Religious Ties That Bind
Subscribers to the Jakarta Post receive a monthly colour magazine called the Weekender
; mine generally arrives on a Tuesday or Thursday. Ignoring the lexical timewarps implicit in that sentence, apart from those pages which extol lifestyles way beyond the means of the scavengers who collect our waste paper for recycling, I read it from cover to cover.
Most of the articles are of general interest and sometimes coincide with people
, issues and activities
I've already written about. There are also a couple of letters which are generally full of praise, rather than enlightening and praiseworthy.
One of the latter sort, which I can't find online, raises a fundamental issue for those of us who have adopted an Indonesian lifestyle by marrying a local.
Nigh on 20 years ago I jumped through linguistic hoops as I 'converted' to Islam in order to legally marry 'Er Indoors. It was our understanding that folk of different religious faiths or, as in my case, a lack of belief in the people-designated rituals followed by the multifarious religions, could only enter into a legally binding marriage in Indonesia if they followed the same behavioural rules.
Under Suharto's 'guided democracy', based on his interpretation of Pancasila
and backed up by various laws, just five religions were then acceptable, all of which (including Hinduism!) share a belief in one god - Allah be His name? Confucianism has now been added to the list.
According to the letter from Gita Darmawan, a legal counsel, according to Article 7 of the 1974 Marriage Law a marriage is valid if it is conducted in accordance with each religion and faith.
It does not
state that the couple must be of the same religion.
That each partner must have a religious belief is not mentioned in her letter, nor that religious affiliations are written on Indonesians' ID cards. There is as yet no right to not have such a belief. Thus Indonesian atheists continue to lack public acceptance. However, thanks to online social networks
they are now able to peek out from their closets.
I fear they will have a long wait for public acceptance. Atheism is still equated with communism and deep communal scars, guilt even, remain from the pogrom of 65/66.
A major worry for some is that SBY's new cabinet indicates that creeping Islamisation is part of his agenda.
Several ministers in his recently announced cabinet have, in their previous public roles, indicated a blinkered sharia-type mindset. The new Home Affairs Minister, Gamawan Fauzi, for example, was the Governor of West Sumatra which during his just ended tenure was the first Province to enact sharia-type regulations. Thus the mayor of Bukittinggi cancelled the traditional New Year celebrations at the clock tower on the grounds that boys and girls might be observed kissing in public.
Then there's the chairman of the inaptly named Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Tifatul Sembiring, who has been appointed Communication and Information Minister. PKS controls the local government in the neighbouring township of Depok. Its mayor has banned the building of a church on the grounds that it would cause public disturbances, quite unlike the calls to prayer
from mosques. More recently, he has ordered the closure of karaoke parlours. This was not because of the discordant sounds within but because, he no doubt says from personal observation, they are dens of prostitution.
In a supposedly pluralistic country in which each established religion has its synod or council to issue edicts to guide (control?) its adherents, there is surely no need for a Religious Affairs Ministry, especially one which condones polygamy. The new Minister is Suryadharma Ali, the chairman of the United Development Party (PPP), one of the three parties 'approved' by Suharto. Ali is best known for suggesting that the Islamic sect, Ahmadiyah, known for its peaceful ways rather than its extremism, be banned.
It's early days so we still live in hope that SBY will consolidate the perceived progress made since 97/98. In spite of, or perhaps due to, the machinations of the military in league with the political and business elites back then and since, reformasi
has continued to be the rallying call of the rakyat
(citizenry). Their continued participation in the democratic process which guarantees freedom of speech and the right to those rights laid down in the many United Nations Conventions which Indonesia is a signatory to is absolutely necessary .
God only knows whether SBY is on the right track because, sure as hell, it's hard to tell at the moment.
No Nobs, No Bananas = No Sense?
I am more interested in bees and reading about beekeeping than in having sex, and it is affecting my marriage. I have read a great deal of books on the subject and have yet to determine just why I am so fascinated by this most peculiar hobby – though I do quite enjoy watching beekeepers remove the honeycomb frame from an apiary, as I find it quite relaxing. It has got to the point where it is affecting my marriage, as my partner is entirely unsympathetic to what she describes as an "obsession". I tend to spend most evenings reading apiarist manuals and commenting on beekeeping forums on the net, to the detriment of our sex life. I am interested in sex, but at this point I am more interested in bees. Is this kind of relationship normal? How can I bring my partner round to enjoying my interest in beekeeping with me?
Her answer: I'm sure there is some psychiatric label for your condition, though whether it rates worse than being an overweight couch potato who can't get enough of the Olympics I'm not sure. Aren't you a bit embarrassed to be such a lightweight of the all-talk, no-action variety? What baffles me is how you can put so much effort and time into developing your expertise but never put any of it into practice. Without participating, you're engaged in a dysfunctional form of foreplay that guarantees frustration all round. Surfing internet pornography while leading a moribund sex life is the closest equivalent I can come up with.
My answer: Encourage her to take up ornithology so that together you'll know something about the birds and the bees.
Spotted in (in)aptly named Bangkok
............................................BTW I don't think Anong is referring to the above!
Spouting Hot Air?
Now, it's just possible that you weren't aware that cars, buses and other vehicles with internal combustion engines tend to emit noxious exhaust fumes, but if you really didn't know that then you've never visited Jakarta.
Those of us who live in Jakarta breathe easier on Sundays and public holidays
, because there are fewer cars. Sundays are the preferred option of Jakarta's Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) to hold car-free days presumably because it's that much easier to divert traffic away from closed roads.
They certainly prove popular with residents
along these streets.The car-free event on Jl. Pemuda comprised cycling and walking activities, music and a bazaar, while children ran around playing soccer on the empty streets.
Mind you, I would have thought a park which is open all week long would prove a greater attraction, but I digress.
As for the beneficial reduction in air-borne pollutants, the BPLHD gave the following 'results' yesterday: the amount of dust particles had decreased by 34 percent, Carbon Monoxide (CO) by 68 percent, and Nitrogen Monoxide (NO) by 80 percent during the last car-free day
(held a couple of weeks ago).
Wow, whoopie do. Don't you just love facts and figures?
And the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has actually praised City Hall for this?EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
, here on behalf of Barack Obama for SBY's reinauguration, praised the Jakarta administration Wednesday for its environmental protection and green transportation programs. She said she was impressed by the way the city of Jakarta and Governor Fauzi Bowo dealt with economic growth without having to sacrifice environmental issues.
“Growth in the economy, for him to have investment in mass transit, car-free day, and further efforts to address air pollution, I think is quite laudable.”
Fauzi said he told Jackson during the meeting about various environmental problems facing the city, including air and water pollution, waste management problems in North Jakarta Bay and the rise in sea level
which, according to the British Meteorological Office Hadley Centre (and Jakartass
) is a doomsday scenario.
Fuzzy also said the city issued many regulations to protect the environment, but their implementation remained a problem.
And within that last bit lies the key - piecemeal implementation indicates indecision caused by ... 'political' considerations? brown envelopes? hidebound bureaucratic procedures and competence?
Take the matter of ensuring that from next month vehicles have to pass an annual emissions test
verified by the display of a sticker.
Ridwan Panjaitan, head of the BPLHD's law enforcement unit, said a couple of weeks ago that the enforcement, stipulated in a 2005 bylaw on air pollution, had been delayed because the administration needed time to educate the public and prepare the garage and mechanics needed for the tests.Four
years?!?He added there were 238 garage and 568 mechanics across the city certified to carry out the tests.Rudy Iman, a service supervisor at a garage in Cilandak, South Jakarta, certified to hold emissions tests told the Post his garage did not have the stickers.“We only have the emissions stickers from last year,” he said.Rudy said he had ordered a batch of new stickers through the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) and PT Global, the distributor, at the end of 2008.“But we haven’t got them even now,” he said.
In addition, the Association of Auto Repair Shop Owners (Asbekindo) chairman Yayat Ruhiyat said garage owners would meet Oct. 29 over the plan.“We haven’t been able to meet sooner because the information about the emissions test is so vague,” he said. “Plus, the printing cost for the stickers and cards is quite expensive, so the certified garages haven’t ordered a lot.”
Meanwhile, the BPLHD is planning to spend Rp.17 billion
(US$1.8 million) on two air-quality monitoring stations next year since only two out of the five existing devices, previously donated by foreign donors, were working.How
That amount of tax payers' money would buy loads of buses to replace the clapped out rust buckets which pass for public transport. As for measuring the air pollution, enough surveys
have been done and articles
written over the years for the talking to stop and action to begin.
If you enjoy kowtowing to American 'experts', Fuzzy, then do please get on with it.
And preferably before the city is totally submerged
"That was no lady, that was my cow."
From 1965 until 1992, Warren Mitchell played a character called Alf Garnett in a number of TV series and a couple of films, initially called Til Death Us Do Part, a very funny satiric reflection of social mores. He referred to his wife as a 'silly moo' and 'daft cow'.
That the character of Alf was racist, misogynist, anti-semitic and a homophobe appalled some and cheered others, depending on one's personal opinions. I enjoyed the shows because laughter is the best antidote to ills; the notion of 'One Spirit, One Nation' eludes misanthropes.
In one episode, Alf supported Mary Whitehouse who, much like Roy Suryo was "concerned for the bleedin' moral fibre of the nation!"
So what are Indonesians to make of I Made Widiana from the village of Bukti in Bali who misplaced his manhood?
He claimed that in (a) period of confusion, he saw an alluring woman tempting him to take her. It turned out later that the woman was in fact a cow.
.......................................................................Some comic routines enter collective consciousness.
"Who was that lady I saw you with last night?"
"That was no lady! That was my wife."
Wiping The Slate Clean?
It's only a couple of weeks since the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan ended with Idul Fitri. 'Fitrah' means a (re)beginning as humans, which is why Indonesians walk up to all and sundry and say "Mohon ma'af lahir dan batin". Cynics (moi?) have long translated this as "Please accept my apologies for what I may have done (to you) in the past year and for what I'm going to do in the next year."
It hasn't taken long for this has quickly proven to be a truism.
Whilst some of us have been emotionally drawn to assist in the wake of West Sumatra's devastating earthquakes (1), others have been drawn to the trough of plenty.
SBY has complained angrily about local governments which have submitted assessments of financial losses over emergency relief measures to help quake victims.(2)
Airlines have laid on umpteen more flights with full loads of relief personnel with their equipment as well as grieving families. However, to this commentator among others, it beggars belief that some, if not all, of these airlines have tripled fares to Padang citing 'supply and demand'.
Elsewhere, the new parliament has been installed with great pomp and extravagence. The public at large has decried this, thus forcing some of the new legislators to say that they will donate their first month's salary to relief funds. This is, of course, no big deal as they have five years to capitalise on thir positions, and manoeverings are taking place to secure seats on the various commissions which will serve as the buffers between lobbyists and the ultimate decision makers, the people's elected representatives.
SBY has yet to be reinaugurated as President, so his new government has not been announced, but there are significant signs that the democratic process which has been lauded internationally as demonstrating that such ideals are possible in a predominantly Muslim country is but a sham.
To be fair, what is happening here is not peculiar to Indonesia. I've always thought that whoever you vote for, the government gets in, and in most countries cronyism and nepotism are the entrance keys. So, it must be acknowledged that SBY is not the first political leader to create a dynasty.
The USA has had its Kennedys and Bushes; Greece has just elected the son and grandson of prime ministers as their new prime minister; Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka have their Bhuttos, Ghandis and Banderanikes - and the list goes on.
SBY's has three brothers-in-law in high military positions. Lt. Gen. Erwin Sujono is Military Chief of General Affairs, Maj. Gen. Suryo Prabowo is the Jakarta Military Commander and Maj. Gen. Edhie Wibowo is commander of the notorious Army special forces, Kopassus. His eldest son, Army Captain Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, is currently completing his master's degree at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Once he graduates, his rapid rise through the army ranks is virtually guaranteed given his family connections and word is that he is being groomed as a future president. Meanwhile, SBY's second son, Eddie Baskoro, is a neophyte in the legislature.
Given the parliamentary majority of SBY's Parti Demokrasi and coalition partners (those parties which did not put up candidates in July's presidential) losing parties are grabbing opportunities to jump on the gravy train. Ex-president Megawati's husband, Taufik Kiemas, has just been 'elected' Speaker of the People's Representative Group, even though the people rejected Megawati's PDI-P at the general election in March. Their daughter, Putu, is another neophyte in the legislature.
The other major party to lose heavily in the general election was Suharto's 'functional group', Golkar. Ignoring events elsewhere in Sumatra, they have been holding an 'ugly' congress in Palmbang to elect a new leader to replace the out-going Vice President Yusuf Kalla. The two main candidates were Abdurizal Bakrie, of Lapindo Brantas mudflow infamy, and media mogul Suryo Paloh. Bakrie wants Golkar to cling to power by entering SBY's new government, and Paloh suggested that Golkar should regroup as a parliamentary opposition.
Bakrie won because he threw more money at the voting delegates. The public will not be fooled and recognises that for a democracy to have some credence checks and balances are needed, so Paloh was the generally respected candidate.
The one glimmer of hope is that Tommy Suharto, son of the late detested dictator and convicted murderer, got no votes. Mind you, neither did the other candidate Yuddy Chrisnandi. He couldn't afford to dispense any largesse.
And so it goes.
.............................(1) I'm continuing to update information of how you can help - here.
Feel free to link and/or email me if you want me to add anything.
(2) This is not the final earthquake to hit the coast of West Sumatra and, according to an article in the New Scientist, 'the big one' could hit at any time - "All it will take to trigger it is the pressure of a handshake," says John McCloskey, a seismologist at the Environmental Sciences Research Institute at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
It therefore behooves the appropriate authorities to prepare rather than repair.
My first post was on 21st March 2004, so this means that I've missed posting on one day out of four. And here are some more not very important numbers.
Calculated at a rough average of 500 words per post.
These have been relatively stable at about 100 per day. However, as there are c.125 who get my updates through RSS or email subscriptions, I'm more than happy to have more regular readers than those who've surfed in by chance or googled key words. Google, incidentally, account for 84% of search engine visits. However, it's pleasing to note that numerically, links from other websites outnumber these.
Apart from weekends, including Fridays, daily visits are fairly consistent at c.15% each.
In broad terms, Asia (52%), Europe (21%) North America (18%) and Oceania - eh? - (7%) account for the majority of visits, with Africa, South America and Central Asia barely figuring, perhaps due to the vast spaces, poor internet infrastructure. Oh, and lack of relevance.
My Cluster Map gives a nice pictorial overview.
Indonesia (36.12%), the United States (15.88%) and the United Kingdom (11.27%) are the top three, followed by Australia, Malaysia and Singapore. However, I think special mention should be made of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. I hope my 'message' of pluralism and peace echoes a little.
55% still use Internet Explorer (5-8) with Firefox/Mozilla (0-3) users taking 36%. About .44% have accessed the site through their mobile devices including one person who's accessed Jakartass through his PSP. I suspect it's Our Kid.
Nigh on 88% still use Windows, with XP remaining by far the most popular version. It's the one I use.
..................................Unless I delete the site, I know that when I cease blogging Jakartass will live on in hyperspace. That's fine with me as it's my sincere hope that what I have said - and yes, I'm an 'opinionated old fart' who likes to spout off - will continue to resonate. I started it with the intent of keeping faraway family and friends informed, of having those conversations and discussions which I'd prefer to have in their convivial company in a pub with decent beer.
Some - hi AV, DPQ, Anita F, Leonardo and Miko - have indeed shared a beer or three with me thanks to my Jakartass persona. Other friends are newly met online but not yet face-to-face - hi Anong, Marmalade and Dilligaf in Jakarta, and Rima, Oigal, Anita Mc.and Madame Chiang elsewhere.
I don't have trillions of 'friends' on Mugshots and don't twitter inconsequentially, and if you're bothered that I don't accept your invitations to join this, that or t'other so-called 'social' network, then try telephoning me instead.
My friends have my number.
West Sumatra Earthquake Update
West Sumatra has long been my favourite part of Indonesia, not least because because of its special culture, based on matrilineage. Padang itself, has always been a place to get out from: the cacophony of its urban sprawl is too much like Jakarta. However, we have bought a plot of land in Lubuk Sikaping, about 250 kilometres north of Padang and off the coastal plain, which I still hope/dream will serve as a peaceful retirement haven.
The following is taken verbatim from the What's New Jakarta newsletter.
In a tragic reminder of the unpredictable nature of this planet and the fragile co-existence with the human race, this week saw a tsunami taking human life in Samoa and closer to home a series of earthquakes affecting parts of Sumatra. A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck West Sumatra on Wednesday and another 7 magnitude quake struck on Thursday. The death toll is likely to escalate (to a lot more than 1,000) in the coming days and many people remain buried or missing in the rubble.
There is no doubt that a significant proportion of deaths and injuries from earthquakes in Indonesia could be avoided if building codes were more stringent. In light of this unfolding tragedy, and past earthquakes such as in Yogyakarta and given the likelihood of earthquakes continuing to occur in Indonesia in the future, we do believe that stronger building regulations need to be enforced, especially in the construction of public buildings, office towers, shopping malls, hotels etc. Developers who construct buildings which are sub-standard and which cause injury or death during earthquakes, should be held accountable by law.
We must totally agree - a school, hospital and hotel (with 200 guests unaccounted for) are among the many collapsed buildings.
Let's hope that through effective rescue operations and aid support that those affected by the latest earthquakes will be minimized. We will announce charity/aid organization that will be assisting in Sumatran relief efforts as soon as possible.
..........................................NGOs supplying energency aid
Yes, it has been difficult tracking down NGOs which have immediately responded. The following have set up relief funds, with Mercy Corps already at the scene.
If you know of a reputable organisation which has launched an appeal, please email me or leave a comment below and I'll add them to this list which I'll keep at the top of this page until the situation becomes clearer.
Oxfam-funded local organizations in West Sumatra are on aid missions in the earthquake-hit area ready to distribute 2,400 sheets of tarpaulins for emergency shelter, hygiene kits and clothing said the international agency on Wednesday..
The agency has immediately released $320,000 to cover the costs of the initial part of the aid effort. Oxfam already had stocks of emergency aid in the area for this type of disaster.
“We had aid ready because this area of Indonesia is susceptible to this type of tragedy. Communications with the quake-zone are difficult and we are hoping for the best but having to plan for the worst. We are pulling together a significant aid effort,” said Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Director.
Our team will assess areas that were hit particularly hard by the earthquake, using specific tools and methods that Mercy Corps has used in many previous disasters, including here in Indonesia. These assessments will be used by a consortium of eight humanitarian organizations, which Mercy Corps is leading, to determine the most pressing needs of devastated communities and displaced families.
Since we've already had a presence in Padang for the last five years, conducting programs that range from children's nutrition to emergency preparedness, we're already very familiar with the area and well-suited to lead this effort.
We're planning to distribute shelter supplies, hygiene items and clean water to displaced families who are surviving as best they can in this suddenly-changed environment. Soon after that, we'll continue working with those families through programs that pay laborers a living wage to restore and rebuild their communities. The income they earn will help them support their households, as well as get money flowing to local businesses that are also struggling to survive.
Yayasan IDEP (in Indonesian)
Yayasan IDEP is an Indonesian non-profit NGO. Innovative and effective, IDEP encourages program sharing with other grass roots projects through media and curriculum development.
We are committed to developing self-sustainability and directly empowering local communities to improve their own situations. We believe that permanent results can be achieved through local empowerment.
In 2003 IDEP launched a Community Based Crisis Response Program that will help local Indonesian communities to be more prepared for and to better manage disasters.
Added Saturday 3rd October
SurfAid has gone into emergency mode and has staff doing assessments of the needs of the people in the coastal areas south of Padang, which are heavily populated and impoverished. SurfAid had Mentawai health program staff already in Padang and they have been reassigned to emergency work. SurfAid will respond to the immediate urgent needs with medical staff and supplies. SurfAid has eight doctors and three nurses preparing medical supplies.
SurfAid is buying tents, tarpaulins, food, water and sanitation and medical supplies in Medan, North Sumatra, and getting these to Padang.
The SurfAid office in Padang survived, however the internet system is down, along with electricity and phones, so a priority is to get a new internet system in place along with satellite phones and gensets for power, along with fresh water as the mains water supply is cut off.
Indonesian Red Cross
The Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), has deployed 200 staff and volunteers to the area to help in search and rescue efforts. Close to 100 of these are trained ‘satgana’ (disaster response team) members from PMI chapters in west Sumatra and Bengkulu who are on the ground conducting assessments of emergency needs. Over 40 volunteer doctors and specialist water and sanitation teams have also been sent from neighbouring Red Cross chapters in the provinces of Bengkulu and Riau. This morning a team of 30 volunteers left Bengkulu with trucks carrying 2 field kitchens, 30 bags, tents, and other relief supplies. PMI has also dispatched 400 tents along with 2000 tarpaulins, 5000 blankets, and 5000 sarongs from its warehouse in Jakarta.
Logistical hurdles are hampering the relief efforts. Communications to the affected area have been disrupted but the Red Cross is able to communicate with its branches through its HF radio network. People fleeing the area are causing congestion on the roads and the earthquake has affected an area hundreds of kilometres around Padang which is in a remote area of West Sumatra where infrastructure is poor.
Donasi Gempa Sumatera
BCA KCU Thamrin
No. Rek: 206.300668.8, atas nama Kantor Pusat PMI.
Dan Lewat Bank Mandiri KCU Jakarta Krakatau Steel
No. Rek: 070-00-0011601-7, atas nama Palang Merah Indonesia.
Donasi Bencana Umum
Bank Mandiri Cabang Wisma Baja,
No. Rek. 070-00001-160-17 AN. Palang Merah Indonesia
Donasi Korban Gempa Tasikmalaya
Untuk meringankan penderitaan korban gempa Tasikmalaya, PMI mengajak turut serta membantu melalui:
Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), Cabang Pancoran,
No. Rek. 0390.0100.0030.303. an. Palang Merah Indonesia
Readers in the USA can find a list of some of the organizations working to help quake victims in Indonesia, as well as tsunami victims in the Pacific Island nations of Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga here. They are either providing direct assistance or are fund-raising for the relief efforts.