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The old crone at Kirana's birthday

Good morning Jakarta #rooftop

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Boys w painted faces at #TamanBacaanPelangi, Rinca Island #flores

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JIS digging itself deeper into trouble

Update:, 17 April: Unspun’s been told that JIS has appointed an international PR firm to help them. Hopefully we’ll see better communications from them

This post is dedicated to many of Unspun’s friends who are very loyal alumni to The Jakarta International School (JIS). It is good to see such loyalty in such modern times and shifting norms.

Their alma mater is now in a crisis situation. Police apparently have acted on the report of a parent and have now arrested two janitors who had molested a 6-year old student. They have also detained a woman claening staff for complicty.

The news over this incident has broken and it is all over the mass and social media.

Given such circumstances the only way that JIS can hope to mitigatte the reputational and fiancial damage to itself is to be SEEN to care, to be open about what happened and to have a viable plan to make sure that something like this does not happen ever again.

Yet JIS seems to be doing it all wrong, as picked up in this Jakarta Post story:

School Safety, Security our Priority, says JIS

To begin with it initially chose silence. To any reporter and the social media pack, silence means an admission of guilt. JIS may be thinking that they were trying to solve it in a dignified manner by keeping silent but that is, unfortunately, how the world works. They expect accountability, especially from a prestigous and expensive institution.

Then when it chose to speak up, its statement was full of horrendous word choices.

School security, safety our priority, says JIS

Jakarta International School (JIS) has — until now — kept quite over the allegations of sexual assault involving one of its students.

The reputable international school finally broke its silence today as it stressed its responsibility for the safety of pupils and the security of the school during a meeting at the Education and Culture Ministry on Wednesday afternoon.

“We are here to convey our statements to the Education and Culture Ministry over the allegations of a disgraceful incident that occurred in our school. Our main focus, which we have paid close attention to and will maintain in the future, is to put forward the prosperity of the students and their families as well as the safety and security of our school community,” JIS headmaster Tim Carr said in a press conference at the Education and Culture Ministry on Wednesday as quoted by

He was speaking after a meeting he attended on the invitation of the ministry’s directorate general of informal and non-formal early childhood education (PAUDNI).

Deputy headmaster Steve Druggan and JIS human resources manager Megumi were also present.

Carr said the school was ready to cooperate with the Education and Culture Ministry, the National Police and other stakeholders in the ongoing investigation.

Responding the reports, PAUDNI director general Lydia Freyani Hawad said she would directly lead the investigative team and the investigation would start Thursday. “The team will conduct a comprehensive audit on JIS,” said Lydia. (idb/ebf)

Instead of saying that they care and regret what happened to the victim JIS chose officialese by saying that they were there “to convey our statements” to the Government. Where is the empathy, the caring, the regret? What’s so damned important about them conveying statements?

Then JIS headmaster was supposed to have said: ” Our main focus…is to put forward the prosperity of the students and their families …” Prosperity? Bad English? Buth it is an American school, manned by native English speakers.

And then Jis said it was “ready to cooperate” with the Ministey of Education? In difficult times when you’re being accused of wrongdoing you” cooperate fully ” with the regulators, you do not signal your intention that you’re “ready to cooperate.” On reading such statements officials would think you’re arrogant.

JIS subsequently denying Ministry officials access into the school does jot seem to signal its readiness to cooperate.

To a seasoned crisis managment professional JIS seems to be digging a deeper hole for itself with such clumsy efforts at communication. A pity because all this will help set itself up as a prime target for overzealous and nationalistic politicians, carpetbaggers, those envious of its prestige and those given to schadenfreude.

If JIS is serious about trying to salvage whatever good name it has lef, and to remain in business in Indonesia, it must seek professional crisis management counsel fast – and listen to them.

Criticism against the Malaysian Government on MH370: Warranted or unfair?

If, like many people and Unspun, you find yourself transfixed by the unfolding drama of the search for MH 370, you are likely to see several threads of opinion surface regarding the performance of the Malaysian Government, helmed by Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein.

On one end of the spectrum is the view that the Government is not only doing a terrible job but that they are engaged in some conspiracy to delude and misinform the families of those aboard MH 737 and the public.

On the other end, usually adorned by nationalistic sentiments  and righteous indignation, is the view that the Malaysian Government did its best, and its best was good enough and all criticism was unfair.

This view was recently voiced by Matthias Chang, an advisor to former Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir. In typical Mahathir-esque polemic he not only said that posterity will testify on the side of the Malaysian Government,but that they would have been able to do much more, if not for the White Man and his tricks:

Disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370: The Trillion Dollar Question to the U.S. and Its Intelligence Services | Global Research

Let me state from the outset that I totally agree with the press statements by Malaysia’s Defence Minister and Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that “we have conducted ourselves fairly, responsibly and history will judge us for that.”

And to a mischievous and presumptuous question from a correspondent of the Financial Times, Datuk Seri with confidence and integrity rightly said without any fear of contradiction that, “I don’t think we could have done anything different from what we have already done.”  Well done!

Read more here

Where does the truth lie? Unspun, who’s had some experience with helping people and companies cope with crisis-like situations, thinks it is somewhere in between: That the Malaysian government did try its best and was not not trying to delude anyone. But its best was simply not good enough by a very long shot and its natural instincts to be the Keepers of the Temple Secret scuttled whatever good it did.

Unspun also feels that while there may be somewhat of an argument that countries involved in the search, in which the US is singled out by the likes of Matthias (and why not — the US is such a convenient whipping boy), may have been territorial with their secrets and advanced technologies, nobody was really that callous and hard-hearted to deny the families the obligation that countries have to try to ease their uncertainty and pain. Maybe Unspun is naive and too trusting, but the selfishness of others is a logical decoy – it has very little to do with how the Malaysian Government and Hismanuddin handled the crisis-like situation in the aftermath of MH 370′s disappearance.

One fact of crisis-like situations is that the publicity it generates shows everything up in stark contrast. Things are either black or white, you are either a good guy or a bad guy. You are either handling it well or you’re incompetent. Public scrutiny does not appreciate grey areas. And public scrutiny in a crisis-like situation is a fact of life. So blaming the Western media for their reporting is like a stage actor berating the audience for booing what they perceive to be a bad performance.

As such, competent crisis managers train themselves to adopt what some experts call the Dual Track Approach, where you synchronise both the operational responses and communications responses. The key word is “synchronise” because if you do too much and say too little you arouse suspicion and if you say too much while doing too little you invite skepticism; and if you are totally unsynchronised, there will be hell to pay.

When Unspun was cutting his teeth on crisis management practices his trainer used to drum two principles into him. One was that “facts are the only currency in a crisis”. The other was that “No response plan survives its first contact with a crisis” – so the only defence you have is the quality of information you have and the robustness of your decision making process. Both, as you can see, are interrelated.

The Malaysian Government under Hishamuddin’s watch failed to observe both these principles and synchronise their operational and communications responses.

They failed to, operationally, marshall and filter the information to separate facts from rumours, hearsay and plain wrong data. Being in a crisis-like situation is like being in a battlefield, enveloped by the fog of war. It is confusing, it is chaotic, information of all types of quality comes flying at you in all directions. The first task of  crisis manager is to find the facts.

How does one do this in the midst of all that confusion? By calmly weighing each piece of information, sending out scouts or teams to follow up leads. And once you have these facts, what do you do? Before you act, you verify them. You double and triple check to make sure that they are actually facts and not some piece of misinformation. What comes into play then is the robustness of your decision-making process, which depends on the caliber of people you have, whether they have an open-minded mindset and how they perform under pressure.

It is then, and only then, that you are ready to act, which involves making a decision on your operational response, while at the same time deciding on what to say, how to say it as your communications response.

If Hishamuddin had adhered to these principles he would have avoided at least the two incidents that have now become emblematic of the incompetence of the Government. Firstly, DCA chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman’s equating the looks of footballer Mario Balotelli to the two Iranians who had travelled on fake passports. How can anyone say that two olive-skinned, Middle Eastern-looking men could look like a black Ghanian footballer?

And then there is the transcript. The Malaysian Government first said that the last words from MH 370 was “All right. Goodnight”. Now that that it is forced to released the transcripts it now says that the actual words were “Goodnight. Malaysian 370.” The two sentences do not even sound alike and one has double the syllables of the other. How can anyone trust them if they can’t get such starkly contrasted information right?

To be fair, it is never easy for crisis managers to marshall the facts but anyone trained to do so would have had followed the procedures of holding, core and update statements to help them do so.

In crisis management practice, holding statements are made shortly after an incident when you have some of the basic information. It may be a mere confirmation that something has happened, the number of passengers involved, where they are from, the number of the crew, as well as expressions of empathy and a commitment to be open and to share information as they come in. It is OK to say that there are things you don’t yet know at this stage. A holding statement is designed to demonstrate that you care, are human, that you are open and are in control as you know what to do next. It buys you time, feeds The Beast which is the appetite for infant news by the mss media and buys you time to plan for a more considered response in the form of a core statement.

The Core Statement  is a crucial piece of document as it serves as the foundation for all you future updates. Get it right and you have a firm foundation to build on, get it wrong and you get what the Malaysian Government is getting – inconsistent facts that call your credibility and competence into question.

How you put together a core statement is to find and verify – and then double check that they are correct – the facts, before putting them down in the core statement. Information such as the turn back and the last message from MH370 don’t get put into the core statement and communicated to anyone unless and until they have been verified. That way you don’t run into confusion later. It may take you time and reap some criticism but tardiness is a lighter cross to bear than incompetence.

Failing to observe these basic principles alone is enough to damn the Malaysian Government and Hishamuddin in history as a bunch of incompetents. This is not to take into account the other mistakes they have made that have more to do with how they delivered their messages rather that what they delivered.

Having said all this, Unspun believes that Hishamuddin and the Government has been sincere in trying to manage this situation to the best of their ability. The problem is that their best is just not good enough. It is fine for us to extend concessions to ordinary people for their foibles in difficult situations, but political leaders who seek high office and high-ranking officials who have no qualms accepting the silver of taxpayers have a higher onus of responsibility that the Ordinary Joe in the street.

A lot depends on them and they are expected to rise to the occasion when it is demanded. This is a responsibility that they must shoulder. So let’s please do away with the righteous indignation, the  jingoism, the defensiveness and the conspiracy theories and call the situation for what it is.









Raiding the Ban for Popular Votes?

Even though you may no agree with it you could understand the reasons why Malaysia’s censors might want to ban a film like Noah – the ultra sensitive Muslims in that country bristle at any attempts to dick around with the religious texts.

But to brand The Raid 2 is a bit morelthan a mystery. Malaysia has let in ultra violent movies before. There is no religious element to the film unless your religion is violence and its the product of a neighbouring country. So what are the reasons.

We can take it for granted that Democratic Party presidential hopeful Pramono Edhie Wibowo is being opportunistic and nationalistic to question the Malaysian censors. That does not detract from the fact that his question needs an answer.

One can only hope (against all hope?) that the Malaysian politicians and censors have enough wits about them to adopt a more open approach and provide some answers after their disastrous brush with openness over the MH 370 tragedy.

Because, if they don’t they’ll be delivering to Prabowo a golden opportunity to shore up his popularity. (Thx for the spot Andi).

A spat with Malaysia is something relished by many Indonesians and if a spat breaks out over The Raid 2 Edhie will be able to ride the wave of nationalism and Malaysia-bashing.

All not good for Indonesia and Malaysia…unless it is a conspiracy between the powers that be in both countries to advance Edhie’s electoral prospects in the first place…Hmmm…Unspun’s been watching too many conspiracy movies lately.

Presidential Hopeful Criticizes Malaysia for Reported Banning of ‘The Raid 2′ – The Jakarta Globe.

A scene from the ‘Raid 2: Berandal.’ (Photo courtesy of Merantau Films)

Jakarta. Democratic Party presidential hopeful Pramono Edhie Wibowo asked Malaysia explain why the country’s film board had banned “The Raid 2: Berandal,” the ultra-violent but internationally acclaimed Indonesian martial arts film that was released in theaters last week.

“It is very unfortunate that the Malaysian government banned this movie without giving any reason,” Pramono said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The movie was scheduled to hit Malaysian screens on March 28, but as of Tuesday, it had not been shown anywhere in the country. There has been no official statement from the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia on why the movie by Welsh director Gareth Evans had not been screened.

Calls to the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia were not returned — but the film does not appear on the board’s list of approved new films. The Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta declined to comment on the ban when contacted by the Jakarta Globe.

Pramono called on the Malaysian government to view the film as a positive contributor to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) film industry.

“I also demand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actively perform its mediation function with the Malaysian government,” he said.

A Malaysian movie site,, reported that Malaysian audiences were disappointed by the lack of screenings in the country.

One moviegoer, Nicholas Lim, told the site he was disheartened by the ban because he had enjoyed the first movie, “The Raid: Redemption,” which was not banned in Malaysia. The second film, however, contains more scenes of graphic violence than the first.

“The Raid 2″ was released in Indonesia on March 28. More than 300,000 people saw the film during its opening weekend.


How low can Nurfam go on the MH 370 issue?

How low can you go to kick a decent man when he’s down?

That is the question that must be asked of The National Union of Flight Attendants (Nufam). The union has asked for the resignation of Malaysia Airlines CER Ahmad Jauhari on the flimsy reasoning that theMH370 incident will have a large impact on the airline.


Photo from From


They have not put forth any convincing argument that Jauhari had been incompetent or unfit to lead Malaysia Airlines throughout the drawn out search for MH 370. Yet they have the temerity to ask for his resignation.

Kesatuan mahu CEO MAS letak jawatan

Kesatuan Kebangsaan Anak Kapal Kabin Penerbangan Malaysia (Nufam) menuntut ketua pegawai eksekutif Malaysia Airlines Datuk Ahmad Jauhari Yahaya meletak jawatan atas kes kehilangan MH370 yang masih berlarutan.

Nufam, yang sering bertelingkah dengan Ahmad Jauhari berhubung isu pekerja, yakin bahawa peletakan jawatan CEO tersebut akan memulihkan kembali keyakinan rakyat kepada syarikat penerbangan tersebut.

“(Nufam) percaya ini adalah tindakan sepatunya pada masa ini kerana kejadian ini turut membawa impak besar kepada industri penerbangan di negara ini.

Read more here

Unspun has argued before that Malaysia Airlines under Jauhari’s leadership did the right thing when faced with the crisis-like situation caused by the disappearance of MH 370 (see here) . Perhaps not ideally fast Jauhari nonetheless took the responsibility of speaking at the press conference to announce that MH370 had gone missing, he expressed empathy, shared information and promised to do everything he could. Anyone who is cued to human expression could see that although strained he was ernest, sincere and open in how he handled matters.

MAS also turned on their dark site, and switched their social media assets to crisis mode, an indication that the staff had prepared and trained for such eventualities.

Events after the press conference were a different matter. The search and rescue efforts came under the responsibility of the Government, specifically the Department of Civil Aviation and was taken out of MAS’s hands. That was when things started to go seriously wrong.

Transport Minister Hishamuddin was defensive and unempathetic, as well as appearing reluctant to share information or account for the government’s actions; the DCA chief was uncomfortable wight he media and couldn’t even tell a black footballer from a couple of Iranian where looks were concerned; the Police chief was downright arrogant and the government kept contradicting itself.

Anyone with an iota of critical thinking should be able to discern that MAS did not do a bad job and it could not do anything about the Government ball sing thing up.

So why is Nufam picking on Jauhari instead of Hishamuddin who, as the head of the search efforts must surely the the one to be held accountable if anyone is? Is it because Jauhari has no political clout like Hiham? Is it because he is not related to the PM? Or comes from the Umno Bhramin class? Or that he had been firm against their attempts at pay hikes?

Now is not the time for any organisation to exploit cynical for their own agendas. Not when the pain for the families of the MH370 passengers is still so acute and many of them are still grieving and mourning. There will be a time for reckoning, and when that time comes Nufam, if it is ernest in seeking justice or the well-being of the aviation industry, should have enough integrity and courage to place blame where it is deserving, instead of picking on someone who is vulnerable.








How can the Malaysian Government find closure in the MH370 tragedy?

With Malaysian Prime Minister Najib’s announcement that MH 370 had perished in the Indian Ocean, and with no contending evidence to suggest otherwise, situation is moving toward what Crisis Managers would consider the Closure stage.

It will take some time, as families come to terms with their loss and mourn their loved ones. The task is all the more difficult since there is no wreckage of MH370 to be found. Even the debris spotted by satellite has not been recovered and positively identified.

The Malaysian Government, helmed by Transport Minister, Hishamuddin has had a rough ride through the three weeks between the disappearance of MH370 and Najib’s announcement of the end of the plane’s journey. Their reputation is mostly in tatters. There is almost universal criticism of the way they handled the incident.

If you were advising the Malaysian Government, what would you advise they do to find closure on the issue?

Unspun has some thoughts but would like to hear other opinions weighing in.




Something to like: Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370 Facebook page

If you are family or friend of Captain Zaharie, the pilot of MH370 that went missing more than 10 days ago and feel that much of what is being said about him was unfair, careless or plain sensationalism, what would you do?

You could face the media but that would be a huge strain. The pressure would be enormous, you would be subjected to a public inquisition and a small slip of the tongue could crucify you and reflect badly on the Captain. And even if you are good with the media you could still be subject to misinterpretation and misquotes.

Yet you feel that you need to set the record straight on some matters. In the captain’s case, some media reported that authorities raided his house and confiscated his home-made simulator when apparently the facts are that they want to the house and respectfully asked if they could inspect it. Th family cooperated fully and even helped to dismantle it. It was a picture of cooperation, not of authorities busting into the defensive home of a political fanatic.

What do you do? For Captain Zaharie’s family and friends their answer lies with starting a Facebook Page “Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370“.


It would have been better if they had identified who exactly was hosting the page to give it more credibility but under the circumstances this was enough and they have taken to providing information and clearing the air about misreports and misinterpretations.

FOCZ1 copy
                     Continue Reading

This is smart use of social media during a crisis-like situation and corporations would do well to take a leaf from the Captain’s family and friends for their own crisis moments.

And why not? The Internet now allows almost anyone to own their own media. You could, in short order, set up a blog or reconfigure your webpage, set up a Facebook page and a twitter account, or use your existing one with a particular hashtag to do what the Captain’s friends have just done.

What you can do then is post notes to inform or announce information, or correct misinformation. If you want to go further you could also post your own videoclips and even open up a “press room” where you take the media’s questions and answer them through the net. The journalists would not like this very much as it takes too much control out of them, but what choice do they have if that is the only source of timely information from you?

This is not to say that a corporation should eschew the traditional face-to-face interviews, briefings and press conferences but social media now allows you to have a medium where you too can be a broadcaster to take the monopoly of power from the mass media.

Yet this is something corporations don’t do enough when confronted with emergencies and it because bad habits are hard to break, or that they feel that they are not engaging enough unless you do things in the real rather than the virtual world?








Does the Malaysian Government evoke contempt for its handling of the MH370 incident?

The answer seems to be an unqualified YES!

Consider these developments that betray the depth of incompetence, internal conflict and egos at play behind the scenes of the Malaysian Government agencies involved in the MH370 search and rescue effort.

  • There were already indications that as early as Monday, Malaysian officials already knew that MH370 had turned back up to the Malacca Straits. They ordered the search to be extended to the Straits. Yet this did not become official until yesterday, when a Malaysian military source confirmed they had tracked the plane to Pulau Perak on the northern end of the straits.
  • Why did the Military take until yesterday to put out the information about the last know whereabouts of MH 307. The fact that they leaked it through a “source” rather than a statement suggests that they were sidelined and prevented from participating fully in the SAR efforts.
  • Because the Malaysian government has not confirmed it, we do not know yet conclusively if the military’s claim is a fact, but it seems probable otherwise the huge search efforts off Vietnam would have come up with something. Now, if it is true then the search for MH370 should focus not only on the straits but also in the Andaman Sea beyond Sumatra.
  • This is clearly turning out to be something too big of the Malaysian Government to handle all by itself. It is a signatory of a treaty where it can call in other countries to help in the search effort and the analysing of information. It hasn’t. national pride is one possible factor behind the reluctance.
  • DCA director-general Azharuddin Abdul Razak, a man clearly uneasy with having the face the media, is clearly anthropologically challenged. He described the appearance of the two men traveling on fake passports on MH 370 as looking like footballer Mario Balotelli, who looks like this:

  • When the photos of the two offending passengers were released they were apparently Iranians who looked like this:

  • See the resemblance? Unspun can’t either, which raises profound questions about the ability of the DCA to differentiate facts from rumours, half-truths and downright misinformation that are prevalent in any crisis-like situation.
  • How many people who checked in did not board MH370? The DCA says 5, the Police chief says 1. Who’s correct? This episode also raises concerns of whether they are even talking to each other, let alone working together to help find MH370 and provide timely updates to the families, friends and the world about the SAR efforts.

These are only some of the horror stories of incompetence and callousness emanating out of Kuala Lumpur. As things stand there is no clear signal of who is in charge of the incident. Is it the DCA director-general Azharuddin Abdul Razak? If so what is he doing allowing the Police chief to contradict him and not coordinating with the military.

With such a level of incompetence and lack of leadership being displayed the families and friends of the victims are rightly getting angry and frustrated with the government. The international media has begun reflecting this. This Morning’s Anderson360, for instance, has corespondent Clancy reporting on the non-cooperation, defensiveness of the Malaysian officials and the paucity and inconsistency of information being provided to family, friends and media.

This reflects very poorly on the Malaysian Government and Malaysia.

When you think about it the only person who can step in now and salvage things is the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. If he is serious about helping the families and friends of MH370 passengers and crew, and of locating the plane in the shortest time possible, he needs to step in, replace the DCA chief or appoint someone competent to be the Incident Commander.

He then needs to call in all agencies and read the Riot Act to them that for the duration of the crisis whatever the Incident Commander says goes. There is no time for consensus nor nursing bruised egos during a crisis. It is command-and-control all the way.

Who should be the Incident Commander? Unspun has no clue, but it must be someone senior enough and who has the full backing of Najib and the Malaysian government to be able to make all the right decisions and have them implemented. Someone who is able to command the respect of the heads of competing agencies and someone who can make decisions yet have the flexibility of an open mind toward approaching problems.

If Najib can make this happen, The Malaysian Government can still salvage its reputation and that of the nation’s in they crisis, in the process bring much needed clarity and proper treatment to the distraught families and friends of the passengers and crew of MH370.

If he can’t or won’t do that then he might as well prepare the nation to be held in contempt and odium as a bunch of Keystone Cops flailing out hopelessly with the world as their stage.

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Taking some Tea With the Dead

Follow author Elizabeth Pisani's 6-month journey through the remoter and storied parts of Indonesia as she gathers material for her new book Taking Tea with The Dead. She will be blogging about her progress in and posting updates with an occasional Tweet here : . Wry, witty and often controversial. Check her out.

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