Pribumis, Bumiputras and the politics of race

Let’s be honest: when the word Pribumi is used, it is code for anti-Chinese. This is the same in Malaysia where the word Bumiputra is used to mean anti-Chinese.

Lining Anies’s passage to his inauguration: Not enough that you have to be a Pribumi but a Pribumi Muslim. No protection even if you’re a Pribumi.

The parallels do not stop there. The champions of the the racial ideology – Anies Baswedan in the case of the Pribumis and Mahathir Mohamad in the case of Bumiputras – are also shapeshifters. Both are of immigrant stock fashioning themselves as the torch bearers of the indigenous people.


Never too Arab to champion Pribumi rights


Mahathir who championed Bumiputraism hailed from Indian Muslims in Kerala in South India.

Mahathir’s identity card before the makeover: Never too Indian to champion Bumiputra Rights

Anies is from Arab stock and he is now claiming to champion the rights of pribumis.

Both seek to exploit the politics of race against a community that has proven easy pickings – the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Mahathir wrote his The Malay Dilemma in 1970, a year after racial riots tore through Malaysia. The cause of the riots was that the ruling Alliance (forerunner of the Barisan Nasional) for the first time lost its two-third majority in Parliament in the 1969 national elections. It was more a psychological defeat rather than a real one. They were still in power but they had lost the majority ended to amend the constitution. They also lost most of their seats to the DAP, a Chinese-based party.

Tensions rose after the elections and on May 13 1969 a riot broke out in Malaysia. The next year Mahathir came out with his book that essentially said that the Malays were the indigenous people of Malaysia; that they were too  nice and had been taken advantage of; and that affirmative action was needed to balance out the dominance of the Chinese Malaysians in the economy and commerce.

This hate mongering was effective. It propelled young Turks like Mahathir into power and allowed them to oust the Old Guard typified by Tunku Abdul Rahman, who stood for decency and moderation.

The take out from Mahathirism is that race is an easy card to play and it can be devastatingly effective. The Barisan Nasional has been in power ever since and each time it is threatened it trots out the racial card and that is enough to get it though one election after another. Even Najib, tainted as he is by the 1MDB scandal and the murder of Mongolian model Alantuya, remains in power through the Machiavellian use of racism and money politics.

Anies is embarking on the same path. His campaign was racist and he is now fashioning himself as a champion of the Pribumi. That is, as we say in Indonesia #kodekeras for anti-Chinese.

As he and Saracen have demonstrated during the gubernatorial elections, playing the racial card is effective. Ahok is now in jail and Anies-Sandi is sitting in the governor’s chair.

Like the Barisan Natsonal  who will play the race card each time there is anything to threaten their grip on power they will do the same.

What is a threat to Anies-Sandi now is accountability. They made a lot of wild promises to get elected. If they fail to deliver, even the masses that vote them in will begin to turn against them.

They need to distract the attention of the hoi polloi and redirect that energy into something else – and hating the Chinese “colonizers” of Jakarta is as convenient a target as it can get. Similarly what threatens Najib is accountability over 1MBB, so what does he do? All sorts of racial distractions such as the nonsense about Ketuanan Melayu while he quietly hocks the nation to the Chinese Chinese.

So what are the rest of us to do with such an inexorable force as racial politics?

Indonesia can be different from Malaysia where the Bumiputra is synonymous with Malay. In Malaysia the predominant non-Chinese group are the Malays (an artificial construct as most of them are keturunan Orang Jawa, Orang Minang, and even the present Prime Minister Najib is keturunan Orang Bugis – but they are all manipulated to be in one “race” the Melayu or Malay).

Non-Chinese Indonesians are so diverse in ethnicity and religions that nobody can claim to speak for them. And this is where Indonesia’s strength lies – in its diversity. #Notmypribumi seems an appropriate hashtag for anything racial Anies utters from now on.

Indonesians should also b aware of the devastating effects of racial politics. Go to Malaysia and see the harm that Mahathir has done there. People there are so polarized that they eat in different restaurants, make friends mainly only with the same “racial” groups. Each year that passes there is less tolerance and more absurdity – like the Muslim launderette owner in Johor that would accept only Muslim clients to prevent pollution from other races (race and religion are synonymous in Malaysia, thanks again to Mahathir).

The situation is so bad that parents (even Bumiputra ones) tell their children not to stay in Malaysia and to work and live overseas if they can help it.

Indonesia can do better than Malaysia and the time to act is now by refusing to fill into Anies’ scheming. Avoid giving his racial politics much credence by discussing it at length but keep focusing on what he actually does as a Governor against his election promises. At best it would force him carry these promises out – which would be the benefit of everyone. At worst, it would starve his intent to use racial politics of the reaction it needs to create a Malaysianization of Indonesian racial relations.










Jokowi’s lost the plot: time to seek professional help

Unspun was one of those people rooting for Jokowi when he was contesting against Prabowo in the presidential elections. Not because he was the best of candidates but he was the better candidate in terms of integrity.

That alone held out hope that he might be able to change Indonesia, because for sure a figure like Prabowo that reeks of Order Baru would certainly not.

So when Jokowi got voted in, like many in Indonesia Unspun cheered. Unseen cheered again when he started his administration with fresh faces like Ibu Susi and Jonan. After all, did they not have track records of starting businesses and setting Keretapi Indonesia back on the right track?

And it went well for a little while and Unspun cheered. Then things started to go awry. Jokowi started making funny decisions – the destruction of neighbouring countries’ illegal fishing vessels, imposing the death penalty…and then the KPK-Police issue flared.

Like many in Indonesia Unspun was disappointed with his initial reaction, which was to equivocate. But the eternal optimist, Unspun still held out hopes for Jokowi.

Unlike most people Unspun, through counselling business leaders in crisis situations, could appreciate what a difficult place he was in, hemmed in on all sides by Megawati, Surya Paloh, Jusuf Kalla, his recently disillusioned supporters and the Police and the KPK.

In the previous posting Unspun suggested that the supporters should perhaps try to pressure the Police and the KPK instead to follow procedures. It would give Jokowi room to manoeuvre.

Then there was today’s interview with Kompas TV.

It was a disaster. He appeared unsure, tentative, had no mastery of the subject at hand and not only did not say anything substantial he did not even look the part of a decisive leader appealing for patience as he resolved things.

He fumbled and hummed and hawed even when he was asked softball questions. In short Jokowi shows all signs that he’s lost the plot.

Whomever is advising him is doing a very bad job at it. One never puts out the spokesperson without preparing him for it by doing dry runs, anticipating the questions that he’ll be facing and rehearsing, rehearsing and rehearsing until he can not only deliver the message, but deliver it in a persuasive manner.

It is time that Jokowi realises that how a president performs in public will determine how the public thinks of him, and can make the difference whether people continue to believe in him.

If he or his advisors have even half a brain at all they would turn to professional advisors and trainers in interview techniques. The nation has lots of qualified media trainers. If they don’t do this it may sooner than later cost them the Presidency.

Then we’d be back to business as usual with the Corrupt holding sway over everything.



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.










Najib and the PSYchology of BN persuasion

Unspun mudik-ed to his kampung in Malaysia for the Chinese New Year and was tickled pink by the desperate efforts of the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s attempt to shore up his support among the Chinese community for the upcoming national elections that must be held  in the first half of this year.

The context to this desperation is that Najib, who heads the Barisan Nasional, a coalition of race-based parties, that has ruled Malaysia in one form or another since Independence in 1958, has been losing popularity.

In the early days when Malaysians were easier to be duped the party, particularly under Mahathir on, played the nationalist card and fears of mayhem if the coalition lost their two-thirds majority in Parliament.

The formula for electoral victory was simple and effective. Gerrymeander the electoral districts so that a party that had the support of the Malays as a solid voting bloc would always win. The calculation was that if most Malays voted for the Barisan Nasional or BN, and the votes of the Chinese or Indians living in the electoral districts were split, the Barisan Nasional would win.

They then spiced up the electioneering by playing on the fears of the populace by spreading rumours that an opposition victory would destabilise the country and cause racial riots, ad hominem attacks and lots of money and a smooth-running electoral machine.

This all worked when the economic pie was working for Malaysia. But somewhere in the early 2000s the growth of Malaysia began to slow down. The pie shrunk and the inner circles within Umno (the Malay-based dominant partner in the coalition) began to scramble for the limited resources. Corruption escalated.

The fortunes of the Barisan Nasional began to slide even further after Mahathir stepped down and was replaced by Abdullah Badawi, who did not have the vision and the ruthlessness of Mahathir to drive the country forward and keep the Umno elite from their rapacious scramble for mollah.

Badawi, predictably, did not last and was quickly replaced by Najib, son of second the late Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Razak. Like many scions of the elite Najib grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, went to the best schools in the UK and had no clue about the rough and tumble of realpolitik.

The feeling that Malaysians have about Najib is that he’s smart enough to figure out that corruption is eroding the support of Umno and the Barisan Nasional, and ruining the country. But he’s so hemmed in by the Umno elite whose main preoccupation these days is to rake in as much as they can while the ship sinks that he’s helpless to do anything.

Their rapacity has resulted in even the Malays withdrawing their support for the Barisan Nasional ruining the age-old formula of victory that the BN had relied on through gerrymeandering and social engineering.

Which leads us to the extent of desperation that Najib is showing in courting not only the Malays but also the Chinese, the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia, a task usually outsourced to their junior BN partner the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA). The probem with the MCA, however, is that it can’t deliver any votes because it has lost all credibility with the Chinese. The president of the MCA, for instance, is Choi Soo Lek a 60 plus Chinese whose most notable claim to fame was to star in a leaked video of him and a prostitute in a cheesy hotel.

So Najib now has to court the Chinese themselves. Unspun doesn’t know who’s advising him but it would make a Public Relations professional cringe at the bad advice that he’s getting and the horrible execution of events.

For a joke Unspun’s friends gave him this “any pow” (literally Red Packets containing money  that Chinese give to their juniors during Chinese New Year). Najib’s answer?


An “Ang Pow” with his face on the cover (the moustache and weak mouth is a turnoff to most Malaysian). But the juxtapositioning of his face and the year of the snake (they couldn’t get their English right even then) seems to suggest that Najib is a snake. Doesn’t his PR people pay attention to things like that?

Serperntine travails aside Najib also tried a different beat in his new year TVC to the Chinese. So you have here a so called Malay leader whose record has been one of championing the rights of Malays (against the Chinese who would swamp them with their economic prowess if their rights are not protected) doing something very Chinese-y, some would say cheesy. Notice the bad editing where the weak mouth and moustache gets a cameo role.

As if that was not enough, the BN sought to cash in on the popularity of PSY and his Ganggnam Style that has take the world and Malaysians by storm. But Najib forgot that while you can bring the horse to water you can’t make it drink (no pun intended). It resulted in this embarrassing what they hoped to be the rallying of the troops.


All goes to show: you can fool some of the people all the time; all the people some of the time; but never all the people all the time.

Najib should change image consultants. Better still, he should just resign and enjoy retirement and no amount of image making can help him increase his and BN’s electoral chances in the short span of time they have left before the next elections.


How much do you love Brand Bakrie?

A brand, as we all know, is the manifestation of the brand promise, a reflection of the brand’s values and a mirror to its acceptance by the market.

Now, how much more electable is Golkar when associated with the Bakrie brand? Does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy or elicits violent reactions from your bile?

Unspun has no answers and so would like to solicit answers from the readers in this simple quiz.



Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie speaks during the opening of a party meeting in Jakarta in February. (Antara Photo)

Golkar Lawmakers to Spend Rp 10m Each on Bakrie-Branded Campaign Merch. | The Jakarta Globe.

Golkar Party lawmakers will have to spend Rp 10 million ($1,090) each on merchandise emblazoned with party chairman Aburizal Bakrie’s face as part of his 2014 presidential campaign, a party member said on Monday.

The purchase — which is mandatory for party members — is proof of politicians’ loyalty to the party, Golkar Party lawmaker Bambang Soesatyo said.

“We all support this move… We’re even ready to give more than Rp 10 million,” he added.

The packages– each consisting of 1,000 bags and banners — will be distributed to electoral districts in the coming weeks, explained Nurul Arifin, another party lawmaker.

Nurul said that party members were happy to purchase the goods.

“It is mandatory [to purchase] it. But, members basically don’t mind because it is part of our contribution to the party,” Nurul said.

The merchandise is part of efforts to drum up early support for the business tycoon’s 2014 presidential bid, she added.


Watch the watches

Unspun some time ago marveled at the timepiece, that looked like a Richard Mille, worn by then Police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri when he was denying corruption charges against the police.

Time passed (you can see the puns coming in this posting, can’t you?) and recently Indonesia’s lawmakers were taken to task for their sporting of Rolex watches, expensive but obviously not in the same league as the Police Chief.

Here’s a report from Indonesia today on the latest slap on the wrist:


TUESDAY, 28 FEBRUARY 2012 19:21
JAKARTA, Indonesia Today – Public discussed intensely about luxurious lifestyle of Indonesian lawmakers. The discussion was triggered by confessions of several lawmakers wearing Rolex, a luxurious branded watch.

Ruhut Sitompul, lawmaker from President SBY’s Demokrat Party, has confessed that he already used Rolex watch with price tag of Rp450 million. According to Ruhut, he bought Rolex Yacht Master II when he served as a lawyer in 2007. Ruhut believed that there are many lawmakers wearing Rolex like him. “If lawmakers wear it (Rolex), it’s appropriate,” said Ruhut this morning (Feb 28).

Anis Matta, PKS lawmaker, also admitted that he wears Rolex he bought around 4-5 years ago for Rp70 million. “It’s more about functions. Rolex watch is only an accessory, not a hobby,” said Anis, who is also deputy House Speaker.

Golkar lawmaker, Bambang Soesatyo, who is famous for riding Bentley, however, admitted of wearing only US$1,000 watches.

What people say about Lawmakers with Rolex. Here are some comments of them:

“That’s why its name is DPR = Dewan Perwakilan Rolex (read: House of Rolex Representatives),” said one reader jokingly.

“It’s only diverting public attention from corruption issues,” said another reader reminded.

“Bloody Bastard you corruptors,” told another reader angrily.

“It’s impossible if they bought it with their salaries,” one twitter account accused.

“How pathetic!” another twitter account protested.

“Okay it’s your rights, but that’s not wise,” another twitter account complained.

“Rolex?! It’s elegant, really?! I think the lawmakers do not know about Louis Moinet and Bell & Ross,” another twitter account jokingly suggested.

“I bet they never heard of Hublot! Hahaa,”  said another twitter account.

It’s not the first time public have criticized lawmaker’s luxurious lifestyle. Public previously criticized lawmakers for their luxurious cars. (

What is it with Indonesian officials and politicians and the need to flaunt their wealth that they would never make if they earned only an honest salary? Time after time, they show off their ill gotten and with seemingly impunity. Why has no government agency investigated them for carrying so much money on their wrists?

The Dutch are responsible for all ills

You have to wonder where there is an expiry date for the sins that the Dutch perpetrated on Indonesia.

Sure, the Dutch who colonized Indonesia were not exactly the most savory of colonizers and they did a lot of harm in Indonesia but when, oh when, will Indonesians like taxman Fuad Rahmany say: “Enough already! It’s time we took responsibility for our actions rather than blame the Dutch.”

Sadly, however, he is not alone. Unspun’s seen too many incidents like this to think its an isolated case of passing the buck, or Guilder, as the case may be. This habit – of not taking responsibility for their actions – seems endemic.

Could it be because of the Joyoboyo Sindrome, where individuals cannot make a difference and the only hope they have of better times is to wait for the Ratu Adil to come save them.

But hang on…is Unspun falling into the trap of blaming present attitudes on a 12th Century soothsayer…. ?


Dirjen Pajak: Korupsi, Penyakit Kronis Sejak Zaman VOC

Foto: Angga/detikFinance

Jakarta – Direktur Jenderal (Dirjen) Pajak Fuad Rahmany menyatakan korupsi merupakan penyakit kronis di Indonesia yang telah ada sejak zaman VOC. Proses pembangunan yang cepat menjadi pemicu berkembangnya korupsi di Indonesia.

“Korupsi ini kita semua menyadari sebagai penyakit yang kronis bagi bangsa Indonesia karena sudah lama berlangsung. Kalau kita baca buku sejarah dan koran-koran, sejak kita merdeka praktik korupsi sudah terjadi tapi sporadis atau satu-satu. VOC juga mengalami penyakit korupsi,” jelas Fuad dalam peringatan Hari Anti Korupsi di Kantor Pusat Ditjen Pajak, Jalan Gatot Subroto, Jakarta, Selasa (6/12/2012).

Fuad mengatakan, upaya pemberantasan korupsi sudah dilakukan sejak dulu, namun belum bisa diberantas habis.

“Jadi korupsi semakin besar karena kesempatan besar akibat proses pembangunan yang cepat,” kata Fuad.

Mantan Ketua Badan Pengawas Pasar Modal dan Lembaga Keuangan (Bapapam LK) ini mengatakan dirinya adalah mantan aktivis saat menjadi mahasiswa Universitas Indonesia di 1974 saat peristiwa Malari berlangsung.

“Tema demo saat itu anti investasi asing yang dibakar Toyota Astra Motor. Tapi kalau anda lihat benihnya adalah kolusi antara penguasa saat itu dengan investor asing. Saat itu harus ada upeti dari investor ke penguasa,” jelasnya.

Karena itu dia meminta para pegawai Ditjen Pajak yang menurutnya adalah instansi tulang punggung negara untuk sama-sama memberantas korupsi sampai nol.


Who shall cast the first (subsequent) stone at the lavish and ostentatious legislators?

Before any of us cast the first subsequent stones, deservedly, at the parliamentarians, it is perhaps wise for us to ask what role we in Indonesian society play in condoning and encouraging such ostentatious and shameless displays of (often ill gotten) wealth.

Do we, as a society, shun them or at least avoid them at social functions and the parties they throw,or do cozy up to them and eagerly attend their lavish parties? Do we give that skeptical look when their children flaunt their Hermes handbags, Laubotin shoes and fancy cars or salivate over them and toady to the “rich and famous?”

Unspun suspects that Indonesian society, especially among the elites, not only do not frown on the obviously corrupt lawmakers and their families but actually fawn over them. So who is the guilty one here for all this corruption? The legislators or our very own Washed, Perfumed and Beautiful People that form the upper crust of Indonesian society? Who shall cast the first subsequent stone after Busro Muqqodas and Marzuki Alie, on a good day?

The story below is in The Jakarta Globe today:

Marzuki Defends Lifestyles of Indonesia’s Rich and Elected

Busyro Muqoddas

House of Representatives Speaker Marzuki Alie has found himself in a familiar position, back on the defensive over the extravagance of legislators.

Even while acknowledging a small problem with lawmakers living “hedonistic lifestyles,” he attacked the head of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for making that same claim.

Busyro Muqoddas, the KPK head, this week criticized lawmakers for their shows of wealth, which he said were out of place for so-called people’s representatives. And on Tuesday, Constitutional Court chairman Mahfud M.D. called on lawmakers to curb their extravagance.

Marzuki, from the president’s Democratic Party, responded by saying that Busyro should focus on his own job. “Stop with the inflammatory statements,” he said.

He also denied Busyro’s claim that most lawmakers lived lives of luxury. “Not even 5 percent live these hedonistic lifestyles, and we’ve been calling on those who do to change,” he said.

But many, including the coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch, Adnan Topan Husodo, aren’t buying Marzuki’s defense.

He said the reality was that many lawmakers were showing off their wealth, including when they visit their constituents in luxury cars with security escorts.

And many people have pointed out that the parking lot at the House often resembles a luxury car lot.

Marzuki, though, says the critics are being unfair. “We can’t forbid people from becoming rich, we cannot. But if they enter the legislature, they should live like true representatives of the people,” he said.

But Adnan said lawmakers needed to learn how to take criticism. “They overreact to everything. This is a reflection of their oversensitivity,” he said.

Bambang Soesatyo, a vocal lawmaker from the Golkar Party who was independently wealthy before entering the legislature, however, said Busyro was on target in his criticism

“Public officials, including lawmakers, should not forget who elected them and not be lured by power,” he said.

Ruhut Sitompul, who was a successful lawyer before he became a lawmaker, said that although he had several luxury cars, he drove an Innova to work.

Ruhut also joked that he knew of several lawmakers who used public transportation before being elected and were now being driven around in luxury cars.

Mahfud, from the Constitutional Court, said the lure of the luxury lifestyle ended up snagging many lawmakers.

He said it was obvious that many members of the House suddenly found themselves awash in mansions, fast cars and financial assets after entering the legislature.

The problem, he said, is not the existing laws on corruption, but a decline in morality among the nation’s elected officials. If officials are corrupt, he said, they will find ways around anticorruption laws.

“It is true that not all lawmakers are like that. Bambang Soesatyo , for example, I know was already rich before. But many suddenly became rich after becoming lawmakers,” he said.

The desperation behind move to abolish Malaysia’s Press Law

Unspun’s alter ego had his five micro-seconds of fame in the Malaysian newspaper The Star this morning. And since Unspun’s an advocate that bloggers mainly put a context to news items let me put the context on the news item below.

The Printing Presses and Publications Act in Malaysia is a law that successive Malaysian governments have used as one of their instruments of controlling the Press. Essentially it requires any news publication to seek a license from the Government before they can be published. As such the Government can threaten what it considers uncooperative media houses with revoking the license unless they toe the line.

The Act has been around for decades and used mainly to get the editors to self-censor their contents. Why there is now talk of repealing the act is that the Malaysian Government coalition which comprises Umno (Malay-based) and the Malaysian Chinese Association is in, to put it mildly, in deep poo pooh. Voter support has been dropping drastically and they face an upcoming general election.

In deepest poo pooh is the leader of Umno and the government coalition, Najib Abdul Rahman, who is also the Prime Minister. He’s a well-meaning enough person but weak in character and political clout. Observers say he realizes that the government is unpopular because of the rampant corruption within its ranks, and he genuinely wants to change the way things are done. But he’s held ransom by the Umno chieftains who have for too long grown fat on the largest of office and would not let anything tip their applecart.

So poor Najib has been forced to seek help from all sorts of sources to boost his popularity that would make a snake oil salesman seem respectable. He, for instance, once appointed APCO to boost his image. That got nowhere fast. In a fit of desperation he even tried to make himself look “young and cool” by pulling a prank on a DJ (Imagine Najib going: “Ha! Punk’d you”). All it did was to make him look as ridiculous as a middle-aged man trying to look hip and cool in a florid Versace shirt, tight pants and white shoes.

His latest desperate gambit was to present himself as a reforming politician, so me mooted the idea of repealing the much hated Printing Presses and Publications Act.

In not as deep, but deep enough, poo poo are his cohorts in the Malaysian Chinese Association. This political party was supposed to represent the interests of the Chinese in Malaysia but after the first generation of leaders what they did was to represent their own business interests best. Riddled by factional in-fighting and a slew of uncharismatic leaders, the MCA also has seen its support from the Chinese community dwindle.

So now, also in a fit of desperation, they have taken to making a virtue of necessity and have come up with a New Deal Manifesto in which it hopes to be seen as a champion of a more democratic Malaysian society by calling for an abolition of the Printing Presses Act.

This is all political opportunism that is unconvincing to anyone who knows anything about malaysian politics and the Malaysian Press.

The Act is but one of the instruments of control used by the government. The other instruments are the Internal Security Act (there is also talk of abolishing it, to be replaced by an Anti-Terrorist Act), the Police, the Judiciary, political patronage (just try to name any chief editor in any major Malaysian media that is politically unfettered), self-censorship and coziness (as in junkets and golf games).

Moreover, the Malaysian Press has been so neutered in the past decade or so that it is difficult to imagine it nurturing anyone with the integrity, calibre and courage to make use of whatever freedoms the abolition of the Act may bestow to run a kick-ass newsroom.

So take it for what the hullabaloo about the abolition of the Printing Presses and Publications Act really is: desperate political gambits by politicians who are fast losing ground. That’s Unspun’s context on the news anyway. You might want to peruse the actual news itself below:

Unshackle to move with the times

Under its New Deal manifesto, the MCA is calling for the Printing Presses and Publications Act to be abolished to allow free flow of information.


IT is not the easiest of times to be a print journalist in Malaysia. While foreign journalists dodge bullets in the Middle East, over here, print journalists are dodging restrictions from the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and blows from a critical public hungry for a free press.

The choice is for online news, blogs and social media which are not subject to the Act and thus enjoy greater freedom. But for Malaysians, the print media is rendered more pro-establishment while the alternative media is deemed more pro-opposition…


Ong Hock Chuan, a Malaysian communications consultant and blogger based in Indonesia where the press enjoys unfettered freedom cautions against equating bloggers with journalists.

“Journalists usually come up with the news, bloggers add a context (a comment, criticism) to the news – similar but different functions in the flow of information,” says Ong.

A free press, adds Ong, does not instantly produce good journalism as it requires a combination of factors.

“Good journalism is a complex mix of factors – ownership, owner’s vision and philosophy, calibre, integrity and courage of editors are some of the main factors to consider.”

Rest of story here

Justice goofed is justice denied

The Keystone Cops couldn’t do any better. The Indonesian Justice Minister, according to The Jakarta Globe story below,  wants to nab Nazaruddin, but he doesn’t want him to know about it and refuses to divulge where they think Nazaruddin is. And then he tells the national press that when team will be leaving?

Now let me get this right. In effect the Justice Minister is saying to Nazaruddin: “We know where you’re hiding now and we’re sending a team to nab you tonight. But because I won’t tell anyone where you’re holed up in, you’ll be lulled into a false sense of security and won’t bolt from wherever you are right now (that we know but you don’t know that we know because we haven’t told you).”

Yeah, right. Patrialis wins a shit-for-brains tag for this excellent feat of enforcement.Is it any wonder that they just can’t quite bring him to book.

Justice Minister Employs Team to Nab Nazaruddin

Makassar. Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar has announced that a team from his ministry is leaving for an undisclosed location to track down fugitive graft suspect Muhammad Nazaruddin.

“The team will leave tonight,” the minister said on Tuesday. “But the destination will not be revealed because it is feared he will escape again.”

He also declined to say how many people were in the team, only revealing that it included representatives from his ministry, the immigration office and the National Police.

Read More here

Salvation for Sri Mulyani, purgatory for the rest of us?

Sri Mulyani, it would seem from the excerpts below from her farewell speech dressed up as a public lecture yesterday , has saved herself from the forces of corruption.

Rather than be tortured daily by the Ical Inquisition and be subjected to political decisions dominated by Aburizal Bakrie she has opted to quit and join the World Bank.

Good for her. Her escape is as inspiring and as poignant as nathan Hawke’s character in the movie Gattaca.

But what about the rest of us? We are left to wallow in the twilight of purgatory, where there is no complete darkness but where the light of certainty, logic and justice does not shine either.

clipped from

“There are several parties saying that I’m running away, or that I have lost the battle,” she said in a lecture billed as a talk on ethics and public policy. “I have won … because they were not able to dictate to me, and I have not betrayed my pride and conscience.”

In her strongest remarks since the announcement of her resignation two weeks ago, she stopped short of naming her opponents but made it clear that the political battle that began late last year when the Golkar Party led a House investigation into the Century affair had resulted in an uncomfortable reality.

“I am not a politician, but I understand politics,” she told a packed ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Pacific Place. “There has been a marriage of two political sides and it will not uphold the public’s needs,” she said in an apparent reference to the fallout from the Bank Century case and recent moves to bring Golkar closer to the president’s ruling coalition. “I cannot afford to be part of it.”
blog it

Sometimes it seems like the darkness is gathering. Consider today’s headlines, for instance:

Is This Statue So Divisive it Has to Go? In Bekasi, Yes

House Investigates Fresh Allegations Involving Tax Directorate

Susno: comeback king or a wounded bull in a china shop?

I’ve said my piece in the Jakarta Globe article below. What do you think?

Susno Duadji. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

Susno Duadji. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

NGO Testing Susno’s Food for Poison

Susno Duadji says he has taken steps to ensure his safety after making corruption allegations against fellow officers in the National Police.

“I’m not a little boy anymore. I calculated the risks before I opened my mouth. I’m not afraid. I know the National Police institution and I have taken preventive measures,” the former National Police chief detective told

He said he anticipated the possibility of being slandered, attacked, imprisoned and even murdered.

“I don’t stay in one place anymore now. It’s not safe for me anymore,” he said.

Susno has even enlisted an NGO to sample his food lest he be poisoned.

“We’re guarding his health because he’s under a lot of pressures,” said Dr Joserizal Jurnalis of the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee or MER-C.

Susno appears to have made a remarkable comeback in the public sphere. Reviled late last year as king of the corrupt “crocodiles” in a battle against the “geckoes” of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), he now presents himself as a man risking his life to battle graft. He has even been mentioned as a candidate to lead the KPK. 

But talk of Susno heading the antigraft agency comes from politicians “with an axe to grind,” says media strategist Ong Hock Chuan of Jakarta’s Maverick public relations firm.

“The press picks up those interpretations and presents them as fact,” said Ong, who dismissed the notion that Susno could actually get the position.

Meanwhile, Ong suspects Susno’s actions are not a strategy to reinvent himself but simply an attempt at revenge. The longtime police officer was removed from his position in the wake of the KPK scandal.

“I think he’s like a bull in a china shop, a wounded bull. It’s about getting back at the people who cost him his career,” he said.