So who’s behind #NoWitchHuntKarHut?


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?



Petungkriyono is a forest reserve about three hours drive south of Pekalongan in Central Java. The distance is not that great but like many other places the road there is narrow and potholed, prolonging the journey that would take about a third of the time if it was serviced by good roads.

It’s actually adjacent to the better known Dieng Plateau, so the vegetation there is thick, the weather when we were there in July wet and fairly cool. The area is about 7,000 hectares and houses several villages.


The Pekalongan government is trying to turn this area into a tourist destination. This means that if you love nature, go there before things get spoilt.

The main attraction, apart from the flora and fauna seems to be the Welo River where you can go river tubing. The concept sounds more attractive and fun than it actually is.

A group of us tried it and we were taken to a part of the river where we were to begin our journey. We were given helmets, arm pads and knee pads that looked like arm pads. We then got on rubber tubes and off we went shooting the rapids – for about 20 meters.

Then we had to disembark, get off and walk to the next stretch where we would get a 10 or 15 meter ride down the tube. It was a bit dangerous. We had to walk and jump from one section to another barefoot and the tubes are anything but stable so overturning in tricky sections were inevitable.


The organisers were all well meaning and caring but their idea of safety isn’t the highest by international standards so you could imagine if someone overturned and, in a panic, kept holding on to the tube. They would have been dragged by the strong current. Once when I overturned I hit my head against a rock. Luckily I had a helmet, and a hard head.


Still, it ended well and it was fun although I’d not recommend it for the less intrepid.



Other than that the best part of the trip was to wind down the car windows and enjoy the scenery as we passed by rice terraces cut into the hills, rivers swollen and angry from the recent rains.



The other attractions included watching the power of the river expressing itself as a raging waterfall at Curug Bajing (Squirrel’s Waterfall).


Leaving Petungkriyono you get to pass through small towns with their market days.


And when you leave Pekalongan for Jakarta you are always treated with views of fields of paddy and other crops





The iron gate into Dachau with the slogan "Work Will Set You Free". The Nazis excelled in mocking and insulting their prisoners.

Had a spare day after a business trip to Munich in July so took the train to Dachau, the Nazi’s first concentration camp located about 10km outside of the city.

It was opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler and meant to house political prisoners but quickly became a catch all for everyone the Nazis couldn’t tolerate – Jews, monosexuals, foreigners,  even German and Austrian criminals.

There must have been so much sorrow and sadness played out there but when I visited I found the place impeccably restored but clinical, like so much of Bavaria.

It did not help that it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, it was cool and cottony clouds floated across the blue sky. I could not help wondering what the inmates must have thought, the irony they savoured, on such a beautiful day when imprisoned in Dachau, a place specially designed to strip them of their dignity.

Entrance to Dachau. A railway ended near here to unload the prisoners
The iron gate into Dachau with the slogan “Work Will Set You Free”. The Nazis excelled in mocking and insulting their prisoners.
Inside Dachau are pictorial and text displays of the rise of the Nazis and their programme to establish Concentration and Extermination camps after Dachau
Another irony. While stripping the wall of paint, the restorers found the original paintwork where a “no smoking sign” was prominently painted on the wall. Many of the prisoners would be killed within a short time so this admonition seemed pointless and mocking.
This is where the prisoners were brought en masse to shower.
A scale model of Dachau, outside the window is a sculpture that is part of the International Monument
A sculpture in the Dachau Museum
A view of the barracks at Dachau
Another view of the barracks
The Jewish Monument at Dachau

Office trip to Belitung


Our office recently went on an outing to Belitung, an island off the east coast of South Sumatra made famous by the film Laska Pelangi.

Our first stop was Tanjung Pandang Beach, a recreational stretch that had nothing remarkable except that it faced west and therefore was a place to watch the sunset.

So we did what all good Indonesian groups do, which is to take lots of group photos and selfies.


There was also the “it’s good to be Boss photo” designed to show me up as a beacon of collected calm in a sea of jumping staff members.


Others ventured to become amateur photographers and models for their portfolios and Instagram accounts.


The next day was games day where we went on boats to the surrounding islands, mainly Pulau Lengkuas. They all had the characteristic of having huge rocks sitting on white sand or clear sea.



Some of them even came complete with their own spume of cloud to crown what, to the creatively minded, must be a lingam of Belitung


The island was, however, beautiful.


And studded with a lighthouse from Dutch days


In between the games and activities we had we managed to see a bit of Belitung, which is on the surface a rather dull town with unremarkable modern buildings  that belie its rich tin-mining past.

But there are glimpses such as this old Dutch house


Or this colonial building that the neighbours couldn’t tell what it was built for.


There was also a temple, the Hock Tek Che temple near the market that hinted on the Chinese ethnic groups that coalesced around mining towns in Indonesia and Malaysia. Apparently the largest groups are the Hakkas, the Haines and the Hokkiens.


There were also a few shops, again near the market, that echoes traditional trades of the Straits Chinese like this rattan shop.


There was also little recreation in the town. No cinemas or Karaokes that we should see, a small shopping mall that you covered in 10 minutes. Much of the entertainment seemed to centre around drinking coffee at the beach and at coffee shops.

Among the coffee shops Kong Djie stands out as the  top hang out spot. There are three outlets, one by the beach, a relatively hip one near a restaurant and ole-olen complex and the original one in town.

When we were there Isyak, the sen of the founder was minding the till and occasionally making the coffee.


He’s a sport though and allowed one of our colleagues to play barista for the afternoon.


Back at our hotel, called the Bahamas Resort (why do they name one exotic tropical beach destination with another) it was time to chill out and bond as an office. We were treated to the great sunsets Belitung offers.



The scene changed with the tide went out.


Two other attractions that Belitung has is the Blue Lake, so called because the kaolin mined in the depleted time mine has given the water a bluish tint.


And of course, there was the famous beach (I forgot the name) where Laskar Pelangi was shot, still. clear waters punctuated by time rounded boulders.


Fear and loathing over funds for Ibu Saeni


They say that no good deed goes unpunished.


The four young people who had been so moved by the plight of Serang Warteg owner Ibu Saeni try raising money for her over the internet — and was too successful at it — must be savouring the irony of this saying now.

Here’s how the story unfolded: On Wednesday, Serang city authorities cracked down on Warteg owners who had opened for business during fasting hours. One of the wartegs they raided, with reporters in tow,  belonged to 53-year old Ibu Saeni.

TV coverage of the raid showed several officers swooping on a hapless Ibu Saeni behind the counter and putting all the food that represented her entire day’s takings into plastic bags to be carried off to an unknown destination.


Shocked and awed, Ibu Saeni broke down into tears.

Not helping things, the city officials had one of their own explaining unsympathetically to the TV cameras that they raided the wartegs because their owners had violated a city regulation not to sell food during fasting hours.

When the incident was aired and reported over TV and other news outlets there was great outpouring of sympathy for Ibu Saeni, and disdain for the officials who were perceived to be picking on the small businesspeople while leaving the more privileged show ones (the larger outlets and chains operating in shopping malls) untouched.

Amid all the chatter on social media arising out of this incident, four young people  – Alexander Thian, Jenny Jusuf, dan Yogi Natasukma and Dwika Putra,  (Disclosure: Dwika works in my workplace) decided to do something to help Ibu Saeni.

Since they  were heavy social media users and influencers in their own right, they naturally turned to the Net to raise money for Ibu Saeni. They had thought that they could raise Rp10 million, maybe Rp20 million, to help her after the trauma she had been through.

So they appealed for donations. Dwika had an account in BCA that he used for his personal expenses. So he emptied that account and used it as a vehicle for accepting donations to Ibu Saeni.

Then the unexpected happened. The response was so good that the four of them were first delighted then shocked as contribution after contribution came in. When the fund ballooned to Rp80 million they began to realise that the money raised after that mark would be better utilised for helping other victims of the raid. So they used social media to tell would-be donors that whatever was raised after that would be disbursed to other Warteg owners who had also been raided by city authorities.

Still the money kept pouring in and when the deadline for the last donations came they had raised a whopping Rp265 million!

They were touched. They were elated. They were amazed by the generosity of their fellow Indonesians. But they were also getting a bit scared an frustrated.

This was because while many Indonesians were praising them and appreciating their initiative to do something instead of merely tweeting or Facebooking about their frustrations, others have been outright mealy mouthed and nasty about their motives.

It would have been fine if these critics questioned whether it was the right thing to do to try to help a woman who had broken city regulations but the bottom line was much lower than that.

The intentions and integrity of the four were questioned. Hiding behind the safety and often the anonymity of their Twitter and other social media accounts these critics started to insinuate against the integrity and intentions of these four.

Some said that they were Christians out to denigrate Islam, Others that they were out to make a name for themselves on the sorrows of Ibu Saeni. Still others questioned whether they were trying to make a profit from the interest accrued from the interest on the Rp265 million before the disbursement,. And some questioned whether they wanted to insinuate themselves into politics.

It is ridiculous. It is petty and totally unwarranted, forcing one of them, Alexander Thian, to address the issue in his Facebook page.

The truth is sometimes very simple until people try to complicate it. My take on this incident is that you have four young people with their hearts in the right places. They wanted to help an old lady in distress and got off their bums to do something about it.

They made an appeal and the response was way beyond their expectations. So now they have to deal with how best to disburse all that money so that it is not only fair but seen to be fair. There is nothing more to it.

Instead of dumping on them these critics should shut up instead and look into themselves to find out where such snarky, petty and ill-willed sentiments come from. Appropriate topics to contemplate during the month of Ramadan, when the aim is for people to become better human beings.


Turning 14 – Maverick Indonesia


Repost from our office blog:


Maverick is 14 years old today. There is much to be thankful for but primarily for being in this country Indonesia that has allowed us to grow, to experiment with new ways of doing things and to be modestly profitable all these years.   Being in Indonesia has meant operating in an environment where the demand for quality services outstrips the supply. From the start we our business acquisition strategy on this belief and focussed on serving only the clients who were serious about their communications. These were clients who could appreciate how crucial communications are to the success of their businesses. Hence they would allocate though human and financial resources to ensure that it succeeded. The dynamic society that is Indonesia is another factor we are thankful for. We have found many of our clients open to experimentation and new ideas. This has allowed us to transition from the “traditional” PR firm focussing on media relations to what we are today, a communications consultancy that knows how to atomise and convert assets between Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media. We are still some way to being what we envision but we think that we’re close. Indonesia, surprisingly for many, can also be an incredible profitable place to work in. We think that this is because many decision makers are open-minded and honest enough to know what they don’t know, and do not mind paying to plug the gap. But the greatest joy that my partner and I have had over the years is to watch new and tentative graduates morph into highly competent professionals and leaders, even after they leave us. Some have forgotten the values and ethics to go along with the arts of persuasion that we taught them but happily most have not forgotten their roots and have become shining examples that would help spur the next generation of communicators to greater levels of excellence. It’s been a great ride but hey, we are only in our teens. Watch this space for more to come from the Mavbros and Mavchicks, many of whom will be much better and greater in professional prowess, and hopefully great human beings as well, than Lita and I. Now to go to Maverick’s anniversary party and drink to everyone’s health and have a great time.

Source: Turning 14 – Maverick Indonesia

WTF: Minister blames parent after 14 youths rape 14-year old girl

This is bizarre.

A 14-year old girl named Yuyun dies after being raped by 14 youths. Who is to blame?

While others my pussyfoot about social factors and whether the victim or the rapists are responsible, the Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection is not burdened by hand-wringing.

She knows exactly who is to blame: The parents of Yuyun.

They are responsible, the Minister told a parliamentary Commission hearing, because they had left the child alone at home when they went out to their fields to farm.

News articles covering the hearing did not say if the Indonesian President  has ordered any psychological tests on the Minister for imbecility.

Menteri Yohanna: Kasus Yuyun Salah Orangtua – News, Jakarta – Hari ini Komisi VIII DPR melakukan Rapat Dengar Pendapat (RDP) dengan Menteri Sosial Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Menteri Pemberdayaan Perempuan dan Perlindungan Anak (PPPA) Yohanna Yembise, Ketua Komisi Perlindungan Anak Indonesia Asrorun Niam, dan Polri yang diwakili oleh Kepala Badan Reserse Kriminal (Kabareskrim) Anang Iskandar.

Dalam rapat, Menteri Yohanna sempat menyebutkan kalau ada faktor kesalahan orangtua di kasus perkosaan.Ia pun mencontohkan kasus pemerkosaan Yuyun, gadis 14 tahun di Bengkulu yang meninggal usai diperkosa 14 laki-laki.

“Kasus Yuyun itu yang salah orangtua. Orangtuanya sudah beberapa hari di kebun. Bagaimana mau memperhatikan anak itu?” kata Yohana saat RDP di Kompleks Parlemen Senayan Jakarta, Senin (30/5/2016).

Menurut dia, kondisi di keluarga mempengaruhi kasus kekerasan seksual. Oleh sebab itu, Menteri Yohanna meminta agar ada tindakan ke keluarga. “Sanksi ke orangtua harus kita perhatikan juga,” ucap dia.

Read more…

A Malaysian newbie in Jakarta

What would you make of Indonesian working life and the people in general if you’re a Malaysian, newly graduated and looking for some work experience? Andrew Seow took the plunge and tried his hand in public relations at Maverick and this is this story:


Time passes when you are having fun. So after what felt like mere days I realized that my four-month work experience with Maverick in Jakarta had reached its inevitable end.


Just prior to joining Maverick I had, like so many in my generation, been given lots of encouragement to do well in school and then getting a degree from a recognized university as the jumping off point with which to launch a respectable career.

When I left university at the end of last year, however, I realized that I was rather clueless of what I would like to do next. I was beset by a sense of emptiness, not knowing how my life would turn out, and what my next moves should be.

Realising that the best course of action was to begin immersing myself in the real world of work, I reached out to a family friend whom I grew up referring to as Uncle Hock Chuan, but whom I later learnt was referred to as Pak Ong, the well-known PR consultant in Indonesia.

When Maverick decided to accept me I quickly packed my bags and headed for Jakarta with few expectations except to fulfill three goals – to learn as much as I could about the industry and country, make as many new friends as possible, and have a damn good time doing it.

The first thing that struck me on arriving at Maverick was its creative working space concept. It was a huge relief being in a cool working space as I’ve never liked being contained in claustrophobic cubicles.

The open office environment was comfortable to work in, dismissing the usual hierarchal tension between senior and junior co-workers. Also, how often can people brag about their office having a Tatami room? The beanbag and pillow-filled Japanese-styled room ended up being my most productive working space, especially for Gen Zs like me who do our best work away from chairs and desks when working…read more

Why mudslinging makes you lose ground

How difficult is it to write a sexy press release about a Chinese phone maker  teaming up with the legendary camera maker Leica?


Apparently it is not so easy for those who cannot resist slinging mud. Ogilvy PR crafted a press release for Huawei in which it promoted the latest and unfortunately named P9 phone with the Leicester a lenses. But it then went on to slag off the competitor Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge as being overpriced and lacking in innovation.

This is where the axiom that those who engage in mud slinging often loose ground kicks in.

Social Media users too exception to the press statement and Ogilvy PR has been forced to issue an apology.

From GoJek to GoJerk?

Gojek founder Nadiem Makarim has been credited with his savvy use of social media and on March 22, on the day when taxi drivers demonstrated against their online counterparts, he showed how it should be done.

The message seemed personal and he pitched the nationalism just right.

Observers hailed it as a masterstroke in how to use the video platform to deliver a personal, impassioned message direct to his constituents.

Fast forward to today and the hero of yesterday had posted a an in-your-face video in YouTube asking Uber and Grab drivers to abandon their employers for GoJek.

It’s a bit tasteless but not too fatal. But then Nadiem played the nationalist card again and laid it on thick:

“Apa pun keputusannya, Anda sudah menjadi pahlawan jalanan di Jakarta, jangan lupakan itu. Namun, jika Anda punya keinginan membela negara, jika Anda punya semangat ’45’ yang ingin berkobar, gabunglah dengan karya anak bangsa,” pungkasnya

This had the effect of turning G his beloved Netizens supporters against him. The YouTube video began to attract nasty comments. On Twitter netizens began flaming GoJek for hypocrisy for flying the nationalist flag while actually hiring Indian developers.

So what does GoJek do? First it switched of the comments section of the YouTube channel. Then it took the post private.

It will be interesting to see how they plan to manage this fallout. Ride out the groundswell of Net discontent or proactively address it? Time will tell.