Anies Baswedan made me proud when told Europeans how well Indonesia manages cultural differences. Then I heard news of the church burnings in Aceh.
Trying to cut words from a headline? Replace “study tour” with “junket”. Most Indonesians think of study tours, or “studi banding” as a politician’s way of going on an overseas holiday at the taxpayers’ expense. There are exceptions, of course. Over a decade ago, I took the then vice-governor of Papua province, Konstan Karma, to Uganda to see what a generalised HIV epidemic looked like. One morning, we visited a clinic at a university hospital in Kampala. It was overflowing…
Seventy years ago today, Sukarno and Mohmmad Hatta were frog-marched to a radio station by students hungry for independence. There, they declared the formation of the republic of Indonesia. Both the text and its original presentation in Sukarno’s handwriting (pictured above, rescued from the waste-paper basket) tell us much about the country.
Earlier this year, Indonesia’s national parliament passed a law that tried to curb dynastic succession in politics. This was frankly a little surprising. The chairwoman of the largest party in parliament, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is the daughter of Indonesia’s first president. Though she never did manage to get elected herself, Megawati did spend some time in the top job after her boss President ‘Gus Dur’ was impeached. After a bit of political arm-twisting, her own daughter now sits in the cabinet….
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has appointed an all-female panel to select the next anti-corruption commissioners. While some think this is a sign that women are gaining political power in Indonesia. I argue that the panel will probably do a good job precisely because women are generally marginalised, and therefore less likely to be woven into networks of patronage and corruption.
Several times over the last months, I’ve been asked to comment on the impending execution of convicted drug dealers. I’ve always refused, largely because I thought I’d just be fuelling hysteria about something that wasn’t actually going to happen. Then, just a few minutes before I was about to speak on a panel called “Death Sentences” at the University of California Irvine, I heard that Indonesian police had indeed pulled the trigger on eight people, one of them mentally ill….
Starting last week, Indonesia banned the sale of beer in convenience stores. (It’s the first time since the tsunami that I remember “Muslim-majority Indonesia” making it into the Daily Mail.) Worse still, parliament is proposing to jail people for up to two years for drinking alcohol. Despite ministerial assurances that this is unlikely to happen, it makes me thirsty. If you’d like to come and raise a glass with me, there will be a few opportunities to do so over…
In colonial times, there were different laws for different people in Indonesia. Seventy years after independence, it looks as if that’s still the case. In the last week, a woman has been jailed because in a private Facebook chat she told a friend that her husband was abusing her. Her husband, snooping around in her private correspondence (itself a pretty good indicator of abuse) found the comments and reported his wife to the police. Then two teachers, one a foreigner, were jailed for 10 years on the evidence of a six year-old who accused them of using a magic stone conjured from thin air to lessen the pain of sexual abuse.
There’s nothing Indonesians love better than a success story involving their compatriots. When Indonesian schoolkids scraped the bottom of the international league tables in maths and science, many were quick to point out that this sample of several thousand could not be representative, because, well, look, we did well in the Wizards at Mathematics International Competition in Lucknow. So the national media was all a-flutter recently to learn that an Indonesian kid was captain of Real Madrid’s under 15 team. Despite their wild enthusiasm for football, Indonesians don’t exactly excel in international competition in the sport, so the news was doubly welcome. Too good to be true, almost….
Indonesian bureaucrats are making it harder for Indonesians to learn good English. This handicaps Indonesian firms, as well as making them look foolish in international markets.