Posts Tagged ‘incompetence’

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Does ‘OHS’ in Bali Mean ‘Ostrich Heads In Sand’?

April 11, 2013

It’s always entertaining having a coffee while watching local riggers putting up the steel framework for one of the endless new hotels here. There are no hard-hats, no safety harnesses, no goggles for the sparking oxy-acetylene gear, and no protective clothing. There also seems to a complete absence of fear as the workers scamper along narrow I-beams, which may be two or three storeys above the unforgiving, rubble-strewn ground below.

The thought of death, or serious injury – even though it is only one missed step away – never seems to enter their minds, which is probably just as well.

Workers preparing girders at yet another hotel

Workers preparing girders at yet another hotel

I watched the chaps here hoist the steel beam (highlighted in yellow) from ground-level using only old ropes and muscle power. Then, by walking along two widely-separated beams, they carried it across to its intended position and put it on its side. I spilt part of my first coffee when one of them slipped during this manoeuvre, fortunately recovering before plunging to the ground.

As far as I could see, their safety gear consisted of baseball caps and thongs. That’s flip-flops to those of you whose culture may have led you to believe that I meant buttock-exposing underwear. They may have had steel toecaps, but I was too far away to see.

One would think that the beam would have been measured, pre-cut to the correct length, and pre-drilled on the ground, ready for fixing into place.  But no, not here. As it was about a metre longer than was needed, they decided to cut off the excess length once they manhandled it up there.

So the character sitting astride the main beam proceeded to cut through the yellow beam with a torch, cleverly leaving a mere nubbin of metal to holding the unwanted excess length. There were no gloves being worn either, which caused a minor problem. After the oxy-cutting job, the first thing he did was grab the cut joint with his bare hands to see how secure it was, which resulted in a fairly rapid heat transfer to his fingers. However, a bit of frantic hand-flapping seemed to alleviate the pain somewhat – until he did exactly the same thing  three minutes later. More hand flapping ensued, accompanied by what sounded suspiciously like fruity Indonesian curses.

That’s when the real fun started.

Our intrepid workman wrapped a few turns of thick poly rope around the short end – which looked like it weighed about 80 kg – and tied it off. Inexplicably leaving a 2 metre loop dangling in space, he then wrapped the other end several times around his forearm. The intention was obviously to
catch the piece of girder when it fell – yet the method he employed betrayed no knowledge of the behaviour of falling masses, inertia, momentum, kinetic energy, or any other fundamental law of physics.

Thus prepared, he hit the end with a large hammer, the girder broke off as intended and 80 kilograms of steel accelerated towards the ground at 9.8 metres per second per second. The rope snapped taut, his arm jerked, and he was a split-second away from following the whole ill-thought-out contraption to the ground, when his personal gods must have intervened to save him.

The cut end of the beam slipped through the badly-tied knot and fell to the ground with a mighty crash as it hit some equipment below, reducing it to scrap. Naturally, I spilt most of the rest of my coffee at this point. Leaning precariously, he teetered on the beam for a few seconds, but somehow – I really don’t know how – managed to recover his balance and climb back on.

Despite having had a reduced amount of coffee during this episode, although more than enough adrenaline, I left, unable to watch any more imminent-death scenes. He, after rubbing the rope burns on his arm for a while, just went on with his work as if nothing unusual had happened.

Bali is nothing if not entertaining.

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Stingy Tourists? Or Stingy Government?

April 29, 2012

The Chairman of Bali’s Tourism Board,  Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, opened his mouth wide last Wednesday, and firmly inserted his foot. Annoyed that, despite the rise in total tourist numbers to Bali, visitors are now staying for only an average of three or four days instead of the seven days which was the norm ten years ago, and spend only $100 per day instead of $300, he blamed the tourists.

“Stingy tourists” are overcrowding Bali, he whinged. “When they come we have serious problems of traffic and waste. The island becomes dirty”, he said – falling headlong into the time-honoured local practice of blaming everyone else except yourself. It’s a little shocking to see officials – whose job it is to attract tourists – turn on their target market and accuse them of not being good little visitors by staying longer and spending more. It’s more than a little disconcerting to see a high-profile public official actually exhibit the same cargo-cult mentality that pervades many less sophisticated villagers here. In effect, he is saying: “You have it. We want it. Give it to us. If you don’t, you are a stingy bule.”

Well, Ngurah, you might think that, but as the voice of Bali tourism, you are not supposed to say it, because the backlash from tourists as a result of your rudeness will only result in a wider public discussion as to the real reasons that people are deserting Bali. I too was a tourist for twelve years before coming here to live. Now, as a resident for over three years, I have constant contact with ‘stingy’ tourists, and as a result of their feedback,  I am happy to summarise for you just why this trend is developing.

Look around you, Ngurah – not with the rose-coloured glasses of a local, but through the eyes of someone arriving in Bali after a long, tiring flight. What do you see?

You will see tourists paying $25 USD each for a 30-day visa-on-arrival to enter the country, and then another $16 USD each to leave. Family of four coming for only 5 days? That’s $164 USD out of the spending budget already, and no way to save money on a one-week visa, because officialdom has withdrawn the short-stay visa facility. Visiting Bali on a cruise lay-over for 6 hours? That’s $25 USD per person thanks.

You will see chaos, delays and inefficiency in a hot, overcrowded arrivals hall, with insufficient staff to handle the passenger load and a confusing queuing system.

You will see tired visitors being pounced on by “porters” at the baggage carousel and cajoled into letting them wheel their bags twenty metres to the customs desk, then stridently demanding $10 for each bag before running off to scam their next victim, as airport ‘security’ personnel stand by and grin.

You will see the monopolistic taxi counter ‘mistakenly’ ask for a rate higher than the official published rates displayed, then see their drivers try to con their passengers out of another 40,000 on arrival at their hotels and villas with a pathetic sob story, or an insistence that “this is the rule!” You will see arriving visitors quail as they face the long, long, crowded walk to their car during the chaotic and visitor-unfriendly airport reconstruction.

You will see tourists arrive at what are now grossly-overpriced and over-starred hotels, which no longer offer the ‘book 7, get 10″ incentive packages of past years, only to be told, “Sorry, your room is not ready.” Even Singapore hotels are now cheaper than those in Bali, which is no longer competitive.

You will see a proliferation of Mini-Marts in garish colours selling monstrously-overpriced items to the hapless tourist. Buy a local magazine there, published in Bahasa Indonesia, with a printed price of 25,000 rupiah on the cover, and you will be charged 55,000 when it is scanned. Shrug from the cashier. “Boss’s rules”.

You will see tourists being accosted by rude touts, women being physically man-handled by sellers who refuse to accept a polite refusal to buy their wares, stall-holders muttering thinly-veiled abuse at tourists who won’t pay four times the going rate in Bali (and twice the price in their home country) for their shoddy goods. You will see criminal money-changers short-changing gullible tourists every day, and the arrogant taxi mafia (the non-Bluebird companies) over-charging customers and threatening real taxi drivers with violence.

You will see tourists stuck in traffic for hours on Bali’s poorly-maintained roads, because no-one even considers the grid-locking consequences of allowing local drivers to park wherever they feel like. You will see suicidal motorbike riders come close to killing pedestrians with their brainless antics and causing accidents with cars, after which they shrilly demand compensation for their own stupidity.

You will see visitors to Bali try to negotiate the open drains with lids which masquerade as  ‘footpaths’ here, and injure themselves when brittle manholes collapse beneath them. You will see tourists with infants in strollers being forced to risk death by having to share the narrow roads with texting drivers and motorcyclists.

You will see tourists now being expected to pay the same prices as at home for mediocre western-style meals, and absolutely exorbitant rates for imported wine, spirits and food. Spirits in bars are frequently counterfeit local replacements and deliberate half-shots in mixed drinks are common. Despite smokers being banned in all restaurants, bars and clubs from the first of June this year, tourists can expect no relief from the constant burning of toxic plastic waste all over Bali, the carcinogenic mosquito fogging smoke and noise, or from the stinking emissions of the ubiquitous buses, trucks and illegal 2-stroke motorbikes.

You will see tourists give up on visiting the ‘cultural epicentre’ of Ubud because of traffic jams and the hundreds of huge buses clogging the town. You will see them give up on visiting far-flung temples and seeing the ‘real’ Bali, because it’s all too hard, and now too expensive. Eventually, you will see them avoiding the immense, noisy, polluted construction zone that is South Bali altogether.

You will see tourists recoil from the stinking piles of garbage on the beaches, on the streets and in the ‘rivers’. Where garbage is collected, it ends up in make-shift tips anywhere the collectors choose to dump it. Just have a look at the huge rat and snake-infested mountain of refuse dumped opposite villa developments in Legian, just off Jalan Nakula; have a look at the environmentally-disastrous heap of rubbish at the entrance to the Mangrove Park.

You will see tourists cautious of potentially rabies-infected dogs, scared of contracting Dengue fever from the incessant mosquitoes, wary of getting Legionnaires disease from poorly-maintained air-conditioners, and amazed that nothing is being done about electricity outages and Bali’s looming water shortage. They are worried about increasing crime and a police force that does nothing without money up-front.

And what does the Tourism Board do to make Bali a more attractive destination for visitors? Nothing. It blames the “stingy tourists”. Wow. What diplomacy, what amazing sensitivity. What a truly stupid, irresponsible thing to say.

Well, Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, I have news for you. Tourists have been coming to Bali for decades because it has a special sort of magic. The magic is still there, but it is now being countered by a not-so-special sort of opportunism and greed, over-development, collapsing infrastructure, and an arrogant belief that tourists will keep coming, no matter what.

They won’t. They have already stopped coming; and those who do still come, are spending less. Tourists are changing the Bali paradigm, not because they are “stingy”, but because they are driven by the concept of value for money. And frankly, Bali simply does not provide value for money any more.

The question for you, sir, is what will you and your cohorts in government do to change this?

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Cruise Customers Climb, But Venal VOA Vexes Visitors

March 12, 2012

Bali’s cruise tourism market is showing signs of significant growth in the last decade. In 2002, the number of cruise ships arriving in Bali was 20. This year, it has hit 90 and rising. As usual, the hype surrounding this sector of the tourism market is relentlessly upbeat, focusing as it does on the expected flood of money into Bali, based on projections assuming untold thousands of free-spending passengers deliriously spending vast amounts of cash.

It would be wonderful if this was to actually happen, but the combination of appallingly bad planning, sub-standard construction, lack of proper cruise industry infrastructure, and the venality of the central government could well turn the hoped-for cruise bonanza into a pipe-dream. Another triumph of greed over practicality.

The much-vaunted Tanah Ampo International Cruise Terminal in Karangasem, East Bali has proved to be a massive embarrassment. Apart from being situated so far from the main tourist and shopping precinct in South Bali that a shopping trip is impossible during a 12-hour layover, it was not even designed or constructed properly. No-one seems to know why the pier, originally planned to be 308 metres long, mysteriously shrank to only 154 metres during the final construction phases – way too short to accommodate most cruise ships. And the attached passenger pontoon was of such shoddy construction that it disintegrated a few weeks after being built. One consequence was that in 2011, the Sun Princess, carrying 1,950 passengers, had to divert to Benoa because of the potentially dangerous disembarkation situation.

In February of this year, the  MV Aurora, carrying 2,800 passengers and crew, could not pick up its passengers after their day visit because the new, improved, ‘re-built’ pontoon collapsed again. Passengers were stranded on the pier for over 6 hours. The ‘International’ cruise terminal was not equipped to provide any food, water or shelter while an inevitable rainy-season storm drenched the unhappy passengers. This is not good PR, and needless to say, many visitors left with a very negative image of Bali.

But let’s assume that all these problems are miraculously fixed, and that cruise ship passengers are somehow presented with a truly professional experience at both of Bali’s main cruise ports of Tanah Ampo and Benoa. Would the expected economic benefits then manifest themselves? Will 2,000-odd passengers disembark in the morning and go on a massive spending spree for 8 hours before returning to ship-board life?

It doesn’t look like it. The data from the Benoa Port Office show that only 20% of passengers disembark for a typical one-day stop, and that they spend an average of $45 USD each. That’s not what you call big money. By comparison, Wellington, New Zealand, reports an average daily spend of $141 per day per passenger when in port, and a lot more people. Even Jamaica claims $90 USD. Of course, with cruise lines promoting a self-contained experience on-board, nobody expects all passengers to take the opportunity to make landfall, yet the number actually getting off the ship here, and their daily spend, seems very low.

I spent a day recently with a cruise ship passenger who arrived at Benoa at 6.30am. Because the Benoa pier is another one that is too short for major liners, passengers are brought to shore by ship’s tender, a process requiring advance booking and a lot of waiting. They are dropped off in an area which is confusing for first-time visitors, who are immediately surrounded by hordes of insistent taxi touts demanding outrageous fares for the relatively short trip to the shopping hot-spots. I had sent a driver to pick her up, but even so, pre-booked drivers were restricted to waving their signs from behind a high fence. From her description, the chaos in the port arrivals area made Denpasar airport look like Changi by comparison.

She said that few of her fellow passengers opted to come ashore, many baulking at paying the $25 USD Visa On Arrival fee. For 6 or 7 hours in Bali, it’s simply not worth it. The standard VOA is valid for 30 days. You can enter Bali for half-an-hour if you like, but you will pay the inflexible, one-size-fits-all visa fee of $25 USD. Why? Well, just look at the revenues. In the first nine months of last year, VOA fees for entry to Bali (mainly through the airport) amounted to more than $42 million USD. How much of that stays in Bali, to provide for tourism infrastructure? None of it. It all goes straight to Jakarta. Don’t expect cheap one-day cruise ship visas any time soon – I don’t believe Jakarta officials would sacrifice a single dollar of their VOA revenue to grow this sector of Bali’s tourism industry,  because there would be nothing in it for them.

Another passenger reports that on arriving back at the port for departure , a helpful chap offered to help him find his way back to the correct tender – for free! Naturally, he was delighted, until he was led to a small shack where yet another helpful chap (no doubt a cousin) relieved him of 150,000 rupiah ‘Departure Tax’ and took him to his boat. Only later did he realise that there is no ‘departure tax’ payable at ports …

Of course, back at the airport, the VOA scams are still alive and well. The officials who embezzled over $300,000 USD by misreporting $25, 30-day visa fees as $10, 10-day visas (and pocketing the difference) were rapped on the knuckles and sent back to work. The government’s solution to their corrupt behaviour was to charge us all $25 now, regardless of length of stay. Now reports are coming in of a new wrinkle, where tired passengers arriving after long-haul flight are told, “You are from Europe. You must pay 25 Euro.” Those who protest that it should be $25 USD are told, “That is only for Americans.”

Oh yes, there is the transit mess as well. If you think you are ‘transiting’ through Bali, say from Darwin to Kuala Lumpur, make sure that you have a ‘fly-through’ ticket. If you travel on a cheap point-to-point carrier, you actually have two journeys. On arrival at Bali, you will have to purchase a $25 VOA for your proposed one-hour stay in Bali, clear immigration, collect your bags, clear customs, exit the airport and walk 200 metres to the departures area, where you will have to check in, pay 150,000 departure tax, clear immigration and board your connecting flight. That’s if it hasn’t left during this lengthy process. That’s because you are not ‘transiting’, you are ‘transferring’, which involves a world of pain.

If you are genuinely ‘transiting’ – that is, your bags are checked through and you have a boarding pass for the second leg, you should be right. Just get off the plane and go to the transit lounge to wait for the connecting flight. However, rumour has it (unsubstantiated, I hasten to add) that the Bali transit lounge has been closed during airport renovations. If this is true, you will need to purchase a $25 VOA … get the picture? Just skip back one paragraph for the full saga if you need to be reminded.

Anyway, that’s the airport. We all know what a disaster area that is. But back to my main thread about the way cruise visitors are being treated – which is with an incredible lack of vision for the future. It is without a doubt, a potentially lucrative sector of the tourist industry for Bali. So why are the local authorities being so completely amateurish about growing it? Why didn’t they build a proper, professional-standard cruise terminal in East Bali? Why are they not lobbying Jakarta for the immediate introduction of a cheap one-day entry permit for cruise passengers?

Why do I even hope that things will ever change in the torturous labyrinth of Indonesian officialdom?

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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


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Please, Someone In Indonesian Politics – Take The Final Step

September 25, 2011

I was going to write a thousand words on this.
But maybe a picture is better …