Friday, July 31, 2009
  News and Skews


Whilst the police are saying little in their hunt for the hotel bombers, a group calling itself Tandzim Al Qo'idah Indonesia has emerged to claim responsibility.

What pisses me off is that they announced this through the medium of Blogger, my medium, and to make matters worse, their blog is now the most popular in Indonesia. This has had the inevitable result of lowering my standing as one of the best blogs in the country, damn them.

I'm tempted to add to the 2,000 or so comments they've already received, but then I don't think I could add to the general tenor of the responses.

"Come to me with your bombs. I'll fight you with spoon and fork, I'll eat you", says one.

Incidentally, if you want to use a knife and fork, you'll have to book a table in a five-star restaurant such as those in the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton which re-opened a couple of days ago.

Still, we shouldn't get bogged down in condemning Muslims for 'terrorist' outrages. Basque separatists set off a car bomb in Mallorca yesterday which killed two people.

Who's Gonna Do It

I subscribe to a number of pro-life newsletters, one of which comes from Wild Asia, a Malaysia-based responsible tourism organisation whose monthly newsletter goes out to over 22,000 people worldwide.

Responsible tourism folk in Indonesia may like to know of a training course next month.

Upcoming Training for RSPO

Wild Asia and ProForest are prepping up to take our RSPO-endorsed Stepwise Support Programme (SSP) Training Course "Interpretation of RSPO Principles & Criteria".

The 4-day course will be held on 10-13 August 2009 at Hotel Salak "The Heritage", Bogor Indonesia. Click here to learn more about the training.

Don't Use Sunblock!

Keeping on topic, responsible tourists and users of skin whiteners are now informed that the sunblock creams and lotions are bad for the environment.

The Guardian reported that a 2008 study by Italian scientists found that UV filters in sunscreens cause coral bleaching. (This is an unfortunate ecological coincidence, as one of the original compounds for sunscreen was synthesised from an Australian coral reef.)

According to researchers, 10,000 tonnes of UV filters are produced every year, about 10% of which are used by the 78 million tourists visiting sensitive coral areas. As a 20-minute slathered-up dip in the sea is enough to wash off 25% of the ingredients into the water, 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes of UV sunscreen are released annually into the sea, affecting 10% of the world's coral reefs.

So, wear a T-shirt and hat when snorkeling. Alternatively, you could wear one of those skin-tight all-body swim suits which are causing controversy because they lead to world records in the pool.



10:00 am |
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
  Well, Whadya Know?

Excuse me if the following seems to show a scant lack of sympathy for the killed and injured in the recent hotel bombs. That would be wrong. In no way can any decent and morally upright world citizen condone random killing by morally uptight religious nuts.

However, there's been too much palaver about the failures of the varied intelligence services here to anticipate the re-emergence of these sexually frustrated morons - why else would they seek 72 virgins in the hereafter? There are also too many headlines about the lax security prior to the bombings and the lack of progress since in finding out whodunnit.

Much has also been written about public interest in the incident. For example, surprise, surprise, the ratings for TV news programmes increased amid much twittering.

However, let's put a little distance between that one shocking event and into the perspective of everyday life in Indonesia.

For example, I was told today that in the five years or so that the wonderful, yet woefully ill-managed, Busway has been operational in Jakarta, some 300 deaths have directly resulted.

But that's small beer.

A book recently published, After The Car by Kingsley Dennis & John Urry points out the following, which I've taken from a Guardian review:

- More than a million people worldwide are killed every year by cars, whether as drivers, passengers or pedestrians.

And how many of those million were killed here?

-The authors present several scenarios in which the car system will be affected by increasingly scant resources and human attempts to limit damage caused by climate change. The most frightening, for its depressing plausibility, is that of "regional warlordism", based on the fight for post-peak oil. We may already be living in this period.

"Regional warlordism"? Isn't that a definition of the Taliban in Afghanistan and their caliphate seeking acolytes elsewhere - here?

For once, maybe just the once, I find myself in partial agreement with Vice President Jusuf Kalla who yesterday blamed the skewed level of prosperity between rich and poor Islamic countries for terrorist attacks in the world, urging leaders of Islamic countries to work together to spread wealth.

Not that the disparity is solely a matter of concern in Islamic countries. America's Christian far right, for example, have bombed abortion centres and been responsible for other attacks.

I'd agree with JK more if he'd left out the Islamic bit. After all, as an editorial in the Post entitled Poverty Kills pointed out seven months ago, poverty is non-denominational. It cited deaths from malnutrition in the (Muslim) South Sulawesi capital, Makassar - Kalla's stomping ground, and the largely Christian provinces of Papua and East Nusa Tenggara.

Not only do these deaths speak volumes about the depth of the poverty problem here, but they bring into question the government's credibility, given its apparent neglect of the social and economic well being of citizens.

That the central government quickly shifted the blame to local administrations will not repair the damage that has been done. The government's quick retreat to that old favorite, the blame game, is further cause for concern about the prospects of eventually winning the fight against poverty, because the government is apparently part of the problem instead of the solution.

Mind you, some blame can certainly be laid at the feet of local governments.

Take the matter of the poor shoeshine kids who have been set free, yet been proven guilty of gambling on coin tosses at the airport without permission from the airport authorities so will all remain under the control of the social welfare agency until (they) are no longer minors.

Unfortunately, the airport lies with Tangerang township which has imposed their form of sharia law.

M, 14, braced himself for the worst to come Monday as he stood beside nine other shoeshine boys at the Tangerang District Court on charges of gambling that threatened to land them in prison for five years.

But his frail body was seemingly succumbing to months of pressure and tension, marathon questioning sessions, hearings and uncertainty over his future. He vomited and passed out just before the hearing, due to anxiety and exhaustion, sending his mother into a panic.

What are the odds that these ten children, now scarred for life, will harbour such resentment against society that they too will resort to 'terrorist acts'?

I can't say that I would blame them.

Could you?



9:00 pm |
Saturday, July 25, 2009
  Much Ado About Nothing Much

When there's little news to report, it seems the media writes about it. As a frequent commentator on current issues, I am now, therefore, offering you nothing much.

Last week's bombing outrage is obviously the lead story here, although it has become intertwined with SBY's "landslide" win in the recent Presidential election.

Few of us can comprehend what it is that drives young men, and occasionally young women, to blow themselves up. Indonesia's suicide bombers aren't living - let me rephrase that - didn't live under siege. They aren't Palestinians.

Most of us follow paths which reveal the consequences of our actions, but if we end up cavorting with 72 virgins in the hereafter, more than likely we'd be too busy to care about the devastation we've left in our trails. (I'm a bit curious to know if female bombers are promised the same 'reward'.)

That the suicide squad were meticulous in their planning indicates an obvious mastermind. The police discovered that the room they'd booked themselves into in the JW Marriott hotel contained a third bomb.

The UK Guardian carried this news item on it's front page yesterday (Friday), which I found strange as most of us knew about it on Monday.

"It is clear that the bomb found inside the hotel was equipped with a timer that shows the time of the [failed] explosion," said Ketut Untung Yoga of the national police. "It was supposed to explode before the other two."

The explosion would probably have sent panicked crowds fleeing to the ground floors, where a suicide attacker detonated his explosives pack.

As for the bombers, names were quickly given out, DNA tests on family members were carried out and then it was announced that, in spite of drawings of the two heads, which had been blown off their torsos, being published, the alleged bombers weren't. At least the police have been honest, at last, about having made little progress in their investigation

Much has been written and commented about SBY's 'performance' at his on-site press conference, which he delayed in order to perform his Friday prayer rituals. Anand Krishna has written most eloquently about the need for introspection.

We have made a serious blunder by defining ritual as religion, and prioritizing it over the performance of our duties.

Rituals are means of awakening the spirit of religiosity within us, not the end of religion. By becoming ritualistic, I do not necessarily become religious. Hands that help are better than lips that pray.

I can worship while working, and pray while performing my duties not only toward my immediate family, but also toward my country, my nation and the world family.

When SBY did speak, he intimated that there were forces, unnamed but widely perceived to be Megawati's choice as potential Vice President, attempting to derail his reelection as President.

The announcement of his win by the KPU, Indonesia's is possibly being made as I type this. There will certainly be legal challenges to the result by the losing pairs, not that they will make any difference as the winning margin is too great. However, if irregularities can be proven then, hopefully, everything will be sorted out and hunky dory next time round, in 2014.

One cloudy issue concerns the elections for the legislature which were held on April 9th. A system of proportional representation with transferable votes was adopted for the first time. Although there are times that this system can lead to a lack of clear purpose as coalitions rarely work, I believe that it is inherently fairer to the electorate than the first-past-the post system as practised in the UK which can disenfranchise much of the electorate and emphasise social divisions and leading to civil strife (vide Thatcher).

This week the Supreme Court has 'over-ruled' a Constitutional Court ruling and now seats previously allocated to minority parties will be handied over to the three major parties, SBY's Demokrat, Megawati's PDI-P and to Golkar, the 'functional' group of yes-men established by Suharto.

The Post's headline says it all - Chaos looms in KPU-vs-court fiasco

KPU chairman Abdul Hafiz Anshary said, "I have to stress that in principle, the KPU will abide by all legally binding decisions, but first of all, we will decide on how to implement the Constitutional Court's ruling, and then Supreme Court's first decision on the third phase of ballot counting.

"Then we'll decide on how to implement the Supreme Court's decision on the second phase."

And then we'll have another election?
In my ambivalence - perhaps ambiguous is a better word - role of being a Brit abroad, I regularly point out that what I find strange here is merely an echo of what I find strange there.

So go figure this classic example of British bureaucratese.

Pubs are a vital part of local communities, but the consumption of too much alcohol can lead to disorderly conduct. So a year ago the government introduced Alcohol Disorder Zones as a way to curb binge drinking and related anti-social behaviour. These supposedly give councils the power to charge clubs, bars and restaurants an extra levy to pay for increased policing in areas where drunks have been causing problems for residents.

To date, no local authority has introduced one.

A government Home Office spokesman stated the following: "The fact that there are not any Alcohol Disorder Zones does not suggest that they are not working."
By the way, when I uploaded the Jakarta Post this morning, yesterday's edition incidentally, the lead story was of Mark Cavendish of Britain winning the 19th stage of the Tour de Frace (sic). Was the Post influenced by my trivial post on Wednesday?


2:30 pm |
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Have you noticed how life goes in cycles? I'm not thinking so much of the lifecycle of, say, a frog, but that there are times of plenty followed by a time of barely surviving, that we can take two steps forward but then have to take one back. We recover from terrorist outrages, and then another one happens.

Well, that's my excuse for not posting for longer than usual.

For part of this time I've found myself drawn to the Tour de France which is currently being shown live on Eurosport. It's not because I am a fan of cycle races. It's not a sport that I've ever contemplated taking up, although in times gone by I did use to bike across London, braving the traffic, to get to my then office. As a teenager, I explored further reaches of my stomping ground, and I used the same two wheels to deliver newspapers. However, the last time I rode a bike to get places, 20 odd, very odd, years ago, I ended up with a slipped disc, or herniated vertebrae for those of you technically minded.

I remain a big supporter of anyone prepared to Bike To Work and trust that Jakarta's next 10-year plan, scheduled to be launched next year with a focus on ways and means of moving Jakartans around, will include the provision of cycle lanes.

I can't say that any of that is why I'm watching the Tour, which also, this year, pops into Spain, Switzerland and Italy. (Should it be renamed the Tour d'Euro?) Watching groups of youngish men making the wheels go round as they go up and down and along, grimacing as they are pursued by motorcycles bearing cameramen and fleets of cars carrying spare bikes and packed lunches is somewhat soporific. The only exciting bits are when they reach certain points where assembled crowds jostle for road space, gesticulating madly. Will any of the racers crash?

One year, long ago, I found myself at the side of the road in the Massif Central, the mountainous area of southern France, awaiting the arrival of such a group. It was preceded by a fleet of lorries from the back of which were thrown sweets and knick-knacks provided by the sponsors. Half an hour later, with a whoosh, the pelaton (main group) passed and that was it. Who won? I never knew and didn't care.

I don't care now, either.

I have the album Tour de France by the German machinists Kraftwerk, an appropriately repetitive meisterwerk. I also have the amazingly wonderful animated film, Les Triplettes de Belleville, a bizarre story of cyclists kidnapped from the tour and forced to pedal all night on a bicycle-based gambling machine located in the bowels of the Belleville French Wine Center.

So why am I watching the tour now?

Because of the amazing scenery is why, some of which I recall from my ramblings through rural France. It's a wonderful mental escape from Jakarta!

Tour de France 1942



7:30 pm |
Saturday, July 18, 2009
  The Day Aftermath

"Whudunnit?" is the question many are asking. The fingers are pointing at splinter groups of Jaamal Islamiya, the Islamic fools who are, in the words of Thomas Belfield, "young men with nothing better to do than having themselves brainwashed with the nihilism these acts represent and define. Convinced of something no right thinking person can even grasp."

There is little support for these nihilists; the only supporters they do have are skulking in a kampung, hidden from general view, so theories abound as to who benefits. As Aangirfan points out in an excellent in-depth background post, there are hidden agendas behind every terrorist group.

Why it was allowed to happen is perhaps a more pertinent question. The chief of BIN, the national intelligence agency, Syamsir Siregar, admitted the agency's negligence, telling Kompas (bhs. Indonesia) that BIN didn't pick up any clue that said that bomb blasts would be staged in Jakarta. He also added that this sort of national security breach can happen anywhere in the world even in superpower countries.

True: vide 9/11, Madrid, London, Lahore, Bombay ..........
Rob Baiton has SBY's speech translated into English, with Rob's comments adding an interesting insight. Worth a read.

Business as usual

That seems to be the message from much of the media.

Deadly hotel bombings in Jakarta Friday had only a limited impact on Indonesian and Asian financial markets, suggesting continued long-term confidence in …
fr. Thomas Belfield's post

Leaders of the 'free world' have offered their obligatory sympathy and condolences.

British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said:
"I strongly condemn today's bombings in Jakarta. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed and injured. These attacks, remind us, yet again, of the threat people of all races and religion face from violent extremists. Indonesia is worlds largest Muslim democracy.

An attack on Indonesia is an attack on all decent people. The bombings are in marked contrast to the wishes of the millions of Indonesians who voted peacefully in last week's elections.

We will continue to work with the Government of Indonesia to stop terrorism. Today we stand in solidarity and sorrow."

I'm don't yet know what Son No.1 said, but as co-owner of a leading travel company who arranged holidays in Indonesia for 900 visitors last year - correct me if I'm wrong, son - he was interviewed for his, erm, views on the expected impact on Indonesia's tourism industry.

My answer would have been that given that the majority of tourist arrivals here are from Asian countries - who, thanks to their physiognomy don't look like western imperialist agents of Satan, there may well be a downturn in his business, but not as much as from the world's economic downturn.

Judging by the British travel advisory, the level of foreign governments' travel advisories remains the same.

British Embassy staff have visited the scene and local hospitals to which casualties are being evacuated. Access to the area around the explosions is difficult while rescue operations and early investigations remain in progress. You are advised to stay away from the Mega Kuningan district and to avoid unnecessary journeys within central Jakarta for the time being.

The time being? How long is that? I need to know because Our Kid wants to go into town for a CD-rom and DVD shopping expedition.



10:30 am |
Friday, July 17, 2009
  Bombs in Jakarta

As I type this, SBY is visiting the site of two bomb explosions at 7.45 this morning at luxury hotels, the Ritz-Carlton and the Marriott in the business district of Mega Kuningan, central Jakarta.

Four Eight (but maybe 9) people, including foreigners have been killed, one of whom reportedly (and coincidentally?) worked for Freeport.

As for who and why, this will probably take time as it is rare for perpetrators of these outrages to claim responsibility.

I'm going to conjecture that it isn't the work of the fanatic Islamic group Jemaah Islamiah
but connected with domestic issues - Freeport in Papua, the election, a corruption case .....

This page of 'tweets' is being continuously updated.

(A bomb explosion in 2003 killed at least 13 people at the Marriott, many of them taxi drivers parked outside.)
Update midday

Apparently there were 3 suicide bombers, which indicates that Islamic fanatics were responsible.

However, Manchester United were due to arrive tomorrow for a match against an Indonesian Select team on Monday. They'll have to change their hotel reservations as obviously the Ritz-Carlton is now out of commission.

Indonesian football fans can be fanatic, but surely no-one hates M.U. that much.
Update 2.30pm

M.U. aren't coming.

An unnamed komisaris (company commissioner) of PT Freeport is hospitalised, along with 18 foreigners and 22 other Indonesians.

SBY has ordered the state intelligence community to speedily find out who did it. He's also hinting that there is a group trying to 'hijack' the election, a coup d'etat in the making?
(He looked close to tears and I thought I heard him say "goblok" (stupidly crazy) as he walked away from his just ended press conference.)

The internet traffic means that it's nigh on impossible to get online.
Pics from Straits Times.



10:00 am |
Thursday, July 16, 2009
  Putting My Oar In

Some small news items, or excerpts from large ones or large excerpts from small ones, make me blink. Here are three I've gathered recently.

Police bust counterfeit money syndicate in Bandung.
fr. today's Jakarta Post

Bandung Police chief, Adj, Comr. Irfan Nugraha said that the Rp.100,000 notes, which were printed with simple reproduction machines including photocopiers, "seem almost the same when touched and observed through light. They can pass an infrared scan because they also have security threads like real banknotes issued by Bank Indonesia."

"They may have used very sophisticated technology by just using ordinary printing machines."

If it's that easy, I must fix my scanner and refill my colour cartridge.

The politics of pragmatism
fr. today's Jakarta Post

With the defeat of Jusuf Kalla, chairman of Golkar, in the recent presidential election, Suharto's former party is in some disarray. There is unseemly jostling to take over the helm, with the current Minister of Family Welfare - especially his family's but definitely not the Sidoarjo mudflow refugees' - Abdurizal Bakrie and media tycoon Suryo Paloh the front runners.

However, a 41 year old party executive, Yuddy Chrisnandi, has put his name forward.

Institute of Sciences political expert Lili Romli said,"Yuddy has the capacity but not the funding. He has to face the reality that most of the party's regional elite (who have the votes in internal party elections) are pragmatic people."

fr. Websters: pragmatic (adj) concerned with actual practice, everyday affairs, etc.
ergo: money talks.

Scull Hunting
fr. Pravda

A new term - 'dark tourism' - has appeared in the tourist industry recently. More and more tourists are eager to visit places of catastrophes and disasters which killed plenty of people.

Vladislav Anikeev, a man from the Russian city of Tula, has always dreamt to visit a cannibal tribe. And one day his dream came true. He went to Kalimantan, Indonesia, to the place where scull (sic) hunters live. The group of tourists finally found themselves in the village inhabited by cannibals who willingly told the details of their inhumane craft and shared their secrets and technology of scull processing and showed how to do it.

However, how surprised Vladislav was when at the end of their tour he entered the chief’s house and saw the chief of the tribe putting on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt.

It turned out that everything the tribe showed to the tourists was nothing but a performance. Scull hunting has been strictly forbidden since 1861. Since that time the tribe has become quite civilized and has taught themselves how to get money from the habits and customs of their predecessors.

Russian tourist in Plaza Indonesia


12:30 pm |
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's forty years since we sat on our sofas eyes glued to our black and white TVs and watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take the first bouncy giant steps on the moon. I say 'we', but to be honest I can't recall if I watched the seemingly slo-mo live or whether my memory is of one or many of the endless repeats.

Shaky's Moon

It seemed to be important at the time, athough few seem to recall that this was part of the so-called space race between the USA and Russia, a matter of 'cold' war. Its peacetime value was in technological advances such as non-stick frying pans, which are a waste of time in Jakartass Towers as I can't convince 'Er Indoors or sundry other domestic helpers to throw out the scourers.

Still, anniversaries are all about mortality and the meaning of life, so I thought I'd play Apollo by Brian Eno which he wrote because when he watched the Apollo 11 landing in 1969 he felt that the strangeness of that event was compromised by the low quality of the television transmission and an excess of journalistic discussion, and that he wished to avoid the melodramatic and uptempo way it was presented.

It turns out that Apollo isn't among the eighteen Eno albums (plus sundry collaborations and productions) I do have so I've stuck with Another Day On Earth.

Brits have an opportunity "to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing" on 20th and 21st July at London's Science Museum when they present the premiere of a new live arrangement of Apollo. There will also be performances of new material based on recordings from space.

The moon has a profound influence on us all. Bearing in mind that it's its gravitational pull which largely dictates the tides and that we humans are composed of c.70% water, then it's hardly surprising that werewolves howl and lunatics go extra loony at the time of full moons. The moon also rules those born between 22nd June - 21st July (which is now!) under the astrological sign of Cancer, symbolized by the crab.

Cancerians tend to be emotional, intuitive, imaginative, shrewd, cautious, protective, and sympathetic, changeable, moody, overemotional, touchy, clinging, protective, sensitive, moody and unable to let go and go with their instinct, because they know it can be trusted.

Amongst Eno's musical collaborations were a trilogy of albums by David Bowie, which provides a very neat segue because among the pirated DVDs available here is The Prestige in which Bowie portrays Nikola Tesla who was born on 10th July 1856. All the adjectives in the last paragraph apply to Tesla, a very crabby person.

You may not know it, but if you are reading this on a computer connected to mains electricity, it's Tesla you have to thank, rather than Thomas Edison, because alternating current (AC), rather than Edison's batteries (DC) was Tesla's creation. He was also a pioneer in radio, x-rays, lasers, atomic physics, electric vehicles, vertical take off aircraft and much more.

One's mind boggles at his genius. Although he converted to vegetarianism late in life - good man - arguing that it is wrong to eat uneconomic meat when large numbers of people are starving and that plant food (was) superior to meat in regard to both mechanical and mental performance, his mind got boggled too and he died alone in a New York hotel room on 7th January 1943, penniless and a virtual lunatic.

There is a crater named Tesla on the far side of the Moon.

I'm pleased to say that there's also one named Collins.



12:30 pm |
Saturday, July 11, 2009
  Spreading The Words

The English-language division of the Indonesian blogosphere has been fairly unanimous in its appraisal of the just concluded presidential election. It would seem that in this we are largely in sync with the print media, the Post and the Globe. (Or are they in sync with us?)

This is a selection of blog posts with comments.

Rob Baiton

Treespotter - pre-election

Indonesia Matters

Indonesia Anonymus

Other blog related news

Harry Nizam H. is a Legal Practitioner whose interests are Indonesian legal matters, the environment and toastmasters. Presumably he's a friend/colleague of former expat Rob Baiton as they cover some of the same issues.

Harry writes well and is very informative.

Another Indonesian, Yosef Ardi, once a valuable resource in discovering who owns what, has returned with his business news after a gap of a couple of years.

There's another expat in town, who calls himself Bah-Well, who has recently started "a somewhat cynical blog", calling it Jakarta Grind, about life in Jakarta. He has written to me and asks for any insight on how to increase his exposure. Have a look and you can email him too.

Indonesisch-Blog has given some of our 'presidential posts' a link ~ Die Präsidentschaftswahlen in Indonesien… . However it is primarily a blog to help Germans to learn Indonesian.

Finally, I'll be posting a lengthier piece later about Rujak.org, which is a public space for everyone to share ideas, actions, questions, know-how, challenges and solutions to transform Jakarta into a sustainable metropolis.

What I like about Rujak is that it is further evidence that true reformasi is at last taking hold of the Indonesian mindset. That the political élite and bureaucracy, with a few, very few, notable exceptions, have, aside from the current elections, generally
failed to enable the democratic aspirations of the rakyat (citizenry) may in fact be a good thing because the rakyat are now learning how to work collaboratively in order to effect required changes.


12:30 pm |
Thursday, July 09, 2009
  Five Years Hence
It's not official yet and won't be until August 14th - barring judicial reviews, cock-ups, machinations or other unanticipated impediments - but it's already clear that the Indonesian electorate has abandoned the tired old faces from the past and stuck with SBY who, with Boediono as his Vice President, will be reinaugurated as President on October 20th.

The transition to free and direct elections can only be a good thing for a transforming country but there is no room for complacency.

SBY will not be able to stand the next time round, so another 'trustworthy' stateman-like figure needs to be found, whether groomed by the incumbent or emerging from parliament or the grassroots of community activism only time will tell. One thing is fairly obvious, though, and that is that the long entrenched political forces are not wanted by the population at large.

Three of the losing four will not be around in 2014

Golkar, chaired by current VP Jusuf Kalla, came in a distant third with, according to current projections, a mere 10% of the vote. He may well, as he earlier said, pulang kampung, and go back to being the most prominent businessman in his home turf of South Sulawesi, the only territory where he gained a majority of the votes.

His pick for VP, Gen (ret) Wiranto, was Golkar's front man in 2004 when he came in a fairly distant third. His time is now, thankfully, past.

Kalla was a Johnny-come-lately who only came by his chairmanship by virtue of being SBY's no.2, so we can expect the remnants of the old ruling regime - Golkar was Suharto's facade of political legitimacy - to reassert themslves. If, as projected, Abdurizal Bakrie, of Lapindo/Sidoarjo mudflow infamy, takes over the helm, then I would expect Golkar to lose all legitimacy and be a totally spent force within five years.

As for Megawati, she has now been humiliated twice in the presidential polls, and her attempt to perpetuate a dynasty, one founded on her perceived popularity of her late father, first president Sukarno, shows that it is time for her to step aside.

The fourth member of the losing pairs is Gen.(ret) Prabowo. He has already appeared on TV snarling that the quick counts should not have been allowed. There can only be one riposte to that: the publically displayed local counts, one of which I posted yesterday, although not official, enable the electorate to have forewarning of any discrepancies or later manipulations. Coup d'etats are now virtually impossible in Indonesia.

The losing pairs played the religion card - the wives of SBY and Boediono didn't wear Muslim headscarves on the campaign trail therefore .... . It could be said, therefore, that the electorate recognises that religion and politics should be separate. This ignores the coalition formed by SBY's party, Parti Demokrat, with various Islamic parties in order to nominate him for yesterday's election. That many of these parties are not represented in the next parliament could be a problem in that his government needs a parliamentary majority in order to ensure that his programmes are put in place.

A parliament also needs an opposition. That Megawati appears to be a sore loser is an indication that her PDI-P will continue in that role. We may also expect Prabowo's Gerinda to join, mainly because he still, unfortunately, harbours presidential pretentions and must therefore show that he supports the "little people" against the forces arraigned against them. He will probably also need PDI-P to support his aspirations for 2014.

Because of their personal differences, I would expect Hanura, the party of Prabowo's nemesis in 1998, Wiranto, to join SBY's alliance. This leaves the conumdrum of Golkar. As a party used to having an element of government within their purview, they may well join the government. It may prove difficult to demonstrate administrative competence to the populace if they are perceived to be politically impotent.

We have until October to see how the political map unfolds. Whatever, what we do expect over the next five years is a continued commitment to remove corruption from the mindset of the bureaucracies. This will take further institutional reform and the empowerment of NGO's who are best able to provide community input and the monitoring of programmes which are put in place by directly elected representatives, Indonesia's public servants.

The next elections, in five years time, could and should be an accounting of how far true democracy - government by the people for the people - has evolved here.



1:00 pm |
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
  Quick Exit Poll
Loud cheers could be heard from residents as SBY-Boediono garnered c.78% of the local votes.

It would have been a few more, but Our Kid and I are fending for ourselves - quite capably I must add - because 'Er Indoors and the rest of our tribe had to rush off to Medan due to a family bereavement.

(SBY-Boediono were the number 2 pairing and you can just make out the middle section recording the votes cast for them. Megawati-Prabowo are in the section above and Kalla-Wiranto in the slightly obscured section below.)


3:00 pm |
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
  We Can't Let Bygones Be Bygones.

I am ambivalent about the result of Indonesia's Presidential Election this week, and not just because I don't have the vote here.

That the Constitutional Court has belatedly, but not too late, ruled that Indonesians left off the electoral register can use their ID cards to cast their vote is evidence of change. That it was necessary for the judicial ruling to be made is an indication that some changes are still deemed necessary. The positive to be taken is that this is an institution with the strength of purpose and power to effect change for the benefit of the citizenry.

Another institution which has won widespread praise is the Corruption Eradication Commission. However that is now embroiled in a number of controversies which are perceived as an attempt by those threatened by its powers to emasculate it. Treespotter has an excellent summary here.

For most of my life I have been an advocate and activist for social justice, for the empowerment of individuals so that society is not one of 'them and us'. I believe in partnerships and a commonwealth of communities, government by the people for the people. Electors should have the freedom to bring public servants and politicians to account, and not merely once every so often in a polling booth..

Indonesia is gradually moving out of its colonial past, a past that 'officially' ended with Suharto's abdication in 1998. We know problems lie ahead, but many of these - environmental degradation, economic downturns, corporate injustices, poverty et al - have their roots in relatively recent human history.

The only way forward is to learn from the past and we cannot afford to say "let bygones be bygones" and move on blithely. There are issues that need to be resolved first, several of which have left thousands of Indonesians bereft of the social equity which we should all strive for.

Usman Hamid and Suciwati are members of the Committee of Action and Solidarity for Munir (KASUM) founded in 2004 in response to the assassination of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib on Sept. 7, 2004. Suciwati is his widow.

In today's Jakarta Post they have an opinion piece which needs to be read by all voting in the election and, especially, by those who wish to lead Indonesia for the next five years.

I am posting it in its entirety.

The past is not forgotten and will never be forgotten

Listening to the presidential candidates in the last debate, it was clear that their concerted appeal was that it was time for Indonesia to move on from the past.

Megawati presented herself as an example of forgiveness, while Jusuf Kalla and SBY focused more on reconciliation than accountability.

Their commercials show prosperous farmers, educated children and Indonesians climbing bright green hills. But there are some images you won’t see in the commercials. In the last few days the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has toured Java with a remarkable group of people affected by past crimes and has met with local communities affected by the continuing violation of their rights.

The writer William Faulkner once said that the past is not forgotten, and, in fact, it is not even the past. For those of us on the Kontras tour - a daughter whose father disappeared during the 1984 Tanjung Priok riot, a mother whose son disappeared one day in 1997/1998, another whose son was killed by sniper fire at a protest, a young mother whose husband was poisoned on an airline trip abroad - the past is something we live with everyday.

And so it is for the rest of Indonesia as well, for two reasons. On our trip, we met communities whose health and livelihood may be threatened by cement factories and mines, and others made homeless by a disastrous mudflow.

They are victims of the same fundamental problems as the victims of past abuses: Weak institutions that cannot protect people’s rights and a resulting impunity for those responsible for negligence, arbitrary actions, or even serious crimes. And many future policies such as poverty reduction, agrarian reform, environmental protection, and economic development as a whole, are likely to be affected by the same patterns of abuse and impunity.

There is a second reason that these crimes should be a concern for all candidates, and for all voters. When people and governments are not held accountable for their actions, it changes the relationship between citizens and their leaders. Such a condition creates a climate of fear, exposes government critics to intimidation, and undermines confidence in the state to provide justice and protection.

For all these reasons we need leaders willing to address the past head on. We need policies to strengthen the capacity and independence of the courts, the Attorney General’s Office, and the National Human Rights Commission.

We need leaders with the political will to see that justice is done, through an appropriate combination of prosecutions and extra judicial mechanisms of truth, reconciliation and redress. These measures must include military and other institutional reform.

As a non-partisan organization, Kontras does not endorse any candidate. Unfortunately, this is all too easy, as all three candidates haven’t shown a clear commitment to justice for past crimes. And as important as these policies are, the current election is about more than policies.

Even a non-partisan organization cannot ignore the fact that among the vice-presidential candidates are two men credibly linked to major human rights abuses.

The fact that they are candidates says as much about Indonesian society as it does about the individuals or the parties that put them forward as candidates.

It is unlikely that such figures would be credible candidates for a national office in a country that had made full and accurate accounting of the past.

Elections provide citizens with an opportunity to reassert their aspirations for the future and their relationship with their leaders. It is where ordinary citizens can hold those in power accountable by awarding them a vote or choosing not to.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, our elected leaders, including those in parliament, have a lot of work to do. And so do the rest of us: if the nation is to move forward, we must address, and learn from, the past that all Indonesians still live with today.



6:30 pm |
Sunday, July 05, 2009
  They've Got Our Numbers

Every graduate from elementary, junior and senior high school has to score a minimum percentage on a number of nationally set exams. One of these compulsory subjects is mathematics, and such is its level of difficulty that Jakarta supports a large number of private institutions providing extra lessons.

One would assume therefore that in-depth practical applications of the subject would be commonplace. That would be wrong.

Jakartass Towers is situated in a back street off a main road and our address, like everyone else's in our neighbourhood, has a certain logic.

Streets which exit the main street, the jalan raya, are in alphabetical order so, to get to our house you first need to enter the jalan raya, for example Jalan Sudirman, and then look for Jalan D. However, our back street runs parallel to Jalan Sudirman and similar streets are named by letters from the far end of the alphabet, so we live in Jalan X which, like the main street, is quite long.

So our address is (not) Jl.Sudirman X/6.

In the interests of rukun (harmony) and social control, each house is designated within a rukun tetangga (RT - neighbourhood association) of, in our case, 45 houses. Every resident is supposed to be registered with Pak RT.

Each RT is a sub-division of a rukun warga (RW - citizen's association) which in turn is a sub-division of a kelurahan (village administrative unit). This is where Indonesians sort out ID cards and check whether they've been included on the electoral register. In terms of the larger bureaucracy, our kelurahan is a sub-division of one of the five Jakarta the mayoralties, and so it goes up to City Hall, through the police, immigration and whichever government department is interested in keeping tabs on the 230 or so million people in this vast country..

Anyway, it's important that addresses show both the RT and RW codes, particularly in our case because there are six houses with the (notional) address of Jl.Sudirman X/6. One of the others supplies domestic workers, probably for Saudi Arabia, and another is the house-surgery of a doctor.

A few years back, an ex-colleague of mine, with his Indonesian family, lived on Jalan H, a short walk away. They lived at number 36 which was next to and on the left of number 47. We supposed that this anomaly could have been explained by the amalgamation of a number of smaller parcels of land some 50 years ago when the original farmland was sold off to be smothered with bricks and mortar. But that still doesn’t explain why the house on the other side also had the number 47.

Being woken up in the middle of the night by a driver from the provinces attempting to 'deliver' a future maid has become distinctly unfunny. Slightly more bearable are the courier services attempting to deliver urgent medicines to the doctor, or, better yet, missives from banks which occasionally include credit cards. Unfortunately for us, we are honest folk and, generally politely, suggest that they check the RT/RW designation of their destination.

Ours is prominently displayed at the front gate: it's (not) Jl.Sudirman X/6, RT007/RW 012.

If everyone followed these guidelines then we would expect to sleep relatively soundly.

Even then we would not necessarily be free from the effects of numerical chaos.

Our telephone landline was installed abour nineteen years ago. I remember it well because the owner of the house had been on Telkom's waiting list for some eight years and it was a a day of great rejoicing.

Three years later, a couple of friends rang to let us know that our number had been changed: Telkom hadn't informed us.

Our home phone number has, thankfully, remained the same ever since but that doesn't mean that all's well. Some
Indonesian phrases trip off my tongue with ease, and salah sambung (literally wrong connection) is one of these.

For a couple of years we would get calls asking to speak to Pak So And So of PT Such & Such. We never worked out what line of business he was in.

More recently, we have discovered that our number is shared with a hotel in Bogor, the town about 60 kilometres south of Jakarta, and we are worried about our reputation. You see, most callers ask to be put through to Dewi, or another woman, in a particular room number. That most of these calls happen quite late in the evening has lead us to think that the hotel in question is not so much a boutique hotel as a boudoir hotel.

We would be grateful if future clientele would remember to dial the Bogor code, which is 0251, before dialing our number.
Originally published in the Jakarta Globe.



8:00 am |
Thursday, July 02, 2009
  "He's better than the others."

So said 'Er Indoors about .... well, her vote is, of course, secret .... when discussing the choices to be made in the presidential election on July 8th. This is damning with faint praise and I think we can take it that the electorate is taking the various promises being made with the proverbial pinch of salt.

Most have already decided who they are going to vote for, or against. Few seem to be seriously examining the records of the candidates and decisions may not be overtly rational. For example, Megawati is the only woman, Kalla is the only non-Javanese and Wiranto sings in televised debates - which ignores the fact that a CD of SBY's songs has been bought by a few folk. Religion may be a factor with every pair working hard to emphasise their Muslim credentials. No-one is prepared to state openly that in a supposed pluralist society, religion should not be a matter for consideration.
I originally intended to post a series of thoughts on the track records of the six candidates for affection, perhaps with topic headings such as Environment, Human Rights, Economy and the Corruption Eradication. However, the Post has made a pretty good start, so I think I can only fill in a few gaps.

Bear in mind that all six have Suhartoist links.

Boediono was governor of Bank Indonesia from 1993 to early 1998, period when banks started to crash due to the Asian Economic Crisis (krismon). $15 billion was made available to ease banks' liquidity, much of which was stolen and salted away by bank owners. Opposition politicos allege he was implicated, although he has never been charged.

The three generals are implicated in human rights issues from that era and, by implication considering their continued links with the military and intelligence networks, with those of today.

Younger Indonesians, those voting for the first or second time, will be aware of Prabowo's alleged involvement in student abductions in 97/98.

What is not disputed is his role, as head of Kopassus, Indonesian special forces, in the 'rescue' of British, Dutch, German and Indonesian nine members of the Worldwide Fund for Nature kidnapped in January 1996 by guerrilla soldiers of the OPM (Free Papua Movement), to attract international publicity to their independence campaign.

Kopassus failed to find the hostages, even though they were within kilometres of them for days. Eventually the OPM killed two Indonesian hostages and freed the Europeans. The freed hostages found their way to a regular army unit, not Kopassus. None of the OPM kidnappers was found.

However, this did not prevent Kopassus from wreaking retribution.

The Kopassus troops, trained and advised by Executive Outcomes, a South African mercenary group, were responsible for a deadly helicopter assault on the West Papuan village of Geselema on May 9, 1996, in which many civilians were murdered and numerous others wounded. This was the start of an Indonesian retribution campaign aimed at capturing the OPM responsible and punishing the local civilian population. These actions over several months reportedly led to the deaths of hundreds of West Papuans displaced from their lands by the military operation.

One of the helicopters involved in the attack on Geselema was seen carrying Red Cross markings while carrying Kopassus troops and a number of white soldiers.

This raises, for me, an interesting question. Later that year I had a conversation, by chance as it happens, with the head of the International Red Cross in Indonesia, who told me that he had been in West Papua attempting to negotiate with OPM for the release of the hostages, but that he and his team had been ordered out of Papua when Kopassus took over the operation.

Was the helicopter one of his?

I was reminded of this by the release this week of previously secret U.S. State Department documents which implicate SBY, then Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs, in a "probable cover-up" in August 2002 of an ambush in West Papua and murder of three teachers, one Indonesian and two U.S. citizens, possibly by rogue elements of the Indonesian military.

The first State Department reports about the 2002 attack seriously entertained two theories: that the perpetrators were Papuan independence fighters (OPM guerillas) or rogue elements of the Indonesian military. The documents note that the assault took place on a foggy mountain road near a military checkpoint and an Army Strategic Reserve Forces post. Upon learning of the attack, Yudhoyono ordered a quick response to restore security and to investigate the attack.

The U.S. Embassy noted in a cable to Washington: ”Many Papuan groups are calling for an independent investigation led by the U.S. Calls for an independent probe are unrealistic, but we believe that Papua's Police Chief, who enjoys a good reputation with Papuan activists (and U.S.), can conduct a fair investigation.” The Police Chief’s investigation later indicated that the Indonesian military was involved. The FBI subsequently launched a separate probe.

Following police reports of Indonesian military involvement, the documents reveal that Yudhoyono began to play a more active role in managing and influencing the direction of the investigation. Yudhoyono met repeatedly with the FBI field investigators, as well as high-level U.S. diplomats, blocking their initial attempts to gain unmediated access to witnesses and material evidence.

Read a highly detailed and annotated account of the ambush here (.pdf). This also implicates Taufik Kiemas, husband of presidential candidate Megawati, in the cover up



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