A week ago I commented
on the government's wheeze to divert attention away from its failings by launching moral development courses with an extra compulsory graduation exam in Indonesian schools.
Since then, our attention
has been further diverted by the blocking of several sites carrying a film which has inflamed the passions of some 100 Indonesian hooligans who haven't actually seen it.
Headlines in the Jakarta Post
this past week have been about the arrests of senior police involved in illegal logging, arrests of several legislators who have seemingly been bribed to allow a protected forest to be reclassified as "an industrial forest", and the arrest of the Governor of Bank Indonesia because legislators were given cash bonuses to pass legislation favourable to Bank Indonesia.
Of course, it can be argued that the cleaning of the stables is a good thing, because not all the horses have bolted to Singapore or China. But what does this tell those school children who need courses in moral development? Do children start out as innocent lambs and get corrupted? Or are they born with original sin?
Last week I pointed out to a group of senior high school students about to sit their six, count 'em, final exams that they were lucky because next year's graduating teenagers will have to take seven. I asked them to define what attributes should be recognised in a moral code for their age group, a group old enough to vote, drive and join the armed forces. (One of the students was on crutches because outside the school, with the traffic supposedly held up by school security officers, she had been knocked down by a pick-up truck in too much of a hurry to reach the next traffic jam.)
One may expect students worrying about which universities their parents can afford to enrol them in - assuming they also manage to pass the university entrance exams - to be self-centred. Far from it in the case of this group, who were, according to their I.D. cards, a mix of Christians, Muslims and Buddhists.
I was particularly impressed with the agreed definition of their top priority: respect
of each other, regardless of religion, ethic background and culture, and self-respect.
Every business letter in Indonesia starts with Dengan hormat
(With respect) and generally ends with a quite unnecessary "thank you for reading this letter". It is encouraging to note that this group of teens have learnt that showing deference is not necessarily a sign of respect.
Politeness, discipline, responsibility and general non-discriminatory "caring and sharing" were other admired qualities. It is unrealistic to expect all school leavers to demonstrate self-awareness like this group does, but we can wish.
We can also be thankful that the moralising forces here have been shown up as the incompetent fools that they are, so they have been unable to take on board a malignant suggestion emanating from the Islamic Institute of Understanding (Ikim) and the Syariah Judiciary Department in Malaysia. A recent seminar proposed that "non-Muslims committing khalwat
(close proximity) with Muslims should also be sentenced accordingly. The Muslims can be sentenced in Syariah courts, and the non-Muslim partners can probably be sentenced in the civil courts, to be fair to both parties.
Another proposal calls for the establishment of a rehabilitation centre for those convicted of offences related to morals and faith such as prostitution and effeminate men.
Not wishing to titillate you too much with tales of caning and sado-masochism, you'd better peruse the full story here
which has been provided by MarinaM, who I'm told is the daughter of former Malaysian premier Mahathir. She makes the point that the recent elections there saw the ruling party losing touch with the population and this sharia proposal demonstrates that they have learnt very little from that debacle.
Here, in West Java, and because of their "shock" defeat in last week's gubernatorial election, the two major political groupings, Golkar, chaired by Vice President Yusuf Kalla, and PDI-P, chaired by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, have both vowed to get more in touch with the citizenry.
Could this be a sign, albeit a small one, of a sea-change in the attitudes of those wishing to govern us? A sign that they are prepared to listen rather than pontificate and moralise?
We can wish.