Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday?
Charlton fans will be hoping that today really is good. With an evening match away to fellow relegation rivals, Manchester City, there is a chance that for the first time since the start of the season the Addicks will be out of the three relegation places. One point for a draw would be enough, but as staying in the Premiership means that other teams must lose whilst we win, this is really a crucial game.

So I'll be staying up way past my bedtime as the match is being shown LIVE on ESPN at 11.15pm and hoping that degradation (the Indonesian word for relegation) isn't on the cards.

Or the pitch.

Friskodude returns
Carl Parkes, a long time travel writer with a particular interest in this part of the world, 'disappeared' in July last year. Given that his blog gives an eclectic and naturally tropical taste of what's happening in these parts, there were some fanciful theories regarding his sudden absence, not least that he may have somehow upset King Yul Brynner's reincarnation, which is a definite no-no in the land of golden Buddhas and tawdry military coups.

That he has returned is welcome news and he has written to Jakartass thus:
Thanks for checking in, and I'll explain the truth about the whole mess when I get some extra time. But it's great to be a free man and back to some blogging.

Law Matters

a. I've had a few emails asking me about the progress of the legal case I am party to regarding the unfair termination of my employment and others. I am pleased to say that we now have a firm of very competent and well-connected lawyers. One of our previous lawyers is married to a contractor who's hoping to make a profit from land sales to the prosperity theologists who employed us as 'token bules'. Her conflict of interest did us no favours.

With our current advisers there is confidence that the employment law will be upheld. There are two paths that we can follow: one leads through the Department of Manpower and this could very well lead to criminal indictments of our erstwhile employers. The other is through the regulatory body which governs every yayasan (charitable foundation), the should-not-be-for-profit organisations with educational and other social functions such as the provision of welfare and disaster relief.

We hope for a win-win situation - there are many jobs which could otherwise be lost - so the latter option is being pursued.

b. During Soeharto's reign, 11 yayasans were set up with seemingly laudable aims, such as healthcare, education, religious affairs and disaster relief. The funding of the Golkar Party, his political block which all government officials were perforce members of and voted for, and its affiliated organizations is more of a grey area.

That state funds were diverted to these foundations is public knowledge so it is good to see renewed efforts to get the foundations to return their funds to the state coffers.

Not that they will, of course.

Soeharto's lawyer, O.C. Kaligis, was quoted by detik.com as saying that the Finance Ministry would first of all have to bring a fresh action against the foundations if it wanted a court order to seize their assets.

c. Many, including myself, would argue that my legal case is of relatively little import in the greater scheme of things.

One such case which is again in the news, as reported by the Jakarta Post, is that of Munir Said Thalib, the murdered human rights activist. (Type Munir in the Search box in the right column for my previous writings.)

Philips Alston, a special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, has submitted a report on the 2004 murder of Indonesian rights activist Munir Said Thalib to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) during a UNHCHR conference on March 28 in New York, which was attended by an Indonesian delegate.

The report stresses the importance for Jakarta to make public the results of an investigation by an independent team and thoroughly settle the case.

There is an ongoing police investigation led by the head of the National Police's Detective and Investigative Unit, Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarso, which has yet to achieve any significant progress. Munir's wife Suciwati, who recently met with SBY, could not describe the progress of the police investigation but said new suspects in the case were expected to be announced soon.

"We will continue monitoring the police's progress in their investigation into the case," said Suciwati.

Asmara Nababan, executive director of rights monitoring group Demos, Usman Hamid, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, and Rusdi Marpaung, executive director of rights group Impartial, welcomed the decision to bring the Munir murder to the UNHCHR. They said this would put pressure on Indonesia, which is a member of the UN body, to resolve the case.

Another case of appealing to a higher authority.

d. Much as Easter comes round with some regularity although no-one is ever sure of the date, so the Sidoarjo mudflow regularly bubbles up in the news. This week the railway line passing the mudlake, between Malang and Surabaya, is newly submerged. Several more highways have also disappeared.

Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto disclosed recently that the mudflow disaster had cost the government up to 7.8 trillion rupiah ($844 million) to repair damaged infrastructure and compensate those affected by the disaster. Homeless residents have repeatedly staged protest rallies to demand the government and the Lapindo Brantas compensate them for their destroyed land and houses.

And President SBY agrees with the 13,000 (and growing) families displaced for nearly a year. He has - yet again - ordered Lapindo Brantas Inc. to quickly disburse cash compensation based on new data provided by the National Team for the Lapindo Mudflow on March 22.

I'm sure that these 'refugees' will be happy to hear that the owners of Lapindo Brantas, the Bakrie Boys, including the Coordinating Minister for (His Family's) Welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, can now afford to pay. This week, the Bakrie Group made a $315 million profit virtually overnight from the sale of its 30 percent stakes in PT Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC) and PT Arutmin Indonesia to the Tata Power Company Limited (TPCL), part of the Indian conglomerate, Tata, for US$1.3 billion.

The Group bought its 100 percent stake in KPC from BP Plc. and Rio Tinto for $500 million, and its 100 percent stake in Arutmin for $185 million from BHP Billiton in 2003.

And the group still retains 70% of the shares in the two companies. Mind you, they haven't done so well elsewhere (not including Sidoarjo).

Widely diversified Bakrie and Brothers reported a nearly 60 percent increase in consolidated net revenue in 2006, largely on the back of gains in the business group's telecommunications and infrastructure businesses. The company's total net revenue rose to 4.33 trillion (US$481.3 million) in 2006, an increase of 58 percent from Rp 2.73 trillion the previous year.

Its operating profit rose by 174 percent last year from Rp 222.9 billion to Rp 611.1 billion. However, the company's net profit in 2006 plunged to Rp 215.5 billion from Rp 291.6 billion the previous year.

Not exactly peanuts, I think you'll agree. Presumably if the group fails to fulfil its obligations to the very angry now non-residents of Sidoarjo, it'll be ta-ta Abdurizal from SBY's Cabinet.

e. And now for the good news.

An Indonesian court yesterday found the editor in chief of Playboy magazine in Indonesia, Erwin Arnada, not guilty of indecency.

The trial, which lasted months, highlighted growing divisions here between a rising conservative movement and the majority moderate Muslim population. Hundreds of conservative Muslims, most of whom belong to the Islamic Defenders Front, a hard-line Islamic organization that has led the fight against Playboy, protested outside the courtroom on Thursday, blocking traffic and shouting, "This country has become a pornographic country!" Hundreds of police officers, armed with water canons, were also stationed nearby.

The prosecution had argued that Erwin Arnada, the magazine's editor in chief, was guilty of indecency for selling pictures of naked women and sought a jail term of more than two years.
But the presiding judge, Erfan Basuning, rejected the prosecution's arguments, noting that the Indonesian version of Playboy did not include nudity and that shutting it down would have violated laws guaranteeing freedom of the press.

Wohey! Freedom of the press and, presumably, the blogosphere.

Have a good Friday (and every other day too).


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