Posts Tagged ‘government’

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The Marquee Job – A Metaphor For The Planning Process In Bali?

May 1, 2013

Bali has many attractions to tempt visitors. Its culture is alluring, the scenery is stunning – once you get away from the The Great Southern Urban Blight – and the opportunities to relax are boundless. With proper planning,  sustainable policies and infrastructure that matches its population, it could be fabulous.

Good planning would mean that hotel and condominium permits are curtailed to match demand. Instead, permits are issued at the whim of Regents who can not see beyond the windfall of the ‘special fees’ that such permits deliver. The resulting oversupply of beds means that competition for guests is fierce.

But instead of competition driving down the high room tariffs, hoteliers have been told by the government that a ‘fixed price’ regimen is to be implemented for accommodation. Ostensibly to maintain the perception of ‘quality’, the real reason is obvious. Lower room tariffs mean a reduction in the government tax take. Hoteliers are now being threatened with loss of their star rating if they reduce prices in line with the normal rules of supply and demand. A modicum of long-term planning could have avoided this ridiculous situation.

Good planning would also mean that supplies of electricity and water were sufficient for both the existing and the projected population. It would also involve introducing methods of conserving and recycling both water and energy. Proper planning would avoid the situation we see regularly here – load-shedding power blackouts, a poor water supply and distribution system, and salt-water contamination of ground wells. But there is little evidence of any such planning.

Good planning would mean that purchasers of cars here would have to demonstrate that they actually have somewhere to park the things, instead of clogging up every narrow road and gang outside their garage-less dwellings. Pro-active registration policies could reduce the increasing numbers of over-sized private cars, bought for status – and invariably on credit – which try to squeeze into narrow streets, causing monumental traffic jams.

Good planning, and proper information channels, would mean that owners of restaurants, stalls and other businesses would know in advance when visitor peaks are expected. Right now, the owners of hundreds of businesses are staring glumly out into the streets, wondering where their customers are. They are oblivious to the dates of school holidays and other tourism-drivers, because no-one has told them and they haven’t bothered to find out.  So they let their staff go, without pay, until suddenly the tourists are back and everyone is under-staffed and under-stocked. There is no planning for peaks and troughs, and so the mad oscillations continue.

I fear that planning, at any level, is not one of Bali’s strengths. The government seems to show little evidence of strategic long-term planning, and individuals seem to show little tactical planning ability. When action is taken, it tends to be reactive, and there seems to be little understanding of the consequences of those actions. Maybe that’s why there is so much back-flipping on policies, so many abandoned projects and so much confusion here.

Sitting and watching preparations for a wedding at a little beach restaurant in Petitenget, I witness a  perfect example of the ‘no planning’ mindset that seems to afflict Bali. In this microcosm of what is happening here on a larger scale every day, I watch a group of industrious lads meticulously setting up a marquee and table on the beach sand. They have been doing this for the last 90 minutes, perhaps ten metres from the water. The tide is coming in.

Planning Ahead - Setting Up The Marquee

Planning Ahead – Time And Tide Wait For No Marquee

One of the wedding planners wanders over from the restaurant, speaks to the workers and gestures at the incoming waves. The lads stare out to sea for 5 minutes, verify that they are indeed waves out there, then shrug and continue working.

The next wave swamps the marquee and table and saturates the carefully arranged tablecloth. The boys, bemused, move the whole outfit 3 metres back and start re-setting the decorations and replacing the wet stuff. The tide is, not surprisingly, still coming in. In fact, the high-tide mark, clearly visible, is a good 20 metres shoreward, but this does not seem to register with them or affect their endeavours.

Ten minutes later, as I am leaving, the water is again lapping at the legs of the marquee. The boys, Canute-like, stare out to sea and will the tide to retreat. Inexplicably, it doesn’t, and they painstakingly shift the whole edifice back another 3 metres.

I don’t know how many iterations of this little drama occurred, because I left, unable to watch the inevitable. But I’m willing to bet it was at least three more …

I wonder if education might help. If schools and colleges encouraged their students to plan ahead, use logic, understand consequences, and gave them the tools to do this, would this change the paradigm? Would this result in a new generation better able to plan for Bali’s growth?

Or is what I keep seeing here just “The Bali Way”, and therefore unchangeable?

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Solve Bali’s Problems By Changing A Deeply Flawed System

June 28, 2012

Bali’s popular and caring Governor, I Made Mangku Pastika, is again in the news as being concerned about the effect of tourism on the island. “Tourism has been a disaster for the poor”, he said. The number of people living in poverty in Bali has jumped by 17,000 to 183,000 over the last year alone. He blames tourism for driving up the prices of basic commodities to a point where the indigent can no longer afford them. He also points to increased transmigration by non-Balinese looking for tourism-related work as putting pressure on both prices and infrastructure.

I am sure that for diplomatic reasons, Pastika didn’t mention the opportunistic price increases here ahead of Jakarta’s recently botched ‘phasing out’ of fuel subsidies and the resulting fuel price rises. That increase didn’t eventuate of course – the Central government’s duty to responsibly manage the economy took a back seat to political popularity – but there is little doubt that that fiasco has contributed to the problem as well. Prices of just about everything went up. But when the whole rationale for these cost increases suddenly vanished, those prices … well, of course, they stayed up.

Pastika’s attempts to manage Bali’s tourism bubble without destroying the soul of the island have been laudable. His ‘moratorium’ on further development in an island already over-supplied with accommodation – and under-equipped with suitable infrastructure – was a genuine attempt to rescue Bali from its growing problems.  We can see these every day – grid-locked streets, mountains of rubbish, collapsing road surfaces, environmental degradation, insufficient water and inadequate power supply.

And yet, despite the moratorium, new hotels and condominiums keep springing up like noxious weeds, taking over residential areas, obliterating rice fields and breaching height and set-back limits with impunity. Many developers appear to commence construction without even bothering the get the required permits and don’t even attempt to comply with the 40% open space rule designed to catch rain to replenish a diminishing water table. And as far as the ‘Balinese character’ required in their architectural features – well, I guess developers think that Miami or Gold Coast designs are close enough for Bali.

How can this be? I hear people blaming Pastika – after all, he is the Governor of Bali, right? He has the power to lead the way for Bali – why isn’t he enforcing his own moratorium? Why doesn’t he do something about the infrastructure?

The simple answer is – he can’t. He might be the Governor of Bali –  one of the 33 provinces of Indonesia – but he effectively has no power.

The real power in Indonesia is vested in the districts or regencies (kabupaten), and the cities (kota). Bali has eight regencies and one city – Denpasar.

The head of each regency, via its administration, has total authority, often by-passing the role of the provincial government in making and enforcing regulations and policies. And every regency can make its own rules. So much for consistency.

In effect, the Bali Governor’s role as head of the provincial government is limited to a vaguely-defined mediating role between regencies. For those familiar with the tiers of Australian government, the situation is akin to granting local municipal councils the same rights and powers as a State government, reducing that body to a symbolic and largely ceremonial role.

In Australia, such a system would result in planning chaos, with no consistency in laws, regulations, tax charges and levies, urban construction standards, or anything else that provides the glue to hold civil society together. In Bali, this system results in planning chaos, with no consistency … well, you get the picture.

The genesis of this unbelievable situation came about 11 years ago. In an attempt to decentralise Jakarta’s absolute control and devolve power to Indonesia’s far-flung provinces, the Regional Autonomy policy of 2001 was implemented.  It might have even been workable if the sub-national units – the Provinces – were granted the power to manage their own local affairs.

But no, the post-Dili paranoia that gripped Jakarta meant that districts/regencies – not provinces – were given this power, in the fear that a genuine transfer of authority to provinces might induce them to break away from Jakarta’s grip.

Are all the eight regencies happy with this arrangement? Well, Badung is happy. A large part of Bali’s development, and hence revenue, is generated there. Gianyar too seems reasonably happy with its share of the cake, as is the municipality of Denpasar. But the other six regencies would be close to destitute if it wasn’t for a revenue-sharing arrangement that originally took 30% of Badung’s revenues (and since considerably reduced) to be redistributed to the poorer areas.

So now, we have the sad spectacle of the governor of Bali trying his best to address the problems here, but being stymied by autonomous regencies which not only compete with each other for hand-out money, but whose very survival is dependent on funds from development licences, fees and taxes – and of course, the eternal bribe windfalls from granting inappropriate development permits. “Moratorium?”, they ask – “What moratorium?” A ‘permits for sale’ mentality rules, and Bali disappears under yet more towers.

Adding to the volatile mix of greed versus sustainability is a set of central guidelines which don’t even address the role of tourism or handicrafts – two of Bali’s critical ingredients. It’s a recipe for chaos. I sympathise with the Governor, and I can understand why he over-simplifies the formula so that it reads “Tourism = A Disaster for the Poor”. That’s just politics, although it does make for a fine sound-bite.

The reality is that to improve the lot of the Balinese people requires a radical re-think of all the complex components of the situation. Bali generates more than 50% of Indonesia’s $7 billion+ tourist-related revenue. Does Bali get to keep what it generates? No. Does Bali get any of the huge Visa On Arrival windfall collected from its tourists? Not a rupiah. Retaining a fair share of this money would go a long way to implementing poverty-reduction programs in Bali – but it won’t happen as long as Jakarta keeps seeing Bali as a cash cow.

On top of the huge discrepancy between the money generated and money retained, is the ludicrous situation of having a provincial government with no real power, no clout, no mandate to plan, and basically no voice in the affairs of Bali itself. These functions are being undertaken by competing regencies to the detriment of the whole province.

While Bali may not yet be ready for Bali Merdeka – true independence (nor would Jakarta’s nationalistic power-brokers ever permit it) –  it certainly is ready to push for special autonomy status, with the provincial government assuming its rightful place as the strategic seat of planning and power. It’s time that the dog wagged the tail.

When it does, listen for the screaming of the regents, especially those who have been putting their local interests ahead of those of Bali. They will provide the soundtrack for the birth of a new, mature Bali, one with a proper, hierarchical government structure instead of a chaotic set of divided fiefdoms.

I just hope that someone of Governor Pastika’s calibre, and possessing his vision, will be at the helm when that happens.

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In Their Own Words – The Wisdom Of The Elites: Part 3

January 12, 2012

Go to Part 1  •  Go to Part 2

PART 3 more public statements made by those in high places in Indonesia. These are an endless source of amusement, wonder, embarrassment, amazement and despair. Many of their pronouncements seem to be characterised by outright denial, shifting blame to others, justifications, outright lies and misplaced piety. Here is a selection of gaffe-prone luminaries, their immortal words, and the context in which they were uttered. You couldn’t make this stuff up.


Netty Prasetyani Heryawan, Head of the West Java Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Agency

Showing a strange lack of compassion for a “women’s empowerment” official, she stated that women have only themselves to blame if they fall into the clutches of human traffickers and prostitution rings. As reported in The Jakarta Globe, she said:

“They’re … leaving West Java only so that they can live out their hedonistic lifestyles.” 
“For these women seeking a hedonistic life, they end up becoming victims of human trafficking.”


Marzuki Alie, House of Representatives Speaker

The poor attendance records of many House members, and their reported manipulation of the current signature-based attendance log, has resulted in calls for a fingerprint reader system. The House Secretary General, Nining Indra Saleh, announced that the cost would be about Rp 4 billion. Marzuki Alie vehemently disagreed, citing his expertise in IT:

“… my calculation is different. My background is in information technology, so I’ve processed it. It’s not correct … I don’t think the equipment should cost any more than Rp 200 million. Rp 4 billion? That’s crazy.”

A few days later, Marzukie Alie had revised his expert calculation upwards by a staggering Rp 1.2 billion, saying that the plan should cost no more than Rp 1.4 billion.


Amir Syamsuddin, Justice and Human Rights Minister

The just-inaugurated Amir refused to comment on the recent spate of killings of villagers in Sumatra, allegedly by security forces and police, defended his reluctance to talk by saying:

“I should not talk about human rights. It is something that I’m not good at …”


Inspector General Iskandar Hasan, Aceh Police Chief

After sixty four young people were arrested by Aceh police for the non-existent ‘crime’ of being ‘punks’, they were beaten, had their heads forcibly shaved, were thrown in a lake and held underwater. After their unlawful arrest, they were subjected to a 10-day ‘re-education’ program at the Aceh State Police camp.

After several foreign embassy officials questioned the illegal arrests, assaults and forcible detention, the Police Chief dismissed their concerns, saying:

“… it’s a tradition. When I was still in the police academy, we were all pushed and plunged into a lake.”


Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, Deputy Mayor, Banda Aceh

Freely admitting that she is on a moral crusade against the punk community, the Deputy Mayor justified the action taken against punks, claiming that:

“This is a new social disease affecting Banda Aceh. Their morals are wrong. Men and women gather together, and that is against Islamic Shariah.”


Eddie Widiono, former president of the State Power Company PLN

On being sentenced to 5 years for corruption involving Netway, a company for which he fraudulently approved a contract for Rp 92.7 billion, when the real cost was only Rp 46 billion, he complained:

“I feel really hurt by being said to be unprofessional,” he said. “This really hurts my track record.”


Sofyan Usman, former lawmaker from the United Development Party

During his graft trial on 29 December 2011 for allegedly receiving bribes of Rp 1 billion, he claimed that there was no problem, because he wanted to build a mosque. He indignantly asked:

“Do I, as a lawmaker who intended to help the construction of a mosque, deserve to be jailed?”

Interestingly, it was only six months earlier that a judge had sentenced Sofyan to serve a year and three months, and fined him Rp 50 million for receiving a bribe to influence the selection of a deputy senior governor of Bank Indonesia in 2004.


Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs

After a spate of episodes of religiously-motivated violence, including
attacks on Shia communities in East Java, Djoko Suyanto said his office is not responsible for resolving matters such as these, claiming that:

“It is the role of the Religious Affairs Ministry to handle violence that is related to religion.”

Because Djoko’s office would normally be concerned with criminal acts such as unlawful assaults, violence and intimidation, observers have interpreted his words to mean that the government regards assaults ‘related to religion’ as apparently not being criminal acts.


Majudien, Chairman of The Islamic Reform Movement (Garis)

The besieged GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, still being unlawfully harassed by the Bogor Mayor and resident fundamentalists in contravention of a Supreme Court order, suffered yet another attack on New Year’s Eve. The Jakarta Globe reported that a mob of enraged Muslims led by Majudien terrorized church members after becoming infuriated by a bumper sticker on one Christian’s car, which read: “We need a friendly Islam, not an angry Islam.” Majudien justified his group’s attack, complaining:

“What is the aim of that sticker being put there? That is a provocative action against us, the Muslims of Bogor.

An important fact (that had obviously escaped the incensed Majudien) was that the sticker was actually a souvenir distributed by the family of the late former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid during a commemoration of his death. All guests, including the chairman of the Constitutional Court, the deputy religious affairs minister and many VIPs, had received the same sticker. None had apparently complained.


Inspector General Saud Usman Nasution, National Police spokesman, and
First Brigadier Ahmad Rusdi, Police Officer and Plaintiff

Police officer Ahmad Rusdi took a teenaged boy to court in Sulawesi for allegedly stealing his Rp 30,000 pair of sandals. He and his colleague, Jhon Simson, had questioned three youths over the missing pair of sandals, after which Ahmad claimed that:

“The three then admitted it.”

However, one of the boys’ parents accused the police of forcing a confession by beating the teen. The National Police spokesman, Saud, then rushed to the police officers’ defence, denying the boys were beaten and explaining:

“There was an emotional action of pushing the boy until he fell.”

The officers were disciplined, but the boy still had to face court, where:

1) Ahmad, the plaintiff, told the court that he was uncertain about his accusation, and that it was more a matter of intuition than proof.

2) The court was told the court that the sandals found with the defendant were Eiger brand. Ahmad, the police officer said his sandals were Andos. 

3) Ahmad couldn’t prove that the defendant had actually taken the sandals, which had been lying in the street some 30 meters from the policeman’s rented room. 

Despite the obviously weak case, the court inexplicably ruled that the boy:

“… was proved to have engaged in theft and it was decided to return him to his parents.” 

Saud, the National Police spokesman, tried to defuse anger at the the minor’s need to appear in court by blaming the parents, saying that they:

“… demanded that their offspring … be reported legally.”

Saud further claimed that police had reminded the parents that their child was still a minor and should not be taken to court – a strange statement, given that 6,273 minors were being held on criminal charges in Indonesian jails last year.

Source 1   Source 2


And just to show that not all weird utterances occur in Indonesia, here’s a gem from the Adhaalath Party – A Fundamentalist Islamist Opposition Party in the Maldives
Ninemsn reports that luxury hotels in more than one thousand islands of the Maldives have been forced to shut their lucrative spa services after the Islamist political party complained that they were just brothels. An Adhaalath spokesman called for an end to spas, and, wait for it:

“Their lustful music”


I think it’s time for another cup of tea and a good lie down. I look at this list of gaffes and wonder why politicians, police, religious leaders and the so-called elites hold themselves in such high esteem. It’s beyond me, it really is. I may have to go and listen to some lustful music.

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In Their Own Words – The Wisdom Of The Elites: Part 2

December 2, 2011

Go to Part 1    Go to Part 3

Part 2 – more public statements made by those in high places in Indonesia. These are an endless source of amusement, wonder, embarrassment, amazement and despair. Many of their pronouncements seem to be characterised by outright denial, shifting blame to others, justifications and outright lies. Here is a selection of gaffe-prone luminaries, their immortal words, and the context in which they were uttered. You couldn’t make this stuff up.


 Denny Indrayana, Justice and Human Rights Deputy Minister
After a former inmate blew the whistle on unseemly goings-on at a Jakarta prison, the Deputy Minister said that:

“Prostitution, gambling and human rights violations were no longer taking place in Central Jakarta’s Salemba prison.”


Panda Nababan, former Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker
Panda was convicted of receiving bribes in the 2004 Bank Indonesia governor selection scandal and is currently incarcerated in Central Jakarta’s Salemba prison. During a meeting where prison violations, including preferential treatment for elite prisoners, was being discussed and accusations made about Panda’s “Luxurious cell”, Panda stormed in to the meeting and confronted his accuser. Red-faced, he screamed:

“Did you say you saw me in a luxurious room? You took my name to the press. Ethically, you should have asked me first, but you’re telling all of Indonesia that I have a luxury room!”

No explanation was given by prison authorities as to why Panda had access to the meeting room, which is in an area barred to inmates.


Akbar Hadi,  Spokesman for the Corrections Department
Referring to the sudden removal of Selamat Prihantara as head of Central Jakarta’s Salemba Prison, Akbar Hadi said that his transfer, which occurred after a former inmate released a video documenting a range of illegal activities, including prostitution, gambling and human rights violations, was:

“A coincidence.”


Arifinto, member of Indonesia’s Prosperous Justice Party (PKS)

Arifinto, a staunch supporter of his Party’s strict anti-pornography laws, was photographed during a Parliamentary session viewing pornography. At first claiming it was on an email that he accidentally opened, he later admitted it was his when evidence should he was opening a folder containing the material. He announced his resignation, saying:

“With all of my conscience, without any coercion from anyone or any elements, for the sake of myself and the party’s honor, following this statement, I will soon file my resignation as a member of the House of Representatives to my party.”

Interestingly, as far as anybody knows, Arifinto is still in the House and still drawing a
salary. He insisted he was staying put pending “a decree from the president.” He rationalised his refusal to depart by saying:

“Just use common logic. I am just doing [this] based on what the law states. Even if I am no longer a lawmaker, I still have the right to come to the House, right? I am also one of the people.”

“The House leaders are not my bosses, I don’t have any responsibility to report to them.”


Surahman, Head of the Prosperous Justice Party’s Sharia Board
Surprisingly, Surahman defended Arifinto with a convoluted statement that managed to imply that lawmakers are on a different plane to ‘mere mortals’, saying:

“We’re only human, not angels. What can happen to mere mortals can also happen to us.”


Jusuf Kalla, Indonesia’s  former Vice-President and Golkar Party Chief
The practice of visiting Arabs who legally ‘marry’ local women for several days, or even a few hours, was defended by Jusuf Kalla. He asserted that that this kind of marriage would help the Tourism Department attract more Arab tourists. He said:

“There is nothing wrong with Arab men staying in Indonesia, paying the local women for a very short-lived married life, and then divorcing them.”


Akbar Ramanda, accused attacker of Ahmadis in Bogor
This 17-year-old stood trial for participating in attack against an Ahmadiyah community in Bogor. He originally told police investigators that:

“I witnessed two men (his fellow attackers) inside the Ahmadiyah mosque burning books.”

By the time of the trial, his testimony had changed dramatically to:

“The men were merely using a lighter in an attempt to read the books.”


Dwi Djanuwanto, a judge at the Yogyakarta District Court
This judge was dishonourably discharged for demanding bribes including plane tickets, a hotel room, a stripper and a prostitute in return for a favourable ruling for a defendant charged with – yes, corruption. On being told of his sacking, Dwi pleaded:

“I ask that this decision not affect my standing as a civil servant, including my right to a pension.”


Ery Basworo, Head of Jakarta’s Public Works Department
After a 55-year-old woman fell into an open drain in Jakarta and died, Ery defended Jakarta’s many open drains, saying that they worked better that way. As for the danger, he helpfully suggested:

“We encourage people to step carefully.”


Agung Wirakusuma, a Kuta bar manager
After a teenager was electrocuted by an illuminated sign with faulty, exposed wiring, the bar manager blamed tourists:

“Most of night people got very drunk and he banged the sign,” he said. “Something broken inside of the sign.”


Jero Wacik, former Culture and Tourism Minister
On publication of an article in Time magazine which criticised Bali’s dirty, trash-laden beaches, Governor Pastika gracefully accepted responsibility, saying: “… clearly there has been a failure on the part of the Bali provincial government”.

In stark contrast, in Jakarta, the Culture and Tourism Minister at that time, Jero Wacik, blamed high winds, not poor governance and said litter was blown onshore from elsewhere. He said the Times article exaggerated the problems and dismissed the problem, saying:

“In the end, [the tourists] come back.”


Edhy Prabowo, Gerindra Party lawmaker
Indonesia’s Commission VIII members visiting Canberra were asked for contact details but did not know their own Commission’s email address , proferring a non-existent Yahoo email address instead. Lawmaker Edhy Prabowo leapt to their defence, saying that:

“Lawmakers were not obligated to understand technology and the Internet …”


Sahrudin, a TransJakarta Buslines officer
Transjakarta buses are now segregating men and women. As passengers were attempting to board, Sahrudin announced:

“To prevent immoral acts, male passengers please go to the back and female passengers to the front.”


Ersa Kamaruddin, Director of Bukaka Teknik Utama &
Tri Wijayanto, Director of Hutama Karya
On 26 November, the 700 metre-long Mahakam II bridge in Kalimantan collapsed suddenly and killed at least 19 people. Bukaka Teknik Utama, the engineering firm owned by former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, and responsible for the bridge’s maintenance, denied any responsibility. The director, Ersa Kamaruddin, said:

“It was completely unexpected”

He added that the firm had just been given a Rp 2.8 billion ($311,000) contract:

“to change a few bolts and tighten others.”

The company that built the bridge, state-owned contractor Hutama Karya, also ran for cover, claiming that it was only responsible for problems for the first 180 days. Its director Tri Wijayanto said that he did not know of any serious structural problems since it was built in 2001, claiming that he was unaware that the anchor blocks for the bridge’s pillars had been shifting by 18 centimetres per year. Wijayanto said:

“As far as we know, it doesn’t matter if its shifting.
As long as the bridge is still working, then it’s fine.”

“Besides, no one ever complained about the
shifting.”


From Saudi Arabian clerics
And from the country that our local fundamentalists regard as an inspirational model for Indonesia, comes this reason for prohibiting women from participating in sports:

“Running & jumping can damage a woman’s hymen and ruin her chances of getting married.”


I think it’s time for a cup of tea and a good lie down. I look at this list of gaffes and wonder why the elites in Indonesia hold themselves in such high esteem. It’s beyond me, it really is …

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In Their Own Words – The Wisdom Of The Elites: Part 1

December 2, 2011

Public statements made by those in high places in Indonesia, are an endless source of amusement, wonder, embarrassment, amazement and despair. Many of their pronouncements seem to be characterised by outright denial, shifting blame to others, justifications and outright lies. Here is a selection of gaffe-prone luminaries, their immortal words, and the context in which they were uttered. You couldn’t make this stuff up.


Fauzi Bowo, Governor of Jakarta
This was the Governor’s advice to women who wished to avoid being raped by motorcycle taxi (ojek) operators:

“If … you wear short pants or a miniskirt, do not sit like a man, just side saddle. If you side saddle, there will be no problem.”

For those women seeking to avoid being raped by minibus drivers, he offers a reason why the rape victim might be to blame:

“If a woman wears a short skirt and sits next to the driver, it could be ‘inviting’.”


Suryadharma Ali, Minister of Religious Affairs
Despite a large increase in the number of attacks on churches, rampant violence against members of religious groups, organised riots and even murders, the Minister insisted that:

“there were no incidents of violence between religious groups in 2010, only issues with religious groups that failed to comply with the regulations pertaining to the erection of new houses of worship.”


Tifatul Sembiring, Minister for Information and Technology
Tifatul flaunts his conservatism as a Muslim and insists that he always avoids touching women who are not family members. However, during a Presidential visit, he enthusiastically stepped forward and smiling broadly, grasped Michelle Obama’s hand in both of his – an event captured on video. He later denied that he did anything of the sort, saying:

“It was forced contact. The first lady held her hands too far toward me so they touched, though I tried to prevent my hands being touched.”

After a destructive tsunami in Padang, Sumatra, Tifatul claimed that the disaster was divine punishment for watching immoral TV shows:

“Television broadcasts that destroy morals are plentiful in this country and therefore disasters will continue to occur.”


Diani Budiarto, Mayor of Bogor
After cancelling the permit of a Christian church on trumped-up charges, later proven to be false, and despite a Supreme Court ruling instructing him to unseal the illegally-closed GKI Yasmin church and stop victimising its members, he continues to be defiant, giving as his reason:

“No church should be on a street named after a Muslim.”


 Marzuki Alie, Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR)
Weighing into the continuing saga of the GKI Yasmin church, Marzukie Alie now says that the legally binding Supreme Court ruling should be ignored, and replaced by a ruling to be brought down by the House of Representatives.  Rattling the very foundations of Rule of Law in Indonesia, he says that:

“it is not reasonable for the church to hope for enforcement of a court ruling that it be allowed to operate.”

His advice to victims of a tsunami that devastated the Mentawai Islands off West Sumatra last year, killing 500 and displacing 15,000 souls, was:

“If you’re afraid of waves, don’t live by the shore.”

When responding to reports of widespread torture and mistreatment of Indonesian migrant workers abroad, he sided with the abusive employers, saying:

“Some of them can’t iron properly, so it’s natural if the employer ends up landing the hot iron on the migrant worker’s body.”

While doggedly supporting a widely-criticised proposal to construct a new $160 million office tower for legislators, he lashed out at opponents of the scheme, saying:

“Only elites can discuss this – regular people should not be involved.”

Speaking about a plague of caterpillars in Java and Bali, he dismissed biological explanations, claiming instead that Indonesian people should avoid engaging in mindless debate about things that do not concern them. His explanation:

“It is a warning from God.”

By the way, this is the same man who suggested that the country pardon corruptors as a means of eradicating corruption.


Irianto MS Syafiudin, Regent of Indramayu, West Java
Concerned about the morals of students in his area, he suggested that:

“Girls need to undergo a virginity test in order to be admitted to High School.”


Patrialis Akbar, recently dumped Minister of Justice and Human Rights
In trying to explain why people like the infamous Gayus Tambunan (the convicted tax official who kept taking overseas trips while supposedly in jail) deserved a reduction in their prison sentences, he said:

“Bribery is not a form of corruption.”

This is the same man who, during the hunt for the fugitive Democratic Party Treasurer Nazarrudin, prematurely announced to the press that they knew Nazarrudin’s location, but:

“The destination will not be revealed because it is feared he will escape again. The team will leave tonight.”


Siti Haryanti, a secretary at the religious court in Mount Kidul in Central Java
Concerned with a rise in teenage pregnancies and under-age marriages, this worthy identified the root cause as Facebook. She said:

“Many couples admitted they got to know each other through the site and continued their relationship until they got pregnant outside wedlock.”


Ridwan Muhammad, Chairman of the Bireuen District Council , Aceh
This Aceh leader demanded the removal of an elected woman sub-district head, because:

“Women are unfit to lead under Islamic law”.


Senior Commander Boy Rafli Amar, National Police spokesman
Responding to criticism of the FPI as a band of paid fundamentalist thugs, the police spokesman said:

“As a part of society, the FPI is our partner … in a positive way.”

This is not surprising, because Boy’s boss, General Timur Pradopo, Chief of the Indonesian National Police, was described by Bonar Tigor Naipospos, Deputy Chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, as:

“one of the founding members of the FPI in 1998.”


General Timur Pradopo, Chief of the Indonesian National Police
Pradopo contradicted mining company Freeport Indonesia, who had said that payments of $74 million between 1995 and 2010, to the police officers stationed at the Grasberg mine in
Papua were not in fact for government provided security as claimed by Freeport. He said the payments were actually for:

“… meal money”


Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih, Minister for Health
Nisza Ismail, 8 months old, died at Mitra Anugrah Lestari Hospital in Cimahi, West Java, after first being refused treatment for high fever and seizures by both Handayani Hospital and Mitra Kasih Hospital because her parents could not provide an advance payment. The Minister blamed the death on the parents’ failure to say they could not afford to pay, saying:

 “If the parents felt they couldn’t afford the treatment, they should have communicated it to the hospital from the time they arrived”

She is the same Minister who defended Indonesia’s widely-criticised practice of female circumcision, saying that a 2010 Ministerial Decree would “protect girls” by allowing female circumcisions to be performed only by doctors, nurses or midwives. She said:

“If it is not regulated, it may lead to the procedure being carried out not by medical personnel but perhaps by shamans or others who would cause infection, bleeding and excessive cutting.”

A previous memo in 2006, from the same Ministry, had encouraged this very practice of unqualified circumcision, specifically banning health workers from performing the religious procedure.


Syahrul Yasin Limpo, Governor of South Sulawesi
Three year-old Safira was admitted to the Andi Makassau Hospital in Parepare to have 25 rusty nails of about 10 centimetres each removed from her body. Doctors believed that they had been inserted over a 6-month period. However, the Governor had his own explanation, saying:

“In South Sulawesi it is possible for these sorts of things to happen. It’s called magic and it’s explained in the Koran.” 


Judge Sjam Amansjah, Bandung High Court
Peterpan frontman Ariel (Nazril Irham) recently lost his appeal against his conviction on pornography charges. He was jailed for disseminating pornography after explicit videos made by him (legal in Indonesia) and stored on his computer were uploaded to the internet by a thief who stole his computer. The judge who dismissed his appeal gave the following reason:

“We considered the people’s opinion, especially of those who were present during the court proceedings.”

The ‘people’s opinion’ that the judge was referring to was expressed by an organised group of Islamic hard-liners who were present throughout the trial, and who pelted Ariel with rotten eggs and tomatoes as he entered and left the courtroom.

CONTINUE READING: PART 2  &  PART3