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, March 31, 2009

Tourism industry faces massive layoffs

The Jakarta Post, Tue, 03/31/2009 3:02 PM

DENPASAR: The ongoing global financial crisis may see some 20 percent of 4.41 million people working in the Indonesian tourism industry lose their jobs.

"We haven't calculated the exact figure, but no more than 20 percent of the total tourism workers will be affected," Harry Waluyo, director of the Culture and Tourism Ministry's Data and Network Center, said on the sidelines of the International Conference on Tourism Statistics, which opened Monday.

He added workers directly employed in tourism establishments would face a bigger possibility of losing their jobs than those in tourism-related industries.

Tourism-related industries will be able to find alternative markets for their products, while tourism establishments, such as hotels, restaurants and tour operators, will certainly be hard-pressed once visitor numbers drop significantly.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Election 2009

The Jakarta Post | Sun, 03/29/2009 7:22 PM

Playing the blues in Aceh: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono speaks before a crowd of thousands during a Democratic Party rally at Lhong Raya stadium in Banda Aceh on Sunday. According to the results of a local survey, Yudhoyono's Democratic Party is the local favorite among national parties. JP/Hotli Simanjuntak

President`s participation in G-20 Summit is honor, responsibility

Presidential hopeful

The Jakarta Post | Sat, 03/28/2009 6:25 PM

Golkar Party chairman Jusuf Kalla waves to thousands of supporters in an open campaign at the Bung Karno Indoor Stadium in Senayan, Jakarta, on Saturday. Kalla recently announced readiness to compete in the upcoming presidential election. (Antara/Saptono)

Megawati campaigns at PDI-P stronghold Bali

The Jakarta Post | Sun, 03/29/2009 6:47 PM

Bull power: Former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri waves to supporters during a campaign rally of her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle in Bangli, Bali, Sunday, March 29, 2009. Indonesia is gearing up for its legislative race in April and second direct presidential elections in July this year. AP/Firdia Lisnawati

Supporting a green party

The Jakarta Post | Sun, 03/29/2009 6:56 PM

Supporting green party: Supporters of United Development Party, also known as PPP party, one of the ruling coalition parties, attend a campaign rally in Jakarta, Sunday, March 29, 2009. Indonesia is gearing up for its legislative race in April and second direct presidential elections in July this year. AP/Achmad Ibrahim

Jakarta in white

The Jakarta Post, Associated Press, Mon, 03/30/2009 3:44 PM

Supporters of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) wave party flags during a campaign rally in Jakarta on Monday. Indonesia will hold its legislative race in April and second direct presidential elections in July this year.(AP/Achmad Ibrahim)

Sing it loud

The Jakarta Post | Wed, 04/01/2009 10:43 AM

Sing it loud: Supporters of the National Mandate Party (PAN) sing while playing tambourines during the party’s campaign rally at the Blok S soccer field in Jakarta on Tuesday. Huge supporter turnout in the PAN’s campaign forced party chairman Soetrisno Bachir to cancel his trip to Medan, North Sumatra, and focus his agenda in the capital instead. JP/P.J. Leo

Marching support

The Jakarta Post | Tue, 03/31/2009 5:20 PM

Members of Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party’s youth association, Young Garuda March, participate in an open campaign at the Bung Karno Indoor Stadium in Jakarta on Tuesday. The campaign was attended by party founder Prabowo Subijanto, vice chairman Halida Hatta, Permadi and Yenny Wahid. (Antara/Jefri Aries)

Letters : Why doesn't RI invest in tourism?

Tue, 03/24/2009 12:56 PM | The Jakarta Post Reader's Forum

Denni Hooping (the Post, 18 March) wrote a very nice letter pleading not to wait "until nothing is left".

For me as a foreigner (German), Indonesia's richness in so many regards is one of the strong reasons why I simply love to live in this country.

Hence, I am confused why Indonesia has so much difficulty in attracting more tourists. Indonesia's 2008 target of 7 million arrivals seemed to be a stiff one, i.e. with a projected growth of more than 25 percent compared to 2007.

As far as I am concerned, setting a (mid-term) target closer to Thailand's 15 million or Malaysia's 21 million tourists would be the right approach and more in line with Indonesia's potential.

Denni is quite right in saying that Indonesia's current performance is rather on the "lackluster" side, while the government claims success for the achievement of just 6.23 million visitors in 2008.

What can we expect if a good portion of the 2008 tourism promotion budget went on replacing all printed materials, after the grammatical disaster with the slogan ("nation's" changing to become "national awakening").

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism certainly is trying their best and I fully understand all the difficulties in managing complex challenges throughout the entire value-chain of the tourism sector.

However, in order to better exploit the potential of tourism for Indonesia, probably a more coordinated and professional approach would be necessary.

I remember reading about an initiative to install a Tourism Coordination Board. Has there been any progress? With 32 ministers already on the payroll, just one more coordinating minister probably would not be too difficult to justify.

It might be a good investment! Because tourism definitely has substantial economic relevance, promises a good return on investment, together with being a good source of foreign exchange income.

Bank Indonesia's 2008 current account shows a travel inflow of US$ 7.4 billion, 63 percent more compared to 2005. Not peanuts! Since Indonesians obviously also travel abroad, the outflow of foreign exchange already amounts to $5.6 billion (up 56 percent on 2005 figures). The balance of just $1.8 million did not make a big difference to prevent Indonesia's balance of payments suffering in 2008.

The World Economic Forum has just released the 2009 report of their Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index.

Among 133 surveyed countries Indonesia ranks at No. 81 (one down from 2008). Among our "toughest" tourism competitors, Malaysia remained at No. 32, Thailand and India slightly improved to positions to 39 and 62 respectively. And apart from Singapore (No.10) there is another smaller ASEAN country ranked in front of Indonesia . Brunei at No. 69!

What are these countries doing better? We'd better start looking at the weaknesses this survey is revealing to Indonesia. Among them are: Environmental sustainability, safety and security, health and hygiene, tourism infrastructure.

Here, the 2009 government stimulus package of Rp 71.3 trillion immediately comes to mind. Why not reallocate some funds into tourism infrastructure investments? Improving Indonesia's competitiveness certainly is a pre-requisite to capitalizing on the still-good prospects of international tourism.

And may I finally add, Indonesia IS truly Asia, amazing and incredible all combined ... indeed the ultimate in diversity.

Eckart Schumacher
BSD-City, Banten

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By the way: Being Indonesian and proud of it

The Jakarta Post, Sun, 03/29/2009 11:14 AM

Another head scratching moment for me and for people who assist me — as an Indonesian passport holder I always face the same issue every time I need or plan to go to other countries outside ASEAN. Applying for entry visas, with stacks of documents and tedious preparations required. At the end I always feel overwhelmed filling in the forms and preparing necessary documents.

One has suggested to me to change nationality to make it easier for me whenever I need to travel overseas. You know, for citizens of some countries, they have visa waivers so they can just jump up and go overseas anytime they want.

As a spontaneous person I feel this visa issue burdening me a lot. When I am in the mood for travel I need to check entry requirement first, then have to start applying for visas. Depending on the country and my luck (and so far I have been lucky), I will get a visa approved in 1-2 weeks. But, hey, the anticipation may not be there anymore. But what can I do? Nothing. Just try to keep my name clear so every time I apply for a visa or when I enter any country the immigration officer’s computer will flash “Clear” or “Not in the dangerous list” or whatever.

Back to the suggestion of changing nationality, I suddenly remember one story of an Indonesian singer who already went international. She has been living outside Indonesia for many years and had established her reputation as a reputable international singer in Europe. She changed her Indonesian nationality to another nationality. She told the papers that as an international artist she had difficulties and often has a headache applying for and getting entry visas to perform or do overseas tours and the Indonesian embassy people did not help her much too. Exchanging nationality for ease of travel?

It is true that being Indonesian we often have to line up outside the embassy applying for visas that may or may not be approved, with stacks of documents and financial proofs that should be prepared, and we have to wait for at least 1 week or, it could be worst, 1 month to get it. In the process, our passports will be kept with them. Honestly I hate this waiting time. I am hopeless without my green passport.

Now come to think of it, why do people, in this case governments, always make things so complicated? Is it their nature not to trust anybody? So is it that we are guilty before proven innocent?

Maybe changing nationality is worth doing it. But, my blood is Indonesian. Although, like many Indonesians, I swear a lot about the country, but, it is my country, and I belong to it. I was, am and always will be Indonesian. No matter what.

I never knew that I loved my country until I realized it one day. I still remember vividly that day. I was about to move to Canada. It was late November. I was at Cengkareng airport in Jakarta, waiting for my flight. It was not a time when the national anthem was normally played publicly, but, suddenly I heard the Indonesian national anthem. I was dumb struck and started crying quietly. I missed Indonesia already. I promised myself that being Indonesian overseas meant that I had to represent Indonesia, make the country proud of me, and that I would be proud of the country and defend it.

Despite any troubling things that have been happening in Indonesia, I am never ashamed of being Indonesian. I am sometimes sad and disappointed with what’s happening in the country but am never ashamed of the country. If any bad news about Indonesia reaches the shores where I live, I will always take it as my responsibility to help the country to explain — especially to non-Indonesian people or people who are not familiar with Indonesia — what exactly is happening.

I always believe it is our duty to learn the best things wherever we live overseas and bring them back to Indonesia someday, perhaps to help build a better Indonesia in the future.

Well, in the end, with my discovering my true love of my country, Indonesia, it is really worth going through the headaches and bother of applying for entry visas rather than exchanging my identity. I am Indonesian. I will always be Indonesian. And I am proud of it.

Semarang's old city: A fading reminder of former glories

Simon Marcus Gower, Contributor The Jakarta Post, Semarang | Fri, 03/27/2009 2:27 PM

Unique design: The Marba building is a quite unique design but has only sparing usage.
(JP/Simon Marcus Gower)

Semarang, one of the oldest cities in the country, was the place of residence for a Dutch provincial governor in colonial times. As the provincial capital of Central Java, with a very active port, it grew into a major city busy with trade and administrative importance.

The city's commercial and administrative significance required a level of infrastructure that could support its role. This led to the development of what is now the "old city" of Semarang and its impressive buildings. Although many of these buildings are left now neglected and wasting away, they still remind us of the former glories of this city.

One of Semarang's most outstanding buildings and, fortunately, one of its best kept, is Gereja Blenduk. Built in 1753, this imposing building still stands shimmering brilliantly white in the hot sun. Despite being the oldest church in Central Java, it is still actively used as a Protestant Church - it is probably this continuing use that has allowed the building to survive in condition so much better than that of some of its neighbors.

The church is rather plain on the outside, but its solid design and construction have no doubt helped it survive the years. It principal outward feature is its dome - hence the name (gereja meaning church and blenduk meaning dome). Inside, plainness and simplicity remain the order of the day, meaning that, although very imposing, the church is not really captivating to the eye.

Overgrown: Fine buildings, located down narrow streets, are being left to rot.
(JP/Simon Marcus Gower)

Rather more visually interesting is the office building opposite the church, which has also been fortunate to have survived in relatively good condition. With its 1920s art-deco geometric designs and balconies, this building, now the offices of Jiwasraya Assurance, offers more to the viewer to admire.

This office building is still in active use but it has lost some of its charm to modern alterations - such a modern front entrance doorway of plate glass and aluminum that is functional but not attractive or in keeping with the original design of the building. But despite such limitations in current appearance and use, the Jiwasraya Building and the church really are doing well, considering what else may be seen in this area.

Just down the road from these two buildings is the Marba Building which, with its red bricks contrasting with stone mullions and a corner entrance that is topped by four (still intact) stone vases, is full of character. It is, however, a building sparingly used and is evidently not awarded the respect it deserves.

Street vendors clutter its sidewalk and its paintwork and woodwork obviously need maintenance. Windows are shuttered up and once attractive and useful street canopies have been shoddily replaced and are left sagging. Although the Marba Building looks bad, its partial use is at least saving it to a certain extent; elsewhere, neglect is leaving fine buildings in ruins.

What is known as the PT Perkebunan Building looks over a fairly filthy canal. This example of solid Dutch building stands empty and quite terribly neglected. The street in front of it is busy with minibuses and hawkers but it stands forlorn, its large tower so neglected that small trees grow from it.

Large and commanding though it is, daylight breaks into its rooms through broken and collapsed roofs. Its steps have become home to a peculiar gathering of traditional masseurs who offer their services in the cooling shadow of this great building, their customers lying half-naked along the sidewalk - neither an auspicious or respectful sight to adorn its great but pollution-stained walls.

Standing tall: Mighty and bold buildings are quite wretchedly ignored
(JP/Simon Marcus Gower)

These are just a few: All around this area are wretched examples of good and even great buildings just being allowed to rot and fall away. Even though many of the buildings here were originally of simple and modest use, they still consistently possessed (and possess to this day) interesting designs and high levels of quality and craftsmanship in their construction.

What would have been quite simple warehouses for storing the vast amounts of goods being traded through Semarang's busy port show inventiveness and flourishes of decorative design that can, and should, be appreciated. But tragically such excellent buildings are being left to be overrun by nature.

One of these buildings has a tree taking root all over it and those roots are literally squeezing and crushing the building's stone to such an extent that it is simply crumbling away. Elsewhere trees and shrubs grow from ledges or cornices on upper levels of buildings, stark evidence of how terribly the buildings are simply being left to the elements.

This truly sorry sight represents a terrible waste and lack of foresight and investment. The quality of the buildings here could allow the area to be a real center of attraction. It is not too difficult to imagine stylish restaurants and trendy boutiques taking up residence in these fine buildings but this would require will and investment from city planners and developers.

It is impossible to walk through the narrow streets that are created by some fine buildings in Semarang's old city and not think "if only. if only". There are such appealing and even delightful architectural details to be seen here that their gradual loss to the elements really is a great loss. Vines and moss creep and crawl all over buildings and ferns grow remarkably well where they really should not be growing - in holes and damage to the brickwork of these buildings.

With just a modicum of imagination and effort, eye-catching shutters on windows could be repaired and painted again. Blackened white walls could be cleaned and repainted so that they shimmer and shine again in Semarang's brilliant sunlight. The damage here is considerable and time may be running out for some of these buildings, although it is not yet too late.

Officials, Council say nothing wrong with Buddha Bar

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, JAKARTA | Fri, 03/27/2009 11:43 AM

In an amicable mood, Jakarta officials and councilors had lunch Wednesday at the Buddha Bar in Teuku Umar, Central Jakarta, with representatives from the Buddhist community and the restaurant’s management.

The lunch marked an end to the debate about the name of the bar and questions over its permits as both officials and councilors had agreed that nothing was wrong with the bar.

City Council Commission B secretary Nurmansjah Lubis, City Tourism Agency head Arie Budhiman, and head of the Indonesia Buddhist Youth (Gemabudhi) Lieus Sungkharisma carried out an “inspection” of the restaurant that has drawn protests from Buddhist students, questions about the public’s limited access, and, most recently, a request for an investigation into its permits.

Nurmansjah said the purpose of the visit was to see what the management of Buddha Bar has done to the city’s historical building.

The building, built during the Dutch colonial era, was formerly the city’s immigration office. It fell into private ownership in 1998 and was abandoned. The city repurchased and restored the building, spending about Rp 35 billion of taxpayers’ money in the process, promising a unique venue for the public. Since December last year, the only Asian branch of the French lounge chain Buddha Bar, has occupied the historical building.

Wednesday’s visit was a follow-up after a hearing between Commission B, the Tourism Agency and Buddha Bar management a day earlier at the City Council office. At the hearing, Commission B speaker Aliman A’at said the Buddha Bar management had adequate permits to operate, thus ending the debate.

Previously, the Indonesian Corruption Watch said they were concerned that there might have been a conflict of interest behind the transformation of the 96-year-old Old Dutch building into a high-class restaurant.

Involved in the running of the restaurant is Renny Sutiyoso, daughter of former governor Sutiyoso, who approved the restoration of the building.

Nurmansjah said that all necessary permits for the running of a restaurant at the former immigration office had been obtained by Buddha Bar management. It won the tender over other private businesses for having the idea of using the building as an art gallery and restaurant.

The gallery, however, is only a small foyer at the entrance of the building with a few old pictures of the building. The issue of lack of public access has yet to be addressed; criticism arose over the building’s accessibility for the general public, as its current function as a high-class restaurant prevents people from all walks of life entering it.

That fear was proved Wednesday when Buddha Bar staff sent reporters to wait in the parking lot before the meeting. The Jakarta Post was not allowed to pass the front of the publicly-owned building to reach the parking lot, but was told to circle the outside of the venue to reach the said lot. The security guard said that only restaurant visitors were allowed entrance.

Buddha Bar representative Asdur Hasan Rani said the front garden of the venue would be easily damaged if they allowed people to walk in and see the building.

He said people were welcome at the restaurant during operating hours, which are from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Jakarta resident Verena Streitferdt, who occasionally visits the restaurant, said the place was nice and relaxing.

However, she said the government should not have spent so much on the purchasing and restoration of the building, only to make it into as exclusive a place as Buddha Bar, noting that the income generation from the rent of the building was not much. The Buddha Bar management has paid Rp 4 billion for a five-year period.

Related Article:

Indonesia Cracks Down on Offensive Hotspot

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Thinker: Nyepi, The Ultimate Earth Hour Offering

The Jakarta Globe, Desi Anwar, March 27, 2009

Today, the 28th of March, the world is supposed to participate in the Earth Hour program, a time when major cities everywhere are expected to switch off nonessential electricity, particularly lights, for one hour in the evening.

Supported by the WWF, the aim is to raise global awareness about the importance of saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

For the first time since the event started in Australia a couple of years ago Jakarta is taking part in the lights-out campaign. Companies and households are encouraged to switch off lights while city landmarks like the National Monument, the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle and the water fountain will forgo illumination for sixty minutes.

According to Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo, this activity will save enough energy to light up ninety villages and goes some way to reducing the city’s carbon emission.

While I heartily laud the objective behind this exercise on a global scale, going without nonessential electricity for an hour is hardly a challenging feat for the average Jakartan who is used to planned and unplanned blackouts that can last for several hours — and I mean total electricity blackouts that defrost the fridge, turn the milk rancid and force you to fumble in the dark for candles.

As a matter of fact, for as long as I can remember the whole island of Java is regularly subjected to a mati lampu , or “lights out” on a rotational basis — the current electricity supply being often no match for the country’s increasing demand. The frequency of these blackouts got to a point when companies and factories had to reorganize their shifts and working days in order to minimize losses and disruption to their production.

Only the other day, the street where I live experienced yet another unplanned three-hour-long blackout — as it happened on the weekend — that ended up wreaking havoc on my daily schedule as I was unable to take a much needed shower or do anything else in the house other than slowly melt into my sofa while waiting for the air conditioning to come back on.

Yes, quite a bit of energy was saved; however, I also wasted a lot of it in the form of an energy-consuming bad temper.

If the objective of Earth Hour in Jakarta is really to raise awareness of the need to save the planet by changing people’s behavior and bad habits, why stop at just an hour-long lights out? So the city’s fountain will be dark for an hour. Big deal. Most of the time it’s unlit anyway because the lights and the water fountain itself don’t work.

And there really is no point in telling Jakartans to switch off their lights for an hour between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, because they won’t.

This after all, is their time for watching television after a long hard week, or for their family evening of eating out or strolling at the mall.

The city might as well impose more blackouts on a regular basis if the objective is to save energy. However, this will hardly raise people’s awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions and save the planet from global warming. Or even change them into environmentally conscious human beings, as Earth Hour is intended to do.

It does, however, raise people’s awareness about the country’s inability to create effective energy policy and its ineptitude when it comes to meeting supply.

Much more effective perhaps, and a lot more appealing in many ways, would be to adopt Nyepi, the Hindu Day of Silence, ushering in the Saka New Year, when for an entire day Bailinese Hindus refrain from speaking and activity and instead spend the time at home foregoing entertainment and travel, all the while going without any form of light.

It is a time for meditation and contemplation. A time for embracing spirituality and practicing the most noble of all human values : respect — for self and for the planet.

And while doing so billions of rupiah are being saved in electricity and thousands of tons in carbon emissions are reduced.

Imagine if Nyepi was carried out in Jakarta and the positive impact it would have on the quality of our air and the amount of energy saved.

But more important than this is the lesson that the Nyepi can teach us: We can live perfectly well on this planet without having to consume, destroy or pollute.

Desi Anwar is a senior anchor based in Jakarta. She can be reached at

Dance with me

The Jakarta Post | Fri, 03/27/2009 5:17 PM

A group of people follow the instructions of a dancer — performing to the rhythm of a Batak song, at Balai Sudirman hall in South Jakarta — on Thursday. The event held by the Indonesian Newspaper Delivery Persons Foundation (YLI) aimed to
celebrate “the contribution of the Batak people to advance the print media” was attended by representatives from publishers and news agents. (JP/J. Adiguna)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tourism Industry Missing the Big Attraction

The Jakarta Globe, Nanda Ivens, March 26, 2009

I can only hope I did not sound like I was from another planet when I spoke about the urgent need to listen to “word of mouth” and “engage social media” with top executives and entrepreneurs from the tourism industry at a seminar in Jakarta earlier this month.

To build awareness among the seminar participants about the power of Internet-based social media, I had to accept the fact that only a small number of participants raised their hands when asked whether they had corporate Web sites and almost none updated them regularly.

Have I been in Europe so long that I have lost touch with the developments of my own people? I doubt it. Just the other day there was an encouraging picture in a local paper of residents in a village near the West Nusa Tenggara provincial capital surfing the Internet through a program called “Digital Village.”

Consider these statistics: As of May 2008, there were 25 million Internet users in Indonesia, or 10 percent of the population. Friendster, a popular online social networking site, has eight million users in Indonesia, and WordPress and BlogSpot, free Internet blogsites, have 300,000 and 247,000 members from Indonesia. Bahasa Indonesia is the third most-used language on after English and Spanish, and Facebook, another Internet social media site, grew 645 percent in Indonesia in 2008. There are currently 831,000 Indonesians on Facebook. These are really amazing statistics for a country where about 15 percent of the population still survives on less than $1 a day.

The conclusion is clear: While most business executives in the tourism sector don’t seem convinced about the power of the Internet, the reality is that Indonesians have embraced it in full force. The 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer released this month in Jakarta makes it very clear that the future of communications in this country belongs to Internet-based social media.

According to the findings, 40 percent of young, informed respondents aged 25-34 said they consider information about a company on Internet search engines, particularly Google, extremely or very credible.

This is significantly higher than the 26 percent of respondents from the same age group who find information in newspaper articles extremely or very credible. For respondents aged 35-64, the information in Google has the same level of trustworthiness as articles in newspapers. Strong evidence that Indonesians are moving away from traditional media and looking for information on Internet-based sites.

Is the tourism industry aware of all the activity on social media? Or are we still limiting our interaction with customers to single-channel communications through advertising, when most of the informed public has migrated to the Internet for credible sources of information?

The current global financial and economic crisis may force the local tourism industry to shift its target from a foreign-arrival-oriented approach to one of cultivating and nurturing domestic tourist potential. Domestic tourism potential is huge, and local travelers share their experiences and seek information from social groups or their peers through social media. Pictures of tourist spots are shared on Facebook, and there is a significant amount of online chatter about tourist-related topics.

The Internet allows companies to be creative in the way they approach potential customers. Through interactive social media activities, companies are better able to focus potential customers on more detailed content about tourism hot spots, unique facets of the culture and rare cultural activities. This is all packaged in content-rich products that can easily be disseminated and linked to multiple digital platforms from social media to mobile. Travelers search the Internet for ideas and inspiration, and when they do they expect to get concise information on the destination of their choice, before interaction and engagement begins. Comments, feedback and customer ratings on the Internet are important to the traveler’s decision-making process. More importantly, a multichannel approach is necessary to enable, as well as empower, potential customers to make contact and ask questions without feeling intimidated.

Let’s start with the Web site. The Web site for a travel and tourism establishment is the sales agent on the Internet and the first point of entry for many potential tourists. The Web site needs to be easy to find on Google or Yahoo searches and present a professional and engaging image to build credibility with customers. This can be enhanced by linking to content sharing, social networks, travel advisory or micro-blogging sites; developing active blogs; and forging partnerships with travel aggregators and online travel agents overseas.

One of the most attractive aspects of Internet-based outreach for both companies and their audiences is the efficiency with which properly developed online communications can work. Not only is communicating online cost effective, a clear advantage given the current financial climate, but it is also accountable and measurable. It is accountable because it is measurable. The measurement metrics are not just about how many people see, click or engage, but include the sphere of influence of these visitors. It is cost effective because an effective digital campaign does not require more than 25 percent of a company’s overall marketing communications budget, but can reach a highly targeted audience with higher potential to purchase. This has become a strong driver in shifting tourism-related companies to online marketing on Internet portals and search engines.

Going beyond domestic tourism, we often wonder why more tourists visit Singapore and Hong Kong than our beautiful country. In 2008, a mere 6.23 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia, compared to the 10.1 million and 29.5 million tourists in Singapore and Hong Kong in the same year.

The fact is that these countries have managed to utilize the power of the Internet very effectively. Living outside Indonesia, it was much easier for me to find information online about traveling in these countries than for Indonesia. We have often used issues like political instability as the reason for our lackluster tourism, but we have a growing reputation for stability today and this excuse no longer holds water.

The future of tourism is in the Internet, and it is high time that we start by using this channel to market ourselves domestically first, then use that expertise to market ourselves abroad.

The writer is director of the digital division at IndoPacific Edelman.

United by Song and Dance

The Jakarta Globe, Lisa Siregar, March 26, 2009

Dressed in a yellowish orange kebaya encim, a traditional Betawi blouse for women, an old woman stands out in a crowd on a humid late February afternoon at Vihara Nimmala, a Buddhist temple in Tangerang, South Jakarta.

She looks unsure of what to do. A group of gambang kromong musicians are on the stage in front of her, preparing to perform as part of a dance competition for contestants aged 55 and older.

A young woman comes up to her. “Gran, here’s your number,” she says, pinning a number on the older woman’s chest. “The competition will start in a minute, and they will call your name.”

The old woman nods distractedly, her eyes still on the stage. A few minutes later, to check their sound levels, the musicians begin playing the introduction of a traditional song. Kuru, 62, smiles toothlessly and starts to dance. She may not sway as seductively as the young dancers do, but she doesn’t miss a beat.

According to JJ Rizal, a historian at the University of Indonesia, the tradition of gambang kromong, in which Indonesian percussion instruments, such as gambang, or xylophones, and gongs, are played alongside Chinese string instruments, began after the “Chinese Riots,” known in Dutch as the Chineesche troebelen.

That occurred in 1740 after the Dutch East India Company — the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie in Dutch — began deporting unemployed Chinese immigrants to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and taking steps to curtail the Chinese trading community, which was becoming a threat to the company’s authority and commercial might.

The Chinese responded with protests and threatened armed rebellion, and in the Dutch attempt to quell the outburst, thousands of Chinese were killed.

The worst of the conflict was over after three years and the community tried to rebuild and move on. “After the riots, there was a reconciliation between the Dutch and the Chinese in Batavia,” Rizal says.

Gambang kromong was developed as a celebration of the reconciliation, and the Chinese community took it as a sign that they were accepted back into the fold of Dutch Indonesia.

Gambang kromong performances were first held at the house of a rich Chinese merchant in Batavia as accompaniment to family lunches.

“Back then, there was no singing in gambang kromong, only calm and clear instrumentals,” Rizal says. “Later, when rumah nyanyi [singing houses] started to appear in Batavia, the nature of gambang kromong started to change.”

Members of the middle and upper classes would go to rumah nyanyi to enjoy gambang kromong and other performances, and they started adding lyrics and singing to the instrumentals. “People called the singer chiou-kek, or wayang chiou-kek, which became cokek later on,” Rizal says.

“After 1880, people started to soder [give a shawl to a singer, or accept one from them, as a sign of asking for a dance], and ngibing [dance together], and then finally sawer [give money to the singer/dancer as a tip].”

Over the next century, things continued to change and the focus became less and less on singing, and more on dancing.

Today, the word cokek is more widely understood as a dance or dancer, rather than a singer, and because of the exchange of money, it has been identified with sex workers. However, the Betawi-Chinese community still keeps the tradition as entertainment for festivities such as those around Chinese New Year and Independence Day.

Gambang kromong also commonly occurs at traditional Betawi-Chinese wedding parties. In Tangerang, there is a rumah kawin, or wedding house, that has a group of gambang kromong players, singers and dancers.

Rizal says that when community members participate in gambang kromong, it reminds them to hold on to their identities as Betawi-Chinese.

At Vihara Nimmala, Kuru, the toothless old dancer, sits down to talk to us after her dance. She says she used to be part of a gambang kromong troupe that performed in Jakarta in the 1970s. For her, cokek was only ever about dancing and she never sang as part of her performances.

“There were 20 of us, 15 musicians, 5 dancers,” she says. “They’re all dead now.”

The group traveled to performances on a truck, she says, as they needed to take their instruments with them. Kuru never took lessons in the traditional dance style but learned from watching others.

In her early years, she was paid Rp 20,000 ($1.75) per performance, which “was quite a lot at that time.” Until her last professional performance in the ’80s, the most she ever received was Rp 100,000.

“I have stopped ngibing [professionally] since my husband died,” she says.

Kuru now lives in Kali Sabi, Tangerang, with her child, earning money from giving massages and occasionally selling home-baked cakes.

E Eng, a 70-year-old contestant, only started dancing four years ago, after her husband died.

“I do ngibing to release my stress,” she says.

Masnah, 85 years old, is an honored guest at the competition, held at the temple as part of a three-day festival celebrating the 320th anniversary of the Earth God’s birth.

Masnah has been a cokek performer since she was 14 years old and was a member of the famous Irama Masa group. The group performed in many other provinces and even toured Singapore, Australia and other countries, she says, to present gambang kromong.

“All the [other] members are dead, there’s only me now,” Masnah says.

She was married to a gambang instrument player and maker so they shared a love of the tradition.

“Since [my husband] passed away, we sold all his instruments,” she says.

According to Rizal, who researched gambang kromong five years ago for an article in a Dutch magazine, Masnah is the only prominent cokek figure left.

“I think she’s the only one who still can sing lagu dalem [gambang kromong songs not intended for dancing]. Philip Yampolsky recorded her singing,” Rizal says.

Yampolsky is an ethnomusicologist who from 1991 to 1999 worked with the Indonesian Society for the Performing Arts and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to produce a 20-CD series called Music of Indonesia. A CD focusing on gambang kromong was third in the set.

Rizal explains that lagu dalem and lagu sayur are two different types of songs in gambang kromong. Lagu dalem songs are calm and soothing tunes, while lagu sayur are popular songs intended for dancing.

Masnah now struggles with health problems that have stopped her from performing regularly, but manages to sing one song at the dance competition.

“Her last performance was two years ago, she was invited to sing in an event at Singapore. Now she does not dance and sing anymore, she’s been sick the past couple of years,” her son Kocit says.

These days, the traditional song forms are seldom sung and most gambang kromong players mix in pop and dangdut tunes. The changing form of cokek, Rizal says, is a natural thing.

“To mix with pop and dangdut is a way for gambang kromong to survive.”

The ’70s and ’80s, a booming era for dangdut music in Indonesia, was also the time when most cokek moved completely from singing to dancing.

“[The cokek] are denying their own fate to sing,” Rizal says. “Today, all they have to do is to put on thick makeup and ngibing.”

The contestants in this event at Vihara Nimmala did not need to be professional dancers but need to appear in traditional costume. Red and yellow shawls — for inviting people to dance with them — are provided for the top 10 finalists, and the audience shows their appreciation of the elderly dancers clearly.

The dancers themselves, including Kuru, E Eng and some male performers, all seem to greatly enjoy the afternoon.

When Masnah starts singing “Rembulan Terang di Bandung” (Moonlight at Bandung), Kuru begins to dance and a few contestants and audience members step into the spacious area in front of the stage to follow her moves.

At times, the old lady sings along to the lyrics, while moving in harmony with the beat. She does not win the competition, but says she isn’t upset.

“I just like to ngibing, that’s all.”

Photo: Senior dance contestants show they still have the moves, despite their age. (Afriadi Hikmal, JG)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In the master’s hands

Trisha Sertori , CONTRIBUTOR The Jakarta Post , KARANGASEM | Tue, 03/24/2009 11:47 AM

Loyal artists: For the past 46 years, Wayan Renbyok and wife Ni Ketut Asti
have worked together making traditional Bali Aga jewelry.

A goldsmith family from Budakeling in Karangasem, Bali, may be further evidence of the existence of genetic memory.

New scientific research suggests events of the past can be locked into DNA; for this family, history may be handed down in their fingertips.

For centuries, the family has crafted the gold relics used in Hindu religious practices, and while they have tried to teach outsiders the skills, “the hands of the smith are different because we learn in the womb — it’s in our genes,” says Made Lestu.

Since his birth, Made has heard the rhythmic tok-tok of his father’s goldsmith hammer beating into silver and gold the filigree flowers symbolic of his religion. He watched in awe as his father prayed and sought auspicious days to begin making the golden crowns of priests, while nearby his mother magically formed golden flowers used in temple dances and cremations.

Made’s parents, 76-year-old Wayan Renbyok and 65-year-old Ni Ketut Asti, are master goldsmiths, who, like their son, learned at the knees of their fathers and grandfathers.

In Wayan’s hands are the delicate goldsmith tools of a master, crafted last century by his grandfather and passed down generation to generation. One day they will come to Made.

For the past 46 years Wayan and Ni Ketut have, seated side by side in their family workshop, maintained the goldsmithing traditions needed by the Bali Aga of nearby Tenganan village.

Ketut had met her husband in their village and set up home. His family were comparatively new to the area, arriving in Budakeling little more than a century ago.

According to cultural law, Bali’s ancient Bali Aga communities must use solid gold jewelry in their religious practices, and each design follows a form that dates back more than 700 years to the Majapahit empire.

A real treasure: A solid gold mahkota or Hindu priest’s crown
made by master goldsmith Wayan Renbyok.

The goldsmith families of Budakeling have been crafting these religious relics for hundreds of years, explains Ni Ketut.

“My mother sold the jewelry in the market and I learned from my father. Our family was sent by the King of Kamasan centuries ago here to Budakeling to make the religious jewelry. The people here did not have goldsmiths and every area needs us,” says Ni Ketut, whose family was one of the earliest to leave goldsmith center Kamasan for Budakeling.

Working with solid gold, rolled out almost pastry-thin, Ni Ketut forms the flowers and butterflies worn in headdresses, each flower atop a tiny handmade spring that allows it to dance with every movement.

“I like making the flowers — that’s my specialty. In the past, I have made rings and necklaces, but only sample pieces. My husband, Wayan, does the fine detailed work. Mine are the flowers, traditional bangles and headdresses for the Bali Aga in Tenganan,” says Ni Ketut.

Beside her is her workbox, an Aladdin’s cave in miniature, filled with shimmering gold flowers and precious stone-laden headdresses worn in Bali Aga ceremonies and handed down generation to generation.

However, all that glisters in her workbox is not gold. A thin layer of gold foil is rolled and pressed onto the headdress and bangle brass backings, inlaid with flower motifs. “This is to keep the price down. Because these are for religious use, the gold must be pure — we can’t use gold plating for these pieces —but we can layer solid gold foil over brass. We do that for the bracelets and headwear,” says Ni Ketut of the weighty bracelets that if solid gold would cost a king’s ransom.

The crowns or mahkota of priests are another matter entirely; these are pure gold cast into the shape of wings that fly from crowns that stand almost half a meter tall and weigh more than half a kilogram.

“I have to pray for the difficult or holy work before I begin. If the praying is good and the aura is good the result will be perfect,” says Wayan of the crowns that can take two months or more to craft.

It seems strange that even after centuries the Bali Aga are dependent on outsiders to craft their precious jewelry used in weddings, religious practices and ceremonies.

Works of wonder: The workbox of goldsmith Ni Ketut Asti is a miniature treasure trove.

“The people of Tenganan never learned to make the gold jewelry. In Bali, we have villages of specialists to make this called Pande Mas — or goldsmith village. People here are the masters.

Other people don’t have the skill,” says Wayan, who, despite being almost blinded by cataracts, can still feel his way around a delicate silver bowl, tapping out in intaglio the symbols of Hinduism.

“In the past we took people to Tengenan to make the jewelry, but no one wanted to learn. Our village is close enough that it’s not needed and they don’t have the hands for this work.”

The evidence of his former sighted skill is in the jewelry worn by Ni Ketut. On her fingers are the rings made by Wayan; his earrings adorn her ears and she wears one of her favorite pieces, a ruby necklace, with pride. “Yes, I have made her surprise gifts of jewelry over the years,” smiles Wayan, the romance of their half-century together still twinkling in his eyes.

Ironically, Ni Ketut and Wayan rarely wear gold, “because we see it all the time — it’s work,” says Wayan, who is currently waiting for cataract surgery so he can again take up the goldsmith tools his family’s genetic code taught him to use long before he was born.

Photos by J.B. Djwan

SBY meets Free Papua Movement co-founder

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Thu, 03/26/2009 5:48 PM

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met with co-founder of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) Nicholas Jouwe at the former's residence in Cikeas, West Java, on Thursday, Antara news reported.

"The meeting between President SBY and OPM founding father Nicolaas took place in a friendly, familial and dignified atmosphere," OPM senior campaigner Franzalbert Yoku said.

Yoku said Jouwe, 85, who had been exiled abroad for the past 40 years, had used the meeting to personally thank the President for allowing him to visit his Papuan homeland.

"Jouwe asked the President to solve current issues in Papua in the best and most dignified of ways, so as to avoid any violation against human rights. He also asked whether the political prisoners could be released," Yoku said. (amr)

The day in photos: Jakarta

Los Angeles Times, 25 March 2009

Worshipers carry giant effigy called "ogoh-ogoh" that represents evil spirits during a parade a day before Nyepi, the annual day of silence marking Balinese Hindu new year in Jakarta, Indonesia. Hindus in the world's most populous Muslim country will celebrate their new year Thursday by observing a day of silence in which they stay inside their homes and meditate in silence and darkness for the day. (Dita Alangkara/Associated Press)