31 December 2008

More New Year's Eve Fireworks

Sydney always puts on an exceptional New Year's Eve fireworks display. These photos were borrowed from here.

A Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to all those that follow and read these musings of mine.

I hope that 2009 is better than 2008 and that all your hopes, dreams, desires, aspirations, and whatever other choice words there are to describe what you want, are realized in 2009.

I must say 2008 has been a wonderful year for the Wife and I with the birth of our first child, Will. I am sure that whether you like it or not you will be forced to follow his journey as I blog about the comings and goings of his life.

I am certain that 2009 is going to see some significant changes for us, but you will just have to follow along to find out what those changes might be.

Here's hoping to see you all again in 2009.

The photo was borrowed from here. It is off Sydney sending off 2008 and welcoming 2009.

More on Virginity

It is amazing what one stumbles across while surfing the Internet. It seems that there is a thriving market in terms of auctioning off one's virginity to the highest bidder. I am wondering, irrespective of the purpose or rationale for such action, whether this is just a case of prostitution through the medium of an online auction.

Then there are other concerns like how does one know if they are getting value for money? Specifically, that the claim of virginity is real. There is plenty of research that would suggest that a simple hymen test is probably not the best indicator of virginity.

Anyways, Natalie Dylan (apparently not her real name), a student from San Diego, is intending to finance here graduate school education by selling her virginity to the highest bidder. You can find news and commentary on this here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. What is interesting, aside from the fact that this looks a little like prostitution, is that this girl apparently has an undergraduate degree in women's studies from Sacramento State (which if I am not mistaken is part of the California State University system).

By all accounts it is Howard Stern that is going to kick off the auction process. Anything that Howard Stern is involved with is likely to push the edge of the envelope and worth watching in that car wreck kind of a way.

I am not sure that I will be following this story through to its conclusion, although it was a fun read, it just has that "beat up" feel to it! That said, I would be interested to find out how much she settles for and whether or not we get to see the wining bidder.

30 December 2008

More of Will...

The Fellas (Me, Will, and Grancher)

Will getting into the Christmas spirit.

Bath Time!

Virginity Pledge and Abstinence

This is something out of the Washington Post and therefore more focused on what is happening in the US. However, I guess, pre-marital sex is an issue everywhere, including Indonesia. Nevertheless, the US Government is investing considerable sums of cash into abstinence-based programs, some USD 176 million at last count, so it is probably worthwhile knowing whether the programs work.

The survey (a report that appears in the journal, Pediatrics) that the Washington Post quotes suggests that there are plenty of pledgers that cannot go the distance and abstain until marriage. What is disheartening here is that those that cannot go the distance are significantly more likely to engage in unsafe sex by neither using condoms or birth control.

I am guessing I will have to do a little more research to try and track down figures for Indonesia (assuming that they exist) and see what sorts of comparisons can be made.

26 December 2008

Christmas Movies and Cable TV in Indonesia

It's Christmas, well technically it is Boxing Day, so I am not going to focus on the negative. Instead I am going to focus on the positive.

I have gotta say that the Hallmark Channel had a great line-up of Christmas movies. Their program culminated with "A Grandpa For Christmas". Too bad that Will, the Wife, and I had the day out shopping.

Getting off the topic of my own post, it is great to live in a country where last minute Christmas shopping actually means you can go out on Christmas Day and shop!

The Art of Power Napping

Or is it cat napping? Whatever it is there are vast swathes of cyber space devoted to these short bursts of sleep. Some of these sites purport to be academic, informative, or just plain after your hard-earned cash. However, for me it is the art of synchronizing my sleep patterns to those of Will.

He tends to sleep for a couple of hours and then needs a good feed. A good feed is obviously a very tiring experience as it is followed by more sleep. Thus the pattern repeats. Although, I must say the last couple of days we have had an arrangement where the little fella sleeps in really short bursts of 20-30 minutes. This has serious potential to kill me in a very short period of time. I do not need a lot of sleep but I am not sure that 20-30 minute bursts are my thing either.

Hence the need to learn the power napping skills. I was thinking of looking around, learning a little bit more, and then maybe buying a tape (or the more modern version of a tape, a CD, or more modern still download something to the mp3). However, the last couple of days seems to suggest to me that I have either worked it out or I am just getting more used to the parenting thing.

So much so that I am writing this after one such power nap.

Happy holidays to all. May they be safe and prosperous.

25 December 2008

Will -- Getting Older!

The Proud Grandparents!

Nanna, Will, Neng (aka Mama), and Meme

Now you know where Will gets his good looks from (all he needs now are a few tattoos)

The Little Man himself (aka Will)

I have added an age tracker to the top of my blog. This is so anyone interested can track the little fella's age (and then send presents at the right time).

But here are some photos of Will and assorted models.

Merry Christmas

For all my readers who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas!

May it be a season of joy and happiness.

We have already had part of our Christmas cheer in November with the birth of our son. We will be enjoying our first Christmas together.

May your Christmas be a good one (and hopefully you have all been good and Santa will be nice).

20 December 2008

Secret Garden

I have been up all night translating the new Indonesian Mining Law. There is a reason for this madness, money. That got me thinking, "show me the money" and Jerry Maguire, and ultimately the Bruce Springsteen song from the soundtrack, Secret Garden.

I had not heard the song for some time, but the other week I bought a Bruce Springsteen Greatest Hits album and this was one of the songs on it. I really like the song. The words are worth following in order to really get a feel for what the secret garden is all about.

You can view the song here or you can watch the embedded version that I have included here. They are different versions.

The lyrics of the song are:

She'll let you in her house

If you come knockin' late at night

She'll let you in her mouth

If the words you say are right

If you pay the price

She'll let you deep inside

There's a secret garden she hides

She'll let you in her car

To go drivin' 'round

She'll let you into the parts of herself

That'll bring you down

She'll let you in her heart

If you got a hammer and a vise

But into her secret garden, don't think twice

You've gone a million miles

How far'd you get

To that place where you can't remember

And you can't forget

She'll lead you down a path

There'll be tenderness in the air

She'll let you come just far enough

So you know she's really there

And she'll look at you and smile

And her eyes will say

She's got a secret garden

Where everything you want

Where everything you need

Will always stay a million miles away

16 December 2008

Domestic Servants -- Legal Protections?


The Draft Bill on the Protection of Domestic Servants intends to formalize a type of work that was always a part of, and currently remains, the informal employment sector. The rationale is that while these types of domestic service remain a part of the informal employment sector then these workers are potentially subject to abuse and have little or no protective mechanisms to support them when their employment situation turns bad.

Human Right to Work
The government characterizes work as a human right and one that is to be protected. Work is to be a situation where you are paid in accordance for the value of your work and at a level equal to your skills and capabilities. The Draft Bill is explicit that this is to happen without discrimination. The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia after amendment includes a basic “Bill of Rights” and among those rights is a right to work.

Therefore, this Draft Bill is intended to give some effect to that right and to ensure that adequate protections are in place for this right to work to be fully realized. The relevant articles of the Constitution are:
· Article 5(1);
· Article 27(2);
· Article 28A; and
· Article 28D(2).

Two Concurrent Versions of the Draft Bill
There are currently two versions of the Draft Bill in circulation. The first is a Non-Governmental Organization version and the second is a Government version. The version here is the government one.

The government version provides an explanation in the Elucidation as to why the term “pekerja” has been chosen in preference to “pembantu”. Generally, in the context of the home, pekerja would translate to domestic servant. In contrast, pembantu would translate to maid or more specifically, house maid. It is clear from the title of the Draft Bill that the term is intended to be the broader and all encompassing pekerja rather than the more restrictive pembantu.

The most striking feature of the Draft Bill is that it will require all domestic servants to be employed based on either a written or oral work contract that guarantees some basic rights such as:
· to be treated humanely;
· welfare;
· health;
· work safety; and
· any other rights included in the work contract.

This is a striking feature because it is rare if not unheard of that domestic servants are employed on anything other than a basic verbal agreement. These oral contracts are difficult to enforce and general offer little or no protection for domestic servants. This very much leaves a domestic servant at the whims and discretion of their employer. It is interesting that the Draft Bill maintains these oral contracts.

However, in terms of contracts between the end user and domestic servant placement agencies, these contracts must be written and clearly set out the rights and obligations of each of the parties.

These features are contained in Article 3 and unfortunately the Elucidation to this Article states no more than it is “self-explanatory”. For example, is the entitlement to health to be evidenced by the employment taking out health insurance on behalf of the domestic servant?

It is clear that the socialization process needs to address some of the specifics of the protections to be afforded. Simply, without greater clarity in terms of what health, welfare, and work safety entail then both compliance and enforcement will be subjective and difficult.

The scope of the bill is all domestic servants and not just house maids. The provisions cover the following individuals, among others:
1. house maids;
2. caretakers;
3. baby sitters;
4. nannies;
5. governess;
6. gardeners;
7. personal drivers;
8. private security; and
9. private tutors.

The types of employment covered are both live-in and live-out, but all have some relationship to the maintenance of the home or a home environment.

Direct and Indirect Recruitment
The provisions of the Draft Bill cover both privately recruited domestic staff and those recruited and placed through agencies.

Article 5 expressly states that the employment of a child requires the written permission of the parents or guardians of the child. In difficult economic times it seems very likely that this permission will be easy to obtain as parents and guardians will see their 15 – 17 year old children as a source of income. This particular provision appears to run counter to Indonesia’s stated commitments to the protection of the interests of children through to the age of 18.

The Draft Bill sets out the minimum requirements that must be met during the recruitment process in order for an individual to be employed as a domestic servant. These requirements, among others, include:
· possess a self-identity;
· be at least 18 years of age;
· where the age is between 15 and 17, recruitment is for specific purposes;
· the existence of an agreement between the employer and the domestic servant; and
· possess the requisite skills for the work envisaged.

Minimum Age and Child Labor
Interestingly, the Draft Bill seems to set the minimum age limit for domestic servants at 15. Article 6 explicitly states that it is prohibited to employ anyone under 15 as a domestic servant. At 15 one is still a child and this would seem to be legislating positively for the legitimizing of child labor.

Although the Draft Bill seems to modify the work that 15 – 17 year olds can do to “specific tasks” and be limited to four hours of work. And, as noted previously the child can only be employed after the permission of the parents or guardians of the child has been obtained.

Rights and Obligations
The Draft Bill sets out the rights and obligations that domestic servants must enjoy. These rights include:
· the right to a reasonable wage;
· a right to know the type of work that they will be doing;
· an allowance of one month’s salary for their relevant religious holiday;
· weekly and annual leave;
· a right to add knowledge and a right to access information within the framework of improving work productivity;
· a right to communicate and to receive communications from their family;
· an opportunity to organize or unionize;
· breastfeed any children that they have;
· an opportunity to practice their faith;
· a right to maternity leave;
· a right to occupational health and safety (inclusive of reproductive rights);
· a right to not be subject to violence; and
· a right to three sets of clothes annually.

The obligations include:
· to perform their work in accordance with the work contract;
· maintain morality and security in their place of work;
· maintain the good name of the family and protect any confidential family information that they may obtain;
· notify within at least 15 days of any intent to resign;
· complete all work properly; and
· assist in the maintenance of the peace, harmony, and security of their place of work.

The Draft Bill also sets out the rights and obligations for both the employer of a domestic servant and also the rights and obligations for domestic servant placement agencies. For example, the employer of a domestic servant has a right to obtain information on the domestic servant employed. Unfortunately, the Elucidations to this Article provide no insight as to what this information might be. Nevertheless, this information presumably includes such things as the name and age of the domestic servant as well as such information as a home address and previous work history (if any), among other information.

Domestic servant placement agencies have a right to receive payments for their services in providing domestic servants to an end user or employer. The size of any fee is to be stipulated in the written agreement that is to be signed by both the placement agency and the employer.

Termination of Work Contracts and Wages
A work contract can terminate for any number of reasons. However, some specifics are listed in the Draft Bill. These include the death of the domestic servant (and presumably the employer), the period of the work contract has expired, a situation arises that is outside the ability of either party to overcome, and by mutual consent, among others.

If the domestic servant wishes to sever the employment contract, then the domestic servant is to provide 15 working days notice of their intention to do so.

The Draft Bill envisages that the minimum wage for domestic servants is to be set by Provincial Governments, Municipalities, and Cities in accordance with the economic conditions of the respective locations. In addition, the Draft Bill provides that the employer and the domestic servant can agree to any other incentives that they wish.

Work Hours and Leave
The drafters have realized that setting any specific times for work negates the reality that is domestic work; simply the only way to regulate time is on a flexi-time schedule with a maximum number of hours per day that may be worked. The maximum number of hours per day has been set at ten.

In terms of leave, a domestic servant is entitled to one day off per week. Presumably this day is by mutual consent of the domestic servant and the employer. This is in addition to a mandatory minimum six hours of rest per day. Interestingly, this six hours of rest does not seem to be a continuous six hours but potentially it could be in one hour lots or similar.

A domestic servant becomes eligible for 12 working days annual leave once they have worked for the employer for 12 consecutive months.

Dispute Resolution
Any dispute is to be resolved by negotiation between the parties in conflict. If this negotiation does not reach a settlement that is mutually agreed by the parties, then the dispute is to be resolved by involving the Neighborhood Head (Rukun Tertangga / RT) and the Community Head (Rukun Warga / RW). If the involvement of the RT and RW fail to get the parties to reach a mutually acceptable settlement, then the parties can then escalate the dispute to the courts.

The reality is that these provisions as they relate to dispute resolution seek to redress the power balance between the employer and employee (domestic servant). Traditionally, domestic servants have had very little power and have generally been at the whim of their employer. The option of alternative dispute resolution and, if need be, the courts mean that domestic servants will have some legal protection from arbitrary actions of their employers.

It is expected that primary supervision will be by the relevant service division of the Department of Labor and Transmigration. It is also envisaged that the RT and RW will play a role in the supervision on a much more local level.

The basic sanctions in the Draft Bill are administrative in nature and cover breaches of Articles 11, 13, and 17. The sanctions include written warnings, temporary suspension of the activities of placement agencies, cancellation of licenses, and the cancellation of work contracts, among others. However, it is expected that additional sanctions will be included through specific Ministerial and Regional Regulations.

The Draft Bill will come into immediate force on its enactment.


It is clear that the government is intent on providing enforceable protections for domestic servants. It is also clear that in order to achieve this there is a need to formalize the employment situation from its current informal nature.

However, there appears to be some serious shortcomings if the intended purpose is to take these types of work from the informal to the formal. For example, it would make sense that the work contract between the domestic servant and the employer is in the written form. This would ensure that there are better prospects for enforcement in the event that the employment relationship breaks down.

Nevertheless, the intention is an honorable one.

The Draft Bill is currently in the socialization phase. It is expected that there will be considerable input from various stakeholders and therefore the final version of any bill that reaches the House of Representatives to work through the Commission and Committee processes prior to any enactment is destined to be quite different from the current versions.


By way of explanation. This is a revised copy of something I have written for some other purpose. Perhaps some will be interested in the substantive matter that it covers and some won't be interested at all. Nevertheless, I guess if you live in Indonesia and have the luxury of any of these domestic services such as a house maid or two, drivers, gardeners, and the like then the draft bill is likely to be of some interest to you.

We have a domestic servant, a house maid. She is excellent. She works hard and is reliable. however, having read through the provisions she seems to be on a pretty good thing already working for us. Her salary is above average and once she has done the obligatory chores then her time is pretty much her own. Like for example tonight, she asks if she can stay the night with some family who live near by. We have no problem with that and so off she goes.

Provided there are no significant changes to the basic provisions of the draft bill then we are already in compliance. So, perhaps we can tighten the screws a little and make the conditions our house maid works under to comply with the absolute minimum.

Just kidding!

Racial and Ethnic Discrimination -- Reviewed and Updated


The House of Representatives (DPR) passed the Bill on the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination on 28 October 2008. The law has been in the process of being passed since 2005 when it first arose as a DPR Initiative. Indonesia already has a racial discrimination law, Law No. 29 of 1999, which is the enactment of Indonesia’s responsibilities and obligations as a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The premise of the law is that everyone is born the same in the eyes of God and that everyone is equal before the law irrespective of their ethnicity or race. Nevertheless, these aspirations now have a little more gravitas as they have been codified into law. The need for the codification is that all forms of racial and ethnic discrimination are contrary to the principles contained in Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Therefore, it is the Government’s view that this provides a mandate that demands that Indonesia take all steps necessary to remove racial and ethnic discrimination from the Republic of Indonesia.

Challenges of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Indonesia as an archipelagic nation faces many challenges on the race and ethnicity front. These challenges stem from the bringing together of many racial and ethnic minorities under the flag of a unitary republic. Nevertheless, the differences between the multi-racial and multi-ethnic constituent parts of the Republic are often the trigger for violence.

The law simplifies this to one of differences or imbalance in social, economic, and power opportunities which ultimately lead to substantial losses to the communities where they occur. The violence that accompanies these conflicts is usually extreme and involves not only rioting and looting and destruction but rape and murder as well.

Basic Impacts
Aside from the suffering of the local communities, it is also clear that the suffering extends way beyond the local communities and negatively impacts on the short, medium, and long term development of the nation as a whole. These impacts arise because of many factors, for example, a reluctance of investors to invest in areas that are prone to racial and ethnic conflicts.

What’s Covered
The law stipulates that it regulates issues such as the following:
· The basis for the elimination of racial and ethnic discrimination;
· Actions that satisfy the elements of discrimination;
· Provide protections for those citizens that have suffered racial and ethnic discrimination;
· Protect citizens from racial and ethnic discrimination that arises from central and regional government actions and actions of the broader community;
· Supervision to ensure the elimination of racial and ethnic discrimination by the National Commission of Human Rights;
· The rights of citizens to receive equal treatment with respect to their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights;
· Obligations and the role of the community in ensuring the elimination of racial and ethnic discrimination;
· Claims for compensation for losses sustained as a result of racial and ethnic discrimination; and
· Criminalizing discriminative behaviour.

The definition of what constitutes discrimination is broad and can be civil, political, economic, social, and cultural. Race and ethnicity are also defined. Race is defined simply as physical characteristics that distinguish one group of people from another and lines of ancestry. Ethnicity is defined as a group that can be distinguished based on beliefs, values, norms, cultural traditions, language, history, geography, and kinship.

The point of eliminating discrimination is to promote and ensure harmony, peace, and security, among others. Therefore, discrimination is defined as any action that seeks to distinguish or differentiate individuals or makes exceptions for individuals thereby holding the potential to upset the harmony, peace, and security apple cart.

The law and the Elucidations are either silent or less than clear on what impact this might have on any affirmative action programs that may arise in the future.

The objectives of the law are to ensure the elimination of racial and ethnic discrimination. However, simultaneously the law is also seeking to establish equality, freedom, justice, and universal human norms.

The idea of establishing universal human norms is an interesting objective for many reasons. Most notably among these is that many have tried to distinguish between Asian and Western values and that some norms are not universal, particularly in the context that “Asian cultures” favour the group over the individual right. The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, for example, was a staunch advocate of the Asian values systems. One could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the law is Indonesia’s attempt to repudiate this point of view by codifying that there are universal human values with respect to race and ethnicity that must be protected irrespective of where one resides in the world, as this does not seem to be the case.

The reality is that the above claims to universal values worthy of protection are moderated in Article 2(2) with the requirement that the values of equality, freedom, justice and universal human norms be determined within the contextual frame of prevailing religious, social, cultural, and legal norms of the Republic of Indonesia.

Discriminative Actions
The law broadly lists what a discriminative action entails as anything that:
· Differentiates;
· Provides exceptions;
· Restricts; or
· Chooses

The above would require that each of these actions was undertaken within the parameters of race or ethnicity. Furthermore, this would also require that the consequences of these actions include the revocation, or reduction in acknowledgment, or the inability to obtain, or implement a human right in any civil, political, economic, cultural, or social sense.

Racial and Ethnic Vilification
The law also regulates hate speech and vilification in Article 4(b). The provision states that the promotion of hate or feelings of hatred through the use of the following, among others, is strictly prohibited:
· Writings or graphic depictions (pictures), and
· Speeches.

The supervision of the provisions of the law is to be done by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). Supervision will be undertaken through means such as monitoring and evaluation of government policy, investigation and examination of available facts of alleged discrimination, provision of recommendations to government, monitoring and evaluation of programs designed to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination, and the provision of recommendations to the House of Representatives (DPR).

The Role of the Community
The provisions as they relate to the role of the community also address matters related to citizen’s rights. Simply, every citizen has a right to not be discriminated against based on their race or ethnicity. Every right gives rise to an obligation. Therefore, every citizen is also under an obligation not to make racial and ethnic distinctions and as such play a positive role in preventing racial and ethnic discrimination, and ultimately play a significant role in the process of eliminating racial and ethnic discrimination altogether.

The law provides for compensation claims in the event that a citizen has been discriminated against. The claim can be either as an individual or as a class action where there are multiple claimants. Claims are to be lodged at the District Court.

Criminal Provisions
The criminal sanctions in the law allow for terms of imprisonment of between 1 and 5 years and fines of between IDR 100 million and IDR 500 million. The penalties for corporations attract a premium of 1/3.

Closing Provisions
Once the Law enters into force all current racial and ethnic discrimination laws remain in place unless they contradict the provisions of this law. If they do, then the provisions of the law will prevail.

The Law came into immediate force once it is enacted.


It is clear that the government through the enactment of this bill into law is intent on removing the scourge of racial and ethnic conflict and violence from the Indonesian scene. The law will clearly be complementary to other existing discrimination laws and consolidates and strengthens the overall anti-discrimination regulatory framework.

Nevertheless, there are parts of the law that need further work to clarify matters such as affirmative action programs to ensure balance where natural balance does not occur.

The reality is that enforcement will be the key. If there is lax enforcement of the provisions, simply the government refuses to take action where it can to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination then the underlying issues that trigger racial and ethnic conflict will remain, and remain unchecked.

Last Meals

I am sitting here dining on a bowl of Frosties and skim milk. It would seem the excessive amounts of sugar in the Frosties would nullify any benefits one might derive from consuming skim milk, but that is another post for another day.

For reasons unbeknown to me, this got me thinking about last meals. Simply, if you knew you would be dead at a certain time and you only had the chance for one last meal, and that meal could be anything that your heart desired, then what would it be.

This thinking got me to doing a simple Google search and you can follow these links here, here, and here if you need some inspiration to see what some have eaten for their last meal.

14 December 2008

Blasphemy in Indonesia

Blasphemy is an issue that is always interesting to write about as the possibilities are endless, at least in terms of the hypotheticals - the what ifs? This is even more so the case in Indonesia where even the slightest hint of blasphemy leads to violence and the destruction of private property and the desecration of religious property in some instances, it is fair to say there is nothing funny about blasphemy in Indonesia.

Indonesia is still not at the point of trying, as Malaysia has, to ban the use of certain words and restrict their usage only to Muslims. Malaysia decided that "Allah" was a Muslim term to refer to God and because it was a Muslim term then no other religions had a right to refer to their God as Allah. I would guess that to do so would amount to blasphemy.

Nevertheless, Indonesians, at least in some instances, have voiced extreme opinions on the issue of apostasy. The demand is for death for all apostates. The issue has come to the fore yet again as the government is set to continue its pursuit, some might say persecution, of Lia Eden, the leader of a messianic cult, who by all accounts is as mad as a two bob watch, for blasphemy. The most recent arrest is hot on the heels of the arrest of a teacher for supposedly scorning the Prophet. For some background on the Eden cult you can go here, here, and here.

The teacher, Welhelmina Holle, sparked a violent protest that led to the burning of churches and homes on Seram Island in the Moluccas. It remains unclear exactly what she said but obviously for some it did not matter. The fact that the allegation was made was enough for some to set out on a violent protest.

The actual law on blasphemy was a Presidential Decree that was enacted into law in 1965 (No. 1/PNPS/1965) and the key elements have in essence been extracted and included in the current Indonesian Criminal Code (Kitab Undang-undang Hukum Pidana / KUHP) as Article 156(a). The combination of these laws is designed to prevent "deviant interpretations" or any challenge to the long-standing norms particularly with respect to Islam, and to prevent any public discourse on religion by outlawing any utterances that can conceivably be deemed hostile or abusive or insulting of any particular religion.

This is problematic in a secular state as it gives the government or its appointed proxies the power to make subjective interpretations of what constitutes blasphemy or heresy. In many ways the power is a similar one to what has been seen before, as granted to the Roman Catholic Church during the Inquisitions. For many this might be a difficult concept to digest. However, it is as simple as recognizing that there is not the same separation of Church and State or in this case Mosque and State that many of us from a Western democratic tradition would recognize.

Yet, there is some separation in Indonesia as the Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulema Indonesia / MUI) has the power to issue fatwas (edicts) on all things Islam but these fatwas are not legally binding. In that sense it is a toothless tiger whose growl is much bigger than its bite. Although, it is a brave government that aligns itself against the MUI as to do so would expose it to charges of being anti-Islam or not sensitive to Muslim issues and needs.

I guess the point of this little musing was that on a personal level I have a real problem with people being jailed for their non-violent religious beliefs no matter how crazy and left or right of mainstream they might be. For example, if a shaven-headed woman wants to claim that she is the Archangel Gabriel and people want to believe that and follow her then so be it. Similarly, if someone wants to claim that there was another prophet after Muhammad and there are people prepared to belief that then so be it.

I leave you with these random thoughts.

If God sends his only son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die for our sins, then doesn't this suggest that Jesus is the most likely candidate to have been the last prophet (at least until the second coming of Christ)? And, therefore, would it be blasphemy to suggest that God got it wrong by sending his only son and decided to have another go at getting it right by selecting some random fella, who in this case just happens to be a fella named Muhammad, to be his final prophet on earth and to bring Islam to the world?

Then, if it is to be accepted that Muhammad followed Jesus as a prophet, then why is it not possible that God could have had second or third thoughts and decided that another prophet was necessary in order to perfect any imperfections that may have arisen?

Would it be blasphemy to suggest that Buddha never really reached enlightenment by suggesting that the Buddha has been reincarnated for another stint back in the real world?

Oh well! As Uncle Ned once said, "such is life"!

12 December 2008

Max Planck Research -- An Advertisement for Sex

This is too funny not to be true!

You would think that an eminent scientific journal when using a language or script other than their standard would go to particular lengths to ensure that the language they were using could not be misconstrued as being controversial or plain silly. The Max Planck Research Journal has been caught out with its most recent cover advertising a Hong Kong strip joint that offers the services of hot, young housewives.

The calligraphy or text had apparently been looked at by a Sinologist before publication was approved. If this is the case then the Sinologist employed needs to do some refresher courses in the language or look for a different job.

Nevertheless, the Journal is suggesting that the Chinese characters used were non-controversial, at least to the non-native speaker, despite being open to some interpretation. In any event, if you are trying to establish yourself in China with a focus issue of your journal on China, then this is probably not the way to go. However, the cover has been replaced and an apology issued. In essence, the cover says something to the effect of:

"With high salary, we have sincerely employed [lots of strippers/girls] to stay in our daytime show. Jiamei as the director, she will personally lead young girls who are as pretty as jade. [We have] beauties from the north who appear in all their glory with thousands of deportments. [We have] young housewives who have hot body that will stir up your [sexual] fire. They are sexy, horny and enchanting. The performance will begin in few days!"

At least according to a blog entry on the University of Pennsylvania's Language Log.

May this be a lesson to all and sundry regarding the editorial process. The picture is of the before and after covers.

Islamic Schools -- A Victory for Common Sense?

The NSW Land and Environment Court has approved a development application to build an Islamic School in the Sydney suburb of Bass Hill. The Bankstown Council which had the authority to approve the application declined to do so. The reasoning for the failure to garner approval was allegedly traffic and noise concerns. Each of the concerns was listed in some 1800 objections that were lodged opposing the development. The failure to approve the development project also led to the appeal to the Land and Environment Court.

Although there were a considerable number of objections, it must be noted that there was also considerable support for the school with some 600 statements of support being lodged with the Council.

The fact that it is to be an Islamic School was never the officially stated reason for the rejection. However, the lawyer representing the developers pulled no punches in suggesting that this anti-Muslim sentiment was a strong undercurrent to the desire to thwart and ultimately reject the development application. This was supposedly supported by the idea that the majority of the 1800 objections were photocopied pro-forma objections that really only required objectors to fill in the blanks.

The Senior Commissioner of the Land and Environment Court wondered in his judgment whether there would have been the same number of objections had the school development application been lodged by an Anglican Church consortium looking to develop a similar size school.

Ultimately, the Land and Environment Court has approved the development application and ordered some minor changes to be made to allow for some additional landscaping to be included on the site.

It is expected that with the approval to develop now in place that the school will be built quickly.

I have written on this before and you can find it here.

Ali Alatas (1932 - 2008)

It is sad news that Ali Alatas had passed. He was Indonesia's diplomatic face to the world during some of the hardest of times. He was always not only diplomatic but graceful whilst on the world stage through his time as not only Indonesia's longest serving Foreign Minister, but also prior to that as Indonesia's point man at the United Nations in both Geneva and New York from 1976.

In many ways the Alatas career is shaped by the events of East Timor and the eventual split of the former Portuguese colony from the Republic of Indonesia. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to cast his legacy as merely one connected no matter how intimately to the events of the East Timor and Indonesia relationship.

Since his departure as the top diplomat in 1999 he went onto play a significant role in the "resolution" of the Aceh issue and most recently as Ambassador at large and Head of the Supreme Advisory Council.

Alatas (photo Afriadi Hikmal, Jakarta Globe) leaves behind a wife and three children.

The man will be sorely missed not only by his family but by many Indonesians who have benefited from his vast knowledge, not only of diplomacy but of world affairs.

Alatas had a heart attack and died Thursday morning in Singapore.

May he rest in peace!

09 December 2008

Indonesian Celebrities and the Law

Celebrity is everywhere and people's fascination with celebrity is insatiable. This is a good thing for those people who make their fortunes of the misfortunes and stupidity of celebrities. Some people do not court celebrity but have to bear it as a result of their fame or infamy. In this regard Indonesia is no different from any other place on earth.

Nevertheless, it does seem that some Indonesians feel that their celebrity places them above the law or at least outside of any effect it might have on them. Whenever an Indonesian celebrity gets into trouble there is always speculation as to who they know, or more specifically what connections they have that may assist them in avoiding the rap.

This is the case in the recent Marcella Zalianty affair. Zalianty is accused of having her boyfriend, Ananda Mikola a race driver wanna be, and Moreno Soeprapto, beat up another colleague over an alleged debt. All three have been questioned and Zalianty has been detained.

The story still has a few twist and turns to go. The latest is that the victim, Agung Setyawan, was not beaten by the accused on the orders of Zalianty, but rather was beaten by his own brother. The plot thickens.

Yet, the point is no matter what the final truth may be, it seems that Indonesian celebrities have a penchant for getting into trouble or being accused of being in some trouble. And hence, the question posed, "Do celebrities think that the laws that apply to the rest of us do not apply to them because of their celebrity?"

Just wondering...

Fatherhood 2

A fatherhood update.

Yes, it is 01.30 in the morning. I have just finished feeding and changing little Will and after burping him and then getting him to sleep, I figured I would jot a few lines on the experience of being a father so far.

Every moment is an amazing one. It is amazing to watch my Wife and Son bond. It is amazing to watch what Will does as he struggles to look around and find me when I am talking. My folks are here at the moment and they are amazed that the little fella responds to my voice and tracks my movements with his eyes. I do not know the ins and outs of child development and hence do not know if this is normal behaviour in a 10-day-old.

It is fun learning and understanding what certain movements or sounds mean. These are important lessons as they are likely to save you from getting shot in the face with a warm stream of pee as you open up the nappy to make a change. I have to say that this was a lesson learned the hard way. I am still not convinced that there is any medicinal benefit in drinking pee. I once read somewhere that Demi Moore used to drink her own pee. Maybe she can drop by and leave me an explanation as to the benefits.

Will seems to be such a wise young soul. His facial expressions are those of a much older kid and his eyes seem to always be searching and asking the piercing questions of life. Then again perhaps this is just my fatherly bias :D

He is a good kid. Definitely not a yeller, screamer, or crier. He has already mastered the art of getting a cuddle (pulling a face and holding his breath till his face goes a little red like as though he is going to cry gets people running from all directions).

The first 10 days of fatherhood have been fun. I am tired because of not enough sleep. I am sure the Wife is even more tired than I. Hence the need for a system of shifts or rostered response obligations.

To all of you who have passed on their good wishes and blessings, thank you! For all of those of you who have provided advice and suggestions, thank you! For those of you who have just simply said, "enjoy it!", thank you too.

Good week to all!

07 December 2008

Visa on Arrival -- Indonesia

The days of just fronting up at a port of entry into Indonesia, handing over your passport, and getting a 60-day visitor visa are long gone. The old system has been replaced with a visa on arrival system. The Visa on Arrival or VOA was Indonesia's move towards reciprocity, namely: if it is free for Indonesians to travel to your country then it will be free for you to travel to ours.

Charging a VOA fee was also a simple and easy way to create a cash revenue stream into state coffers. At USD 25 for a 30-day tourist visa it is not all that expensive and it does not involve all of the form-filling that one must do when the roles are reversed and Indonesians are traveling abroad. It is also pretty much sans any risk in comparison to most places that Indonesians travel where they are required to submit a form, pay an exorbitant non-refundable fee, and then pray that the visa gods shine on them.

The VOA system may have its flaws but if we are to draw comparisons with the costs and bureaucracy of other visa systems, then the VOA system is not so bad. Then again I have never had to get one :D

Rape or Porn or Both?

Common sense would suggest that if you are going to commit a crime, then do not film yourself doing it. This might be even more so if you are going to commit a rape and then distribute it amongst your friends via your mobile phone. That said, the footage might also be significant in proving that the sex was consensual and that no rape had taken place.

The gist of this case is that a teenage boy invites a girl to meet and then goes to a friend's house for some reason, presumably to have sex, the sex occurs and the friends that the boy has invited decide that the whole sex scene is worthy of some mobile phone footage and that this footage is worth sharing with others.

The boy's story is that he called the girl and invited her for the rendezvous and she willing agreed to the encounter. However, the parents of the girl have gotten wind of the rendezvous, the encounter, and perhaps even the footage and reported the boy to the police for allegedly raping the daughter.

This is the classic "he said, she said" scenario with a twist, video footage from a mobile phone.

There are a couple on interwoven issues here. Underage premarital sex, sexual violence in the form of rape, privacy issues, pornography, and crime, to name but a few. Perhaps cases like this interest me as it would allow for an exploration of the legal issues and the "how" the law is to be enforced (or implemented).

Indonesian Supreme Court News

The Parliament appears destined to pass the new Supreme Court Law which will set the retirement age of Justices at 70 years of age. It is expected that the bill will be passed into law in the next Plenary Session on 17 December 2008. The raising of the retirement age was particularly controversial earlier in the process as many saw it as a not too covert attempt by the then Chief Justice to maintain his stranglehold on the leadership of the Court. Personally, I always thought it was making a mountain out of a mole hill, but that is just me.

The beauty of the debate though was that it got people talking about the Court and regeneration and particularly the appointment of new blood to the Court as a means of reinvigorating it not just in terms of the human resources present but also in terms of the Court's intellectual vigor.

Past is prologue and as such Bagir Manan is history. He is retired. The intrigue now is who will become the next Chief Justice of the Court. The Justices get to make this decision amongst themselves, at least, in so far as they choose from among their own.

It seems that the most likely candidates are all around the 67 age and as such any appointment might last a mere three years before the Court is once again looking for a new Chief.

06 December 2008

OJ Simpson -- Life in Jail? (An Update)

OJ Simpson as been sentenced to up to 33 years in prison. For a 61-year-old this is as good as a life sentence. Some might say this is somewhat poetic justice seeing many believe he was guilty of murdering his ex-wife and her friend but used his celebrity, fame, and money to get himself acquitted in that case. In a perverse twist of irony is that this sentence comes 13 years to the day since he was acquitted of the murder charges.

If the glove fits.

It seems though that OJ Simpson's penchant for believing that he is above the law and then breaking the law has finally caught up with him. His most recent venture, and one that saw him charged with armed robbery and kidnapping, has now landed him a prison sentence that will see him, potentially, in his 90's before he again breathes any air as a free man. That said, the non-parole period is a mere nine years.

If he is well-behaved during those nine years he is likely to be paroled at the first opportunity. This means he will be a sprightly 70 when he has his first chance of getting out.

Simpson will undoubtedly instruct his lawyers to appeal. However, he will stay in jail throughout that process.

03 December 2008

Fatherhood 1

As those who read the all over the place postings that I make on this blog of mine will be aware that the Kid, William Alun Baiton (AKA Will) was born this past Friday at 07.35. We are blessed to have Will healthy and with all the necessary vital parts in the places they are meant to be.

The first couple of days through to Sunday were tiring as I was sleeping on the floor of the hospital. However, we were only getting hour long sessions or so with Will at certain times of the day.

We, as a happy family, were able to head home on Sunday and so we did. Some of you have been gracious in your comments in welcoming us to the "no sleep zone", thanks!

Hopefully, we can get Will's sleep clock in sync with ours and that this will happen sooner rather than later. The little fella is a pretty good sleeper during the day. He comes into his own in the wee hours (I now know why it is called the wee hours) and is a voracious drinker / feeder of the good stuff! I have know sleep deprivation in the past but not like this.

Since moving to Indonesia I have become a solid sleeper in terms of being able to sleep through just about anything and any circumstances. However, this has meant that I am sleeping a lot lighter than I usually allow myself as I am sleeping with a view to hearing even the slightest murmur out of Will.

Nevertheless, when all things are considered, I would have it no other way! I am loving the being a father thing and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.

The fun and games have begun.

I will post more pictures later!

AC/DC -- Black Ice

I have finally managed to get a copy of the latest offering from AC/DC. I picked up my copy from a legitimate music store here in Jakarta, Indonesia. And, I am guessing that the album is the real deal and not a pirated copy.

In any event, I paid IDR 75,000 for it. This equates to about AUD 10. So, it is a bit of a bargain.

Another great Australian export to the world!

I like all of the songs on the album!