Politics

Indonesia Etc: lessons for Scotland

Sixty-nine years ago today, Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta blurted out the two sentences that gave Indonesia its independence (and my book its title): ‘We, the people of Indonesia, hereby declare the independence of Indonesia. Matters relating to the transfer of power etc. will be executed carefully and as soon as possible.’ I had cause to think about that during a visit to Scotland this week, just a month before all residents of Scotland over the age of 16 get to…


Let the cow-trading begin!

Well, it’s official. Over 133 million Indonesians cast their votes peacefully, had them counted repeatedly and now have a new president elect. Congratulations to Indonesians for staying unflustered in the face of Prabowo Subianto’s schoolboy tantrums….


Keep calm, Indonesia. But not too calm.

“Indonesians are not idiots!” I proclaimed in my final post before the election, waxing lyrical about the common sense of the Indonesian electorate. They wouldn’t, I predicted, be swayed by Prabowo Subianto’s bluster. By election day I was getting very nervous indeed. Then the Quick Count results came through. “I told you so” is never a pretty sentence, but I was inordinately happy to be able to pronounce it. It appears, though, that I was wrong about a large minority…


Prabowo or Jokowi: does it really matter?

With two televised debates down and three to go, opinion is divided on which of Indonesia’s two presidential candidates is looking most, well, presidential…..



More Moslem than expected: the real surprise of Indonesia’s polls

Commentators on Indonesia’s parliamentary elections have been surprised by the relatively poor performance of front-runners PDIP (see the FT, the Jakarta Post, the Jakarta Globe for examples). But the real surprise is surely the much better than expected showing by Islamic parties. Islamic parties have seen their share of the vote slide steadily over the years. Just last week, the New York Times predicted that the PPP, the oldest Islamic party, would fail to make the threshold for parliamentary seats…


And the other 215 million Indonesians?

2014 seems to have begun with a burst of excitement about “Indonesia” in the foreign media. BBC Radio 4 this morning ran an excellent analysis of the country’s prospects by economist Jim O’Neill, the bloke that invented the term BRICS to describe the boom economies of the 2000s. He proposes the MINTs for the 2010s (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey), though now he’s going around visiting them all, he seems less sure that they are poised to take over the…


The FPI is (half) right: they must be more responsible thugs

With a first draft of Indonesia Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation now sitting on my editor’s desk, I finally have time to get back to musing on this blog about Indonesia’s delights and contradictions. In writing the book, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the way language and culture mirror one another. And I’ve also found myself inadvertently agreeing with the leadership of the ever-more-thuggish Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), though not in a good way. Back in…


Better politics is the only medicine for Indonesia’s health system

The picture above was taken in Lombok, in what I thought was an abandoned health centre. There was a little lab, a couple of consulting rooms, a dispensary, all mouldering with neglect. But on a door to a room in the back yard I saw a sign “The midwife is IN”. I knocked on the door, and to my amazement there she was. Could this derelict place be a living Puskesmas, a village health centre? I asked where the rest…


Indonesia’s iron-fisted seducer takes in the Rothschilds

The US elections, taking place as I write, have not been much on the radar screens in the parts of Indonesia I’ve been in lately. Unlike the Indonesian elections, which are not due until 2014. Dashing out in front of the pack is Prabowo Subianto, a Suharto clone who is not, actually, a presidential candidate yet, according to his office. Odd, then, that I stumbled on to two shiny new ambulances parked incongruously outside a Moslem saint’s grave in Lombok…