Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners

Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners
Widodo has pledged to bring reform to Indonesia

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded to Indonesia to stop the execution of prisoners on death row for drug crimes. AFP PHOTO

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person
The pope wrote that the principle of legitimate personal defense isn’t adequate justification to execute someone. Photograph: Zuma/Rex

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison   (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)
US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)
Woman who spent 23 years on US death row cleared (Photo: dpa)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Monday, May 23, 2016

Jokowi Named Asia’s Inspiring Figure 2016 in South Korea

Jakarta Globe, May 21, 2016

President Joko Widodo inaugurated as Seoul's honorary citizen, during his state
visit to the South Korean capital on Tuesday (17/05). (State Palace Press Photo/Intan)

Jakarta. Following the arrival of President Joko Widodo in Halim Perdanakusuma Airport, East Jakarta, on Saturday (21/05), chief of staff Teten Masduki said he had been awarded as Asia’s Inspiring Figure for 2016.

“In Korea, the president received an award from the Asia Journalist Association [AJA] as the most inspiring figure in Asia for 2016,” Teten said in a press conference, Saturday.

AJA president Ivan Lim Sin Chin presented the award in Ajou University, Suwon, South Korea. According to Teten, the award’s assessment was completed in April but was held off in anticipation of his visit.

Teten added the president held a discussion with Korean citizens, as they discussed why Joko was named a figure in Asia possessing the leadership and inspiration for the youth.

During the visit, Joko also met with Seoul city government officials and several other politicians before continuing his tour to Russia.

Related Article:

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jokowi, Putin Sign Five Agreements to Strengthen Bilateral Ties

Jakarta Globe, Edo Karensa, May 19, 2016

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Russian President Vladimir Putin
 signed five agreements to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries on
Wednesday (18/05).(Reuters Photo/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Jakarta. Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Russian President Vladimir Putin have signed five agreements to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries on Wednesday (18/05).

The agreements were signed by both leaders during a bilateral meeting at President Putin's official residence in the resort city of Sochi in Southern Russia.

They include bilateral cooperations on defense, national and foreign affairs archives, culture as well as joint efforts to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.

“President Putin and I have agreed to strengthen our defense cooperation. We also discussed further cooperations on technology transfer, joint production, training and education,” Jokowi said, as quoted by the State Palace website.

Jokowi also said Indonesia and Russia will continue existing cooperation to combat terrorism and boost information exchanges in intelligent operations.

“We've had good coordination between the two countries to prevent terror threats, and now we have agreed to strengthen defense institutions in both countries,” Putin said.

In culture and education affairs, President Putin promised to grant 100 scholarships to Indonesian students next year, which will be a great addition to the 100 Indonesians already studying in Rusia.

The Indonesian president is visiting Rusia to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Russia Summit 2016 on May 17-20, also in Sochi. He has invited President Putin to make a return visit to Indonesia.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Indonesian Culture Should Catch Up to Korean Wave: Jokowi

Jakarta Globe, Eko Prasetyo, May 17, 2016

President Joko Widodo tries out 3D goggles during his visit to Digital Media
City in Seoul, Tuesday (17/05). (State Palace Press Photo/Intan)

Jakarta. After a visit to Seoul's Digital Media City, or DMC — a high-tech media and entertainment complex — on Tuesday (17/05), President Joko Widodo said Indonesia should form more partnerships in creative economy with South Korea.

Joko said he is eager to see Indonesia develop its creative economy potentials.

“The more I see, the more I realize we have great potentials in this sector,” said Joko to the press after the visit.

The president said Indonesia should make the first step to start up new partnerships, and worry about their influence on gross domestic product later.

“We have not given priority to the creative industry for too long,” Joko added.

As an example, Joko said Indonesia should do more to promote its culture and tradition by digging deeper into its own history, adding that there is no reason why Indonesian culture cannot be as well known globally as K-pop.

The visit to DMC was one of the main agenda on the president's South Korean tour. The complex hosts a total of 350 entertainment, IT and digital content companies.

One of the companies, Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, has already formed partnerships with Indonesian electronic media outlets.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Philippines transgender politician celebrates historic win

Yahoo – AFP, Ayee Macaraig, May 10, 2016

Geraldine Roman has become the first transgender politician to be win a
congressional seat in the Philippines

Geraldine Roman on Tuesday celebrated overcoming "bigotry, hatred and discrimination" as results showed she had become the first transgender politician to win a congressional seat in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

After her victory in Monday's election, Roman, 49, is being seen by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as a source of hope in a country where Church influence means divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage are banned.

"The politics of bigotry, hatred and discrimination did not triumph. What triumphed was the politics of love, acceptance and respect," Roman told AFP after her victory for a seat in Congress representing the farming province of Bataan just northwest of Manila.

After her victory in Monday's election, Geraldine
 Roman, 49, is being seen by the lesbian, gay,
 bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community 
as a source of hope in a country where 
Church influence means divorce, abortion and 
same-sex marriage are banned
Roman, a Catholic, said she was looking forward to becoming a lawmaker so she could respond to critics who dismissed her as a one-issue politician not to be taken seriously.

"I'm elated, very, very happy. I'm also excited to work. I realise that the burden is bigger because the stereotype of people about the LGBT is we are frivolous, that we have nothing substantial to say, so I have to prove them wrong," she said.

Roman will be the highest-ranking openly LGBT politician in the Philippines, where other lawmakers have refused to come out for fear of losing support from the Catholic Church and other religious groups.

A political neophyte, Roman will succeed her mother as representative of Bataan, where her family has been a political force for three generations. Her mother had to stand down after serving the maximum number of three terms.

Roman's father was a former congressman whose death in 2014 prompted her to consider continuing the family legacy.

Political families dominate Philippine politics, from the local to the national level, and belonging to such a dynasty was widely regarded as being crucial to Roman's success.

'We all have rights'

Still the constituents of Bataan overwhelmingly endorsed Roman, with the vote count showing she had secured 62 percent support.

"She is also a human being. We all have rights. It's not an issue to me that she is transgender," farmer Bern Salenga, 49, told AFP during a campaign sortie in Roman's home town before the election.

Roman has been living as a woman for two decades, and proudly wore a pearl necklace and pink lipstick while campaigning.

She had a successful career as senior editor at the Spanish News Agency. She speaks Spanish, French and Italian and won a scholarship to study in Spain, where she met her partner of 18 years.

She underwent sex reassignment surgery, and legally changed her name and gender, in the 1990s -- a recognition she wants other transgender people to have.

Despite the focus on her gender, Geraldine Roman said her priority was the
people of Bataan, and to help more poor students nationwide get scholarships

In 2001, a law was passed making it impossible for transgender Filipinos to change their name and sex.

Roman has vowed to campaign to lift those restrictions, and to push for an anti-discrimination bill that ensures equal treatment in the workplace, schools, commercial establishments and government offices.

Despite the focus on her gender, Roman said her priority was the people of Bataan, and to help more poor students nationwide get scholarships.

"Equality (is) not only in terms of gender but also in terms of socio-economic status. To be rich or poor should not matter. Whether educated or not, people should have the same opportunities so I'm going beyond gender to include more issues," she said.

With her historic victory, Roman said she hoped more LGBT Filipinos would be inspired to join government.

"I want to inspire everybody. There are many factors for discrimination: on the basis of gender, age, educational attainment, creed. So to all people who experience discrimination, I want to inspire them."

Related Articles:

"The Akashic Circle" – Jul 17, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: Religion, The Humanization of GodBenevolent Design, DNA, Akashic Circle, (Old) Souls, Gaia, Indigenous People, Talents, Reincarnation, Genders, Gender Switches, In “between” Gender Change, Gender Confusion, Shift of Human Consciousness, Global Unity,..... etc.)  - (Text version)

“… Gender Switching

Old souls, let me tell you something. If you are old enough, and many of you are, you have been everything. Do you hear me? All of you. You have been both genders. All of you have been what I will call between genders, and that means that all of you have had gender switches. Do you know what happens when it's time for you to switch a gender? We have discussed it before. You'll have dozens of lifetimes as the same gender. You're used to it. It's comfortable. You cannot conceive of being anything else, yet now it's time to change. It takes approximately three lifetimes for you to get used to it, and in those three lifetimes, you will have what I call "gender confusion."

It isn't confusion at all. It's absolutely normal, yet society often will see it as abnormal. I'm sitting here telling you you've all been through it. All of you. That's what old souls do. It's part of the system. …”

Monday, May 2, 2016

Iran's new parliament has more women than clerics

Yahoo – AFP, May 1, 2016

After the second round of elections in Iran a record 17 women will become
 lawmakers in the 290-seat parliament -- one more than the number of clerics,
which has hit an all time low (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Tehran (AFP) - Iran's new parliament will have more women than clerics when its members are sworn in this month, a first in the Islamic republic and a sign of the country's evolving politics.

Official results Saturday showed that reformist and moderate politicians allied with President Hassan Rouhani won a big victory in second round parliamentary elections.

Iran parliament after the first round
election results (AFP Photo)
The outcome saw them outnumber their conservative rivals -- many hardliners lost seats -- for the first time since 2004 and capped a remarkable comeback for reformists after years of isolation.

After the second round of elections a record 17 women will become lawmakers in the 290-seat parliament -- one more than the number of clerics, which has hit an all time low.

In the first parliament that followed the Islamic revolution in 1979 there were 164 clerics elected.

Some of the country's most prominent politicians are clerics and have previously been lawmakers including Rouhani who was an MP between 1980 and 2000.

Two earlier presidents, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, are also past members of parliament.

However clerical numbers have steadily fallen since 1980 with 153 elected in the second parliament, 85 in the third, 67 in the fourth and 52 in the fifth.

The outgoing legislature had only 27 men of the cloth. Of the 16 who will enter parliament next month 13 have conservative political leanings and three are reformists.

Although the 17 women, nearly all reformists, elected represent only nine percent of the total it is a high for the Islamic republic and almost double the nine conservative women in the outgoing chamber. The previous high for female MPs was 14.

Results show there will be 133 reformists in the new parliament, 13 shy of a majority but more than the conservatives' 125 MPs. The remaining seats went to independents and minorities.

The second ballot on Friday was needed because no candidate won the minimum 25 percent required during the first round of voting on February 26.

Related Articles:

“… With free choice, the percentage of DNA efficiently started to go down as humanity grew. As soon as the DNA started to lose percentage, the gender balance was dysfunctional. If you want to have a test of any society, anywhere on the planet, and you want to know the DNA percentage number [consciousness quota] as a society, there's an easy test: How do they perceive and treat their women? The higher the DNA functionality, the more the feminine divine is honored. This is the test! Different cultures create different DNA consciousness, even at the same time on the planet. So you can have a culture on Earth at 25 percent and one at 37 - and if you did, they would indeed clash. …”

“… You're at 35. There's an equality here, you're starting to see the dark and light, and it's changing everything. You take a look at history and you've come a long way, but it took a long time to get here. Dear ones, we've seen this process before and the snowball is rolling. There isn't anything in the way that's going to stop it. In the path of this snowball of higher consciousness are all kinds of things that will be run over and perish. Part of this is what you call "the establishment". Watch for some very big established things to fall over! The snowball will simply knock them down. …”

Friday, April 29, 2016

Japan wants foreign tourists to avoid 'public flatulence'

Yahoo – AFP, April 28, 2016

People cover their noses to avoid a foul smell (AFP Photo)

A Japanese tourism board has called on foreign tourists to refrain from public "belching or flatulence" in an etiquette guide which was hastily rewritten, reportedly after complaints from a Chinese resident.

The Hokkaido Tourism Organization, which represents Japan's northern-most island, published a downloadable brochure on its website, with polite instructions on everything from public bathing to using a Japanese toilet.

Helpfully, it even dedicated an entire section to protocol for avoiding bodily functions.

"Japanese etiquette is based on avoiding causing discomfort or nuisance to others," the guide points out.

"Accordingly, Japanese will avoid bodily functions such as belching or flatulence in public entirely, or perform bodily functions as discreetly as possible."

However, the Chinese-language guide -- originally entitled "Common Sense When Travelling in Hokkaido" -- upset a Chinese resident who angrily claimed the diagrams featuring examples of bad tourist behaviour were offensive, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

Chinese tourists spent more than $164 billion in 2014, according to a report by
Bank of America Merrill Lynch (AFP Photo/Toru Yamanaka)

The complaint prompted a new, foreigner-friendly version with softer explanations of Japanese customs.

In the updated guide available in Chinese and English, gone are the large 'X'-marks next to cartoon illustrations of tourists committing, from a Japanese perspective, embarrassing gaffes, such as putting used toilet paper into the waste bin -- the general custom in China -- instead of flushing it away.

According to The Japan Times newspaper, the original booklet was first published last August and was targeted at Chinese tourists, including a reminder not to open products before buying them when shopping, a habit also seen in China.

China has said it will monitor the behaviour of unruly tourists abroad and punish them on their return home after being shamed by a string of well-publicised incidents in recent years.

Research by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that more than 100 million Chinese tourists went abroad in 2014, spending some $164 billion.

Tourists prepare for a shopping spree in Tokyo (AFP Photo/Toru Yamanaka)

But reports of disruptive behaviour have tarnished their reputation, such as passengers scalding a flight attendant with hot water and noodles or a holidaymaker fined in Thailand for washing her feet in the wash basin of a public toilet.

Media in Japan have carried a spate of reports of alleged uncouth behaviour by Chinese visitors, though some local commentators have urged understanding, recalling that the emergence five decades ago of Japanese tourists as a force in global travel was often met with complaints about their behaviour.

Around 85,000 copies of the Hokkaido tourist brochure have reportedly been printed in Chinese and English, to be distributed to hotels and tourist attractions across the island.

Related Articles:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cambodia firm to reduce elephant work hours after heatstroke death

Yahoo – AFP, April 26, 2016

Elephant rides are popular with tourists visiting Cambodia's Angkor Wat
temple (AFP Photo/Tang Chhin Sothy)

A Cambodian tour operator said Tuesday it would reduce work hours for elephants during high temperatures following the collapse and death of an animal which had been ferrying tourists in 40C heat.

The female elephant, aged between 40-45, died by the roadside on Friday after carrying tourists around Cambodia's famous Angkor Wat temple complex outside Siem Reap.

Photos were widely shared on social media, prompting calls for Cambodia to reform the already controversial elephant ride industry.

Oan Kiri, manager of Angkor Elephant Company, told AFP Tuesday that vets believed heatstroke was the cause of death.

"Veterinarians concluded that the elephant's death was caused by the hot temperatures which caused stress, shock, high blood pressure and a heart attack," he said.

The elephant had been working around 45 minutes, walking 2.1 kilometres carrying tourists, before she collapsed on her way to an enclosure.

Elephant Dies From Exhaustion After Carrying Tourists In Cambodian Heat

He added that the company was "regretful and felt pity" and would now let the 13 remaining elephants work fewer hours until temperatures drop.

The Greater Mekong region is experiencing its hot and dry season where temperatures of 40C (104 Fahrenheit) are not unusual. This year has seen particularly hot spells.

Animal rights groups have long complained that elephants which give rides to tourists across the region are routinely overworked and brutally broken in during training.

Thailand has seen multiple cases in recent months where elephants have killed their handlers or attacked tourists.

A petition on calling on Cambodian authorities to end elephant rides at Angkor had garnered 24,500 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.

"There is no such thing as cruelty-free elephant rides," it stated.

Handlers and tour operators have long argued that tourism provides much needed income and employment for people -- and for domesticated elephants that would otherwise risk abandonment and starvation.

But Jack Highwood, from the Elephant Valley Project, a Cambodian eco-tourism group, said the country only boasted about 70 domesticated elephants -- "too small a number not to regulate their use to protect their health and welfare."

Papua New Guinea announces Australian refugee center closure

A Supreme Court ruling means an Australian-run refugee detention facility on Papua New Guinea is illegal and must close. Now PNG is working with Australia to find a new place for the refugees to go.

Deutsche Welle, 27 April 2016

The island nation of Papua New Guinea has announced it will close a center for asylum seekers it had been hosting on behalf of Australia. This comes a day after the Supreme Court in Papa New Guinea deemed it was unconstitutional to allow Australia to detain asylum seekers on the country's Manus Island.

"Respecting this ruling, Papua New Guinea will immediately ask the Australian government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum-seekers currently held at the regional processing center," Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said in a statement on Wednesday.

No exceptions

Australian policy regarding those who attempt to enter the country illegally by boat is to reject them and send them to detention camps, paid for by the Australian government, in Papua New Guinea and the island nation of Nauru. Those found to have legitimate claims for asylum can be resettled in Papua New Guinea or Cambodia under agreements reached between Australia and those two countries.

Regarding the current asylum seekers on Manus Island, O'Neill said that legitimate refugees were welcome to live in Papua New Guinea "only if they want to be a part of our society and make a contribution to our community," but added: "It is clear that several of these refugees do not want to settle in Papua New Guinea and that is their decision."

There are currently over 800 asylum seekers being held on Manus Island, and Papua New Guinea will now being working with Australian officials about where to relocate the people being detained. Australia has made it clear that under no circumstances will they be resettled in Australia.


Meanwhile, a 23-year-old refugee in an Australian-run detention facility on Nauru is set to be airlifted to an Australian hospital after setting himself on fire Tuesday during a routine visit of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to the facility.

According to news reports, the man shouted "I can not take this any more" before setting himself on fire. Bystanders quickly attempted to douse the flames with water and blankets.
The man is in critical condition, but Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has said his application for asylum would not be influenced.

mz/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

European Council President Praises Indonesia’s Democracy and Religious Tolerance

Jakarta Globe, Eko Prasetyo, April 22, 2016

President Joko Widodo meets with European Council President Donald Tusk
in Brussels, Thursday (21/04). (State Palace Press Photo/Laily)

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo met with European Council President Donald Tusk at the Europa building, seat of the European Council, in Brussels, an official statement said on Thursday (21/04).

In the meeting, Joko said Indonesia is a "living laboratory" where Islam, democracy and religious tolerance exist side by side.

Tusk in response praised the way Indonesia has been fostering democracy, human rights and religious tolerance, often under difficult circumstances, and said the council will continue its interfaith exchange program with Indonesia.

The European Council also said it will look at the proposal for a visa waiver program for Indonesian citizens, as soon as the security situation in Europe improves.

The Indonesian president had earlier met with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, and conducted a bilateral meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Merkel Praises Indonesia's Development in Meeting Focused on Education

Jakarta Globe, Eko Prasetyo, April 19, 2016

President Joko Widodo in a discussion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in
Bundeskanzleramt, Berlin, Germany, Monday (18/04). (State Palace Press Photo/Laily)

Jakarta. German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Indonesia’s developments and achievements while meeting with President Joko Widodo in Bundeskanzleramt, Berlin, on Monday (18/04).

“It is a challenging duty for a country to develop itself, especially for Indonesia with 250 million citizens and 17,000 islands. I am amazed by Indonesia’s achievements. Surely, we can discuss many issues together,” Merkel said in an official statement.

Prior to the visit, Joko said the two will focus on efforts to increase and strengthen partnerships in vocational education in a number of sectors.

“Indonesia wants Germany to assist vocational education, especially those related to industry, such as power plants, textile, maritime and others,” Joko said.

Both leaders agreed in their meeting to follow up the vocational partnership commitment in a technical meeting in May.

Both countries agreed to complete the "scooping papers," which will accelerate the establishment of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

The meeting touched on terrorism and the place of soft and hard power in eradicating the threat, as well as a proposal to establish a Steering Committee to oversee the application of 2012 Indonesia-Germany Comprehensive Partnership.

Germany is Indonesia's top European trading partner and its seventh largest investor.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Myanmar's Suu Kyi reaches out to ethnic minority rebels

Yahoo – AFP, Athens Zaw Zaw, April 18, 2016

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi was blocked from the top job but has vowed to
rule "above" the president (AFP Photo)

Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday vowed to press for greater autonomy for Myanmar's ethnic minorities, in an early move to soothe the rebellions roiling the country after her party's ascent to power.

Myanmar has been swept up in optimism for a more peaceful and prosperous future since the National League for Democracy (NLD) took power on April 1, ending nearly a half century of military domination.

But Suu Kyi warned its prospects hinge on ending ethnic conflicts that have blistered the country since its independence in 1948.

To do so, the NLD government would seek "a real federal democratic union", the democracy figurehead said in a televised address marking Myanmar's New Year.

"Peace and a federal democratic union are closely intertwined and that's why we need to change the constitution. The most important thing is national reconciliation."

They were Suu Kyi's first major comments as "state counsellor" -- a role she took on following the handover to her civilian-led government.

The current charter, penned by the military in 2008, centralises state power.

The former junta in part justified its tight control of the country with fears that ethnic divisions would fracture the nation.

Daughter of a hero

But the concept of federalism has gradually become central to peace discussions steered by the quasi-civilian government that replaced outright military rule in 2011.

Negotiations, which do not include all rebel groups, have yet to agree on exactly how powers such as policing or revenue raising might be shifted to regional authorities under a federal system.

In this image made from video, Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, left, meets
 with Myanmar President Htin Kyaw and Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi,
 right, at the Presidential Palace, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Thursday, April 7, 2016. 
Dion congratulated Myanmar on installing its first civilian government in decades 
and on its transition from military rule to democracy. (APTN via AP)

But by reiterating the federal pledge, Suu Kyi has sought to reassure ethnic leaders that the NLD will not squeeze out minority groups.

Though Suu Kyi belongs to the ethnic Bamar majority, her party picked up seats in many of Myanmar's ethnic minority regions in last year's election.

She has however come under fire from rights groups for not throwing her moral weight behind the plight of the embattled Rohingya, a largely stateless Muslim minority pushed into grim displacement camps by waves of communal violence in 2012.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi is beloved by many in Myanmar but blocked from becoming president by the constitution as her two sons carry foreign citizenship.

The 70-year-old is the daughter of the country's independence hero, who famously signed an agreement before his assassination that would have granted a level of autonomy to several ethnic minority regions.

A Shan ethnic woman from the Akha hill
 tribe waits for the arrival of Aung San 
Suu Kyi during a 2015 rally in Kyaing
Tong (AFP Photo/Romeo Gacad)
Attempts to amend the army's charter under the former quasi-civilian government were stymied by the military -- which is gifted 25 percent of all parliamentary seats by the constitution it scripted.

Any fresh moves to change the charter are likely to meet stiff resistance from the military, which can veto amendments through its parliamentary bloc.

Suu Kyi has taken a firm grip of the country's first civilian-led government in decades, taking on a string of senior roles in the new administration, including the powerful -- if vaguely defined -- advisory role.

She has vowed to rule "above" the president, picking school friend and close aide Htin Kyaw as her proxy.

Conflicts continue to rage in several areas between ethnic minority armed groups and the army, which operates beyond the reaches of civilian government, after a ceasefire pact signed late last year failed to include all of the country's fighters.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

High hopes for Indonesian author vying for Man Booker glory

Yahoo – AFP, Olivia Rondonuwu, April 13, 2016

Great expectations weigh on Eka Kurniawan, the first Indonesian ever
nominated for a Man Booker International Prize (AFP Photo/Goh Chai Hin)

Already compared to literary heavyweights Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Haruki Murakami, great expectations weigh on Eka Kurniawan, the first Indonesian ever nominated for a Man Booker International Prize.

The 40-year-old is up against revered writers like Orhan Pamuk and Kenzaburo Oe, both past recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature, but there is a growing buzz about the works of this little known author.

At home, titles of Kurniawan's novels splashed across the back of trucks, while newspapers and magazines hail him Indonesia's most exciting writer for a generation.

Author Eka Kurniawan holds his 
book "Man Tiger" - the story of a 
young man who gnaws his elderly 
neighbour to death (AFP Photo/
Goh Chai Hin)
“My friends sent me pictures of the back of trucks bearing the titles of my books – these (trucks and the lives of the drivers) were an inspiration for one of my novels -- and the fact my books are emblazoned there brought me to a state of euphoria, I got goosebumps,” he tells AFP.

Internationally, demand is such that he's already attended the acclaimed Frankfurt and Melbourne Book Fairs.

Despite this, Kurniawan says his inclusion on the longlist for the prestigious award, for "Man Tiger" -- the story of a young man who gnaws his elderly neighbour to death -- came as a "surprise".

He will find out Thursday if he has made the final six. The winning author and translator will also share 50,000 pounds (USD$71,000) in prizemoney, while all the finalists receive 1,000 pounds.

A shortlist nomination -- or better still, a victory -- will likely provide a much-needed international profile boost not just for Kurniawan, but for the nation's literary scene.

"I hope this is the case that Indonesian literature is really on the rise, because in the past 10 years I can feel the excitement," he adds.

'Free from taboos'

Indonesian writers have long struggled for appreciation at home, let alone on the world stage. Many do not have the means to translate their books into other languages and attract publishers and readers abroad.

Yet there is a passionate desire to share their stories and the profession has flourished since Indonesia embraced democracy.

Kurniawan, who is now married with a young daughter, participated in the student protests that toppled the authoritarian regime in 1998. He says the wave of openness that followed the end of Suharto's three-decade rule had an "enormous" influence on Indonesia's literary evolution.

“I feel Indonesia is more open," Kurniawan explains. "We can speak practically about many things, including politics, religion and other taboos like sex."

Kurniawan's own work is no exception: "Man Tiger" is a grisly, murderous tale, while "Beauty is a Wound" revolves around the communist massacres across Indonesia in the 1960s, a politically-sensitive topic to this day.

The vein of magic realism throughout his work has earned Kurniawan comparisons to legendary Colombian novelist Marquez, while others tout him as successor to Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

Pramoedya, who died a decade ago this month, is considered Indonesia's greatest-ever writer. His legendary "Buru Quartet" -- which he wrote behind bars during the Suharto years -- earned him several nominations for a Nobel Prize for Literature, and acclaim overseas.

Fuel global interest

For all the high praise directed at Kurniawan, who is from West Java but now lives in Jakarta, it has been slow crawl from aspiring writer to Booker nominee.

He worked as a graphic designer and jobbing writer, but when "Man Tiger" was first published in Indonesian in 2004 -- he concedes the readership really only extended to his circle of close friends.

It took a decade before it was translated into English and on bookshelves overseas.

The respected Southeast Asian scholar, Benedict Anderson stumbled on Kurniawan's work and, impressed, urged him to translate his works and meet with a UK publisher later describing him as "Indonesia’s most original living writer of novels and short stories".

For many writers - language is a challenge. Indonesian is often second choice after local dialects. This limits exposure in a country where only 1 in 1,000 spends time reading, according to research by UNESCO.

Publishing in English is the only avenue for global recognition and readership but for many the cost of quality translation remains too high, ensuring they remain off the radar of major international publishers.

But interest is growing -- last year Indonesia was guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair, an opportunity to showcase the literary culture and traditions at the largest publishing event in the world.

There's a sense Kurniawan could encourage further interest. Barbara Epler, the head of his US publisher New Directions, predicted that if Kurniawan took off overseas he would be a "prime force" in getting more publishers interested in Indonesia, a sentiment echoed in his homeland.

"I hope he wins so that authors will rush to translate their books into other languages, promoting them to the world,” respected Indonesian poet Sapardi Djoko Damono told AFP.

The shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize will be announced Thursday and the winner on May 16.