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, December 31, 2007

Balikpapan envisions a future in tourism and services

Nurni Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, Balikpapan

Balikpapan earned the nickname "Oil City" when Firma Samuel & Co. first carried out oil exploration activities here 110 years ago, but city planners hope the city will be known as something more than an oil-producing city in the future.

As a major gateway to East Kalimantan it is increasingly a city of tourism, as evidenced by recent infrastructure development. As of October this year, 17 new hotels had started operations.

A number of luxury apartments such as Grand Sudirman and Sea View are new, and shopping malls such as Balikpapan Super Block and Pasar Baru Square are both nearing completion.

The city boasts a number of tourist sites, such as Manggar and Lamaru beaches, and it has two esplanades, the Melawai and Banua Patra.

A number of historical attractions also await visitors, including the Meriam and Tugu Jepang (Japanese Monument).

Balikpapan is one of the biggest fish suppliers in the province, and also a center for semi-precious stones.

The Balikpapan Central Bureau of Statistics recorded a gross regional product of Rp 26.15 trillion (US$2.8 billion) in 2006, up slightly from 26.018 trillion in 2005.

The city-initiated income amounted to Rp 93.35 billion in 2006, dropping slightly to Rp 92.82 billion in 2007.

Balikpapan Mayor Imdaad Hamid said he envisioned the city on its way to becoming the "Bay City".

In 2009, trucks of all sizes will no longer be allowed to pass through the city, as the industrial zone and container terminal will be relocated to the Kariangau Industrial Area (KIK) in the Balikpapan Bay area. The bay area will also function as a tourist site.

Imdaad said the KIK would be ready by 2009 at the latest. It will host a container, cargo and coal terminals.

It will also house heavy machinery workshops, wet and dry docks, a supply base, coal terminal and docks, a palm oil plant, coal storage facilities, a waste processing facility and warehouses.

The Kariangau Container Port Terminal, which spans 57.5 hectares, was built at a cost of $52.8 million and financed 70 percent by the Asian Development Bank. The remaining 30 percent came from the state budget.

"There will no longer be trucks and trailers entering the city in the future. They will be rerouted to Kariangau, so the Semayang Port, located in the city, will later be used as a passenger terminal," said Imdaad.

"Balikpapan will also become more attractive and ready to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in 2010, acting as an industrial, service, trade and tourist city.

"Based on a survey by the Regional Autonomy Supervision Committee (KPPOD), Balikpapan is ranked the fourth most attractive city in Indonesia, after Batam, Cilegon and Padang.

"The KPPOD ranked Balikpapan on top in regards to security and favorable investment conditions. Let's all retain the good image," said Imdaad.

In terms of urban development, Balikpapan has emulated neighboring Malaysia in the education, economic and tourism sectors, signing related joint agreements with Tawau, Malaysia, in August.

The city has also provided incentives for investors, such as setting up an integrated one-roof licensing system in July this year.

In terms of people's welfare, Balikpapan has decreased its number of poor people to 6.95 percent of its population.

People from the low-income bracket in Balikpapan are entitled to free health care and education until they reach senior high school.

The city has four international-level schools -- SMPN 1 Junior High, SMAN 1 Senior High, and SMKN 1 and SMKN 4 state vocational schools -- and plans to establish an environmental school by transforming SMAN 4 into the Mangrove School, which will study the cultivation of mangroves.

And in regard to cleanliness, this year Balikpapan won the Adipura award for the cleanest city in Indonesia for the 13th time.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nias -- not just stone jumping and surfing

George Junus Aditjondro, Contributor The Jakarta Post

Stone jumping (hombo batu) and surfing are the two most well-known attractions for tourists coming to the island of Nias, 75 miles west of Sumatera, which only take place in Teluk Dalam on Nias' south coast. Young Nias men jump over 2-meters stone walls for Rp 50,000, in the village of Bawomatoluo. Meanwhile, surfing was introduced and developed by foreign tourists on the beach of Sorake.

Coming all the way to Nias, however, tourists should not limit themselves to stone jumping and surfing, since the island -- with a civilization dating back to the Dongson period of North Vietnam -- has a unique traditional architecture adapted to the frequent earthquake tremors in the region.

Two original solutions were created by the Nias ancestors. Firstly, all houses were set on a series of vertical pillars (enomo) which are not anchored into the ground, but rest on stone blocks. Secondly, the vertical pillars were reinforced by slanting piles (ndriwa), which created a very resistant earthquake-proof three-dimensional structure.

While surviving earthquakes, Nias traditional architecture is presently endangered by two big challenges, namely deforestation and modernization. Nias has largely been stripped of its forests over the past 150 years since head hunting ceased and the population grew rapidly. This has nearly depleted the native efoa, manawa dano, and simalambuo hardwood trees, used for the pillars of the traditional clan houses (omo hada), chief houses (omo sebua or omo nifolasara) and large meeting halls (omo bale).

Secondly, modernization has reduced the strength of the clan (mado), with most Nias people preferring now to live in Malay houses, while the government has also forsaken Nias traditional architecture in all official buildings.

The billions of rehabilitation and reconstruction dollars channeled to Nias through the NAD-Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Body (BRR), overlooked the need to revive this cultural heritage of Nias.

Fortunately, two European charities -- the German aid organization, Johanniter Unfall Hilfe, and the British Turnstone Tsunami Fund -- have assisted the rebuilding of remaining omo hada on the island. Johanniter cooperated with the Nias Heritage Museum (Museum Pusaka Nias) in Gunungsitoli, the capital of the Nias district, while the Turnstone Tsunami Fund cooperated with the Medan-based North Sumatera Heritage.

With Johanniter's assistance, Museum Pusaka Nias has helped families rehabilitate 26 traditional wooden houses in 13 villages. In addition, with financial assistance from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and the Muenster and Konstant Municipalities in Germany, the Museum has rehabilitated eight more traditional houses in seven other villages. Then, with the assistance of other donors, the Museum has distributed funds -- ranging from Rp 200,000 to Rp 5,000,000 -- to 357 traditional house owners to rebuild their traditional houses.

The museum was trusted by all those donors due to the serious dedication of its director, Johannes Hammerle, OFM Cap, a naturalized German-born priest, to revive Nias traditional architecture. The Museum director has studied chief houses (omo sebua) since 1990, and supervised the construction of the museum compound -- with its various wooden buildings -- according to Nias traditional architecture, involving Nias and German carpenters.

In the museum compound, one can observe a South Nias rectangular wooden house, used as a guest house, where the author has twice stayed, and a North Nias oval wooden house, used as an office building. The oval house, called omo laraga, originated from Sinandraolo village near Gunung Sitoli. Owned by the family of Ama Jeni Telaumbanua, it collapsed during the 2005 earthquake.

The traditional house was rebuilt in the museum compound and modernized with an indoor toilet, with the financial assistance of Brigitte Ott and Guenter Ott and their colleagues from the German International School in Jakarta. The omo laraga was inaugurated on June 22, 2007, with the traditional house inauguration dance, Fameheu Omo, by high school kids dancing and jumping on the floor, to test the house's structural strength.

Meanwhile, the Turnstone Tsunami Fund has rebuilt the chief house (omo nifolasara) in the village of Hilinawalo Mazingo, the oldest omo hada in Southern Nias. This magnificent chief house had survived nearly three centuries, but was in desperate need of restoration after falling victim to intense sun, rain, insect infestation, neglect, and finally, the March 2005 earthquake.

In 2005 and 2006, the Turnstone Tsunami Fund focused on training a younger generation of Nias men, ranging from 23 to 50 years of age, by the elderly village carpenter, Ama Liana, in four-week courses, supported by the Carpenter's Company of the City of London.

Following two carpentry courses, all houses in Hilinawalo Mazingo and four surrounding villages had been fully repaired by mid 2006. In addition, this project also supported a reforestation education project with local teenagers, led by a Nias school teacher, Yamin, and using afoa seedlings.

Thanks to these massive programs, Nias will have much more to offer to tourists than swimming and snorkeling in Teluk Dalam, watching stone jumping in Bawomatoluo, and surfing at Sorake. It would be nice if BRR and all aid agencies contribute to reviving this unique cultural heritage.

As Roger Miall from the Turnstone Tsunami Fund suggested is his email letter to me, some help from BRR to build a road to the village of Hilinawalo Mazingo would encourage tourist to visit the restored chief house. Meanwhile, tourism agencies should incorporate visits and short periods of living in Nias' omo hada in their packages, similar to tourism packages in Sarawak, East Malaysia, where tourists are encouraged to visit and live in Dayak long houses. Or in Mentawai, where tourists also can visit and live for short time in the indigenous people's longhouses.

The author is currently researching the reconstruction of Aceh and Nias, and can be contacted at

Culture Shock! Jakarta: The re-release of an indispensible guide

Andrew Charles, Contributor The Jakarta Post, Canggu, Bali

Culture Shock! Jakarta is published by Marshall Cavendish Editions and is available from most good bookstores in Indonesia at a recommended price of Rp.110,000. ISBN: 9 780761 454076

Most seasoned travelers will be aware of the term "culture shock", which is an all-encompassing expression to cover the feeling of disorientation that often affects people thrust into new surroundings outside their own comfort zone.

From the fact that over 3 million books in the Culture Shock! series have been sold it is obvious that these guides are well known so I was happy to be asked to review the long-awaited update of Culture Shock! Jakarta.

One important point to make about this series of publications, which now covers almost 80 locations, is that they are not intended as guide books for tourists -- although tourists will also find them very useful. They give good information on local culture and traditions, together with some very helpful guides to the language. Essentially, they assist travellers in adapting to their new environment and obtaining the most benefit from their experience.

The authors of Culture Shock! Jakarta, Derek Bacon and Terry Collins, are both highly qualified to advise newcomers to this hot, lively and often rather sleazy city; having spent many years living here.

They certainly aren't set out to "sell" Jakarta to the visitor as they are vociferous in their criticisms. Their very dry British sense of humor comes across in various ways but despite what could be construed as cynicism, irony and sarcasm, this is an extremely informative book.

The frustrations caused by the poor Internet connections receive a number of comments: they make the point that Broadband is confined primarily to hotels and offices and as there are only two main portals linking Indonesia to the web, all other ISPs are secondary subscribers, resulting in a high cost for a minimal service.

Another topic on which no punches are pulled is the inadequacy of Jakarta's drainage system. The city is subject to frequent flooding and the major cause of this is that the floodplain has been built over so, in the rainy season, streets can quickly become rivers. The current floods in North Jakarta are caused not only by the moon's gravitational pull but also by the silting up of Jakarta Bay through reclamation schemes and the cutting down of the mangroves in order to build golf courses and other recreational facilities.

No guide to living in Jakarta would be complete without a reference to the transportation system and some 20 pages are devoted to this. How to get a driving license, how to deal with taxi drivers and how to own a vehicle are just a few of the items covered in this very comprehensive section.

One inclusion in the book that new arrivals to Jakarta will find invaluable is the list of Web sites and blogspots; despite the earlier comments on the difficulty in obtaining fast Internet service, patience will bring its rewards. One of the authors, Terry Collins, has his own blogspot and this is well worth a visit at

Good coverage is given to the real advantages of living in Jakarta such as the relatively affluent lifestyle which could be more difficult to find elsewhere. The authors give a warning to newcomers not to let this affect them negatively. They say that some people become "virtually famous" even though they are totally anonymous in their own countries. There are make-believe sugar-daddies, would be white boy gigolos, pretend gangsters and desperadoes. Beware of people acting out these fantasies!

On a more positive note, there is a lot of good advice on eating and the novice is warned that the word pedas is vital; it means the spicy and pungent hotness that burns the beginner's mouth.

Many pages are devoted to food and entertaining and this section provides a great deal of information on not only what to eat but how to eat it as there are customs and traditions that are best adhered to in order to avoid giving offense. The explanation of the different stages and styles of cooking rice are extensive and Culture Shock! Jakarta will tell you all you ever need to know about this most fundamental of staple foods. We learn that there are 24 varieties of banana but are recommended to try the large, classic pisang Ambon or the short, sweet pisang emas.

Other suggested fruits include apples from Malang in East Java and jeruk Bali, which is described as a "user-friendly grapefruit". We are encouraged to start the day with an entire liquidized mango and this can be a very inexpensive breakfast. People renting a house in Jakarta could find themselves in possession of a star-fruit (belimbing) tree as these grow well in the city and the fruit is packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants.

The contents of this very reasonably priced book are far too numerous to mention in a short review but subjects covered include weather, a good outline of the history, geography and politics of the city, a substantial section on how to adapt to living with Jakartans and how to settle in, plus some very good advice on culture and travel. How to do business in Jakarta is also dealt with and, most importantly, there are some excellent tips on the language.

Once you have read all the advice and information, there is a light-hearted quiz for you to check on whether or not you have learned anything.

For a new arrival in Jakarta, this book is essential reading but it will appeal also to veteran residents who will recognize all the stages through which they have already passed -- and probably have a good laugh in the process.

Learning to Walk: Rural Tourism in Puncak

Irfan Kortschak, Contributor Jakarta Post, Jakarta

In the early 1990s, Jakarta-based American expatriate Alex Korns began exploring the foothills around the twin volcanoes, Mt Gede and Mt Pangrongo. In his search for a route around the twin peaks, Alex and his walking companions explored a terrain that consisted of rice paddies, dry fields, tea plantations and tropical rain forest without maps and relying only on information provided by local Sundanese villagers.

While the Sundanese villagers were intimately familiar with the paths that they used on a daily basis, they often had little interest in what lay further afield. Finding the route was thus a major navigational challenge.

Alex notes that the route around the twin peaks crosses numerous valleys that lead down from the mountains, and that crossing points for the valleys are few and far between. "If you miss one crossing, it may take hours to find the next," says Alex, "but getting lost was half the fun." After five trips around the peaks, Alex became proficient at navigating with a compass, an altimeter and field notes from previous visits.

However, while he and his friends obviously enjoyed the challenge of pioneering new paths, they couldn't help being surprised at how few other hikers and walkers they met on the paths.

As Alex says: "It is an extraordinarily diverse area with a number of contrasting environments. Hikers can walk on the dikes between rice paddies in sandals or bare feet, or through fields and vegetable patches cultivated by Sundanese villagers. A stroll through the tea gardens offers beautiful views, while higher up and further from the settled areas, there are stands of tropical rain forest teeming with birds and other wildlife. It's a marvelous area for walking."

Alex believed that the absence of hikers was not due to an innate lack of interest in the natural environment, but to lack of information. In Europe, America and Australia, hiking through rural areas is an established tradition. More popular routes in these countries are clearly signposted and locals are familiar enough with the paths and the predilections of hikers that they are able to provide good information. However, the most important resource for visitors is a good map that clearly describes walking routes.

Alex was convinced that Jakartans could and would learn to appreciate and enjoy the environment around them if only they knew about it and had the necessary information regarding trails through the area. Thus, in 1997, he approached a group of students and graduates from the University of Indonesia's Geography Department to survey a series of maps describing hiking trails through the Gede-Pangrango foothills.

Initially established as an informal club, this group later established a more formal body, the Forum for Information on Nature Tourism, usually known by its Indonesian acronym, WIPA. While initially focusing on hiking maps, in order to make these maps more usable, the team also developed a series of detailed guide books that describe local landmarks and points of interest in the area.

So far, Alex and the WIPA team have developed a set of four maps and accompanying guide books, covering Cisarua, Cipanas, Cugenang, and Ciawi, comprising half the circuit of the twin peaks, with plans to cover other areas sometime in the future. The maps and guidebooks are an excellent first step towards encouraging Jakartans to enjoy their natural surroundings. In practice, however, how easy are they to use?

It must again be emphasized that the paths described on these maps are not long established walking trails that attract hordes of tourists and other hikers. In many ways, this is what makes them so attractive: they provide a chance for the walker to explore regions of Indonesia that, although within spitting distance of the capital, are as yet almost entirely unexploited by the tourism industry.

On the other hand, it also means that first time users must expend some effort to become familiar with elementary navigational skills, or to be accompanied by someone who has these skills.

On a first attempt to find one of the trails through the Gunung Mas tea plantation, this writer tried to follow a section of the trail, but soon found himself straying. Without any experience and without any navigational equipment apart from the map, it is by no means obvious where the actual route is: after all, there are many paths through the tea fields, and it is very easy to take the wrong path.

Even with good Indonesian language skills, attempts to ask locals for directions elicited a blank look followed by the question: "Are you looking for Taman Safari?" Only a few kilometers away, Taman Safari is the kind of large scale attraction that a tourist is meant to visit, so locals may assume that through some act of minor idiocy, the visitor has somehow managed to miss the huge signs and stray from the main road into the tea gardens in the search for elephant rides and roaring lions -- which are clearly audible in the distance.

On the other hand, while it is not always easy to find the trail marked on the map, it is always easy to return to a major road or village where, at the very least, hot sweet tea and noodles may be available. It is hard to seriously object to spending a day wandering in the countryside here, even if one doesn't get where one intends.

The following week, returning with Alex, it turns out to be much easier. He is equipped with a compass, an altimeter and a GPS device, the last of which he deprecates as "not strictly necessary." Alex points out that since all the maps and books describe the altitudes at which land marks and turn-offs are located, as well as co-ordinates, an altimeter is extremely useful.

"So long as you are on the right ridge, you can almost always find points on the map by checking the altitude," he says. Tom, an expatriate who has used the maps and guidebooks on numerous occasions, points out that finding the path is an interesting intellectual challenge, like solving a puzzle or, perhaps more appropriately, passing through a country-house maze.

"After going out for walks on several occasions, I've gotten a lot better at finding the paths. Learning to find your way is an integral part of the experience."

Alex acknowledges that it takes some commitment and energy to find a trail and to learn how to interpret the maps, the guidebooks and the landscape. Alex sees a number of ways in which less experienced hikers can overcome the challenges involved in finding trails.

Firstly, groups of interested hikers could explore the area together, with the less experienced members of the group learning the skills from, or at least following in the path of, the more experienced. With growing interest in hiking as a hobby, there may eventually be a demand for local guides who can assist those with limited navigational skills to walk through the area.

In the longer term, when a critical mass of visitors becomes interested in the walks, locals in visited areas may become aware of the potential economic benefits to be derived by establishing food stalls, simple restaurants, and even homestays along the routes. When this happens, locals may see the value in establishing and maintaining sign posts and other aids.

In his preface to the guidebooks, Indonesia's most prominent environmentalist, Emil Salim, says: "If the mountains become bald due to human activity, floods will inundate [Jakarta's watersheds], bringing suffering to tens of millions. For this reason, it is important to invite, enlighten and persuade residents to protect that area."

The maps and guidebooks produced by Alex Korns and the geographers from WIPA are an excellent first step in creating an interest in the area on the part of visitors and residents alike. As such, it is hoped that they will play a contributing role in ensuring the preservation of this area for future generations.

The Puncak Trek and Map Series was published by WIPA in association with Godown, an imprint of the Lontar Foundation. The maps and guides are available individually or as a set of four from good book stores in Jakarta.

Publication of the materials was made possible by assistance from the Environmental Support Program of the United States Agency for International Development, the New Zealand Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the Indonesian International Education Foundation, funded by the Ford Foundation.

At present, four maps and guide books are available either as a single set or individually from a number of outlets around Jakarta and elsewhere.

For further information, please see

Saturday, December 29, 2007

City preparing for New Year's Eve

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

With millions of people expected to crowd entertainment centers in Jakarta on New Year's Eve, the city administration and the police are preparing to deploy more than 17,000 officers in an effort to step up security and manage traffic in the capital.

The police would intensify security in entertainment parks, shopping malls, train stations, bus stations, the Soekarno-Hatta international airport and other public places, Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Adang Firman said.

To celebrate the New Year, the city administration has organized festivities at three locations: the National Monument in Central Jakarta; Ancol Amusement Park in North Jakarta; and Taman Mini Indonesia Park in East Jakarta.

"This is to prevent heavy traffic congestion in those areas," Governor Fauzi Bowo said.

From the total 681 entertainment hubs holding New Year's Eve parties, the police would prioritize the National Monument and Ancol, according to the Jakarta Police Traffic Management Center.

Central Jakarta Police Chief Sr. Comr. Heru Winarko said the security would be tightened at the National Monument, as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to visit the location.

"We will close the streets around the monument to motorists from 4 p.m., to prevent traffic jams in the area. So after that time people will have to go to the monument by foot," Heru said.

The streets that will be closed to motorists are Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur; Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat; Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara; and Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan.

About 500 meters from the monument, the police would reroute motorists to park their vehicles at Gambir Train Station, Istiqlal Mosque and other nearby parking lots, he said.

Last year, millions of people flocked the National Monument during the New Year's Eve celebration, causing heavy traffic jams in the area, he said.

Adj. Sr. Comr. Herri Wibowo, deputy chief of the Central Jakarta Police, said the city administration would open a coordinating center to manage crime and loss reports in the National Monument area.

At the National Monument, a free music concert featuring top bands and a fireworks display have been planned to welcome the new year. Traditional attractions and the lighting of 2,008 torches will enliven the celebration at Taman Mini in addition to the fireworks and music shows.

Meanwhile, Ancol park management will offer a coastal experience with music and dance performances, fireworks and traditional attractions as part of the so-called Jakarta Seaside Festival. (dia)

SBY book shows 'true face' of Indonesia

Alfian, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched Friday Indonesia on the Move, a compilation of his articles and speeches depicting a "true picture" of Indonesia.

Yudhoyono said the book could be used to tell the global community about Indonesia.

"We have often been judged by perceptions, instead of reality ... and that is not fair," he said.

"I agreed that my articles and speeches could be published as a book because I want Indonesia to be better understood by the world," he said.

Yudhoyono said the title was chosen because the phrase accurately portrayed the development of the country.

"Indonesia is moving forward with all its challenges and problems," he said.

The President said that although Indonesia had yet to completely survive the impact of the economic crisis, the country had made significant progress in the last 10 years.

"New problems emerge, but if we honestly evaluate them, we will find some achievements and progress along the way," he said.

"Don't you think that democracy and human rights protection are getting better in this country?" Yudhoyono said.

Indonesia, he added, had also moved forward in terms of economic growth.

"From 7 percent (before the crisis), it dropped to minus 13 percent (when the crisis hit in 1997), which was a huge contraction. But now we can reach at least 6 percent growth," said Yudhoyono, adding that if Indonesians continued to work hard, the country could reach 7 percent growth again, but with better underlying systems.

He said that Indonesia had also shown progress in eradicating conflicts and corruption. "The conflicts in our society are getting smaller and milder," said Yudhoyono.

"Although we are not satisfied yet, but as a grateful people let's declare 'we are on the move'," said Yudhoyono, to applause from the audience, which consisted of national leaders, cabinet members and some ambassadors.

Indonesia on the Move contains Yudhoyono's speeches and articles from the end of 2005 until the end of 2006. The book includes other authors' articles and comments on Yudhoyono's leadership. The book was edited by presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal and published by Bhuana Ilmu Popular, under the Kompas and Gramedia Group.

The book launch was accompanied by the opening of a new Gramedia book store on Jl. Matraman, Central Jakarta.

Yudhoyono urged the audience to support efforts to increase reading among Indonesians. He said reading was needed for Indonesia to become an advanced society. "An advanced society comes from a learning society and a learning society comes from s reading society," said Yudhoyono.

Traditional Indonesian arts recognized

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Oral Tradition Association, in cooperation with the Culture and Tourism Ministry, will present the first ever awards for mastery of Indonesian traditional arts in January 2008.

The association announced the winners at a year-end report press conference on Friday. The awards, whose aim is to prevent the extinction of Indonesian traditional arts, go to 27 artists from all over the archipelago this year.

The association's chairwoman, Dr. Pudentia, said that in establishing the awards, the association had two main concerns. The first was what she called "the library on fire" theory which assumes that once a master artist dies, the cultural "encyclopedia" he represents is lost, too.

"This will happen if the country doesn't start intensively appreciating, documenting and disseminating information on the traditional arts mastered by a dwindling number of people," Pudentia said.

The second consideration is that the award should help preserve the traditional cultural environment that stimulates the artists.

"Because if that environment is drastically changed, it will be very difficult for them to carry on," she said.

The awards will be given to those considered to have mastered a particular art form as well as effectively worked to transfer expertise to the younger generation. Besides a trophy, the winners will receive a monthly honorarium of Rp 1 million (US$106.3).

The 27 award recipients were selected from 45 candidates by a panel of judges. The main criteria for "mastery" is 20 years of experience in the field and being at least 50 years of age.

The panel of judges comprised of Dr. Mukhlis Paeni, Muji Sutrisno, N. Riantiarno, Dr. Achadiati, Prof. Sardono W. Kusumo, Prof. Sapardi Djoko Damono, Prof. Ida Sundari Husein, Titi Said and Dr. Pudentia.

One of the judges who is also the Director General for Art, Culture and Film Affairs of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Dr. Mukhlis Paeni, said the government also planned to file information on traditional arts, including master artists, with the Directorate General of Intellectual Property Rights at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry.

"In order to do that, besides visiting the master artists in each province, the government is also recording their performances and making an inventory of Indonesia's traditional arts." (uwi)

History museum offers glimpse of the past

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Jakarta History Museum in West Jakarta was crowded on Wednesday afternoon with hundreds of children and adults, mostly students, enjoying relics of the past.

More than 300 children and about 120 adults registered within three hours after the museum opened at 9 a.m.

Arif, a second-year junior high school student, said he and his two classmates had come all the way from Cakung, East Jakarta, as part of their school homework.

"We come to this place to do an assignment about city history," he said.

"But we also want to enjoy ourselves here during the holiday. It's good to refresh our minds," he added.

Faisal, another student, said that he liked the museum because he could learn about history.

"This is my third visit here," he said.

The Cakung teenager said he would come to the museum more often if he lived closer.

Ican, a museum ticket-seller, said he was not expecting so many people to come Wednesday.

"I thought people would visit the museum on the weekend," he said.

On average, the museum records around 200 visitors daily.

Ican said most of the visitors were school students learning about the capital's history.

"Besides, they are now enjoying a long holiday," he said.

To deal with the large number of visitors, the museum management has deployed all of its six guides to explain about the relics on display. These include old maps and Betawi traditional art and cultural objects, such as a musical instrument called a tanjidor.

Daniel, one of the guides, said he usually assists foreign tourists.

"We are overwhelmed with the number of students coming today so I am helping the other five guides," he said.

He said many school students were interested in a cell in the museum, which had served as a women's prison. Unfortunately, the cell is not open to the public because it is under renovation.

The Jakarta History Museum was established in 1974. The building initially served as Jakarta's City Hall, beginning in 1627 during the Colonial Period.

The museum opens Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is closed on national holidays.

The entrance fee is Rp 2,000 (US 22 cents) for adults and Rp 600 for students.

Located at Fatahillah Square in Old Town, it displays archeological treasures such as old coins from the Colonial Period, paintings by famous Indonesian artist Raden Saleh, and unique ceramics from the 17th and 18th century.

There are two other museums in the area: the Puppet Museum and the Ceramics Museum.(ewd)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tourist arrival target achievable, says minister

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

With a wide range of promotional programs both at home and abroad, the government is optimistic that the Visit Indonesia Year 2008 campaign will draw at least 7 million foreign tourists.

"I'm optimistic that we can reach the target and book US$6.4 billion in foreign exchange earnings, as we've done many campaign activities both domestically and internationally," Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik said at a year-end media conference on Thursday.

Indonesia will host over 100 international events ranging from cultural and musical to sports activities throughout the archipelago as part of Visit Indonesia Year 2008. The government has allocated up to US$15 million to finance the campaign.

Indonesia's first Visit Indonesia campaign in 1991 was not as successful as expected, adding just 400,000 tourists to the arrival total.

Jero said improving security conditions in the country were another factor that could help attract more foreign tourists.

"Thanks to this, we've seen an increase of foreign tourist arrivals this year, reaching 5.5 million tourists from 4.8 million in 2006, and generating about $5.3 billion in foreign exchange income," Jero said.

"And this year's tourist arrivals are the highest in the last 10 years," he said.

He explained that from January to October, the ministry recorded 3.7 million tourists, an increase of 14.24 percent over the 3.2 million notched in the same period last year. The 3.7 million tourists arrived through the 15 main entry gates, including the airports of Soekarno Hatta in Tangerang, Ngurah Rai in Bali, Polonia in Medan and Juanda in Surabaya.

In November and December, Indonesia has seen around 900,000 tourists entering Indonesia through those gates, he said.

Singaporeans still dominated Indonesia's tourist arrivals in the first 10 months, totaling almost 750,000, but down from 772,216 in the same period of last year.

They were followed by Malaysia with 463,517 visits, and Japan with almost 400,000.

The ministry estimated that in 2007, about 116 million local tourists took about 219 million trips, slightly increased from the 114 million people who took about 216 million trips in 2006.

They were estimated to have spent about Rp 79.8 trillion this year, up from Rp 78.9 trillion in 2006.

The minister said earlier that his office was also hoping more Chinese tourists would come to Indonesia next year to take advantages of the special offers provided by hotels and airlines during the year.

According to China's National Tourism Administration, nearly 30 million Chinese traveled abroad in the first nine months of this year, up by 17 percent from the same period last year. That means China remains Asia's largest source of tourists.(ndr/dic)

Festivals promote Jakarta as regional cultural capital

Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Behind the visible poverty, endless traffic jams and nauseating polluted air, Jakarta has hidden treasures that are unrivaled by other big cities in the country, and possibly even in Southeast Asia.

They go together to make up the city's arts and culture scene.

Jakarta has a wide range of arts and cultural events, both of national and international importance, that have been thriving while gaining support from an increasingly wider audience, both from Jakarta and outside the city.

In addition to the older festivals, this year saw two new arrivals: the Urban Festival, or Urbanfest 2007, and the Jakarta International Photo Summit 2007.

The Urban Festival, a two-day festival in late August, involved a list of events, mostly beginning with the word "urban": Urban Distro, Urban Photo Exhibition, Urban Dancing, Urban Tattoo, Face Painting, Local Comics Exhibition and many others.

Held at the Ancol Dream Park in North Jakarta, the maiden Urban Festival did not gain much recognition. However, it is too soon to say it was a flop.

The ten-day Jakarta International Photo Summit 2007, from Dec. 3 to Dec. 13, also did not see many people turning up at the National Gallery in Central Jakarta. However, the curators and the summit's promoters, Oscar Motuloh and Alexander Supartono, still plan to hold the summit once every three years.

The summit itself boasted 150 images from international art photographers.

On top of the newcomers, the city has a list of established festivals, national and international, big and small. One of the most popular is the Jakarta International Film Festival, or Jiffest.

Now in its 9th year, the festival is seeing growing audiences, number of movies screened, and, perhaps most importantly, popularity, and is increasingly attracting visitors from outside Jakarta.

The smaller Q! Film Festival has also thrived by creating its own niche. The Sixth Q! Film Festival's organizers reported a growth in audience numbers this year.

Besides Jiffest, the more commercial and glamorous Java Jazz festival is also gaining greater popularity.

Meanwhile, the community-based and longer-standing Jakarta International Jazz Festival, or JakJazz, is also showing a determination to survive by staging its second revival after years of hiatus. This year's festival received a warm reception from jazz buffs around the country.

These festivals are only a few of the many cultural and arts festivals in Jakarta.

Some of the festivals are initiated by young people who only have dreams, extensive networks, cultural capital and marketing skills to work on, but little money.

Names like Shanty Harmayn and John Badalu, for example, are household names among the country's film buffs.

Besides the large festivals, young people are also at the forefront of smaller exhibitions and performances. Communities like Ruang Rupa and those hanging out at the Aksara Record also help shape the city as a cultural capital of the region.

Not only as initiators. Young Jakartans also contribute to shaping Jakarta as a cultural capital by being enthusiastic supporters of the festivals. Among audiences, young Jakartans in their 20s and early 30s are predominant.

They are hip, trendy and have tastes that differ from the mainstream. They belong at least to the middle-income bracket and are mostly university educated, whether at home or abroad.

Without them, these festivals would not exist or thrive. And without these festivals, Jakarta would be just another dirty, overcrowded city.

"As far as I know, Jiffest, for example, was the best in Southeast Asia. Last year, it attracted 63,000 enthusiasts with funding of US$500,000. Meanwhile, the Bangkok Film Festival cost US$5 million and attracted only 23,000 people. And I don't even want to compare Jiffest with festivals in Singapore or Manila; they're not in the same league," said Marco Kusumawijaya, an urban planning expert and chairman of the Jakarta Arts Council.

Marco added that although Jakarta lagged behind Singapore in infrastructural development, the Indonesian city was awash with artists.

He complained, however, that the festivals received little support from the government.

"Actually, the more independent a festival, the better it is. However, the city should see such festivals as investments. They attract visitors who spend money in hotels and restaurants in the city," Marco said. "The city administration should set targets in return for its financial support; a festival gets some funding but has to attract so many people from abroad, for example."

Some festivals in 2007

Festival Time, frequency Organized by

  • Java Jazz March, annual Private
  • Q! Film Festival Aug.-Sept. annual Private
  • Arts Summit Nov. triennial Ministry of Culture
  • Konfiden Short November, annual Jakarta Arts Council, Konfiden
  • Jiffest December annual Private supported by city Jakarta International Photo Summit (December, triennial) Private
  • JakJazz (November, annual) Private
  • International Literary Biennial (August, biennial) Private
  • Urbanfest (August, planned to be annual) Private
  • Jakarta Theater Festival (December, annual) Jakarta Arts Council
  • Schouwburg Festival (September, annual) City
  • Jakarta Anniversary Festival (June, annual) City

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Visit Indonesia Year 2008 officially launched

JAKARTA (Jakarta Post) :The government officially launched Visit Indonesia Year 2008 on Wednesday, with the main aim of luring up to 7 million foreign tourists and booking US$6.4 billion in foreign exchange income.

To help reach the target, the government is setting aside $15 million for a domestic and international advertising blitz.

"The budget will be used to finance the promotion campaign, especially abroad," Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik told a media conference before the grand launch of the program, which will be the second for the country.

The government held its first Visit Indonesia program in 1991, which was not particularly successful, increasing the number of foreign tourists by merely 400,000 from the year earlier, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).

BPS data show that in 1991, around 2.5 million foreign tourists visited the country, from 2.1 million in the previous year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Role of house wives in Indonesia entering transformation

Sumenep, Madura (ANTARA News) - The role of house wives in Indonesia was reported to have entered the process of transformation which may cause moral decadence on children and an increase if divorce cases.

The remark was made by Ishmah Cholil, chairman of the Hiztbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), one of Islamic organizations in Indonesia, in a dialogue with house wives at Nurul Muhammad Mosque here on Tuesday.

While in big cities many married women asked for a divorce for economic reasons, lack of happiness and involvement of a third party, and others, this condition will harm the interest of their children.

"Many married women fail to correct their shortcomings in their families," Ishmah said in a dialogue held by the HTI Sumenep chapter on the role of mothers in building a good generation.

According to him, divorce applications in 2005 were mostly filed by wives which is a bad thing to do as a moslem.

He took as example the high divorce rate in Yogyakarta in most cases of which it was the wives who made the initiative totalling 3,105 cases (59%), while those filed by husbands reached 1,462 (28%).

In Bandung, divorce application filed by wives reached 15,139 (48%) and by hushands 13,415 (42%). In the meantime, the figure of divorce requested by wives in Surabaya was also higher than that by their husbands, respectively 17,728 (36%) and 27,805 (57%).

A similar situation also prevailed in Semarang with 12,694 (32%) filed by husbands and 23,653 (60%) by wives, followed by Medan with 811 (13%) by husbands and 1,967 (65%) by wives, Makassar with 1,093 (23%) by husbands and 3,081 (65%) by wives.

In Padang, he added, the divorce rate was also high, whereas the applications filed by wivies reached 902 (31%), by husbands was 1,572 (54%). Comparisons in divorce rates in Aceh was high on the part of wives with 905 (33%) and 363 (13%) for husbands.

The causes of divorce include lack of harmony (54,138 cases), irresponsibility (46,723 cases), economic problems (24,251 cases) and third party involvement (9,071 cases), and politics (157 cases), he said.

He further said that the role of mothers had been dominant in the house, conducting house chores and never left home without the permission of their husbands and affected the moral values of their children in addition to serving their husbands. But that role was entering a process of transformation.

Many women have starting their intrinsic role in the family particularly promoting moral values and building harmonious relationship with their children at home.

The glory of women in the gender era and the stipulation of law on anti-violence in the house ran counter to the nature of the mothers themselves. Many wives are eager to earn money by themselves, thus forgetting their role to take care of their children.

In fact, the building of a harmonious family and good morality of the children begins from the family, namely mothers who are responsible for the building of morality of the younger generation before being influenced by their external environment.

Christmas celebrated peacefully across RI

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

With several communities concerned about the potential for violence, police officers across the country patrolled churches on Christmas Day to ensure the safety of the congregations.

Deputy chairman of the country's largest Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama, Masdar Farid Mas'udi, wished Christians a merry Christmas through a written statement.

"We hope that the birth of Jesus Christ can truly bring blessings to our Christian brothers and sisters in particular, and all believers in the world in general," Masdar said.

Meanwhile, Din Syamsuddin, chairman of another prominent Islamic group Muhammadiyah, said Muslims should show respect to followers of other religions who were celebrating their holidays.

"Religion is a truth that its followers must believe in, but the difference between our faiths shall not prevent us from living side by side in peaceful harmony," said Din.

More than 2,500 Catholics, including Vatican Ambassador Leopoldo Giarellim, attended mass at Jakarta Cathedral on Tuesday morning.

The cathedral's spokeswoman, Grace Tanus, said the church had teamed up with local police to ensure security so they would not have to worry about anything during the Christmas celebrations.

"Besides, Christmas brings a message of peace to all. We were reminded that peace, love, fraternity and solidarity are what Christmas is all about," Grace was quoted as saying by Antara newswire.

The Holy Mass in the country's largest church also conveyed messages of democracy, poverty eradication, as well as war on global warming.

Cardinal Julius Rijadi Darmaatmaja said in his sermon during the mass that democracy would fail if the gap between the rich and the poor became larger. He told the congregation to get involved in poverty eradication activities.

"Christmas has to be a tool to bring prosperity to the poor people among us," he said.

Bishop Bratakartana, meanwhile, said Christians should be aware of the damage to the environment and do something to prevent further devastation of the earth.

In Bandung, some 100 interfaith figures from local Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu and Buddhist societies gathered at the city's cathedral and distributed white roses to the members of the congregation, in an attempt to promote peace and harmony among followers of different faiths, news portal reported.

The activity received a cordial welcome from Priest Leo Van Beurden, who said, "We are proud and touched by what you do; I hope God will cherish this country."

On Sulawesi Island, Christians in Makassar celebrated Christmas in a driving rainstorm. Besides attending masses at churches, they also held parties at their homes as a part of the celebration.

Makassar Police chief Sr. Comr. Genot Haryanto said security measures in South Sulawesi's capital were not as tight as in previous years, but the police remained on alert.

In the conflict area of Poso, Central Sulawesi, Christmas services ran smoothly with heavy security from fully armed police officers.

In Maluku's capital Ambon, Antara reported that dozens of Christians celebrated Christmas by setting off a large number of firecrackers across the town, despite appeals from local police chiefs and heads of churches not to set off fireworks during Christmas.

The Ambonese Christians also expressed their joy by riding around the town center in convoys, causing congestion along the main streets. (wda)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Govt plans special embassies in Surinam and Aledonia

Pangkalpinang (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government planned to establish a special embassy in Surinam and Aledonia in a bid to restore relations between the two nations which came from the same ancestors.

"There is a strong emotional bond between the people of Suriname and Aledonia because they come from the same ancestors. Therefore, the central government through the foreign ministry planned to establish special embassies in Surinam and Aledonia," he said here on Monday.

He further said that that people of Suriname were if Javanese descent who were sent to that country by the Dutch colonialists, while the people of Aledonia estimated at 600,000, originated from Makassar now living in South Africa.

At present, the Indonesian foreign ministry is exploring possibilities of establishing special embassies and hopefully in the near future that relations would be restored and strengthened with the presence of special embassies in Surinam and Aledonia.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A merry Christmas to all - including Muslims

Muhammad Nafik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A Merry Christmas for Christians and Muslims. Why Muslims? Because Muslims should join festivities that commemorate the birth of Prophet Isa aka Jesus Christ.

The Koran actually cites not only Jesus' birthday, but also two other important moments in his existence -- his death and the day of his resurrection. This is clearly stated in Sura Maryam (Verse of Mary): 33, "So peace is on me (Jesus) the day I was born, the day that I die and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)".

If the Koran itself recorded Jesus as such, how come Muslims were prohibited by ulema from wishing Christians a merry Christmas? This goes against the fundamental truth of Islam.

If we are consistent in our faith, recognizing Jesus as a prophet in Islam, we should not hesitate to join his birthday celebrations. Whether our own celebrations are held in a different manner to Christians' is not an issue.

The statement in the Sura Maryam should, therefore, end the controversy of whether Muslims are allowed to give Christians a Christmas greeting.

Debates on this sensitive subject have continued to resurface each year, since the Indonesia Ulema Council issued a fatwa in 1981, banning Muslims from greeting Christians at Christmas.

The council said such behavior had bad implications for Muslims' common faith in Isa. The ulema said the greetings implied Muslims justified the Christian belief that Jesus is God, while Islam recognized him as a prophet.

The claim, which seems to be supported by many (if not most) Muslim clerics, was exaggerated and seems not to make sense given that greetings are a social courtesy. What is not allowed is for Muslims to be engaged in the ritual aspects of Christmas.

In the Koran, Jesus Christ is named Isa Almasih. He is described as a figure with many privileges, who was born without a father -- which Christians similarly believe.

While Jews accused Jesus' mother Maria (Maryam, Mary) of adultery and rejected his presence on earth, Islam considered him one of the Ulul Azmi (five supreme prophets) comprising Muhammad, Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), Noah (Nuh) and Isa (Jesus).

This is evidence that Islam recognizes and respects Jesus' nobility, and is the reason why we should celebrate his presence on earth, which served as a torch for the world in times of darkness and hopelessness.

Another substantial religious reason for Muslims to greet Christians during Christmas is the fact that the Koran promotes pluralism between communities of different faiths, ethnicities, cultures and groups.

The spiritual objective of this is for us to know and learn about people from other groups (li ta'arafu), to stop us fighting one another (li takhashamu), considering others infidels (li takafaru) or killing each other (li taqatalu).

In this respect, all religions should be treated as equal, to pave the way for free and fair dialogs in interfaith groups, without any subordination from any single party.

With regard to pluralism in this country, non-Muslims have shown themselves to be more tolerant than Muslims in numerous instances.

For example, when Indonesian Moslems observed Idul Fitri on Oct. 13-14, many Christians sincerely greeted them. These wishes were conveyed by leaders on television, through newspaper advertisements and other media facilities.

Some churches, like the one close to my housing complex in Ciputat on the city outskirts, even erected banners with Idul Fitri greetings.

In prayers held at public events, non-Muslims are never bothered or worried when this session is led by Muslims, but it would be a different story if non-Muslims led the prayers.

In constructing houses of worship, non-Muslims have faced more challenges and resistance than Muslims.

Such intolerance continues to rise amid the silence of moderate Islamic leaders in the world's biggest Muslim population.

To enlighten Indonesia's Muslim community such leaders must raise the issue more frequently at major events.

This Christmas is a good opportunity for Muslim leaders to campaign for pluralism, tolerance and co-existence. At least they can start by doing the same as Christians do when they greet us during post-Ramadhan festivities.

The preaching of pluralism would be more influential and effective if leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah -- the two biggest Muslim organizations in Indonesia -- joined hands with moderate scholars and other charismatic clerics to publicly wish Christians a Merry Christmas.

The writer can be reached at

Bali to hold traditional food festival

Denpasar, Bali Province (ANTARA News) - `Denpasar Food Heritage Festival` will be held in Denpasar, the capital of Bali Province, from December 29 to 30, 2007.

Balinese traditional food such as jajan uli, begina, daluman, sate kakul, pelecing kangkung, betutu, and lawar would be presented in the festival, Erwin Suryadarma, a spokesman of Denpasar city administration, said here on Monday.

Coinciding with the festival, Denpasar Mayor Anak Agung Puspayoga will launch a new tourism program called 'Sightseeing Denpasar 2008'.

RI, Australia run youth exchange in Lombok

Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post, Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara

Despite the ups and downs in diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Australia, young people from both countries have been finding success as ambassadors when they venture abroad.

At least 18 Australian and 18 Indonesian youth are participating in the Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP) this year.

Australian participants moved in with host families in Sigerongan village in West Lombok on Dec. 17, and would stay two months, said AIYEP's Australian coordinator Edward Russell.

"We are so happy and so surprised to find hundreds of local residents welcome us. At first I thought we would be greeted by only a dozens residents here," said Russell on Sunday.

"We have had no problems staying here. The local residents are so kind. I have tried the local food, like pelecing kangkung -- boiled-water spinach with traditional chili sauce. That's very hot but so delicious," said participant Janet Courtis.

During their stay AIYEP participants plan to set up programs focused on education, environmental awareness and sport and youth activities.

"We have also arranged futsal and badminton games here," said the AIYEP's Indonesia coordinator, Lutfi Nur Rosyidi.

Lufti said AIYEP participants would help build badminton courts and teach English to elementary students and local residents.

"(And) we have explained to residents that we do not want to set up physical programs only, but we also want to encourage people here to take care of their environment," Edward added.

In October, Indonesian youth visited Australia for two months, splitting the time between Melbourne and Mildura, a small town about six hours from Melbourne. Participants lived like families with their host parents, said Lufti.

AIYEP was first introduced by the Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministries and the Indonesian Sport and Youth Ministry in 1981.

"The program is aimed at providing participants with an understanding of Indonesian and Australian ways of life," said AIYEP spokesman Abdul.

The head of Sigerongan village, Mustiadi, said he was happy to welcome AIYEP participants to his village.

"Residents here are also happy because they can have the experience of cultural exchange. We are so proud that our village has been chosen by the government to join this program," Mustiadi said.

Edwards said cultural exchange was at the heart of the program.

"By following this program, we know that Australians and Indonesians can live together in harmony," Edwards said.