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.

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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.

 

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Never too Arab to champion Pribumi rights

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do pribumi Indonesians think about their Chinese counterparts?

Not much that is good. That’s what the Singapore-based  ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute found in a survey titled  Chinese Indonesians in the Eyes of the Pribumi Public,

If the survey is accurate it suggests that after decades of living cheek by jowl with the pribumis, they still harbor stereotyped perceptions about the Indonesian Chinese.

Among the most glaring stereotyped are that the Chinese Indonesians tend to be more wealthy than the pribumis. Over 60 percent of respondents in the survey felt this.

Astoundingly almost half of the respondents, 47.6 percent, believe that the Indonesian Chinese  harbor divided loyalties between Indonesia and China.

The survey, which was conducted in May 2016 after the anti-Ahok protests, did not say whether these sentiments were as intense before the demonstrations.

Several questions come to mind from the survey results:

  1. Does this mean that no Chinese Indonesian can ever stand for high office and win, because all the opposition has to do is to fan the racial flames?
  2. Can pribumis be so oblivious of the many, many walthy-off Pribumi officials and  businesspersons that are so visible in everyday Indonesia?
  3. Does it mean that Indonesian Chinese should prepare for a difficult year ahead and until the 2019 presidential elections are over before letting out their breath? Will Indonesia be a racial powder keg all primed?
  4. Should Indonesian Chinese try harder to disabuse their pribumi counterparts of their prejudices? Or are they better off letting things lie than run the risk of stirring things up?
  5. The would the results of a similar survey, if conducted in neighboring Malaysia, show a lower, similar or higher level of prejudice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public Relations lessons from Bell Pottinger collapse – Maverick

This is a blog post that I wrote in the Maverick website

PR lessons from Bell Pottinger collapse

As a young man cutting my teeth in journalism during the Thatcher years, I was in awe of the people behind the company, Bell Pottinger, that helped ensure her electoral victories.

I remember they were touted as one of the first public relations firms to use behavioral psychology to good effect.

Now, after being in Public Relations for about 18 years and seeing the Bell Pottinger name reappear into prominence,and with it the man who founded the firm, I must say that it is a letdown.

The man at the helm of that once powerful public relations firm turns out to be a doddering shadow of his former image in the interview below:

He was combative and defensive, he was in denial and he could not even switch off his mobile for an interview- twice.What lessons can we PR people learn from this?

Source: Public Relations lessons from Bell Pottinger collapse – Maverick

Journey into Taiji

When I was younger I used to think it hyperbole when they said that you’d need seven years to master Taiji (or T’ai Chi if you used the old Wade-Giles spelling).

Now, after having taken up Taiji for coming close to three years, I am inclined that you’d take considerably take more time – like a lifetime – if you want to master the art.

But first, what is Taiji? Many people have the impression that Taiji is the slow-motion half dance that old people in pajamas do at public parks. Part of Taiji is that – an exercise you do for health benefits – but it is much more.

Taiji was originally conceived as a fighting art. Legends say that the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng came up with Taiji in the 12th century. The next historical record seems to trace Taiji as an art practiced by the Chen Family in Henan province since the 17th Century.

Whatever the truth of it is, the art was a closely held family secret until Yang Luchan took the art and taught it to outsiders in Beijing. From there taiji spread and many different styles developed from there, among them the Yang, Wu, Chen and Sun styles.

My journey into Taiji started because I wanted to rekindle my love for martial arts (practiced Karate in school and university) but I wanted to do something that didn’t only rely on youth and strength to prevail.

As anyone’s won’t to do these days you go to the internet to see what you can learn. I alighted on Yang Chwen Ming because he was most searchable on Google and Youtube. I then bought his training DVD and proceeded to learn Yang Style Taiji.

His style is fluid but not having anyone to teach you in person was difficult for anyone to learn. And after trying to look for a Taiji school in South Jakarta I managed to hook up with a group of people that practiced the cumbersomely named Chen Style Practical Method of Taiji.

Since then it has been a journey of satisfaction, frustration, many sprains and falls as well as some rewarding moments. In other words I’m hooked.

What I find so fascinating about Taiji is how counter-intuitive it is to you we react to physical challenges. It is purely an understanding of physics, body bio-mechanics – and the difficult part – training your body to do what your mind theoretically knows.

Although we have someone here who has been well-trained, the Grandmaster of the style, Master Chen Zhonghua makes a visit to Indonesia each year to conduct a workshop and teach the students here:

Here’s a workshop in Jakarta from 2015:

 

As you can see the Taiji being practiced here is anything but soft and slow. It involves students understanding the principles of Taiji and then putting them into practice. There is a lot of push hands (Taiji sparring) in this style because Master Chen believes that you can only learn to apply what you have learned if the opponent’s moves are unpredictable.

Master Chen will be conducting another workshop Jakarta, actually in Tangerang, on December 2 and 3. It would be a treat to watch the man in action and to learn Taiji principles and their application from the man. Beginners and experienced martial artists  will be able to learn something from these workshops that are conducted in English and Mandarin and translated into Indonesian.

 

 

 

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One by one, the media are falling – Maverick

Here’s a post I wrote on my company blog:

If there’s any doubt that disruption is at hand in the communications industry the sheer number of closures of Indonesian newspapers and magazines — at least 33 — since December last year is a firm indication.

This raises interesting questions on how corporations can still reach their customers and other audiences that matter now that the news outlets they’ve relied on as a medium of communicating with their consumers is falling faster than a line of dominoes.

Thanks to some research from my colleague Wicaksono, aka Ndoro Kakung, we found that December 2016 was a bad month for the Kompas Gramedia Group as it closed four tabloids – Sinyal, Chip, Chip Foto & Video and Motor – and four magazines – Kawanku, What Hi Fi, Auto Expert, Car and Tuning Guide.

The industry quietened down but from May onwards more closures followed. First was lifestyle and fashion magazine Nylon, followed by another Kompas Gramedia Group casualty, the music magazine Hai.

July was a bad month as it was convulsed with 11 closures. The largest number of casualties came from the giant MNC group as it closed down its regional daily editions of Koran Sindo in north and south Sumatera; central, east and west Java as well as north Sulawesi.

The group, belonging to tycoon and politician Harry Tanoesoedibjo also closed down women’s tabloid Genie and parenting tabloid Mom and Kiddie.

Read more:Here

My Republic broadband sucks for me. What’s your experience like?

I few months ago we switched from Play Media as a broadband provider because their service sucked – the speeds got slower and there was no good follow-up customer service.

We switched to My Republic because a friend had said that their speeds were rather good. What we found was worse. Not only did the speeds not live up to that advertised. To make things worse not only were the speeds slow

The My Republic/Sinar Was promise: 300Mbps. Weeeeee!

The reality: Not even 2% of the promise where downloads are concerned. Let’s not even talk about the uploads.

the entire connection continuously broke down and the internet connection was sporadic.

We complained on 27th May and was sent he standard line that they’d check the system and get back to us within 1X24 house, and if there was anything wrong, they’d send their technicians to sole the problem in 3X24 hours. Then silence in the 1X24 hours and 3X24 hours period and beyond.

We complained to My Republic again on June 1 and the same thing happened.

So we called again today and we get the same stock answers. This time I put my foot down and asked to speak to the supervisor. After some waiting I spoke to Henny Sahaja (because she won’t give me her full name). She said they needed to forward the complaint to the technical side, who would then inform me in 1X24 hours…

What is it with huge conglomerates like Sinar Mas who, just because they have the money and the know-who, think they can branch into a profitable service industry and make a success of it? They can’t get the infrastructure right, they can’t get the simple customer service right…and the only thing keeping them in business is that they have been around for a long time, have the right connections and the market is so protected against the entry of kick-ass multinational broadband providers.

What I can’t get is whether these people running such sham services have no sense of pride or shame, that they could do such a bad job at it.is there any use bringing into the attention of My Republic outside Indonesia? They didn’t respond to tweets in the past.

So, anyone out there know a reliable, good broadband providers?

 

 

 

 

 

Some questions about #SayaPancasila

The hallmark of a good campaign is that it spurs public discourse on a particular subject. In this sense, the #SayaPancasila campaign can be said to be successful, if the preponderance of the hashtag and profile pictures bering the message on social media are concerned.

Effective public discourse, however, exists when there are differences of opinion and when the participants abide by rules of rhetorical fair play. So here goes Unspun‘s contribution to the public discourse on the#SayaPancasila campaign.

Three questions spring to mind from all the #SayaIndonesia and #SayaPancasila profile photos being used on Facebook Instagram and other social media channels:

  1. Are atheists allowed to proclaim #SayaPancasila? Pancasila requires the belief God, in whatever form she exists. Arising from this should there be a discussion on which is more appropriate for Indonesia today – a concept from 1945 repurposed to knit together Indonesia in 2017; or would Embracing Diversity be a more appropriate idea to campaign on?
  2. When people these days declare #SayaPancasila can it be taken as their full subscription to the five principles formulated by Sukarno in 1945 as an instrument to rally people round Indonesian Nationalism? Or is it more a talisman to signal their rejection of the more extreme and intolerant elements of Indonesia today, i.e. Rizieq and the FPI as well as other assorted hardliners? There is a difference here: one is an embrace of something, another is a rejection of another thing.
  3. Are all these declarations of #SayaPancasila on the internet missing the target? One of the things the internet is notorious for is to create bubbles where like-minded people reinforce their own ideas and convictions. How many of these #SayaPancila proclamations are actually seen by the real targets? These are the 50+ percent who voted for Anies, the thousands of easter-clad protesters who came out on 212 and other demonstrations, that part of Indonesia who get their information more from mosques and grassroots institutions than the social media. There is also the question of whether seeing such #SayaPancasila declarations would persuade them to change their minds or reinforce their believes so that they dig down even deeper in the embrace of hardline attitudes and beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that any effort to claw Indonesia back from the clutches of the hardliners is something good for this country and society. But will it be effective? Or wilt be a distraction when resources could have been channeled elsewhere for greater effect?

So where do people stand on these three questions?