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. …

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Indonesia arrests nearly 200 over raging forest fires

Yahoo – AFP, September 16, 2019

The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have
unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

Indonesia has arrested nearly 200 people over vast forest fires ripping across the archipelago, police said Monday, as toxic haze sends air quality levels plummeting and sparks flight cancellations.

Jakarta has deployed thousands of personnel to battle blazes that are turning land into charred landscapes and consuming forests in Sumatra and Borneo islands, where thousands of schools have been shut over health fears.

The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia, triggering diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbours.

On Monday, authorities said they had arrested some 185 people suspected of being involved in activities that led to out-of-control fires sweeping the country.

"Indonesian Police will enforce the law against anyone who is proven to have carried out forest and land burning, whether it was done intentionally or through negligence," National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta.

Indonesia's peat fires: a smouldering problem (AFP Photo/John SAEKI)

"This is a last resort. The most important thing is prevention."

Four corporations were also being investigated, he added.

Last week, Indonesia sealed off dozens of plantations where smog-belching fires were blazing, and warned that owners -- including Malaysia and Singapore-based firms -- could face criminal charges if there was evidence of illegal burning.

Some of the most serious fires occur in peatlands, which are highly combustible when drained of water to be converted into agricultural plantations.

Thick haze in Borneo -- where air quality levels have plummeted to "dangerous" levels in some areas -- caused the cancellation of about a dozen flights Sunday, national airline Garuda said.

Rival Lion Air said about 160 Borneo flights had been affected at the weekend.

Meanwhile, nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections linked to the haze in recent months, according to Indonesian health authorities.

Nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections 
linked to the haze in recent months (AFP Photo/Str)

While forest fires are an annual problem, the situation this year has been worsened by drier weather in Indonesia, with diplomatic tensions soaring as toxic smog drifts over to neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.

The haze pushed Singapore's air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years at the weekend.

In 2015, Indonesia suffered its worst forest fires for almost two decades, which dramatically increased its greenhouse gas emissions.

Huge fires tearing through the Amazon are also compounding concerns about the long-term impact of such blazes on keeping global temperature levels stable.

Related Articles:

Singapore air 'unhealthy' ahead of F1 race

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Rioters torch buildings as chaos erupts again in Indonesia's Papua

Yahoo – AFP, 29 August 2019

Jakarta took control of Papua, a former Dutch colony, in the 1960s after
an independence referendum widely viewed as a sham

Indonesia's Papua plunged into chaos again Thursday as angry protesters torched buildings in its capital after nearly two weeks of riots and demonstrations in the easternmost province of the archipelago.

More than a thousand demonstrators marched around Jayapura hurling stones and setting fire to shops and an assembly building following a deadly clash in another part of the jungle-clad province, which shares the island with independent Papua New Guinea.

Carrying placards bearing the image of a banned flag, many called for independence from Indonesian rule and an end to racism against the minority group.

Papuans are ethnic Melanesians and have few cultural ties with the rest of Indonesia.

State power company PLN said the violence forced it to cut electricity in parts of Jayapura, a city of about 300,000 people.

"Several public facilities and buildings were damaged by the rioters," said National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo.

"Security forces are still trying to control the situation," he added.

The protest comes a day after violence flared in remote Deiyai, where a clash between protesters and Indonesian security forces left at least one soldier and two demonstrators dead, according to officials.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through Papua's biggest city, 
Jayapura, setting fire to a regional assembly building

The confrontation sparked reports that Indonesia's military -- long accused of committing rights abuses against Papuans during a decades-old separatist insurgency -- had gunned down six protesters.

Authorities denied that claim and said they were attacked by hundreds of Papuans armed with machetes and traditional bows-and-arrows.

Some 300 extra personnel had been sent to Deiyai to restore order, officials said Thursday, after Jakarta deployed more than 1,200 police and military members to Papua last week.

'Smouldering anger'

The accounts of what happened in Deiyai could not be independently verified.

Conflicting reports are common in Papua, where independence supporters and the military frequently blame each other for violence.

The government in Jakarta also an ordered Internet blackout since last week, making confirming and sharing information difficult.

Riots and demonstrations have broken out in Papua since mid-August with buildings torched and street battles between police and protesters.

The unrest appears to have been triggered by the arrest this month of dozens of Papuan students in Java, who were also racially abused.

Police in riot gear stormed a dormitory in the city of Surabaya to force out students accused of destroying an Indonesian flag, as a group of protesters shouted racial slurs at them, calling them "monkeys" and "dogs".

Emigre Papuans living in the Indonesian capital protested in front of the 
presidential palace in solidarity with disturbances back home

One person suspected of organising the protest against the Papuan students in Surabaya had been named a criminal suspect, while a half dozen police officers have also been temporarily suspended pending an investigation.

Jakarta took control of Papua, a former Dutch colony, in the 1960s after an independence referendum widely viewed as a sham.

Despite a push to develop its infrastructure, many Papuans say they're treated like second-class citizens and have not received a fair share of vast mineral wealth in a region home to the world's biggest gold mine.

"This is the culmination of years of assuming that roads and money were the keys to addressing Papuan grievances," said Sidney Jones, director of Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC).

"The accusations of racism came on top of what was already smouldering anger," she added.

Jakarta took control of Papua, a former Dutch colony, in the 1960s after an independence referendum widely viewed as a sham

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through Papua's biggest city, Jayapura, setting fire to a regional assembly building

Emigre Papuans living in the Indonesian capital protested in front of the presidential palace in solidarity with disturbances back home.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Indonesia picks Borneo island for new capital

Yahoo – AFP, August 26, 2019

Indonesia wants to move its capital from congested Jakarta to a new
purpose-built city in east Kalimantan (AFP Photo/BAY ISMOYO)

Indonesia will move its capital to the eastern edge of jungle-clad Borneo island, President Joko Widodo said Monday, as the country shifts its political heart away from congested and sinking megalopolis Jakarta.

The proposed location -- near the regional cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda -- is an area at "minimal" risk of natural disasters, where the government already owns some 180,000 hectares (445,000 acres) of land, he added.

"The location is very strategic -- it's in the centre of Indonesia and close to urban areas," Widodo said in a televised speech.

"The burden Jakarta is holding right now is too heavy as the centre of governance, business, finance, trade and services," he added.

The announcement ends months of speculation about whether Widodo would follow through on the long-mooted plan -- it was floated by the newly independent country's founding father Sukarno more than half a century ago.

Map of Indonesia showing approximate area of the proposed 
site of the country's new capital. (AFP Photo/AFP)

Shifting from problem-plagued Jakarta would also transfer Indonesia's power base off Java island, where about half of the sprawling archipelago's 260 million people live.

"Moving the capital off Java is a gesture that aims to solidify unity," said Jakarta-based political risk analyst Kevin O'Rourke.

"Jakarta will continue to be a megacity -- as a centre for finance and commerce -- for a few more decades, but ultimately it is at severe risk to climate change," he added.

A bill for the proposed move will now be presented to parliament, Widodo said.

Building is set to begin next year with the move of some 1.5 million civil servants slated to begin by 2024, at a cost of 466 trillion rupiah ($33 billion), officials said.

Orangutans, mining

Known as Kalimantan, Indonesia's section of Borneo -- the island it shares with Malaysia and Brunei -- is home to major mining activities as well as rainforests, and is one of the few places on Earth with orangutans in their natural habitat.

The area around Samboja, Kutai Kartanegara, is one of two locations in 
Eastern Kalimantan chosen as a possible site for the new capital (AFP Photo/

Environmentalists expressed concerns the capital city move could threaten endangered species.

"The government must make sure that the new capital is not built in a conservation or protected area," said Greenpeace Indonesia campaigner Jasmine Putri.

The region has also been blanketed in choking haze from annual forest fires that ravage vast swathes of land.

"That makes Kalimantan unfit as a candidate for a new capital city," said Jakarta-based urban planning expert Nirwono Joga.

"And the move won't necessarily free Jakarta of problems like flooding, traffic jams and rapid urbanisation," he added.

Map showing the tidal inundation of Jakarta in 2012 and projected 
expansion in 2025 and 2050. (AFP Photo/Janis LATVELS)

Concerns have soared over the future of Jakarta -- a city nicknamed "the Big Durian" after the pungent, spiky fruit that deeply divides fans and detractors.

Built on swampland, the city is one of the fastest-sinking cities on earth, with experts warning that one third of it could be submerged by 2050 if current rates continue. The problem is largely linked to excessive groundwater extraction.

But the city of 10 million -- a number that bloats to about 30 million with surrounding satellite cities -- is also plagued by a host of other ills, from eye-watering traffic jams and pollution to the risk of earthquakes and floods.

Indonesia is not the first Southeast Asian country to move its capital.

Myanmar and Malaysia have both moved their seat of government, while Brazil, Pakistan and Nigeria are among the nations that have also shifted their capital cities.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tourism in trouble: Hong Kong demos hit economy

Yahoo – AFP, Yan ZHAO, Catherine LAI, August 11, 2019

Hong Kong is a popular tourist destination (AFP Photo/ANTHONY WALLACE)

Empty hotel rooms, struggling shops and even disruption at Disneyland: months of protests in Hong Kong have taken a major toll on the city's economy, with no end in sight.

City leader Carrie Lam has warned that the international financial hub is facing an economic crisis worse than either the 2003 SARS outbreak that paralysed Hong Kong or the 2008 financial crisis.

"The situation this time is more severe," she said. "In other words, the economic recovery will take a very long time."

The private sector, in particular the tourism industry, has begun counting the cost of more than two months of demonstrations that erupted in opposition to a bill allowing extraditions to China but have morphed into a broader pro-democracy movement.

The figures are stark: hotel occupancy rates are down "double-digit" percentages, as were visitor arrivals in July. Group tour bookings from the short-haul market have plunged up to 50 percent.

"In recent months, what has happened in Hong Kong has indeed put local people's livelihoods as well as the economy in a worrying, or even dangerous situation," warned Edward Yau, Hong Kong's secretary for commerce and economic development.

The financial hub's tourism industry says it feels under siege (AFP Photo/
Anthony WALLACE)

The city's tourism industry says it feels under siege.

"I think the situation is getting more and more serious," Jason Wong, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, told AFP.

The impact is so bad that travel agents are considering putting staff on unpaid leave as they try to weather the storm, he warned.

Even Disneyland hit

Images of increasingly violent clashes between masked protesters and police firing tear gas in the city's streets have made global headlines, with protesters announcing new demonstrations throughout August as they press their demands.

A Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson told AFP that the number of forward bookings in August and September has "dropped significantly," suggesting the economic toll will linger throughout the summer season.

A string of travel warnings issued by countries including the United States, Australia and Japan is likely to compound the industry's woes.

The fall in arrivals has hurt Hong Kong's carrier Cathay Pacific, which was also forced to cancel flights this week during a general strike that caused chaos in the city.

Tourists flock to Hong Kong for its energy and urban character (AFP Photo/
Anthony WALLACE)

And even Disneyland Hong Kong has been hit, with CEO Bob Iger telling reporters: "We have seen an impact from the protests."

"There's definitely been disruption. That has impacted our visitation there."

The retail sector has also been hit by the drop in arriving visitors hunting for bargains, shops often forced to shutter during the sometimes daily protests.

Experts say the crisis is compounding the economic downturn Hong Kong was already experiencing as a result of being caught up in the US-China trade war.

It's a "double whammy," warned Stephen Innes, Managing Partner of Valour Markets."

"We always take a view that oh, this too will pass. But so far that view is not holding any water... and now it seems like every weekend we're dealing with further escalations," he told AFP.

Experts say Hong Kong's tourism crisis is compounding the economic downturn 
caused by the US-China trade war (AFP Photo/Anthony WALLACE)

'Nastier than expected'

The property market, which fell over 20 percent during the 2008 financial crash, remains strong.

But Innes warned that the deepening crisis could result in capital outflows.

"All the money from the mainland that has propped up Hong Kong property markets could reverse as quickly as it flowed in," he said.

"This is getting a little bit nastier than any of us had expected."

The economic picture for the city was far from pretty even before the protests began, with growth shrinking from 4.6 percent to 0.6 percent year-on-year in the first quarter -- the worst quarterly performance in a decade.

Preliminary data suggests the second quarter fared no better, and while the government still hopes for 2-3 percent growth this year, predictions from major banks are more pessimistic.

A Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson said the number of bookings in 
August and September has 'dropped significantly' (AFP Photo/Anthony WALLACE)

Those falls reflect the effects of the US-China trade war on an economy that relies heavily on logistics processing and is vulnerable to a fall in trade.

The impact of the protests on growth will not be clear until later in the year, but Martin Rasmussen, China Economist at Capital Economics, said the crisis was likely to weigh heavily.

"In the beginning they were quite peaceful, you could say comparable to the protests back in 2014," he said, referring to pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in the city.

"Now they've become much more extreme, so we think the impact on the economy will begin to take its toll."

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Indonesian man walking in reverse to save forests

Yahoo – AFP, August 5, 2019

Medi Bastoni walks 20 to 30 kilometres backwards every day under the scorching sun,
with a rear-view mirror attached to his backpack to avoid bumping into objects (AFP
Photo/Medi BASTONI)

Jakarta (AFP) - An Indonesian man is walking 700 kilometres (435 miles) from his home on a volcano in East Java to Jakarta in the hope of drawing attention to the archipelago's quickly shrinking forests -- and he is doing it backwards.

Medi Bastoni, a 43-year-old father of four, set out on his arduous, in-reverse journey in mid-July, with the goal of reaching the capital by August 16, a day before the Southeast Asian nation's independence day anniversary.

"Of course I'm exhausted, but I'm willing to do this to fight for the next generation," Bastoni told AFP.

"(My home) is losing all of its trees so I have to do something. I can take the pain and fatigue."

Walking backwards is a siganl to Indonesians to reflect on the past and remember 
how national heroes fought for the good of the country (AFP Photo/Medi BASTONI)

When he arrives, Bastoni said he hopes to meet with president Joko Widodo and highlight deforestation across the archipelago including at his home on Mt. Wilis, a dormant volcano.

Indonesia suffers from one of the high rates of deforestation in the world, according to Greenpeace.

Bastoni walks 20 to 30 kilometres backwards every day under the scorching sun, with a rear-view mirror attached to his backpack to avoid bumping into objects.

Along the way, supporters cheer him on, offer him meals or a place to stay overnight. But Bastoni always leaves at dawn to stay on schedule.

Walking backwards is meant as a siganl to Indonesians to reflect on the past and remember how national heroes fought for the good of the country, he said.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Indonesia's Aceh whips 11 for sharia-banned romance

Yahoo – AFP, August 1, 2019

A woman is whipped in public in Banda Aceh in Indonesia's staunchly conservative
Aceh province (AFP Photo/CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN)

One woman begged for mercy and another sobbed uncontrollably as Indonesia's Aceh province flogged nearly a dozen people Thursday, including a Buddhist man, charged with breaking local Islamic law.

Despite widespread criticism, public whipping is a common punishment for a range of offences in the deeply conservative region at the tip of Sumatra island, including gambling, drinking alcohol, and having gay sex or relations outside of marriage.

Aceh is the only region in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country that imposes Islamic law.

On Thursday, dozens watched as eleven people were whipped outside a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

A masked sharia officer rained down between eight and 32 strokes from a rattan cane on their backs after they were caught with members of the opposite sex.

The six men and five women -- all in their late teens and early twenties -- were rounded up by religious officers who caught them behaving amorously, a crime under local law.

Authorities gave few details, but couples have been whipped in the past for cuddling or holding hands in public.

A man is carried away by religious police after being flogged in Banda Aceh 

One 19-year-old woman caught in an unidentified building with a man burst into tears as the whipping started, while another woman begged for the punishment to stop.

A Buddhist man caught with a woman inside a hotel room got more than two dozen lashes.

About 98 percent of Aceh's five million residents are Muslims subject to religious law, known locally as Qanun.

While it's relatively rare, non-Muslims who have committed an offence can choose to be prosecuted under Islamic law, sometimes to avoid a prison sentence.

On Friday, Banda Aceh's mayor Aminullah Usman warned hotels and businesses to comply with the region's conservative regulations -- or risk losing their license to operate.

"We've warned hotels to not even think about breaking the rules" by renting rooms to unmarried couples, he told reporters after the flogging.

"Otherwise, we will revoke their licenses," he added.

The whipping came a day after three people in Lhokseumawe, a district a few hours from Banda Aceh, were flogged 100 times each for having premarital sex, including a 19-year-old man who had relations with an underage girl.

In December, two men caught having sex with underage girls were whipped 100 times each.

Rights groups have slammed public caning as cruel, and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has called for it to end, but the practice has wide support among Aceh's population.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Tourist rush at Australia's Uluru before climb ban

France24 – AFP, 12 July 2019

Clambering up the giant red monolith, also known as Ayers Rock, will be prohibited
from October - in line with the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land AFP

Sydney (AFP) - A looming ban on climbing Australia's Uluru rock, intended to protect the sacred site from damage, has instead triggered a damaging influx of visitors, tourism operators said Friday.

Clambering up the giant red monolith, also known as Ayers Rock, will be prohibited from October -- in line with the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu.

But a rush to beat the ban has led to a sharp increase in tourists and is causing its own problems for the World Heritage Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Families arriving in campers vans and RVs are a particular problem, chief executive of Tourism Central Australia Stephen Schwer told AFP.

"We have got so much of one particular market coming, we don't have enough infrastructure to handle the number of drive travellers."

While most visitors are doing the right thing, camping venues in the area are at capacity with advance bookings, leaving many less organised arrivals to set up illegally.

"People don't realise when they go off the road they are actually trespassing on pastoral land, or Aboriginal land, or protected land," Schwer said.

"We are getting people that are leaving their rubbish behind and lighting fires," he added.

"Sadly, people are also emptying their toilet waste out of their vans on what they think is unpopulated land, but is actually private land."

In the 12 months to June 2019, more than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park, according to Parks Australia, about 20 percent more than the previous year.

Yet just 13 percent of those who visited also climbed the rock, the government agency said.

Tourism operators say that Australian and Japanese tourists most commonly seek to climb Uluru.

The Aboriginal connection to the site dates back tens of thousands of years and it has great spiritual and cultural significance to them.

"Since the hand back of Uluru and Kata Tjuta to traditional owners in 1985, visitors have been encouraged to develop an understanding and respect for Anangu and their culture," a spokesperson for Parks Australia said.

"This is reflected in the 'please don't climb' message," they added.

Lyndee Severin from Curtin Springs station and roadhouse, one of just a few camping venues within 100 kilometres of Uluru, said "the vast majority of people are doing the right thing" but hundreds were setting up illegally by the side of the road or down a bush track.

"So we have some people that think that the rules don't apply to them," she told AFP.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dutch tourist killed in Malaysia cave floods, guide missing

CNA – AFP, 13 July 2019

Peter Hans Hovenkamp, 66, was from Utrecht in the central Netherlands.
(Photo: Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department)

KUALA LUMPUR: Flash floods killed a Dutch tourist in a popular cave located in the rugged Mulu National Park on Malaysia's Borneo island, an official said Saturday (Jul 13), as a search continues for a missing guide.

Local fire and rescue chief Law Poh Kiong identified the dead man as 66-year-old Peter Hans Hovenkamp from Utrecht in the central Netherlands.

"He died due to drowning following flash floods in the caves. His body was found in a river inside the cave and was taken to the Miri public hospital for a post-mortem on Saturday," he told AFP.

Law said a search-and-rescue operation involving 16 officers had been launched to locate 20-year local tour guide Roviezal Robin.

This handout from the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department taken and released
on Jul 13, 2019 shows the body of Dutch tourist Peter Hans Hovenkamp being carried
out of Mulu National Park on the island of Borneo. (Photo: AFP/Sarawak Fire and
Rescue Department)

Eight other tourists in the same group "almost become victims" but fled to higher ground and escaped from being washed into the river, Law added.

Hovenkamp was reported missing on Friday while the group was touring the popular "Deer Cave", home to an estimated three million bats which form amazing patterns in the sky when they leave each dusk.

Mulu park, located in the remote Borneo jungle of Sarawak state and famous for its caves, cliffs and gorges, is a UNESCO world heritage site.

It sees thousands of visitors annually, particularly for its cooling rains during the summer months.

Law described the death as "a freak tragedy."

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Australian Aboriginal site gains World Heritage recognition

Yahoo – AFP, July 7, 2019

UNESCO has added the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in Australia to its World
Heritage list (AFP Photo/MIGUEL MEDINA)

An Aboriginal settlement older than the pyramids that provides evidence that indigenous Australians developed sophisticated aquaculture thousands of years ago has been granted World Heritage status, the UN has announced.

The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in southeast Australia was created by the Gunditjmara nation some 6,600 years ago and includes remnants of elaborate stone channels and pools built to harvest eels from a lake and wetland swamp areas.

The site also holds evidence of stone dwellings that counter the myth that Aboriginal peoples were simply nomadic hunter-gatherers with no established settlements or sophisticated means of food production.

UNESCO's World Heritage committee, in announcing the addition of Budj Bim to its global listing on Saturday, said the site showed the Gunditjmara had developed "one of the largest and oldest aquaculture networks in the world."

The system of stone channels, dams and pools were used to contain floodwaters and create basins to trap, store and harvest eels that provided the population with "an economic and social base for six millennia", it said.

Budj Bim, in Victoria state, is the first site in Australia to receive World Heritage status solely for its Aboriginal cultural importance.

Nineteen other World Heritage sites in the country include the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, the Sydney Opera house and fossil sites in the states of Queensland and South Australia.

The Gunditjmara people had lobbied for nearly 20 years for UN recognition of Budj Bim, and tribal elder Denise Lovett welcomed the listing as "a very special day for our community".

"This landscape, which we have cared for over thousands of years, is so important to Gunditjmara People," she told national broadcaster SBS.

"The decision also recognises Budj Bim's significance to all of humanity. We are so proud to now be able to share our achievements and story with the world."

Archaeological evidence shows that Aboriginal peoples have lived in Australia for more than 60,000 years, making it one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world.

But since the arrival of European colonists in the late 18th century, the indigenous population saw most of its land taken for farming or livestock grazing.

Today, there are around 750,000 people of Aboriginal descent in Australia -- about three percent of the population -- but they have far higher poverty rates and lower life expectancy than non-indigenous Australians and make up about 28 percent of the prison population.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The 'richest black nation': Papua New Guinea sets audacious goal

Yahoo – AFP, June 16, 2019

Violent crime and corruption are endemic in Papua New Guinea, reliable electricity
is rare, and population centres are isolated (AFP Photo/ARIS MESSINIS)

Papua New Guinea's new prime minister has an ambitious -- cynics would say far-fetched -- objective of turning one of the world's poorest countries into the "richest black nation" on earth in just a decade.

If national economies were like football teams, then Papua New Guinea would be near the bottom of the table struggling to avoid a relegation dogfight.

Violent crime and corruption are endemic, reliable electricity is rare, and population centres sit like isolated city-states, surrounded by trackless jungle and mountain ridges that soar into the equatorial sky.

As rich as Papua New Guinea is in culture, language and beauty, it is the 153rd most developed country in the world out of 189, according to the United Nations -- doing slightly better than Syria, marginally worse than Myanmar.

New prime minister James Marape wants to change that. He has promised that within ten years his compatriots will live in "the richest black Christian nation" in the world.

That is not going to be easy. The current titleholder is the highly industrialised economy of Trinidad and Tobago, where the average resident earns around 833% more than Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is rich in culture, language and beauty, but is way down
the UN development rankings (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)

If the British territory of Bermuda were also included in the rankings, the task would be even more daunting.

Papua New Guinea's economy would have to grow at a world-beating rate of around 30 percent per year, every year for the next ten years just to catch up.

"PNG has never experienced 30 per cent growth in the past; nor has any other country for that matter, at least not for any sustained period of time," said Maholopa Laveil, a lecturer in economics at the University of Papua New Guinea.

To reach his lofty goal, Marape appears to be betting on a surge in gas revenues and more of that cash staying in the country.

He has hinted that he may look to renegotiate a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) contract with Total and ExxonMobil that would double national production to better benefit the local economy.

He has also promised to stop the export of unprocessed hardwoods and tackle corruption.

But the strategy comes with risks.

New prime minister James Marape has hinted he may look to renegotiate a massive
LNG contract with Total and ExxonMobil (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)

Dashed expectations

The World Bank has warned that even before a second LNG project comes online, the economy has "become increasingly concentrated in petroleum and gas-related activities".

That, the bank warned, raises Papua New Guinea's vulnerability to the vagaries of international energy markets and natural disasters -- like the 7.5 magnitude quake that froze production and stalled the economy in 2018.

Even the country's existing PNG LNG project -- which started to flow in 2014 -- has failed to live up to expectations.

It required a controversial public loan worth more than a billion Australian dollars ($700 million) and helped national debt spike.

The project was forecast to increase GDP by over 97 percent, but according to Paul Flanagan -- a former Australian government official who runs the influential PNG Economics blog -- the increase has been closer to six percent.

The World Bank has warned PNG's vulnerability to earthquakes is increasing along 
with its reliance on petrol and gas (AFP Photo/Melvin LEVONGO)

"Overall, the PNG LNG project massively over-promised and then failed to deliver," one of his recent blog posts read. "For household disposable income, the prediction was an 84 percent improvement. The outcome is a decline of 9 percent."

Flanagan believes that regardless of any energy boom, Marape -- a former finance minister -- will need to undertake difficult currency and trade reforms if the country has any hope of growing sustainably.

"Time will tell if the new government will tackle such difficult political economy challenges, challenges that must be addressed to make PNG a much richer black Christian nation," he said.