27 March 2009

Jessup 2009

The UPH team has performed admirably and reached the final rounds of the Jessup competition. Unfortunately, we were defeated by a team from Colombia.

The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition is the most prestigious of all law moot competitions and it is therefore quite an achievement to reach the final rounds. It would have been nice to have gone a little further still. However, I am proud of the team's achievement as no one expected them to do this well.

They will be better for the experience and will one day be exceptional lawyers and advocates.

25 March 2009

Will -- 24 March 2009

I figured it was time I posted a few new picks of the little fella (the last one taken by his Mum on her new mobile phone)...

Will is healthy and growing fast. It is amazing to watch.

22 March 2009

Washington DC

It is always nice to come back to Washington DC. I really enjoy the mix of history and the hustle and bustle. Simply, it is a place with a rich history that has made a nation and the hustle and bustle of a place always on the move seeking out the best possible future.

As I was travelling around on buses and trains, I found myself wondering when Jakarta might have a public transportation of some similar kind. I am resigned to the fact that it might be a long time off. Oh well!

Yesterday, I, along with the UPH team, did the standard monument walk-a-round. I could have done more monuments, but the team was hungry and cold so we headed off to find food and ended up in Chinatown. The photos of this little journey will be posted later.

Today, was a long day. It did not start until after midday, which I guess is some consolation, and started with lunch with our gracious host, the Education Attache at the Indonesian Embassy. We were joined by the UI team for the occasion. The lunch was a Chinese buffet and it was pretty good value for money at USD 15 dollars (plus tax).

After lunch we ended up in Georgetown. I really enjoy Georgetown as it has a laid back casual air to it. I also like the mix of branded shops, sole traders, and book and music stores. There is a really good Barnes & Noble Bookstore that I was able to spend a couple of hours wandering around. I bought a few books for Will and myself. I am still looking for the gift that the missus wants and I need to find a good craft shop in order to get it.

The day ended after a good French meal, a bus ride, and a taxi ride back to where we are staying. The french food was exceptional and I am going to write a little review of that part later.

The team as usual has passed out or gone straight to bed. The jet lag seems to be still lingering. Hopefully, they will have that under control sometime tomorrow as the competition starts with the orientation session on Sunday and competition proper on Monday.

Something that I am noticing is that the people I am meeting are so much more friendly and approachable than I remember them of the past. Maybe I have forgotten, but the service that I have received over the past couple of days has been excellent. In Barnes & Noble the service went above and beyond, which is a pleasant change from what I have been used to in other parts of the world.

More updates to follow.

21 March 2009

Qatar, Doha, and Qatar Airways

I had the pleasure of flying with Qatar Airways all the way from Jakarta to Washington DC. You can probably guess that this is going to be positive in terms of the comments about Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways bills itself as the 5-Star Airline and this is probably apt based solely on my only experience with the airline and this is in spite of a delay in Doha.

The planes are new so this is always a good start as this means that the comfort level is likely to be good. I was not disappointed on this front. Although, more leg room would never go astray.

The service was first rate. The food was 5-star. It really was like eating at a hotel, Parmesan covered chicken breasts with roast pumpkin and beans...awesome. Even more fun was that when the lights went down there was a self-service option. That is, the staff provided hot and cold sandwiches, as well as drinks. You just meandered your way back to the galley and helped yourself to whatever you wanted - very cool.

The flight was long, so it was nice that the service and food was excellent.

I did not get to see any thing much of Qatar and Doha, except what I could see from the terminal and flying in and out of the airport. However, I got to see more of the international terminal in Doha than I wanted to.

For an international airport that is supposedly a hub for those travelling in the Middle East then it still has a fair way to go on that front. There is probably a litany of complaints in this regard that I should keep to myself, but hey, that would not be me.

For an international airport there is next to nothing in the terms of duty free shopping. There is really only one shop and this is hardly duty free. I was looking at buying a real camera (real being something other than point and shoot) however the duty free price in Doha was the equivalent of IDR 3 million more expensive than what I could pay for it at a legitimate electronics shop.

However, such is life on that front. That, though, was not the big thing for me. The toilets / restrooms were of a quality that made the restrooms at Soekarno-Hatta look like a 5-star joint. Each of the toilet facilities at the terminal required one to have Jesus-like skills, particularly the ability to walk on water. And, at least two of the restrooms were under repair. For me this is just crazy for what is supposedly a 5-star airport. Nevertheless, on the positive side the water was hot which meant there was a certain enhanced cleaning possibility if you know what I mean.

The security at the terminal was interesting to say the least. I am all for enhanced security if this means that I am guaranteed of flying safe. As someone transiting through the airport the security was pretty strict. To get of the plane and into the terminal required all of your stuff to be x-rayed, this included taking off your belt. However, this was ramped up on getting into the lounge to reboard the plane. What made this experience even less fun was that the security staff were scary in an agressive way.

Getting into the lounge required not only the belt to come off again, but the shoes, face towels, hankies, laptops, cameras, coins, keys, mobile phones, and the list goes on. This is part and parcel of an increased security presence however getting shoved against a wall and yeleed at not to move while your stuff goes through the x-ray machine is a little disheartening.

So, in short Qatar Airways service and food was excellent! The terminal at Doha was a little less than expected.

An Update on the Big Trip to the US of A...

Dear Readers...

I arrived in the good ol' US of A a little later than I expected, but alive, however I am not one to complain when that is the case.

The big competition starts on Monday. There is an orientation on Sunday.

We are staying courtesy of the Indonesian Embassy in Bethesda, Maryland, which sounds a lot further than it really is from DC and the venue at the Fairmont Hotel. It is a mere bus, metro, and walk.

The team is still suffering a little jet lag and have already crashed out for the evening. So, I am taking this quiet time to catch up on some work and blogging.

More specific detailed posts on the big adventure to follow.

18 March 2009

AIG -- An Update

Why am I providing an update on AIG? Good question, and there is a simple answer - crazy.

This is the stupidity of bailing out a company interested in nothing but itself. After much hoopla about the need to pay bonuses in order to retain the best staff and to turn the ailing, perhaps mortally wounded, business around, it seems that at least eleven executives have decided to take the money and run. So much for retaining staff.

The retention bonuses were paid to some 73 individuals, all of whom received at least USD 1 million, for their efforts in presiding over a prosperous business and running it to the brink of collapse. What is really bizarre is that these bonuses were paid from money provided by the government in order to bail the business out of trouble. Simply, the business can not be in that much trouble if it can make these types of payments. Or, if it is in trouble then payments of this kind and magnitude are totally irresponsible and make a mockery of hard working tax payers who are now feeling the pinch because of the bad business decisions of others.

As I said in the previous post on this topic. I wonder if letting this one fall is such a bad idea when the bonuses could have been used to provide golden handshakes to less fortunate employees of the company who are likely to be let go in any restructuring and streamlining of the business model.

Sad, very sad.

Off To The Good Ol' US of A...

I am heading off to the US later tonight for about 12 days. I might try and post while I am away or I might not.

I am heading there with the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot team from Pelita Harapan University. The Jessup is the most prestigious of the international law moot competitions and this also happens to be the 50th anniversary of the competition.

I am looking forward to being in Washington DC and attending the competition. I am not so happy about having to spend time away from the two most important people in my life, the Missus and Will. Work is work, I suppose.

Time to pack some stuff (the stuff being clothes) for the journey ahead.

16 March 2009

AIG -- Bonuses for Failure

I am not sure that anything that I do or I am involved with relies on insurance provided by AIG. So, in that sense I could not give the proverbial rat's arse whether the company stays afloat or not. Then again, it employs a whole lot of people who do not deserve to be without an income because of the incompetence of a couple of top level executives.

Yet, when it is all said and done, AIG still wants to pay its top executives and employees bonuses. Let's put this into perspective. AIG is a company that lost USD 60 billion (I think) last year and has since taken USD 170 billion worth of government bailout money, and there is an expectation that they will need another USD 60 billion just to be sure of not going under.

Yes, punters, that is almost a quarter of a trillion dollars.

This is the kicker for me. AIG is now claiming that it has to pay, as it is legally bound and all, to pay a couple of hundred million dollars in bonuses. That is outrageous! One cannot seriously claim the right to a bonus when your company is losing cash by the bucketful and taking taxpayer money by the bucketful.

The government's rationale for continuing to pump money into AIG is that if it was to fail then the repercussions would be worldwide and send myriad of other companies to the brink of insolvency. Maybe, maybe not.

In any event, the best idea I have heard over the last couple of days, at least on face value (I need to do a little research to see how it would work in the real world), comes from Chris Gardner (Pursuit of Happyness fame), who suggested that the government might be better served by giving every single American (registered voter I think he said) USD 1 million instead of bailing out these banks and financial institutions. The individual cash payments would make a much better financial stimulus package than what has been offered up-to-date.

Global crises - seems we can't live with them and we can't live without them!

Gus Dur Supporting Prabowo for President


Well, almost...but good readers I am sure you are already aware that it will take more than this foolhardiness to stump me for words.

This support apparently comes with strings attached. There is a sizable push for Yenny Wahid (aka Zannuba Ariffah Chafsoh Rahman Wahid) to be placed on the Prabowo ticket as the Vice President.

For me this support makes Gus Dur (Abdurrahman Wahid) increasingly irrelevant on the Indonesian political stage. I am also surprised that Yenny Wahid is going for this. Yet, in the big scheme of things this foolhardiness is not all that surprising. Gus Dur is a bitter man and still feels that the PKB, which was his political vehicle, was wrenched from his control by traitorous enemies and the complicity of the government. He is likely to do anything to redress this wrong, even supporting Prabowo.

Prabowo Subianto and his political vehicle might indeed have some similarities to Gus Dur and those that support him. However, the reality is that Prabowo's skeletons are real and they are nasty. The man may have been honorably discharged from the army, but there are remaining questions as to whether this was deserved. There are still unanswered questions as to his imvolvement in the Rose Group and his responsibility in the kidnapping and disappearing of activists in 1998.

The interesting thing about Gerindra is that the party has adopted some real socialist ideas in trying to garner support from farmers and blue collar workers under the guise of Pancasila. Pancasila has always been viewed as an avid tool to be trotted out in the fight against communism and socialism. Although, it is easy to argue that the social justice elements of Pancasila in fact lend themselves to a socialist democratic platform. There is certain irony in the support of Prabowo and Gus Dur for these ideals.

In any event, even Gus Dur's support is not going to be enough for Prabowo to be relevant in the coming presidential contest. This is at best a three-way horse race at the front with SBY, Kalla, and Megawati, with SBY being slightly in front as the incumbent. The dark horse will be PKS and whoever it is that they nominate.

Hopefully, after this little charade Prabowo and Wiranto can be prosecuted for their alleged crimes and then fade into history.

Yes, a dream, but without dreams there is no point in living.

15 March 2009

Bali Nine, Death Penalty, Appeals, and the Supreme Court

In a turn of events which is likely to see a call for the death penalty process to be sped up against Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran, and Scott Rush, the three members of the Bali Nine sentenced to death and biding their time in Kerobokan prison, the Supreme Court has prepared a document that clearly puts the timing of appeals and ultimate executions squarely in the hands of prosecutors.

This is interesting timing for a number of reasons, none more so than this is an election year, and this is clearly an emotionally charged issue, with divergent views on the death penalty in general. However, in this case there is the added factor that the current president has adopted a hard line approach to drugs and those that deal in them. Therefore, to say the prospects of a reprieve for these three has taken a dive would be an understatement.

I am anti-death penalty and would hope that the president would exercise compassion once all other legal avenues have been exhausted and only a presidential act of clemency remains. I would hope that the sentence would be commuted to life in prison. The reality is that Australians, and all others as well, must realize that the trafficking of drugs in Indonesia exposes you to the death penalty. This is not Australian where you might do a 7 - 10 year stretch in jail for the equivalent crime.

You do the crime, then you deserve to do the time. I just think that in this case, and despite the seriousness of the crime, the death penalty is too severe a punishment. People will undoubtedly disagree with me on this, and you are free to do so, I believe in second chances in circumstances such as these, particularly in Rush's case where he has confessed to his role and expressed remorse at his actions. In this case, rehabilitation is a very real possibility. Here is a young kid who could conceivably still make very long and positive contributions to his community.

Unfortunately, the signs are looking bad for these three as the process in drafting the document and the discussion of it has seen them mentioned specifically as individuals that the new provisions are most likely to affect. Ultimately, these three are to become pawns in the Indonesian - Australian bilateral relationship and presidential politics.

Simple message - Drugs and Indonesia do not mix (particularly through airports).

The Power of the Human Mind

I bet you can read the following without too much trouble. It might even surprise some of you with just how easy this is to read. The human mind is an incredible thing and should never be wasted.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch atCmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in awrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteerbe in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitllraed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos notraed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh?yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihsforwrad it.

14 March 2009

Prejudice is Ignorance

I am not sure whether this is an original Michael Jackson quote. However, after Googling it, it seems that it is generally attributed to him.

A title such as this lends itself to a good rant and vent against the ills afflicting this world. It also lends itself to some introspection and reflection on what we have been, what we are, and what we hope to be.

Whether I am remembered at the end of time is immaterial and unimportant to me in the big scheme of things. If I can exit stage left at the end of my life time knowing that I have made a difference in some one's life then I depart this world a success.

I guess this is why I enjoy teaching. Teachers shape the future. Teaching is probably the most influential job in the world after being a parent, as teachers will shape the young minds of the next generation. I reckon that everyone when they think about it can name a teacher that has impacted on their lives in a significant way.

However, this is a post about reflecting on one's self (and perhaps about Michael Jackson) and making changes. Thanks to You Tube I have been able to spend a considerable amount of time watching and listening to Michael Jackson videos. One of my favourite songs is "Man in the Mirror" as it challenges us to understand that changes must first happen with us before we can hope to see change in others.

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change

13 March 2009

Drugs in School

How times change. I really cannot remember any instances when I was 16-years-old and in school that my peers were selling ecstasy or other drugs. This tended to happen off of school premises as I recall. And, it was small time and infrequent and was not my scene.

However, it seems that times have indeed changed. A 16-year-old turning up to school late has had his bag searched by the school principal. Apparently, the student gave his permission for the search to take place. Well, bugger me if the principal did not find 94 tablets, thought to be ecstasy, with a street value of some AUD 3000.

Unfortunately for the kid, his parents, and possibly his supplier, he was denied bail. It would seem that the police prosecutor has managed to convince the Children's Court that the child is part of a sophisticated operation and that the alleged crime is of sufficient seriousness that bail should be denied.

The youngster has no criminal record. I guess if you're gonna go for it, then you should go hard, the whole nine yards, so to speak.

I wonder is this the start of the vicious cycle of crime and routine trips to prison? Or is this the pre-cursor to a second chance?

10 March 2009

The Law and Online File Sharing -- An Australian Example

This case is really interesting for a number of reasons, but paramount among these is that of a law being designed for a particular purpose being literally interpreted and nabbing an unlikely victim. Law enforcement in Australia is generally pretty good. Like all other places there are times when one shakes their head in disgust or disbelief at how laws are interpreted and applied. This might just be one of those occasions where statutory interpretation goes a little bit awry.

Chris Illingworth, a seeming harmless 61-year-old from Maroochydore in Queensland has been charged with distributing child abuse materials over the internet (video capture of the event and inset of Illingworth from here). Illingworth came across a video of a man swinging a child by the arms and thought it worthy of being republished on Liveleak (video sharing site). The man and child in question are part of a circus troupe form Russia (or at least that is the belief) and perhaps this is what the Russians do, start the training of their youngsters and future circus performers at a very young age.

It must be noted that Illingworth has no criminal history relating to child abuse of any kind. An extensive search by police of his home and his computers turned up no images that would violate any provisions of current law.

The video certainly shows the child being swung around. There are probably arguments to be made for and against how violent the swinging is. However, the video ends with a smiling and laughing child.

Where this gets a little scary is the involvement of "experts" who get to offer opinions based on watching a video and through no interview of the alleged victim. In this case the police called in a specialist pediatrician, Susan Cadzow, from Royal Brisbane Children's Hospital. Now, in Cadzow's expert opinion this video represents child abuse and although no injury appears apparent this is irrelevant as there might be hidden injuries that will not manifest until some later time.

If police are going to charge people for this and then the Office of Public Prosecutions is going to proceed with a prosecution, then Australians should be forewarned and thus forearmed that the long arm of the law is gunning for you with seemingly endless powers of interpretation. The law though is helpful to the police as child abuse material "is, or appears to be, a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse" where the victim is appears to be under the age of 18.

What is helpful to police about this definition is that it does not require actual abuse to be taking place, it just has to be perceived as abuse and the police can take action.

This begs the question, would a video of say a child contortionist undergoing training and being videoed and then this video is uploaded to the internet constitute child abuse? Or even where the contortionist is performing for money, wouldn't this be child exploitation and subsequently abuse?

So, what were the police thinking in this case and why did they decide to proceed?

It seems that Illingworth is going to become an interesting test case. Although, I am sure Illingworth would rather not be the centre of any test case. Unfortunately, for him this is what he has become.

The case will certainly set a precedent, at least in the Australian jurisdiction, as to what constitutes child abuse and the enforcement of the provisions as they relate to viewing and uploading child abuse material. If the prosecution succeeds on this, then Illingworth is potentially looking at doing up to a maximum of ten years in prison for uploading a couple of circus performers, one of who was under the age of 18.


08 March 2009

The Future of Indonesian Law

The future of Indonesian law despite all the doom and gloom that many commentators talk about, is clearly not as doomy or gloomy as made out. Quite simply, the next generation of Indonesian lawyers and advocates are going to be highly-skilled, experienced in international forums (courts and tribunals), and able to hold their own against the best in the world. In fact, these Indonesian lawyers and advocates may just be the best in the world in their respective fields.

In some exciting news that I received late last night, the International Humanitarian Law Moot Team from the Faculty of Law at the University of Indonesia has won the International Law Moot Competition in Hong Kong. Excellent news!

Success in mooting competitions does not come easy. The team has reaped the rewards for the efforts that it has sown. The time sacrificed to participate is immense, but the rewards are equally large.

The competition was in English which in many ways makes the result even more impressive. Most law faculties do not infuse significant amounts of their respective curricula with English language subjects. So, to be successful in a competition of this size requires not only that the students develop and have excellent language skills, it also requires dedication to research, writing a pleading, and then being able to argue the case under intense questioning by judges.

Indonesia is new to the international law mooting game, but there has been increasing levels of success in recent years. This success is not only team-based, but also individual. In the most prestigious of law moots, the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition, Indonesia has already achieved extra-ordinary individual success by producing the best oralist in the world.

More success is certain. Yet, it is important to remember that this is a work in progress and has relied heavily on the commitments of a dedicated few, at least initially, who work tirelessly and often behind the scenes.

Success breeds success!

Congratulations to all involved who have made this happen. They have brought credit not only to themselves, but to the whole of Indonesia.

This is a well-deserved result and suggests that the future of Indonesian law is much brighter than many imagine it to be.

06 March 2009

The Catholic Church and Abortion -- Brazil

The right of women to choose in the case of abortion must be absolute. I can appreciate that nothing is ever absolute, but any restrictions placed on access to abortion must be limited to clearly identifiable objective terms. I am sure there are plenty of people that disagree with this position and I am sure that some of my readers will disagree with me on this as well. One and all feel free to voice your opinions.

A couple of cases out of Brazil have shown that absolutes seem to work from both perspectives of this little argument. The Catholic Church of Brazil under the leadership of Father Jose Cardoso Sobrinho in the Recife region where the abortion was carried out has stated that abortion is against God's law and even where other law may permit abortion, God's law must prevail. The argument being, nothing can be higher than God's law, and where human laws are contrary to God's law then human laws have no value.

I am happy for the good father to have an opinion on this and to argue for it passionately. However, if there was ever a case for the Catholic Church to take a somewhat more moderate view on the issue, then this would be the time.

A nine-year-old girl that had been continuously raped by her step-father eventually fell pregnant with twins. I am guessing that carrying twins to term as an adult is a challenge, but at nine-years-old, life-threatening might be a more apt word?

The stepfather is 23-years-old, has been arrested, and is in protective custody. Protective custody is probably a good thing for him, as rapists of children are likely to become victims of rape themselves when put into the general prison population. Some might argue that this is still better than what they deserve for the crimes they have committed.

It is worth noting that abortion is illegal in Brazil. Nevertheless, there are specific exceptions to this absoluteness where there are clearly identifiable reasons such as where rape was involved or the health of the woman is in jeopardy.

However, in this case the Church's response has been to excommunicate all those involved in the abortion procedure.

I am not Catholic so perhaps I should not concern myself with all or any things Catholic. However, as a mere mortal man with an interest in humanity and the protection of those less fortunate than myself, I cannot reconcile an absolute stance adopted by the Church and the rights of the child in this case, arguments on abortion aside.

The sad part is that this is not the only case in Brazil that is getting news coverage. Another prominent case involves an 11-year-old who is seven months pregnant after being abused by her 51-year-old stepfather. The stepfather's defense is that it was the girl who initiated the sexual contact and not him.

Child sexual abuse is not only a Brazilian problem, it is a world-wide problem!

Compulsory and Optional Voting -- Indonesia

This has appeared previously on en.hukumonline.com - here.

Optional and compulsory voting is always an issue that draws a great deal of commentary. However, when in a country such as Indonesia where voting in a general election is optional, the issuance of a fatwa by the Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulema Indonesia / MUI) is certain to ratchet up the rate in which commentators express their views, particularly when the fatwa states that not to vote is haram or prohibited where there are qualified Muslim candidates standing.

Indonesia has traditionally had a sizable number of individuals who choose not to exercise their democratic rights and vote. This group is referred to as the Golongan Putih or Golput group. They are in essence a group that abstains from voting. Whether this is an expression of dissatisfaction with the quality of the candidates being offered or a lack of interest is irrelevant. However, some have suggested that it is likely that somewhere around 40%, if not more, of registered voters will not exercise their right to vote in the 2009 elections.

The Muslim community seems split on whether Islam considers the expression of democratic freedom through a decision not to vote is haram. Abdurraham Wahid, who is affectionately known as Gus Dur and who is a former President of Indonesia and an influential figure in Nahdlatul Ulama (Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization), has been active in campaigning for people to take golput seriously.

On the other hand, the Prosperous Justice Party’s (PKS), Hidayat Nur Wahid, explicitly stated that golput is prohibited under Islam and has pro-actively campaigned for the MUI to issue the fatwa. Perhaps, somewhat cynically, Hidayat believes that the PKS is likely to benefit from those disaffected voters who feel compelled to comply with the fatwa.

The House of Representatives (DPR) have also weighed in on the matter with the Head of the DPR, Agung Laksono, arguing that the right to vote implicitly contains a right not to vote and as such golput cannot be haram. According to Laksono, political parties must take heed of the increasing numbers of golput-ers as a sign that political parties have failed in translating their respective visions into policies and action on the ground that positively affects the lives of their constituents. To his mind, the fatwa is a mistake.

The reaction to the fatwa has been widespread and varied. The National Commission on Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia / Komnas HAM) issued a press release on 2 February 2009 that states simply the fatwa is a violation of people’s human rights to exercise the right not to vote. Ifdhal Kasim, the Head of Komnas HAM, stated that the right to vote or not to vote was a basic human right that cannot and must not be interfered with.

He cites that this is a Constitutional guaranteed right that has been further strengthened with provisions in Law No. 39 of 199 and Law No. 2 of 2005. Ifdhal points out that the government has already ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which means that “societies or government could not limit this right through prohibition, criminalization, or imposing moral sanctions on people who did not use their right to vote”.

The General Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum / KPU) who is tasked in carrying out the election, according to Ifdhal, is restricted by its mandate in that it does not allow them to issue any regulations which would impinge on the absolute rights of individuals to choose whether they vote or do not vote in a general election. However, the Head of the KPU, Abdul Hafiz Anshary, has been vocal in his support of the fatwa issued by the MUI. He has openly and publicly wondered why the MUI has only acted now on this issue.

According to Hafiz it is the MUI’s responsibility to supervise Muslims in order to see that Muslims exercise their rights in terms of voting for qualified Muslim candidates. In fact, Hafiz was unequivocal in stating that “not only cigarette are haram, but golput also haram.” This is in reference to another MUI fatwa that prohibits cigarette smoking in certain circumstances.

It is worth noting that MUI fatwas are not binding in a legal sense and it remains to be seen whether the fatwa has any moral force in terms of convincing potential golput-ers to vote.

(RAB / SH)

The Pornography Law -- Judicial Review

This has appeared previously on the en.hukumonline.com website - here.

The debate on the pornography law seems to be a never ending one and is set to continue in the Constitutional Court on 23 February 2009. On 9 February 2009, in a move without any fanfare or announcement, eleven individuals filed a petition in the Constitutional Court seeking a judicial review of the Pornography Law. The petition seeks to have Articles 1(1), 4, and 10 repealed as constitutionally invalid.

The petitioners, among others, include Billy Lombok (Minahasa Christian Gospel Church), Jeffrey Delarue (Indonesian National Youth Committee of North Sulawesi), Janny Kopalit (Manado Catholic Youth), Goinpeace Tumbel (North Sulawesi Indonesian Christian Youth Movement), Bert Supit (Minahasa Cultural Council), and Charles Lepar (Manado Inter-Church Youth Forum). To represent them in the judicial review process, they have engaged O.C. Kaligis as their lawyer.

The substance of the petition is not surprising and is representative of much of the debate on the validity of the pornography law to date. The first claim as it relates to Article 1(1) is that the definition of pornography is too broad and as such is all-encompassing. The petitioners are arguing that such a broad definition will catch legitimate art and other traditional cultural practices under the definition.

The crux of the argument is that with such broad cultural diversity in Indonesia from Sabang to Merauke that it is unfair to have such a broad definition. Simply, what is acceptable in Papua might not be acceptable in Aceh. But, that lack of acceptance must not see the conduct criminalized as pornography or indecency.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether the Constitutional Court reads the pornography law as a whole or only the individual articles. The reason for this is that the government continues to maintain that the law specifically protects certain art and cultural traditions under other articles within the law. The petitioners despite representing an eclectic mix of church and youth organizations, they are also artists who feel that they have a legitimate grievance here in light of some of the art that they produce, such as carvings and paintings, would seemingly fall foul of the definition.

An angle adopted by the petitioners, and worthy of note, is that as working artists who earn a living and support families from their artistic income the pornography law discriminates against them and in essence violates their right to work. This is the substantive argument against Article 4.

The problem, as the petitioners see it, with Article 10 is that the article is open to multiple interpretations. The petitioners seem to focus on the term “depict nudity” and the definition may vary from one region to another in terms of what is considered to depict nudity. The argument seems to rely, similarly to Article 1, on the fact that Indonesia is a country with a rich history of pluralism and cultural diversity.

However, in a generic sense the term, depict nudity, is not problematic. Simply, what is depicting nudity in Aceh will still be depicting nudity in Papua. The difference is whether or not the current law would provide an exception for the depiction.

On the sides to this petition there are still many within the community that take issue with the pornography law. One issue that continues to arise is related to enforcement and how law enforcement agencies, irrespective of whether they are the police or the Office of the Public Prosecutor, intend to enforce the provisions that many consider to be problematic.

At various times both the National Commission for Women and the National Commission for Human Rights have invited law enforcers to discuss in detail the proposed implementation and subsequent enforcement of the provisions of the law. These organizations generally focus on the broadness of the definitions and the all-encompassing nature of these definitions as the basis of their rejection of the provisions of the law. In this case Article 4 was also noted as being most problematic.

However, the police see the law as a valuable tool in combating crimes related to pornography. Nicolas A. Lilipaly, Head of the Pornography, Indecency, and Morality Unit at the Metro Jaya Police Headquarters, is unequivocal in stating that the Pornography Law has enhanced the police’s ability to deal with pornography, which had to date been dealt with under provisions of the Indonesian Criminal Code.

In another interesting aside and also related to the pornography law, the Chief Judge of the Central Jakarta District Court, Andriani Nurdin, stated that where laws exhibit weaknesses then the duty falls to the court to exercise their discretion and interpret the provisions as they appear or to create the law where the legislation remains silent. There is likely to be some serious questioning of this kind of judicial activism of the bench from the community, particularly if the courts were to use their discretion in ways that clearly exceeded the intent of the parliament when drafting the law.

This latest installment in the debate on pornography is certain to keep the issue alive within the community.

(RAB / SH)

05 March 2009

The Buddha Bar -- Jakarta

The Buddha Bar is one that I have heard of and have never had the cause or the inclination to go there. I have friends and colleagues who have trundled by and have given it mixed reviews. By consensus it seems that it caters to the upper end of the market and I am a strictly down town kind of fella. So, the Buddha Bar and me are not a match made in heaven.

However, this is not a post about my watering hole preferences,but rather a musing about what Buddha might think about a group of Buddhists students closing the place down because it allegedly insults their religious sensitivities.

The Jakarta Post is reporting that the Indonesian Buddhists Student Association (Aliansi Mahasiswa Buddhis / AMB) has closed down the Buddha Bar and management has seemingly agreed to this. This does not seem to be a particularly enlightened move on the part of the AMB.

The Buddha Bar is part of a chain of bars owned and operated by George V Hotels and Resorts which is based in France. The groups has Buddha Bars in a number of other locations including London, New York, Cairo, and Beirut, to name but a few.

According to Kompas, the group has recommended that the Tourist Agency of the Government and the Governor become pro-active in the stripping of the groups business license to operate in Jakarta. Presumably, this request should be directed further up the chain so as to ensure that any requisite business licenses are stripped for the whole of Indonesia and not just Jakarta.

It seems that the primary concern of the AMB is that the association of Buddha to a bar is inappropriate, particularly as the Buddha Bar is a place that serves alcohol and allows people to get drunk. I am guessing that the point is that Buddha neither drank alcohol nor got drunk.

The secondary concern relates to the fact that the Buddha Bar is populated with Buddhist symbols and artifacts (I would be guessing that most are cheap imitations as opposed to the real thing - but as I said I have not been to the place and I am not sure that I would know the difference anyway).

It also appears, according to a spokesperson for the AMB, that before the word Buddha can be used in any context there must be written approval from the Directorate General of Buddhist Affairs at the Department of Religion.

The last time I was in a music store checking out a couple of the latest CDs, I noticed that there are a series of music CDs related to the Bar and simply called Buddha Bar I, Buddha Bar II, Buddha Bar III, and I think I saw a Buddha Bar IV as well. I guess once the students successfully close down the Buddha Bar proper then they can turn their collective attention to blockading music stores and demand that the CDs be withdrawn from sale.

Interestingly, the Jakarta Post is reporting that the management of the Buddha Bar has also filed a request for a name change. It is not often that you see Indonesians demand changes that are likely to see them out of a job.

The simple reality here is that the Buddha Bar is part of a chain, a franchise if you will, that will lose its appeal should it be renamed George V Bar (although you might get a bit more patronage from some English folks looking to down a warm pint or two). More to the point the staff that work there had no qualms about joining the establishment in the first place. Because if they did then they should have stuck to their principles at that point in time and refused to take up employment until such time as the owners caved into the yet to be employed employees demands for a name change.

This is at best a case of opportunism by the staff and at worst a misrepresentation in the media of the employee's actual position.

This is clearly a case of students having too much time on their hands and nothing better to do. Let's face it there is a world of poverty and illness out there that needs the idealism of youth much more than the shutting down of a poorly named bar that is providing an income to Indonesians and allowing them to feed themselves and their families.

My understanding of Buddha and Buddhist teachings is that they teach tolerance and understanding. I am guessing Buddha is probably sitting under a tree somewhere taking a break from his enlightened meditations and thinking to himself, chill out, it's just a bar.

My thanks to Lawblogger (one of my readers - I cannot link to a blog because I do not know who he is and whether he even has a blog) for pointing me in this direction.

Secret Warrants and Secret Searches

The NSW Police Force have hit the jackpot on this one. A change to the law is going to allow police to apply for a secret warrant, conduct a secret search, and then inform the target of the warrant and search some three years later. In that funny in a perverse kind of a way, the police powers as they relate to criminal activity such as murder, computer crimes, corruption, money laundering, and sexual offenses, among others, are much broader than they are for crimes such as terrorism.

I am all for reducing and eliminating crime. I am also all for the protection of people's civil liberties and basic human rights. It might be a fine balance that needs to be struck, but it is a balance that must be found and so struck. It is outrageous in my mind that police can covertly search your home and property without your knowledge. And, that they can do it impersonating someone else, such as an electrician or something.

The problem as I see it is that a covert search is going to be sans independent supervision of the process. This is undoubtedly going to lead to claims of the planting of evidence. Running a video camera is hardly going to be a convincing mechanism to prove that the searchers were at all times being videoed. I would much prefer that warrants be served and the target of that warrant be allowed to watch what happens as there home and property is searched.

It is a scary thought that people unknown to you and without your knowledge can be in your home and rifling through your property, and doing God knows what.

The warrants do have some restrictions. The offense must carry a maximum prison term of seven years. The warrants can only be issued by designated Supreme Court judges, and the judge must be convinced that the evidence sort is going to be found in the premises or on the property searched within 10 days of the warrant being issued.

Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary power considering most people would consider their home their castle and as such free from covert searches.

These are indeed interesting times that we live in.

02 March 2009

What's Your Preference?

The miracles of modern medicine and our ability to save and prolong life are an integral part of who we have become, who we are, and who we will be. It is also a matter of some concern, at least, in a medical ethics sense.

The most obvious example of a current concern is the leaps and bounds being made in cloning technology. I am all for development of new technology. Nevertheless, new technology, particularly in medical science, is going to give rise to some interesting ethical and moral debates.

I have just finished reading this interesting story about prospective parents being able to choose not only the sex of their child, but also the child's hair colour, eye colour, and even skin colour. I guess this is like a little bit of pre-natal cosmetic surgery.

The issue here is that some individuals are exploiting advances that were made with more primary concerns involved. Scientists who have developed the ability to identify certain diseases or markers for potential health problems have also, as part of the process, discovered ways to manipulate cells and genes to ensure certain outcomes, like blue eyes.

Medical research is not cheap, so it is of no surprise that the selection of the specialized traits for your baby will also not come cheap. The current estimated cost is USD 18,000. Having had a look at my perfect little bundle of screaming joy on getting home earlier tonight, I can think of other things to put USD 18 K to, rather than a set of hazel coloured eyes or darker skin.

When it is all said and done, to each their own. However, even if I had the money or the ability to choose these traits, I would not do it and I would not have done it in this case. This, for me, is a separate issue from one such as identifying a gene for disease, such as down syndrome. But, that's just me.

01 March 2009


Jesus is everywhere...and assuming you've had a pint or two, he might even end up in your glass!

It probably makes sense for Jesus to turn up in a beer glass since he was renowned for turning water into wine, among other things.