30 September 2008
To date some 120 or so journalists have made the trip to get some coverage of what is expected to be these three mass murderer's final Lebaran. It is expected that the necessary paperwork will be finalized over the coming days and the firing squad will be assembled.
“In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. There is no other way. And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.”
-- Harry A. Blackmun (American Supreme Court Justice, 1908 - 1999)
“Racism is man's gravest threat to man - the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
-- Abraham J. Heschel (Jewish theologian and philosopher, 1907 - 1972)
Today at a prayer service commemorating the deaths of six generals (and a lieutenant) the current Chief of the Army, Gen. Agustadi Sasongko Purnomo, has stated that the army is concerned that the threat of communism is real and that it is making a comeback in Indonesia. He points to systematic efforts to re-establish the ideology and cites the primary tactic as being one designed to shake the foundations of the Republic by highlighting and magnifying differences. The other evidence that the army has relates to the placement of stickers and posters that are obviously driven by the ideology of communism.
The general despite insisting on vigilance and the need to remain alert to the re-emergence of communism was unequivocal in stating that unlike the old days communism must be defeated by a greater reliance on Pancasila.
The fact that the armed forces are still playing the PKI card is a concern, particularly in 2008.
Therefore, prisoners in Indonesia are given remissions for good behaviour and offer things. These remission normally happen twice a year. The first is in recognition of Independence Day and the other is generally at the time of the religious holiday of the prisoner. For Muslims, this would be Eid ul-Fitr (Idul Fitri in Indonesia).
Those prisoners that have been sentenced to life in prison or to death do not get to enjoy any remissions. It is uncommon for death sentences to be commuted to life and similarly for life sentences to be reset to a definite period of incarceration once the sentences have been handed down and affirmed on appeal.
The Department of Law and Human Rights has received recommendations for remissions from throughout the archipelago. These recommendations include nine individuals that were convicted and sentenced to prison in relation to the Bali Bombings I (five individuals) and II (four individuals).
The remissions recommended are for between one and two months. It is worth noting that the nine convicts involved received remissions of five months and three months in August as part of the Independence Day remissions.
29 September 2008
The flip side of this is that when these 2.7 million residents start returning to the Big Durian they tend to bring along family members and friends who have been wowed by the seemingly endless opportunities available in Jakarta. It is thought that the population of Jakarta increases by 100,000 or so in the weeks after Eid.
The authorities in Jakarta have already stated unequivocally that they will be running a series of raids with the first of these slated for 23 October 2008. Any one caught without the necessary documentation will be sent back to whatever village they came from.
The influx of new residents is expected to see Jakarta's official population reach 9.1 million. This figure does not include the surrounding satellite cities of Bekasi, Tangerang, Bogor, or Depok.
The Deputy Head of the Regional Departmental office is convinced that an investigation into illegal expatriate workers has turned up evidence that there are in fact expatriates working on Mobil Cepu's East Java gas fields.
The investigation was sparked by a denial by Mobil Cepu for a joint team to enter the mining site. The Deputy Head, Setiadjit, was also a little upset that the joint team was not allowed to raid the houses of the expatriates as well.
This has all the hallmarks of a "he said, she said" shakedown. Setiadjit is of the opinion that the parent companies are ultimately responsible for the actions of their subsidiaries and it is ExxonMobil that needs to ensure compliance and if compliance does not occur then it is ExxonMobil that must be responsible for any violations.
This has ended with the Labor and Transmigration Regional office jumping up and down and threatening to lodge a police report if the relevant paperwork is not handed over. The deadline is 13 October 2008.
It is certain to get a little more interesting yet as ExxonMobil has stepped into the fray, just like Setiadjit demanded. A spokesperson for ExxonMobil has stated unequivocally that they have complied with all prevailing laws and regulations and that the relevant labor authorities are already in possession of the required documents.
If this develops into a story I will post a postscript to this entry.
Nevertheless, the Big Apple or perhaps the Big Melting Pot that is New York City is soon to vote on whether two Muslim holidays are to be declared school holidays for all. The two holidays are Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha which celebrate the end of the fasting month and the Haj pilgrimage month respectively. The vote is to take place on 16 October 2008.
This is something that has been on the agenda since 2005 and it seems that the supporters of the vote have finally mustered the numbers to take the issue to committee and then get it through to a full council vote.
The measure was initiated by a Muslim councilor from Harlem, Robert Jackson. However, it is claimed that the measure has broad support within the community and also on the council and this support is from non-Muslims as well. Broad-based support is no guarantee that it will get up when it comes to a vote.
I wonder though whether this sets a precedent that every religion should be able to lobby for its special days to be legislatively declared holidays and then have them so declared. I am happy for governments to declare as many religious holidays that they want. Simply, the more they declare the less number of days I have to work while still getting paid.
The population of NYC is approximately 7 million and of these 1 million are Muslims.
Nevertheless, some of these convictions are for fraud, negligent driving, and assault. The majority are for drink driving offences in both the medium and high ranges. Other offences included unauthorized access to police computer systems.
None of the officers with criminal convictions have served any jail time.
I guess this is what they mean when they say "everyone deserves a second chance". I suppose police officers should be no different from anyone else.
However, I did not matter whether you were a boy or a girl when you were at school the overweight kids always got plenty of stick for being fat. I was a fat kid and I am a fat adult.
So, I can speak with relative authority about getting plenty of stick at school for being overweight.
I was also pretty sporty and played lots of sports. So, I guess this kept the weight in check a little.
That said, I wonder whether I go to the gym now because I have body issues or just because I want to keep a little fit so that I can live long enough to see the Kid grow into a man. I think it is because I wanna see the Kid grow into a man. If it was a body issue thing then I would be eating to a different pattern. I eat fairly clean.
Anyways, I was scanning through the Sydney Morning Herald the other day and came across this article on "manorexia" which is a term coined to describe anorexia in men. It is estimated that more than 7 million Australians are overweight or obese. Yes, this is somewhere around one-third of the population is heavier than it should be according to current guidelines.
In NSW it is estimated that 1 in 10 adults and 1 in 4 children that are suffering from anorexia are male. This means that the vast majority of those suffering from anorexia remain women, at least in cases that are being reported. Apparently, photos like the one above encourage eating disorders in boys as they strive to look like a male model.
This post has been modified slightly from the original post. The figures regarding anorexia in the original post were mistyped. This has been rectified.
The results of the study highlight that there is much work to be done if Australia is to become a truly tolerant nation of the diversity that we already have. Quite simply we cannot turn back the clock and start deporting people left right and center that is never going to be a practical response. The report will need to be analyzed in its entirety as i have only seen snippets to date in the form of news bites. However, the study is set for general release at the Rights, Reconciliation, Respect and Responsibility conference to be held at the University of Technology in Sydney this coming Friday.
The study was conducted over ten years and has surveyed some 12,500 people over the last eight years. So, this should in theory provide a relatively good cross-section of the much broader Australian community.
My home state of New South Wales tops the list as the most racist state. I have seen a lot of racism first hand, this is in the sense of having witnessed it and not because I have been subject to it. It is a seeing or watching it happen as opposed to a having it happen to me experience. Racism is also something I have thought about as I am married to an Indonesian and my children will be Australian citizens of mixed race.
The results are alarming in that they suggest as many as 2 out of every 5 people surveyed felt that some ethnic groups and religions did not belong in Australia. The study also found that at least 1 in 10 people surveyed held openly racist views.
This is a concern because if these results are considered to be representative of the broader Australian population then it would seem that we as a community are destined for some pretty rough times in terms of cultural, ethnic, and religious clashes.
It would be my feeling that any kind of cultural, ethnic, or religious based clashes in Australia are destined to further polarize what seems to be a polarizing society.
The people most identified as not belonging (perhaps not fitting into the concept of Australianism that is dominant presently) are Muslims and those from the Middle East. Islam is a religion so I do not know how you can be a racist if you say bad things about it. Perhaps the term is a religious bigot?
The study also asked questions that required people to answer on whether marriages between cultures were a good thing and whether all races are equal. The results for these two questions show that about 10% of those surveyed believe that inter-cultural marriages are a bad thing and that a similar number believe that not all races are equal. These results do not surprise me and in some ways I am surprised that they are not higher.
I wonder if a similar study was conducted in Indonesia what the results might be. There are plenty of inter-cultural marriages but there is always talk and gossip of the unhappiness of the extended family that such marriages have taken place. The idea of marrying within your own group is strong here among most of Indonesia's diverse range of ethnic groups. A read of the singles columns highlight this as race or ethnicity is often identified as a desirable characteristic.
I have been following some blogs and sites where race, ethnic, and religious issues get a regular airing. One such site is Indonesia Matters. The beauty of Indonesia Matters is that one can get to read a very broad cross section of opinions on these topics.
The lead researcher on this study was Professor Kevin Dunn of the University of Western Sydney (this happens to be one of my alma maters). According to Professor Dunn the results are high but it is worth pointing out that overall Australia ranks as being a country with a low level of racism. This means that there are plenty of countries out there in the big bad world with a lot more serious racial, ethnic, and religious tolerance problems than us.
28 September 2008
Although Jakarta is much quieter, everywhere else suddenly gets a whole lot less quite and sees a significant spike in traffic and the associated problems.
I read in today's Kompas Newspaper (the photo is from Kompas) that the 267 km trip from Jakarta to Cirebon was taking about 19 hours to complete. For my mind that means that you really must want to go home for the holidays. Apparently, on a 'normal' day this trip would take a leisurely 6 hours. This still seems like a long time to travel less than 300 km all the same.
27 September 2008
The Australian Defence Forces remain predominately a male domain. Nevertheless, women make up a touch over 13% of the total number of personnel.
It will be quite an achievement if the ADF can remove gender-based barriers on women serving in direct combat roles and replace them with a set of physical characteristics that do not automatically exclude women. The current Minister of Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, seems to be in favor of the idea.
I am not sure that it has the GI Jane / Demi Moore thing happening here but I have always thought that the primary consideration in putting women into combat must be can they do the job that is being asked of them.
I am sure there are those out there that see only disaster in having men and women serving in the same direct combat units. However, if the ADF is truly a professional force then men and women serving in the same combat unit should not be a problem.
The decision on whether women will serve in direct combat will ultimately depend on the results of the Defence Science Technology Organization (DSTO) and their report. I hope the DSTO makes it possible for women to serve in direct combat roles. Women join the ADF for the same reasons as men, to serve their country, and women must be allowed to serve in all the same ways that men are permitted to do.
It has been suggested that this was only a symbolic gesture. However, considering the latest spate of corruption arrests it is better to play it safe than to be sorry later.
Kalla to his credit reported the "gift" to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). It is an interesting gift to get. However, in his report to the KPK Kalla was unequivocal that the car would not be for his private use. This kind of seems obvious as he could easily afford to buy one or two anyway. I am not sure that Toyotas are his cars of choice anyway.
I wonder what PT Toyota Astra Motor was thinking when the decision was made to give the Veep a car for opening a spare parts center?
Is the Veep's decision to report the car a sign of the changing times?
The Jakarta Post reported last Saturday that a Brazilian fella has found himself in jail for killing a person in Legian, Bali, in a hit and run. In truth, the JP actually headlined with "... Brazilian driver kills motorists" then went on to say that he killed one person and put another 4 people in hospital.
Guilherme Guedo was apparently in Bali on business and after a night out on the turps decided that he needed to have some fun. Some reports suggest he tried to jack a motorbike from some unsuspecting Balinese and then in the end managed to steal a laundry van. I am wondering what kind of business this fella is in, just as a matter of interest, and how drunk do you have to be to want to steal a laundry van and then decide to drive against the flow of the traffic?
Interestingly, the news does not seem to mention the business or the age of Guedo but the Police Chief of Denpasar is intent that Guedo's family must pay for the medical expenses of the victims. On this front I am not sure how this would work. I also wonder why the family should pay for the crimes of adult siblings. Why should Guedo not be personally responsible for his actions?
Guedo has been charged with stealing the van and dangerous driving resulting in death. He is liable for a stint in an Indonesian jail of up to 10 years. It seems that 4.1kg of weed is a far more serious offense than drinking and driving and then killing someone. I wonder whether the rationale is that the weed could potentially kill more people and therefore is a more serious crime?
Drink and drive, idiot!
However, in a pilot project being run in Semarang the National Police are trialing and AVIS system. AVIS is an Audio Visual Integrated System. The system is in use in a number of other countries including Indonesia's former colonial master, The Netherlands. It is The Netherlands that is playing the major funding and support role in trialing this technology in Indonesia.
Apparently, Semarang was chosen because it has the highest number of traffic accidents of any place throughout the archipelago.
The AVIS requires an applicant to answer 30 questions. The answers are simple true or false and require nothing more than the press of a button. To pass the AVIS you must score 60%. By my reckoning that means you can get 12 answers wrong and still pass. Once you pass the AVIS then you can continue onto the practical driving test. If you fail, then you have to wait 14 days before being granted another crack at the test.
In a recent demonstration only 12 of the 30 applicants who took the test were able to pass. This translates into a 40% success rate. Now, if these results were to hold true in the general population and the police required everyone to sit the test at their next license renewal then conceivably there could be 60% less drivers on Indonesian roads than there are presently. This would mean that Jakarta traffic would look like what it will over the next couple of days, every day. The mass exodus from the capital for the Eid celebration is well and truly underway.
The police seem to think that AVIS will not only ensure better drivers because of improving standards but it will also make the whole process of issuing a drivers license a whole lot more transparent. If I was a betting man this would be an interesting bet to make. The idea that AVIS will work as a reducer of the amount of corruption within the police force with respect to the issuing of licenses. A better mechanism might include spinning off the whole driver licensing process from the police and place it in a Directorate General at the Department of Transport.
The traffic accident data from 2006 shows that there were almost 90,000 accidents throughout the archipelago. These accidents resulted in some 15,000 deaths and some 82,000 injuries. This means that at least one person died for every six accidents recorded. The data also highlights that almost every accident that was recorded almost inevitably resulted in an injury.
More alarming though is the 2007 data which shows a significant decrease in the number of accidents recorded but an increase in the number of deaths. In 2007 there were some 48,000 accidents but some 16,500 deaths. This means that there was a fatality recorded for every three accidents.
With accident data like this then anything that ensures higher driving standards is a welcome relief.
Newman will obviously be remembered for his film and theater work. However, he must also be remembered as a great humanitarian and philanthropist. His philanthropy work has seen some USD 220 million donated to good and worthy causes.
You can check out a more detailed profile here.
26 September 2008
But here it is and straight from the mouth of Rep. Alcee Hastings (the Rep. standing for Representative and meaning he is a Congressman in the US) who is a Democrat and former Hillary Clinton supporter and now vocal Barack Obama supporter.
This is what was said:
“anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks.”
This was a comment made to a group of African-American and Jewish Democrats and by all reports brought hoots of laughter and applause from all in attendance.
The idea that being able to shoot and strip a moose in any way reflects how one views race and religion relationships is about the same as Republicans claiming that Barack Obama's middle name says something about how he will deal with Muslims and Non-Muslims. Or that Obama's middle name in some way brings into question his Christian beliefs. It is bizarre and it is stupid!
Anyone who thinks that race and religion are not going to be important factors in this US Presidential race need to think again. Even with the US economy on the brink of free-fall into a recession (some might say the abyss of depression), the idea that race and religion keep coming to the fore says something about this historic moment for the US.
I am not an American. But, if I was I think there are more important things at stake in this presidential election other than whether Sarah Palin can strip a moose or the fact that Obama's middle name is Hussain.
Then again that's just me!
25 September 2008
I am proud to be Australian! Always have been and always will be. That does not mean I have to agree with what other Australians do and neither does it mean they speak on my behalf.
After the racially driven anti-Islamic school ruckus in Camden some months ago there is more trouble brewing, this time in Austral, a suburb within the Liverpool City Council area. Some might argue that the Camden decision was purely a zoning and environmental suitability issue and the fact that the development proposal was from the Quranic Society was irrelevant. The footage that played out on the TV and commentary in the media would suggest that religion had everything to do with the ultimate decision even though it might have been packaged some other way.
These tensions are about to be reignited as a company called ASFA has lodged a development proposal with the Liverpool City Council to build a joint primary school and high school facility to be known as Qaadari College. The student capacity is expected to be no more than 600 pupils. I am not sure that there are any requirements that you have to be a Muslim to enrol or that you have to agree to become a Muslim to enrol.
In comparison, I teach at a few universities in Indonesia, one of which was established by a Christian family and maintains a Christian philosophy. I have noticed some Muslim faces in the crowd, those wearing the Jilbab or Hijab, so the policy is clearly not one of exclusion or inclusion based on religion. So, if this were to be the case with Qaadari College would this make any difference? Would it make any difference if the development proposal was from a group wanting to build a 600 pupil college to be known as St Paul's College?
The residents near the proposed school say that it would not matter. There only concern is that a 600-pupil school will destroy the serenity they currently enjoy and upset the peacefulness of the area. I am guessing the peacefulness here is not some Zen Buddhist approach to life. Maybe the concern is that if it is a Muslim school then there are sure to be the obligatory call to prayer. So, maybe this is what will disturb the peace?
If this is true then so be it. However, even if it is true then the agenda is seemingly just about to be hijacked by those keen to promote and highlight the ills of a multicultural Australia and those that are keen to use such development applications to promote an anti-immigration platform and the value of maintaining an Anglo-Celtic-European-white heritage. If you want to check out the thought patterns of these individuals then register at australianidentity.net and have a read for yourself. You cannot get on without registering first.
There you will find these little pearls of wisdom:
"Multiculturalism means never having to go overseas to find an enemy."
If this does not tell you what these people are about then you do not understand the subtlety of the sledge hammer. The above is the signature of someone known as Casapound. I do not know whether this is important but Casapound is a "Hero Member". I suppose the site sets out how one becomes a hero member but I have not gotten that far into the site to find out.
My guess is that those opposed to the development proposal will be organizing themselves through sites such as this one and others.
My concern is that these proposals are not being considered on merit but rather on the basis or fear and intimidation. For me, fear and intimidation is not the Australian way, or at least it should not be in 2008.
I want my kids to grow up in an Australia that is tolerant of the great diversity that we have.
These are things for me to ponder.
You do not have to register to browse on the Australian Identity site. I did have to register to leave a comment.
It seems that this has not escaped the Australian political scene. The new leader of the Federal Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull (photo Glen McCurtayne), has confessed to having indulged himself. He did not go so far as to say that unlike some others he in fact inhaled but that was clearly the gist on the confession.
Unfortunately, he went on to imply that it was a youthful indiscretion and that the drug is harmful and it was a mistake to smoke it. He was right in suggesting that many people have smoked it and many continue to do so.
He is not the first Australian politician to admit a youthful past that involved smoking a bit of wacky weed. It is fun to imagine Wayne Swan, Peter Garrett, and Tony Abbott, among others, to be sitting around passing the joint or bong around with their mates. It all seems so normal, they seem almost real and not just politicians in nice suits.
If the drug is damaging then the onus would apparently be on the government to ban all damaging drugs or at the very least restrict their access to the scientific labs of the world. In this sense the government should be moving swiftly to list tobacco and alcohol as restricted drugs and / or substances. If it does not then it makes a mockery of the prohibition on marijuana.
Marijuana needs to be legalized so that it can be better managed. The revenue boost from taxes would also be a benefit. The government could then divert a proportion of the marijuana revenue stream to scientific and medical research. Then we could get definitive answers to questions on whether there is any real medical benefit from smoking marijuana for those with long-term illness and suffering chronic pain.
I look forward to the day when a politician steps up to the plate and says something like this, "Yeah, I smoked marijuana in my youth! It really did not do anything for me, there was none of the famed munchies or anything else, so I gave it away!"
Then going on to say, "Now, that said, I have friends who swear by the benefits in terms of keeping them relaxed and happy".
And then finishing with, "I really don't see the need to keep the drug illegal! I would think that better controls over the drug would reduce drug crime related to marijuana and this has to be a good thing for us as a community. The additional revenue would also allow us to direct more money to research!"
The icing on the cake would be a party leader taking this to an election as part of the party platform.
I guess it is time for me to go home and reactivate my wanna be political career. I think I could make this part of my platform!
Bulent Ersoy (photo from AP) is famous in Turkey as a singer and actor. She was born a man and underwent gender reassignment surgery (that is the politically correct term, right?) and became a woman in 1981. However, this is not her current claim to fame.
Ersoy seemingly criticized Turkish policy with regards to the Kurds and the protracted war that Turkey has engaged in with the separatist Kurds. She had been subpoenaed to appear at an earlier hearing but had failed to appear. This time she did appear as the court made it clear that if she failed to appear in court this time then the court would be forced to ensure that she made an appearance.
The charge is "turning the public against military service". This carries a maximum term of imprisonment of three years if guilty as charged. Ersoy appeared in court in Istanbul on Wednesday and plead her innocence and reaffirmed that she stood by her previous statements. This reaffirmation was that there must be a better way of resolving the Kurdish issue without killing each other. Quite simply, 24 years of separatist fighting has claimed upwards of 40,000 lives and a resolution is still nowhere in sight.
The exact statement was, "I spoke in the name of humanity and even if I am condemned to death, I will repeat the same: we have to find a solution instead of killing each other".
The interest in this case is several fold. However, there are definitely issues of free speech involved.
Turkey is also looking to join the European Union and it will be interesting to see whether there is any talk of free speech and other human rights related issues, particularly in light of the fact that Turkey is seeking to join the EU.
Her statements about not wanting to send one's son off to a stupid war resonate with me. Perhaps even more so now that I will soon be a father and have a son of my own.
"Some of you say religion makes people happy. So does laughing gas. So does whiskey."
-- Clarence Darrow
When one first looks at the title of the film "HariPuttar" you could be forgiven for thinking that this is rip-off of the highly successful Harry Potter books and films. However, on closer inspection it is not hard to see that Hari Puttar A Comedy of Terrors has more in common with Kevin McCallister / Macaulay Culkin than he does with Harry Potter / Daniel Radcliffe.
In order to protect its intellectual property Warner Bros brought a law suit in India claiming that the film Hari Puttar was an infringement of its copyright. The Indian court quite rightly rejected the claim and went to some length to point out why people generally would not be confused by the two. This included the obvious, Hari Puttar has nothing to do with magic!
It is good to see that an Indian court has been able to bring a bit of common sense to this overly-sensitive IPR claim from Warner Bros.
Thanks to this case I now know that Hari is Hindi for God and Puttar is Punjabi for son.
There can be no dispute that death can be big business particularly when people seem to be doing it at regular intervals. The premium on space in and of itself makes privately owned and operated cemeteries an attractive business prospect.
However, when the new owners of a previously held Anglican cemetery are Muslims and that cemetery is in the same local government area as a recent development application for an Islamic School that was vigorously opposed and ultimately voted down, then the fun and games are sure to start all over again.
The current ruckus surrounds the purchase of the St Thomas Anglican Cemetery in Narellan by the Lebanese Muslim Association. This was no minor outlay considering that the LMA paid AUD 1.5 million for the land. It is also worth noting that the former owner of the site bought it for a mere AUD 90,000 in 2004 (photo by Quentin Jones).
The cemetery itself has space for 4000 bodies and it is expected that this will provide some relief from the current shortage of space. Not all religions allow for cremations, which to my mind, is the ultimate space saver, so there is a need for new land to be made available for cemeteries.
The LMA has issued a prospectus that states that the An-Nur Islamic Cemetery and Burial Ground will have space for 1900 single plots and 3800 double plots and can conceivably cater for the needs for burial space in Sydney's south-west for 10 to 15 years.
Presumably, this is the Muslim community's needs that are being catered for. The reality is that there is only one New South Wales cemetery with a dedicated Muslim section and that is Rookwood. Rookwood is running out of space across the board in terms of how many more graves it can accommodate.
The sale seems to have angered some locals who feel that the heritage of the site should have been protected and the site should never have been sold. Some are even arguing that the Anglican Church did not have a right to sell the land. Yet, it was the Anglican Church who decided to sell the site to a funeral firm, Camden Valley Funerals, headed by William and Christine Cole in 2004, and it is this funeral firm that has since sold the site to the LMA.
The history of the cemetery dates at least from 1839 when official records started to be kept. So, there are families who can trace ancestors back almost 170 years in the cemetery. The Coles have apparently insisted that any development of the land respect the graves presently there and that the land be divided up into both Muslim and non-Muslim sections. It is not clear whether this insistence is reflected in the contract of sale though.
Nonetheless, it would be a reasonable request that graves presently on the site not be demolished or moved without the consent of the families involved. The Camden Council has listed the site in the Local Environment Plan which means that any moving of the graves would require council approval.
Nevertheless, Shawky Kassir, President of the Muslim Association, has indicated that the present graves would be protected. He is also confident that the idea of a Muslim cemetery in the area is not going to generate the same sort of fierce opposition that the Quranic Society's application to build a school did.
I guess time will tell on this front.
24 September 2008
The survey per se is not all that controversial as it asks those surveyed for their opinions based on their perceptions. However, what the survey has done is to highlight how perception and reality can diverge. The survey has also highlighted why perhaps some of those Indonesian institutions who have embarked on comprehensive programs of reform might want to also consider getting some public relations help in order to highlight these reforms in the public domain.
Arsil, a researcher from Lembaga Independensi Peradilan (Institute for an Independent Judiciary / LeIP), which focuses exclusively on judicial reform in Indonesia holds a similar opinion. Arsil feels that the results of the survey highlight the disgraceful reputation that the judiciary and the judicial system have in Indonesia. Nevertheless, Arsil was quick to note that the survey was more about perception than anything else and perception is a reflection of the ability of the courts to management their public communications. The simple philosophy here is that it the courts better manage the flow of information about itself then the public will have access to better and more accurate information on which to base any future judgments or perception.
The courts have been subject to significant judicial reform and this process of reform is ongoing. However, Arsil sees a critical mistake and that is how the Supreme Court manages the reform process internally and then projects this information to the broader public. The reality is that the public can only form their perceptions based on the information that they have at their perusal.
Not all of these reforms have a direct impact on the public and an example of this is a Decision by the Chief Justice contained in Decision No. 144 of 2007. This Decision was the first of its kind for an Indonesian institution and required a greater level of transparency in court processes. Even though the focus of the Decision was internal transparency within the courts it would have nonetheless been good public relations for the court. However, it was decided that because the Decision had no direct impact on the public then it was not necessary to promote this reform publicly.
Clearly the party most responsible for changing the image and consequently the perception of the Supreme Court is the Supreme Court itself. Unfortunately, to date the Supreme Court has been what can best be described as passive. In contrast the police have been active in publicly promoting police reforms. However, the lag time between publicly promoting reform and a change in perception is considerable.
The reality is that there is a distinct connection between the perception of the institution and the public’s trust in that institution. Poor perception means a low level of trust. This in turn leads to a credibility problem in that the public does not see the institution as being credible with regard to its primary function. In the case of the Supreme Court this means that the negative perception results in a belief that the Court is not a credible law enforcement agency.
Mas Achmad Santosa, a highly regarded legal practitioner active on law reform matters, stated that he can see the survey itself from two perspectives. First, he sees it from the perspective that any law or judicial reform efforts undertaken by the Supreme Court are yet to yield any concrete results with respect to public perception. Second, poor public communication in terms of self-promotion of the initiatives undertaken and the successes achieved.
To overcome this it is clear that the Supreme Court needs to do two things according to Mas Achmad Santosa. Firstly, an internal evaluation of the reforms undertaken to date and a catalogue of successes created. Secondly, there needs to be a communication strategy developed so that the Supreme Court can better promote the reforms undertaken. It is thought that the best means of developing a successful communication strategy would be to work with the Department of Communication and Information or perhaps even the Indonesian Capital Investment Coordination Board (Badan Koordinasi Penanaman Modal / BKPM).
The BKPM might seem like a strange choice. However, as Mas Achmad Santosa points out, part of the BKPM’s role is to provide a source of information to current and potential capital investors in Indonesia about the legal framework, the degree of legal certainty, and the legal system in general. It is well within reason that the BKPM as part of this information strategy also publicize court reforms, particularly if there is an impact on business.
In a purely business sense the failure of the courts generally and the Supreme Court specifically to successfully communicate reforms means that the impact of surveys such as this one can be far-reaching. Investors will think twice before investing in Indonesia if they take the results of this survey at face value. An under-performing and corrupt legal and judicial system is most likely to be seen as a hindrance to good business. To overcome this potential problem the court must ensure that reforms remain on track and a communication strategy must be developed as a matter of urgency.
To this end Mas Achmad Santosa provided an example of where the Head of the Religious Court had been sanctioned for an indiscretion. The sanction itself highlights that the Supreme Court is more serious than it has been in the past to clean up its image. However, the fact that the sanction was never communicated to the public meant that the public knows nothing of the sanction. The question is then, “how can the perceptions of the public towards the courts change if the reforms and sanctions are never communicated?”
Mas Achmad Santosa is still hopeful that the Supreme Court can develop this communication strategy and better inform the public of the progress being made.
Interestingly, not all people agree that there is a difference between the reality and the perception when it comes to the performance of the courts. Emerson Yuntho from Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) was unequivocal in stating that the results of the survey not only reflect the perception but are close to the truth. In Emerson’s view the idea of controversial verdicts and corruption in the court system or the judiciary is not a perception but a fact and consequently the perception and the reality are the same. One of the key problems that Emerson sees is that the courts themselves are not taking these matters seriously and cites the fact that judges who accept bribes and are guilty of other misconduct are, at best, subject to administrative sanctions. Therefore, when people see judges getting away with merely administrative sanctions then public confidence in the judiciary is eroded even further.
Emerson was far more skeptical when questioned about Supreme Court reform. When asked about this Emerson answered the question with a question, “what has the Supreme Court done?” In his opinion the only reforms of note have been with regard to ‘openness’ of information and that this reform has only occurred because of donor pressure. Emerson was certain that when donors stopped funding reforms and pressuring the court to undertake reforms that these ‘reform’ programs would cease automatically.
This suggests that there is no real intent to reform within the court or judicial system, but rather talking reform is all about getting money through aid programs directed at law reform.
PERC is a Hong Kong-based consultancy. The survey asked 1,537 corporate executives working in Asia to rate the judicial systems in the countries where they reside. The basic variables used included: the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), corruption, transparency, enforcement of laws, freedom from political interference, and the experience and educational standards of lawyers and judges were also considered.
“Year after year, our perception surveys show close correlation between how expatriates rate judicial systems and how they rate openness of a particular economy,” PERC said. “Better judicial systems are associated with better IPR protection, lower corruption and wealthier economies.” explain PERC.
Interestingly, a survey by a Hong Kong-based consultancy has found that Hong Kong rates the best with a score of 1.45 on a scale 0-10. In this survey a score of 0 is the highest possible score and 10 is the worst possible score. Hong Kong was followed by Singapore (1.92), and then Japan (3.50). Indonesia ranked last with the lowest score of 8.26. Vietnam came in slightly higher than Indonesia with a score of 8.10 and China (7.25) was almost a point better than Vietnam.
The PERC survey would seem to confirm the results obtained in Transparency International Indonesia’s (TII) survey of December 2007. The TII survey also ranked Indonesia’s judiciary as one of the most corrupt institutions of State considered in the survey. The most corrupt in the TII survey were the police. Similarly, a recent survey by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) also had the Indonesian Court system as the second most corrupt institution in the State. The only difference being that the KPK had the Office of the Public Prosecutor as the most corrupt.
Aria Suyudi, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Policy (PSHK), said of the TII survey, that the results reflect the public’s perception of the courts. Aria went on to explain that the perception is different perhaps from the reality because most of those surveyed were not familiar with the legal and judicial reforms going on at the Supreme Court. Therefore, there was also little surprise from Aria that the PERC survey also found the Indonesian judiciary to be wanting and the worst in Asia as the results seem to be based on questions relating to perception of the system rather than the reforms taking place. Simply, those surveyed, whether they be corporate executives or investors, are just not sufficiently well-informed of the reforms taking place in the judicial system, according to Aria.
Furthermore, Aria highlighted that the perception is an old one and fails to take into account the progress made by the court system as a whole and more specifically the Supreme Court. Aria cited the example of the Supreme Court decision database. The Supreme Court decision database is an online database of Supreme Court decisions that can be accessed by the public.
Hasril Hertanto, Secretary General of Masyarakat Pemantau Peradilan Indonesia (Indonesian Judicial Watch Society / MAPPI), had a similar opinion to that of Aria, and stated that the system in Indonesia is not the worst. It must be noted that Hasril acknowledged that the system was not excellent either but just OK. For Hasril it was not so much the system that is inadequate but rather the inadequacies lie with those who are tasked with running the system. According to Hasril it is the human resources that are not sufficiently prepared and as such do not have the capacity to run the judicial system. This lack of preparedness has meant that corruption has not been completely eradicated and as such the mistrust remains as do the negative perceptions of the system.
The mandatory retirement ages for judges and justices (judges preside in lower courts and justices generally preside at the Supreme Court) has been steadily rising but is dependent on judges and justices satisfying required medical and health standards. Within this context there has been some debate as to whether judges should be appointed for life in the same way that justices are appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. The idea of life appointments was to free judges and justices from political interference as they would no longer be worried about future appointments when their respective terms expired.
The setting of a mandatory retirement age would be the middle ground between renewable term appointments and appointments for life. In Indonesia, for example, appointments to the Constitutional Court are for a term of five years. At the conclusion of this term a justice can reapply for reappointment for an additional five year term.
The most recent increase in the mandatory retirement age has allowed Manan to serve as Chief Justice through until his 67th birthday which falls on 6 October 2008. Manan has not been seen to be active in the debate and discussion on the latest push to raise the mandatory retirement age and dismissed persistent questions on the matter from journalists with, “that’s the business of government”. When pushed he simply said that the Supreme Court has no legislative function as a judicial body and that the bill is part of “the authority of the President and House of Representatives (DPR)”.
However, Manan did add that in a philosophical way the push to raise mandatory retirement age makes sense as the longer a judge or justice serves in that capacity the more capable they would become in the performance of their jobs and duties. In response to persistent whispers that Manan might benefit from the amendments to the retirement age he invited journalists to his office and happily pointed out all of the empty bookshelves adding that his personal library had been moved to Bandung.
The bill is expected to be finished after Eid or perhaps in the next parliamentary sitting according to M. Nasir Jamil who has been involved in the discussion and debate of the bill and represents the Prosperous Justice Party. Jamil went further to say that none of the discussion related to any particular individuals and that the bill, once passed, will not operate retrospectively. According to Jamil the only way for Manan to extend his term is for Manan to do it for himself. However, Manan has ruled this out unequivocally by informing all of the journalists present in his office that he has already submitted his resignation to the President and all that remains to make his retirement official is the completion of the necessary administrative procedures.
There are critics of the proposal to raise the mandatory retirement age of justices to 70 years of age. One of these criticisms is that there will be no ‘regeneration’ in the Supreme Court’s judicial ranks. This is unlikely to gain much of a foothold as there is clearly a belief and an understanding that the justices that are to sit on the highest court in the land are to be the best of the best and as such when a vacancy becomes available then the next and most highly qualified candidate will be vetted and subsequently appointed to fill the vacancy.
The current retirement age for Supreme Court justices is 67 years of age. Current justices on the Supreme Court that are going to reach the mandatory age of retirement over the next several months include the following:
1. Prof. Dr. H. Bagir Manan SH, MCL / 6 Oct. 1941 / Chief Justice
2. Marianna Sutiadi SH / 12 Oct. 1941 / Deputy Chief Justice (Judicial Matters)
3. Dr. H. Parman Suparman SH, MH / 13 Oct. 1941 / Junior Chief Justice (Criminal Matters)
4. Prof. Dr. H. Kaimuddin Salle SH / 23 Oct. 1941 / Justice
5. Iskandar Kamil SH / 31 Oct. 1941 / Junior Chief Justice (Special Crimes)
6. Soedarno SH / 9 Nov. 1941 / Justice
7. German Hoediarto SH / 24 Nov. 1941 / Junior Chief Justice (Military Matters)
8. Andar Purba / 19 Dec. 1941 / Justice
(Source: Supreme Court Law and Public Relations Bureau)
Nevertheless, there are those that believe that regeneration is the key to success in terms of reform of the judiciary. A former Supreme Court Justice, Benyamin Mangkoedilaga, is one of those. However, he is also in favor of raising the current mandatory retirement age to 70. This agreement is based on the condition that any amendment to the mandatory retirement age does not become effective until 2009.
Generally, there is agreement on the need for the increase in the mandatory retirement age, and as Jamil has stated, the bill is set to be finalized and passed in the near future.
23 September 2008
The THR must be paid no later than 7 days prior to the date of the religious holiday being celebrated. The need for this to be paid sooner rather than later is to ensure that workers have sufficient funds to satisfy their extra needs during the period. It is expected that employers will pay the THR on time.
Nevertheless, the Minister fully expects that some employers will not pay on time and the Circular instructs the various Governors, Regents, and Mayors to remind employers of the provisions and the requirements to pay on time. The Circular also allows for the establishment of special teams that are tasked with assisting those workers with complaints regarding the payment of their THR.
The Circular is current as of 3 September 2008.
The amendment of the Income Tax Law has been in the pipeline for some time and as is the Indonesian way of legislation, important bills tend to have myriad of issues identified within the proposed provisions. The list of problems identified with the amendments runs to some 770 issues in this case. This list of problems ensures that debate is long and passage time even longer. It also meant that Commission XI of the House of Representatives (DPR) and the Work Committee set up to resolve these issues had plenty of work to do.
This work was expected to be resolved by the end of 2008 and the amended legislation will be passed by the DPR. However, the DPR has seemed to have made light work of the problems and the Bill was passed by the DPR on 2 September 2008. The general consensus was proved right in that the amendments were technical in nature and did not trigger a significant ideological or policy debate.
Individual Tax Rates
The amendments ensure that there is a reduction in the number of taxation levels from the current five to just four. The maximum rate of taxation will fall from 35% to 30%. Salaries up to IDR 50 million will be taxed at 5%, salaries between IDR 50 and IDR 250 million will be taxed at 15%, salaries from IDR 250 to IDR 500 million will be taxed at 25%, and salaries above IDR 500 million will be taxed at 30%.
The amendments also see the removal of the Fiscal Tax that is paid by residents leaving the country. This will be phased in commencing in 2009 and be in full operation from 2011. The idea of phasing out the fiscal tax is based on the assumption that people will obtain a tax file number in order to be able to take advantage of the no fiscal clause. Therefore, those who already have a tax file number appear to be the most likely to see an immediate benefit from this initiative.
Other amendments include incentives for those making contributions to religious activities; incentives for listed companies; incentives for micro, small, and medium enterprises; the taxing of revenue not currently classed as taxable objects (such as the Bank Indonesia surplus), and incentives designed to make Indonesia an attractive destination for both domestic and foreign capital investments.
The amendments are expected to ensure that Indonesia has in place a modern, effective, and efficient tax code that will contribute significantly to national development.
Earlier Versions of the Bill
The only difference of note between the earlier version of the Bill and the one that was passed by the DPR is that the intended insertion of Article 2A did not survive the discussion and debate process and consequently was not inserted into the final version of the Bill.
However, for the purposes of review, the new law clarifies or simplifies the following income tax matters:
1. subjects and objects of tax;
2. tax object exceptions;
3. claimable fees;
4. spouses that choose to have a tax payer number of their own;
5. net income calculation norms;
6. non-taxable income thresholds;
8. tax avoidance prevention;
10. foreign tax credits;
11. taxation provisions in the mining and Syariah sectors; and
12. tax facilities for micro, small, and medium scale enterprises.
Corporate Tax Rates
Aside from the benefits that individual tax payers get to enjoy from the amendments, it is worth noting that the government has not ignored corporate tax payers. The current corporate tax rates of 10%, 15%, and 30% will disappear in 2009 in favour of a single corporate tax rate of 28%. In 2010, this corporate tax rate will fall to a flat 25%.
For those companies wanting to go public the new tax provisions provide for a 5% discount on the usual applicable tariff where at least 40% of the shares being offered are offered to the public and subsequently purchased by public buyers.
The government realizes that micro, small, and medium scale enterprises play a significant role in employment and development in the regional areas of Indonesia. Therefore, the recently passed bill recognizes this contribution by providing a discount of up to 50% on the applicable tax rate up to IDR 4.8 billion for gross distribution.
As was noted earlier the Government has moved towards phasing out the fiscal tax currently payable by all Indonesians and residents of Indonesia. However, other objects that are no longer going to be subject to tax include student scholarships, financial assistance, educational funds, and research and development. It must be noted that the exemption on research and development taxation is dependent on the excess funding being ploughed back into the research and development program within four years.
It is clear that the Government intends to improve the legal certainty of tax collection in Indonesia. However, this requires that the government tighten enforcement and tighter enforcement requires provisions that are not only clear but easy to comply with.
Indonesian tax payers will be bearing a lighter tax burden in the future and the Department of Finance is of the belief that the lighter the burden the more likely income earners without a tax number are going to register and pay tax. This will increase tax revenue and decrease the numbers of Indonesians not paying their share.
The key will be enforcement. The provisions appear reasonably solid. The only thing standing in the way of the Directorate General of Tax collecting all payable tax is no longer the legislation but the methods used to enforce the provisions.
In what many would consider a surprising turn of events over the last seven to ten days, the long and tortuous journey of the Bill on Pornography looks set to come to an end. Most pundits have the bill being passed by the full plenary session of the House of Representatives on 23 September 2008 or very soon thereafter. The passage of this bill has seen its fair share of controversy and the very passage of the bill is unlikely to bring to a close these controversies.
The primary concern is that the definitions scattered throughout the bill remain vague and open to interpretation and thereby decreasing the legal certainty in the field. There seems little debate that there needs to be express or explicit provisions inked into law. However, there is considerable debate as to whether there needs to be a specific pornography law considering many of the provisions are already regulated elsewhere in Indonesian law such as the Law on the Protection of Children and the Indonesian Criminal Code.
The bill started this journey as the Bill on Anti-Pornography and Anti-Pornoaction (Indecency). The indecency provisions were in general dropped from the law as these were seen as being more problematic as they tended to deal with private behaviors and were much more subjective in nature. However, some of the indecency provision have been maintained and have been reclassified as being pornographic. The bill in its current form is just the Pornography Bill.
Pancasila and the Bill
Interestingly, the bill starts off with considering the ideals and values contained in Pancasila. Pancasila is the State ideology and contains five basic principles which are supposed to guide the State and her people. Pancasila is very much about tolerance and promotes the idea of unity in diversity (or a more literal meaning of “many but one”) however there are serious questions as to whether this bill promotes diversity and unity in that diversity or is merely a means of tightening governmental controls of public and private behavior to a very narrow set of moral and ethical norms.
The intent of the bill and the construction of the provisions are the two sides of the one coin. The intent is clear; pornography is dangerous and exploitative and therefore must be prevented and where possible eradicated. Nevertheless, even where the intent is reasonable the construction can be poor. For example, where a particular definition is so broad that it can conceivably be interpreted in several ways without breaching the general essence of the definition. One of the primary criticisms of this bill is that the definitions are so broad that just about any image can conceivably fit the definition.
What is Pornography?
Pornography is defined in Article 1 as, “any material of a sexual nature that is made by humans in the form of a pictures, sketches, illustrations, photographs, writings, voices, moving pictures, animation, cartoons, poetry/rhymes/prose/verse, conversation, body movements, or in any other communicative message form via a any form of media communication and / or displayed in public, which heightens sexual arousal and / or breaches moral norms within the community.”
Generally, pornography services are services provided to facilitate pornography such as television, cable television, radio, telephone, internet, electronic communication devices, newspapers, magazines and other printed medium.
This provision is problematic and subjective on a number of levels. Article 4 expressly prohibits the offering or advertising of pornographic services either directly or indirectly. For example, is a newspaper that accepts an advertisement for a massage service indirectly advertising a pornographic service?
Even more interesting is whether a theatre that runs a play or performance that involves nudity protected by the art and cultural provisions discussed later or are that at the mercy of the authorities for permitting a prohibited pornographic performance?
Another issue not properly resolved in the bill is how are artists such as Inul and Dewi Persik to be considered under this law. Perhaps more to the point should they be considered at all under these provisions. It is still to be resolved who is to be the arbiter of the community norms with respect to whether artistic expression is protected or not.
The bill explicitly states that the regulations governing pornography are to be non-discriminative yet appear to regulate certain behaviors not only as being of questionable morality but labels them as being deviant. Some of these behaviours that are deemed deviant include homosexuality, lesbianism, and oral sex.
There is a strict prohibition against the listening to, the watching of, the ownership of, and the storage of pornography except where the prevailing laws and regulations grant the requisite authority to possess pornographic material. This means that anyone with any of the elements of the sexual material noted earlier will need to rid themselves of this material as soon as possible. Failure to do so will put the individual at risk of prosecution. This particular set of provisions will need to be read in conjunction with other prevailing laws and regulations as it is unclear for example how someone receiving an email with offending content is to be dealt with if they open the file and the image is stored in the cache memory.
The penalties for voluntarily or agreeing to be a model for material that is deemed pornographic attracts significant jail time and fines. The maximum amount of jail time permissible is ten years or a criminal fine of IDR 5 billion. When one considers that the wearing of a bikini could run afoul of the provisions if the context is deemed to be counter to the intent of the provision. However, this assumes that the photo of the bikini was a marketing campaign to sell more bikinis.
Art, Culture, Custom, and Ritual
The bill purports to make exceptions for pornography that is deemed to be artistic, culturally necessary, part of an acknowledged custom or ritual. It was only recently that when the bill finally looked like getting over the line that small protests broke out. One such protest included Balinese women wearing a traditional see through kebaya that clearly showed the outline of the women's breasts. This might arouse the sexual needs of some however the kebaya is clearly a traditional piece of clothing that is common to many of Indonesia's diverse ethnic cultures.
However, the elucidations to the provision suggest that the interpretation is restrictive and is dependent on not arousing the sexual desires of those who view the material. The example given in the elucidations is one of naked statues.
It is unclear as to what else might be considered under this definition. Are the bare-chested women participating in a ritual or customary ceremony protected from prosecution simply by claiming a tradition, custom, or ritual? The lack of legal certainty in this regard has caused a considerable amount of anxiety to be voiced by those in Bali and Papua.
Bali is particularly worried as there is a concern that the bill, once enacted, will have a devastating impact on tourism. However, the intent of the bill does not seem to be directed at women wearing bikinis or men wearing speedos at the beach.
The sum total of the bill’s regulation of child pornography and the protection of children is contained in two short articles, Articles 16 and 17.
Article 16 simply requires people to protect children from pornography. Article 17 requires that children exposed to pornography are rehabilitated.
The Community’s Role
Aside from the definition of pornography, the role of the community is the most often debated provision. Yet, the bill seems to provide a broad role for the community in prevention while simultaneously limiting that role.
Of most contention is Article 21 which simply states that, “the community can play a role in the prevention of the production, dissemination, and utilization of pornography.” This is clearly a very broad mandate for the community to play an active role in the prevention of pornography in the general community.
However, Article 22(1) stipulates that the role of the community as envisaged in Article 21 is to:
(a) Report breaches of this law;
(b) Initiate class action lawsuits in the courts;
(c) Undertake socialization activities to explain the prevailing laws and regulations in this area; and
(d) To provide guidance to the community with respect to the dangers and impacts of pornography.
Article 22(2) is explicit in stating that any actions taken under the provisions of 22(1)(a) and (b) must be done so in compliance with prevailing laws and regulations and the perpetrators of any actions are to be fully responsible for those actions.
The provisions can reasonably be interpreted to be restrictive as to what actions are permissible by the community. Nevertheless, the provisions are simultaneously and perhaps purposefully vague in this regard.
There are both criminal sanctions and administrative sanctions contained in the bill. The bill also allows a judge to call founders and administrators to appear in court where the corporations they represent are alleged to be involved in a breach of the provisions of this bill.
The criminal sanctions range from 6 months to 15 years imprisonment and fines ranging from IDR 250 million to IDR 7.5 billion. Where the offense includes the exploitation of a child the liabilities are increased by one-third.
The administrative sanctions include the suspension of business activities, the cancelation of business permits, the confiscation of any proceeds of crime, and the revocation of incorporation.
The bill gives anyone with pornography one month to rid themselves of any offending material.
The bill will come into immediate force upon its enactment.
It is clear that the House of Representatives is keen to see this bill passed despite considerable opposition to it. It is unclear, and remains so, as to why there is a need to regulate pornography in this way. However, it seems that politicians in the lead up to the general and presidential elections believe that this bill establishes their credentials as being tough on crime and taking the high moral ground. Yet, there is no-one arguing that pornography is a good or positive activity, the arguments relate to necessity.
Questions remain as to how serious the government is with respect to enforcing the provisions once the bill passes the House and is ultimately enacted. Simply, without the full commitment of law enforcement the bill becomes just another law on the statute books.