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. …

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Wayang Master and His Puppets

Jakarta Globe, Ade Mardiyati, January 31, 2010

Among Tizar Purbaya’s golek Betawi collection are former President Sukarno, left, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, right, and the kuntilanak witch (above Sukarno). (JG Photos/Ade Mardiyati)

Tizar Purbaya, one of the country’s most celebrated puppeteers, is not the kind of man who separates his home and work lives.

One peek inside his house is proof of both his dedication to and his immersion in his art. The puppet master owns more than 7,000 wayang from across the archipelago, and row upon row of the puppets line every nook and cranny of his two-story home in Sunter, North Jakarta.

In the room where he receives visitors, a dazzling array of puppets is arranged neatly — almost from floor to ceiling — based on characters, origin and the region where they come from. The 60-year-old puppeteer says his passion for wayang was infused in him by the countless number of performances he attended, as well as the regular wayang broadcasts he listened to on the radio, while growing up in West Java

“I was lucky that when I was a kid, there was no TV or outside culture to distract me,” the father of four says. “When watching a performance, I used to sit on the wooden box near the dalang [puppet master] where the puppets were stored, just so that I would be able to help him get the wayang in and out of the box.”

Born to Sundanese and Betawi parents, Tizar was adventurous from an early age.

“I even went to Jakarta to catch a live show [on my own],” Tizar recalls. “I was about 7 years old at the time. I was a free boy. I could go wherever I wanted to and no one would look for me.”

Tizar developed a passion for wayang and nurtured his hunger to learn more about the craft. Not satisfied with just watching the shows and collecting puppets, he craved the experience of being a dalang himself. But it was not until 1974, when he was in his mid-20s, that he got his chance. His first performances were in shows based on classical Sundanese wayang stories.

Four years later, Tizar started a business selling wayang. He produced puppets with his assistants and sold them at Pasar Seni, an art market in Ancol, North Jakarta.

“Pasar Seni was really good back then. A lot of people went there, including tourists from foreign countries,” he says. “Now, it looks like a cemetery. There are only a few kiosks there that are still holding on.”

Ricky Purbaya, Tizar’s 29-year-old son, says that many foreigners who had gone to Pasar Seni before are now disappointed with the state of the market.

“There was this old Dutch couple who said, ‘It was really good when we visited the market when were young,’ ” Ricky recalls.

With the market’s decline, Tizar decided to start selling his wayang from home. Famously, he doesn’t limit himself to producing puppets in the classic style, but also produces customized puppets based on orders from individual clients. Some clients send Tizar photos of themselves and the master then crafts puppets based on the photographs. In his early days of making puppets, many of his clients were foreigners, and Tizar long ago lost track of the number of puppets he has made, but remains modest about his skills.

“People like them. I have made a lot of them up to now,” he says simply.

When he took orders in those early days, Tizar never intended to use custom-made puppets in his performances. It was not until 1998 — when Indonesia was in the grip of financial and political turmoil and many of his foreign clients fled without claiming their made-to-order puppets — that he decided to incorporate these puppets into his shows.

“There were a lot,” Tizar recalls. “I didn’t know what to do with these bule puppets.”

He could not stand to just let the strange-looking, mostly fair-skinned puppets sit to one side, abandoned. “I remembered I had always dreamed about doing something for Jakarta. I wanted it to have its own version of puppets. The Javanese have theirs, the Sundanese theirs. The Betawi didn’t [at that time],” he said.

It did not take long for the idea of creating a puppet style to represent Jakarta natives to take hold, and golek Betawi — “golek” being Sundanese for puppet — was born.

“At the Betawi puppet shows, I perform stories based on the Dutch colonial era and I use the bule puppets I have as Dutch soldiers,” Tizar explains.

Among his puppets fashioned after real people are former US President George HW Bush and his wife, Barbara, which he used in a performance during Bush’s visit to Jakarta in 1994. “We even made a puppet of the president’s dog and it was also included in the five-minute performance,” Ricky says. “The president loved it.”

But Tizar’s favorite creations are the puppets he made during his first few years as a dalang because they can do special things. “My puppets can smoke, eat noodles and vomit,” Tizar laughs.

Inspired by puppets used in Japanese bunraku , that country’s traditional puppet theater, Tizar learned new techniques. He began to master the art of creating puppets that could blink their eyes and move their mouths.

He was so successful that his puppets progressively advanced from the original techniques he found in bunraku. When he performed in Japan, the audience was amazed, he says. “A professor who also makes bunraku puppets was part of the audience,” Tizar says. “He asked me a lot of questions, such as how could the puppet’s nose grow longer, or how they could puff on cigarettes.”

Tizar’s golek Betawi have become such a hit that he has been invited to perform all over Indonesia and abroad. One secret, Tizar says, is that he often tells stories built on current events.

“As long as you know the basics of the story, with all the characters, you can change the setting to today,” he says.

As long as the essence of the legend is intact, anything can be incorporated. “Take, for example, when [Islamic group] Muhammadiyah asked me to perform. I used a story about raids over so-called wrongdoings, you know like the ones [by hard-line Muslim group] FPI, but the main character was Si Jampang [a legendary Betawi character said to have lived during the colonial era].”

Does he touch on today’s really hot issues, such as the Corruption Eradication Commission’s problems or the Bank Century bailout? No, Tizar says, but he has been asked to. “How can I tell a story whose truth is still unknown? Like Antasari [Azhar], we still don’t know whether he is involved or not. I don’t want to judge in my stories,” he says, referring to the former head of the anticorruption body. “One thing for sure is that I don’t want to become famous on [the back of] people’s sorrows.”

The only thing Tizar wants now is to see new Betawi puppeteers follow in his footsteps. The only person he sees as able to fulfill his wish at the moment is his son Ricky. “I did not create this for myself, this is for everyone,” he says.

Tizar says he would like to see the Jakarta administration set up a school where anyone can learn golek Betawi. “It’s too bad they haven’t thought about things like that,” he says. “It would be hard for me to do it myself. First, I’m too old to build a school. Then it wouldn’t be easy to secure a location for it and get the funding. I’m tired.”

Tizar also has harsh words for Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo, whom he says did not fulfill his promise to help preserve his art. In an encounter with the governor a month before the city’s anniversary last year, Tizar says Fauzi promised him some stages that he could use to perform on during the celebrations. “I remember he said: ‘I’ll have my people contact you’ when I gave him my business card, but nothing happened,” Tizar says.

“When I met him again on a different occasion, he asked about that and I told him what happened and he made another promise, but it was the same. Nothing happened. It was just lip service.”

Tizar says that the failure to preserve the country’s traditional arts can lead to problems, such as the claims other countries have made to Indonesia’s heritage. “And when it happens,” Tizar says, “people can only cry out loud.”

A ‘China Dream’ For Gifted Artist

Jakarta Globe, Alia Swastika, January 31, 2010

The newest exhibit by master ceramicist F Widayanto, below, features 24 pairs of traditionally dressed, childlike Chinese couples.  (Photo courtesy of F Widayanto)

Most people are familiar with the American dream — a house in the suburbs with a white-picket fence and two-car garage, maybe a walk-in closet, with kids playing on the lawn.

But what about the Chinese dream? What does this entail?

Renowned ceramicist F Widayanto attempts to interpret the Chinese dream and make it a reality in his latest exhibition, “China Dream,” at his studio in Setiabudi, South Jakarta.

Widayanto, who organizes a solo show at least once a year, starts off 2010 with this small-scale solo exhibit that also unveils a part of his personal history.

In “China Dream,” Widayanto traces his own ancestry and shares the experience with his audience using Chinese symbolism defined by the faces of hopeful children.

The exhibition is being held ahead of the Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb. 14 this year. The artist’s ceramic work warrants the attention of those who are looking to the future instead of dwelling in the past.

Widayanto, who pioneered modern ceramic art in Indonesia, was born in Jakarta in 1953 and graduated in 1981 with a degree in ceramics from the Bandung Institute of Technology’s School of Fine Art and Design.

He now operates three studios in Jakarta, where people come not only to see his work, but also to learn how to create their own ceramics.

His current exhibit is dominated by themes concurrent with the upcoming Chinese New Year, that of optimism and prosperity.

The artist has created a total of 24 couples averaging 35 centimeters in height to give viewers a sense of revitalization and rejuvenation.

Widayanto’s work illustrates that a child’s beauty lies in its ability to continually remind the rest of the world that in the middle of chaos and crisis, we still can dream.

While the children are depicted showing various gestures and expressions, they still convey the same realistic approach in terms of technique. Each piece shows a child-like couple with smiles on their faces and optimism in their eyes.

The artist pays strict attention to detail, as evidenced by the intricacies of the costumes and accessories that are thoughtfully rendered and showcase beautiful finishing techniques.

But Widayanto’s work is not solely inspired by Chinese culture. The artist mixes Javanese influences into his work through an array of styles displayed in everything from his masks to his wood carvings.

Last July, Widayanto garnered critical acclaim for “A celebration of 30 Semar,” his exhibition at the National Gallery.

The exhibition — one of the biggest ceramic representations in Indonesian history — was heavily covered by the media, something that veers from Widayanto’s normally light and quiet approach to his art.

For this exhibition, which runs until Feb. 5, Widayanto has chosen to return to his roots. He opens himself and his work up to the public before the revelry of the new year begins.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Churches step in to protect indigenous people’s rights

Arghea D. Hapsari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, 01/30/2010 9:43 PM | National

Mimika councilor Athanasius Allo Rafra shakes hands with a representative from two tribes during an attempted peace deal at Mambruk complex, Mimika, Papua on Monday. (JP/Markus Makur)

A forum of Catholic churches has stepped in to fill the gap left by the government’s tardy responses in protecting the rights of indigenous people, especially in Papua and Kalimantan, where exploitation of natural resources is rampant.

A public seminar was held on Friday to mark the start of the forum’s 6-month journey to advocate in the recovery of the people’s rights. Other activities will include focus group discussions involving mass organizations, churches and indigenous people in the two natural resource-rich territories. A national advocacy is slated for June.

The forum’s chairman, Mgr. Agustinus Agus, said Saturday the national advocacy program was aimed at enhancing public’s understanding of the indigenous people’s real conditions.

“We also want to invite concrete national and international supports to join the fight for justice and peace and restore the people’s rights,” he added.

The Social Services Ministry has registered 229,479 families of indigenous people living in 2,650 locations in 30 provinces across the country.

Some Dayak people acquire traditional hand-tapped tattoos to express their tribal and cultural identity. (Photo courtesy of Aman Durga Sipatiti)

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A Night of Dayak Culture

Jambi's Orang Rimba: Indonesia Forest Dwellers Fighting to Survive the Crush of Modernity

Jambi' Orang Rimba family, Sumatra.
(Photo: Tiger Patrol unit / WWF Indonesia)

The battle of rice cakes

Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post, West Lombok | Fri, 01/22/2010 12:47 PM | Culture

Ammunition: Sasak Muslims carry ketupat and offerings to the Kemaliq building.

A din fills the front yard of the Lingsar temple complex. Hundreds of people have congregated into two camps, one Muslim, the other Hindu, to fight against each other, with rice cakes.

The Hindu community occupies the yard of the Gaduh temple, a sacred place for them to pray, while members of the Sasak Muslim community hold the front yard of the Kemaliq building, also a prayer spot.

After the initial instructions have been given, the two groups begin hurling ketupat or topat — rice cakes boiled in a trapezoidal packet of woven coconut leaves — at each other. A frenzy ensues, with people running for cover to avoid being hit, then taking up positions to throw more ketupat back at the others.

The event is a unique tradition in Lombok known as the Perang Topat (Topat Battle), which involves people throwing ketupat and nothing else at each other.

Battles are usually synonymous with anger and violence, a physical clash between two parties in dispute. But the Perang Topat in Lombok, which involves hundreds of people from two different religions, is an event that gives no impression at all of being hideous or hateful.

Rather, this tradition, which has been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years in Lingsar village in West Lombok regency, is re-enacted to strengthen harmony between Muslim and Hindu communities.

The battle begins at 4 p.m., a time known as rarak kembang waru (when the leaves of the hibiscus tree begin falling). The community believes ketupat thrown at each other can bring blessing.

After the battle, they snatch the ketupat to plant in the rice fields, following local farmers’ belief that it makes the land more fertile. The rice cake is also taken to the markets in the hope that it will keep trade going smoothly.

“Since the time of our ancestors, and from generation to generation, we’ve always carried out this tradition,” says Lingsar villager and Kemaliq building employee Sahyan.

“It’s usually conducted after a large harvest. It’s an expression of gratitude to god, and of hope that the next planting season will be a productive one. It also helps strengthen social relationships with our Hindu friends.”

Every year, Lingsar village engages in the Perang Topat at the Lingsar temple complex. The temple was built in 1759, during the reign of King Anak Agung Gede Ngurah, a descendant of the kings of Karangasem, Bali, who once ruled this part of Lombok.

Pretend war: Muslims and Hindus hurl ketupat (rice cakes) at each other at Perang Topat at the Lingsar temple complex, West Lombok.

The temple complex is located 9 kilometers east of the provincial capital Mataram, and is considered unique. It hosts the aforementioned Gaduh temple and Kemaliq building, and is used for rituals and traditional ceremonies, both Hindu and Muslim.

The two buildings stand side by side, and in front of each is a jabe or courtyard. Because of its uniqueness, the Lingsar temple complex has since the 1990s been declared a cultural conservation site.

The village holds its Perang Topat on the 15th day of the seventh month of the Lombok Sasak calendar, or purnama sasih kepitu (the full moon of the seventh month); in the Balinese Hindu calendar, this corresponds to the 15th day of the sixth month, or purnama sasi kenem (the full moon of the sixth month).

On this night, Hindus celebrate odalan, or the anniversary of the founding of Lingsar village, by holding their pujawali ceremony.

Meanwhile, the Muslims commemorate the epic journey of Raden Mas Sumilir, a Muslim scholar from Demak, Central Java, who brought Islam to Lombok in the 15th century.

Since midday, community members have gathered at the Lingsar temple complex. At Gaduh temple, the Hindus prepare banten, or offerings, for the prayers to pujawali. Over at the Kemaliq, the Muslims prepare kebon odek, offerings in the form of fruit and vegetables.

The topat are prepared by communities from remote areas around Lingsar village, Hindu and Muslim alike.

Once the offerings have been prepared, they are paraded around the Kemaliq building in a procession, to the fanfare of traditional musical instruments.

As the procession continues, thousands of local residents and visitors wait in the Kemaliq yard for the topat to be distributed.

“Perhaps it’s only in Lingsar that you can find a big event involving Hindus and Muslims, which is performed at the same time and place, even though we have different versions,” says Kemaliq head Suparman Taufik.

Over the past 15 years, the Perang Topat has become an annual tourist event. This time, it is opened by West Lombok Regent Zaini Arony and his deputy, H. Mahrip, who throw the first topat into the crowd in the Kemaliq courtyard.

Buildup: Hundreds of people wait for the ketupat to be distributed in front of the Kemaliq building, prior to the Perang Topat.

“This is the only war in the world that is fought without hatred, a war without casualties, and a war symbolizing brotherhood and tolerance,” Regent Zaini says in his speech.

He adds multi-ethnic West Lombok has become one of the provinces main tourist destinations.

“In India, where the majority of the population is Hindu, there is the Taj Mahal of Islamic heritage,” he says.

“It’s the same in Indonesia, where the majority of the people are Muslim; we have Borobudur, which is Buddhist, and many Hindu temples, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t live in harmony.

“These are the riches of our culture, the colors of culture.”

Once the topat battle is over, the Hindus hold their pujawali ceremony at the Gaduh temple. People usually go into deep meditation for three nights at the temple. A similar tradition is practiced by the Sasak Muslim community over at Kemaliq.

For three days, the area around the Lingsar temple complex is packed with vendors selling everything from food to children’s toys.

The crowd also includes visitors from across West Lombok and from Mataram.

The Perang Topat lasts less than an hour, but the whole series of ritual processions runs for two days before the actual battle begins.

The day before the highlight of the Perang Topat, the Lingsar community holds its ngeliningan kaok, a procession with two buffalos around the Lingsar temple complex. The buffalo are provided by the community, and later killed and their meat eaten communally.

“This is a symbol of tolerance. For Hindus, cows are sacred, while Muslims are forbidden from eating pigs. So for a win-win solution we use buffalo,” says Suparman.

“We do not bring offerings made from beef or pork to the Lingsar temple complex. We are only allowed

to bring poultry or buffalo. If this creed is violated, the repercussions are serious.”

He adds the significance of the whole procession and the Perang Topat is to express gratitude to

god for the good fortune throughout the year.

The Perang Topat ritual drew 25,000 visitors to the 2009 event, according to the West Lombok tourism office.

“The cultural beauty of the Perang Topat is that long ago our ancestors taught us how to maintain mutual respect and safeguard religious tolerance,” says Regent Zaini Arony.

— Photos by Panca Nugraha

Habibie receives honorary doctorate

The Jakarta Post | Sat, 01/30/2010 11:13 AM

Former president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie received an Honorary Doctorate in Technology Philosophy on Saturday from the University of Indonesia (UI) for his work toward developing science and technology in the country.

The title was conferred by UI rector Gumilar Rusmiwa Sumantri during a graduation ceremony at the university campus.

“He (Habibie) keeps reminding of the importance of ethical consideration in effect of the appliance of technology in society,” Gumilar said in his speech as quoted by

Habibie, a German-trained professor in aerospace engineering, served as the country's president between 1998 and 1999, succeeding Soeharto after the latter's resignation following massive civil unrest.

While active as a researcher in Germany, Habibie conducted many research assignments, producing theories on thermodynamics, construction, and aerodynamics, known as the Habibie Factor, Habibie Theorem, and Habibie Method respectively.

From 1978 to 1998, Habibie, now 74, served as the Minister of Technology and Research in Soeharto's Cabinet. He pushed for a leapfrog strategy of development, which he hoped would bypass the foundational low-skill technology stages to turn Indonesia into an industrialized country.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Face of Local Tourism Speaks Out

Jakarta Globe, Armando Siahaan, January 29, 2010

Andara Rainy, Indonesia's newest tourism ambassador. (JG Photos/ Afriadi Hikmal)

It’s as if Andara Rainy was destined to be Putri Pariwisata, or Miss Tourism. The 22-year-old was exposed to travel at a young age, frequently flying between Yogyakarta and Padang, which her parents call home. She makes sure she regularly reads articles and stories about tourism. And in October, she earned her degree in urban and regional planning, specializing in tourism, at Bandung Institute of Technology.

In 2007, Andara was crowned Miss Jakarta at the Abang None beauty pageant, a Miss Tourism competition on the provincial level.

But her big break came last November when she took part in the Miss Tourism pageant, jointly held by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and tourism company El John. There, Andara beat out 37 contestants from 33 provinces.

She went on to represent the country at the Miss Tourism International 2009 event in December, in Malaysia, where she was up against 47 other participants. She finished in the top 10, bagged the Miss Friendship award and placed runner-up in the Miss Popularity category.

The Jakarta Globe got a chance to talk to Andara at her apartment in Pertama Hijau, South Jakarta, where she spoke about the responsibilities of being an ambassador of tourism and the perks that go with the job.

What is a Putri Pariwisata?

Being Putri Pariwisata is being the ambassador for Indonesian tourism. It’s a competition where the participants are not just pretty, but they also need to promote Indonesian tourism.

There are three main criteria: We have to have be smart, charming and hospitable. What makes this competition different from others is we have to know the different tourism sites in Indonesia.

Indonesians are known for their hospitality, so we have to be hospitable toward each other and society, not just focusing on our ambition.

Now that you’ve won, what are your responsibilities as Miss Tourism?

I have to participate in most of the events held by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. I was already sent abroad twice, to Kunming, China, for the China International Travel Mart, and to Utrecht, the Netherlands, for the Vakantiebeurs Tourism Fair. I served at the information center for those who wanted to know all about Indonesia.

A lot of cities, districts and provinces in Indonesia are competing to promote their culture. Many local government heads ask me to help them promote their areas, so when I travel abroad, I can mention them.

Why did you decide to take part in a beauty pageant?

Before I was named Miss Tourism, I went to college and earned a degree in urban and regional planning, specializing in tourism. In 2007, I won Miss Jakarta.

I feel like I fit in the tourism industry. I like to travel, I like to visit museums and I enjoy cultural activities. Maybe it’s in my Padang blood. I like to sell, talk and tell about the places that I’ve been.

What are some of the perks of being Putri Pariwisata?

I have an official apartment for a year, an official car, a scholarship at the London School of Public Relations and free makeup, among other privileges.

But being Putri Pariwisata is more than enjoying these perks. I like to travel, and I love Indonesian tourism. Before, I used to only read about some of these places in books or hear about them in the news. But now I can actually go to these places — and for free. I gain knowledge and I get a chance to see new places, and at the same time I’m able to carry out my duties.

What do you think are some of the main problems concerning Indonesian tourism?

The main problems lie in accommodation, inadequate infrastructure and human resources. If we fail to address them, the tourism industry will not improve.

Another thing is a lot of foreigners, based on my recent overseas trips, are worried about natural disasters regularly occurring in our country. Initially, I thought to myself, it was understandable to feel that way.

That’s where my role as an ambassador of Indonesian tourism comes in. We need to explain to people that natural disasters are geographical conditions that naturally occur in our country, and that we have sufficient natural disaster mitigation procedures. Or specifically, that we have efficient steps for evacuation when disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis happen.

We tell them how government agencies respond quickly to these disasters, and that the public is ready to extend a helping hand in the aftermath of such events.

If, for example, a businessman or a company wanted to invest money in the tourism industry, what would you recommend?

I might encourage them to invest in places like Bangka and Belitung, areas that are currently being promoted, like in the movie “Laskar Pelangi.” There are other islands in Indonesia, like Sumba or Maluku, which are as beautiful as Bali and have a very high tourism potential. I would tell them to consider investing their money in these places. And I wouldn’t recommend investing in Bali anymore, because that’s already been done.

From what I’ve learned, the need for accommodation in Indonesia never drops. It stagnates, maybe. But when there’s a disaster, the only segment of tourists that declines are the number of foreigners. The locals stay. So I’d ask these businessmen to build hotels or resorts.

What are your thoughts on Aceh’s Shariah law and its impact on the province’s tourism and the country in general?

Indonesia recognizes more than five religions. We need to respect each one of them. Aceh implemented that law, and the government cannot prohibit them from doing so. But in terms of tourism, we can say that not all of Indonesia follows Shariah law. My suggestion to the people of Aceh is they shouldn’t force other provinces to follow in their footsteps. We should respect local laws, as we do in other provinces.

In terms of Aceh tourism, maybe the Shariah law will affect the province. But then again, foreigners might want to know what this law is all about. So on one side, Shariah law might discourage tourists from seeing Aceh, but there will also be tourists who want to learn about the local society.

Australian tourists Katrina (L) and Natasha (C) have their photograph taken with local people in the front Grand Mosque as the fifth anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and subsequent tsunami approaches on December 26, 2009 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Banda Aceh, the northwestern tip of Sumatra island ravaged by the Indian Ocean Tsunami five years ago, has bounced back, and is increasingly becoming a tourist destination. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

The image of Indonesia was tainted by the series of bombings that have taken place in the country. How do you convince prospective foreign tourists that Indonesia is a safe country?

When I went to Australia as Miss Jakarta, one person who was crying came up to me. He was angry because one of his relatives was killed during the Jakarta bombing [last year]. I told the person that terrorists in Indonesia make up only 0.0001 percent of the whole population. The rest of us, we hate terrorists. We’re at war against terrorists, because we believe that terrorists shouldn’t exist in Indonesia at all. A majority of Indonesians will still welcome [visiting foreigners] warmly, so they don’t have to be scared to come here.

If one day Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik called you and asked, ‘What is the single most important thing we need to do to improve our tourism?’ how would you respond?

I would say that it should start from the people, human resources. The problems we’ve had in the past, it’s all because the people are not united when it comes to promoting culture and tourism in Indonesia. Some Indonesians don’t even want foreigners to come to our country. If we can engage all Indonesians to agree that we want to promote tourism, I’m sure our country will be better.

Related Article:

Travel Postcard: 48 Hours in Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Fighting To Save Salatiga's History

Jakarta Globe, Angela Dewan, January 29, 2010

Before and after. Many of Salatiga's historic buildings are now in disrepair. (JG Photo)

In the 1930s and ’40s, the Dutch buildings that lined the streets of Salatiga, Central Java, were iconic of Indonesia’s fight for independence — that is, of course, only when they were set on fire.

Back then, torching hotels and office buildings was a way of sending the Dutch colonialists a clear message: Get out!

The people of Salatiga today have no one to drive out and no reason to burn down the beautiful buildings that the Dutch left behind. In fact, members of the community are now fighting the government to protect the very buildings that their ancestors sought to destroy.

In stark contrast to Jakarta, there is only one mall in Salatiga — the modest Taman Sari, which has little more than a Ramayana department store.

The mall sits on the spot where the city’s main road, Jalan Sudirman, starts, along which hole-in-the-wall stalls offer locals everything they need and nothing they don’t. And unlike the high-rise buildings that dominate Jakarta’s skyline, there are none in Salatiga.

However, the luxury of walking along paved sidewalks and through parks while admiring this quaint city’s colonial architecture may soon become a thing of the past. This is because the local and provincial governments have yet to formally identify which buildings are a part of Salatiga’s heritage and therefore warrant legal protection.

“If we put up a lot of malls in Salatiga, we will be worse than Semarang, which has already lost many of its historical buildings,” said writer Eddy Supangkat, coordinator of Forped BCB Salatiga, the organization spearheading the campaign to conserve Salatiga’s heritage buildings.

“I want Salatiga to be known for its historical buildings, not for its malls.”

The local and provincial governments have had 65 years since independence to figure out what to do with their heritage buildings.

This month, they have been feeling the heat as the public demands that they get a move on.

“The Salatiga government doesn’t yet have legal authority over these buildings. They are the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, which acts through the Conservation of Cultural Heritage Agency [BP3],” Valentino Haribowo, head of the Salatiga government’s public relations department, told the Jakarta Globe.

Valentino gave his comments at the local government’s office, an old building marked with a gambrel roof, decadent high ceilings, grand iron light fittings and a white rendered exterior that are characteristic of Dutch architecture.

Even though the local government has denied responsibility for the buildings, Salatiga Mayor John Manuel Manoppo has given a private company permission to knock down a building in the military’s old headquarters, now known as the ex-Kodim complex.

The 100-year-old complex was bought by PT NV Yogyakarta last year. The company plans to develop a mall there and the complex is now completely fenced in with meters-high metal fences.

After months of public campaigns against the development, the company has put up a sign outside the complex that reads: “This land and building are legally owned by PT NV Yogyakarta.”

Through a few holes in the fence, the public can peer into the site, where the main building has been leveled off, save for a couple of walls.

“There’s no problem with the demolition. The only issue is what will be built afterwards,” Mayor Manoppo told members of the local media last year.

But following a spate of negative press and lobbying by the community — including an active Facebook group and a coin drive— the government has changed its tune and is now claiming that it wants the complex to be protected as a heritage site.

On Jan. 22, a group of activists marched to the local government office, demanding legal protection of the ex-Kodim complex.

On Wednesday, police questioned local government staff over the demolished building.

In theory, the complex is already legally protected. The 1992 Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage states that any building more than 50 years old is automatically considered a heritage site and should therefore be listed as such and preserved.

Forped BCB tried to have the ex-Kodim building registered as a heritage site before it was sold, so that NV Yogyakarta would be unable to develop the site. “What I am worried about is that there are more heritage buildings that have been sold to private owners,” Eddy said.

NV Yogyakarta’s operations were halted two weeks ago due to public pressure. The Conservation of Cultural Heritage Agency sent a warning letter to the Salatiga government, which then forwarded the message to NV Yogyakarta.

The warning, however, came too late.

“We sent BP3’s warning to the owner, but we didn’t realize the main building had already been demolished,” Valentino said.

It is unknown if or when NV Yogyakarta will go ahead with its development plans, although it has submitted a request to the local legislature for permission to develop the mall.

The local and provincial governments are now cooperating with BP3 to examine 16 buildings for heritage status consideration, including the government-owned office, one Christian church and a number of schools.

It is hoped that the move will be echoed throughout the country. On Jan. 20, Indonesia’s oldest movie theater, Bioskop Banteng in Pangkal Pinal, Belitung, was demolished. The theater was built in 1917.

In Salatiga, examples of old buildings that have been bought and demolished include a Dutch film studio that is now a KFC restaurant and a former hotel and school that are now markets.

The ex-Kodim and Bioskop Banteng cases have raised suspicions of corruption in local governments.

“The local governments are the ones allowing these buildings to be knocked down,” Joe Marbun, coordinator of the Cultural Heritage Advocacy Community, told the Globe.

“These buildings are legally protected by law, so why are they being demolished? The governments obviously have motives.”

When asked how much the local government would profit from a new mall in town, Valentino did not respond, only saying that the Salatiga government now supported the protection of the ex-Kodim building.

Eddy was not willing to speculate. “I’m not exactly sure if there’s corruption in this part of the government and I wouldn’t want to falsely accuse anyone. I prefer to think positively,” he said.

He added that he was certain corruption existed in some parts of the local government.

But he is happy with the positive support he has found in the community.

“It is important we preserve our history, like Bung Karno said Jasmerah: ‘ Jangan sekali-kali melupakan sejarah ’ [‘Don’t ever forget your history’].”

MARINA BAY SANDS - Attraction and Threat That Singapore Offers to Indonesia, Kamis, 28 Januari 2010 | 17:41 WIB

Marina Bay Sands (model)

JAKARTA, - There is an optimism for Singapore to absorb more Indonesian visitors through its project, Marina Bay Sands. Thomas Arasi, CEO of Marina Bay Sands, during a press conference, Thursday, at Balai Kartini, Jakarta, voiced this by stating that it will be a grand attraction, especially for Indonesian tourists to visit Singapore, once it's accomplished.

According to Arasi, the majority of tourists in Singapore are indeed from Indonesia. He estimated that around one million Indonesians visit the Merlion country every year.

This number is even higher, at 1.7 million per year, according to Singapore Tourism Board (STB) manager, according to Hassan Kassim in a previous report to in November 2009. But both sources agree that the number will increase in the future.

So, it's only natural to make Indonesia the prime marketing target. In his press release, Arasi admits that, "Indonesia will be the main market for Marina Bay Sands."

For travellers from Indonesia

Well, if you're the travelling type, then the Marina Bay Sands will indeed be a magnificent tourism magnet, among which it boasts: a casino; three hotel towers topped by a single giant roof, the Sands Skypark, that gives you a 360 degree view of Singapore and even glimpses of its neighboring countries; lots of premium brand stores and world class restaurants; two glass pavillions built off-shores to look like floating icebergs; and a convention center with the capacity of 45,000 people.

Sheldon Adelson, president director of Las Vegas Sands, the developer of Marina Bay Sands, expects a gross profit of one billion USD per year. This coming April, the first stage of the Marina Bay Sands will be open, which covers 50 percent of the total project.

For travel agents

For Indonesian travel agents, this could be an opportunity. According to Sapta Nirwanda, marketing director general of the Department of Culture and Tourism, on January 22, 2010, with the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, Indonesian travel agents must be more daring in promoting foreign tourism spots. He believes that so far Indonesian travel agents only focus on domestic tourism. "We only take care of the domestic ones, the foreign ones are still limited."

So the Marina Bay Sands is another good spot to attract customers with, especially since travelling to Singapore is generally cheap for Indonesians. No extra cost for visa, with NPWP (tax register number) we don't have to pay the fiscal tax, and the plane ticket is relatively cheap, on AirAsia's website today there's even an offer of Rp. 99,000 for a Jakarta-Singapore flight.

Artists rendering of the "Welcoming Hand of Singapore", the museum which is part of the Marina Bay Sands integrated resorts.

For domestic tourism

But the Indonesian domestic tourism might have a harder time to compete. The most famous tourism spot in Indonesia is Bali, but, as reported previously, according to Al Purwa, chairman of the Indonesian Tour and Travel Agent Association, Indonesian travel agents are urged to promote other tourism spots on the northern part of Indonesia so that tourists aren't bored with Bali.

Besides Bali, Indonesia has other great potential places for tourism. Some are quite well developed, take for example the three isles, Gili Meno, Gili Air, and Gili Trawangan, on Pemenang district, north Lombok regency, West Nusa Tenggara. Kompas recently did a coverage, praising this area for having good and cheap accomodations and facilities, and also recommending people to go snorkling there.

The Bunaken Island National Park in Menado is also one rising star. Its marine biodiversity is known world-wide and is a wonderful snorkling site.

But not all national tourism spots are doing so well. One random example is the Selarong cave, Yogyakarta. The cave and water fall there used to shelter a national hero, Prince Diponegoro, while struggling for independence. This intriguing tourism spot, as observed, is rather abandoned and has even been vandalized.

Just for your information, according to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2009, regarding international tourism for ASEAN countries, Singapore is on the first rank, while Indonesia is on the 81st.

The Indonesian Department of Culture and Tourism has set the year 2010 as the 'Year to Visit Museums', which is a noble vision, but which museum to visit? One of the Marina Bay Sands' iconic structure is also a museum: the 'Welcoming Hand of Singapore'. (C17-09)

Marina Bay Sands under construction

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Official website of the ASEAN Tourism Association