One small step for a Muslim, one giant leap for our eardrums?

Apres lui, le déluge? One can only hope

Indonesian Wins Rare Victory Against Noisy Mosque | The Jakarta Globe

Banda Aceh. An elderly Indonesian said Monday he had won a rare victory against a noisy mosque, despite being forced to withdraw legal action after an angry mob threatened to kill him.

Complaints against the loud speakers issuing the call to prayer have been met with extreme opposition in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation that is home to about 800,000 mosques.

And when Sayed Hasan, 75, filed a lawsuit in December in the city of Banda Aceh, in which he complained of being disturbed by lengthy recordings of Koranic verses, it was met with strong protests from the community.

But Hasan, a Muslim, said despite being taken to see the deputy mayor and Muslim leaders, and then being escorted to the court where he was forced to withdraw his legal suit, he had ultimately won a rare victory.

“I was forced to withdraw my lawsuit as an angry mob threatened to kill me,” he said. “But after I dropped my case, the volume was significantly turned down by about half.”

A local Muslim leader said the imam had decided to reduce the noise.

City dwellers in Indonesia are often woken up before dawn by intermingling calls to prayer from three or four nearby mosques. Many also blare Koranic verses or broadcast day-long events through loudspeakers.

Ninety percent of Indonesia’s 240 million citizens are Muslim. While most practice a moderate form, Aceh province has implemented Sharia law, which is enforced by special Islamic police.

Agence France-Presse

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?

Image

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.

 

The vibrancy of The Jakarta Globe’s editorial pages

The vibrancy of a newspaper’s opinion page usually lies with the letters to the editor, arguing for or against a proffered opinion from its stable of writers.

By this measure The Jakarta Globe certainly has a vibrant editorial page, if only online.

The recent opinion piece by Berita Satu Media Holdings group publisher (below) is unorthodox, to say the least, in the ideas it expresses but the real gem there are the comments that its readers have posted. Not since the Globe’s Lady Gaga editorial has The Jakarta Globe attracted such diverse comments.

So Bravo Jakarta Globe for the vibrancy and efforts to keep free speech alive. Make sure you click on the link and go to the comments.

Letter to the Editor: For Jakarta Deputy Governor, a Post-Meeting Memo | The Jakarta Globe

Thursday afternoon, at around 6:15 p.m., was a painful moment for me, a resident of Jakarta who had the noble intention of meeting with his deputy governor to provide input on efforts to overcome the city’s many problems. I appreciated the fact that Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama clearly wanted to engage with citizens and had quickly agreed to the meeting. But the experience soon turned into a bitter one because of the inappropriate behavior of the deputy governor and the presence of individuals who were not officials but who appeared to have an exclusive right to be inside the working office of the deputy governor.

As a citizen hoping for a sign that there would be something different compared to the leadership of the previous governor, I came with ideas I thought worthy of consideration — such as a short-term answer to Jakarta’s notorious traffic congestion.

I am fully aware that I am no expert in city planning, or an expert in overcoming transportation problems. But as a resident of the city, I feel called to contribute to progress. The idea proposed may not have been a holistic solution, but a leader should at some point have the courage to make a decision, no matter how hard this is, rather than basking in a never-ending discourse. Residents are tired of hearing their leaders complain or blame each other. What residents are waiting for are breakthrough policies that could at least signal that there is an effort by the government to improve conditions.

Back to the atmosphere at the meeting that afternoon.

After some brief small talk, I presented the idea to help reduce congestion through vehicle-color-based restrictions on certain roads — an idea that I have presented on various occasions since 2010. For this Thursday afternoon, I had prepared a paper explaining this effort, which I was to hand over to the deputy governor after the brief presentation.

The gist of my thinking is that whatever the policy undertaken by the government, it should at least show the public that it has the courage to try and take steps that could be implemented in a brief period of time. The most logical solution, I think, is to manage the traffic based on a restriction on vehicles. Of course, the government should at the same time work hard to prepare a solution that is more holistic and long-term.

However, I had not even completed my explanation of the main points before the deputy governor interrupted to say that there already is an abundance of studies on how to alleviate the city’s congestion. Some in a regulatory form, others involving a rejuvenation of the fleet of city buses and also long-term solutions through better management of macro transportation patterns. But whichever choice is made, these are not short-term solutions, as all would need time. Each proposal has its own weakness and could prompt protests from the public if implemented.

I do understand what the deputy governor was saying about the difficulties the authorities were facing, but as a leader, it would have been great if the deputy governor had been able to listen enthusiastically and respectfully — paying full attention to his conversation partner and allowing him to make his point.

But what happened instead? The deputy governor’s warm and friendly welcome was quickly overshadowed by a situation that was certainly not worthy of a deputy governor and his close entourage. While I was explaining the reasons for the visit that afternoon — to try and help create short-term breakthroughs to curb traffic congestion — the deputy governor was busy typing on his BlackBerry.

I initially thought the deputy governor was busy processing my input, but it turned out that he was in fact communicating with others. Even more painful was that while the deputy governor was busy with his own thoughts, a member of his staff repeatedly interrupted the conversation and addressed the deputy governor using the “loe-gue” jargon for “you” and “me.” I really did not get the impression that I was in the office of a deputy governor. Civility and protocol were simply ignored. This is something that is unacceptable in our culture.

The deputy governor’s attempt to strive for egalitarianism, to not overly crave respect and to try to avoid excessive protocol is commendable and should be supported. However, this does not mean that in a civilized society, the deputy governor’s working environment can do away with the spirit of respecting the institution of a deputy governor as a symbol of leadership. The loe-gue jargon is perfectly acceptable in daily interaction, but it is not appropriate for use in the official environment of a leader like the capital city’s deputy governor.

The encounter offers a valuable lesson for those who have chosen to dedicate their lives to public service: learn to be a role model for the people, learn to listen. And stop complaining and blaming each other, because now is the time to really do something.

Peter F. Gontha is the group publisher of BeritaSatu Media Holdings, of which the Jakarta Globe is a part.

 

How the Foke solves traffic problems

Unspun thinks that critics are unnecessarily unkind to Jakarta Governor and gubernatorial candidate Fauzi Bowo, aka The Foke.

The man is beleaguered by the problems of a huge megapolis that are not easy to solve but when confronted by a problem he wastes no time to rise to the occassion. Take, for instance, his resourcefulness when confronted by a massive traffic jam in Cilincing, Jakarta, some time ago (but revived in social media recently).

Lesser men like Menteri BUMN Dahlan Iskan would have thrown a tantrum and tried to get the traffic moving, or fumed impotently in his car. Not The Foke though. With lightning reflexes he solved the problem of the traffic jam, or at least the problem of him being stuck in the traffic jam, right away.

His solution: get his outriders to clear the way on the other side of the road. Stop oncoming traffic so he could get to where he wanted in quick time.

Of course, churlish critics may whine, that The Foke caused an even greater traffic jam, broke the law and showed a bad example to other motorists. But such are the considerations of lesser mortals, not the likes of someone as brilliant and resourceful of the incumbent mayor.

So right on Foke! Vote for Foke and witness the brilliance of his traffic-busting solutions! And yes, The Foke wins a shit-for-brains tag for his ingenuity as well.

(Thanks Harry for the Alert)

FPI’s complaint about being kept out of Central Kalimantan: Rasain Deh!

The irony of this story is too delicious. Only one phrase captures what FPI deserves: Rasain deh!

Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts and Habib Rizieq’s FPI

Here are two different but fascinating stories. It takes place in different countries and different times, but they both tell the story about how you can fool (and intimidate) all the people some of the time but  not all the people all the time.

The first is set in the US in the 1950s, when the country was gripped by Cold War Tensions. Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy exploited the fears and uncertainties and claimed that he had a list of Communists and Soviet sympathizers in the US Government and society.

Thereafter, using Senate Hearings as his bully pulpit he proceeded to launch a witch hunt against the putative Communists. Many innocent lives were affected. Careers were destroyed and some of his victims took their own lives.

For a moment he seemed unassailable. If you spoke out against then that meant you were a Communist or a sympathizer. There were some dissenting voices but by and large most people were afraid to provoke the ire of McCarthy because of his thuggish and intimidating tactics.

Then one fine day, the mirror cracked. McCarthy was trying to implicate a young man who belonged to the law firm of US Army legal counsel Joseph Welch in senate hearing that was broadcast live on TV. Welch stood up to McCarthy in his now famous “You Have no Decency” response (see YouTube video below) and it was over. From there McCarthy was exposed for the charlatan he was and stripped bare. People realized that the King had no clothes and McCarty went on a downward spiral. The Senate censured him and he died 10 years later, supposedly of a heart attack but widely suspected of dying from alcoholism.

The second story is set in present day Indonesia, which is in the grip of indecision and political intrigue between the various political parties and government institutions . Habib Riziq exploited this situation to build his base of support  in Jakarta through the FPI and is now trying to extend his influence in the rest of this country.

His tactics, like, Mccarthy’s are similar. Thuggism that intimidates dissenting voices. The FPI has been threatening people and even the police with impunity. Even though there are dissenting voices, people are generally afraid of confronting him or the FPI. They not only destroy lives but also property.

Now comes  the fine day yesterday in which hundreds of people from the Dayak community in Kalimantan stood up to Habib and the FPI by banning him from landing in Palankaraya airport and rejecting the FPI’s presence in their backyard. Is this Indonesia’s “You have no decency” moment?

Langkah Suku Dayak Tolak FPI Bisa Jadi Contoh – Nasional – Beritasatu.com

“Ini momentum bagi masyarakat lain, bisa jadi contoh untuk jangan diam saja kalau melihat ada benih-benih intoleransi,” kata Bonar.

Keberanian masyarakat adat suku Dayak untuk menolak keberadaan Front Pembela Islam FPI di Provinsi Kalimantan Tengah harus dihargai dan menjadi contoh bagi masyarakat lain untuk berani menentang benih-benih intoleransi antar umat beragama.

“Keberanian masyarakat Dayak untuk menolak FPI secara terbuka itu harus kita hargai, dan seharusnya menjadi inspirasi bagi yang lain untuk berani bicara dan bertindak melawan intoleransi,” kata Wakil Ketua Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, hari ini.

Ratusan masyarakat adat Dayak di Palangkaraya menolak kedatangan anggota FPI ke kota tersebut dalam rangka tablig akbar, karena khawatir keberadaan mereka akan mengganggu keharmonisan antar umat beragama di Provinsi Kalteng.Menurut Bonar, penolakan tersebut sangat wajar dan bisa dimengerti mengingat catatan aksi FPI.”FPI kan sudah ada di Kalimantan Timur, mereka sudah melakukan sweeping beberapa kali dan bahkan menganggu komunitas Ahmadiyah di Samarinda. Wajar kalau para pemuda Dayak khawatir kalau kejadian yang sama akan terulang di provinsi mereka,” kata Bonar.

Menurutnya, ada lebih banyak lagi pengikut Ahmadiyah di provinsi Kalimantan Tengah, bahkan jumlahnya adalah yang terbesar di provinsi Kalimantan.Lebih jauh Bonar menambahkan bahwa penolakan masyarakat adat Dayak terhadap keberadaan FPI tetap membutuhkan alasan yang sangat kuat agar tidak menentang hak umum untuk berserikat dan mendirikan organisasi.

Bonar juga mengatakan sebaiknya dijalin dialog antara kedua pihak dan FPI harus berjanji bahwa mereka tidak akan melakukan tindakan kekerasan dan melanggar hukum.”Jika mereka tidak mau menurut syarat tersebut, barulah bisa ditolak keberadaannya,” kata Bonar.Bonar menambahkan radikalisme adalah hal yang tidak mungkin bisa dihindarkan, namun selagi para penganut kepercayaan radikal tersebut tidak melakukan tindak kekerasan atau menyebarkan pesan kebencian maka keberadaannya masih bisa ditoleransi.

“Ini momentum bagi masyarakat lain, bisa jadi contoh untuk jangan diam saja kalau melihat ada benih-benih intoleransi,” kata Bonar.

Bringing the efficiencies of the Bumi boardroom to the government

Would how a man run his business be an indication of how he would run the country if he were president?

Assume this is true and we would have an interesting thought exercise of how Bakrie would run Indonesia.

Imagine Indonesia in 2015. An anti corruption group, headed by a prominent Indonesian whose credibility and integrity is well established and who has a stature in international forums, calls a press conference to say that the Government is corrupt and needs a radical clean up. They then detail specific areas where it needs to get its act together. We can assume that they have tried working within the system and failed miserably. Out of sheer frustration they turn to the Press, hoping that some publicity would shame the Government into acting.

The Government spokesperson reacts, and instead of addressing the problems brought up or being open minded enough to say they’ll investigate, decides to chide the Anti-corruption group for not following protocol; if they are unhappy with the Government.

“The Anti-Corruption Group hasn’t addressed these issues with us,” the spokesman said, referring to at the petition by the group where they outlined their grievances with the Government.

“If they want to raise any issues, as a citizens, we would expect them to follow accepted procedures and raise concerns at the proper forums (such as KPK, the House Commissions and the Police that would be functioning as business units of Government Inc. by then) and at the appropriate time.”

Did a chill just go up you spine? One went up mine when I read the story below from The Jakarta Globe:

 

Rothschild Calls for Clean-Up at Bakrie’s Bumi Resources

Rothschild in happier times

 

British financier Nathaniel Rothschild has criticized the management and corporate governance at Bumi Resources, the Indonesian coal company he is trying to transform into a top-tier global miner, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

The newspaper said it has seen a letter written by Rothschild calling for a “radical cleaning up” of Bumi, the Jakarta-based affiliate of London-listed Bumi Plc.

Rothschild is co-chairman of the London-listed firm, his joint venture with Indonesia’s politically connected Bakrie family that holds a 29 percent stake in Bumi Resources.

Aburizal Bakrie is the chairman of the Golkar Party.

“Both myself and the Bakries need an immediate transformation of the way you are choosing to manage PT Bumi Resources,” Rothschild wrote in his letter to Ari Hudaya, a long-time Bakrie family lieutenant who is chief executive of both PT Bumi Resources and Bumi.

It was the first public sign of strains in the relationship between the two business dynasties, who investors applauded a year ago for creating the world’s biggest thermal coal company.

In an interview with the FT, Rothschild said his relationship with the Bakries, major shareholders of Bumi, “is just fine,” adding that they would be “thrilled when they read a copy of this letter.”

Chris Fong, a spokesman for the Bakrie family, whose financial difficulties forced them to sell half of their Bumi stake this month, said the letter had taken them by surprise.

“Nat Rothschild hasn’t addressed these issues with us,” Fong said, referring to a passage in the letter in which Rothschild said that the Bakries wanted a transformation in Bumi Resources.

“If he wants to raise any issues, as a shareholder and board member, we would expect him to follow accepted corporate governance procedures and raise concerns at the board level and at the appropriate time.”

According to two sources close to the group, the letter was the result of a boardroom battle between the Bakries and Rothschild, in which Rothschild had demanded Ari Hudaya’s replacement as CEO.

Reuters was unable to contact Rothschild to seek comment.