I were all born in Blackheath and shared the same midwife, but not at the same time.



1:00 pm |
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
  Standing Up For The Little 'Uns

I've always thought that those who could, should, because many can't.

So did 'Teddy' Kennedy, JFK's last surviving brother, who has just died of brain cancer aged 77. In a life of public service, he helped enact measures to protect civil and labour rights, expand healthcare, upgrade schools, increase student aid and contain the spread of nuclear weapons.

"There's a lot to do," Kennedy said in 2006. "I think most of all it's the injustice that I continue to see and the opportunity to have some impact on it."

It's not just those who come from 'privileged' backgrounds who are able to do their bit for social justice. With no false modesty, my colleague and I took on our recent battle because we felt that firstly, we were owed recompense within the law but also because too many colleagues, both Indonesian and expat, had shied away from standing up for their rights, even though they too had been severely wronged.

Teddy Kennedy's lifetime and our nigh on three years of are demonstrations of persistence. Sometimes, however, swift reactions can strike a blow for justice, and in a case reported yesterday, this was literally true.

A woman in Medan beat an armed robber to death early on Sunday morning at the North Sumatra Adminstrative Housing Complex.

Deli Tua Police chief Adj. Comr. Yoris Marzuki said the robber, identified as Budi Santoso, 40, and his accomplice, who were armed with guns, tried to snatch a bracelet of the wrist of the victim, who is a martial arts instructor.

"The victim fought and beat Budi to death, while the other accomplice managed to escape," Yoris said, not disclosing the name of the victim.

He said residents found Budi lying dead on the ground.

I'm not sure who the real victim is here given that the unidentified woman had, in Teddy Kennedy's words, "an opportunity to have an impact."

Whilst on the subject of 'Little Uns', this comment from Thomas Belfield made me laugh out loud.

"I buy a lot of books from Amazon.com. They have a page where they recommend books based on my purchasing history. I was looking through this list when I noticed One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss because, Amazon said "you purchased Culture Shock! Jakarta".

Go figure.



6:00 pm |
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
  A Bit of Mail, A Female and a Toothbrush

I think it's amazing what Jakarta does to one's mental equilibrium. I use a public bus across town, one I might add with limited stops, a/c and a reasonably comfortable seat, one with enough legroom. I know from experience that there is no point in getting het up by the gridlock even though it's generally caused by traffic policemen or lanes of cars shoving their way across the main stream into the lengthy lines attempting to access the toll road entrances.

At such times I'm a stoic. When I get home I chill down even more with a mandi before checking my emails and the Jakartass stats. Today's initial trawl, however, has got me somewhat further bemused.

The following letter/appeal needs an answer and you might be it ~ if you fit the profile that is. If you do, follow it up with Simon Owens directly, but with a copy to me please.

I think I should add that there have been other folk suggesting that they'd pay me for any syndication they do of my posts, but apart from freelance copyediting and writing which has resulted from my 'fame', I've received nothing from any of them.

Hey Jakartass,

My name is Simon Owens and I'm doing work for a new news organization that will be launching soon that focuses on news coming out of 13 Asian countries. As part of our project we'll be actually approaching bloggers from these different countries and paying to syndicate their content. I wanted to reach out to you as a Indonesia blogger and ask for suggestions from you about independent bloggers within your country that you think are producing the best content. Ideally, the bloggers would:

1. Write primarily in English.

2. Fit into one of these demographics: political content, enterprise/business, popular economics/new media, society, arts, wine, travel, green / environmental (obviously there are a lot more political blogs than these others, so we're looking especially hard to fill the non-political niches)

3. Already have an established audience. They don't have to have thousands of readers a day but would hopefully have already a community of regular readers.

Do you have any suggestions to add to my list? Please let me know and I appreciate any help you can give.

Take care,

Simon -- http://bloggasm.com / http://twitter.com/simonowens

A Female and a Toothbrush refers to a search for Schapelle Corby Toothbrush. For some reason Jakartass was one of sites visited as a result.

Other sites make interesting connections.

A cigarette lighter, a toothbrush and a toy robot were recovered from the stomach of ... Schapelle Corby has drug sentence cut. The case against palm oil. Woman's leg found on beach...

Highlights from Monday's show included how an electric toothbrush can be used to ... the lines of New Idea's "world exclusive", in which Lindy has written to Schapelle Corby ...

... were involved in the brawl, using improvised weapons such as sharpened toothbrushes. ... Drug scum deserve nothing less. Ken. Schapelle Corby is 'clinically insane': psychiatrist...

With friends like Mr Trowell, Schapelle Corby certainly is in very deep trouble. ... chargers, I advise that my family's retention of the manually operated toothbrush is ...

... please, brothers, calm down — the beating the Mohammed showed is like the toothbrush ... during test flight of his Jetpod "flying taxi"... read more 'Broken by prison' Schapelle Corby ...

... would have huge bursts of frenetic activity, scrubbing the floors with a toothbrush ... Schapelle Corby : "I am being really positive. I have to be. Otherwise, I just — like, it ...



7:30 pm |
Sunday, August 23, 2009
  I Look Down On People

I stand at 6'5", but you'll have to do the maths yourself if you want the metric measurement.

How I got here is not, I believe, so much a matter of genetics as of diet, one originally based on post WW2 food rationing in the UK which, thanks to the National Health Service provision of regular doses of vitamins, free school milk and my mother's vegetarian meals, has given me a lean body and stout constitution.

Happy though I am in my frame, and short of amputating my legs I don't really have a choice, I tend to be a quiet and retiring fella, shy even. Going out and about, as perforce I occasionally have to do, means hearing passers-by include the words jangkung (storklike) and tinggi sekali (very tall) in their conversations. I sometimes succumb to the temptation to respond that I'm not tall; rather it's Indonesians who are short.

I'm thankful that after my 20 odd, very odd, years here, there are many teens who are reaching the heights I have achieved. I hope this is a result of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

A recent study tells me that taller people live better lives, at least on average. They evaluate their lives more favorably, and they are more likely to report a range of positive emotions such as enjoyment and happiness. They are also less likely to report a range of negative experiences, like sadness, and physical pain, though they are more likely to experience stress and anger, and if they are women, to worry. These findings cannot be attributed to different demographic or ethnic characteristics of taller people, but are almost entirely explained by the positive association between height and both income and education, both of which are positively linked to better lives.

In general, that sums me up. I am an optimist, an unashamed idealist even, and not being a woman, I don't worry over much. I'm not so sure about income, but I've got by so far, and I did go to university. Apparently, the better early diet also contributes to our higher IQs, thus enabling us to move higher up the salary scales.

Yep, tall people are valued more. In southern Sudan, among the Dinka and Nuer people, women over six feet fetch 80 to 100 cows on the marriage market, while shorter women bring only 50 or 70 because "they bring tall children.” Plus, in a nation short on step stools, they can “reach things.”

This leads me to the several negative factors which the study doesn’t appear to take into account. For example, when asked for help in reaching for articles on top shelves, I usually ask for help in getting what I want from lower down.

I used to be regularly accosted in public urinals in the UK by other users who would ask, “What’s the weather like up there, Lamppost? Is it cold?” I’d refrain from looking down at them because … well, because. This scenario is rarely possible here because there are few public urinals.

Clothes are also a problem. For example, I have often been given presents of shirts which, although welcome, are too short in the sleeves. I hope that one day Our Kid will grow into them, otherwise I’ll contribute them to flood victims or poor folk at Idul Fitri. That said, our local tailors fit my needs.

Shoes are a particular difficulty. I regularly trawl shoe stores in the forlorn hope that I can find a pair that will fit my size 11½ (47) broadfit feet. On the very rare occasions that I do find a comfortable pair, they're generally imported, having originally been exported from Indonesia, and are therefore exorbitantly expensive, or they've got 3" heels.

One of the biggest problems I have is the shortage of space in public transport. On planes I generally ask for a seat beside an emergency exit as there is more legroom. We can't all be Barack Obama. What's more, I doubt that he's had to travel on a Metro Mini or its equivalent very often.

It's the same everywhere. I never managed to get a driving licence in the UK because the only car I can fit in comfortably is a Rolls Royce. I can't even ride a motorcycle here because the only models are suitable for children. Look around you if you don't believe me; what percentage of the riders are too young to get a licence?

But the biggest problem I have is the state of Jakarta's sidewalks. We all know how important it is to walk looking at our feet to avoid the numerous holes and other obstructions. I've lost count of the number of times my head has been gashed open by non-trimmed trees and low slung road signs because I daren't walk tall.

So next time you see a tall westerner wearing a hard hat, please don't offer sarcastic comments. I need a bit more compassion.
Originally published in Jakarta Globe



7:30 am |
Saturday, August 22, 2009
  All Quiet On The Home Front

I had a very pleasant afternoon at Ya Udah yesterday discussing recording techniques, clarifying the role of an editor and a pay scale, and quaffing a couple of Bintangs as a delayed celebration of my good news.

Around 5 o'clock I decided it was time to wend my way home and I stood at the nearby intersection of five roads to await an empty taxi. After twenty minutes observing the mayhem caused by all manner of vehicles not 'obeying' the functioning traffic lights, my ride similarly cut across the flow and I got in.

The first words the driver said to me were "Macet total, mister". And he was right. We went just 50 metres and stopped at the end of an incredibly lengthy tailback. It was then I realised that not only was this the Friday rush hour, but it was even worse because it was also the eve of the fasting month of Ramadhan when the city slows down.

So I went back to Ya Udah and enjoyed one of their Chef's Salads, a couple more Bintangs and discussed a possible bird watching day with good friend and well-known twitcher, DJ.

A couple of hours later, the traffic din having dimmed, I set off for home again. And lo, we got trapped in another lengthy tailback. From my back seat I gave myself an adrenaline rush mentally composing an expletive-laden scenario whereby I'd smash to pieces every motorbike trying to jump the queue by using the sidewalks whilst trying to knock some sense and civility into the skulls of their riders, including those who actually wore crash helmets.

The cause of the tailback was reached.

Not unexpectedly, it was a group of policemen castigating errant motorcyclists and, no doubt, adding to their Idul Fitri bonuses.

Ah, I thought, we are about to spend a month trying to be good people and to not yield to temptation.

It's ten the following morning as I type this, our street is pleasantly quiet and I'm the only one astir in Jakartass Towers as the family sleeps off the four o'clock in the morning pre-fast feast.

Here's wishing all good Muslims, and everyone else, a peaceful month.



10:30 am |
Friday, August 21, 2009
  Power Plays?

I closed a recent post with the following: One must hope, pray even, that we are not about to see a return to authoritarian rule by a former general.

Thanks to society's obsession with so-called celebrities, the recent hotel bombings will have served mastermind Noordin Top's agenda very well. After all, he is Public Enemy No.1 and the live action and constant replays of the failed attempt to capture him, has given him a heightened cachet among indoctrinated Islamic youths and those who prey on their ignorance.

The police are doing a sterling job in gathering intelligence about the disparate groups of publicity seeking groups of Islamists opposed to a secular and pluralist Indonesia but they do need the support of society at large.

However, is it necessary to adopt the line taken by the Jakarta Post in a recent editorial?

Given the events witnessed recently, it is clear that all people are needed to prevent any terrorist acts from reoccurring. Keep an eye on your new neighbors or visitors. Spy on them if necessary.

How easy would that be?

A resident told a TV station he was intrigued by the behavior of a teenager - whom he later discovered was the JW Marriott Hotel bomber - who often ordered four bowls of porridge without knowing who the other bowls of food were for. Unfortunately, the resident went on with his day-to-day life, without reporting anything to the local authorities.

Do you know who your neighbours are? Personally, I don't and don't necessarily want to. The only times I get involved with them, apart from the regular street activities, is when they disrupt my privacy with loud bangings, motorcycles revving, incessant playing of dangdut music or trampling on our roof whilst fixing their own. That last episode was sorted out with the neighbourhood chief (RT) as arbitrator - the neighbours paid to fix our roof.

So, surely, the onus to "spy" on newcomers remains with the RT, with whom we are all, including guests staying for longer that 24 hours, supposed to be registered.

However, there are now calls to introduce tougher laws which will enable detention without trial.

National police spokesman Insp. Gen. Nanan Soekarna said that Indonesia should have regulations that authorize security officials to apprehend and detain anyone who has colluded in any way with terrorist groups.

Although current laws allow the police to detain terror suspects for up to seven days without an arrest warrant, police are frustrated as they can not arrest clerics like Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, leader of the Ngruki boarding school, who police said has clearly incited violence.

Nana then cited the fact that neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore, which have such strong laws, have managed to eradicate terrorism.

Yes, but at what cost to dissenting opinions?

The legislature is currently completing deliberations on a new State Secrecy Bill. Although Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono says the public need not worry about it, citing democratic progress, too much information will not be transparent, including data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). What else will be hidden from public purview and thus limit democratisation?

Being inherently a pacifist, I am by no means an expert on military matters and if I had been called upon to do national service, a compulsory period of military training, then I'd have opted to be a conscientious objector. Luckily, in my then opinion, I was too young to be conscripted when in 1960 national service was abandoned in the UK. If I hadn't been, I'd have probably been willing to do community service in a hospital, as I later did for pay to supplement my student grants.

That said, I am, perforce, an observer of security matters here and there are a number of 'straws in the wind' which indicate that Indonesia's army, rather than the navy or air force, is manoevering to regain some of its power lost on April 1st 1999 when the police were brought under civilian rule and charged with handling domestic security.

Before that, throughout Suharto's regime, the three branches of the military plus the police operated what was known as dwifungsi, or dual function, a doctrine of their own evolution, under which they undertook a double role as both defenders of the nation and as a social-political force in national development.

The foundation of his regime, namely, the belief that economic and social development was the nation's first priority and that social and political stability was absolutely essential if that goal were to be achieved. The primary mission of the armed forces has therefore been to maintain internal stability. The maintenance of internal security was considered an integral part of national defense itself. Indonesian doctrine considers national defense within the broader context of "national resilience", a concept that stresses the importance of the ideological, political, economic, social, and military strength of the nation.

In 2001, when he was Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs, SBY questioned the separation of the concept of security and defense, and lamented the oversimplification of the concept which innately assumes that the military (TNI) [had] no role in security matters.

SBY noted that there remained ambiguous areas in which the military was interjected and often prescribed to function in a police-like role while they should be adopting a more combative stance due to the strength of the threat they faced.

"On the other hand, the police have to face combat situations which they are not trained for. Is it fair for us to place such a heavy burden on the police whereby they have to face armed threats?

"We have to position this in the correct manner, the deployment and employment of our police and military including what kind of arrangements we develop," he said.

The raid on Noordin's supposed hideout was conducted by Detachment 88 (Densus 88), the counterterrorism force which, judging by subsequent statements by the National Police chief, comes under his domain. That the army had little input is verified by TNI Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso issuing the following statement: "On behalf of all TNI officers, I would like to congratulate the police for their achievement on anti-terror operation."

However, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has instructed the military, regional heads and intelligence bodies to take part in the effort to eradicate terrorism, which could be deemed to be a return to its 'internal security' role during the dwifungsi era.

A more recent editorial in the Post takes a more enlightened view, particularly in light of the Indonesian Military (TNI) plan – channeled through the Army headquarters – to reactivate intelligence units at military command posts (Korem) nationwide.

It is true that an all-out battle against terrorism is a necessity. However, this proposal and plan need to be carefully examined so as to avoid repeating past mistakes, such as violating the human rights of people allegedly implicated in terrorist activities, or suspected of supporting terrorists. Do we really want to go back to the days when our guaranteed freedoms and rights were sidelined for the sake of security and economic development? Where have all those noble principles of presumption of innocence and equality before the law disappeared to?

This move also faces strong opposition from human rights NGOs.

Coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Usman Hamid, said that without proper regulations and clear instructions, the military's involvement could turn ugly.

"We don't want the military to spy on anyone they deem suspicious, it would be like the old times."

He further argued that the military and the police had different approaches to handling terrorism suspects.

"TNI personnel are allowed to detain anyone they find suspicious without a warrant or even informing the person's family; the police can't do that."

One wonders, therefore, what actions the TNI will take against the illegal miners at an illegal mining site on Mt. Merapi, Central Java. Supposedly they will be preventing more damage to the environment, a worthy cause, although in so doing they will be depriving some 3,000 local miners of their livelihoods. And surely, if the miners are breaking the law, then this is a police matter.

If the TNI is worried about idiots killing themselves and innocent bystanders, their time could just as well be spent doing something about the horrendous death toll on Indonesia's roads, which saw 642 killed in the first six months of this year - in Jakarta alone. The traffic police seem to be singularly incapable of enforcing road (and sidewalk) discipline and could do with some assistance.
Further reading
Inside Indonesia on the troubled relationship between the police and the military.



8:00 am |
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
  WE WON !!

Those of you who have been reading Jakartass for some time will probably remember that I and a colleague were dismissed without notice or due procedure by Yayasan Penabur. I blogged it here.

We took legal advice and employed lawyers to fight our case.

First we went through the channels of the Department of Manpower who found in our favour. Next we went to the Labour Court who, quite unexpectedly ~ except that this is Indonesia and little folk are rarely, it seems, dealt with fairly ~ found in favour of Penabur.

We therefore appealed to the Supreme Court, largely on the grounds that if we lost then each and every expat with a work permit would find themselves at risk in that there would be less legal protection than that afforded to Indonesia's migrant workers abroad.

We have been waiting for the Supreme Court's decision for over a year and today, finally, we learnt that they had found in our favour.

There are fine details to be sorted out so I'm not gloating.

However, I'm sure that all those teachers, parents and former students who have expressed support will be as pleased as we are. Thank you all.

Finally, in another case, Pak Chrismaryadi, School Board Member in charge of Penabur International Schools, wrote as follows: We are fully prepared and willing to stand up and fight for our rights in court. We had done this a few times before and we had 100% strike rate (won all the cases!)

Well, now Penabur hasn't. Perhaps it's time that they reconsidered their treatment of employees and accept that this has been remiss in the past.



4:30 pm |
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
  Say What?

1. I bought a new pair of very comfortable Spotec casual shoes recently. Unfortunately, I know from experience that they have a tendency to come unstuck, so proper care is important.

They say that this product passed strict quality and process control. English is obviously not part of that process.

1. This can be useful for sports activity and/or leisure purpose.
(Sport is probably not a "leisure purpose".)
2. Please review a tagged notice on this product for direction and washing.
(I'm quoting from the tagged notice!)

Shoe Care Instruction:
1. All shoes should be cleaned and dried.
2. Rub shoes gently with a damp cloth, using inchworm water and mild soap.
(We've got the soap but inchworms are scarce in Jakarta.)
3. Do not use bleach.
(The shoes are black.)
4. Do not force dry i.e. raddy either, tumble dry, hair dry or any other soap of direct heat.
(Can you raddy either understand what they're on about? Or on?)

2. Spotted on a billboard in West Jakarta beside the toll road going out of town.

Paramount Serpong : Connecting Nature To Life

Surely nature is life?

3. Indovision's blurb for Prom Night, a film on HBO.

A teenage girl has to face the psychopath who killed her parents once again when he escapes from prison on her prom night.

I didn't watch it, but I think this is a slasher movie. I don't think any zombies are involved; this would account for the twice over double murders.

4. This, if you can read it, is from an official site. (Thanks, Sam.)

If you can't read it, it says Depart'e'ment of Tourism of the 'Repulic' of Indonesia.


6:03 pm |
Monday, August 17, 2009
  I Choose Humanity

I wrote the following on 26th December 2004 intending it to be a 'Christmas message'. However, that day the tsunami happened and overwhelmed us all.

I'm posting it now because it serves as an antidote to the nihilism of Noordin Top and his suicidal acolytes.

Happy Independence Day, Indonesia


Our Kid often asks me if I’m a Muslim or Christian. I’m not sure if this is a question a newly-eight year old should be asking. I question his schooling.

If a house guest dons prayer garb, kneels on the prayer mat and faces Mecca, Our Kid puts on his peci (pillbox hat) and performs the ritual genuflections.

This weekend he surprised me by singing along, almost word perfectly, with the carol singers in the Le Meridien Hotel. While washing all their socks at night, all seated round the tub … was not, to my mind unfortunately, one of them. And, thankfully, neither was Away In A Manger.

But I digress. My reply to his question is that I am me. I believe that all religions have the same core values, which promote the communality of interests rather than emphasizing differences. It is the recognition and sharing of those differences which enables caring societies to evolve. If ‘me’ must have a label, then I’m a libertarian humanist.

Every individual matters.

Which is why The Humanity vs. Anarchy Project - which word will you choose?

A young, well-educated Chinese girl desperately flees a repressive Singapore to find happiness in the free West. The moment that she finally seems to have the world at her feet, however, she is struck down by an incurable disease that occurs in less than one in a million people.

The disease was a chordoma in the base of the skull, an extremely rare tumour for which there is no cure. So Grace Chow wrote a book, A Pain In The Neck ~ an ironic, humorous, and moving autobiography (which) takes the reader to the grungy world of Singapore politics, the complicated dreams of an ordinary girl who tries to break out of mediocrity, the experiences of settling into a different culture, and ultimately to the stark reality of impending death.

And in the last ten days of her life, Grace kept a blog and in facing death, she also chose humanity.

… holding on can be something beautiful. Even when we know that it will be all in vain at the end, even though it will bring us the most difficult times ahead, it is the only thing that we as humans can try to do in the face of sorrow, loss, bewilderment or incomprehension. We are going to try holding on anyway, because there are so many things that are worth the while -- feelings and memories that remind us just what warmth, bliss, pride, comfort, or pure happiness really is about. Holding on will make it harder for us, but why should life be easy anyway?

Grace Chow 1972-2004



8:00 am |
Sunday, August 16, 2009
  Beauty Is Skin Deep

Since you ask, this weird tanning design was crated (sic) with vinyl stickers and solarium.

You may think that the above has absolutely no connection with Jakartass, but you'd be wrong. I have discovered that there's a blog called Information of Skin Care which has kindly given me a link even though my complexion is as smooth as a baby's bottom.

I've also discovered that Diamond Geezer has recently posted about his skin colour. He doesn't have the picture though.



8:00 am |
Friday, August 14, 2009
  Some Public Service Announcements ....

.... and a request.

The majority of Indonesia's population consider August 17th, which is on Monday and therefore a public holiday, to be Indonesia's Independence Day. They continue to believe that Indonesia became independent on that day, conveniently forgetting that the date actually commemorates Sukarno's proclamation of independence rather than its actuality, which didn't truly happen until 17th August 1950 when the Republic of Indonesia was finally established with a unitary (but provisional) constitution . (See this timeline.)

So, rather than celebrating 64 years of independence, 59 is the correct age of the country. Whatever, August 17th is when flags wave in the breeze, youngsters clamber up greasy poles, relay races are held in back streets and folk celebrate.

And, public announcement number one, the Ya Udah Bistro has special long weekend opening hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday - from 08:00am – 02:00am and on Monday from 8:00am – midnight.
On Wednesday next, the 19th Hidung Merah Circus will be holding a Fund Raising Benefit Performance, with "a night of music and clowns". This will be held at the De Hooi Cafe in Pondok Indah Plaza 2.

There will be performances by Opie Andaresta, Je'Jaka, Gomez and Friends, Relax, DJ Max Don , Nana Mirdad and Dan Roberts - who, I've written before, organises "workshops for kids from a variety of backgrounds, encouraging such skills as juggling, plate spinning, diabolo (and yo-yo?) tricks, acrobatic skills, and, perhaps the key to all this and more, trust."

Tickets cost Rp.150,000 which seems very reasonable as it includes Free Flow beer from 7pm-10pm!!!

To pre-buy tickets, contact Dan by phone 0812 1292 0142 or email.
Another email notification I've recently received is from Merdeka Coffee. Their fairtrade coffee is now available from the new \"Antipodean\" cafe that has opened next to Vinotti in the Kemang Hero Complex - Jl Kemang Selatan I, Jakarta. The cafe, as the name indicates, has a focus on the Kiwi/Australian style of cafe. The coffee, is of course, Merdeka Coffee.

Coffee packs are available from Rp.50,000 and can be ground, or brought whole bean.

The Antipodean crew are looking forward to seeing you soon for a flatwhite.

I presume other nationalities who have no idea what a "flatwhite" is will also be welcome.
So, that's a selection of my recent incoming mails. However, I now have a major problem in sending them. Every subscriber to Indosat M2 was informed that it was necessary, for "security reasons", to change our passwords for logging on to our accounts before August 11th. This I dutifully did and can access my mail on the webmail page, thus noting that my password has been successfully changed.

However, my dial up connection for sending emails, my POP3, informs me that my username and/or password is invalid. I can only connect through Telkom, which is how I've managed to post this. (Details: Username: telkomnet@instan / Password: telkom / No: 0809 8 9999).

I've emailed their 'customer service' department via webmail and, as expected, received no reply, not even a read receipt, and it's impossible to get anyone to pick up the phone.

If any of you have the same problem, please email me and I'll fire off a letter to the Globe and Post.

Update 15.8.09
I have received a friendly and hopefully helpful email which opens with a "sincere apology for the delay reply." I hope their suggestion(s) work.



10:30 am |
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
  A Balanced View?

The media-friendly shootout in Cilacap raises some interesting questions, the possible answers to which I'm going to leave to folk who don't actually live here in Indonesia.

In case you're wondering why, consider this: just because I'm paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get me. So, if what I post here reaches the ears of certain military figures, please note that I do nothing other than raise questions because I'm a sceptical observer rather than a bigoted activist and my blog is an attempt to make sense of this fascinating and diverse country.

Who is (was?) Noordin Top?

England have withdrawn from the World Badminton Championships in the Indian city of Hyderabad because of "a specific terrorist threat" against the championships. This might seem to be irrelevant, but consider that the threat comes from Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is Urdu for Soldiers of the Pure, a Pakistan-based organisation fighting against Indian control in Kashmir.

It has been blamed for a number of terrorist incidents in India including the October 2005 bomb attacks in Delhi, which killed more than 60 people, and is alleged to have played a part in the armed raid on the Indian parliament in December 2001. Most recently it was linked with the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, which killed at least 188 people.

Here we have a nationalist group, much like the Basque group ETA and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), fighting for the resolution of a historical cause, in the case of L-e-T dating from the partition of India in 1947.

Noordin Top's operatives don't have a comparable cause.

Peter Beaumont, writing nigh on seven years ago, suggested that a defining element (of the current 'wave' suicide bombers) is a special kind of nihilistic destructiveness born of a psychological malaise widespread among many radicalised and often well-educated young Islamic men who believe that a world dominated by Western political ideals, culture and economics holds nothing for them.

It has created an existential crisis characterised by a narcissistic cult of death and destruction, postmodern in its fascination with technology and the media of communication, that yet utterly rejects all aspects of Western culture.

I've never understood the term 'postmodern', but that aside we are given a rationale for all the recent bombing outrages in Indonesia, from Bali in 2002, to an earlier attack on the JW Marriott Hotel in 2003, to the Australian Embassy in 2004, to last month's hotel bombings. That one of the recent hotel suicide bombers was just 18 or 19 seems to prove his hypothesis.

But that still doesn't explain Noordin Top's motivation.

One can but conjecture; after all, few of us are as satanic as he seems to be (have been?).

One interesting line of thought has it that he is (was?) but a tool of the military, and, in particular, Kopassus, the army's special forces once led by failed vice-presidential candidate, the billionaire self-styled 'friend of the poor', Gen. (ret) Subianto Prabowo.

Noordin generally holed up in the Cilacap area of Central Java, the Kopassus regular training ground.

It is well-known that the army is still clinging on to many of its businesses which have funded their operations over the years. In Green Indonesia, I showed the links between the army, a conglomerate which fronts for it, and the political élite (of all the major political groups) and agri-business.

It is also public knowledge that there are factions within the army which are not happy with former general SBY as the current and future President. Earlier this year they formed a group called, in rough English, 'Anyone but SBY' (ABS), an effort doomed to failure as he was perceived as being 'better than the rest'.

During his press conference shortly after the hotel bombings, he alluded to a plot against him, apparently to prevent him taking office for a second time. The majority of the poulation presumed that he was making a pre-emptive strike against Prabowo. Could the cell of bombers wiped out in Bekasi have been part of that plot?

One could go further with this line of thought. For example, what is the connection between the military and Freeport in Papua? Given that Freeport is a major American corporation, could there be a tie-in with the US-Indonesia Society, a ... group launched in 1994 and backed by the military - Gen. Prabowo was one of its key sponsors, US corporations and former government officials?

The FBI and the Indonesian police believed that the military were behind the killing of three American teachers in Papua in 2002, and considered to be an attempt to discredit the Free Papua Movement (OPM)

Furthermore, it was alleged in 2002 that the Indonesian military and government figures had links with terror groups.

So, my main question is this: has a renegade military group, and Kopassus in particular, been using Noordin Top for its own nefarious purposes?

In the aftermath of the weekend's telethon, another issue is emerging. Having scared the wits out of the farmers and kin dwelling near Noordin Top's supposed hideout, it's now being suggested that this has all been a dramatic display to bolster SBY's image.

That's as maybe, but it could be that he's bolstering his international credentials as I can't see that he's lost much, if any, credibility with the 60% of the electorate who recently voted for him.

However, domestically, he's made one quite worrying decision.

The raids on various hideouts have been carried out by the police who have only been distinct from the army for five years or so. There is still incomplete co-ordination between the multifarious intelligence agencies. SBY has stated that military intelligence should have a role in monitoring 'terrorist' activities in 30 provinces, a decision which can only remind adults of the dwi-fungsi role of the army back in the days of Suharto's autocratic rule, when dissension was verboten, often on pain of torture and/or disappearance.

Given that SBY doesn't have to face the electorate again, he is 'free' to make his mark on the future direction of Indonesian society. One must hope, pray even, that we are not about to see a return to authoritarian rule by a former general.

I am indebted to Aangirfan for many of the links in this post.


5:00 pm |
Monday, August 10, 2009
  Help Wanted

Suffering somewhat from the non-malignant condition known as Scrivener's Scrawn, I'm more than happy to turn over the posts herein to folk who've got something more to offer than my usual musings.

Hence the recent series of 'culture shock' posts and now these interesting appeals, the first left as a comment.

Esther Rocamora is the Spanish manager of Tasty Productions. She says that in a few months (she) will be coming to Indonesia to burn (film?) a low-budget documentary (Great Tasty Tour) on Indonesian cuisine. I had thought visit Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bali and Makassar. I wonder if I chose interesting places.

She knows she says that "it is not very interesting cuisine (which M agrees with) but my documentary is a great project to discover the cuisine of eastern Asia.

If you think you could help me my project interesting. I hope your answer - here .

(Her website will be in English in September.)

Frank Mercado wrote to me a while back with this request.

I’ve been working on the Emergency Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery 2009 Global Summit and Exhibition in Singapore in October 2009 and I came to an advice that I should explore the use of new media such as blogs, twitter in the pursuit of community collaboration.

Your website came up as a blog critical to helping Aceh rebuild from the devastating disaster. Could I interest you in writing an article about it and be featured in our website?

I asked Enda Nasution if he'd be interested in co-writing something because he set up Indonesia Help in the wake of the Tsunami, a blog I contributed little to. However, his "schedule is kind of full with other projects few months ahead."

If anybody out there has something to say on 'the use of new media', I'd be pleased to hear from you. Frank may be too because I've got few thoughts on the matter, at least as far as Indonesia is concerned.



7:00 am |
Sunday, August 09, 2009
  It's NOT the same old, same old

Having prepared various titbits of posts which may be of slight interest to some of my readers, Indonesia has suddenly provided a tsunami of media events which need a Jakartass balanced bias.

Obviously the main story has been the shootouts between terrorists and the Detachment 88 anti-terror team of the police. Fellow blogger Thomas Belfield, who writes about Jakarta from Hawaii where he is studying for his Master's degree, has written to say that he "got to watch the entire shoot out on the 'live stream' of Metro TV" on his computer.

The police have grumbled that there has been excessive media coverage which has hampered their search and capture of other terrorist suspects elsewhere. One must wonder therefore why they allowed it. Metro TV's "exclusive" coverage showed a vast crowd of onlookers, many gleefully using cell phones to twitter away about ongoing events.

The major target has been Noordin Top, a Malaysian national, who - ahem - has topped the country’s most-wanted list ever since the 2002 bombing attacks in Bali that killed 202 people.

Police carry off body of alleged terrorist

Whether he was one of those killed in Temanggung, a remote village in Central Java, 250 miles south-east of Jakarta, is open to conjecture and the results of DNA tests. Initial reports suggested that he had been arrested, then that he died after capture, and now that he has escaped.

Closer to home was the earlier assault on a small house in the neighbouring township of Bekasi where police killed two suspected militants and seized bombs and a car rigged to carry them. The house is variously 3½, 5 and 7 kms from SBY's private residence so it would appear that there was a plot to assassinate the President. One must wonder if this is what he was alluding to at his press conference at the site of the hotel bombings last month.

Incidentally, the Bekasi house is 2kms from the school Our Kid goes to and 7kms from Jakartass Towers.

Another death, but one occasioning sorrow rather than glee, is that of poet, writer, dramatist, cultural activist and theater director, WS Rendra, who died on Thursday night.

Throughout his life he supported the society's disenfranchised; his works were often banned because they openly criticized Suharto’s development programs that often alienated indigenous people and tended to side with multinational corporations.

He would have supported the 'refugees' of the Sidoarjo mudflow who have still not been paid compensation and have now learned that the Supreme Court, which continually defies expert knowledge and supports vested interests, has ruled that human error was not responsible for their plight. The police have therefore dropped their criminal investigation.

On a happier note, I am pleased to report that Charlton Athletic won their first match of the new season.



10:30 am |
Saturday, August 08, 2009
  It's the same old, same old.

Having posted accounts of first impressions of Indonesia from long-term expats three times - (Rien ça change .... c'est toujours .... et la même chose), I thought I'd round off this mini-series by asking a 'newbie', D, for his take. His observations
as a youngish single bloke will be familiar to many of my local readers here or - unashamed plug ahoy - of Culture Shock! Jakarta.

What was your first 'what the ...?' moment?

Actually I had one even before I arrived. At Dubai airport, waiting for the connection to Jakarta, I sat near over a hundred headscarved young Indonesian women munching their way through various food items. As soon as it was announced that the gate was open, they all raced and jostled for the doorway, leaving in their wake what I can only describe as a rubbish dump. I really wondered at that point what I was letting myself in for.

The most memorable ones since include the following:
- an old well-dressed man with bricks in his hands threatening terrified bajaj drivers.
- the National Museum of Indonesia being closed daily as early as 2pm yet at least ten museum staff milling around outside.
- the unique hot kretek-durian-exhaust odour that hits you on disembarkation at the airport
- not-so-subtle (sexual favours) being provided in a public Blok M bar.
- a mother trying to sell her nervous daughter to me in a similar bar.
- a friend telling me he'd taken seven women back to his place and that it was "chaos".
- watching an 80-year old on Jl. Jaksa bargain for a ladyfriend young enough to be his grand-daughter and then keeping on bumping into them, her dressed (presumably by him) like a middle-class Western pensioner, in a certain eatery close by.

Last week, a colleague at work pointed out a strange looking chap loitering in the shallow river near my office. He seemed to be gardening, pulling weeds out of the banks. But, as my colleague said, "Back in Britain, you'd know he was weeding, that would be the explanation. But here, there's bound to be some other peculiar reason why he's down there". (Possibly he was getting some vitamin-rich greens for his rice and tempeh - soya bean cake. J)

How difficult has it been it to hang onto your culture?

With the internet and googlemail chat, it has been fairly straightforward. I'm not a huge fan of contemporary British culture in any case. Despite being on the other side of the world, I do admit to being incredibly angry about pretty much every aspect of British government, the world of work, the music industry and the vile financial services universe. I ought to just be happy to be away from all that.

What do you miss most from 'home'?

Macaroni cheese pies, curry sauce 'n' chips, mushy peas, regional accents, regional bitter, proper Guinness, nice sandstone buildings, a clean kitchen, the seasons, solitude, crackly vinyl, an open fire, the smell of freshly-cut grass, wandering or driving across northern landscapes, chilly mornings and clear visibility, Have I Got News For You? (The last is, I think, a BBC radio programme. J)

Have you joined any 'expat' clubs? If so, which ones?

Java Lava, for clambering around volcanoes. A good, and varied, bunch.

Do you seek out other expats on a similar wavelength to you?

In a casual sort of way, although it's also interesting to meet the ones who are on very different wavelengths.

What problems do you still have coping with?

One problem is attitudes to problems. Problems here are only fixed when it's too late - there is little forward planning to prevent things from going wrong, and lessons are rarely learnt. A lot of people here seemingly prefer to have very short-term goals and then have to suffer the consequences.

The other main issue I have problems with is that of religious belief. The unbiased, neutral, original viewpoint must be that of either atheism or agnosticism. The onus is on believers to show some evidence of what they believe rather than criticizing (or worse) people who do not share their belief. I've never heard of a bunch of atheists blowing up a mosque because of a difference in belief. Generally speaking, the population has not yet properly embraced either modern science or critical thought. A Middle Ages-esque system of beliefs is prevalent.

Hopefully the vast amount of information available on the internet will slowly help matters but, what with the emphasis on consensus decision-making, there is still a long way to go.

I'm still an Englishman at core - I recently nodded off in a minibus whilst travelling near Garut and on waking, momentarily forgetting I was in Indonesia, and looking at the market outside I wondered "What the hell is going on?" It took a good minute to realize.



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  • Living in Bali
  • Hector - at Bali Times
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  • Education Matters
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  • Pre-Independence History
  • 1941-1942
  • A Family Tale

  • Del Boy - my multi-talented co-author
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  • Indonesian Blogs in English
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  • Bitching Babe - another slice
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  • Enda Nasution - The Guv'nor
  • Aroeng Binang - a neighbour
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  • Muli's Commune - defunct but good links
  • Isman H. Suryaman - not a 'Fool'
  • Rasyad A. Parinduri - ekonomi
  • Tasa Nugraza Barley - returned from the USA
  • Indonesia Anonymus - infrequent but always good

  • Indonesian Expats
  • Naz - a "12.5% Indonesian" in Norway
  • Bleu - in Malaysia
  • Anita - in Scotland
  • Maya - in Antibes
  • The Writer - in Denmark
  • Spew-It-All - in Australia
  • Jennie Bev - in SF
  • Rima Fauzi - in Belgium
  • Nadia Febina - in Angola
  • Society of Spectacle - in Berlin
  • Overseas Think Tank - for Indonesia
  • Indonesians Living Abroad Forum - as it says in the title

  • Expat Bloggers in Indonesia
  • PJ Bali - oil worker
  • Mat Solo - Malaysian oil worker
  • Jenny Q - an expat wife
  • Dr Bruce - retired teacher in Bali
  • Spruiked - Brett's take on things
  • Indoprism - an expat family
  • Java Jive - original photoblog (now in the Phillipines)
  • Amor Fati - good links
  • Metro Mad - Jakarta Globe columnist
  • Rob Baiton - back in Oz
  • Jakarta Kid - about street kids
  • Green Stump - in Kalimantan
  • Most Curious - née Betty Loves Blogging
  • The Mad Rotter - Henk loves Indonesian music
  • Duncan Graham - journo archives
  • Hardship Posting - more wtf
  • Indonesia Matters - loads of stuff
  • The Opinionated Diner - and NZ music
  • Patrick Guntensperger - has opinions on current issues

  • Selected Aseanist Blogs
  • SARAwho? - Southeast Asia Aggregator
  • Pelf-ism is Contagious
  • Brommel - usually in Indonesia
  • Friskodude - SF travel writer
  • Klong Walking - an Addick in Bangkok
  • Agam's Gecko - musings from Thailand

  • London Blogs
  • Diamond Geezer
  • London Daily Nature Photo
  • London Bloggers Tube Map

  • Other Fave Blogs
  • Aangirfan - who is s/he?
  • Ad Busters - ecological economic sense
  • Samizdata.net
  • Strange Games
  • The J-Walk Blog
  • Environmental Graffiti

  • Charlton
  • Doctor Kish
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  • Official Charlton site
  • Addickted to Blogs
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  • I'm an Aging Hippie
  • Man
  • XTC
  • World Changing
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  • Canterbury Sounds

  • My Youth
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  • Charlton House
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  • Overlapping Memories
  • More Overlapping Memories
  • Map of My Stomping Ground

  • Put Your Feet Up
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