14 February 2010

Singapore Casinos & Indonesian Gamblers...

It appears a good bet that some of the biggest and most consistent visitors to the new casinos opening in Singapore are going to be Indonesians. The Resorts World Sentosa is the first of two casinos to open its doors in Singapore. The casino is expected to be open today in order to capitalize on the celebrations surrounding the Chinese New Year. So, today is likely to be an interesting day for many punters as it might be a view into what sort of luck, or lack thereof, they are going to enjoy in the Year of the Tiger.

The second casino is the Marina Bay Sands which is affiliates with the Sands casinos out of Las Vegas. The Sands is not expected to open until April 2010, which means the Sentosa is certainly going to enjoy a bit of a head start.

It would be fair to say that it is not only going to be Indonesians of Chinese ancestry that may partake in a hand or two of Blackjack and Baccarat or a couple of rounds at the Roulette table, there is an expectation that Indonesians of all faiths and types of ancestry will take the plunge and part with some of their fortune in search of new fortunes. This is expected to include those of the Muslim faith.

Singapore is a prime destination for many Indonesians. It is close, and it remains a shopping mecca (this is in spite of the numerous malls and branded stores already in Jakarta) for the well-to-do Indonesians looking to spend a weekend away. The casinos provide a little something extra, for those who have shopped themselves out during the day, to do in the evening. Nothing like glamming it up and hitting the casinos and spending up big.

However, it might be worth mentioning that there are thousands (perhaps tens of thousands?) of Indonesian maids working in Singapore. A wander down Orchard Road on a Sunday afternoon is like taking a walk on a busy Indonesian street on any day of the week in that one hears a steady stream of Indonesian and local dialects such as Sundanese, Javanese, and some Batak thrown into the mix. The point being, will any of these maids be tempted to win their fortune by gambling their meager incomes on the flip of a card or the spin of a wheel?

The temptation of winning the "big one" is quite often too much temptation for some to bear. So, is it a fair question to ponder, has the Singaporean government put into place mechanisms to deal with not only the increased revenue they are expecting the casinos to generate, but also mechanisms to deal with the social problems that are going to arise as they relate to problem gambling?

Perhaps Draconian police measures are not going to be enough to keep crime rates down. Any increase in crime is going to make Singapore a less attractive place to visit. The reality is (or at least was) that I enjoyed going to Singapore for no other reason than it was sometimes nice to get a little respite from the chaos and pollution of Jakarta, and it was always nice to be able to walk down the road, in this case Orchard Road, late in the evening and feel safe as houses.

But, the 'interesting' point of the expected influx of Indonesians to the gambling tables of Singapore is that many of these gamblers are likely to be Muslims. Gambling is expressly forbidden in Islam. So, to engage in it would be somewhat sinful, particularly if one was doing it with the full knowledge that it was sinful. This has been the primary deterrent in legislating for a casino to be built in the Thousand Islands area off the coast of Jakarta; the sinfulness of gambling.

It is too bad that money from gambling is haram because the increased revenue that would most likely be generated from a casino in Jakarta could be used to offset the social problems that allowing gambling would create, but also direct some much needed funding to education and health programs to ensure that "all" Indonesians had access to some basic facilities (naive, maybe; but what has been put into place to date is not working, and has not worked, so what is there to lose?).

The combined intellect of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Ulema Council / MUI) has stated that to gamble is to sin. Gambling is expressly forbidden in Islam (and in Indonesian law) so any Indonesian Muslim would be in a spot of bother in Indonesia. However, Amidhan of the MUI, has offered up that the MUI is only concerned with Indonesian Muslims gambling in Indonesia because what Indonesian Muslims do while they are abroad is beyond the MUI's control. I guess this means that any Indonesian Muslim that gambles abroad answers directly to Allah and no longer to the MUI?

The casinos are not just casinos, but rather full-service fun, entertainment, and business venues that can cater to a broad range of interests and needs. The idea seemingly being that "you" can hold a business conference there, and there just happens to be a casino close by for punters to partake in their hobbies during the non-business related sessions of their trip. The Sentosa includes a theme park which makes it a family-oriented weekend away (or as the cynics have suggested - somewhere to dump the kids while mum and dad go and spend the kids' inheritance).

Singapore hopes that the imminent opening of the casinos will be a shot in the arm for recently dwindling tourist arrivals in the city state. Time will tell!

Valentine's Day -- A Western Tradition, Not a Muslim One...

It always happens that when you have a group of grumpy old men sitting around with too much time on their hands and not enough to do who call themselves the peak Islamic Scholars body of Indonesia, then you are likely to get silly fatwas. These fatwas serve no other purpose than to convince most righteous and modern Muslims that these gentlemen really do not "get it".

Now, the Nahdlatul Ulama is generally accepted as Indonesia's biggest Muslim organization. It also happened to be the spiritual home of one of Indonesia's most vocal proponents of a pluralistic Indonesian community, the late Gus Dur. However, more recently Abdullah Cholil of the East Java branch of the NU decided to tell his Muslim brothers and sisters that it was forbidden (haram) for Muslims to celebrate Valentine's Day (photo) in any shape, manner, or form.

According to Abdullah, the day is celebrated by young unmarried people and this would lead to sinful thoughts and actions, such as free sex (perhaps casual sex would be a better term as sex is generally never free - just ask Antasari who paid USD 500 for a little and is now about to embark on 18 years in prison for oral sex).

Furthermore, Abdullah states that young people are not supposed to be doing either, committing sins or having sex. Nevertheless, if Abdullah's concerns relate to youn unmarried people then it would stand to reason that celebrating Valentine's Day for married couples who are gong to be having sinful thoughts about each other and engaging in some carnal pleasure with each other on Valentine's Day should not be a problem, right?

Well, may be it is. It would seem that Lalilurrahman, of the East Java of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Ulema Council / MUI) went a little further stating that a celebration of romance and love is a Western tradition and therefore haram for Muslims to celebrate as it is not part of Muslim or Eastern culture.

For my mind, this leaves Lalilurrahman a little exposed to the cynics among us who might be tempted to suggest that romance and love are obviously not part of Islamic tradition. Although, I am guessing that there are some more moderate Islamic views on love, romance, and Islamic traditions that remain faithful to the tenets of the faith but make a compelling argument that Laliurrahman and Abdullah have it wrong. I will leave it to them to make those arguments, if they want.

In any event, it goes without saying that Indonesia faces more pressing problems and challenges than Valentine's Day, but then again with a group of grumpy old men who are not getting "any" it seems that if they are not getting their Valentine's Day rocks off then no-one should be getting them off, let's kill it! Or they could just stay home and view some online porn and self-gratify, but that might expose them to being called 'wankers', then again a fatwa banning Valentine's Day might have already taken care of that.

05 February 2010

The Menstrating Ghost of Puncak...

Hantu Puncak Datang Bulan is a horror film that includes a rather large number of 'pornographic' scenes. Pornography in this sense is the Indonesian definition of the term and means that the film includes some skin shots and some sex scenes. For most discerning adults the film might not even make it into the soft porn category, but to each their own. The whole premise of a horror movie with some soft porn seems to be tailor-made for controversy in a nation that is predominantly Muslim such as Indonesia.

To their credit the Muslim Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia / MUI) did not disappoint. They have been vocal in stating that the film is not in-line with Muslim values. However, they acknowledge that if people choose to make these films and they pass the censors, then it is up to the individual Muslims themselves to decide whether or not to watch it. Nevertheless, the MUI is lobbying hard for the Indonesian Film Censorship Board (Lembaga Sensor Film / LSF) to ban the movie.

However, the Islam Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam / FPI) has no such reservations. They have threatened to use violence to prevent the screening of the film if movie theatres do not 'voluntarily' opt to not show the film.

The movie has already passed the LSF and can be screened in Indonesia. This suggests that it does not contravene any prevailing laws and regulations according to the peak body tasked with these decisions. The rumor mill and the controversy is sure to see what is reportedly a very poor B-grade horror flick become a bit of a hit.

There is one thing that you can be sure of, when the MUI, LSF, or the FPI get involved in a discussion about a movie then this is likely to become some of the best free marketing a movie studio could hope for. But, then again, it sometimes signals the death knell for other films such as 'Kidnapping Miyabi'. And, then sometimes, the controversy just disappears such as with the film 'Suster Keramas' starring Rin Sakuragi.

Here is a trailer for the film (courtesy of You Tube):

Obama on the Move in Jakarta...

President Barack Obama is not only under pressure 'at home' in the USA but also under pressure in his second home of Indonesia. Obama having spent 4 years living in the Menteng area of Jakarta as a young boy has been adopted, almost, as a native son by some Jakartans. It was interesting to watch Obama-mania sweep Jakarta during the most recent US presidential election cycle.

The fact that Obama is so popular in Indonesia may be testament to the real lack of political heroes and figures worth following in Indonesian politics in the 21st Century, or it might just be simply enough that the man once lived in Jakarta.

The Obama-mania culminated with a statue of the young Barack Hussein Obama II being erected in a local Menteng park (photo above). However, not all the people of Menteng and Jakarta were comfortable with the idea of a statue of Obama being placed in their park. The main issue of contention is that there are many Indonesian heroes worthy of recognition with a statue, and then to have that statue erected in a prominent place in a local park.

The pressure has been building in order to have the statue removed. That pressure has now succeeded in seeing the statue moved. Obama is to be moved to the grounds of the school he attended as a boy, SDN 01 in Menteng. He might find the time to go and visit himself when he is in Jakarta. After all, he has promised to take his wife and children to some of the places he used to 'hang out' in as a kid. So, a visit to a statue might just be on the agenda.

Nevertheless, the Governor of Jakarta, Fauzi Bowo, is now on board with the "we gotta move Obama" movement. Bowo feels that SDN 01 is the most appropriate place for the current president of the USA to 'hang out'. Perhaps Bowo would support a movement to have himself erected in place of Obama in recognition of the leaps and bounds Jakarta has undergone during Bowo's term as Deputy Governor and now Governor?

In any event, it should be a good photo opportunity if Obama was to make a visit to the statue and enjoy a bowl of bakso while chatting with the current students of SDN 01 Menteng.

Facebook -- Nude Photos -- Defamation?

This is not an only in Indonesia story as it the 'art' of sexting and sending naughty pictures of oneself happens pretty regularly so it seems. It has been reported that Tiger Woods asked at least one of his mistresses to send him a naughty photo or two. I guess he has more than one mobile phone, otherwise the odds of getting caught out by the wife seem a little on the 'not worth it side'.

Anyways, it has been reported that a 26-year-old civil servant encouraged his 17-year-old girlfriend to send a naughty picture of herself to him. She obliged. The nude photo then found itself uploaded onto a Facebook page. Apparently, the report was that he defamed her. I am not sure that this is the right 'complaint' to be lodging with the police. It would seem that the new pornography law and the information and electronic transactions law would be a little more appropriate. Considering the age of the 'victim' in this case there could be a criminal code angle to explore as well, perhaps along with some child protection issues.

Nevertheless, the nude photo is only part of the problem. It seems that the pair had a sexual relationship and decided that they needed to take some mobile phone footage of their encounters. The boyfriend has been using this footage as a means of keeping the girl his girlfriend by telling her that if she leaves him then he will show the footage to her parents.

Maybe the moral of the story is: do not voluntarily or knowingly allow yourself to be filmed in compromising positions and don't be tempted to send naked photos of yourself to supposed trusted confidantes. Sometimes things just do not work out.

Will at 14 Months...

02 February 2010

Pink -- The Grammys...

Pink always puts on a good show. A ticket to the Grammys just to see Pink perform would have been worth its weight in gold, at least to me.

Enjoy the photos of the Grammys performance (nice tattoos).

Is SBY A Thief or A Buffalo?

In a case of Indonesian democracy in action, the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), has decided that he needs to put together a working group to, in part, examine the conduct of demonstrators. The working group is ostensibly tasked with looking at matters related to law enforcement, security, bureaucratic reform, and democracy. Seemingly this includes whether or not there is a code of ethics and conduct that demonstrators must subscribe to if they want to protest. The president is concerned that some recent protests have breached the 'code' and even the law.

The protests that the president is particularly referring to are those related to the ongoing Bank Century shenanigans, particularly those ones where protesters / demonstrators using loud speakers yell at the top of their lungs that the president is a thief. Or even more recently where the second term president has been likened to a buffalo (he doesn't look like a buffalo to me). In the mind of SBY buffaloes are fat and lazy. Now, that is a bad rap for the buffaloes because they work pretty hard in the fields and do their work without too many complaints. In fact, they work for food. In contrast, the president has put on a few pounds since becoming president and his 100-day agenda for his second, legacy building, term has been a bust. So, a bad rap for the buffaloes.

The problem is that the demonstrators scarper after the event and the authorities cannot track them down, presumably to prosecute them for being so rude as to liken the president to a buffalo or call him 'Mr. Light Fingers'. I am not sure why the authorities could not simply arrest the protesters before they scarper at the end of the protest if the president is really concerned that the protesters are going to far in their criticisms of him.

It appears that the president does not consider either accusation within the parameters of freedom of speech or freedom of expression. It, further, appears that the president wants to put a stop to this unwelcome behaviour before it gets truly out of hand.

The reality here is that this is a non-issue. The president has serious problems confronting his nation that are obviously beyond the scope and ability of the current cabinet he has assembled and his coalition of the willing to resolve, or in the first instance, and even address. Nevertheless, the president has characterized this issue as one that is so important that it goes to the heart of saving Indonesian culture, democracy, and civilization! Are you serious, Mr. President?

Rather than worry about whether people think he is a thief or a buffalo, it is perhaps a good time to actually do some work and solve some problems. Then, perhaps, the people will start to see SBY as the saviour that they once thought him to be. But, no, the president is just another politician looking to pass the buck and cast the blame onto some other poor unfortunate soul with neither the money nor the time to defend themselves.

It is time that the fella started doing what he was elected to do, be the president. It is time for some presidential leadership to come to the fore and fulfill the promise of making Indonesia better than it has ever been before. The people are ready and willing, are you Mr. President?

Viva Indonesia!

Lady Gaga -- The Grammys

I have never really been able to work out Lady Gaga's outfits. However, one has to agree she is never short on the making a scene front. If you asked me to name a Lady Gaga song or album, then I would have to look it up. I am not a "fan" in the music sense of the word. Yet, to be honest I have not listened to any of her music that I recall.

However, she is one of those artists that you just cannot miss. And, I think it is the 'excellent' wardrobe choices that she makes for award shows, arriving at airports, or just strolling the streets, that keeps her in the public eye. More power to her for being true to herself!

Is this a barely does the trick outfit, or what?