Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Updates on Recent Stories

July 11, 2010

For those who follow this blog but don’t keep a close eye on Indonesian news, I thought now would be a good time to update you on developments concerning some of the more popular stories. 

Starting with the most recent:

Mental illness

In my second story concerning the practice of pasung, or chaining of the mentally ill, I found a clip which told about a local doctor, Suryani, who is working on this problem in Bali, applying modern medical techniques and showing miraculous results.   The sad thing was that the local government had cut funding to this project, putting a question mark over its continuation and bringing those patients who could not afford to pay for the medication the fear that they will return to their psychotic state.

I have since heard a rumour that the reason the funding was withdrawn was political jealousy.  Dr Suryani comes from an influential Balinese family and her detractors say she is conducting her work under her own name and not giving the government the credit for its funding.  They also imply that because she is seriously rich, she should pay for the treatment from her own pocket! 

Personally, I think people should put political issues behind them and consider the victims.  Even if she is capable of funding the entire clinic from her own resources, public health is a responsibility which the government has taken upon itself.  The potential cost to Bali’s economy if tourists shunned the island because of their handling of this issue is far greater than the cost of funding the clinic.  Government funds need to be allocated according to where they can do the most good.  Finally, I think it’s something to be encouraged when a member of the elite rolls up their sleeves and does some practical work, something Indonesia’s elite are not famous for.

Dr Suryani has a website for her institute if you would like more information about her work.  You can donate towards her work if you feel inclined to do so.

Tempo’s ‘Sold Out’ Edition

The publishers of Tempo ran a second edition of the magazine which was sold out.  The police are saying they were not involved in buying up the first edition and that it was just a publicity stunt on Tempo’s part.  Members of the police force are now taking a different approach.  They are suing Tempo for defamation in comparing them to pigs.  They are deeply offended because pigs are supposedly haram to devout Muslims.  I may be out of line here, but it has always been my understanding that it is the eating of pigs which is haram, not the pigs themselves.  So perhaps they are being a little precious in being offended on religious grounds.  Seldom mentioned is the fact that unbelievers in Islam are haram, yet I doubt any police general would shun his Balinese colleague on that basis.  More to the point, it is also haram to steal and it is also haram to use one’s position in a corrupt manner.

Perhaps the police would suffer less ridicule and criticism if concentrated on solving corruption within their ranks and got on with actual policing.  It is my feeling that the people respond well when they see their police giving a good example.


At this moment, Nazriel (Ariel) Irham is still being held in custody while Luna Maya and Cut Tari are free.  The prosecutor is obviously trying to avoid provoking the public’s sympathy.  All three have undergone physical examinations to check whether their body shapes match the images in the videos.  Intimate measurements were taken, including those of Ariel’s genitals. 

Meanwhile, police have announced they are ‘about’ to arrest eight suspects for actually uploading the videos.  That was a few days ago, I haven’t heard anything about that so far.

Smoking Baby

CNN have sent a camera crew out to Sumatra to verify that, yes, the story is true.  Although somehow they managed to misspell his name and the American public now know him as ‘Aldi’.   I deeply suspect this whole fuss is a beat-up by the big US tobacco companies to disparage Indonesia in the current trade dispute.  The US is banning flavoured cigarettes, including the kreteks which Indonesia exports.  However, somehow they don’t include the menthol cigarettes which the US manufacturers make in their definition of ‘flavoured’.  Self interest creates double standards.

This Site

There are now two people working on Aboutindo.  Neither of us full time yet 🙂  You might have noticed the marked improvement in quality. 

We are planning to make some big changes soon, including self hosting.   I started a bit less than six months ago, but it seems like only three.  Thanks for your support and comments.


Peterporn: Lots of Threats, No Action So Far

June 24, 2010

Luna Maya was shocked

After 12 hours, I’m still waiting to find out whether the police have acted on their promise to arrest Luna Maya and Cut Tari rather than defend their homes or arrest those making threats against their lives.

If you’ve been following the story, you’ll know that there was a small demonstration of 1,000 (pitifully low turnout by Indonesian standards) members of the ultra right Islamic Defenders Front.  Despite their small size, they manage to grab a lot of media attention because of their menacing costumes and behaviour.   The press were rewarded when they threatened to seek out the homes of the two female celebrities and administer rough justice.

As often happens the police have taken what they see as the easiest way out.  Instead of mounting an operation against the ringleaders of the demonstration and the people who made the threats, they have announced their intention to arrest the entertainers.  This is not good policing, firstly because they have no basis to charge them, secondly because it sends a signal that anyone can make threats against another human without risk of punishment.  How would Fadilah Karimah feel if the tables were turned on her?  How if  someone in the media decided to ridicule her?  (please, someone?).

In fact, I believe it’s more than just a matter of the police preparing an operation and rounding up the ringleaders.  There is a force within the Jakarta elite which sponsors and protects this organisation.  The Front truely is a front, controlled by a puppet master.  There would be consequences if the police took them on.  But public pressure is building for the police to ‘do something’.  So they have done the least they think they can do, which is to threaten the powerless.  Hopefully it will all blow over before they are forced to act on their threat.

The President’s hands are tied since his Information Minister made a huge gaffe comparing the celebrities with Jesus crucified.  He is somewhat hampered by his reliance on some Islamic parties within his coalition government.  So far he has threatened to introduce some form of internet filtering, but nothing certain yet.  As he will not be eligible for re-election, it’s possible that he will not be able to carry through with that anyhow.

There is still no certainty about what the people of Indonesia think about all of this.  Judging from internet responses, the youth are firmly in support of the celebrities.  The only thing that’s sure is that there is a huge culture war building in Indonesia.

Cut Tari - Cultural Warrior

Obama – Not Coming? Who Cares?

June 4, 2010

What’s this?  The third time they’ve cancelled the visit to Indonesia because of ‘pressing matters at home’?  Is the great USA really in that much distress?  It really doesn’t inspire confidence that the USA is interested in the region.  China is certainly looking better.

But we understand.  Obama is deeply unpopular and he wants to do some campaigning ahead of elections happening in November when his party will likely lose its majorities.  And as Suharto knows, the best time to get rid of a dictator is when he’s out of the country.

Dangdut: Inul Daratista

April 11, 2010

This is the lady and the moves that got a few Islamic leaders excited.  If you can imagine, after decades of the pious warblings of Rhoma Irama, they started to notice that dangdut music includes much more than that.  In fact, it was perhaps Mr Irama who attracted devout Muslims to dangdut in the first place, but it has always included themes concerning love, mens inconstancy and such.  Anyhow, self-righteous anger was invoked and the fanatics almost succeeded  in banning Inul from the stage.  Thankfully, there was a reaction against this and the tide has somewhat turned against the rampaging censorship that had started to take hold of the country.  My thoughts are that after 40 years of state-sponsored oppression, people weren’t in the mood for more years of religious-based oppression.

The way I’ve written the above makes it seem like a forgone conclusion, but it must have taken plenty of bravery to stand against those so-called leaders, including Rhoma Irama.  I call them ‘leaders’ in the loosest possible way.  A true leader doesn’t simply react and follow the herd of consensus opinion, and a true leader doesn’t change his view as soon as it becomes apparent that it’s not popular.  He also doesn’t try to ruin people’s careers thoughtlessly.  Common sense finally came in the form of Abdurrahman Wahid, a former president, and Mostafa Bisri, another prominent theologian, each of whom defended her (so don’t think all Muslims are mindless fanatics). 

Well, you can judge for yourself whether Inul’s performance style is pornographic.  In my opinion, she can dance and she can sing, but she can’t do them both at the same time.  Frankly, I’ve seen better singers (you’ve seen a couple on this blog already), and I’ve seen more suggestive dancing (you won’t see it on this blog, but it’s on the internet for anyone to find).

The following video is the song which kicked off her career, and her raunchy reputation, back in 1992 – Final Countdown.  I’m not sure if this is the original clip, though, as there’s a date of 2003 and she looks a bit tired for a 13-year-old, although the dance steps certainly look 20 years out of date:

She plays a mean air guitar, doesn’t she?  I’m wondering whether she wears a false butt?  Most Indonesians have flat ones, but she’s got a nice rounded one – can’t be real, can it?

SBY gets angry, Aussie PM stays awake in fear

March 10, 2010

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (who I will always in future refer to as SBY) has a reputation for having a bad temper.  In the clip, he is scolding some bupatis (regional leaders) who fell asleep during his speech.  It’s true that Indonesians usually make lousy speeches – long, monotonous, indirect.  But even so, you would expect people would try to stay awake for the president. 

Whereas most Western people would consider the episode to be a justified response towards some members of the audience showing ignorant rudeness, Indonesians consider any show of emotion to be a sign of weakness.  Its because of that the Indo media decribes SBY as amok, out of control.

This week, SBY is visiting a Western country (Australia) who’s leader, Kevin Rudd (or Kevin Rude as Barak Obama dubbed him) also has a reputation for anger.  The differences are: SBY does it openly in front of cameras, Rudd would never let this side of himself be filmed; SBY raises his voice slightly, Rudd screams and swears; SBY confronts a roomful of grown men, Rudd berates employees, service staff, union members but never union thugs.

The following clip shows a bully can dish it out but can’t take it.  Rudd stays awake throughout SBY’s speech, smiling and nodding fervidly in time with his deputy, Julia:

Or maybe Rudd has simply mastered the art of sleeping with his eyes open and he is, in fact, nodding off?

SBY mentioned two major issues affecting Indo-Oz relations: people smuggling and terrorism.  Aussies are just as frustrated as Indonesians over the people smuggling issue, but terrorism is one area where Indonesia can consider itself badly treated by Australia.  Indonesia has worked hard (with help from Aussie and other Western countries) to eliminate the terrorist threat.  The fanatics who bombed the Ritz and Marriott hotels in Jakarta have been rounded up or killed, including the master bomb-maker responsible for all the other major anti-Western terrorist attacks.  Yet the Australian media has reported little of this.  One would think that at least the Aussie government would be keen to congratulate Indonesia on its successes, yet it continues to warn its citizens off travelling there:

This gives Aussies the idea that Indonesia is not a safe place to visit, depriving Indonesia of tourism income and cultural exchange.

One thing that SBY won’t want to talk about is a legal battle concerning the Aussie clothing company Billabong International and its former Indonesian franchise holder.  There is some bad feeling about how Billabong went about terminating the Indonesian’s licence.  I have no idea which side is right or wrong – usually there’s fault on both sides in these matters.  The problem is that the Indonesian is pursuing Billabong in the Balinese court system and, among many other charges, has managed to secure a jail sentence for one Indonesian Billabong employee for using a disputed light box.  Hard to imagine that an employee could go to jail just for using something that belongs to either his current or previous boss.  If that isn’t bad enough, there is a judgement on the same charge against an Australian employee who was in Indonesia at the time.  Although he’s free in Australia for now, he can’t risk leaving in case Interpol arrests him and sends him to a Balinese prison. 

Since I’m unfamiliar with the Napoleonic legal system which Indonesia inherited from the Dutch, there’s a lot I don’t understand about this case.  But this business of throwing employees into jail because you have a problem with their company strikes me as unconscionable.  It’s too late for SBY to intervene, and in fairness, the courts should be allowed to function without interference.  But I hope something can be done to clarify the legal issues where it affects Indo-Oz commerce.

Actually, if nothing else is achieved, the mere fact of this visit is a step forwards in Indo-Oz relations.  This is SBY’s third visit to Oz, but this time he’s bringing seven of his ministers and four provincial governers.  Let’s hope Mr Rudd stays awake long enough to resolve some of the above matters.

loading a truck 6

March 1, 2010

loading a truck 6

Originally uploaded by about indo

Down it goes, and the truck sinks a bit as it takes the full weight. Another political t-shirt on the guy in the background.

Sorry I made all these separate posts, but I couldn’t figure out how to put all the pics from flickr into the same post. Next time I’ll upload them directly from my computer.

loading a truck 5

March 1, 2010

loading a truck 5

Originally uploaded by about indo

The truck has been backed under the steel block, now just have to push it over. The factory owners offered to supply boots (and gloves, safety glasses, helmets etc) but the workers refuse to wear them, they complain that it’s restricting. Notice the red and white political t-shirt? It doesn’t necessarily mean that guy supports that party, it would have been given to him for free.