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.

Najib Razak’s lessons on spinning about MH370

Though he said nothing new it is nonetheless interesting to dissect Malaysian Prime Minister’s messaging strategy over the MH370.

As we all know, the Malaysian government has been roundly criticised for their handling of the search and rescue operation of MH370.

Najib’s response, in this instance by proactively offering an op-ed piece to the Wall Street Journal, is an attempt to repair the damaged reputation.

So what does he do? If you read the article carefully he does three things:

  1. Paint the Malaysian government as a victim with his opening line: “Nobody saw this coming, nobody knows why it happened, and nobody knows precisely where it is.” Why  does he do this? In a crisis you are either a victim, or a perpetrator. If you are the former people will not hold you to high standards because, after all, you’re the victim
  2. Admit to a minor fault. But we didn’t get everything right. In the first few days after the plane disappeared, we were so focused on trying to find the aircraft that we did not prioritize our communications”. Why? In debates there is a rhetorical technic called Admit to a Small Fault to Cover a Big Denia.” By admitting to not “getting everything right” he thinks he can cover the big denial that the Malaysian government screwed up big time over the handling. Sure its was a difficult situation to control, but which crisis is easy to handle? By definition a crisis is something that wipes out all your carefully wrought exigency plans so you are left depending on the robustness of your information gathering and decision-making processes. Malaysia failed miserably in all those.
  3. Become the righteous evangelist. So now all of a sudden Najib and the Malaysian Government has seen the Burning Bush and have become righteous evangelists to the cause of airplane tracking? So much so that they feel compelled to lecture the global community of its importance? Good try but not very original and an old, common trick. Example: The Jakarta International School, after news broke that its janitors were molesting one and possibly other kindergarten children, was advised by consultants to become evangelists in the need for Indonesia to confront the problem of child molestation, down to even fashioning a mascot for this movement.  Thank God the idea for the mascot was nixed by saner parents, although the messaging for the movement wasn’t stopped. Does anyone believe their evangelism when they haven’t answered why things went wrong and what they have done to make sure it does not happen again? No. On both counts.

When, oh when will people realise that good Public relations is not about spin but about doing the right thing- and then communicating about it?

Malaysia’s Lessons From the Vanished Airplane

My government didn’t get everything right. Yet other parties, too, must learn from MH370—and make changes.

Nobody saw this coming, nobody knows why it happened, and nobody knows precisely where it is. That, essentially, is the story of Flight MH370—at least for now. The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU -4.76% Boeing BA -1.34% 777 on March 8 has been one of the most extraordinary events ever to befall Malaysia—and one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.

On a routine flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, moments after air-traffic controllers in Kuala Lumpur handed the flight over to their counterparts in Ho Chi Minh City, the plane’s communications systems were disabled. MH370 went dark.

Instead of heading to Beijing, the plane made a sharp turn across peninsular Malaysia, traveled north up the Straits of Malacca, made a U-turn south over the coast of Sumatra and ended in the southern Indian Ocean, half way to Antarctica. Little wonder that words commonly used to describe MH370 include “bizarre” and “unprecedented.”

Also unprecedented are the techniques used to search for the plane. In the absence of contact via normal aircraft communications, the international investigation team—which includes the world’s best aviation experts—was forced to turn to satellite “handshakes,” mathematics and sophisticated techniques never before used to find a missing aircraft. The team managed to identify where flight MH370 ended, and it has narrowed down a search area off Western Australia. Yet, despite the efforts of the world’s brightest minds and best militaries, the search area remains huge. Finding the plane will be neither quick nor easy.

To read the rest of Najib’s article click here

Is wishing “Happy Wesak” a display of misunderstanding the Buddha’s message?

Well-meaning people all around the world are wishing their Buddhist friends and acquaintances a Happy Wesak.

The conventional wisdom is that Buddhists should be happy as they joyously celebrate the birthday, Enlightenment and death more than two millennia ago of one Siddharta Gautama, the “founder” of Buddhism.

There is irony in this, because Siddharta, who came to be known as the Buddha (Pali for Enligthened One) spent his life discovering and then teaching that happiness is an illusion and often a trap to keep us in this cycle of suffering.

Nothing lasts forever. The king who commissioned this Buddha statue at Angkor Wat probably thought it would last till the end of days. What more of your happiness?
Nothing lasts forever. The king who commissioned this Buddha statue at Angkor Wat probably thought it would last till the end of days. What more of your happiness? The idea of the Buddha’s search continues though, although it too will come to pass.


The essence of the Buddha’s teaching is that we all suffer because we crave for things that we think are good. When we get them we are “happy.” When we don’t we become sad.

Yet life is a constant flux of changes and happiness is illusive and cannot last forever. So if we go about seeking happiness we are then setting ourselves up for unhappiness.

So what to do? This is where the Buddha’s genius for original thinking comes in. The only solution is to go beyond happiness and sadness (and by extension good and evil, contentment and yearning etc). The way to do this is to let go of you craving.

If you do not crave for happiness then a lack of happiness would not affect you. If you do not crave for happiness then sadness cannot touch you.

But this letting go is easier said than done. People spend lifetimes trying to do this and do not succeed. Introduced to Buddhist doctrine and meditation in his teenage years Unspun himself feels that he has begun only the initial small steps toward this act of supreme courage to let go of all craving.

But he tries because one man showed the way. Siddharta, born to a life of privilege and luxury, had the courage to renounce it all when he recognised that life, as many of us know it, was somehow askew (samsara).

But he didn’t strike it lucky and immediately found Enlightenment because of this one moment of heroism. What followed were years of struggling, going up wrong paths and finding the courage to turn back when he realised his mistakes.

That open mind, that constant search for something more and th courage to see things for what they are – and then act on it- is what, to Unspun, what the Buddha and Wesak Day should be about.

Happy Contemplation fellow seekers.



JIS and all those unasked questions

Last Thursday Unspun attended the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club’s discussion on child abuse, where Jakarta International School headmaster Tim Carr volunteered to be a speaker.

The other speakers were Seto Mulyadi from the National Commission on Child Protection and Child Protction Commission Secretary-general Elfrida. Unspun was at the discussion until about the end when he had to leave for a prior commitment, but it was one of the strangest journalistic events he’s attended because of the questions asked and more importantly, not asked.

Some might argue that local journalists may, out of cultural or educational reasons, shy from asking pointed and direct questions, but these were primarily Westerners so it was indeed quite disturbing to note the caliber of the questioning.

One of the questions the journalists there asked were of Carr’s opinion of  the “anti-Western bias” in local reports about the JIS incident. This allowed Carr to lace into the irresponsibility of the journalists covering this incident.

But what anti-Western bias was there in the first place? Unspun’s been following the news in the English and Bahasa newspapers and news portals. There was some very bad and insensitive reporting – failure to double check facts with all sources, harassing children, revealing identities of victims and others prematurely, indiscriminate and tasteless reporting of information etc. – but there did not seem to be any anti-Western bias in the reports.

Carr also laced into the local media that failed to ask for their side of the story when reporting about the child molestation cases. This was after he admitted freely that JIS had been slow and unresponsive in its communications in the week after the news broke.

Unspun was waiting for a journalist to ask him, “but who could have reached you during the first week if they wanted to get your side of the story?” Alas, though, no one did.

Then there were the unasked questions – questions actually being asked by the mums of international school students – that Unspun would have thought would come from at least one of the journalists – but none asked.

One natural question would have been: “What is the standard operating procedure for teachers when kindergarten kids go to the toilet?” Do they have to be accompanied by a teacher? Do they have to go in pairs? Do they have, like in some international schools, only five minutes to get their business done or else the teacher will come looking for them?

Five minutes out of direct adult supervision is a long time for a kid but not long enough for perverts to have their way with them (This was something that Unspun did not understand until he became a father). This gives rise to another question: How long did the perpetrators take with their victims?

A few of the perpetrators doing all those things to the child victims would have taken at least 15 to 30 minutes. Wouldn’t this be too long for a kindergarten child to go unsupervised? What was the teacher’s responsibility?

Another question: What, for that matter, is the standard operating procedure for teachers during recess time? Do they give them free reign and go to the toilet by themselves unsupervised? If so what is the procedure or safety measures to ensure their well-being?

Then there are the geographic questions:

How far was the toilet from the kindergarten? In some schools it was intentionally located very close to the classes. Was the JIS toilet close to the kindergarten? Was it 20, 50, 100 meters away or further?

And the CCTV camera: Where was it aimed at?

Toward the end of the JFCC discussion Carr was asked about whether he knew of a second case. He said JIS had been given no information about it.

And that was it! No journalist followed up on his statement. If Unspun had still been a journalist (they get first rights to question the guests at the JFCC function) Unspun would have asked a series of questions, namely:

“The news of the second victim had broken the day before, so have you conducted your own investigation into these allegations, never mind what you have been told or not?”

As it was, Elfrida from KPAI, shortly after Carr said he had not been given any information about the second incident, revealed that there was a second victim and she apparently (Unspun had left by then but was told by a journalist friend) gave out the victim’s name as well.

What no one asked also was whether Carr knew about another case of child molestation that happened about 20 years ago by a janitor. A JIS alumni wrote about her experience on Facebook. She said that when she reported the matter to JIS they sacked the janitor and was very good to her. She subsequently took down the posting because of some adverse factions she got from some of her readers.

Unspun knows that alumni and believes she was telling the truth (and confirmed with her that her case had nothing to do with Vahey, the pedophile who took his life after the FBI homed in on him) . If this is accurate, then JIS should have on record this child molestation case and had chosen to keep quiet about it, which gives rise to the question of what other cases it has chosen to keep quiet about. What did it do about the report on that case? How did it strengthen its procedures and other safety measures because of it, or did it learn nothing from it and did nothing?

Whether there are other skeletons in the closet is anybody’s guess but the rumour mill, especially among the parents of international schools, is going on overdrive about the probability of other cases.

Is JIS a responsible school and as much a victim as anyone else to the evil that child predators do? Or is it an arrogant institution so full of itself that it cannot come to terms with its weaknesses – and therefore, like the protagonist in a Greek tragedy, forever condemned to perpetuate its mistakes – is anybody’s guess right now.

The pity is that the one institution (if you do not have much faith in the Police) that can help shed light on this matter and JIS’s role in it – the Press – is not asking the right questions. Unspun doesn’t know why.

Old timers  that he hangs out with say that the journalists these days just doesn’t have that pit-bull tenacity in chasing down a story any more. But that is what the older generation usually says of the younger ones.

But still, why aren’t these questions being asked by the journalists?

Read also this posting, one of very few that raises the right questions.






Repent all ye skeptics: Gen. Moeldoko’s watch is a fake

Hush ye of little faith! The Indonesian Military does not indulge in corruption.

So all the skeptics who thought that Armed Forces Commander General Moeldoko was wearing a US$100,000 Richard Mille RM 011 Felipe Massa Flyback – and therefore may be a bought man – were wrong!

The Military’s spokesperson has just revealed that the watch on the general’s wrist was actually a KW – an Indonesian term for a fake, that was bought in China. The General, apparently, has a fetish for fake watches.

(Just for interest: KW is an acronym for “kwaliti” in Indonesian. And fake goods are graded according to their quality of finishing, with KW1 being best and a degradation quality as the KW number gets larger. Then there is the super premium KW Ori, which stands for “original quality” which Unspun doesn’t really know what it means – maybe its original, factory outlet goods. Unfortunately Unspun is not a collector of KW watches).

Unspun’s said before that watches are usually a testament to the character of the wearer, so back to the same question: what does it say of the general?

Panglima TNI Hobi Koleksi Jam Palsu

Panglima TNI Hobi Koleksi Jam Palsu | -nasional- |

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Markas Besar Tentara Nasional Indonesia membantah berita media Singapura yang menyorot jam tangan mewah milik Panglima Jenderal Moeldoko. Kepala Pusat Penerangan Mabes TNI Mayor Jenderal Fuad Basya mengatakan jam tangan milik Panglima bermerek Richard Mille RM 011 Felipe Massa Flyback adalah palsu.

“Jam tangan itu buatan Tiongkok, orang bilang jam ‘KW’,” kata Fuad saat dihubungi Tempo, Rabu, 23 April 2014. Bahkan Panglima Moeldoko disebut gemar mengkoleksi jam tangan ‘KW’ alias palsu bikinan Tiongkok.

Soal harga jam tangan yang ditaksir media Singapura sekitar Rp 1,1 miliar, Fuad tak bisa berkomentar. “Ya mungkin kalau yang asli harganya segitu.” (Baca: Arloji-arloji Mewah Moeldoko Versi Media Singapura)

Menurut Fuad, Panglima Moeldoko sendiri tak mau menanggapi tudingan miring berita media Singapura. Moeldoko juga enggan mengkaitkan berita jam tangan mewahnya dengan panas-dingin hubungan Indonesia-Singapura akibat penamaan kapal perang baru milik TNI, KRI Usman Harun. “Kami takutnya suuzon,” kata Fuad.

Menurut dia, Panglima TNI berencana menggelar jumpa pers dengan wartawan siang hari ini setelah membuka sidang Filindo, kerja sama militer Filipina dan Indonesia, di Hotel Borobudur, Jakarta. Moeldoko hendak memamerkan jam tangan tersebut ke media.

Sebelumnya, media Singapura,, merilis berita tentang jam tangan mewah milik Moeldoko. Bahkan media tersebut menyebutkan Moeldoko sebagai kolektor jam tangan mewah beraneka merek.


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.


Are Buzzers worth hiring at all?

The real question that needs to be asked is: “Are Buzzers worth hiring at all?”

All but the most naive of Indonesia’s Twittersphere have come to realise that these Buzzers are all hired guns and will tweet on any product – politicians, soap, aphrodisiacs, milk, slimming powders, you name it – for the right price.

Knowing this they don’t believe them or are not influenced by their endorsers. So why pay for buzzers at all?

The reason why so many politicians and brand managers still do is that they are lazy and have no clue how to connect with today’s savvy, hyperlinked and skeptical audiences.

They can’t get their act together to figure who their actual audience is, what makes them tick and how generate their own content that is relevant and engaging.

So they take the easy way out and hire Buzzers. The question that arises here is why aren’t the CEOs wise to this and put a stop to this futile practice?

Media monitor gives Twitter advice to political parties | The Jakarta Post.

Political parties and politicians need to consider more than just how many followers as Twitter user has when looking at hiring “buzzers” for the 2014 general election, a media monitoring company says.

“The number of followers alone does not guarantee the success of engagement created via the buzzer. There are other factors to analyze and measure,” Awesometrics business analyst Hari Ambari said in an official release on Wednesday.

Awesometrics gave a number of examples, such as actor Ringgo Agus Rahman who charged Rp 5 million per message on Twitter to promote a campaign to his 1.7 million followers, while professional corporate worker Henry Manampiring could charge between Rp 5 million and Rp 15 million to “buzz” his 70,000-plus followers.

The comparison clearly showed that users with larger amounts of followers did not always receive higher prices for a “buzz”.

Hari said political parties and politicians who wished to use buzzers had to consider four other factors: the Twitter user’s potential reach, reputation, usual topics and engagement with their followers.