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 26, 2014

Strong 6.1-magnitude quake strikes off Indonesia's Java

Google – AFP, 25 January 2014

An elderly man walks past a collapsed mosque in Kranggan village after an 
earthquake in Banyumas, central Java, on January 25, 2014 (AFP, Liliek Darmawan)

Jakarta — A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia's main island of Java on Saturday, the US Geological Survey reported, flattening homes and sending panicked residents running onto the street.

Dozens of buildings were damaged, including 16 houses and that collapsed in the town of Banyumas, as well as a mosque that crumbled, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

"Authorities are continuing to asses other buildings for damage," he said.

"So far there are no reports of casualties."

People in the town of Adipala near the epicentre said they felt the ground shaking hard for up to 20 seconds, as the quake struck in the sea off the coast of southern Java.

"We all just ran onto the street, there were so many people," Astri, a florist who goes by one name, told AFP by phone from her flower shop.

"But it doesn't seem to have damaged anything around here, and we're getting back to work," she said.

The quake struck 39 kilometres (24 miles) south-southeast of Adipala, according to the USGS. It was felt in several towns up to 50 kilometres from the Javanese coast, including in the more densely populated Yogyakarta city, where at least eight homes were damaged, Nugroho said.

The quake hit at 12:14 pm (0514 GMT) at a depth of 83 kilometres, and Indonesia's meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency said there was no risk of a tsunami.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Australia Asylum Policy ‘Draconian’: Rights Group

Jakarta Globe, January 22, 2014

An exhausted boy during a rescue operation in Cidaun, Cianjur, West Java,
Indonesia on July 24, 2013. (EPA Photo/Andra Subhan)

[Updated November 23]

Australia has neglected its legal responsibility to protect the rights of asylum seekers in favor of popular domestic appeal, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday at the launch of its 2014 World Report.

In its 24th edition of the report, HRW slammed Australia’s scare-mongering politics and punitive resettlement policies.

“Last year Australia’s two major political parties were hell-bent on using cruel policies to deter asylum seekers, even at the expense of Australia’s international reputation,” said Elaine Pearson, director of HRW Australia.

In 2013, the Abbott government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy promised to combat people smuggling by empowering the navy to turn back boats carrying asylum seekers.

HRW’s report said policies like these demonized asylum seekers, and risked destroying Australia’s global standing as a leader on human rights in Asia Pacific.

“It is a case of the richest country in the region foisting its burdens off onto poorer countries,” Pearson said.

She likened the impact of Australia’s mandatory offshore detention policy to the damage the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay had caused to that country’s human rights record.

“Australia risks its war on people smuggling being compared to another country that has had an abysmal record in an offshore jail, and of course I’m talking about the US and Guantanamo,” she said.

The report said Australia’s policy of mandatory detention in offshore processing centers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru exposed asylum seekers to harsh and unsatisfactory conditions.

Last year, after visiting the processing centers, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the facilities were neither fair nor humane, and failed to meet international standards.

Pearson said the ban on journalists entering processing centers and the secrecy surrounding Operation Sovereign Borders meant information was difficult to verify.

On Tuesday, a group of asylum seekers claimed they had been burned and beaten by the Australian navy before being returned to Indonesia under the policy to “turn back the boats.”

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison denied the allegations, telling reporters in Sydney “the Australian government is not going to put up with people sledging the Australian navy.”

Pearson said the public’s right to information must be prioritized, as it was difficult to the get to the bottom of issues when “what happens at sea, stays at sea.”

“It is not sufficient to rely on the Australian government to act in the best interests of the people, when clearly this is not the case,” she said. She predicted Operation Sovereign Borders would not achieve Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s goal of stopping asylum-seeker boats.

“When people continue to be mistreated in detention centers, in worst cases being subjected to rape or human torture, then of course people are going to do anything they can to escape those conditions,” Pearson said.

HRW Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono agreed, saying asylum seekers boarded the boats because there was no certainty for them in Indonesia.

“The ideal situation would be for those people not to be detained at all; for their children to have access to education and to have the right to work,” Pearson said.

Asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran cry as Indonesian officers
 force them to leave the Australian vessel Hermia docked at Indah Kiat port in
 Merak, Indonesia’s Banten province in this April 9, 2012 file photo. (Reuters
Photo/Aulia Pratama)

Briton Gets 14 Years in Prison for Indonesia Drug Smuggling

Jakarta Globe – AFP, January 22, 2014

Andrea Waldeck (center left) and an interpreter listen to a judge at court
in Surabaya on January 22, 2014. (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)

A British woman was jailed for 14 years Wednesday but escaped the death penalty after admitting that she smuggled crystal methamphetamine into Indonesia from China.

Andrea Waldeck, a former police worker, was found guilty and sentenced at the court in the city of Surabaya, in the east of Indonesia’s main island of Java.

The sentence was lower than prosecutors’ recommendation of 16 years for the 43-year-old, who had smuggled 1.5 kilograms of crystal meth into Indonesia.

She could have received the death sentence for smuggling that quantity of drugs under Indonesian anti-narcotics laws, which are some of the toughest in the world.

“Andrea Waldeck has been proven legally and convincingly guilty of offering to sell or become a middle person to sell drugs,” said presiding judge Faturrachman.

He handed her a 14-year sentence and ordered her to pay a Rp two billion ($167,000) fine.

Waldeck admitted at a previous hearing that she had smuggled the drugs into Indonesia, arriving at Surabaya airport from China.

In a hearing earlier this month, she said was ashamed of her actions.

She was arrested late April at a hotel in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-biggest city, according to her indictment.

She had arrived a day earlier at the city’s airport from China and managed to get past security with the drugs concealed in four plastic packages inside her underwear, the indictment said.

Two members of a drugs gang had been en route to the hotel to pick up the narcotics — but police knew about the plan and managed to get there first and arrest Waldeck, it said.

She claimed that her boyfriend in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou had asked her to traffic the drugs in exchange for $5,000, according to her indictment.

She had had previously worked in southwestern England as a police community support officer, a part-time member of the force with limited powers.

Her case comes after British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford was sentenced to death in January last year after she was caught trying to bring $2.4 million worth of cocaine into the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Agence France-Presse
Related Article:

Lindsay Sandiford inside a cell at a court in Denpasar, Bali.
Photograph: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Forestry Minister to Hand Control of Surabaya ‘Nightmare Zoo’ to City’s Mayor

Jakarta Globe, Ezra Sihite & Amir Tejo, January 22, 2014

A young girl looks at a Sumatran Tiger at Surabaya Zoo in Surabaya, East
Java, on Jan. 11, 2014. (EPA Photo/Fully Handoko)

After years of dispute over the management of Surabaya Zoo, the central government on Tuesday said it would officially hand full authority of the controversial zoo to Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini, ensuring substantial changes in its operations and its treatment of animals.

“This definitive license will be given to the mayor this week,” Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said following a meeting with Rismaharini and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The Surabaya Zoo is Indonesia’s oldest zoo and was held the widest collection of animals in Southeast Asia, with 351 species in its care. Zulkifli conceded that management problems had long been an issue, with dispute over control of the zoo dating back to the 1980s.

In July last year, the city administration unilaterally took over the running of the zoo from a temporary management team that was appointed in February 2010 by the Forestry Ministry following the disappearance and suspicious deaths of several animals.

Rismaharini, in justifying the takeover at the time, claimed that the caretaker team had done little to stanch the spate of animal deaths and that its plan to invite private investors to help in managing the zoo was a ruse to demolish it and build a hotel on the city-owned land.

Zulkifli said that the under the city’s care, the zoo’s management would be replaced with new individuals with no conflicting interests.

“The management will oversee the maintenance of animal pens and their food, among other things. There will also be an audit in a partnership between the mayor and Airlangga University on the issue of animal overpopulation,” he said.

He added that if audit results concluded that the zoo had more animals than it could adequately care for, the government would transfer some of the animals to other zoos and conservation facilities — a policy that the caretaker team had put into place since 2010, but which Rismaharini claimed was a guise for selling the animals on the black market.

“The president has called for a solution to avoid more animal deaths,” Zulkifli said.

Tuesday’s meeting was also attended by East Java Governor Soekarwo and Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya.

During the meeting, Yudhoyono said he had received plenty of reports from the public about the poor conditions in which animals at the zoo were kept.

“They reminded me that the deaths in Surabaya Zoo had become the focus of the international community and feared that such an issue would give outsiders the impression that we don’t care about our zoos,” he said.

“Let’s find the best solution, and when it has been formulated, explain it to the public. Of course we will not forget the events that have occurred. There is always a way out or a solution.”

Soekarwo expressed appreciation for the government’s decision to officially hand control of the zoo to the city, which has been the de facto operator since July, but emphasized that improvements would take time.

“This is no magic trick, it’s a long process. That is why we need to wait,” he said, adding that he hoped the zoo’s new management would be able to provide a better environment for the animals.

Tuesday’s decision was also welcomed by Wayan Titib Sulaksana, a former official at the zoo.

“We were always in support of having the city administration take over the zoo,” said Titib, who is also a lecturer at Airlangga University’s law school.

He suggested that the mayor order the zoo’s employees — some of whom were retained from the different regimes that ran the zoo — to work together for the betterment of the zoo and set aside any rivalries.

Titib said Surabaya Zoo should also reorganize its hiring system to bring in fresh officials without prejudiced views about the running of the zoo.

Related Articles:

Jewish parents in US begin to question the need for circumcision

Growing numbers make changes to ceremony that takes place on eighth day of boys' lives and is one of Judaism's oldest rituals

The Guardian, Michelle Boorstein for the Washington Post, Friday 17 January 2014

American Jews having second thoughts about circumcising sons. Photograph:
P Deliss/Godong/Corbis

When his pregnant wife first challenged circumcising their son, Mike Wallach had a gut reaction: "That's what we do, we're Jews!" But doubts about whether the surgery was medically necessary and concern over his wife's opposition forced Wallach to confront some questions.

Can you be Jewish without Judaism's oldest ritual? he wondered. What does it mean to be Jewish?

Speaking with God, the 37-year-old screenwriter and grandson of Holocaust survivors explained he was using the "free will and brain you gave me" to reject circumcision. God, he concluded, wouldn't be impressed by the desire to do something simply "for tradition's sake".

"I wasn't at peace until I had that conversation," said Wallach, who grew up in Washington and now lives in Brooklyn.

Wallach is among a small but growing number of Jews who are slowly altering what has for millennia been considered perhaps Judaism's core rite. The Bible says an adult Abraham circumcised himself to mark the covenant between him and his descendants and God. Any male who doesn't circumcise, God says in Genesis, "that soul will be cut off from its people; he has broken My covenant".

Many of these Jews, according to rabbis and the ritual circumcisers known as mohels, are rejecting the classic festive circumcision ceremony, called a brit milah, or bris. For thousands of years, Jews have performed the ritual removal of the penile foreskin on the eighth day of a boy's life, sometimes at the cost of death during periods of antisemitism.

A very small percentage, including Wallach, are not circumcising at all. Others, uncomfortable with the joyous, public ceremony around an intimate surgical procedure, are circumcising their sons in the hospital and crafting new baby-welcoming ceremonies days or weeks later for family and friends. Some are having no public service at all.

Meanwhile, there is an unprecedented level of debate among friends, grandparents and couples about whether to circumcise and how. Given that the topic merges sex, religion, identity, culture, gender equity, health politics and antisemitism, such discussions can grow intense or acrimonious.

"What's a nice word for the Bermuda Triangle?" said Rabbi Shira Stutman of Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, Washington's largest community of 20- and 30-something Jews. "Circumcision is at the nexus of everything that it means to be Jewish ... It's primal. It's deeper than anything we can understand rationally."

Sixth & I gets so many questions about circumcision from younger Jews that it will hold a class in early 2014, Stutman said. While the vast majority of Jews decide to circumcise, she said, "the days of being 100% sure and not even thinking about it are done". Stutman opted for a private ceremony when her son was born.

Several factors are fuelling the trend, including growing secular discomfort with the practice, mixed data on medical necessity and an American culture increasingly open to reinterpreting religious practices. The percentage of circumcision procedures among the general population is also dropping.

American Jews, on the whole, are now more immersed in secular culture and thus more apt to look askance at the idea of a tribal scarification ceremony. High education levels and a natural aesthetic are also prompting questioning among younger Jews.

"Because the American Jewish community is significantly educated, they're more likely to do organic and wanting everything to be natural, and a bris is sort of primal and ancient," said Julie Pelc Adler, director of the circumcision programme for Reform Judaism, the largest US denomination of Jews. "It's really different than the aesthetic of, 'Oh, let's bring this perfect new baby and swaddle him in perfection.' It's looking at this perfect baby and saying, 'He's not perfect, we need to do this one thing.'"

Rabbi Shira Stutman discusses circumcision at a class for converts to Judaism
 at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington. Photograph: Linda Davidson/
The Washington Post

Ben Rempell, 35, didn't consider himself particularly religious. So the USAid employee was surprised at the force of his reaction in November 2009, when one morning his then-pregnant wife, Danielle Rudstein Rempell, lobbed this question: "Isn't circumcision another form of genital mutilation?"

Rempell remembers "giving her a disgusted look" and becoming defensive and angry. He became more so when she raised the question with their weekly Sunday dinner group.

He began to struggle with it on his own, unsure why the rite was so important to him given that he was not a particularly observant Jew.

Ultimately, he discovered, his motivation was more tribal.

"It wasn't a Jewish thing, it was an identity thing, envisioning growing up and he sees me and I see him and he asks why he's different. A child's identity is their family," he said.

But isn't Jewishness part of your identity?

"It had to have something to do with Judaism. That's what we do. That's what I am," said Rempell, who now lives with his family in Honduras.

His secular-but-tribal argument for a son "who looks like his father" convinced his wife. They now have two sons, both circumcised – but with no ceremony.

Not all couples get on the same page. Several couples interviewed didn't want their names used, either because their disagreement was so intense and they wanted to put the issue in the past or because they were expecting and didn't want family and friends to be drawn into their private debate. They tell similar stories of angrily emailing American Academy of Pediatrics studies, painful conversations challenging each other's concepts of Judaism and even circumcisions ending in tears and fights.

Four statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the largest US body of children's doctors, have wavered back and forth a bit since 1979. Most recently, in 2012, the group said benefits outweigh potential risks but not enough to recommend circumcision routinely. Organisations that have done the most extensive polling on US Jews say there is no data on circumcision rates.

Binyamin Biber, a rabbi of the small movement called Secular Humanistic Judaism, is perhaps the only rabbi in the Washington area who advertises his willingness to bless a welcoming ceremony for a boy who is uncircumcised. Requests for his services are small but growing, from one or two each year in the past to four or five a year now.

He sees questions about circumcision as a natural product of a time when more and more families are interfaith and parents aren't sure about a ritual once rooted in special treatment for boys. The liturgy he uses doesn't mention God and emphasises bringing the child into a "human covenant for a better world".

"We live in a more cosmopolitan world and Jewish families have become very intercultural," said Biber. "For those families, a ceremony which regards Jewish males as privileged seems problematic, to put it mildly."

Rabbis who are engaging Jews' questions about circumcision are asking people to think about the ritual in a different way. "We do all sorts of things that hurt our children that help them for the greater good. We vaccinate them, we ground them, we take away their devices," Stutman told a wide-eyed class of adults converting to Judaism one recent night as she ran through the circumcision curriculum.

Several people in the class at Sixth & I gasped when she explained that even when circumcised men convert, they give a few drops of blood from the penis to represent their commitment. "Remember we are an earthy people! We don't pretend we don't have bodies!"

Adler said the circumcision issue is just part of a world of questions about bringing Jewish ritual and law into a new era. She fields questions, for example, about whether the male child of a lesbian couple whose birth mother is not Jewish – but whose other mother is – would be considered Jewish, or would the child need a conversion component of his circumcision ceremony.

Judaism generally was passed to children through their biological mothers. But in recent decades more liberal Jewish denominations have been recognising biological fathers as well.

When it comes to religious evolution, she asks, "where is the line? At what point is it no longer Judaism? Each choice distinguishes Jews, and it's a slippery slope."

This article appeared in the Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from the Washington Post

Related Articles:

Question: Dear and beloved Kryon: What should we know about "Brit-Mila" (Jewish circumcision)?

Answer: All circumcision was based on commonsense health issues of the day, which manifested itself in religious-based teaching. That basically is what made people keep doing it. This eighth-day-from-birth ritual is no more religious today than trimming your fingernails (except that Brit-Mila is only done once, and it hurts a bit more).

It's time to start seeing these things for what they are. Common sense is not static. It's dynamic, and related to the culture of the time. Yesterday's common sense about health changed greatly with the discovery of germs. It changed again with practices of cleanliness due to the discovery of germs, and so on. Therefore, we would say that it really doesn't make a lot of difference in today's health practices. It's done almost totally for cultural historic and traditional purposes and holds no energy around it other than the obvious intent of the tradition.

This is also true for a great deal of the admonishments of the Old Testament regarding food and cleanliness, and even the rules of the neighborhood (such as taking your neighbor's life if he steals your goat, or selling your daughter in slavery if you really need the money... all found in scripture). The times are gone where these things matter anymore, yet they're still treated with reverence and even practiced religiously in some places. They're now only relics of tradition, and that's all. If you feel that you should honor a tradition, then do it. If not, then don't. It's not a spiritual or health issue any longer.

Be the boss of your own body and your own traditions. Follow what your spiritual intuition tells you is appropriate for your own spiritual path and health.

Don't shoot that tree! And leave those rocks alone...

Eye witness

AFP's Sydney-based journalist Madeleine Coorey delves into Australia's evolving respect for its Aboriginal people, and looks at some of the taboos around reporting from sacred sites.

Participants at the Mbantua Aboriginal cultural festival, October 12, 2013.
(AFP Photo/Greg Wood)

AFP, Madeleine Coorey, 21 January 2014

In the middle of the Australian outback, with the sun beating fiercely down, comes a voice in my ear: "You can't take photos of that tree, it's a sacred site." What? The beautiful silver gum tree right in the middle of where we are about to do an interview? Yes, replies my extremely patient media contact, adding there were other sites of deep significance to the local Aboriginal people nearby -- including sacred rocks -- and we should avoid those too.

It was the kind of comment my colleagues and I heard frequently during our stay in Alice Springs covering the Mbantua indigenous cultural festival and journeying to the awe-inspiring red monolith Uluru in central Australia.

A participant performs at the Mbantua Aboriginal cultural festival in Alice Springs
in Australia's Northern Territory state, October 12, 2013. (AFP Photo/Greg Wood)

From towering trees to small shrubs, from waterholes to collections of random boulders; sites that to the traveller might seem an ordinary feature in the desert landscape were frequently pointed out as sacred sites, with a history heavy in significance to the indigenous owners of the land.

At the Mbantua festival, some sacred sites were fenced off, but others -- such as the off-limits towering River Red Gum, formed part of the spectacular backdrop for the festival which included an open-air musical theatre performance and traditional dances. That Uluru, the massive sandstone monolith which rises 348 metres (1,148 feet) from the desert sands, would be a sacred site to its traditional Aboriginal owners, known as Anangu, for thousands of years is obvious.

Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, a large sandstone rock formation and
 the world's largest monolith situated in the southern part of the Northern Territory
in central Australia, October 11, 2013. (AFP Photo/Greg Wood)

Even though I had seen images of Uluru my whole life, nothing prepared me for seeing it with my own eyes for the first time. It's impressive from the moment it appears ahead of you some kilometres in the distance. And up close it again surprises; who knew that fig trees bloomed in its fissures or that waterpools formed in its crevices from rain?

Once you're standing at the base of Uluru, you "get" the magic of it -- the fact that this enormous rock mysteriously rises out of the desert sand to dominate the landscape. How did it form here? And why here in the heart of the Australian continent?

For tens of thousands of years these were questions that the Anangu alone pondered. But thanks to the rise of tourism, thousands of people from all over the world now come to see the rock, and the traditional owners are keen to protect the World Heritage site.

This photo taken on October 11, 2013 shows a tourist looking at a sign stating
 that the climb is closed for safety reasons near the base of Uluru. (AFP Photo/
Greg Wood)

National Parks officers, who manage the major tourist attraction with the Aboriginal owners, stress that capturing the site on camera is sensitive and that some sites and ritual objects are restricted to certain groups, such as initiated men or women. Media visiting the park are given written guidelines, complete with a map which shows the sites that should not be filmed, photographed or painted. But even the map does not give all the answers, as some sites cannot be specifically identified or even publicly discussed -- so cannot even be marked on the chart.

Another difficulty for journalists here comes when prominent indigenous Australians die because Aboriginal people generally don't speak the deceased's name or look at their pictures for a considerable time as a way of honouring their dead. Australian media generally respect this concept; when the lead singer of Yothu Yindi died last year his family approved certain images for the media to use and he was mostly referred to without using his first name, as Mr Yunupingu.

Tourists looking at the Kapi Mutitjulu waterhole at Uluru, October 11, 2013.
(AFP Photo/Greg Wood)

The entire northeast face of Uluru is generally not allowed to be photographed because it includes many sacred sites. An image of this might be allowed if, say, a shadow or a bush or sand dune, obscures the most sensitive areas, the guidelines say. National Parks support the wishes of the Anangu, which also include a request that visitors stifle any urge to climb Uluru and content themselves with walking around the base. The media are also asked not to use images of people climbing the rock.

It's a far cry from decades past, when Australians and tourists climbed the rock without a thought, hanging on tightly to the chain link fence driven into the rock which has left it scarred, but which aids climbers on the steepest slopes. Fewer people are tackling the ascent and signposting indicates to visitors that some sites may be sacred and off-limits. And the greater acceptance of indigenous cultural values appears to be getting through to visitors.

A woman peruses traditional artwork at the Mbantua Aboriginal cultural
(AFP Photo/Greg Wood)

Australia has a long history of mistreating its indigenous inhabitants since European colonisation in 1788, with Aborigines not even included in the national census until 1967. Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have struggled against policies, which robbed them of their land, took away their children and denigrated their cultural traditions.

They remain the country's most disadvantaged people, with a much higher rate of infant mortality than other Australians and a significantly shorter life expectancy. But at Uluru, you feel that some progress has been made towards greater education and respect for indigenous cultural values.

National Parks media officer Amy Warren looks at the Kapi Mutitjulu waterhole
at Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, October 11, 2013. (AFP Photo/Greg Wood)

For our visit, we were accompanied by an Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park media officer who was able to check that all our still photographs did not breach the guidelines and to offer advice on what was, and wasn't, permissible to shoot for video.

And she was pleased to take queries from tourists, who are not required to apply for permits to take photos for personal use. One Sydney man who had snapped what he worried could be a sacred site, came forward to ask her opinion -- Had he had inadvertently captured something he shouldn't have on his digital camera? He told me he didn't want to do the wrong thing. If only all visitors could be so considerate, I thought. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Surabaya Zoo Management Reported to KPK

Jakarta Globe, Rizky Amelia, January 20, 2014

An orangutan at Surabaya Zoo on Oct. 10, 2013. (AFP Photo)

The scandal at Indonesia’s notorious “zoo of death” took another turn on Monday after the mayor of Surabaya delivered a file to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) detailing allegations of graft.

“There have been several groups [in the management] of Surabaya Zoo. The team isn’t solid and some action needs to be taken immediately,” Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini said before a meeting with anti-graft officers. “We hope the KPK will help us.”

The move by Rismarahini to approach the KPK marks a sharp turnaround for the mayor, who has attracted criticism for her administration’s management since it took over the zoo after the horrendous conditions were revealed.

KPK spokesman Johan Budi said investigator would study the file.

“We will study the report — similar to our treatment of reports from other members of the public — to see if there is any indication of corruption or not,” Johan said.

It could not be confirmed on Monday which people in the temporary management team Rismaharini had reported to the KPK. It is understood that the report claims that officials in the zoo’s management team were complicit in the black-market sale of animals.

The zoo is home to approximately 3,000 animals, 420 of which are protected species. The mayor suspects that at least two endangered species were stolen and sold.

“Each small Bali myna is worth between Rp 50 million ($4,100) and Rp 100 million,” Rismaharini said. “A Komodo dragon may sell for between Rp 600 million and Rp 900 million; two are missing.”

Rismarahini said that an independent study of the zoo had revealed that officials may have received cars and other items as part of deals to sell zoo animals.

“This according to the Airlangga [University]’s audit… of the zoo,” Rismaharini said.

Related Article:

The number of deaths at Surabaya zoo, including a lion earlier this month,
 have alarmed wildlife conservation groups, but the mayor has denied allegations
of negligence. (EPA Photo/Fully Handoko)

World Court to Shine Light on East Timor-Australia Spy Row

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Charles Onians, January 19, 2014

East Timorese activists hold a banner during a protest outside the Australian
 embassy in Dili, East Timor, on Dec. 9, 2013. (EPA Photo/Antonio Dasiparu)

The Hague. Tiny, young East Timor drags its giant neighbor Australia before the United Nations’ top court next week in a cloak-and-dagger case with billions of dollars in natural resources at stake.

At the heart of the David and Goliath dispute at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is a controversial oil and gas treaty signed by Dili in 2006, shortly after independence from Indonesia.

East Timor wants judges at the ICJ, which rules on disputes between states, to order Australia to return documents its intelligence services seized last year relating to Dili’s bid to get the treaty torn up.

“It’s simple: we’re asking for our documents back. Australia has unlawfully taken documents that are rightfully the property of Timor-Leste,” government spokesman Agio Pereira told AFP ahead of Monday’s hearing.

East Timor gained its independence in 2002 following years of brutal Indonesian occupation but has a sluggish economy that is heavily dependent on oil and gas.

Dili wants the key treaty it signed with Canberra in 2006 dividing oil and gas resources ripped up, saying Australia spied on ministers to gain a commercial advantage.

Australia allegedly used an aid project refurbishing East Timor’s cabinet offices as a front to plant listening devices in the walls in order to eavesdrop on deliberations about the treaty in 2004.

The treaty, Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, or CMATS, set out a 50-50 split of proceeds from the vast maritime energy fields between Australia and East Timor estimated at 26 billion euros ($36 billion).

Dili signed such treaties “at fragile and vulnerable times in our young nation’s history,” government spokesman Pereira said.

“Now, in 2014, we are acting with a new breadth of information, data and analysis, including information that Australia may have acted in bad faith and in breach of international law.”

Australian media have reported that the lion’s share of Timor Sea oil and gas would be on Timorese territory if the maritime border were defined according to customary rules of the sea.

But first the half-island nation wants the ICJ to order the return of documents seized in November when Australia’s domestic spy agency raided the Canberra offices of East Timor’s lawyer, Bernard Collaery.

Collaery is representing East Timor’s government in its bid lodged last year to get the CMATS treaty cancelled at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, housed in the same Palace of Justice in The Hague as the ICJ.

While that case is being held behind closed doors, the ICJ hearings will for the first time shine a very public light on Australia’s alleged skullduggery.

“This is going to be pretty hard on Australia’s image, it’s not exactly glorious for them,” international law expert Olivier Rentelink from The Hague’s Asser Institute told AFP.

The premises of a former Australian intelligence agent turned whistleblower in the arbitration case against Canberra were also raided.

Australia has largely refused to comment on the proceedings, although Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended the raids as in the national interest.

East Timor Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Resources Alfredo Pires stressed his country’s generally good relations with Australia but said: “The only avenue we have as a small country is international legislation.”

Dili has asked for “provisional measures” until the ICJ rules on the case, including that the documents be handed to the court and that Australia guarantee it will not intercept communications between East Timor and its legal advisers.

“Timor Leste is a young country, we had the UN here and everyone teaching us transparency, the rule of law, and then we get one of the great teachers not following the rules,” said Pires.

Cases at the ICJ can take years to resolve.

Agence France-Presse

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Meditation Can Help You Have Inner Peace and a Healthy Body

Putri Fitria recently visited a Buddhist temple on Bali, where she discovered the benefits of this ancient practice

Jakarta Globe, Putri Fitria, January 19, 2014

Besides helping to maintain a healthy body and mind, meditation can perhaps also
 bring us back to the core of our humanity: wisdom and compassion, in this complicated,
modern world. (JG Photo/Putri Fitria)

In facing the hectic and busy world today, there are many ways to maintain and ensure the safety of our sanity; plan a regular vacation, hang out with friends at a cafe or bar every weekend, go to the gym, spend the weekend under a comfortable blanket, or doing this modest activity: meditation.

When I traveled to Bali a couple of weeks ago, I went to a Buddhist temple, Vihara Buddha Sakyamuni in Denpasar. There, I met Andi Candra, 55, a pandita, or scholar, who has mastered the five sciences: language, logic, medicine, arts and spirituality, and explained to me the benefits of meditation.

“Through meditation, one will be able to reach serenity and the body will be healthy. It also trains our mind to concentrate. Meditation is not a form of medication, but it can help the medication process from the inside and cultivate our mind,” he explained.

Most people who come to this vihara are Buddhist. However, one does not need to be a practicing Buddhist to understand and practice meditation. Anyone from any religious background is allowed to meditate. When meditating in a vihara, though, we will need to follow Buddhist etiquette by minding our behavior and the way we dress.

Vihara Buddha Sakyamuni practices three techniques of meditating: metta, samatha and vippasana. Metta meditation focuses on compassion and can be practiced anywhere, at anytime — even while we’re busy with something — by repeating the chant “sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta” or “may all beings be happy.”

The samatha meditation trains our mind to focus on one object, which may be anything. When we close our eyes and enter the depth of meditation, our minds must stay with that object and nothing else.

The vippasana method of meditating is the opposite of samatha. With this method we train our mind to heighten awareness of our environment by recognizing every object that appears, moves and disappears. In vippasana, we are allowed to move our body and stand, walk slowly (cangkama), lie down and observe our movement and surrounding.

I was introduced to the vihara by my friend Tria Nin, 29, who shared a story about her meditation.

“I meditate every day, at home and at the vihara. When I meditate, I am aware of things that pass my mind. I am not looking for calmness, but I am aware of the vociferation inside of me and I do not reject it. I accept it as the way it is.”

The Vihara Buddha Sakyamuni temple in Denpasar. (JG Photo)

Other benefits of meditation is the burst of creativity. Abmi Handayani,27, a fiction writer, shared her experience and thoughts.

“After I learned and practiced meditation, I felt it became easier to come up with new ideas. It calmed me down by lessening my anxiety, it helped me cultivate my imagination and structure my writing.”

Although we instantly and unwittingly relate the word “meditation” to Buddhism, it is in fact a universal practice that has been developed for centuries by various prophets and spiritual figures.

The word derives from the Latin, meditatio, or from the verb, meditari, which means to think, contemplate, devise and ponder.

In the Sufi tradition, meditation or muraqaba was developed in the 12th century, and allowed followers to practice their breath control through the repetition of holy words or verses. This form of meditation may lead to the experience of receiving divine inspiration and lead to both emotional and intellectual awakening and liberation.

In Christianity, meditation is a process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. In the Baha’i faith, meditation along with prayer, is one of the primary tools for spiritual development, while in Hinduism, meditation is practiced to realize the union of one’s self or one’s atman, with the omnipresent and non-dual Brahman.

With the technology we have today, we are provided with an abundance of information on meditation while scientific research has given us a more thorough and logical understanding. By using machines such as MRI scans, scientists are able to see the physical transformation our brains go through when we meditate.

During meditation, our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would; we start to show a decrease in beta waves, which indicates that our brains are processing information.

For all of its benefits and modesty, also in the context of preserving tradition and respecting history, I believe meditation is worth including in our daily “to-do-list,” even for a few minutes.

Besides maintaining a healthy body and mind, it can bring us back to the core of our humanity: compassion and wisdom, in this complicated, modern world.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jakarta to Offer Free Bus Tours of Capital’s Historic Sites

Jakarta Globe, Lenny Tristia Tambun, January 14, 2014

Five new double-decker buses arrive at Tanjung Priok port in North Jakarta
on Jan. 13, 2014. (JG Photo/Lenny Tristia Tambun)

The Jakarta Tourism Agency welcomed the arrival of five double-decker tour buses Monday night as the capital, long listed as a sight best left unseen on a visit to Indonesia, began an aggressive push to double the number of foreign tourists visiting the city.

“We thank God that Jakarta will finally have city tour buses,” tourism head Arie Budhiman said as the buses arrived at Tanjung Priok port in North Jakarta. “We hope with the double-decker tour buses that Jakarta will have a different thing to offer than other towns [in Indonesia]. Hopefully Jakarta will become more attractive and draw more visitors.”

Jakarta logged 2.3 million foreign tourists last year, an 8 percent increase over 2012′s figures, but still short of Governor Joko Widodo’s five-million tourist goal. The capital’s administration spent Rp 17 billion ($1.4 million) to purchase the fleet of buses from China. It plans to expand the fleet to include as many as 20 buses in the near future.

“With the support of the governor, who is very tourism conscious, I’m optimistic that the target [of five million visitors] can be reached in three to five years,” Arie said.

The tour buses will offer visitors a free ride through the capital, stopping at sights like the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, Kota Tua, in North Jakarta, and the Blok M shopping hub, in South Jakarta. Each air-conditioned bus can hold 60 passengers and includes television screens that will be used to show a tourism video.

Bus service will begin a trial run on Thursday, with full service going into effect by the end early February at the latest, Arie said.

Jakarta may feature a rich colonial history, but the capital’s congestion and pollution, combined with poor maintenance of its museums and historical sites has done little to help its appeal to foreign tourists. The popular guidebook company “Lonely Planet” describes the capital as “a hard city to love. One of the world’s greatest megalopolises, its grey, relentlessly urban sprawl spreads for tens of kilometers across a flood-prone plain with barely a park to break the concrete monotony.”

The guidebook later lists several sites, including Kota Tua and Taman Ismail Marzuki, as popular locations, calling the city an “essential” stop for travelers looking to experience all Indonesia has to offer.