30 August 2009

Timor Leste -- A Decade of Independence

Timor Leste or East Timor has marked ten years of Independence from Indonesia. On an anniversary such as this one it is hard to look only in one direction. One must look forward, but one must also look back. Looking back and taking stock, taking stock of what has and what has not been achieved. It is impossible to move forward without first addressing the past.

I like Jose Ramos Horta. I like his commitment to the cause, I like his honesty, I like the fact that he calls things as he sees them. These are interesting traits for a man who has made his name as a diplomat, then as Prime Minister of his nation, and now as President.

However, I am not sure that I agree with his call that an international tribunal or commission is not needed in Timor Leste to address issues of war crimes and other crimes against humanity that may have been committed over the years of Indonesian occupation and the period during the direct ballot and the period immediately following the announcement of the results of the direct ballot.

Reconciliation is a nice thought, but as a process it does not really address the need for justice for victims or the families of victims. I am sure, no, I know, there are arguments that truth and reconciliation commissions are useful. The most obvious example is South Africa. Nevertheless, my personal belief is that justice is best served through a tribunal process. I am not sure that "slowly, gradually, steadily justice will prevail."

In an interesting side note, Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, was 45 minutes late in arriving and the commencement of the ceremony was delayed until he arrived. So, I am guessing that this is indicative of Timor Leste seeing its former colonial master after the Portuguese, Indonesia, as being an important partner going forward. It might also be indicative of a complete lack of respect that Indonesia may have for Timor Leste. Then again, it might just have been a technical problem with an aircraft or something.

Congratulation to Timor Leste on the first ten years of independence!

May the next ten years see some drastic improvements on the poverty reduction, employment, and education fronts.

Viva Timor Leste.

29 August 2009

New York City -- Day and Night...

This is pretty cool to see what NYC looks like day and night, at least in terms of population density. It would be fun to see what Jakarta would look like. Anyways, you can find the picture here.


Facebook -- Dangerous?

Have you ever wondered how embarrassing or dangerous Facebook can be? If you have not, or even if you have, then this will most definitely be of interest to you.

This is certainly going to be a WTF have I done. But, in any event, Michael sounds like the man!

(You might have to enlarge the picture to read it or click on the embedded link!)

Antelope vs. Cheetah & Hyena -- Antelope Wins!

This is an amazing video. It can be found over at Live Leak.

T-Shirts You Cannot Wear To School...

There is a list of ten shirts that you cannot wear to schools in the USA. You can find the list over at Buzzfeed (here).

The t-shirts have sparked a deal of controversy and the kids wearing them have been asked to remove them or sent home. Many civil libertarians are up-in-arms that this breaches the first amendment rights to the freedom of speech. These are all certainly interesting arguments. However, when it comes down to it, generally the wearer of the t-shirts are children, and not all children would understand the controversy that their (or their parents) choice of clothing may bring.

I will leave it up to you as to decide whether you would send your kids to school in any of these pieces of everyday wear.

Jakarta -- Mass Organizations and the New Underworld...

Something that I picked up from the Jakarta Post. There are more groups than these floating around the streets and alleys of Jakarta, but these are the "biggies". There are a couple of other pieces that the Jakarta Post has run recently that are worthwhile reading for anyone that has an interest in learning about the other side of Jakarta. There is a piece on Jakarta's New Underworld and another piece on the Betawi Big Boys.

In any event, this is an excellent piece by Rendi A Witular and Andra Wisnu on prominent organizations in Jakarta.

I cut and paste it from the Jakarta Post.

Lutfi Hakim

Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR)

Leader: Lutfi Hakim (33)

Members: 300,000 in Greater Jakarta.

Membership requirement: Betawi (native Jakartan) and Muslim. For other ethnicities, must have lived in Jakarta for at least three years.

Funding: Donations from members and businesses.

Activities: Provides "unofficial" security services to companies engaged in entertainment businesses, property, construction projects and business centers. FBR members can also be seen guarding disputed property, providing debt-collection services and clearing out land. Its top brass also run small-scale printing business. The group is often used to provide political support for the Jakarta bureaucracy and certain Islamic parties, as evidenced when it condemned opponents of the controversial pornography bill.

History: Founded on July 29, 2001, the FBR was charged by its recently deceased chief patron Fadhloly El Muhir to create jobs for the Betawi ethnic group. However, it was mired in allegations of receiving backing from the military, the Jakarta administration and opponents of former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid. The groups were used as proxies to deal with Gus Dur's grassroots Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) supporters from East Java, who threatened to flock to the capital to help keep Gus Dur in power. Lutfi denies the allegations, saying the FBR was set up merely to advocate for the revival of the long-marginalized Betawi.

Notes: In March 2003, seven members of the group were jailed for attacking the head of the Urban Poor Consortium (an NGO focusing on urban development issues), Wardah Hafidz, near the office of the National Commission for Human Rights. Lutfi strongly opposes the stigma.

Muhammad Rizieq

Islam Defenders Front (FPI)

Leader: Al-Habib Muhammad Rizieq bin Husein Syihab (71)

Members: Less than 10,000 in Greater Jakarta.

Membership requirement: Muslims who can read the Koran.

Funding: Mostly donations from members, business activities of the group's top brass.

Activities: Mostly an ideological and political movement claiming to uphold Islamic law, implemented in the field through crackdowns on nightclubs, brothels and gambling dens, and leading more often than not to clashes and violence. Their targets include roadside vendors who stay open during the fasting month of Ramadan. Chairman of the Jakarta Association of Tourism, Recreation and Entertainment Adrian Maulete claims the association regularly pays the FPI to not raid its members' clubs while operating.

History: Founded on Aug. 17, 1998, the FPI is a splinter group of the Pamswakarsa civil guard formed by the military to support the Habibie regime. Through promoting violence, the FPI has earned the respect of hard-line Muslims, but often become disdained by society at large.

Notes: The FPI's litany of violence includes a bloody attack on members of the Alliance for the Freedom of Religion and Faith (AKKBB) in the National Monument park, Central Jakarta, on June 1, 2008. Group leader Habib Rizieq was sentenced to 18 months in prison for inciting the violence. He was released this July. FPI secretary-general Sobri Lubis says the FPI remains a force to be reckoned with, despite the recent police crackdown on its leaders, adding it will continue to "wipe out immoral practices" no matter how long it takes. "We have nothing against the food or water these nightclubs offer, but if they start selling women, provide gambling venues or drugs, then we will have to stand against them."

Oding Djunaidi

Laskar Jayakarta (Jayakarta Warriors)

Leader: Adj. Sr. Comr. Susilowadi, aka Bang Ilo (47)

Members: 30,000 in Greater Jakarta.

Membership requirement: All-inclusive, preference to native Jakartans.

Funding: Mostly donations from members' and leaders' businesses.

Activities: Laskar Jayakarta assists Jakarta residents, especially of Betawi ethnicity, get jobs. Nurturing close ties with the police, the group provides unofficial security services primarily to nightclubs, retailers, hotels and boarding houses in the Tamansari district of West Jakarta. The district, which covers the vicinity of Jl. Mangga Besar, Jl. Hayam Wuruk, Jl. Gadjah Mada and the Glodok business center, is Jakarta's largest night entertainment center and accounts for 60 percent of the business. Laskar's top officials are former members of Pemuda Pancasila youth organization, the military's family forum (Forkabi) and the FBR.

History: As a newcomer in the industry, it was not until 2007 that Laskar Jayakarta became widely known, when it supported Comr. Gen. (ret) Adang Daradjatun, the former National Police deputy chief, in his 2007 bid to be Jakarta governor. Laskar split from the Betawi Community Union (PMB) in 2004.

Notes: The group's structure is loosely reminiscent of many of today's Jakarta-based groups. Laskar Jayakarta is a proxy nurtured by the police to help maintain order in Jakarta's night entertainment hub and prevent ethnic clashes. "Bang Ilo himself ordered us to control our members' behavior to keep in line with the law," says Oding, the head of the group's Tamansari branch in Central Jakarta.

Japto Soerjosoemarno

Pancasila Youth

Leader: Japto Soelistyo Soerjosoemarno (59)

Members: Less than 100,000 in Greater Jakarta.

Membership requirement: All ethnicities and religions.

Funding: Mostly donations from members, business activities of the group's top brass.

Activities: Security services and debt collection are the major income earner of the group, as well as land clearing for businesses.

History: Pancasila Youth was established on Oct. 28, 1959, by former legendary military commander Abdul Haris Nasution, with the sole aim of confronting the communist threat. However, after 1978, it evolved with the backing of the Soeharto regime and the Golkar Party, which used it to mobilize youth support during general elections. The Pancasila Youth was allegedly involved in the July 27, 1996, riot and the bloody sectarian violence in Ambon, Maluku, in 2000.

Notes: Along with the Soeharto downfall in 1998, Pancasila Youth lost its political and security clout, which finally led in late 2003 to Yorris Raweyai, its most influential figure and financier, falling out with Japto over the latter's decision to set up the Patriot Party, the political wing of the Pancasila Youth. Yorris remains with Golkar and became legislator for the party, while the Patriot Party failed to get any legislative seat. With funding, notably from Yorris, drying up, most of the group's members now moonlight with other mass organizations, including the FBR, the FPI and Laskar Jayakarta. According to Yorris, Pancasila Youth is now focusing on recruiting university students, intellectuals and the middle class to help keep the group afloat. Japto's youngest son, Jedidiah Shenazar, is being groomed to take over his father's work.

Jhon Kei

Eastern Indonesia factions

Leaders: Herkules (East Timor group), Jhon Kei (Kei Island group in Maluku), Rony Syauta and Umar Kei (Indonesian Mollucans Youth Union, or PMB) and Ongen Sangaji (Ambon group in Maluku).

Members: Each group is believed to have less than 1,000 members in Greater Jakarta, except the PMB, which has around 20,000.

Membership requirement: Exclusive to ethnicity.

Activities: Groups are engaged in intense rivalry with one another. In the case of the Maluku groups, not a single leader has united them. Both the East Timor and Maluku groups are competing to win orders for security services for disputed parties, business centers and properties. They are also the most efficient debt collectors employed by banks, financing companies and individuals, primarily through intimidation. They earn between 15 percent and 50 percent of the debt collected.

Notes: - Herkules has since 2006 lost his lucrative empire in the Tanah Abang business center to Betawi native Haji Lulung. Herkules followers still maitain a loose grip on several small pockets in the Kota area of North Jakarta. Herkules is now engaged in the coal business, and spends time mostly in Kalimantan and Sumatra.
- John Kei, a notorious gang leader, is serving a jail term in Surabaya for cutting the fingers of two of his cousins.
- Ongen Sangaji is now an executive with the Hanura Party, founded by former military commander Gen. (ret) Wiranto.
- Rony Syauta and Umar Kei are emerging as key players in the business. The group controls the largest Maluku group in East Jakarta. The PMB is now trying to unite all Maluku gangs, but to no avail thus far.

Haji Lulung

Haji Lulung group

Leader: Abraham Lunggana, aka Haji Lulung (48)

Members: More than 2,000 in Tanah Abang alone.

Membership requirement: Preference for native Jakartans. Other ethnic groups also welcome.

Funding: Companies under Haji Lulung, donations from outsourced workers.

Activities: Haji Lulung has a vast line of businesses, including security services, parking and waste management. Around 90 percent of such businesses in Tanah Abang, Southeast Asia's largest textile and garment distribution area, is organized by Haji Lulung. Through his newly established law firm, Haji Lulung & Associates, a debt-collection business is now in the pipeline. Haji Lulung's tentacles also take in security services for shopping centers in the vicinity of Hotel Indonesia in Central Jakarta, Senayan in South Jakarta, Taman Ismail Marzuki in Central Jakarta, the Aldira shopping center in East Jakarta, Tarakan Hospital, Cengkareng Hospital, Fatmawati Hospital and the Bogor Mental Hospital.

History: Assisted primarily by law enforcers and the Jakarta administration, Haji Lulung's luck started to turn in 2000 when he supplied workers for the construction of the Metro bridge in the Tanah Abang shopping compound. His rise is also attributed to the need for opposition against former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid in creating a proxy Betawi-based group to confront the threat of Gus Dur's incoming grass-roots supporters from East Java in 2001. Since then, without spilling much blood, Haji Lulung has gradually expelled the notorious godfather Herkules from Tanah Abang for good in 2006.

Notes: Haji Lulung is now a city councilor for the United Development Party (PPP).

Ferry Sinkings in Indonesia

This past week in Indonesia has seen two ferries sink, one off the coast of Bali and one off the coast of Kalimantan. What is it with Indonesian ferries and their uncanny ability to regularly sink?

Understanding that Indonesia is a collection of 17,000 plus islands makes it easy to see why sea transportation is critical to the movement of goods and people. So, in some ways the fact that there is an accident or two would seem to be part and parcel of the odds.

However, the regularity with which accidents occur really should raise more alarm bells than it does. It should also generate a little bit more action than the obligatory Minister of Transportation statement that the government is dedicated to ensuring the safety of its citizens who have no option but to take sea transportation to get to where they need to be.

Simple solution is a complete overhaul of the safety and compliance system. This overhaul does not necessarily imply changing of the current prevailing laws and regulations, but rather seeing that the regulations that are already in force are, in fact, enforced.

On Wednesday, a ferry, Putra Romo, sank in the Straits of Badung off the coast of Bali. Of the 27 people on board, nine are dead and three are missing. Then, last night, the Sari Mulia sank off the coast of Kalimantan on a routine trip from Negara to Banjarmasin. The ship, as is often the case in Indonesia, was overcrowded. Best estimates to date are that one hundred have been rescued, five are dead, and a further eighteen are missing.

This is certainly not a good start to the fasting month.

(picture is a random ferry image that can be found here)

Hambali and the Bali Bombings

Riduan Isamuddin (AKA Hambali) was arrested in Thailand in 2003, and after having been the alleged recipient of some free travel around the world to a number of ghost prisons, ended up in Guantanamo Bay as a guest of the US. This is presumably for the duration of the war on terror. However, since Barack Obama has taken office, it has become a little uncertain as to what lies ahead for some of these detainees.

In any event, there is little doubt that Hambali gave up a fair bit of intelligence under the enhanced interrogation techniques used on him, like waterboarding. Nevertheless, even with the favourable rules of evidence that the military tribunals were going to be working under, the US has some doubts that it could currently make a case against Hambali for the Bali Bombings. Hambali was the head of a Jemaah Islamiyya cell that had operational responsibilities for Malaysia and Singapore. This cell was known as Mantiqi One.

The problem is apparently not a lack of evidence, but rather a lack of evidence that prosecutors would be able to adduce and then use in court to prove Hambali's guilt. Nevertheless, it is generally thought that Hambali ordered the targeting of "soft targets" and was the main man when it came to funding the bombings.

Yet, the US authorities are a lot more confident that they can link him to a string of other bombings in Indonesia. It has only been this year that the Indonesian authorities have been granted access to Hambali for interrogation purposes. This is interesting in itself as the majority of Hambali's alleged crimes have occurred in Indonesia and have predominantly killed Indonesians. The two series of bombings that the authorities believe present as the strongest cases against Hambali are the Marriott bombing of 2003 and the Christmas Eve bombings.

If the military tribunals are reconvened, and the rules are not drastically changed, then it would seem that military prosecutors would seek to see Hambali charged with murder and then pursue the death penalty for him.

28 August 2009

France, Muslims, Hijab, Banks, and Discrimination

France has certainly been pro-active in dealing with this one over the years. The French government has banned head scarves or the hijab and other religious clothing from primary and secondary schools in 2004. More recently, Muslim women wearing burqinis have been barred from public swimming pools on health grounds. And now, Société Générale refused to let a 24-year-old female Muslim customer enter the bank, unless she removed her headscarf. This was for security reasons.

The following video goes into the details.

27 August 2009

The Age of Magistrates -- Does It Matter?

How young is too young? Or perhaps the question should really be how much experience is enough in order to be appointed a magistrate in NSW. This is a question that seems to have struck a chord in NSW with the recent appointment of Ellen Skinner as a magistrate at the age of 33.

Personal opinion, age is but a number. If the committee that selected her and recommended her for appointment believe that she has the skills and qualifications necessary to do the task, then so be it. It does not matter that she is 33 as it would not matter if she was 43, 53, or 63.

The appointment has drawn the ire of the NSW opposition who claim that the process is not transparent and the criteria for appointment are unclear. So, this appointment seemingly represents a case of providing someone the inside running to a career on the bench. This is nothing short of a little bit of grandstanding. By all accounts, Skinner is an accomplished lawyer and a worthy appointment.

The appointment makes Skinner the youngest ever person appointed to the bench as a magistrate in NSW.

Good luck to her and may she have a long and successful career on the bench.

Standard Hotel -- New York -- Free Sex Shows

There are plenty of reasons to go to New York without ever thinking about visiting the Standard Hotel in New York City. However, if being part of a little bit of voyeurism and exhibitionism is your thing, then perhaps the Standard Hotel is the perfect reason to be heading to NYC.

The Standard Hotel is called "plush" by many however it is the floor-to-ceiling windows that seem to be the biggest attraction for those on the inside and those wanting to have a little peek in from the outside. Why? Well, it seems that the windows have inspired guests and staff alike to partake in the odd free sex show. Free for those looking in from the outside and there is a growing number of those.

The guests pay for the pleasure of staying there. Yet, they also provide a great deal of free pleasure to those stressed out New Yorkers and tourists to the "Big Apple" by stepping out of the shower and toweling down in front of the windows whilst bearing all their wares to the world outside. It is even being reported that some guests have gotten into the act by pleasuring themselves whilst in front of the windows. Supposedly, there are even reports, and perhaps a video, of guest making a porn flick.

The authorities know the score and know that it is going on. An employee with the Parks Department noted that there has been an influx and a significant increase in 'voyeurs' heading to the park to watch the free exhibitions many stories up in the Standard Hotel.

It is unclear whether the Hotel's owners or management condone the activities. However, some staff said that there has been encouragement for the activities as a way of creating buzz for the hotel and perhaps as a means of generating business. Perhaps a food and drinks stall somewhere in the park might be a good way of capitalizing on the increasing numbers of people milling around to catch a glimpse or two of an erotic peep show.

Not all people are happy with the free sex shows. Yet, it would seem that a great majority are happy for them to continue.

I am not sure that the free sex shows are worth a ticket to NYC. But, if someone was willing to pay for me to get there I would be more than happy to write a review of the experience.

Maybe it is time to diversify my skills and get paid for my writing :D

26 August 2009

New Australian Military Court Declared Invalid...

Who would have thought that a new Military Court would be declared constitutionally invalid because of a teabagging case. Teabagging, for those of you who do not know the term, is an act performed by a man that involves putting his testicles onto the face of another person. However, this is just what happened to the new Australian Military Court. Well, that and a government not prepared to listen to any advice that the court would not survive a constitutional challenge.

The High Court of Australia has handed-down a unanimous decision that the Military Court as it is currently constituted does not comply with the requisite judicial power outlined in the Constitution of the Commonwealth.

The Court made this decision because the court was designed to exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth and as such the court had to be established in a particular manner in order to be valid. This was even after reading and considering the legislation that established the court. The relevant legislation goes to some length to state that the Military Court is to act more like a tribunal and therefore did not need to comply with the constitution's judicial power clauses.

How this came to be a High Court matter is an interesting tale of events. Brian Lane joined the Navy back in 1998. In 2005 he was photographed teabagging an army sergeant while the sergeant was asleep. Lane was then charged with committing an act of indecency and assaulting a superior officer. He was charged in August 2007 and discharged from the Navy in November 2007.

When the case came to court, Lane objected to the jurisdiction of the court and lodged an appeal to the High Court to determine whether there was valid jurisdiction. The High Court said that the provisions creating the Military Court were invalid because it was created as a court of record and because it was to have the power to issue binding and authoritative decisions of guilt or innocence. Simply, if it was to have the power to do these things then it must be a court that is properly constituted.

The High Court has ordered a writ of prohibition be issued. In essence, this writ stops the proceedings against Lane from going forward in the constitutionally invalid Military Court.

Perhaps this post lends itself to a picture of teabagging?

A Tribute to Edward Kennedy...

May those that remain carry Edward Kennedy's dreams and vision forward.

Edward Moore Kennedy -- R.I.P

Edward Kennedy lost his year-long battle with cancer on Tuesday evening.

Kennedy was one of the most influential senators in US history. He will be sorely missed by not only those that loved him, but also by the Democratic party. He was an avid campaigner on issues of social justice, fairness, and opportunity.

His personal philosophy is seen in the following statement:

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on. The cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

You can view his Senate record here. You can read the Kennedy family statement here. And, you can read the news as relayed by The Washington Post here.

May the man now rest in peace.

25 August 2009

What's the Story Morning Glory?

This is a really cool photograph.

The photo and story can be found here.

In essence, no-one is quite sure what causes them. But, it is thought that it might relate to a combination of hot and cooler air that circulates in a tube pattern. Apparently, these clouds can role on for a 1000 kms and up to altitudes of 2 kms, but only in the spring. These clouds were snapped over Burketown in Queensland, and published by NASA.

Malaysia, Caning, and Beer -- Part IV

It would seem that being sentenced to a good ol' caning, wanting to get caned, and actually being caned are very different things.

It is interesting that the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has entered the fray on this one. He has suggested that the Singaporean and Muslim model, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, not be quite as willing to accept her fate. According to Razak, although he does not want to interfere with the imposition of the sentence or the role of the Sharia Courts, he believes that not all avenues of appeal are yet closed.

The PM is of the opinion that the authorities are "sensitive" to her plight and the implications of the sentence. and therefore she should appeal. I guess there are a number of ways that can be interpreted, and the cynics among us might lean towards the PM interfering in the judicial / justice process. Then again, maybe the cynics would not see it this way.

Shukarno was granted a reprieve as the Sharia Courts and the authorities decided that the holy month of Ramadan was not the opportune time to be caning a young mother of two for drinking beer. Hey, seeing it is Ramadan and a month of forgiveness, how about just vacating the sentence and replace it with a warning that in essence is a slap on the wrist and some choice words about re-offending.

However, I am of the opinion that she wants to get caned. Whether she wants to get caned because it is publicity and any publicity is good publicity, I am not going to speculate. But, she is calling a good bluff on any front by challenging the authorities to get the deed done.

Most people would have appealed the sentence as a matter of course, Shukarno has not. Instead, she has argued that if it is to be done and the authorities are really doing it as a means of educating other Muslims of the ills of alcohol and drinking, then the caning must be done in public. This makes sense to me.

The waiting game continues.

Schapelle Corby -- Insane -- Should She Come Home?

Here is a screen grab (edited thanks to Picnik) from an online survey being conducted on Yahoo Australia.

There have been more than 12,500 responses in just on two days, and 57% of those responses would suggest that the feeling is that Corby should stay where she is.

I wonder whether this means anything?

24 August 2009

Schapelle Corby -- Insane...

Schapelle Corby has been diagnosed as "clinically insane." The diagnosis was made by Dr. Jonathon Phillips, the former president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. Dr. Phillips visited Corby in her Bali prison recently to assess her mental state. The assessment was paid for by the New Idea magazine. New Idea claim that they funded the assessment after receiving huge numbers of requests about Corby.

According to Dr. Phillips, Corby is both delusional and paranoid. In lay person's terms she is no longer capable of caring for herself. She is apparently laboring in a world of fantasy and hallucinations, and subject to a mind dominated by some truly bizarre ideas.

Corby's state of mind has deteriorated so much that she has tried to commit suicide, at least, twice. The attempts allegedly involve Corby cutting herself pretty severely. This has lead Dr. Phillips to state that if Corby is faking her illness, then she is a master actor.

The Corby family has sent the results of the evaluation to the Australian Prime Minister and seem set to lobby hard to have Australia make an approach to their Indonesian counterparts with a view to having Corby transferred to a secure facility in Australia. As far as I recall the prisoner transfer agreement between Australia and Indonesia has stalled on a few key points. So, it would seem unlikely that this is going to be a prisoner exchange deal, at least not through a prisoner exchange treaty.

It seems that any claim would be more likely to succeed on compassionate grounds. Simply, make this a humanitarian issue by making an appeal to the humanity of Indonesians. I am not sure that this is a win / win situation. And, even if Indonesia was inclined to release Corby on compassionate grounds, they would be certain to insist on some strict conditions. I would hazard a guess that these would include provisions that would not see Corby immediately released on her return to Australia.

The saga continues.


I have been lead to an article published in The Australian on 29 August 2009.

In essence the article says that Schapelle's psychiatrist in Bali, Dr. Denny Thong, in essence agrees with Dr. Jonathon Phillips that Schapelle has a mental illness. However, according to Dr. Thong, the mental illness is not insanity but depression and bouts of audio and visual hallucinations. Dr. Thong believes that Schapelle can be treated, and is being treated, but he is unsure as to whether Schapelle is taking her medication.

Dr. Thong does not believe this to be a life and death situation. To the contrary, the Dr. recommends that Schapelle be moved to the Bangli Mental Hospital where she can be treated, and then when well enough she can be returned to prison to complete her sentence.

This is the link to the article.

Anonymous Blogger -- Outed By the Courts & Google...

This is a follow-up to an earlier post on anonymous blogging and whether one can be truly anonymous when they blog, particularly if they are writing content that offends someone and they decide to take legal action. You can read that post here.

The anonymous blogger is Rosemary Port, a 29-year-old fashion student from New York, and she is so unhappy about Google giving up her identity and breaching her right to privacy that she is allegedly going to sue Google for USD 15 million.

Port's lawyer, Salvatore Strazzullo, seems to think that the case has enough legs to get all the way to the US Supreme Court. The arguments that Strazzullo are going to run with revolve around the fact that Google has "breached its fiduciary duty to protect her [Port] expectation of anonymity".

However, the other likely angles include that Cohen had a hand in publishing the sexually provocative pictures of herself and that the defamation action was nothing more than an attempt drum up some publicity for herself and defame Port into the bargain. Furthermore, Cohen has described herself as a "serial monogamist". Interesting choice of words to accompany the pictures posted of her.

This case would seem to have some ways to go.

A long story short, Port created a blog called "Skanks in NYC" and it seems that the only 'skank' Port focused on was Liskula Cohen. Cohen was offended and felt she had been defamed but was unable to proceed with any claim against the person doing the defaming because the blog was anonymous. Jumping forward, Cohen sues Google to get the identity of the anonymous blogger, the court decides that Google must hand over the identity, Google hands over the identity, and Port is outed.

Strangely enough, Cohen has 'forgiven' Port and pretty much brushed the matter off as Port being "an irrelevant person in my life". It would seem she knew Port, but obviously they were far from being friends. Although, they seem to have known each other well-enough that Cohen was comfortable allegedly trashing Port to Port's ex-boyfriend. Ahhhhh, the lives of models and fashion students.

It will be interesting to see if all the talk of taking this case all the way to the US Supreme Court comes to fruition.

Pranks -- A Pain in the Arse?

The mere reporting of stories such as this one are likely to lead to a number of copycats. However, it might also lead to people give the toilet seat the once over before sitting down and getting down to business.

A story out of Cairns, Queensland, has a man glued to the seat of a public toilet in a shopping centre. Unfortunately, the man went to the male bathroom in the shopping centre only to find himself glued to the seat. An embarrassing prank for sure, inconvenient as well, and painful too.

When he was finally able to attract attention, an ambulance was called. The ambulance arrived and managed to get the man off the toilet but with the toilet seat still glued to his behind. The toilet seat was finally removed once the man arrived at Cairns base Hospital.

The hospital is reporting the man sustained minor injuries. Police are continuing their investigation.

This post probably lends itself to a picture but I have not yet found one that suits the subject matter.

22 August 2009

Jakarta Night Life & Ramadan...

The government of Jakarta has suggested that private organizations and others (I am guessing that the government may be thinking about the track record of organizations like the Front Pembela Islam / FPI, among others) must not attack entertainment venues (bars, clubs, discos, massage parlours, and karaoke, among others) or other controversial businesses during the fasting month of Ramadan. It will be interesting to see whether these organizations heed this warning and what the government will do if they do not heed the warning.

The government has issued strict guidelines with regards to operational hours for places that are permitted to open. However, it is clear that community or other forms of vigilante justice are not the way to deal with recalcitrant entertainment venues. The police have a mandate to deal with entertainment venues who fail to comply with the prevailing laws and regulations.

The reality is that most of these organizations do not believe that the police will use their mandate to deal with those breaching not only the law, but also the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan (at least as they see it), and therefore believe that they must assume the role of protector of the holiness of the month.

The most interesting part of this story is that the government has sent out 1,129 notices to all of the "legal" bars, clubs, massage parlours, nightclubs, and karaoke operators detailing the prevailing laws and regulations that will operate specifically for Ramadan. Why is this interesting? It had never dawned on me that there were this many legal venues in Jakarta. That said, it does not surprise me that there are, but it certainly would be one very long and drawn out bar crawl.

Generally, opening hours for the venues permitted to open will be 20.30 through to 01.30.

The rules for star-rated hotels are that they can operate regular hours. However, experience would suggest that even star-rated hotels tend to reduce operating hours and most tend to operate similar hours to other entertainment venues. Nevertheless, the big hotels and their bars, such as 30 in the Le Meridien, BATS in the Shangri La, CJ's in the Mulia Hotel, Musro in the Borobudur Hotel, and the Untitled Bar in the Marriott are all worth a shot during Ramadan. However, even these places tend to be closed on the first couple of days of Ramadan and during Idul Fitri (Eid ul-Fitr) and a few days after that.

If you are looking for a blog that details the night life of Jakarta, then I found this one: The Best Nightlife In Jakarta (the photo for this post is also from this blog).


To all those friends, colleagues, and acquaintances fasting during Ramadan may the month be full of patience and spirituality.

And, may Eid ul-Fitr be a time shared with family and friends.

Malaysia, Caning, and Beer -- Part III

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is set to be contained according to her sentence sometime next week. The sentence was six lashes of the cane and a fine of 5000 ringgit. Her crime, being a Muslim and drinking beer in a nightclub in the eastern state of Pahang. I wrote about it here.

Shukarno has asked for the sentence to be carried out as soon as possible. Her request is based on two simple reasons; the sooner the sentence is carried out, the sooner she can get on with the rest of her life, and secondly, she wants others to learn from her mistakes so that they might avoid a similar caning in the future. Her regret is apparently the driving force for the desire for a public caning.

Although, there seems to be a bit of a caveat on the caning in that Shukarno wants it carried out in public rather than in the confines of a closed prison. This would certainly seem the most likely way of ensuring maximum exposure (pun intended). It is worth noting that Shukarno will be the first woman to be caned under Islamic Law. There must be a sellable story in that somewhere, particularly when one considers she lives in Singapore and not Malaysia.

It must also be noted that caning is not unusual as a form of punishment in Malaysia. There are at least forty crimes that attract a good caning. The criminal punishment statistics compiled by Amnesty International state that almost 35,000 people have been caned in Malaysia between 2002 and 2008. The majority of these canings were for immigration offenses. Simply, a few strokes on the buttocks and on your way back to wherever it is that you came from.

Amnesty International has been vocal in its opposition to caning. According to Amnesty International, caning is a cruel and degrading punishment, and as such must not be used as a form of punishment. Besides, cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishments are expressly prohibited under international law. AI has, in fact, asked the Malaysian government to vacate this sentence and to pass legislation that would prohibit the use of caning under any circumstances in Malaysia.

However, Malaysia in its defense of the soon-to-occur caning is that the cane (rattan / rotan) is smaller than the one used for men, the swing is shorter, and the purpose is to educate rather than punish, therefore Shukarno is not likely to endure too much pain when it is all said and done.

The problem, or perhaps issue, for me is that the idea of concurrent courts, General and Islamic, means that there is a two-tiered justice system where punishments depend on your religious beliefs, and therefore will differ from others who commit a similar offense or in this case where they commit no offense at all. It is not illegal for non-Muslims to drink alcohol in Malaysia.

Maybe there will be a video so that we can all get a public viewing of the manner of a Malaysian caning.

Breach of Contract -- A Prostitute and Her Baby...

This is an interesting case and a novel legal argument. However, it was ultimately futile as common sense prevailed in light of the circumstances of this particular case.

A married man who fathered a child with a prostitute, and who had been paying child support for the child, took action in the Federal Magistrates Court with the intent of having the need for the payments legally terminated.

The circumstances were pretty simple; client visits prostitute, client pays prostitute, prostitute gets pregnant and then gives birth to a child, client pays support based on informal agreement, client loses big paying job and decides he does not want to honour the informal agreement, then the prostitute sues for the support.

The legal argument was that the child was in fact a breach of the Trade Practices Act as there was an implied contract between the client and the sex worker that the sex worker would take the necessary measures required to protect themselves, in this case from pregnancy.

In determining the case the magistrate, Grant Riethmuller held that the circumstances of the child's conception makes absolutely no difference to any rights that child has to entitlements under the Child Support Scheme. Therefore, the client was ordered to continue paying child support.

20 August 2009

Foreign Students and Visa Fraud -- Australia

The Australian government is set to crack down on visa fraud by foreign students and those that assist them in getting the necessary visas to study in Australia. The visa fraud that the government is targeting relates to whether prospective students have sufficient financial reserves to support them through the course of their studies.

It is expected that prospective students will need at least AUD 12,000 for living expenses for each year they intend to study plus any applicable tuition fees.

The main targets of this crackdown are going to be prospective students from India, Mauritius, Nepal, Brazil, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan. The crackdown is to be launched immediately. In essence, the crackdown means that applications from prospective students from any of the listed countries are going to be subject to enhanced scrutiny and have restrictions placed on their ability to lodge applications online, according to Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

Applications by prospective students has increased by some 20% over the last 12 months and some 28,000 applications were rejected.

The most obvious signs of potential fraud are, apparently, large one-off transfers of cash to the bank account of the prospective student and enrollment in lesser known institutions. The government has been unequivocal in stating that legitimate students need not fear any additional scrutiny of their applications. A legitimate application will still be approved irrespective of where the applicant comes from.

The international student industry in Australia is worth some AUD 15.5 billion per year.

I wonder how much the increased scrutiny will impact the bottom line?

Shah Rukh Khan -- US Immigration Hassles -- The Daily Show...

Here is Jon Stewart's take on the Shah Rukh Khan incident. I wrote about this previously here. In that post I alluded to the fact that it might have been a beat up, but Jon Stewart is a much more famous funny man than I ever will be, so here he is with The Daily Show interpretation.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Shah Rukh Khan Detained at Newark
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The Burqini...

The burqini as a fashion statement might not warrant much discussion, but it seems as a practical garment for swimming that allows Muslim women and girls to enjoy the wonders of water whether it be in a swimming pool or at the beach has become a bit of a flash point, at least in France.

The burqini is a head-to-toe swimsuit that apparently meets all the strict dress requirements for Muslim women to be seen in public. It was designed by an Australian, Aheda Zanetti, and would appear, at least to my unfashionable eye, to be a practical solution to the issue at hand.

However, it would seem that the French are somewhat more fashionable that I and have banned the burqini from being worn in French swimming pools. The reason, the suit is unhygienic, and therefore it is a public health issue. I am wondering exactly what hygiene issues are involved that would make the wearing of the burqini in a public pool any less hygienic than a naughty 10-year-old taking a pee in the pool.

Yet, it would seem that the rationale is that larger garments would conceivably carry more bacteria. This sounds pretty weak as an argument considering the last time I swam in a public pool it was like jumping into a bottle of chlorine. Then again, I am not a scientist with knowledge of the intricacies of burqini hygiene.

Interestingly, reports out of France say that the move as received widespread support from the French population and there has not been a significant backlash form French Muslims in response to the ban.

The Mayor of a regional Italian town, Varallo Sesia, has also banned the burqini from the local swimming pool as well. The reason is also related to hygiene matters. However, the mayor is also a member of a party that is staunchly anti-immigration and his comments might suggest that there is more at play than just hygiene.

The mayor is alleged to have said words to the effect that the sight of a masked woman at a swimming pool would scare young children, and imagine a western woman wearing a bikini in a Muslim nation as she would be at risk of decapitation, among other punishments. The idea being that the local mayor is only banning the wearing of the burqini and not arresting or punishing its wearers.

Are these valid arguments? Or, would the governments seeking to ban the wearing of the burqini be better served by continuing to trot out the hygiene excuse and ratchet that up with a few scientific studies?

Life in a multicultural world.

19 August 2009

Pregnant With 12 Babies -- Maybe Not As It Seems...

Perhaps everyone jumped the gun a little bit on this story. Earlier today I wrote about a Tunisian woman who was allegedly pregnant with 12 babies and was due sometime soon, perhaps even this month.

However, officials in the woman's home town of Gafsa are saying that the woman may not even be pregnant at all and that she has a history of psychological problems and likely made the whole thing up. Apparently, she has been interviewed by health officials and according to the health officials she does not even look pregnant, let alone being almost nine months pregnant and carrying 12 babies.

All the experts interviewed were sceptical that it was possible, and even if it were done or possible then they were all concerned about the responsibility of such a large number of fetuses being implanted at any one time. It seems that the experts were pretty much on the money on this one. I guess that is why they are experts.

It is thought that not only may the woman at the center of the claims be psychologically unwell, it seems that the story might have been concocted as a means of making money from TV and other media outlets. Perhaps the inspiration being Octomum, Nadya Suleman, who has made hundreds of thousands of dollars off her story and eight little ones. The fact that she is a single mum with 14 kids is also a pretty news worthy story for a number of reasons.

Miss Tourism Queen 2009 -- Miss Bali Wins

Miss Bali, Yoke Paramita Djati Walujo, has won the Bikini Contest of the Miss Tourism Queen 2009 held in Xinyang, Henan Province in China.

The contest included 120 participants form all parts of the globe. The runners-up came from Russia and Ukraine.

The competition concluded on 17 August 2009.

Congratulations to Miss Bali.

Barack Obama and His Nazi Policies...

I really do not get the connection between the Obama Health Care plan and the Nazi policy of eugenics, or any other Nazi policy for that matter. I can understand that some people might not agree with the policy or the plan, but comparing it to anything that Adolf Hitler or the Nazis did in Germany through the 1930s and 1940s is just plain stupid and way out there in terms of exaggeration.

So, it was with a good deal of laughter that I watched Barney Frank's reply at a recent town hall meeting in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, when one of the attendees asked him, "Why are you supporting this Nazi policy?"

Frank's reply, "On what planet do you spend most of your time?" He then gets a little more serious and talks about the beauty of the first amendment allowing for such "vile, contemptible nonsense" to be propagated.

How Anonymous Are You Really When You Blog?

Here is some food for thought for those of you out there, me included, who blog and say things that may or may not be considered defamatory.

A model, Liskula Cohen, has successfully sued Google for the name of an anonymous blogger who she alleges defamed her on a blog hosted by Google. The blog was called Skanks in NYC. The essence of the defamation case is that the anonymous blogger called Cohen a "skank" and an "old hag".

The anonymous blogger identified Cohen as the "skankiest in NYC". This was then followed with, "How old is this skank? 40 something? She's a psychotic, lying, whoring, still going to clubs at her age, skank." I am guessing that this does not leave much to one's imagination. Is it defamatory? On face value, probably.

However, there are defenses to defamation that if the decision survives appeal, assuming there is one, then the anonymous blogger would likely be arguing an extension of what the blogger's lawyer has put forward so far, namely: this was mere opinion and "trash talk" rather than any intent to defame. The extension here would be to argue that, in essence, what has been said is in fact true.

Judge Joan Madden has ruled in favour of Cohen and has ordered that Google must provide the name of the anonymous blogger. It is expected that the name of the anonymous blogger is to be revealed in court as a means of allowing Cohen to proceed with her defamation action against the currently anonymous blogger. According to Judge Madden the assertions made were that Cohen was sexually promiscuous and the accompanying photos on the blog bore this intent out sufficiently well.

Cohen's modelling career was seemingly cut short when she was glassed in 2007. The resulting injuries required 46 stitches to close the wounds. Cohen was glassed when she objected to some drunk bloke stealing a bottle of vodka off her table. The bloke decided his best course of action in response to this objection was to glass Cohen in the face. The bloke was sent to jail, and deservedly so.

The case is interesting because of the potential implications. These implications are that anyone who thinks they are blogging anonymously may not be so anonymous after all. There are undoubtedly many techno savvy individuals out there with the knowledge and means of ratcheting up their anonymity to make discovery of their true identities even more difficult or impossible.

I am not one of them. I have enough trouble just using the features of blogger to be worried about whether I am anonymous or not. That said, I am using my real name to blog. So, if I have defamed you then you know where I reside in cyberspace.

There is a belief that this decision will open the floodgates to litigation and defamation claims based on comments written online that people do not agree with. This would seemingly be the case.

It is worth noting that the blog in question was shut down in March of this year. The blog contained only five entries and all of them related to Cohen. My guess is that the anonymous blogger is likely someone she knows or someone she has had some acquaintance with. Alternatively, it is, or was, a cyber-stalker which is a scary thought.

Something for all you anonymous bloggers out there to consider is this statement from Google:

"We sympathise with anyone who may be the victim of cyber bullying. We also take great care to respect privacy concerns and will only provide information about a user in response to a subpoena or other court order." So, make sure you re-read the privacy statement from Google again if you thought what you clicked guaranteed your absolute privacy.

Food for thought.

18 August 2009

Pregnant With 12 Babies...

I am all for developments in medicine and science that help us live more fulfilled and healthier lives. However, this story gets one wondering, and wondering big time, about pushing the physical boundaries of what is humanly capable and, perhaps more importantly, what is responsible.

A Tunisian woman is reportedly pregnant with 12 babies, six boys and six girls. The 12 babies are the result, it is thought, of an IVF treatment. The woman and her husband are apparently ecstatic about the pregnancy.

I guess I am wondering what are the implications of trying to carry this many babies to term? Particularly, what are the health implications for the mother and the babies she is expected to give birth to.

The couple have been told that she will be able to give birth to all these babies naturally. However, most experts seem to think that this would be impossible. I suppose we will find out on this one when the time comes.

I truly hope that it all works out for her, her husband, and the 12 babies she is carrying.

Cocaine Currency...

I wonder what people carrying US dollars are doing in their spare time. A recent study has found that 90%, yes that is nine out of every ten bills tested, tested positive for cocaine. So, whoever is laundering this money is not doing a very good job at getting it clean before it goes into circulation. The study was presented at the Annual National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (I wonder if that is some kind of secret code for a meeting of like-minded individuals in the chemical field, if you know what I mean ;D).

The figures would suggest that the worlds largest consumers of cocaine, the US, are still maintaining a strangle-hold on the number one spot when it comes to users of cocaine. How does money end up with traces of cocaine on it; it is either used to snort the drug or it picks it up during a drug transaction.

Funnily enough, the dirtiest cities are Baltimore, Boston, and Detroit. The cleanest happens to be Salt Lake City, which means that apparently Mormons are not too into doing cocaine or they are just better at laundering their money.

The tests on the money were done with a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer. For those of you who don't know, and I was one of you, this is apparently a very accurate way of determining residues on banknotes.

But, never fear dear readers, you have absolutely zero chance of being able to go out and buy some greenbacks and start sniffing them for a cheap high. I still have a few greenbacks in my wallet from my last trip to Washington DC. Perhaps, it is time to dig around. The tests generally revealed only minute traces of cocaine.

Schapelle Corby -- Remission Confirmed...

As was expected Schapelle Corby has been granted a four-month remission on her 20-year jail sentence for smuggling 4.1kg of the wacky weed into Bali back in 2004. Corby has been battling depression for a number of years and continues to maintain her innocence.

Renae Lawrence of Bali Nine fame was granted a five-month sentence reduction on her 20-year jail sentence for trying to smuggle more than 8kg of heroin out of Bali and into Australia in 2005.

Both, seemingly, still have a long road to haul before they will qualify for release. Hopefully, the remissions will make them feel a little bit better about that.

17 August 2009

Wedding Humour -- Jewish...

A modern Orthodox Jewish couple, preparing for a religious wedding meets with their rabbi for counselling.

The rabbi asks if they have any last questions before they leave.

The man asks:

Rabbi, we realise it’s tradition for men to dance with men,and women to dance with women at the reception. But, we’d like your permission to dance together, like the rest of the world.

Says the rabbi:

Absolutely not. It’s immodest. Men and women always dance separately.

So, after the ceremony I can’t even dance with my own wife?

“No,” answered the rabbi. “It’s forbidden.”

“Well, okay,” says the man,”What about sex? Can we finally have sex?”

“Of course!” replies the rabbi. “Sex is a mitzvah – a good thing within marriage – to have children!”

“What about different positions?” asks the man

“No problem,” says the rabbi “It’s a mitzvah!”

“Woman on top?” the man asks.

“Sure,” says the rabbi. “Go for it! It’s a mitzvah!”

“Doggy style?”

“Sure! Another mitzvah!”

“On the kitchen table?”

“Yes, yes! A mitzvah!”

“Can we do it on rubber sheets with a bottle of hot oil, a couple of vibrators, a leather harness, a bucket of honey and a porno video?”

“You may indeed. It’s all a mitzvah!”

“Can we do it standing up?”

“No!”thunders the rabbi.

“Why not?” asks the man.

“Could lead to dancing!”

This joke and the picture has been taken from The Freethinker blog. I would encourage everyone to go and have a read of the posts made. They are always interesting and thought-provoking, even when they might not be your cuppa tea.

Lawyer Drought...

This was an interesting program. It is available in podcast if you are so inclined and technologically capable. Otherwise, you can just access the transcript and read what was said. Just go to the Law Report section on the ABC or follow this link.

The title of the program is a clever play on the fact that droughts tend to wreak the greatest havoc in rural areas, so it seems will a shortage of lawyers wreak a greater havoc in rural areas than in the larger urban areas.

A recent survey shows that the number of lawyers practicing in rural areas is declining fast and is set to decline even faster still in the coming years. Some 71% of the legal practitioners that are currently practicing in a number of areas believe that there are not enough lawyers to service their communities and that they feel the problem is only going to get worse.

It was interesting to see that what was really being lost from these communities was the pro bono work that local lawyers do for no other reason than it is of benefit to the community. It seems that young lawyers just cannot see a future in practicing law in rural areas, and they are always keen to return to the city or large urban areas.

The Law Council of Australia is currently running an initiative in an attempt to address this problem. You can find an article here.

Maybe I will have to complete my College of Law exams and go bush.

Fatwas and Terrorism...

The idea of issuing a fatwa (edict) against terrorism is an appealing one. If for no other reason than it would serve to distance the more moderate adherents to the faith from the more radical. However, the big question is how binding are these fatwas on Muslims and what are the real world punishments for failing to adhere to them?

More importantly, how should Muslims respond to competing fatwas or competing interpretations of what is acceptable with respect to violence perpetrated in the defense of the religion of Allah? There are plenty of Muslim organizations, and Muslims, throughout the world that are seeking to issue fatwas against terrorism as a means of distancing the faith from the criminal acts of a few. The YouTube video below relates to a fatwa issued in India.

This post is not suggesting that terrorism is a Muslim issue alone or that only Muslims perpetrate terror. However, the post is dealing with the issue of fatwas and terrorism, and this is a discussion within the framework of Islam and the interpretation of what is forbidden (haram) and what is permitted / legitimate (halal).

This is an interesting question. I thank Harry over at Multibrand for, in essence, challenging me on the issue, and also Tikno over at Love Ely for pointing me to the Indonesia version of a 2004 Fatwa on terrorism issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia / MUI).

In the Indonesian context, a fatwa is not binding in a strict legal sense. The government may consider them and may even adopt them if they are so inclined. However, adoption would require the codification of the fatwa into law. This is something that happens to a certain degree in matters relating to Islamic finance where the MUI plays a role in determining what financial products are legitimate under the rules of Islam. These are then codified in laws and regulations enacted by the state.

Furthermore, Indonesia already has an Anti-Terrorism Law (Interim Law No. 1 of 2002 / Law No. 15 of 2003) so is there a need for a fatwa forbidding conduct which is already prohibited in the criminal legal sense? For an interesting paper on the subject you can read Simon Butt's paper by downloading it from here.

I have taken the time to translate the MUI fatwa and would be happy to send it out if anyone wanted a copy in English. I am reluctant just to post it here because I am hopeless at formatting and "stuff" within the blogspot framework.

The fatwa is interesting because it does not forbid in an absolute sense the killing of oneself in the defense of the religion of Allah. Yet, the fatwa goes to considerable lengths to try and point out that random suicide bombings with undefined targets is absolutely against the teachings of Islam.

The primary difference in the fatwa between terrorism and jihad is that terrorism is used for destructive purposes and to cause chaos and fear whereas jihad is a legitimate struggle to defend the faith. Unfortunately, the violence perpetrated in both cases can be the same, but the intent of the perpetrator is what makes the difference. If the perpetrator is amaliyah al-istisyhad or undertaking the action in search of syahid, then this is acceptable. In contrast, where the perpetrator is one who kills themselves and others because they are a pessimist has therefore sinned in the eyes of God and has committed a crime that can never be permitted by Allah or Islam.

Therefore, the violence is a matter of perception with respect to whether it is legitimate or forbidden. Yet, the fatwa states that the act of suicide bombing is an act of despair and is therefore forbidden under the laws of Islam irrespective of whether it is done in a time of peace or a time of war or in an area dominated by Muslims or in areas dominated by other faiths.

But, in the next point of the fatwa a suicide death where the losses inflicted on the enemies of Islam are greater than those inflicted upon Islam would constitute amaliyah al-istisyhad. However, this is seemingly modified by the phrase dar al-harb which is reasonably translated as regions at war. Yet, it can also be translated to places where Muslims are in the minority and are therefore in constant struggle to practice their faith.

What is interesting about the MUI fatwa was that it was issued in 2004 and even today it is not widely known and has not been widely discussed. It is interesting because wider and more open discussion of the fatwa and terrorism could have made a significant contribution to the understanding of the "problem" of terror and how the Indonesian Muslim community is seeking to deal with it.

There are plenty of sites dedicated to debunking fatwas on terrorism as nothing more than fakes of ways of diverting attention from the real intents and purposes of terrorism. To each their own.

Independence Day -- Indonesia...

Happy Independence Day to all Indonesians wherever you may find yourselves in the world.

Congratulations on being 64 years young!


Kami, bangsa Indonesia, dengan ini menjatakan kemerdekaan Indonesia.

Hal-hal jang mengenai pemindahan kekoeasaan d.l.l., diselenggarakan dengan tjara saksama dan dalam tempo jang sesingkat-singkatnja.

Djakarta, hari 17 boelan 8 tahoen 05

Atas nama bangsa Indonesia

Soekarno - Hatta

or in English


We the people of Indonesia hereby declare the independence of Indonesia.

Matters which concern the transfer of power and other things will be executed by careful means and in the shortest possible time.

Djakarta, 17 August 1945

In the name of the people of Indonesia

Long live the Republic!

16 August 2009


I was going through some old photos as I was looking for a photo of George Mason and the quote of the previous post, and I came across this one.

I am an amateur photographer, and I use the term amateur loosely, and I have a little point and shoot Casio Ex-P700 camera.

I have always found the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC to be one of the most powerful, thought-provoking, and inspiring memorials I have visited, even as an Australian. I know that others have widely divergent opinions of the memorial to mine. I think that the power comes from the ability to see ourselves reflected back at us, and for me this gives me pause for a little introspection on a great many things. This happens for me at a great many war memorials, including Australian, wondering what drove these brave young men and women to sacrifice so much.

I am forever grateful for the freedoms that they secured for me so many years ago, and also to the young men and women of today who continue to sacrifice so much in the defense and maintenance of those things that I, we, hold dear.

With a bit of luck, the family and I will be heading to Gallipoli in 2015 for the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landing.

George Mason and Press Freedom...

"The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments."

George Mason
Virginia Bill of Rights
June 12, 1776

Shah Rukh Khan -- US Immigration Hassles...

This post sort of fits in with an earlier post I did on the racial conflicts happening in Australia that garnered considerable media coverage in India. If for no other reason than it highlights that problems of racial profiling and racial conflict are not unique to any one country in the world. And, it does not matter whether you are just an ordinary person going about your normal affairs or a world wide star going about your normal affairs.

This is the case for Shah Rukh Khan or Shahrukh Khan, an Indian, a Bollywood legend and owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders Cricket Team, and I would have reckoned pretty much known the world over, at least wherever there are films. This I figured would have included the US.

It seems that Khan came in for some special attention by US immigration authorities as he was passing through Newark airport in New Jersey. Khan was on his way to Chicago for a parade to mark Indian Independence Day. Khan has gone on the record to say he felt angry and humiliated. I am guessing that there would be plenty of Indians and other citizens of the world saying, "welcome to the real world in America".

This sort of detention and harassment of certain travelers is not exclusive to Indians. It gets just about everybody. A number of years ago I was traveling with a group of students to the US from Indonesia. The males in the group were all detained and taken off to side rooms for "special" interviews and then interrogated about their intentions and reasons for travel. These interviews lasted for a couple of hours as I recall. I, on the other hand, just fronted up at the immigration counter, flipped out the passport, smiled a little, and off-loaded my fingerprints and was done.

Eventually, Khan was allowed to make a call to the Indian Consulate and they were able to clear up the matter. I am not so sure that an Indian with a lesser public profile might have been able to get the same sort of assurances from their consulate.

Funnily enough, in that perversely sad way, Khan had just finished shooting a film, "My Name is Khan," about racial profiling of Muslim men. I am sure this experience will lend an air of greater reality to the film when it is finally released. Some might even argue that this story is a bit of a beat-up designed to help promote the movie. Perhaps the incident can even become a movie in its own right with Khan playing the lead role, and lots of suitably attired and dancing customs officials bopping (dancing for others but I am not a dancer myself, but just a simple bopper) away in the usual Bollywood fashion.

The incident is certain to get the cyber world buzzing and Indians are sure to be flooding sites with comments about it. And, why not?

Priyanka Chopra, a colleague of Khan's was quick to tweet her feelings on the matter: "Shocking, disturbing n downright disgraceful. It's such behavior that fuels hatred and racism. SRK's a world figure for God's sake. Get Real!!" She has a point on the hatred and racism, but probably not so on the shocking, disturbing, and disgraceful front. Life for certain travelers to the US are pretty much that which Khan has endured.

The Indian Information Minister, Ambika Soni, has upped the ante by suggesting that this is a regular occurrence for Indians; being detained after being racially or religiously profiled. Specifically, Soni said that there had been no definitive statement that Khan had been detained on religious grounds, but "there have been too many instances like these in the US concerning Indians." Fuel on the fire for sure.

With a bit of luck this incident might serve as a bit of an eye-opener all round. However, I doubt that it will. When the US turned away Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens, that caused an outcry and some serious questions to be asked about profiling and terrorist lists, but the reality is seemingly that things have not changed; business as usual.