28 February 2008

Update on Garuda Pilot

Well, it seems that Garuda in a show of solidarity with the pilot allegedly responsible for the crash that killed 21 people in Yogyakarta last March (2007), it has offered the gentlemen the option of resigning or being fired. He, Captain Marwoto Komar, opted to resign.

Apparently, the final report suggests the the pilot was so 'fixated' with landing that he ignored 15 warnings lamps and alarms.

The unfortunate pilot is being charged with negligence for his actions leading up to the crash. He is currently out on bail.

27 February 2008

Film Festivals the Japanese Way...

It is being reported that this weekend will see a rare festival or more aptly a screening of Japanese "sexual films". Unfortunately, I am not in Japan to see this rare festival and cannot rightly say whether 'sexual films' is code for pornography. Nevertheless, I am guessing that it is. The festival is the 'Extreme Love Festival'. It seems that the Japanese do not do anything in moderation!

It seems that the French are quite happy to be involved in the screening of films with explicit sexual content. To this end the French Embassy is sponsoring two French films; "Baise-Moi" ("Fuck Me") by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi and "Une Vraie Jeune Fille" ("A Real Young Girl") by Catherine Breillat. If I recall correctly Baise-Moi ran into some censorship trouble in Australia when it was to be screened there.

Generally, porn is readily available in Japan but the genitalia are obscured or blurred. The Antara news report suggests that it is not uncommon to see the blokes flipping through pornographic magazines on the subway trains of Japan. I gotta say, I was in Tokyo last August (2007) and rode the subway everyday for a week and did not see anyone flipping through a porn mag! Although there does not seem to be any such modesty or prohibition when it comes to hentai or pornographic comics.

I wonder when Indonesia will have an "Extreme Film Festival". Nah, I am not really wondering as it will not happen in my life-time. But then again, never say never! :)

Soeharto: Dead & Buried but Not Forgotten!

The civil case against Soeharto is continuing as the government ratchets up its pursuit of the Supersemar millions that were allegedly misappropriated for ventures other than those that they were intended for. By an interesting twist of fate or perhaps just a simple quirk in the Indonesian legal system, it seems Soeharto's kids do not only inherit any wealth he may have left behind but they also get the good fortune of inheriting his liabilities as well.

The public prosecutors and judges in the case seem to think that this movement of liabilities is all above board and have demanded that the kiddies appoint lawyers to represent them in the case or the case will proceed without the kiddies being represented. So five of the six have appointed lawyers. Seemingly, this is Juan Felix Tampubolon, a long-time Soeharto lawyer and presumably confidante. Tommy Soeharto in his infinite wisdom has not joined his brothers and sisters on this one and appears to be refusing to appoint any counsel! I guess only Tommy knows why this is.

Tampubolon is expected to lead expert witness testimony that Indonesian law does not permit the transfer of civil cases to the heirs. The idea of transferring a financial liability is one thing but transferring the sins of the father is a completely different kettle of fish. Even when one considers that the evidentiary burden in a civil trial is the balance of probabilities and not beyond a reasonable doubt it remains to be seen whether or not the children know anything about the foundation or its processes that may impact on the decision of the judges.

It is not an understatement to say that when Soeharto died so did the secrets that he held. But I am looking forward to the legal arguments that will undoubtedly unfold as this case progresses. It would be the ultimate irony for Soeharto to be made a national hero and for his kids to be picking up the old fella's tab in the civil case.

God Hates Australia

It is important to learn something everyday. Today I learned that God hates Australia!

I have written about the Westboro Baptist Church in passing when I wrote my post about the passing of Heath Ledger. This little flyer is something they published at the time when they were jumping up and down claiming that God had already started to visit his wrath on Australia and had started with Heath Ledger. It appears that Ledger's crime against God was to portray a homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain. I guess this means that the Christian God really is a vengeful God!

Generally, I try and be understanding of all, even the far Christian right, but this supposed Church is so far right that I do not think they are in cooee distance. Besides, I just do not see that rational argument is an option here. Look, how do you argue a rational point of view with a Church whose website address is www.godhatesfags.com? Afterall, these are the same religious zealots (I must admit other words came to mind other than zealot) that protest at the funerals of returned service men and women in the US.

Apparently, God is killing America's young men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq as punishment for moving away from the pure teachings of God. It appears that in particular God sends down his wrath against anyone or any country that tolerates homosexuality.

The above just goes to show that there is no one religion that has a monopoly on fundamentalist teachings and interpretations. Even ones that seem to cross the line to vilification and hate speech in some pundits books!

At least Australia can now move on from the "where the bloody hell are ya?" tourism campaign and onto one such as this: "Come and visit the most corrupt and decadent place on the planet" or "hurry to visit the most corrupt and decadent place on earth before the wrath of God takes it all away!" I would imagine that if the Westboro Baptist Church is right then Australia will not have a lot of time to capitalize on this pre-wrath destruction so Tourism Australia better "get the party started", to borrow a line from Pink!

This is a good test for those who clamour to protect free speech and those who seek to limit free speech. The flip side of free speech is the freedom to ridicule, to insult, to belittle, and to mock, among others! The question though is when does this apparent freedom to ridicule and insult cross the "line in the sand" to vilification or other criminal speech?

I am a big believer in free speech but an equally big believer that if one wants to enjoy the freedoms of speech then they must respect that this is not an absolute or unlimited freedom and be responsible for the words they utter!

I am sure that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church believe whole-heartedly what they preach and most, if not all, would be prepared to go to jail for their beliefs. Ahhhh, such is the power of religion and faith in God!

But no matter what the Westboro Baptist Church thinks -- I am proud to be an Australian and will remain proud right to the end whenever that may be! So, Westboro Baptist Church -- you lose!

26 February 2008

Jakarta Traffic

This one is for the cynic in me. The police in Jakarta have conducted a 10-day operation in which they were targeting motorists who were breaching traffic laws and regulations. The underlying premise of this operation was to improve driver discipline. No drama there and good luck on the discipline front!

However, it is reported that the good police officers recorded more than 18,000 violations of prevailing traffic laws and regulations -- no shock there either! It is reported that from these 18,000 plus violations a mere 2,948 tickets / citations were issued. So, this means that there were more than 15,000 friendly warnings issued to the not so law-abiding motorists. One must assume that these 15,000+ offences were not so serious as to warrant a ticket.

But here is the thing, and this is the cynic in me, I have not come across that many police who are into free friendly warnings. My personal experience has always been that a free friendly warning always involves a "transaction" either a ticket or the Soeharto get out of jail free card, that nice blue IDR 50K note! The value of the transaction generally depends on the seriousness of the offence. The reason people pay is simple; going to court is a hassle and the payment to court officials is not any less! If you want to read about this practice there are plenty of descriptions on the web and a simple Google search will lead you to many of them.

The even more cynical me generally thinks that perhaps there were considerably more violations than the 18,000+ noted and that these were not recorded for whatever reason!

There is no doubt that motorists in Jakarta and more generally in Indonesia need to get some discipline happening but this is not gonna happen with operations like this no matter how many official and unofficial tickets are issued. The reality is there needs to be better technology to track people with driving licenses and cars. There also needs to be better enforcement; simply people who violate the law enough times in 12 months lose their license. If they get caught driving without a licence they pay a huge fine and if they get caught twice they pay an even bigger fine and if they get caught a third time then they should automatically enjoy the hospitality of the State in prison!

The government needs to install red light cameras and be active in fining people and taking their licenses away when they do not pay.

Perhaps an incentive system for police to catch and ticket people properly could be implemented. Although, an incentive system like this is susceptible to corrupt policing it would not be any more corrupt than the system now. Motorists could still contest the fine!

This sort of system would also alleviate employment and perhaps even transport issues in the capital, people losing licenses means they need to employ new drivers, hence increasing employment opportunities, or leave the car at home and therefore there are less cars on the road! A winner either way!

Likelihood of happening -- Zero! Yep, the big "0"...

God and Hitler

It seems that God and Hitler are going to be disciplined after attending the same party. The wash-up to the Australian soccer season was a grand final ceremony / party to mark the end of the season.

One player of German extraction (born and raised in what is part of the former East Germany) saw fit to wear a costume that made him look like Hitler. There is no surprise here that someone complained (anyone remember Prince Harry wearing an SS uniform several years back?). There is little doubt that Hitler was a bad dude and was ultimately responsible for the perpetration of a Holocaust so it begs the question; when are people going to realize that getting dressed up as this bloke is going to get you into trouble?

On the God front -- it is not clear who complained but the offence it seems was to dress up as God and then blacken one's face. The news piece does not really go onto outline what the offence is with regards to dressing up as God. I am guessing it is not the white robes but rather the blackened face that offends, but assumptions are always dangerous! It is not like we know whether God has form and we know even less about the colour of the skin. The basic assumption seems to be that God is a man (after all if you are Christian you know that God created Jesus in his image!) and as Jesus is usually painted or drawn or characterized as being white then God must be white too! So, maybe the black face is the problem???

No need for a long and drawn out debate on this one about the origins and form of God or Jesus for that matter.

More updates to follow if there are any follow-up news pieces regarding the disciplinary process, I suppose.

Jimly Asshiddiqie & the Constitutional Court

The only thing apparently standing in Jimly's way to a second term on the Constitutional Court is personal political ambition! The previous months have often seen Jimly in the public eye at political events. Whether this is openly courting support for a second term on the Constitutional Court or courting support for a bigger play on the political stage such as the Vice-Presidential nominee on a favourable ticket remains to be seen. But there seems little doubt that the Chief Justice (or as he prefers the President of the Court) is angling for much bigger fish!

There is considerable parliamentary support for the current Chief Justice and in this sense he would be an unbackable favourite to be one of the three nominations that the parliament can make. The other six nominations are split three a piece between the Supreme Court and the Government (red: President).

The thing about Jimly is that he is consistent in his decision making and that provides a degree of certainty in the legal process. It is pretty much a case of you know what you will get decision wise. I certainly do not always see eye-to-eye on the interpretation of the Constitution aspects nor the manner in which retro-activity has been defined and now enshrined in Indonesian law (I know who cares, he is the Constitutional Law Professor and expert and you are but a mere lawyer -- yep, but an opinionated lawyer!). But to the Court's credit it has been consistent on this front.

Nevertheless, the danger is always going to be judicial ego, the idea of overstepping the mark from judicial review and interpretation to that of law makers. I have recently had a short but interesting "to and fro" with the Chief Justice on this point. The Court views itself as the ultimate guardian and interpreter of the Constitution and in this respect sees itself as a balancing and where necessary a correcting force to all those less educated souls on constitutional law.

My personal view is that the Chief Justice should throw his hat into the ring for another round. If he is serious about leaving a legacy, then two-terms on the Court should pretty much enshrine any legacy he wants to leave in the judicial sense. But if the call of public service is too great, and I am sure that it is, he will more than likely be opting to try and kick start a political career where any legacy he might leave could be much broader and far-reaching than any legacy he might leave at the Constitutional Court...

Time will tell!

24 February 2008

Clinton vs. Obama

Is the race for the Democratic nomination for the White House really that important? Sure, the race will be one of firsts all round; the first African-American, the first Woman, and maybe even the first POW...an interesting race for sure but is it important?

From the perspective and the belief that the President of the United States of America occupies the seat of the most powerful person in the world, then it is a clear cut answer that the race for the White House is important. Nevertheless, the dynamics of world superpowerdom is changing and it might not be so far into the distant future that the US shares its superpower status with others again. Then the hot seat that is the Presidency of the US might not be the most powerful any longer.

Yet, the reality is that it is still a powerful post. So, with Obama in the ascendancy and the Clinton campaign in seeming free-fall, what are we likely to see when we look into that little crystal ball?

There are stark differences and equally stark similarities between the two Democrats. Both talk change and Obama at least in the sense of his rhetoric talks a better fight. But he is green in the sense of being new to national or federal politics as it is in the US and the real question voters must ask themselves is whether they believe he can now walk the talk! Clinton on the other hand is a polarizing figure at the best of times and it is this love hate relationship that is most likely to be her undoing (assuming she gets undone). She is a political insider and as such is likely to be able to effect more immediate and last change if she was committed to doing so. She knows the rules of the game and is the better day one player. Yet, having only been exposed to the Washington establishment for a short time as a Senator, then maybe not knowing these rules are to Obama's advantage.

Obama is being touted as the new Jack Kennedy which is an interesting comparison because Jack Kennedy's success depended not solely on his apparent charisma, charms, and relatively good looks compared to a somewhat dour opponent and obvious political insider. Yet, Kennedy's victory is testament as much to a savvy PR machine and considerable financial resources and some might argue special interests. Jack Kennedy was a realist he left much of the idealism to his brother, RFK. The question on this front is in his assassination shortened tenure as President of the US did he really make the changes that is inauguration speech is so often remembered for highlighting?

Being labeled as the next Jack Kennedy would seem to be a label and burden I would want to do without. Sort of takes away from you being your own man. Sort of like Megawati always failing to live up to the expectations of those who want her to be the political reincarnation of her father, the charismatic, charming, ladies-man that was Indonesia's first President, Soekarno! Now moving to the Indonesian connection.

The Indonesian connection. Obama's mother was married to an Indonesian and Obama spent some of his childhood in the Menteng area of Central Jakarta. But Indonesia should not expect any special favours from Obama if he manages to pull off his quest to become the first African-American President. Indonesia has not come up in any of his stump speeches and only has been referenced in passing in more wide-ranging foreign policy speeches. At best Indonesia should only expect to garner about as much attention as it does now. Sure, the candidates have set out some general foreign policies and what is striking is that even with Obama's obvious connections to Indonesia there does not seem to be any significant importance placed on Indonesia in comparison to what Clinton has said...

Obama might be hailed as an honorary Indonesian and given the keys to the country in honour of being the first African American Step-Son of an Indonesian to become President but this might not be enough to gain Indonesia any special access or favours.

A fascinating race to be sure...Those Indonesian's interested in the outcome I am sure will remain glued to their news sources and following the race closely and for the rest of us, whatever!

23 February 2008

Time vs. Soeharto vs. Time

This past Thursday (21 February 2008) the defamation / libel case that Time Magazine has been engaged in with the former and now dead President Soeharto has entered the next phase with lawyers for Time filing an appeal. The earlier Decision of the Supreme Court that awarded the former strongman or dictator some USD 106 million in damages is according to the lawyers for Time contains a "manifest error".

The manifest error is likely to stem from the fact that two lower courts found in the favour of Time prior to the decision being overturned in Soeharto's favor at the Supreme Court. The reality is that this error is likely to be argued as being the facts of the case do not meet the defamation or libel standards contained in Indonesian law for an award of damages and particularly one this large.

The appeal brief must include new evidence or highlight that a major injustice would be perpetrated if the appeal decision of the Supreme Court is allowed to stand. Technically without either of these conditions being met the Supreme Court may simply refuse to accept the petition.

There are certainly freedom of speech, expression, and press issued in this case. But even more interesting is that the Supreme Court ruled that Soeharto had been defamed by the Time article yet the State continues to pursue its corruption case against the "now
pushing up daisies" former President.

Updates to follow as this has potential as morphing into an interesting legal debate on interpretation of the prevailing laws and regulations in this area.

Australian Cows in Lampung

A little factoid just out of Lampung!

The province of Lampung has imported some USD 116.5 million worth of Australian "pedigree" cows during 2007. Unfortunately, for bean counters there were no figures released in terms of how many head of cattle this was but rather the more useful figure of that the imported cows weighed a collective 67,737 tons.

For those against the live export of animals this will surely be an issue of concern. But for Australian farmers, particularly those breeding pedigree cows, the Indonesian market looks like it may continue to be a profitable one!

Killing the Cartoonist!

Sometimes I might be at a loss for words but this is not one of those times!

Surabaya and Medan, Indonesia's second and third largest cities respectively, endured protests about the re-publication of 12 cartoons depicting the image of the Prophet Muhammad. The issue here is a prohibition against the publication of any depiction of the Prophet. Presumably this prohibition also extends to non-Muslims as protestors in both cities demanded that the cartoonist here be arrested and put to death. I would guess a trial would not be necessary because there is already an aknowledgement (admission or confession) from the cartoonist that he drew the 'offending' cartoons.

I guess we can just cut to the chase and be off with this poor fellows head!

Aside from the obvious freedom of speech and freedom of expression issues that permeate this debate there is the issue of whether the response is proportional and whether it does more harm or good to the perception of Islam being a tolerant faith.

The freedoms of speech and expression are not absolute and not without some restriction, but it does not appear on face value that these cartoons have breached this standard. Sure, they are offensive to some members of the community and by the world-wide response here this community is not just in Denmark! This has culminated in the recent arrest of some individuals plotting to bring the cartoonist to justice by murdering him for his alleged misdeeds in drawing cartoons of the Prophet.

The fact that these type of protests get off the ground and draw considerable numbers in Indonesia, which promotes itself as practicing a tolerant and moderate form of Islam, highlights and plays into the hands of those fear-mongerers suggesting that radical Islam and fundamentalists are taking over the religion debate and Indonesia is on the path to a much less tolerant demeanor towards those who are non-Muslim. This is even more of a concern when the debate is characterized as one of being either your with us or against us! Simply, the debate degenerates into one of the enemies of Islam doing whatever they can to undermine the true faith (Islam) including the publishing of cartoons.

In response at the time, and if I am not mistaken, my "favourite" Islamic hardliner, the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, held a competition that allowed entrants to take the proverbial 'piss' by drawing cartoons intended to offend all Christians and Jews. By all accounts entries were few and the majority of those seemed to be directed at Jews and the holocaust. This would fit though with the Zionist conspiracy beliefs of Ahmadinejad and his continued statements regarding the fiction, as he sees it, of the holocaust...

It seems that engaging in rational debate and defending the positions that we adopt has been replaced by the idea of vigilante justice where one kills first and asks questions later. It is a fine line between freely expressing offensive ideas and crossing over into the less savoury territory of vilification. But perhaps this is not a decision that should be made by the court of public opinion but rather by learned judges if the sentence demanded is death.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind!"

19 February 2008

Ban the Babies

This was part of a choice heading from the Sydney Morning Herald which in full reads "Ban the babies, say air travellers". This very worthy news piece was based on a survey of 2400 Australian travellers on the totaltravel.com website. A whopping 81% of respondents to this very worthwhile survey said that babies and presumably the baby's parents should be segregated on long haul flights.

The primary reason offered up here by respondents was that listening to a baby cry for 12 straight hours is no fun. Really, are you kidding me? I have not seen a baby cry for 12 straight hours but whatever.

Sitting next to or in close proximity of someone with questionable hygiene standards is also the proverbial pain in the arse from what I can tell. Have you ever had to sit next to someone who flicks of their shoes and then have the heady aroma of toe jam float around you and the cabin for 12 hours or so. Nope, lucky you! But my take would be that these hygiene-challenged individuals should also be segregated for my flying pleasure.

It is only a small leap before we want to start segregating people based on other supposed differences..."Sorry sir, but you have blue eyes you may only sit in rows 21 to 25"..."Sorry ma'am but it says on your ticket that you weigh 65 kilograms, you may only sit in seat number 10D, we have to keep the aircraft balanced you know!" Ohhhhh, the discrimination of it all!

We should never forget that at one time we were these screaming cantankerous little buggers we call children. Give the parents a break you only get to enjoy their pain for a mere 12 hours, they get to enjoy it for the whole holiday!

Wake up and smell the coffee, order another wine, whack in the headphones and chill to the latest movies or the latest groves without having to leave your seat. One thing airlines have become so much better at is in flight entertainment. So, get your money's worth there and stop worrying about the screaming kiddies! Have you ever noticed that with the improvements in in-flight entertainment there has been a corresponding decrease in the level of service provided by the flight attendants - how bizarre?!?! :)

Happy Travels!

Judicial Appointments

The soon-to-be retirements of a number of Justices from the Indonesian Constitutional Court and the imminent end to the remaining Justices appointments for their first term has re-ignited the debate about the mechanisms for deciding judicial appointments and the format of any term of appointment. Re-ignited the debate at least in legal and political circles. It would not be of any surprise if the majority of the population was not following the developments or they did not give the proverbial 'rats' on the outcome.

For legal and political watchers the filling of legal vacancies and the amount of passion that arises in US circles is testament to the critical role that judges play and the influence they can exert on our lives. For this reason alone people must care about who gets the nod and who does not when it comes to judicial appointments, particularly to the highest courts in the land. In the Indonesian case this is either the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court.

Having recently had the opportunity to hear the current Chief Justice (he prefers to call himself the President) of the Constitutional Court speak and the role he envisages that his first 5-year term has played in setting up the future direction of this particular court, then Indonesians should be concerned and interested in what appointments are to follow.

In the US justices to the US Supreme Court are lifetime appointments. Justices can retire and in some cases might even be forced out where they become just too old, and dementia or senility sets in and their abilities wane. Some jurisdictions such as Australia set a mandatory retirement age of 70 years old. Others such as South Africa set term limits to 12 years for a once only term.

Indonesia on the other hand sets a mandatory retirement age of 67 and also term limits of 5 years with the possibility of a judge being appointend for 2 terms. The Indonesian age and term limits reflect arguments and debates advanced at the time of the drafting of the legislation. When one considers that in the immediate aftermath of the brutal dicatatorial regime of the former President Soeharto there was a fervent desire to ensure that power could never become entrenched in a similar manner again, the simplest answer was obviously setting time limits to public service.

This needs to be re-evaluated now that this fervour has died down and more realistic mechanisms and systems of appointment to judicial positions can be discussed and debated. The key issue is the independence of the judiciary from influence from government or other places. The idea of a 5-year appointment and the possibility of an additional 5-year appointment flies in the face of the concept of an independent judiciary.

Simply, the first 5 years will be spent ensuring that you stay on the right side of your potential backers for a second 5-year appointment. This means that the courts ultimately become overtly political and increase the difficulty of justice ever being seen to be done.

The idea of a one-off 12 or 15 year appointment is also problematic if there is a mandated retirement age which might fall before the appointment ends. But even more troubling with a one-off appointment is what a waste of knowledge and experience if at the end of the one-off appointment the relevant Justice is still a further 10 years away from mandatory retirement!

People are living longer and the economic reality is that as a community we are going to have to keep people working longer in order that they can save enough for what is likely to be a long retirement.

Appointments for life to the highest courts are not such a bad idea. Specific conditions can be put in place with regards to annual health checks after a certain age (75, 80, 85, or 90, whatever). However, where the stakes are considered to be too high for a lifetime appointment to be agreed a mandatory retirement age without any term restrictions is the way to go. Simply, it does not matter whether you are appointed at age 35, 40, 50, or 67, if the mandatory retirement age is 70 then you retire at 70!

This all seems too simple to me. I do not see where the hassle lies. I guess politics gets in the way!

The rule of law and legal certainty demand that the Indonesian judiciary and the Indonesian parliament face up to this task and make some headway into resolving this emerging problem. It is not a now or never issue but it is a sooner the better one!

18 February 2008

Jane Fonda and the Big C-Word and that's not CNN!

Hey, I must confess it has been a long time since thoughts of Jane Fonda entered my mind but I guess when you use the Big C-word on national TV you are sure to draw some attention. I just do not have the time to sit around and watch her aerobic videos anymore and in any event the gratification can be much more immediate surfing the net than sitting in front of the tele!

I really want to write the word out in full rather than have to do this, c&#t (this link is for any one looking for a little bit more about the word -- those of you that are easily offended do not open the link), but I know you're reading out there somewhere Ma and this is for you!

Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhhhhh....self-censorship what is my blog coming to?

I am not at all offended by the word and that is probably because people have been calling me one for as long as I care to remember. Besides my take on this is that the word represents a vital piece of equipment and that as far as I can tell women would have great difficulty if they were without one. Furthermore, it is a piece of equipment that is not always just business, you can always whack in a bit of pleasure as well. So, when it is all said and done when people call me the big C-word I understand it to be a term of endearment and an acknowledgement that I am a useful person :)

The word is used frequently in the Vagina Monologues, so I am told, and I must now admit my lack of culture here and admit to never having seen it, the
Vagina Monologues that is!

Mt. Merapi

Following on from the previous post I also had the chance to get up to the foothills surrounding Mt. Merapi whilst in that part of the world. I also had not been to Mt. Merapi for an even longer time than the amount of time since I was last in Yogya. So, long in fact that there has been an eruption or two since I was last there.

Climbing Mt. Merapi is on my bucket list and as I am now moving into the "you're an old bastard" list as well, it is high time I organized this otherwise the bucket will get up the mountain before I do.

The last eruption took a few lives and destroyed a good deal of property. But as I was standing there on the now hard and dry lava bed I wondered why it is that people think they can go up against mother earth and win. It really is a case of when Mother earth gets going, the tough might stay, but the smart get going!


Last week, 14-16 February 2008, I had the good fortune of being invited to present a workshop in Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) in Yogyakarta. I have not been to Yogya for a number of years and every time that I do go back I wish that it was for longer than a couple of days. Yogya is a place I would like to live and I guess my fondness stems from the fact that my introduction to Indonesia was Yogya. Introduction here means the first two months I spent in Indonesia, I spent in Yogyakarta.

But as the title to this post suggests that it is not really about Yogyakarta at all but rather it is about Borobudur. I have been to Borobudur a number of times now and the reality is that it does not change much over time in the grand scheme of things. I think that I keep going back to spot the little changes such as any renovations or re-ordering of the stones which supposedly tell a story. But rather by my reckoning these stones look like a collection of disorganized sheets of paper torn from a book and then stuck back in in any old place.

Aside from that I always forget to take a hat and get sunburnt and then have to endure the taunts of those who think I look like a boiled crab!

One thing that never changes at Borobudur are the souvenier sellers. If anything they have become more agressive and super persistent. Each of them has a tragic tale of existence to tell and for all I know these tragic tales are undoubtedly true. Yet, I could not make myself buy stuff for the sake of buying stuff...I really don't need any t-shirts that are 4 sizes to small and most of the other really gaudy trinkets on sale I have already bought on previous occasions...So, I resisted even though at times that resistance seemed like it was going to be futile.

However, one of the guides there (a reasonable speaker of English for any of my non-Indonesian speaking readers) by the name of Agus. Agus doubles up on his guide duty with being a bit of a fortune teller on the side and his friends seem to consider him a bit of a legend on the Javanese mysticism front.

No cost was involved and no tip was expected but as always any donation was appreciated. Funnily enough most of what he said seemed to make sense and seemed to be leaning more towards being true than false. He asked me no questions and just got straight to work...there were no far-reaching predictions of life and death but nevertheless interesting tidbits about career and family. So, if your ever in that part of the world just ask anyone of the guides about this bloke and they will point you in the right direction.

I would encourage you to go and look at Borobudur for yourself...The above photo is from my very own collection (and not some copyrighted photo I stole from the web)!

"Winning" is Just a Matter of Location

I always used to wonder what happened to the "Champions" t-shirts and caps that were pre-made but not anymore...Even in losing someone gets to be a winner!

The foregone conclusion that was a New England Patriots win in the 2008 Super Bowl did not only not happen but there was the dilemma of what to do with the pre-made goodies celebrating the win that never happened. There was obviously no such dilemma for the underdogs and eventual victors, the New York Giants!

Apparently, the World Vision organization has a deal with the National Football League (NFL) that allows for this merchandise to be shipped off to the needy in far away lands. These far away lands probably have little or no interest in who the 'real' NFL champions were anyway. And the poor and needy kids now wearing this merchandise are just happy to have a new t-shirt and hat. Call it pro-active recycling where losers become winners! At least in Nicaragua the New England Patriots are Champions of the (NFL) World :)

So, the children of Nicaragua are now proudly wearing t-shirts and caps proclaiming the New England Patriots as NFL Champions. The fact that the New England Patriots are not the Champions is irrelevant but the real winners here are who ever dreamed up such a great idea.

I salute you!

17 February 2008

Anonymity in the Blogosphere

It seems that my selection as ‘Blogger of the Week’ has triggered a bout of name calling from all sides of the debate about anonymity and blogging...By the way I am happy to have been chosen as a blogger of the week and I am happy that it has triggered the debate that it has!

Seeing it was this selection that started this off I want to add my “two bobs worth” to the argument!

I think that if people choose to blog anonymously then that is their right. I believe the ability to write anonymously is part of the free speech rights that we should all enjoy! However, it is a legal fact that free speech is not absolute nor is it free from limitations. It is these limitations that one must consider and an argument on point here relates to hate speech but here in lies the problem of anonymous writing and blogging — how do we as a free and democratic community hold those people accountable for their hate speech when we do not know who they are.

So in this regard there is some value in the arguments (the arguments themselves not necessarily in the manner in which they may have been made — but to each his own on this frint!) advanced. To this end I would have characterized my concerns with anonymous blogging not as cowardice but rather having the ‘courage’ of your convictions to enter into public debate and be exposed to the full glare of public scrutiny for the opinions that one holds.

Once again to each their own!

What is not in dispute here is the right to blog anonymously but rather how do we as a community hold those responsible who cross the line from simple inoffensive personal musings into areas where vilification, defamation, slander, and liable reside?

I appreciate that some people will trot out the reason that anonymity is critical because their topics of choice are sensitive and that they employ a lot of people or are responsible for their livelihoods and if this is your justification for remaining anonymous, then so be it! The Indonesian legal system has some really serious problems but it is not all gloom and doom on the fair trial front!

This argument considered has me thinking that I too am responsible for a lot of people’s livelihoods, mine included, but in that sense I am replaceable! My bosses might have a difficult time in finding someone but I am sure they could and would if they were required to. If the government or some other ‘big brother’ agency comes after me and boots me out of Indonesia after an inherently unfair trial because I am white, then as Ned Kelly is reported to have said “such is life”!

I am sure that the censorship police would have ways and means of uncovering my blogging identity even if I was publishing anonymously. There must be mechanisms in place that allow investigators to terrorise ISPs or whoever else keeps blogging data that would see me tracked from here to wherever.

Although when push comes to shove I think I would give a pretty good account of myself in an Indonesian court and my case (and hopefully the stars align in such a way that this hypothetical case never eventuates) might open the door to greater freedoms of speech in this developing democracy that is Indonesia. Maybe this would be enough to convince bloggers that threat of deportation or other negative impacts from holding certain opinions to reveal themselves in all their glory, so to speak!

But in any event what I do professionally can be done exclusively online so if the worst case scenario was every to happen then I could conceivably base myself just off Indonesia’s shores until such time as normality was restored!

The Indonesian Ulema Council - Fatwa Time!

My understanding of the perceived powers of the Majelis Ulema Indonesia. The MUI is indeed a relic and must be preserved in the historical record but issuing fatwas against Valentine’s Day seems to be making moves in the wrong direction.

The fatwas of the MUI are not legally binding in the sense of rule of law in Indonesia, but that is to simplify to the extreme the force and weight that these fatwas carry. To use a boxing analogy the MUI punches well above its weight! However, the fatwas do not draw their strength from force of law but rather public pressures on government officials to not be labelled as being anti-Islam or bad Muslims for failure to heed the advice of the MUI as contained in the fatwa.

When you set up an organization to be the final determiner of what the Koran and haddiths say or are interpreted to say then you create a situation where you have to take the good with the not so good.

The other issue with fatwas and particularly the fatwa outlawing the beliefs of Ahmadiyah seem to be in direct contravention of the supposed provisions of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief. Just because something diverges from the mainstream does not make it automatically wrong or even misguided. Let’s face it if the Church could have had its way we would still be learning that the earth is square and that the sun revolves around the earth.

I was not surprised that the thread degenerated quickly into which religion is the more evil or which is the right path to paradise / heaven (this posting is based on a comment I made to the above thread). Men, women, and children have killed in the name of their respective Gods for many, many, many millenia and perhaps the MUI needs to issue a fatwa that on at least one day of every year people have to come together irrespective of their relevant faiths and spread and share some love — you do not have to call it Valentine’s Day, call it an inter-faith day of tolerance and peace for all I care, but let’s move on from the hate and the blame and the mistrust!

Sinful Valentine's Day

This is a verbatim copy of a comment I posted to Indonesia Matters and relates to a posting on that site regarding attempts to erase Valentine's Day from the social calendar because it is a day of sin. The comments also relate to some of the comments of other commentators to the post (so go read the original post for yourself)...

I guess this is why the term "globalization" was coined! Rapidly developing technology and ease of communication means that cultural influences other than our own can permeate the whole world -- some good, some bad but that's the way it goes.

The only way to stop it is to prevent people from communicating with each other, prevent travel to different local regions and foreign locales, and to generally restrict the basic rights of citizens -- if this were to happen then we might have a real conspiracy on our hands!

But that said it is a creative approach to whip out an old law or create new laws that label certain cultural traditions like Valentine's Day a sin and then let the very heavy hand of the law deal with it! It is not the right approach but you do what you do!

Jewish conspiracies and Jews ruling the world through the domination of the mass media and the monopolization of capital and any other theory out there all stem from that same source that the Jews are responsible for the death of Christ and are to be punished for it. Let's not forget that the crucifiction of Christ was possibly a political power play and that Christ was a Jew and the distinction between Christianity and Judaism may have really been a result of seeking out political advantge in tumultuous times (these differences have supposedly become more pronounced over time)...a reading of the Gospels will enlighten the reader to where the blame game originated.

Yet, when it is all said and done this absolute domination of world affairs has not allowed the Jews to remove the nonsense being spouted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about wiping Israel of the face of the map from public discourse -- so much for world media domination! To be brutally honest I do not see the extermination of the Jews bringing about any positive changes in my life, it has been tried before although Ahmadinejad would have us believe that the Holocaust is a fiction and that it never occurred. But obviously listening to the man it is something that he desires to see happen now -- a world leader advocating the extermination of a group of people from the earth -- it is time we as a global community woke up and smelled the coffee, we have a serious problem here.

The extermination of groups of people removes from the very fabric of our communities those things that make us what we are. There is no glory or honor in genocide and the Holocaust is a history lesson that as human beings we must not be allowed to forget. even more importantly it is something we must not allow ourselves to repeat!

Killing people for their religious beliefs is just plain morally wrong and I do not think my moral compass is broken on this point!

However, I do see my life taking a significant turn for the worst if Ahmadinejad was to rule my world -- definitely no heaven there!

It reminds me of an oft used argument from the Indonesian context where every time there was rumblings and under-currents of dissatisfaction with the economy the Soeharto Government trotted out the race card that it was Indonesian Chinese almost total domination of the local markets that was the root cause of all this economic evil -- rubbish!

But the real question here is that if I give my wife a box of chocolates and flowers on any other day besides 14 February have I committed a sin in Bukittinggi or some other part of Sumatra?
I would have thought there are more pressing issues in those parts of Indonesia than the sinful nature of globalization and additions to Indonesia's diverse cultural traditions.

A little bit more love and tolerance in the world from all sides would serve us much better than some of the vitriol being espoused here. The issue here is the value of foreign cultural traditions and the manner they are incorporated into local cultural traditions and not one of the big Zionist conspiracy to rule the world -- the Jewish conspiracy is an alternate reality that just does not stand up to scrutiny.

Whatever happened to that base Indonesian ideological concept of unity in diversity?

I do not expect to convert any diehards to my cause of tolerance but as Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi said "You must be the change you want to see in the world"!

So, on that note thanks for reading this far :)

13 February 2008

Trains -- A Spray for Discipline

Discipline and riding trains always brings to mind vivid memories of over-crowded trains and punters taking their lives into their own hands by riding on the roof. I guess compared to hanging out of the door of a moving train and having to contend with all of the track side dangers makes riding on the roof a relatively safe option. Well, at least as safe as riding on an open roof with live electricity wires carrying 1000s of volts can be.

In this very important 'train riding discipline month' being run by the State Rail carrier, PT. Kereta Api Indonesia, people without valid tickets and roof-riders are being fined between IDR 7,500 and IDR 25,000 for their indiscretions. The transportation officers are also confiscating identification cards which is an even bigger hassle than the fine as life in Indonesia is always dependent on having identification. Confiscated identity cards are almost never returned to the owner without the payment of a "facilitation" fee. And it is the facilitation fees that drive the continuance of this practice.

Nevertheless, it is the roof-riders that are in for the most fun. It has been decided that they are too difficult to catch if they refuse to come down from the train roof voluntarily. So, the answer is to spray them with a coloured dye that will allow them to be caught later and fined accordingly.

But as is common in Indonesia this is just another revenue raising venture that does not address the underlying core reasons for people breaking the law; simply there are not enough trains running frequently enough during the peak periods to cater for the demand. If you want to stop people riding on the roof of a train then the obvious answer would be to provide extra carriages so that they have a safe environment to sit in. Alas another example of putting the cart before the horse...

Australia Says "Sorry" to the Stolen Generations

Today hopefully marks a turning point in Indigenous relations in Australia with the Government finally recognizing the wrongs of the past and apologizing for them. What will become of these words in the future? Only time will tell but if you have to start somewhere then this is as good a place as any to start the journey to full reconciliation and healing.

The Apology:

"I give notice that, at the next sitting, I will move:

That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia."

Tempo and the Last Supper

Religious satire and the question of blasphemy rises again in Indonesia. The furore that accompanied the publishing of cartoons depicting the image of the Prophet Muhammad has now turned to Indonesian Catholics being offended by a cover on Tempo Magazine depicting the Last Supper with Jesus and his Disciples replaced by the happy and smiling heads of Soeharto and his kiddies!

This is a case of making a mountain out of a mole hill and the fact that some Indonesian Catholics are forcing the issue by suing Tempo is another attack on the freedom of the press. That said, the cartoons of the Prophet, and Koran / Haddith teachings aside that prevent the rendering of the image of the Prophet in any form, the question of double standard is sure to be asked.

When it is all said and done, and even giving much leeway to the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci, the painting of the Last Supper is no more than one artists interpretation of what might have been. Any reader of Dan Brown's DaVinci Code will probably be able to provide you with all sorts of conspiracy and trivial pursuit knowledge of the coming into being of DaVinci's Last Supper. But it is but a painting.

What is more surpising is the rapid nature in which Tempo backed down and apologized for the offence. There is nothing to apologize for here...

On the cartoon front. It is being reported that Danish police have foiled a murder plot that was being hatched to target and kill the cartoonist who dared publish cartoons depicting the image of the Prophet.

A threat to the freedom of thought and expression anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere -- freedom of thought, expression, religion, and democracy must be defended wherever it needs to be...as Thomas Jefferson once said:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

May we one day find the tolerance that this world will so desperately need to survive its human occupation!

12 February 2008

Jose Ramos-Horta

The assassination attempt against the President of Timor Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta, highlights how far the tiny nation has to go before it finds the political and social stability that is so desperately needs to develop a fragile nation and an even more fragile economy. There is no doubt that Timor Leste has the potential to be a very wealthy country as it has a relatively small population of about 1 million people and huge oil and gas reserves that have not been even minimally exploited at this stage.

Yet, the disfunction of the political elite in Timor Leste is not a new phenomenon or an issue that has not flared in the past. It was not even two years ago that major civil unrest flared when the Government of Mari Alkatiri was forced out. However, many observers had looked at the relatively peaceful Presidential and Parliamentary elections that followed and thought the worst was behind the young country. In contrast, long-term observers recognized that the answers were not that simple and that long-standing tensions simmered beneath the surface.

The arrest and subsequent escape of rogue army man Alfredo Reinado should have been seen as a 'matter of time', perhaps even fait accompli, that more violence was going to flare in the future. Reinado was a cult hero and it is not surprising he sort to enhance this reputation by participating directly in the assassination attempts. However, this exhibition in ego has led directly to his death, as he was allegedly killed in the gun battle that was the assassination attempt. He had always claimed he would fight to the death and his prediction in this regard has come true.

There will need to be plenty of political soul searching in the aftermath and a re-commitment to the ideal of just nation building. Many of the political problems afflicting Timor Leste are exacerbated by the social inequlaity throughout the community and the resentment that this large-scale disenfranchisement breeds. Timor Leste needs to address these issues of social inequality soon and address them comprehensively if it ever intends to overcome and heal the fractures that rack the community.

Those that have returned from exile to a free and democratic Timor Leste must not forget the suffering of their brothers and sisters who were never afforded that chance to get into exile and suffered mercilessly at the hands of a brutal Indonesian military regime.

To Ramos-Horta. The President remains in an induced coma and is expected to undergo further surgery in Darwin later today. On a bright note, the doctors expect him to make a full recovery. This should not though diminish the seriousness of his wounds and the fact that he remains in critical condition.

The most serious of the wounds is apparently a gun shot wound to the back that has clipped a lung and exited through his chest. I guess his more than 25 years of fighting for recognition for Timor has hardened him and he is not going to fold and leave now. Any body that gets 16 units of blood transfused into them (some 8 litres) and lives to tell the tale has gotta be a tough old bastard!

Viva Democracy, Viva Timor!

Death Penalty for al-Qaeda 'Terrorists'

The Military Tribunals to be held and Guantanamo Bay has seen the Prosecutors list six detainees that have now been charged and indicted with conspiracy, murder in violation of the laws of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, destruction of property, terrorism, and material support for terrorism. Four were also charged with hijacking or hazarding an aircraft.

The six are:
  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind;
  • Walid bin Attash, who allegedly trained two hijackers;
  • Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an alleged would-be hijacker but denied a visa to enter US;
  • Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, alleged financier of the plot;
  • Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, who allegedly provided material support (money and clothes); and
  • Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker

The US military has said that the hearings are to be held in a manner that will allow the defense to have access to and contest all of the evidence that the prosecution intends to adduce before the tribunal.

This would seem to be contrary to earlier statements and attempts in other similar cases where the US government has tried to claim among other things the necessity to keep some evidence secret as revealing its source will directly impact on national security. It seems unlikely that the prosecution would not be attempting the same methods to circumvent traditional rules of evidence and the rights to a fair trial in these cases as well.

The defendants have the right to appeal and this process would ultimately lead to the US Supreme Court. However, the issue that is most likely to be the subject of appeal is any confessions from the defendants that are admitted into evidence. By the US government's own admission they tortured Khalid Sheik Mohammed through the use of waterboarding (simulated drowning) and it is likely to be submitted by the defense that the US government permitted the use of 'enhanced' interrogation techniques against the others.

Enhanced interrogation techniques here must be understood to be treatment that borders on torture, or perhaps even falls within the gambit of torture, but under some suspect White House Counsel or US Justice Department memo that states that the President may authorize such treatment to be carried out.

The US government has backed away from these memos publicly but whether it has done so in practice is unclear. The US government will maintain that all the interrogation techniques that the used at the time were legal at that time and were therefore valid. In essence, even if these techniques have since been declared illegal, invalid, or have become of quesionable legality, it does not matter because at the time they were legal under US law.

My early posts clearly indicate that I am not for the death penalty. I am for justice! Terrorists need to be punished and they should rot in jail for the rest of their natural lives. But justice must not only be seen to be done but must be done. Therefore, it is crucial that the process be credible, be justifiable, and be legal! Without this any conviction would be a hollow one and the imposition of the death penalty unjustifiable.

I accept international law allows for the death penalty to be imposed in death penalty states, but the process must always be above reproach. If the State is going to sanction the killing of human beings then the process must evidence that all opportunites were afforded to the defense to make and state their case.

11 February 2008

Taxi Safety in Jakarta

Perhaps a more apt title here would be 'No Taxi Safety in Jakarta'. A spate of robberies over the last week or so by taxi drivers has again brought the issue of safety to the fore. The Department of Transport has made the obligatory statements that it usually does about ratcheting up the frequency of raids in conjunction with the National Police Force. Yet, the reality is this is an ongoing problem and therefore it is in need of a much more integrated and agressive approach from the relevant authorities if it is to ever be overcome.

Indonesia has a lot of poorly adminstered taxi companies and Jakarta has its share as Indonesia's largest city. The close proximity of the satellite cities of Bekasi, Tangerang, and Depok means that the taxi trade can be a lucrative business considering in the greater Jakarta area there is potentially access to some 12 - 15 million people.

It goes without saying that this will also be an attractive proposition for the bad guys who are looking at making a quick buck and getting a mobile phone or two and some jewellery for the girlfriend into the bargain. One of those too good an opportunities to pass up!

It seems that there are more taxis than potential passengers, except when it rains and then there is never a taxi in sight or those that are in sight have a conveniently broken fare meter, so in that sense a passengers choice seems good overall. The reality though is that there are only a small number of reputable companies, but even the reputable companies are encountering problems. This is particularly so in the clamour for drivers to ensure that they can get their taxis on the road and earning money, the reputable companies let their guard down a little in order to get drivers in cars. If your taxi is in the parking lot it is an under-utilized resource, you need 'bums on seats' to be making money!

The best safety tip is this. Order a taxi from a reputable company by phone and have them come and pick you up. I am sure an internet search or a simple question to a work colleague will enlighten you to the names of these companies. If you are a tourist and staying in a hotel there is normally a taxi rank with quality taxis available, but the concierge would certainly be able to make a recommendation to you. So order a taxi or take one from a reputable taxi rank.

This might ensure that you do not have to endure the hassle of being robbed. But even the reputable companies have a number of cornflakes license holders. You know the ones, these are the blokes who pulled their ready made license out of the cereal box at breakfast time! So, even without falling victim to a robbery, you might still be in for the ride of your life, literally!

Happy Travelling to you all...

Egypt - One Step Forward and Two Steps Backwards

A news piece out of Cairo. The Supreme Administrative Court in Egypt has recognized the right of Muslims to convert to Christianity. Well, maybe not that far-reaching as the ruling only applies to Christians who converted to Islam and after consideration and reflection want to change back to their original Christian faith.

This is interesting for a number of reasons. First, Egypt had always applied an interpretation where once someone had converted to Islam there was no route of return no matter what your previous religious faith may have been. This concurs with many traditional interpretations of the Koran which considers apostasy to be a grave sin. Nevertheless, the Koran itself (at least my understanding) deos not proscribe a specific punishment for this sin.

However, I guess if we were to look at it from a legal point and try and decipher what the punishment might be we could look at the response of the Prophet and his followers to see how apostasy was dealt with back in the time of the formation of Islam.

It seems pretty clear that the punishment for apostasy was severe, it was death. So, it is fair to say that the decision in this case is a departure from those very traditional views and teachings. However, it is not all peaches and cream for those wanting to revert to their former religious beliefs as their respective identity cards must note that they are formers converts to Islam who have since converted back to a previous faith.

This condition is problematic as it seems to provide a perfect opening for authorities to discriminate against and victimize individuals converting back to their original beliefs. Hence, one step forward and two steps back!

The Indonesian National Rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition 2008

Well, another year and another National Round of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot competition has passed, at least for Indonesia. This year's Winner (University of Indonesia) and Runner Up (Parahyangan Catholic University) will be heading to Washington D.C. for the International Rounds of the Competition in the early part of April 2008. Good luck to both teams!

The point of this blog entry is to make a few comments about the competition, particularly the quality of the participants and judges, as well as the future.

The quality of the participants improves each year and the standard of the competition as a consequence gets considerably higher and more competitive. For example to progress to the semi-finals in the early years teams could advance with a record of 3 wins against 1 loss in the 4 preliminary rounds. However, as this year's competition shows securing one of the 4 semi-final slots with a 4 wins against 0 losses record is no guarantee of progressing. There were 7 teams in this year's competition with a record of 4 and 0 in the preliminary rounds. This meant there were quite a lot of disappointed teams not progressing to the semi-finals or final.

The rapid improvement in the quality of the participants is important, particularly when one considers there is a need for highly qualified and competent international law advocates in Indonesia. The future looks much brighter with the knowledge that there are students coming through the ranks that will be able to fill that void and fill it well.

However, another interesting point is that the quality of the judges volunteering their weekends to judge the competition is also improving every year. This is critical in not only the development of the competition but also in the development of the quality of the written and oral submissions or pleadings of the competitors. The questioning in this year's competition required competitors to not only have a basic understanding of international law, but challenged them to prove that they possessed a detailed knowledge of not only the facts of the case but had an exceptional command of the prevailing law and its application.

The future of the National Rounds requires more teams to become involved and this will require not only a good deal of marketing from the competition convenors (who are all volunteers) but the vision of the law faculties or schools themselves in seeing and understanding the value of competition for their students. Simply, moot court competitions are an excellent way to develop real-world legal practice skills.

This year's competition saw 20 law schools competing and 7 or so observers (law schools that come to watch and learn what the competition is about without participating in the actual competition proper). This is a small number, albeit an improvement on the numbers of years past. However, when one considers that there are some 227 law schools / faculties throughout Indonesia, then 20 does not seem like a significant number.

Indonesia is a vast archipelagic nation and the tyranny of distance between the outer-lying provinces and Jakarta where the competition is held is dramatic even in this era of low-cost airlines (of which Indonesia has many -- some of questionable safety)...Hence the future for the Indonesian National Round will also need some vision from the convenors of the competition. Perhaps an East and West Region where the champions of each region progress to the international rounds. In this way teams that want to participate but cannot because of travel costs or distance might be able to travel to a regional centre much closer to them in order to participate.

Anyway, there is a need for serious thought and vision in the development of the National Rounds and the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition in Indonesia going forward.

The signs look good and hopefully the reality will be even better.

Good luck!

05 February 2008

Air Safety

The Australian and Indonesian Ministers of Transport have come together to sign an agreement for AUD 24 million. This assistance package is presumably to get Indonesia up to speed on air safety. The Australian Minister, Anthony Albanese, made it clear that Australia has an interest in air safety in Indonesia and that this was brought home in the Garuda crash at Adi Sucipto airport in Yogyakarta last March.

The assistance package will see up to 40 Indonesian air safety inspectors trained in Australia to international standards. I am trying to track down the details of the package to see if it includes anything else because 24 million big uns for 40 instructors works out to be in the "bloody expensive" category for training. I have checked it out and it does include other training such as search and rescue, air traffic management, and transport safety investigations. The package is for three years.

In any event it is a good idea to train-up Indonesian air safety inspectors to international standards, particularly when low cost carriers like Lion Air are trying to force their way into the Australian market.