So who’s behind #NoWitchHuntKarHut?

burning-13

Update August 28: One of the buzzers involved in the campaign has admitted to being asked to Tweet, the client remains a mystery, and he has apologised for taking on the assignment here.  Unspun thinks it takes a big man to admit that they were wrong and to ask for forgiveness. Perhaps the Netizens should cut him some slack from now on.

Since my post some netizens have named the alleged digital agency and one of them have come up with a shitlist of all the buzzers involved. The company or alliance financing the campaign remains a mystery (at least to Unspun).

The original post:

The hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut (KarHut stands for Kebakaran Hutan or Forest Fire) began life on Twitter ostensibly on August 20, three days ago, by a buzzer. It sat there innocuously until this morning, when it seemingly caused a civil war among the Twitterati of Indonesia.

What was it about and why did it cause such a furore?

burning-13As far as can be pieced together the hashtag was a campaign initiated by a digital agency based in Jakarta. It gathered and paid some buzzers to use the hastag and get through the message that large corporations have been unfairly singled out when apportioning blame for forest fires. The unfairness resulted from the fact that smaller corporations were just as guilty for starting forest fires.

All sorts of buzzers were recruited, even those who normally would be more comfortable with lifestyle and consumer consumption than environment and public affairs. They were apparently told by the digital agency that the campaign was also an Indonesian reaction against Singapore that has been trying to assert pressure on Indonesia. Naively some of the buzzers swallowed that story, hook, line and sinker.

So when the buzzers got to work, a civil war, not unlike that in  Marvel comic that many of them are fond of,  broke out between them and the other buzzers who smelt something fishy about their fellow-buzzers suddenly taking up the cause of Big Palm Oil. Not being wall flowers, they spoke, or rather tweeted their minds, and soon there seemed to be a groundswell of sentiment against their fellow buzzers that had apparently sold out to land grubbing, environment-destroying, cynical large corporations.

The war  got so bad that one prominent buzzer was reported to have closed his account because of all the criticisms he was receiving.

Being curious about such things and having a suspicious mind Unspun thought that the usual large corporation suspects were behind the move so he checked with friends he had in their woodwork. They told him that they were flummoxed as anyone as to who was behind the campaign as they weren’t. These are friends, not the organisations, talking so Unspun tended to give them the benefit of the doubt.

So if it is not the usual suspects who could it be? Who was sophisticated enough to engineer a campaign ostensibly on behalf of the large corporations but in reality aimed to discredit them? And who else would have the kind of money to pay the digital agency to run the campaign and pay the buzzers? And why that peculiar hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut? It is a clumsily long hashtag. The use of the “no withch hunt” idiom suggests a Western mind or one brought up on western education (or an agency whose strategy is led by a Westerner).

One source, who corroborated on the identity of the agency, said he heard that an alliance of companies (that was not part of the usual suspects) was behind the funding of the campaign. But there was no more information. This deepens the mystery. Are there other players out there out there trying to discredit the established Big Boys? Who would gain from such a move, if true? Are we about to see a round of musical chairs in the Palm Oil industry? What is going on?

Go Jek, Uber, Grab and other ride-hailing services is a KPPU issue

The demonstration by taxi and the public transport rivers yesterday received much criticism from the Netcitizenship, who naturally gravitate to things Webby, disruptive and saves them money.

The transport drivers are apparently disgruntled over dwindling income caused by their ride-hailing services and the ostensible reason for objecting to the latter’s presence are claims that they do not pay tax, do not have proper permits and may be foreign companies invading Indonesian turf.

 

These are wrong reasons to demonstrate, even though a demonstration is justified. It is justified because the ride-hailing services are engaging in unfair trade practices. It is unfair to the taxi and other public transport drivers because they cannot compete against heavily subsidised prices of Go Jek and the other ride hailers. The ride hailers aren’t making money at this stage but trying to win market share through heavily discounted prices. They can sustain their discounts because they have investors who are willing to pump money into them in the gamble that they would turn out to be the Next Big Thing.25d067bf-a9b8-4276-b8a9-53df94733391_169

How long will these subsidies last? As long as investors are willing to inject capital into the ride hailers. It may be six months ayear or beyond but what’s interesting are the repercussions they cause in the meantime.

Never mind the fly-by-night and dubious taxi companies who provide shoddy and unreliable service. They deserve to perish. But a company such as Blue Bird that has won the trust of many Indonesians because they had relative clean and serviceable cars and reliable drivers when the market was full of bad ones are affected too.

So a scenario could develop where the taxi companies, even Blue Bird, all start to fold or deteriorate because of reduced revenues. This situation, however, is no guarantee that the ride hailers would succeed or become a viable replacement. What if most of them fold because the investors got bored or dismayed by the continual financial losses? Where would we be then? Bereft of quality traditional public  transport as well as affordable ride hailers?

This issue also raises a question of how much and how long it is fair to provide discounts to win market share. Most products hold promotions and provide discounts to do just that but they are usually short-lived ones as the real economic pressures assert themselves. But with ride hailers the only economic hidden hand is that of the investor, often with access to huge funds.

So is this unfair business practices, that should be looked at by the KPPU? Or is this the new world of disruption that will herald new business models for public transport?

 

The incredible silence and welcome to China’s effrontery to Malaysia

Something incredible, unprecedented and potentially dangerous happened in Malaysia last Friday that most Malaysians do not seem to have paid much notice to.

In fact many of the Malaysian Chinese actually welcomed it, fed up as they were by Malay hooligans trying to stir up Malay supremacist and anti-Chinese sentiments in Malaysia.

Photo from Free Malaysia Today: “He was there to assure Chinese traders that they will be safe tomorrow and that the police were watching over them in the event there was trouble.”

The incident took place in Petaling Street, an enclave of Chinese traders and shopkeepers right smack in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, that has become the symbol of Chinese presence in Malaysia ever since the Red Shirt Rally on September 16.

Before we go on, a bit of context for those that don’t follow Malaysian political developments closely. The Malaysian Prime Minister is in trouble, not least because of his own stupidity. Already unpopular, he was caught with a smoking gun – US$700 million deposited in his personal account.

His refusal to explain how a large sum come to be in his account, apart from it being from a mysterious Middle East donor, has added to the attacks on him and his government. Adding on the pressure was a huge rally of about 500,000 people that was organised by Bersih, originally an elections watchdog grouping on August 29.

Besieged, Najib or his followers retaliated with a Red Shirt Rally on September 16. The Red Shirts ostensibly were rallying to protect “Malay dignity” and the disrespect the Chinese (the predominant ethnic group in the Bearish rally) have shown to the Malays and their leader, Najib. During their rally a group of the Red Shirts attempted to enter Petaling Street but they were stopped by Malaysia’s Federal Reserve Unit, a specialist division of the police that deals with crowd control.

They were left licking their wounds but threatened to stage a comeback on September 26 where the Red Shirts would enter Petaling Street to stage a protest and demand better conditions for Malay traders so they can also do business there. That was the ostensible reason but in the meantime the organiser Jamal Yunos threatened violence and was, rightly arrested by the police on September 25, a day before the planned rally.

In the meantime, though, the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Hui Kang made a bizarre visit to the traders at Petaling Street on the evening of September 26 where he calmed the nerves of the traders by saying, as reported by Free Malaysia Today:

PETALING JAYA: China’s Ambassador to Malaysia has stated his firm belief that all Malaysians, save a handful, already enjoyed racial harmony and appealed to those bent on causing trouble tomorrow, to kindly refrain from doing so.

At a press conference, after distributing mooncakes to those present, Huang Hui Kang said, “I believe that 99 per cent of the Chinese and Malays live harmoniously and only a small number of them want to cause trouble tomorrow.

“We told businesspeople here that they can open as usual tomorrow if they want but if they feel unsafe, the choice is theirs to close instead.”

He also said that the traders at Petaling Street only wanted to carry out their business in peace and that for those who chose to open tomorrow, the police would be on standby to offer security in the event there was trouble.

“So far, about 50 per cent of traders, which equals to around 600 in number, are still fearful of opening tomorrow. However we will keep abreast of the news and act accordingly,” he said.

If you look at the social media feeds, his actions have been lauded and praised. The Chinese welcomed his comments and visit as a show of solidarity and brotherhood. Some even gave the impression that they would welcome China being their benefactor.

Others, including Chinese and Malay leaders in the Government and Opposition have been strangely silent. Only Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry, Wisma Putra, seems to be concerned by this development and has leaked the news that they will be summoning the Chinese Ambassador  for a discussion.

Where foreign relations go this is an incredible development on some levels.

On one level you have China blatantly meddling in the internal affairs of another sovereign country. The ambassador was making statements more appropriate for a Malaysian Minister than an envoy. Who begs the question of whether his message and gesture was sanctioned by China’s government. If it had been we should all shudder as you ask what China has to gain by stoking the racial fire. If it had not, was the Ambassador totally out of line and why has he not been recalled yet? The Chinese Embassy’s explanation sounds as credible as Mao doing a hip hop song. 

On another level, the Malaysian Chinese are making a grave mistake by accepting the Ambassador’s words and deeds as a sign of solidarity and empathy. The ancestors of the malaysian Chinese have been migrating out of China for at least the last couple of centuries – and for good reason, China is not a place that they would want to live in because of the socio, political and economic hardships. IN the intervening years, whole generation of Malaysian Chinese have grown up in a different political and social environment. The last thing they would want is China dictating their politics and social norms. China’s interest is not necessarily the same as those of the Malaysian Chinese and they should never forget that. Yet no prominent Chinese leader has come forward to denounce the Ambassador’s blatant assault to Malaysia’s sovereignty. And why? Because what’s popular now among the Chinese is anything slamming Najib and Umno. They won’t do the right but popular thing. 

 

On the third level is the response of the government. Has it become so weak that Wisma Putra has to leak stories to the media that it was summoning the Ambassador to chastise him? His offence has very clearly broken diplomatic protocols. Will this weakness lead to even bolder moves by China? The only criticism so far has come from the Government mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia and Umno Youth but no officials?

 

Light at the End of the Road for Bersih?

Then commentary in Malaysiakini by Neil Koh headlined End of the Road for Bersih?  is great food for thought.

Unspun agrees with the author that by allowing the Bersih 4.0 rally to go on Najib has let the steam out of the pressure cooker.

Part of the allure of the Bersih 4 rally was that it was forbidden fruit and as such it provided many Malaysians a forum to vent their frustration and defiance at the Government. But if there was nothing to defy in the calling of the next protest rally, would the Malaysians turn out in such numbers again? One doubts this.

“So, what is next for Bersih? ” the author Neil Khor asks, and answers: “I see a network of micro-neighbourhood level action that is truly colour blind and that serves to connect Malaysians at the individual level.

“Only then can the movement breach the walls that politicians have put up to separate us. Only then can we truly connect.”

That might be the case but IMHO that would not do much for the future for Malaysia. With a ruling Umno-led coalition that is corrupt to the core and will cling on top power at any cost; and an opposition that is helmed by outdated leaders that have a difficult time keeping the opposition intact, let alone being able to imagine ruling the country, it is clear that no change will come if Malaysia leaves politics to the politicians.

Perhaps it is time for the people behind Bersih and other concerned Malaysians to think of taking politics away from the politicians. Perhaps they should think of organizing themselves to, as a first step, take a few crucial urban parliamentary seats from the government at the earliest opportunity. Any why not?

Social media has resulted in a much more informed public. It has also made the cost of disseminating messages extremely low. With social media, you can effectively have your own newspapers (blogs), radio stations (podcasts) and TV stations (YouTube channels, periscope etc). You can easily level the playing field, especially when you can crowdsource support.

In Indonesia, for instance, a whole new crop of politicians like jakarta governor Ahok and Ridwan Kamil are riding high and securing lots of support through the use of social media. Granted they both came to power on the backs of political parties. But in Ahok’s case when the party tried to rein him in he resigned from the Gerindra party. He’s now an independent, his supporters are the ones using social media to support him, and if he has to run for Governor again without any political party backing, he’s likely to win.

Consider, for instance, if, say, the Parliamentary seat of Federal Territory of KL were to become vacant for some reason. Someone of Ambiga’s stature stands for election to the seat. What would happen? The DAP would probably field their candidate, the Barisan would field theirs. The party machinery would swing into action.

But Ambiga would have a groundswell of supporters and followers. They would use social media to broadcast her messages, coordinate support and raise funds. In a plugged-in, urban electorate this has a good chance of working.

let’s just say she wins. What are the implications then? It would change the power equation in Malaysia entirely. Both Barisan and Pakatan or whatever form of coalition the Opposition takes would be shocked to their core because their duopolistic hold on political power in Malaysia would have been broken. They would have to truly change or face one defeat after another as other Malaysians, inspired by Ambiga’s win, take them on.

Such grassroots leaders would unlikely capture seats where there is no urban, educated and plugged in populations. They would never capture enough seats to be a significant opposition. But they would become symbols that the people can take power from the politicians. And that’s a lesson that Malaysia’s politicians must learn quickly before the country gathers too much momentum in its decline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mt. Kinabalu tragedy: what are schoolchildren doing there?

Last year a group of us decided to climb Mt. Kinabalu. We weren’t the fittest 40-50 somethings but we weren’t slouches either.We had in tow a 12-year old.

a member of the group, Unspun, for instance,  is in his mid-50s but hits the gym at an average of three times a week chalking up 40 minutes each session on the treadmill at a clip of about 9km/hr.

In spite of this we found the going up Mt. Kinabalu pretty tough. It was one of the mist difficult climbs Unspun has undertaken as the climb up the mountain was an relentless series of fairly high uneven stone steps. And it gets worse the higher you go because the air thins.

Our group managed to trudge the 6.5km or so the first day up to the base station at Laban Rata. It was perched 3,270 meters above sea level. We were exhausted and thought we could sleep well after dinner. But we all spent a restless night tossing about in our bunk beds as the altitude got to us. Kinabalu

At 3am the next morning we all woke up, had our breakfast and began our ascend to the summit, hopefully, in time to catch the summit. It was cold, dark and very difficult because the thin air made the climb tougher. Our 12-year old had a headache, probably a sympton of altitude sickness so we left him to recover at the laban Rata base station.

The remaining four of us trudged on. The trail was manageable until we hit the section where the trail became a wall of granite rocks that we could only scale with the aid of ropes. It was challenging for someone like me who has no fear of heights but it was terrible for some of us in the group who had to scale those walls in the dark and with the cold wind blowing.

We started thinking that it was a good idea that we had left the 12-year old behind as the steep climbs was actually too dangerous for children. We also started getting a bit angry over two things – why the park authorities had not posted a warning to climbers of the extent of the difficulty in the climb and the potential dangers; and why it allowed children below at least 16 or 18 years to scale the mountain when it was already difficult and dangerous to reasonably fit adults? We also spoke among ourselves what park authorities in Western countries – who generally have a higher level of care to such details – would have done. We concluded that they would at least have adequate warnings on their website of the challenges that climbers would face.

We managed to clear the section and got up to about 3,400 meters above sea level where there is a reporting station. Our guide (and yes its true what they say about the stamina, courage and level of care of the Kinabalu guides) told us that we would not be able to make sunrise at the pace we were going.

As we were all exhausted, we decided to abort the climb and started trekking down, through the wall of granite and back to Laban Rata. The rest of the climb down was jarring and difficult but manageable.

I thought of posting something about the danger to children climbing Mount Kinabalu but got busy and forgot about it.

The recent earthquake and the tragedy unfolding at Mount Kinabalu has prompted me to write this in hopes that the Park authorities will at least in the future provide adequate warning to would-be climbers and considering upping the age-limit of the climbers.

Right now the official Mt. Kinabalu website cheerily gives the impression that anyone between 10 and 80 years old who’s reasonably fit can make the climb. That is inaccurate and dangerous information.

But a disturbing question is this: did the teachers are the Singapore primary school not do their research before deciding to take the schoolchildren on the hike up Mt. Kinabalu? Our did they, like us, take the information on the Kinabalu official website on surface value as well?

 

The most dangerous thing about Jokowi for us in Indonesia.

When the subject of Jokowi comes up, there is usually an awkward pause as everyone tries to express the mixture of frustration, despair and disappointment over the man they elected as President with high hopes for reform just a few months ago.

The pause, Unspun suspects, is because they are not really ready to confront their true feeling about Jokowi: ennui.

That is the most dangerous feeling one can harbour for Jokowi. That feeling is so powerful that Unspun, who had once been spirited to criticise SBY for his shortcomings, haven’t taken to writing on this blog lately.

Why is this most dangerous? Well, when there is hope left you would still criticise on the slim chance that it would be noticed by the person being talked about and maybe, just maybe, it would change the way they do things. With SBY you at least knew that Ibu Ani read the media clippings and SBY was sensitive to criticism. There was hope that change could still come about.

With Jokowi, there is no one home. One wonders if he’s really aware of what’s being said about the policies of his government and his decisions. And if he knew, would he care? There is no evidence he would.

So despair gives rise to a feeling of ennui. A tiredness so heavy and cumbersome you give up hope trying to do anything about it. Perhaps this is why the criticism against Jokowi are relatively muted these days. Perhaps many people have already given up on him, but do not have any alternative to turn to.

Ennui also because things are spiralling out of control so much that it sometimes feels like lunatics are running the asylum. How then can one account for anti alcohol laws that does not stop at banning the sale of beer at convenience stalls but making drinking alcohol illegal all together?

Or mining laws that are seemingly designed to kill the very goose that has laid the golden eggs of revenue fort the government. This is a time when, faced with declining commodity prices and a global economic downturn the government has to raise enough money to finance its massive infrastructure plans so that it can meet the campaign promise of 7% GDP growth?

Or that stubborness to execute drug offenders and piss of investor countries for the totally unsubstantiated and willy thinking that executions would help prevent drug abuse in Indonesia.

Why is all this happening? Unspun’s theory, formulated over lunch chatter with a client and a journalist, is that the apparatchik in Indonesia have always harboured a devil-may-care nationalistic attitude. Given the chance they would enact nationalistic laws and show the rest of the world that they bow to no one, even when they have to cut off their noses to spite their faces. Fortunately, however, Indonesia has been blessed by fairly open-minded, pro-business and pro-investment leaders. Suharto certainly, to a smaller extent Habibibie, Megawati and Gus Dur and certainly SBY (except for the Hattanomics he had to endure). They were no Einsteins or Keyneses but they had enough authority to keep the apparatchik in line and keep a lid on the destructive nationalistic impulses.

Now comes Jokowi. He’s isolated in his own government. His closest advisors Rini Sowandi and Arief Widjajanto are as alienated from the politicians than he. Together they have no power base in any political party. Then there is Luhut Pandjaitan, by all accounts a solid chap but he’s also a military man, and there is feeling that military men – apart from those wielding great authority like Suharto – cannot make the Government bureaucracy work. And then there is, of course, Megawati who thinks she’s royalty and deserves to be treated as such.

So the result is a president that is ineffective and a bureaucracy gorging itself on its newfound freedom to exercise its long-latent nationalism. Nobody seems to be directing this spate of events, not least the anti-investment, anti-foreigner legislation that we’ve been seeing lately.

So nobody’s home. The lunatics are running the asylum and a dark and heavy ennui is descending over us all. Will we succumb? Or will we, like Indonesia has done so many times before in the pass, muddle through and find a solution to the current malaise?

Najib’s PR Guru: The Talented Mr Stadlen

The Sarawak Report contains a fascinating story of the staying power and nocturnal pursuits of  Najib’s propaganda chief Paul Stadlen.

Stadlen apparently used to head APCO, a lobbying/PR firm appointed by Malaysian Prime Minister to help with his PR needs, which are legion. Unspun’s written about them here and here.

Many people then wondered why a firm that has been associated with its close contacts with the Jewish lobby was appointed by a sanctimoniously Islamic Malaysian Government. An explanation was that they wanted to lobby the US. This seemed a plausible answer.

But when APCO got nowhere and were dismissed by the Malaysian government it was then difficult to understand why Stadlen, who had headed the firm’s Malaysian operations, was retained to advice Najib on his PR.

Was Stadlen somehow more clever and had greater insights into Malaysians than any Malaysian Najib could find? Was he more strategic and savvy? Was he willing to be more brutal and unquestioning to his boss’s orders?

In all counts it is difficult to find a reason why Stadlen could have been a superior choice. This task is made all the more difficult if you consider that someone in his position would allow himself to be photographed having wild times and cavorting with Malaysian Bunny girls.

Surely even a humdrum PR advisor would know the reputational risks he exposes his boss and himself if he indulges in such good times?

So Malaysians, why is this Mat Salleh chosen over all the clever and equally scheming local boys and gals that Najib could have hired for a fraction of Stadlen fees?

(Unspun didn’t have enough coffee this morning and somehow thought Stalin was Steadly. Have made corrections to the copy. Apologies for not being too steady this morning)

Are good intentions harming Indonesia in the new Cicak-Buaya episode?

Five year from now when Indonesians look back at this moment in the nation’s history what conclusions would they draw?

What seems to suggest itself is that the Police-KPK issue is likely to be perceived as  watershed moment. On one extreme is a scenario depicting the last gasp of the Lords of Corruption and the Old Guard; On the other extreme is a scenario in which the nation takes a nosedive, erases much of the progress it makes and continues to muddle through or even begin to decline.

The first scenario is difficult to imagine as it would involve Jokowi prying his integrity and will from the clutches of the political parties that he’s beholden to. It would need some radical action such as the President dissolving DPR and appealing straight to the people for support. (Can the President Constitutionally even do that?) Or providing an ultimatum to Mega, Surya and the overlords – back down or I quit.

The second scenario, unfortunately, is more likely. Hemmed in by all sides Jokowi is discredited in to his most ardent supporters and resigns or is impeached. Jusuf Kalla takes over and we all go back to the old ways of doing things – turning a blind eye to privilege and power. The Party Overloards loading over the rest of the country as the rape and collage the land – in short, business as usual. This will be the beginning of a decline that will erase all the progress Indonesia has made in the past 20 years.

Future analysts might also conclude that what caused this second scenario is a confluence of malignant, well-meaning forces, and a KPK that is less than pristine.

The malignant forces are easy to identify in persons, institutions and motivations. There is Mega who is known to harbour grudges and let personal considerations rule the day. There is Surya Paloh who moves in his own world of morality and logic, fuelled by a large ego and unbridled ambition. An there is Jusuf Kalla who has judiciously decided to sit back and let Jokowi feel the heat, not running his chances to step in as President should things go to hell in a hand basket. There are also the party apparatchik and the Police, whose interests are to prop up a corrupt system that has lined their pockets and those of their acolytes and relatives.

The well-meaning forces are the earnest supporters of Jokowi. Professionals, celebrities and activists who campaigned hard for his victory in the belief that he would help rid the country of the rotten, corrupt system that the political insiders have nurtured over all these years. They are passionate, bridle with righteous piety and they are noisy – especially over social media that has become their loud hailer in these times.

Most of their efforts are motivated by an understandable deep hatred for the police that is a symbol of an institution that is corrupt to the core. For them the KPK has become the symbol of defiance against the Police and therefore the #SaveKPK hashtags and protests.

Unfortunately, the KPK has been less than impeccable. One should question whether the KPK overstepped its bounds when it announced that Budi Gunawan was one of the candidates flagged in Jokowi’s list of ministerial candidates. It may be true, and there may have ben very strong evidence that Budi is guilty of corruption but it does not make it right for the KPK to make this information public. Individuals inside could have leaked it to the media but officially they should not have made the announcement.

Then there is the KPK’s indictment of Budi as a suspect. If you have to indict somebody then, to be fair, you need to read out the charges. Otherwise it’s guilt by insinuation. Coming as it was on the eve of Budi’s appointment, and bereft of the charges that would substantiate such indictment, one could argue that the KPK fell way short of the principles of justice and law enforcement.

The KPK’s behaviour, combined with the passion of Jokowi’s disillusioned supporters has, arguably, made it more difficult for the President to manoeuvre as it hardens the resolve of the Police and the Old Guard rather than to get them to reconsider their actions.

So perhaps a rethink of strategies and tactics are needed. Protesters should perhaps try to be fairer, call for the preservation of the KPK but at the same time hold the KPK accountable for their actions. In the meantime pressure should be kept up on the Police to explain how Budi could have accumulated such massive wealth in spite of his low salary. And they should also be pressured to explain the basis and procedures for arresting Bambang Widjajanto.

So the angle of attack should perhaps not be a heuristic impulse to save the KPK as it contains the same contradictions and logical faultiness as the #JeSuisCharlie movement after the Paris attacks. Such an approach is attractive, sexy and populist but does not attack the problem at its core.

If the pressure are sustained on both these institutions it would make it easier for Jokowi to step in to settle matters. It is not ideal. A President should be made of sterner stuff but that is the inexperienced politician that the Indonesian electorate voted for – and as the saying goes voters deserve what they get.

It seems like a choice of helping out Jokowi or descending into a dark period for Indonesia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insulting Islam or taking the piss out of ISIS?

One thing about Indonesia is that it always surprises.

Just when all of us thought that the Jokowi Government would user in a even more liberal regime that would value freedom of expression, comes news that the Police have indicted the Jakarta Post’s chief editor for insulting Islam.

The Post had carried a cartoon, demonstrated here on the Bisnis.com website today. Its crime: replacing the ISIS oval with a skull and bones. One might say fair comment, given ISIS’s propensity to lob off heads or hostages.

When the more religious readers raised a kerfuffle over the Post’s cartoon, the Post bowed to pressure and apologised. You’d think that people of a religious bent would find it in their hearts to forgive, given how all religions preach about redemption, love and all that.

The Indonesian Police, however, have a different take on things, charging the editor Dimas (Mediatama Suryodiningrat) with blasphemy.

Nice to see the nation’s enforcers so sensitive about the good name of ISIS and religion, to the point that they would not tolerate snark from journalists.

One wonders where the President and his Working Cabinet of putatively progressive leaders stand on things and how long will they keep quiet over this?

PEMRED JAKARTA POST TERSANGKA: Ini Komentar Meidyatama dan AJI | Kabar24

PEMRED JAKARTA POST TERSANGKA: Ini Komentar Meidyatama dan AJI | Kabar24

Bisnis.com, JAKARTA – Pemimpin Redaksi The Jakarta Post Meidyatama Suryodiningrat (MS) ditetapkan sebagai tersangka terkait dugaan dugaan tindak pidana penistaan agama. Langkah penyidik yang menjadikan MS tersangka mendapatkan komentar keras dari AJI.Dalam pesan yang diterima Bisnis.com, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Indonesia menyatakan tiga hal terkait dengan penetapan Meidyatama sebagai tersangka kasus penistaan agama1). Menolak keras penetapan Pemred Jakarta Post sebagai tersangka karikatur Laa ilaaha illallaah pada edisi Kamis 3/7/2014 lalu.2. Mendesak kepolisian RI tidak menggunakan KUHP untuk menangani kasus-kasus yang terkait dengan karya jurnalistik, dan kembali menggunakan UU Pers sebagai cara untuk menyelesaikan sengketa pemberitaan atau produk pers.3. Mendesak Kapolda Metro Jaya segera mencabut status tersangka Meidyatama Suryodiningrat dan mengembalikan kasus ini sesuai UU Pers yang bersifat lex specialis.4. Mengajak masyarakat pers, baik media massa, Dewan Pers, dan stakeholders lainnya untuk bersama sama menjaga kebebasan pers dan menegakkan kasus ini dalam koridor kasus pers bukan kasus pidana. Kasus ini apabila dibiarkan akan menjadi ancaman serius bagi kebebaaan pers dan akan bisa terkena kepada siapapun.Untuk itu, AJI mendesak kepolisian mengembalikan kasus ini seperti yang sudah tertuang dalam kesepakatan Dewan Pers dan Kepolisian dalam menangani kasus pers.Sementara itu, Pemred The Jakarta Post Meidyatama Suryodiningrat dalam pesan tertulisnya yang diterima Bisnis.com mengaku kaget atas penetapan dirinya sebagai tersangka oleh penyidik Polda Metro Jaya.

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Making sense of the first Presidential debate

Like most people living in Indonesia, Unspun’s impression of the presidential candidates had been confined mainly to a diet of TV newscasts, print news stories and the endless rhetoric – for one side or another – on social media. So like most people Unspun watched the first presidential debate last night with some expectations: a mercurial, fiery orator in Prabowo big on the national issues and a somewhat vague Jokowi who may be good on city administration homilies but all out at sea on national issues. Like most people Unspun was pleasantly surprised. The Tiger of Asia (Macan Asia) proclaimed by Prabowo’s campaign banners turned out to be a doddering pussycat. Instead of being inspiring and articulate, he looked puffy, unsure and unprepared, delivering normative, boring answers. Jokowi, on the other hand, was starting to look versatile and presidential. Instead of wearing his trademarked checked shirt, he wore a dark suit, white shirt and red tie. And although unpolished he demonstrated that he could take on national issues and articulate coherent solutions and policies. How did this come to pass? How does someone of Prabowo’s background – an elite family, good education, stints overseas become so inarticulate and fumbling, while a simple businessmen who stumbled into politics could spur himself toward being presidential? There must be many reasons but if Unspun had to guess Probowo’s folly rested on two intertwining factors: hubris and a New Order mindset. The hubris was evident when a day before the debate Mahfud MD, who is now heading the Team Sukses Probowo-Hatta, told reporters that Prabowo was already prepared for the debate and had no need to practice. It would seem that they were all drinking the Kool Aid at the Gerindra headquarters. Hubris mixed with a New Order mindset can be a fatal combination. The New Order mindset is characterised by a self-perception fed by acolytes and bereft of any reality checks. So in the run-up to the presidential debate Prabowo must be looking at the mirror and seeing a ferocious Asian Tiger. Jokowi, on the other hand, was reported to be mugging up for the debate. Unsure of himself, he nonetheless had the pluck to take on this wholly new level of challenge and, from his performance last night, managed to master at least some of the basics. The question that we have to ask ourselves is what do their performances at the debate, given the context, say about the presidential candidates? To Unspun it says that Prabowo is moribund to the old ways. That there is substance to the rumour that he usually thinks that he’s the smartest guy in any room, and therefore does not need to put in the extra effort to put in a good presentation. he takes things – his abilities, his privilege, his stature for granted. Jokowi, on the other hand, does not have a fixed mindset. He is willing to learn new things and he’s obviously a fast learner. He is adaptable and if he keeps this up he’s likely to master the new skill of managing the presidency. What wasn’t surprising were the performances of the running mates. Prabowo’s Hatta Rajasa was yet another Order Baru creature, spewing out normative without conviction. Jusuf Kalla was more engaging and sometimes witty. His baiting of Prabowo over human rights in 1998 was masterful. Of the partnerships the Prabowo-Hatta relationship looked like a master-factotum relationship while there was a synergy between Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla. Unspun is looking for the next round where the presidential candidates face each other alone. Will Prabowo be able to come down from his high horse and work toward a better performance? Will Jokowi be able to hold the floor on his own without Kalla’s support? This is all shaping out to be a more interesting presidential race than though and the television, much reviled in Indonesian educated society for their usual trashy programming, may yet prove to be the great leveller of Indonesian politics through the presidential debates. And yes, the moderator sucked. So did the moving LED backdrop.