Something amiss about the Government’s handling of demonstrations

There is something amiss in the Government’s handling of the demonstrations that have taken place in at least nine cities over the past week.

It is at best, half-hearted and amateurish; at worst, grist for a conspiracy theorist’s mill.

Contrast this week’s handling of protests with that of how it handled the protests surrounding the riots of May 21 and 22, after Prabowo refused to accept the results of the Election Commission’s decision that Jokowi had won the presidential elections.

Reformation in Repair. Source: The Jakarta Post

The police acted with discipline, determination and restraint.

And it was communicative, calling press conferences and briefing the media often on developments and messages the government wanted the citizens to know. Police Chief Tito Karnavian was also highly visible in press conferences, giving the public an assurance that things were being handled properly and everything was under control.

Jokowi too was visible, giving press briefings and appearing confident that everything was under control.

Unspun remembers conversations with Jakarta old timers marveling about how professional the Indonesian Police Force could be if it wanted to.

Then the student demonstrations began last Wednesday and the Police suddenly looked amateurish again in their handling of protestors. Time and again the police had to apologize for its mistakes and videos of police brutality began cropping up.

It had to apologize for a policeman running into a mosque with shoes on to apprehend a protestor. It had to backtrack after accusing Jakarta City ambulances of carrying rocks, petrol for Molotov cocktails and fireworks to supply rioters. It shot teargas into Atma Jaya University, a zone set aside for first aid to injured protestors.

In its communications Police seemed to play a defensive game, otherwise issuing admonitions that fell on deaf ears.

And all this wall, what realty stood out was the absence of leadership. Tito gave a press conference somewhere but he said nothing substantial. He then virtually disappeared from the public eye.

On the Government’s side the deafening silence from Jokowi is astounding. That left the way open for the relics of his government, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto and Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko to fill in the vacuum with their tone-deaf hectoring and defensive statements. Many wondered why the Presidential Chief of Staff, who should concern himself with the internal running of the presidential office, was acting as government spokesperson.

In the vacuum of information that they have created, all sorts of conspiracy theories have begun to surface.

Some say that Jokowi has his hands full trying to balance the demands of the parties in the new Cabinet. Others say that the police ineptness is part of a conspiracy to weaken him. Still others hint of dark forces at play orchestrating paid rioters to create mayhem.

Nobody really knows what’s happening and whether the government will get a handle on things, and that’s the problem.

Indonesia is at an important juncture. After over two decades of Reformasi, corruption and sense of entitlement among the elite have made a strong comeback. The swift and cavalier passage of the Bills to the KPK law and Criminal Code was a manifestation of this comeback and its contempt for the other sectors of Indonesian society.

Through the passage of the Bills Parliament has shown that it cannot be trusted to act in the public’s interest. The Judiciary Has along ago been discounted as an institution that can protect their rights. And now the Executive, helmed by Jokowi, is also showing signs of tentativeness, indecision and compliance to the demands of conservatives.

What that means for most people is that Indonesia is approaching a failed state. This sounds dramatic but how do you describe a nation when none of the branches of government can be relied on to act as a check and balance of the other branches?

This is why the students are right in refusing to meet with Jokowi unless it is in an open forum where he can be held accountable. And they are right to continue the pressure through further protests until the message gets through that the Executive and the Legislature is accountable to the people.

Jokowi, the DPR and the beautiful, valiant students of Indonesia

Today, thousands of students have taken to the streets in Jakarta and other cities demonstrating against the Criminal Code. Traffic in Jakarta was clogged up and as the day progressed, water cannons and tear gas were used on them, but it could not dampen their spirit.

A couple of days ago, after widespread protests,  President Jokowi had announced that he has asked the House of Representatives to suspend the passage of a revision of the Criminal Code. The revision is ridiculous. It outlaws sex outside marriage, treason in the form of “robbing the independence of the President and Vice President”, the propagation of Communism (n this day and age, Really?), insulting the heads of state or government, the promotion of contraceptives and abortions, the practice of black magic…You couldn’t make this up but its there in the revisions to the Criminal Code.

The House complied and suspended the passage of the revisions to the Criminal Code. But it was too little too late.

This is because they were also contemplating passing articles in four other bills, including a manpower bill, a land bill, a mining bill and a correctional procedures bill, all of which contained provisions that would appall most right thinking citizens.

The students that took to the streets today wanted the DPR not only to suspend the passage to the Criminal Code Revisions but to quash them totally.

This is not unreasonable. What sort of House of Representatives would have even considered passing such revisions in the first place?

The answer is simple: One that is rotten to the core. One that is full of ignorant and arrogant charlatans drunk on power and disregard for the people they were supposed to be representing. One with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and the only recourse to check their power is to take to the streets.

It is the only recourse because the Executive Branch of thee government has not been doing its job (let’s not even consider the Judicial Branch that is way beyond the pale). In fact, it has been fumbling spectacularly, beginning with the amendments that would weaken the Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK), one of the few symbols of hope against the endemic and arguably worsening corruption in Indonesia.

Here, in spite of his past promises to the contrary, the president did not veto the bill that would weaken the KPK, allowing it to go before the House of Representatives. He then said that he had some conditions that would strengthen the KPK. The speech sounded empty.

Then his Chief off Staff Moeldoko (him of the expensive watches that he on his salary in the armed forces could never afford in a couple of lifetimes) came up with the excuse that the KPK need to be checked because it was a deterrent for investment. What baloney. It’s not the KPK that should be taken to task but the failure of the enforcement of the rule of law, legal certainty, fair judiciary and obtuse, miles of red tape that is holding back investment. Yet he held out the KPK as the fall guy.

Then there is Papua where mishandling by the government and police caused hundreds of Papuans in several cities to riot. The latest incident is in Wamena where up to 20 people are reported to have been killed. The government response was to blame agitators and hoax news sources.

There is more that seems to indicate that Jokowi, normally so humble and engaging, has somehow gone tone deaf. While forest fires are causing residents in Kalimantan, Sumatra, Malaysia and Singapore to choke on the haze, Jookowi’s publicity team released a video of the president frolicking with his grandson Jan Ethes among the deer and goats at the Bogor Palace, where the air seemed clean and pristine. How insensitive.

And to add to the evidence of tone deafness his eldest son Gibran has applied to join the political party backing the president, thee PDI-P, and has signaled that he wants to run as Mayor of Surakata, the seat that launched Jokowi’s ascent to the Presidency. More: His son-in-law Bobby is signaling that he wants to run as Mayor of Medan in North Sumatra. In a country that has seen so many corrupt politicians preserve their wealth through the creation of political dynasties this is exactly the wrong message to send out on the eve of Jokowi starting out on his second term.

The President, once so popular, seems to be unraveling, and nobody knows why. There is speculation that the low  quality of advisors he has surrounding him is beginning to show.

Unspun sincerely hopes that Jokowi can pull out of what is beginning to look like a nose dive. I hope for this not because I feel that he is the right man to lead Indonesia but because there is none better, for the moment. Take him out and we may be facing the deep blue sea rather than the devil we know.

So here’s some suggestions for Jokowi, should this ever reach his ears:

1. Remember you have the mandate of the people and you’re going into your final term of office. You don’t need to be hampered by electability to do the right thing by Indonesia

2. Take a close hard look at the people surrounding you. Are they sycophants, are they loyal to you or to themselves? Go for people with ability and integrity. Indonesia is not short of people like that.

3. Put a check on the buzzers that are allied to you or buzz in your name. They are toxic and are beginning to be hated by the people. Many of them gravitate to you in search of favors, so they can be near the limelight but at the end of the day they boost their own self importance, not what’s good for the nation.

4. Respect and listen to the students who are currently protesting. They have a point, they are sincere in wanting a better Indonesia and they represent the rest of us who are sick and tired of the dishonest, porkbarrel politicians in the DPR and political parties. These politicians need to be tamed or expelled.

5. Go back to watch old videos of yourself. See how you inspired all of us with your candor and sincerity to work for the public good, and your willingness to battle petty bureaucrats and self-serving politicians. Rediscover that Jokowi and bring him back to the Istana.

Good luck. You are still our best home for a progressive nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rich and Patti Arguments over Rich Brian

Former US Ambassador who reinvented himself as the organizer of Supermentor,   Dino Patti Jallal, has a point in the ongoing feud with BEKRAF chief Triawan Munaf over Indonesian Rapper Rich Brian where children are concerned.

Children should not be exposed to obscenities. But the whole episode is not as clear cut as he makes it out to be.
The feud has its roots on 7 July when Jokowi met with Rich Brian, accompanied by Triawan Munaf, at the Istana, a huge endorsement and praise for the 19 year-old that has been making waves overseas.

Netizens loved the populist move and heaped praise on the President for being so cool.

Not everyone was happy though. On July 16, seemingly out of the blue, Dino sermonized on Twitter, saying that even though Brian may be a great performer he (Dino) as a father thinks that Brian would not make a good role model for Indonesian youth because Brians tweets often contained profanity, obscenity and disgusting elements and looked down on women.

That children should not be exposed to obscenity etc is easy to agree with but there were two problems with Dino’s argument.

The first is that its not cool to dump on Rich Brian after you tweeted back in April for help on getting him to be a speaker for your Supermentor in LA event.

Spying what she must have thought to be hypocrisy, Rich Brian’s sister Sonya Erika tweeted an eloquent screen cap of the invite. This prompted Triawan Munaf to virtually stab himself with a retweet that said only ”jlebs!


This set off a shitstorm in the Twittersphere as well as the media, to the point that Dino felt he had to clarify his change in attitude toward Rich Brian, not once but twice.
In one Tweet he said that he changed his mind about inviting Rich Brian after reading his tweets that contained obscenities.

In another Dino asked a rhetorical question:would any parent feel that a musician, even though well-known, should be free to use obscenities on social media because they would be emulated by children who idolized them? He then hectored his audience: “My answer as a parent is clear: NO. What’s your answer? Don’t lose perspective.”

A greater shitstorm ensued.

Which brings us to the second problem with Dino’s argument about exposing children to obscenities from their idols.

The Supermentor talks attract youths, young men and women to be sure. But not children. It’s a bit ingenuous in this day and age to think that these youths would be anything but nonchalant to Rich Brian’s obscenities on social media. if they are the type who like Rap and Hip Hop they would already be exposed to that kind of language. And guess what? Most of them have not turned into peverts, mysoginists or depraved layabouts.

Dino’s argument also begs the question of what the parents are doing if they allow their children to be on social media. Shouldn’t they be interacting with their children and teaching them about life rather than allow them to roam unsupervised on social media, which has places much more dangerous and obscene than Rich Brian’s feeds?
The curious are now wondering what is the motive behind Dino’s sudden burst against Rich Brian.

Should we take things at face value and suppose that Dino’s a model parent and passionate about parenting, so could just not stand the attention lavished on Rich Brian by the President of Indonesia?

Or should we speculate on what other factors there are that could motivate a once political insider, now locked out of the corridors of power, to resort to such undiplomatic Tweets?

Brown Jesus says Happy Easter

Good writing is hard to come by, so what we do with recruits at my workplace is to teach them to write well.

Being a former journalist and being one who writes moderately well, the task fell on Unspun to conduct the class.

Being a firm believer that writing is a reflection of your mental processes, I’ve always started the course with Critical Thinking 101 and the first slide in this presentation asks the participants to tell me which of the two images is a more accurate depiction of Christ.

Jesus

To Unspun the comparion is a no brainer. Jesus was a Jew and a middle easterner, a native of Galilee.

People like that, as in the BBC reconstruction from a skull found there during the period of Jesus, tended to look like the chap on the right. He may not looked exactly like the man portrayed but for sure he would have been swarthy and would NIT look like an Anglo-Saxon savior right out of the paintings of Byzantine artists.

Inevitably, however, there would be one or two – sometimes more – participants in the class who said that Jesus would have looked like the person on the left. The reason? That’s the image of Jesus they’ve seen growing up and the image that adorns the churches they go to.

Which was perfect for us to begin our discourse on critical thinking, the importance of not accepting anything at face value and why we need to ask questions more.

Inevitably too, someone would raise the argument that too much critical thinking is bad for us because it makes us cynical. We should just accept things based on faith.

The answer is that too much of anything is not good for anyone. At any rate critical thinking, if practiced skillfully leads one not to cynicism but to skepticism, which is not a bad thing.

In this world, if we question more without becoming cynical (which Oscar Wilde defines as “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”) we’d be enjoying oour lives more, not less; and socially and politically we would be ensuring that much of the ugliness and hate in this world we see today would be minimized.

Happy Easter everyone.

 

 

The Biden affair: emerging stock phrases for harassment allegations?

Since the #MeToo movement, one of the dreaded developments for male politicians in America must be to be accused of inappropriate behavior toward women colleagues.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden was accused last week of “inappropriate behavior” by a Nevada politician. She said he tried to kiss the back of her head.

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Nevada politician Lucy Flores started the ball rolling by accusing Joe Biden of inappropriate behavior

This was followed by another woman who also alleged that Biden acted inappropriately toward her.

Was this it for Biden, who may still want to run in the upcoming presidential elections? Has Uncle Joe morphed into Creepy Joe almost overnight? And what is one to do in the face of such potentially damaging allegations at a time when men in high and powerful have regularly been outed for inappropriate behavior toward women and have had their careers destroyed, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not?

Biden’s carefully crafted response to the allegations is worthwhile looking into for crisis managers looking for clues to handle such situations.

In many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort and not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested that I did so I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.

I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel that they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention, and I will.

I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve. I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisors who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own.

And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues where there is much more progress to be made and crucial fights that must be waged and won.

It is a clever response. Not apologizing and not admitting to any wrong doing or inappropriate behavior yet not dismissing the allegation. In fact he paid lip service to the importance of how we have “arrived at an important time when women feel that they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention”

All reverential and paying tribute to women and their views. Then he moves on to his track record of defending women’s rights and how he will continue to do so.

The rest of the response was in the hands of his defenders – co-workers and colleagues. There is little else that he can do really. To try to defend himself more would make him sound defensive and only third party voices would have credibility at this stage.

One of his defenders was Susan Rice, the US’s Ambassador to the United nations during the Obama administration. Her choice of words was also interesting and her words, taken together with Joe Biden’s statement, seems to suggest that some new stock phrases for facing allegations of inappropriate behavior may be in the making.

Rice tweeted:

I respect every woman who chooses to share her uncomfortable (and worse) experiences with men. Their perspectives must be heard and taken seriously. I have worked closely with @JoeBiden for many years. In my experience, he is warm and affectionate with women (and men). But never have I found his actions inappropriate or uncomfortable. I have always appreciated his kindness and warmth.”

Most importantly, I know @JoeBidento be a dedicated ally, champion and defender of women and all of our rights. There is no one I would rather be with in a foxhole. He is one of the most decent, honorable men I have been privileged to work with.

There it is again. That reverence (I respect every woman who chooses to share her uncomfortable (and worse) experiences with men. Their perspectives must be heard and taken seriously) before stating her position supporting Biden.

So you have it, expect to see more of the  reverence-denial stock phrases cropping up more in the future.

 

The night Mahathir came to town

Yesterday evening was billed as a special session with the Malaysians living in Indonesia with the new old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It was part of his first official visit to neighbouring Indonesia where he would meet Jokowi.

I went with mixed feelings. I was curious to see the old warhorse, still flushed from his electoral victory in May, how he might have changed and how he was holding up. I was also curious to observe the reaction of the Malaysians living here toward him. At the same time there was a feeling of unease. After all, this is the man that set in motion most of the things that are wrong in Malaysia today, including Najib, his cronyism and the corrupt system and is now returning as a saviour of the people.

But go I did and these are some of the observations from last night.

Mahathir himself. He is still sharp and spry at 92. He was lucid but he seemed less intimidating than before, when I was a reporter in Malaysia in the mid 80s. Back then he seemed someone that you did not want to piss off at all. Perhaps he was tired from the trip.  Perhaps times have changed. Or perhaps I myself have changed.

In his speech he hit on the theme again about how his government was gathering the evidence to prosecute Najib for his corruption. This to me seemed unnecessary for a Prime Minister (and for his Ministers in the Cabinet). Prosecution of Najib should be carried out by the Attorney-General and investigations should be carried out by the Police or the anti corruption commission. The Prime Minister should stay above the fray to let the law take its course and to avoid any hint that the prosecution of Najib might be politically-motivated.

The audience. Was remarkable. Clutching their handphones they all wanted a piece of Mahathir. The adulation and hero-worshipping was almost embarrassing. Sure , Mahathir had achived something great by toppling the Barisan Nasional government in the polls, but surely the appreciation must be tempered by some wariness, considering the track record of the man when it comes to curbing press freedoms, using the draconian Internal Security Act to lock up political rivals, instituting a system of cronyism and other foibles? What I saw was the forgetfulness of crowds and their willingness to embrace heroes.

Then there was question time after Mahathir’s speech and it was absolutely cringeworthy. A Malaysian student used the time to ask Mahathir to attend a Malaysian-Indoensian student event they were organising in November, as if a Prime Minster did not have more important matters to attend to. Mahathir politely told him no.

A Malaysian woman married to an Indonesian asked if her husband and kids, all residing here, could have Malaysian citizenship. Mahathir explained that she and her husband had a choice to become Malaysians or Indonesian citizens. So do their children when they came of age.

A woman from ASEC, like everyone knew what ASEC meant, asked  how and when Malaysia would lead the ASEAN Countries to better economic integration. Even Mahathir was not clued in on what ASEC was and had to ask. Asean Secretariat it turns our ASEC was. His answer was diplomatic and cheeky: that is a question we will ask the ASEAN countries when we meet, but anyone with half a brain would have realised that Malaysia’s priorities were to overcome the massive national debt of $1Trillion that Mahathir talked about his speech and to get its house in order after a decade of Najib’s rule (also takes about in Mahathir’s speech) than to lead ASEAN.The conceit and self-enteredness of the ASEC woman was astounding.

Then there was grandstander, some Malaysian who imputed that he had been tod to get out of Malaysia from before who insisted on sharing his views to all and sundry when question time was for asking questions. He blustered on about values and things that mattered to him and no one else. Mahathir cherry picked and said something about values.

The only question that made some sense was a Sarawakian who asked when the Government was going to get the anti-corruption body the MACC to investigate the chief minister of that state. Mahathir said that for the government to investigate a report would have to be lodged. The questioner said that some Malaysian from Miri had actually filed a report. Mahathir averred.

The food. The only other interesting thing about last night was the food. For a country and people who are so proud of their cuisine it was a bit of a surprise that the Embassy was serving in their buffet Nasi Padang instead of some Malaysian fare. Chalk one up for bilateral relationships, one down for the yearning Malaysian palette.

All of these elements combined left a funny taste in the mouth but that is Malaysia today, I suppose.

 

 

 

 

Please help ensure this hater Jamal Yusof has no place to hide in Indonesia – and make Rp35 mio in the process

Indonesian friends, your help is needed to ensure that this man, who is not unlike those who incite hatred in Indonesia, doesn’t use Indonesia as a refuge from the justice he deserves in Malaysia.

jamal.jpg

His name is Jamal Yunos and he used to be a division leader of Umno, the party that was under the control of now-ousted Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Yunos was Najib’s hatchet man, the leader of the Red Shirts, Umno’s equivalents to Hitler’s Brown Shirts.

In his heyday, which has been the past few years up until Najib’s coalition lost the elections in May, Jamal has been terrorising Malaysian Chinese, Indians, Malays,  Christians and others who dared to disagree with Najib and Umno.

Here’s a video of his terrorising days, this one directed against Bersih supporters. Bersih was a movement by Malaysians to ensure elections. See the similarities of him an cohorts bullying others while police look on, even supporting.

 

Now that Najib has lost the election in Malaysia, Jamal is a wanted man in Malaysia. He escaped police custody and is now on the lam. He’s purported to have fled to Karimun in Indonesia.

Malaysian police are looking for him, Indonesian police say that they have not been served a request to arrest him and a businessman in Malaysia is offering RM10,000 (about Rp 35 million) for information leading to his arrest.

So if you see this scum, please take a photo or video of him and share on social media. Better better still get the attention of Kepong Member of Parliament (Twitter handle @limlipeng) and claim your reward.