Atchafalaya Swamp

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bolehland Blues Weekly Round Up, Tuesday March 28, 2006

Blues? Yeah…I still…got the blues…for you… And this time I sure got a real case of the blues…

Mat Salo dirampok di stesen minyak

Stesen Caltex, Jln Damansara, Senin, 27 Maret 2006.

I WAS ROBBED today, folks. No, I wasn’t accosted, and no violence was perpetrated in any way. It was a crime brilliantly executed with no witnesses. Hopefully some lessons can be learnt, and how to better protect yourself or your friends and family. Heads-up. Listen closely to my tale-of-woe.

What happened was this:

Most of you know I work offshore so I bank over the border south of Bolehland, out of the preying eyes and hands of BNM and LHDN. Specifically I bank at the HSBC Marine Parade branch which is conveniently close to Changi Airport. So over the weekend I drove down with the family for a spot of R & R and also to withdraw some money. It’s easy to transfer money without going through the “official channels”; i.e. TT and bank drafts. Just hit any of the moneychangers there and for a small SGD 10.00 fee, you can collect at whatever currency of your choice at the appointed location. So this Kiasuland Mamak moneychanger had his contact in Masjid India, Kuala Lumpur. Most importantly he gave me a very good rate for RM. Trust me, that third decimal in exchange rates can mean quite a bit if its quite a “big” sum.

This was done over normal banking hours (9.30 -12.00) last Saturday. Sunday evening we drove back and I was to collect “the stash” the following Monday.

I’ve done this cross-border money runs quite a few times and with far larger sums. So I must’ve let my guard down a bit. This is when the spiral to disaster sets in. Ever heard of complacency?

The transaction in Masjid India went smoothly, and right across the moneychanger was a Maybank branch. Since I was carrying a load of cash, I used my laptop bag so I can strap it across my shoulder. By the time I took my number at Maybank it was half-past noon. I was a bit pressed for time as I had to pick my son up by 2.00 pm, who is in Form One at a school in Bandar Utama.

Luckily the ‘Q wasn’t long but the transaction took quite a bit of time. I managed to deposit some 60 percent of the cash over three accounts; mine, my spouse’s and my son. But I still had quite a bit of balance left which was going to be used to reduce my home mortgage with HSBC’s Bukit Damansara. But first I got to pick my son up, go home and grab a quick lunch.

Upon reaching school I was told Miss Lee his English teacher-cum-penolong kanan wanted him to stay back for an inter-class Scrabble competition. He had had lunch at the school canteen and the whole Scrabble thing should last another hour. Great. Now my tummy is rumbling, my son has already had lunch, so should I go home first or backtrack to Damansara Heights? Of course, in hindsight I should’ve gone home. But since it’s not going to take long I might as well take care of the remaining cash first. Then come back and pick him up later.

Then on the way to HSBC the “Minister of Finance” calls from her place of work, said to just put in the rest of the balance but keep around 10 percent for her. I was ready to dump the whole thing at HSBC, but little did I know that 10 percent was never meant to be …

Now at the HSBC Bukit Damansara branch is where the “surveillance, reCONnaissance and sabotage” happened. At least that’s what the CSI in me thinks. For those who have had the pleasure to bank there, it really is quite a pleasant banking experience. There’s free parking bays for customers in front manned by blue-eyed Nepali guards, so no hassles looking for a place to park. This is Kiasu-ism at its best, folks. But there’s a price to be paid for these pleasantries I suppose.

So with the laptop bag strapped across the shoulder, I strode in only to be told by the pleasant officer in the hallway that they had a power failure earlier so their “system is down.” So can I please come back later?

I said no way since I’m not going to lug all this cash around so please accept it, which they obliged but can’t machine-print it. On the deposit slip the comely teller wrote “System Down 2.30 pm” so it was just an acknowledgement. Well, still better than nervously glancing over one’s shoulder don’t you think?

So I got 90 percent deposited spread between Maybank and HSBC and this is where I got “cocky”, letting my guard down since I knew most of the stash was already safe.

Then I headed back on the NKVE/LDP to Bandar Utama, smug and satisfied that my mission was (almost) accomplished. How little did I know what the afternoon still holds?

In Singapore, I had picked-up quite few new CD’s and the one in spinning in my Burr-Brown chip-powered DEH-P8650MP was Donald Fagen’s latest release called Morph The Cat. So it was time to bump the volume up a bit. My hand phone rested on the passenger seat with the balance of the 10 percent cash in my laptop bag safe and sound in the passenger footwell. Life was certainly good. The transients and clarity of Keith Carlock’s superb stickwork–on—ride cymbals rang beautifully around the car’s interior.

Then the car shuddered just a little bit. Just a small vibration at first, like the alignment was slightly-off.

Up ahead was the toll plaza opposite Eastin Hotel and the Star’s headquarters. My smart tag was ready. At first I didn’t think it was a puncture. I thought it was the brakes acting up since I had a few hard-braking moments the day before on the way back from Singapore. I had actually activated the ABS in those moments of “recklessness”.

Past the toll plaza and on the flyover leading towards Jalan Damansara / TTDI, the vibration got worse. Shit, it had to be a puncture and I couldn’t stop in the fast moving two-lane traffic. I knew the Caltex station was up ahead so what to worry? I had in mind to go even slightly further up to Lim’s Tayar TTDI where my tires were I purchased some three-months’ earlier but that would require a U-turn. By that time my rims could’ve been damaged I stupidly reasoned, so I’d better stop soon. So it was the Caltex station then.

So this is a classic case of “stepping over a ringgit to pick up a 5 sen”. What I was about to lose could buy me a brand new set of 17-inchers! Taiwan made for sure, but what the heck?

Remember with my guard already down, I took no extra precautions. I did park way inside of the station a bit though so I have some space to get to the spare tire and lay out the tools. I was already late in picking-up my son. The tire mechanic later told me I should’ve just filled it back with air and nursed the car over. Then this sorry episode wouldn’t have happened.

The kind pump attendant came over to offer a hand; a kid in his early twenties—eager to please. Two pairs of hands are better than one, and I was running late, wasn’t I?

While we were messing around with car jacks, lug bolts, nuts, getting the spare tire out which required loosening another bolt, and sweating, mind you under the hot 3.00 pm sun, a silver Peugoet 206 Hardtop Coupe stopped right next to us. I thought nothing of it since it looked like a young good-looking yuppie-type couple stopping for directions. The pump attendant went to attend to sports car couple, and said they just wanted to know the way to Maybank Damansara Utama. Later I realized it was just a ploy, a Red Herring, designed to distract one of us.

So I thought nothing of it but noticed that the pretty thing who sat next to this Jericho Jeans look-a-like was nervously smoking a cigarette. RIGHT ON TOP OF THE UNDERGROUND FUEL STORAGE TANKS! That’s where we were precisely, parked over the manhole covers where for the tankers to dump the fuel. So the ‘206 went away (later I found out from witnesses in the station the cute 2-door pug-nosed coupe was parked on the other side of the Caltex station, the toilet-side, away from our view).

So we continued our work on the left passenger side of the car, crouching most of the time, oblivious to the events on the driver’s side (it was a left-rear puncture—cunningly designed as such). The driver’s door was open and stuff like cushions, umbrellas and child seat was all over the place in my attempt to dig out the various tools. Stupid car jacks work too damn slowly folks, moving millimeter by millimeter giving plenty of time to our Malaysian “Bonnie and Clyde” couple.

To be fair, the pump attendant and I didn’t even see the robbery take place! Right under our damn noses can you imagine?!

I only realize after profusely thanking the boy and putting the tools back in the car, that I’d better call home in case my son had decided to walk (school is only 20 minute walk from the house). I was running late for sure now, what with the puncture and all.

I looked in the passenger seat--aah--no phone. It could’ve fallen by the seats. Looked more closely this time, having to take all the shit out again. Still, there was no phone.

Looked at the footwell, now where did the bag go? But before I got to this point let me backtrack a little bit. I was actually thinking more of the phone so I called the pump attendant again in case he saw me drop it. I was certain it was on the passenger seat. So I asked him to please use his phone to call my number to hear the ringing in case it was lodged somewhere in the car. The line was continually engaged—straight to voicemail.

Then with no phone and no bag, I came to the very-bitter and very-belated realization that I had just been robbed! Conned by Malaysia-Boleh’s very own Bonnie and Clyde team!

I had to replace for a new tire as the sidewalls were badly damaged. The mechanic showed me a sharp-edged sharpened steel type implement which he pulled from the sidewall, cleverly designed for around a “plus-minus” 30-minute puncture. He has seen this before. All they had to do was follow and bide their time.

Later, the Investigating Officer, a unit E168 Inspector with the intials AJ in IPD Brickfields, later told me that even if I had stopped in an emergency lane or lay-bye, the friendly couple would stop to render help and “Clyde” would distract me under the guise of helping me, and perhaps the gorgeous “Bonnie” would quietly grab the bag? Many scenarios could’ve have occurred, said the police. I knew the money was a lost cause but I needed the police report since I also lost three bank passbooks in the bag together with the money. What is worse is now the thieves also know my address since it’s in the passbook. Let’s pray and hope it just ends there.

The police also said that if you come out a bank and you develop a puncture soon after, assume that someone had DELIBERATELY caused it and with bad, bad motives. If you can’t make it to a tire-shop, just leave the car, lock it up, gather all your valuables and flee the scene. Easier said than done eh? Especially if one is late for an appointment or having to pick someone up or something. Woi! Cakap senang lah

I’m actually grateful that I only suffered a “10 percent” overall lost. It could’ve been far worse, and I could’ve have lost a lot more walking out of that moneychanger in Masjid India. No bodily harm came to me and for that I’m extremely grateful to the Supreme Being. People have been hurt for far, far less.

I consider it one of life’s small lessons and I share this story with you so perhaps you will benefit from it. I’m optimistic though, look on the bright side always (although the Ox in me is by nature a pessimist), and count my blessings.

But folks, tell this story and please be aware always. Criminals these days you can never tell, they even look nice and decent thus guaranteeing that they’ll the last to be suspected. In days gone by, penyangaks were penyangaks, sticking true to stereotypes.

Now they look like Erra and Yusri in a two-door sports coupe.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Weekly Round Up, Sunday March 19, 2006

I’m back home in Bolehland folks, on my sabbatical and it sure is “nice” to savor Malaysia for a change; even the expensive petrol and teh tarik. Because home is where the heart lies, eh?

Pak Lah’s Hadhari, Podium and Mumms Champagne

Don’t know ‘bout you folks, but I noticed something different in this year’s edition of Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix 2006. Flanking the victorious threesome with Pak Lah on the left of the screen and Hassan Merican on the right with the female Minister of Dubious Sexuality, and prominently emblazoned on the podium is the name of a famous brand of champagne: Mumms.

Now in years’ past, if I recall correctly nowhere was this brand of champagne displayed with such wanton abandon. They were more discreete, even in Mahathir’s time. It seems to me that with Pak Lah’s Hadhari the secular floodgates have opened. And opened they did.

Why can’t Petronas be a little more sensitive, after all Mumms’ not such a big sponsor, and Petronas can refuse their money. They don’t openly display Mumms in Bahrain do they? Surely they can substitute with some non-alcoholic sparkling wine or something. It will gall me to no end that Mumms might not even be a corporate sponsor. It’s just that they are premium brand of champagne that is normally associated with prestigious events. But that Mumms logo on the podium just irks me.

And how about you?

Go ahead somebody out there go complain to Petronas about this Mumms thing on top of the alleged squandering of between RM500 – RM800 billion ringgits, depending on who you talk to.

Carta Baik Bangat: the continuing Indonesization of matsalo

I just can’t help myself. Saturday mornings I can’t help but tune to the Star’s Red 104.9 radio station. It sorts of remind me of “home”, much to the chagrin of my better half. She just can’t stand it. If any self-respecting citizen of Bolehland were to tune in, they can’t help but think we’re being invaded by Indonesians!

It’s a true bona fide “Indo” station complete with Bahasa Indonesia accents folks! To me, that’s what makes it cool. Everything, even the ads by Bumiputra Commerce Bank touting its “Western You-neon” service for TKI’s to send money home. Anybody know if that DJ KC Ismail is actually Indonesian or just a local Bolehlander out to cari makan? Anyway, he does a credible job that would put a lot of the Indonesian stations to shame.

Speaking of which, a dear friend of mine (and ours), Sue Launcher aka Suhaimi Sulaiman also has his own show on that very station on Friday mornings. I heard it’s a popular show but I’ve not had the pleasure of tuning in yet.

I will make it a point next Friday then, on top of Saturday’s Carta Baik Bangat.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Weekly Round Up, Sunday 12 March 2006

BBM Naik—Poket Celana Bocor, ABG meningkat

The past week was rather subdued you might say. The main concern on everybody’s mind was how to not burn further holes in their pocket.

The government of Malaysia, without warning, had decided to raise the price of petrol and diesel by a whopping 30 cents a liter—up to 23 percent.

I cannot say that it has burned a hole in my pocket per se, because I’m not around to experience it—yet, since I’m still insulated from the happenings in Malaysia by holing up in the boondocks of East Kalimantan.

A reader (Wahoo! I got one) was kind enough to point out a typo in that I had wrongly translated Kaltim (Kalimantan Timur) to West Kalimantan. Thanks. Also there were nice flattering comments signed anonymously but I think I know who you are, sir. Thank you and appreciate the support.

Now back to the story. Two Fridays back saw a peaceful demonstration led by “opposition” groups in front of Kuala Lumpur’s famed Petronas Twin Towers—the object of everyone’s pent-up anger—against the fuel price increase.

Why is Petronas bearing the brunt of this? Simple. It has made record profits recently and being the custodian of the country’s prime asset—oil, the rakyat demands that it help out in patching the holes in the rakyat’s pocket. After all, the story circulating around is there’s about RM 800 billion of Petronas profits unaccounted for. Surely by just diluting a tiny fraction of the alleged billions the government can help to stave off the price increase.

I can feel it in chat rooms and in newsgroups on the Internet, that there was a certain kind of lull in what was considered normal Internet activity. A car newsgroup that I belong to practically went ‘dead’ the following week after the price increase. It’s like the rug being pulled out from under your feet so to speak, the Malay term being tersentak sekejap. But it’s not just a momentary lapse, I tell you. It felt more like a few days before the chat rooms and newsgroups came ‘alive’ again. And this time the rakyat came out in force to vent their feelings in cyberspace.

To gauge a measure of the rakyat’s feelings on the issue, I like to point my browser to http://www.malaysia-today.net/ (MT). I am an unashamed to say it’s my favorite site and hold the editor Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK or Pete, to some) in high esteem.

MT is one of the few online publications which acts as a pressure release valve for the rakyat to vent their anger in the various topics and the comment threads that follow. The editorial is superb and I sometimes wonder where RPK gets his information from. Sort of like a Deep Throat on the 'inside' somewhere?

He has probably got sympathizers on the inside and they give him the tips and leads he needs for his research. Anyway, his articles are extremely well written. I am only sorry that he cannot profit from his free online publication though.

BBM Naik—Rakyat Indonesia Menderita

Actually the Malaysian government wasn’t lying about fuel prices being the cheapest in the region. With Income Per Capita and Purchasing Power Parity factored in, prices are much higher in Indonesia—the equivalent of RM 1.84 per liter for premium unleaded. I’m not being apologetic for the Malaysian government though, but prices are, still cheaper. With their much lower incomes, the Indonesians have indeed suffered more, and will continue to suffer.

The drilling crew I work with had to have intercession from the drilling contractor in the form of a one-time lump sump subsidy after their last fuel price increase in November 2005. It was a paltry Rp. 750,000 (or RM 242.00) one-time pay-off for the karyawan minyak. It’s better than nothing they say. But it hurts to be directly associated in drilling industry, to see the oil companies and the drilling contractors make record profits, and not see any of it trickle down to their own pocket. Their pockets have long since burned, and worker morale have never been so low. Their concern in the burgeoning oil market is how to take advantage of it.

Personally I have directed some of them to apply to offshore work agencies like Bayong Services in Miri. For professionals like geologists and wellsite engineers I have recommended both Uzma Engineering in Kuala Lumpur and Sikom Supplies in Miri (both notable supplier to Petronas). I think some of their applications will bear fruit soon, Insya’Allah.

On the social front, the costs are devastating to say the least. Never has there been so many A.B.G.’s (Anak Baru Gede) in dangdut bars and karaoke joints that is causing society a big headache. Financial pressures have caused families to break up and children are forced to leave school early. Education costs are much higher in Indonesia with the country spending less of its budget on education—compared to Malaysia—but that’s another story.

One can only guess at what the future holds for our neighbors. Once dropping out of school there is little gainful work to be had. For the young ABG’s an option is to be an entertainment worker. Some say it’s a euphemism for sex worker. Some say it is a matter of survival.

One cannot sit on one’s high perch and proselytize if one is hungry, or one’s siblings need schooling, or parents are old and sick.

In my opinion the government is to blame, and by extension, we—the people—are to blame too, for putting them there in the first place. That’s why it’s imperative to have a properly responsible and credible government to prevent moral (and religious—for the religious) and societal decay.

So the people on their moral high horse, please put your nose to the ground, and assign blame where they rightfully belong before spewing invective on the unfortunate who are forced to rent their bodies as a matter of survival.

In Malaysia, you hear rants from families whose combined monthly incomes are below the RM 1500.00 mark the phrase “kais pagi makan pagi kais petang makan petang”. It’s tough to make ends meet, they say, what with payments for their Kancils or Protons and having to feed and school their kids, and putting a roof over their heads. They are by no means poor (since if you own a vehicle of some sort, you cannot be counted as poor can you?), but with cheap credit thanks to the government, cars can easily be bought, and then the real burden finally settles in.

In an advanced (I’ll say Utopian) society, the public transport will be so efficient that one will not need a vehicle. Think Kiasuland. I think it is deeply ingrained in everyone that the right to own a car is a basic right like US’s “right to bear arms”. But most of us own a car out of necessity because public transportation is so inefficient. It just makes our daily lives a whole lot easier.

That is if we can afford to own cars. Afford being the operative word here. The recent price hike has suddenly laid bare the fact that a large segment of society cannot really afford one, not with the recent fuel price hike. All other basic necessities will also rise in tandem. I heard that Electricity tariffs will increase and it’s only a matter of time.

These will further burn more holes in peoples’ pockets, and I fear there will be a terrible economic backlash. Car re-sale values will suffer, interest rates will go up and home values will fall. Yes sir, economic chaos, inflation and whatnot.

These events will certainly transform society and will put pressure on the government, or might even cause governments to be replaced (don't bet on it bolehlanders!).

In the meantime, please don’t be surprised to see more and more Rumah Urut sprout out in that beloved Bolehland of ours, or our young female IPT diploma holders (or even graduates) of the tubuh aduhai variety moonlighting in karaoke joints and such.

It has already happened here in Indonesia, and it is by no means a further stretch of imagination that it can't happen there in Pak Lah's Bolehland. (ASP/Mat Salo)

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Mid-Week Round Up, Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Borneo Blues Mid-Week Round Up

I am happy to report that Agence Salo-Presse (ASP) Internet portal has made history. In its maiden debut in the first of week of March, 2006 it has finally found a reader. Some people say it’s not a lot, but hey, it’s a start.

A big hand for Pak Rachmat for being the first to be the “pemecah DARA-TITSA Borneo Blues” of this fledging publication!

Lagi lagi Siti

Again and again our Kuala Lipis-born lass has hogged the front page of a major provincial Borneo daily. The Kaltim Post Sunday issue 5 March 2006 is the largest newspaper in terms of circulation in east Kalimantan (Kaltim).

Why, our besotted neighbors just couldn’t get enough of her, just like our local besotted inhabitants.

The story highlighted her soon-to-be released 11th album (her last CD was two years ago) will include two self-penned tunes with lyrics by Loloq. This is her songwriting debut—a first for our Lipih lass.

According to the report that was dilansir from Utusan, the inspiration came when opening the faucet in her kamar mandi. Apparently Intrig Cinta is the toilet-inspired song.

Let’s hope that with the stellar cast of producers like Aubrey Suwito, Jenny Chin and Mac Chew will not make that tune sound like s#@*.

So far, the Indonesian media had not referred Siti as possessing tubuh aduhai, a recent term coined by the sensationalistic Indonesian press, preferring instead penyanyi cantik or penyanyi nomer satu negeri jiran. This fascination with Siti in her kamar mandi conjures up a less than innocent image of our lass though.

If she comes out to tell-but-not- kiss, who her intended suitor is, perhaps the unhealthy speculation of all things Siti can be put to rest. According to Pak Sheikh Peah Al-Haj, a frequent visitor to Jakarta who claimed that on first instance of encountering a Malaysian wisata, the taxi driver will unfailingly ask, “ Siti Nurhaliza gimana Pak?”

I share Pak Sheikh Peah’s anguish too. The “CT disease” has spread far and wide in this sprawling thousand-island archipelago housing the 4th most populous nation on Planet Earth.

Flu Burung

Let’s pray also that the H5N1 bird-flu virus will not mutate and cause human-to -human transmission. So far it has only jumped from avian creatures to humans. Take away the avian, I suppose then one is safe. If human-to-human thingy happens it would be a disaster the world has not seen since the 1918 flu pandemic. That flu was brought across to Europe by American G.I.’s during WW1 and ultimately killed 50 million people.

Chopper Jatuh

On Thursday, 02 March 2006, a French-made helicopter operated by Indonesia Air Transport (IAT), developed problems after having discharged some passengers at rig Raisis. The chopper was one of many used exclusively for Total Indonesie’s offshore operations.

The chopper was airborne and en route to nearby rig Bekapai situated about 20 kilometers from Balikpapan when the pilot experienced tail rotor problems. The pilot immediately issued the SOS and made a controlled ditch in the water. Within 20 minutes a tug boat from nearby rig Parameswara arrived to evacuate the pilots and passengers.

These choppers, by the way, can float with their enabled pontoons in a controlled ditch. That’s is why as a pre-condition for offshore work, attending a Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET in offshore-speak) course every two is mandatory.

I hope I will NEVER have to put my training to use though.

Unfortunately I was on Maera when this happened so I cannot give a first-hand account. Raisis is also one of the rigs I’m assigned to but on this particular hitch I’ve been mainly on either the Parameswara or Maera. All I can say is Alhamdullillah that I wasn’t a passenger on that ill-fated flight. Although there were no injuries, it’s well known in the oilfield that even in a controlled ditch, macho rig roughnecks have been known to soil their pants.

Ke tempat koghojo

Looks like I’ll be requesting to take the Land and Sea routes from now.

A 30- minute chopper ride would now mean…mmm, lets see. To make the 11.30 am boat to the rig from Total Jetty in Handil means checking out of the hotel by 5.00 am. Then it’s a 1-1/2 hour car ride to the company base in Manggar to consolidate passengers from the various divisions. The bus then leaves at 07.00 for the 3- hour ride to ANOTHER company base in Handil. There’s about an hours’ waiting for boat assignments before being taken by van to a particular jetty. This is the best time to grab a quick lunch in the canteen before the 2-hour boat ride to the rig.

That’s 8-1/2 hours of time elapsed since leaving the hotel. It’s worth to note that the Air Asia direct flight from KL to Balikpapan takes a shade over 2-1/2 hours. And as lot less expensive too. That's my theory why we will forever be a Third World country.

Chopper? A mere 30-minutes from the hotel to the helipad located within the Sepinggan Balikpapan International Airport compound. Check-in is 30 minutes prior to flight. That is just an hour from leaving the hotel. And in another 30 minutes you’re on the rig!

I think it’s not worth flying unless one absolutely has to. Besides, isn’t it a better way to see a country?

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Weekly Round-Up: Sunday, March 5, 2006

Jakarta Jazz Festival

Java Jazz Festival in full swing at Jakarta's Convention Center till March 5. Our very own Lewis Pragasam grooving it up as sideman for Bob James alongside Korea's Jack Lee and uber bassist Nathan East at the Plenary Hall Saturday, 4 March 2006.

Curiosly, it was reported that local acts like Ello, Indra Lesmana, veteran pianist Bubi Chen sold more seats than Tower of Power.

Where I work in Kalimantan Timur (East Borneo--KALTIM) bird flu has not (yet) reared its ugly beak. I think it's only a matter of time.

Mass demonstration by Balinese groups in Denpasar to oppose the controversial "decency" laws. Bare breasts of Balinese dancers and Papuan Koteka sheaths are in grave jeopardy... see reports below.

More opposition to the proposed raping and pillaging of pristine rainforests along the 1000 km Malaysia-Indonesia Borneo border to pave for oil-palm proyeks...

Kelas Bulu

Hard to believe there was a WBA bout in the small town of Tenggarong, Kalimantan Timur last Saturday, 4 March 2006.

Title Holder Chris John (WBA Ranking 4th) of Indonesia defended his WBA featherweight title from 32-year old challenger Juan Manuel Marquez (WBA Ranking 1st) of Mexico by unanimous decision from Judges Oscar Perez of the USA (116-110), Takeshi Simakawa of Japan (117-111) and Piniij Prayadsub of Thailand (116-112).

The 26 year-old local increased his already spectacular record to 37 Wins (20 KO’s), 1 Draw with no losses. As the defending WBA champion, John gets US$ 90,000 of the US$120,000 purse while the remaining split with the challenger Marquez.

Apparently there were boxing fans from Malaysia who knew about the bout and were keen to go. Tribun Kaltim (http://www.tribunkaltim.com/) reported that hotel rooms in Tenggarong (the highest rated being 3-Star Hotel Lesong Batu) were sold out a week ago and were anxious to hear back from a Malaysian group allegedly headed by Sultan Kamal Badawi to show up on the day of the bout. According to Lesong Batu’s resepsionis Shanti, “Sultan Kamal had booked two rooms for two nights but has yet to show up. She added that someone from the group called, “claiming to be on their way”.

Hmm, hmm is there really a Sultan Kamal Badawi or a joke perpetrated by someone out to besmirch Premier Abdullah Badawi’s countrymen?

The Tribun also said the Marquez was a big fan of ikan patin after having been spotted by locals to frequent at least three popular ikan patin restaurants during his stay there. No ikan patins in Mexico I take it?

Glad to hear from another fan of the ikan patin delicacy. Your Agence Salo-Presse (asp) correspondent has not had the opportunity to sample the local version of the dish yet but he intends to. Stay tuned.

Porn Bill, Skodeng and Mat Rela

In the current drive by some countries (read: muslim or muslim majority) to enact and implement new morality codes, the implementation and enforcement can verge on the absurd.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous muslim nation is grappling with this reality. A new “decency” or some say porn bill being debated in their parliament will make for hefty fines (up to US$20,000) for being indecent or indecently dressed in a public place. Artists from all over the archipelago have joined hands to oppose this bill claiming it will affect their livelihood and stifle creativity. Supreme dangdut practitioner InulGoyang Gerudi—literally translated to ‘shake drilling pelvis’”—Daratista is a frequent participant of the debate.

The force driving these social changes is the perceived need by legislators to uphold the spirit of “responsible, honest, and religious vision” type of government or what Indonesians say, ahklakul kharimah.

In Malaysia this would probably be the equivalent of Gemilang, Cemerlang, Terbilang, and most recently Telanjang and Temberang were also added.

Gleaned from reports in The Jakarta Post, the Tangerang municipality is taking it to some say, extremes. The first targets were sellers of alcoholic drinks of which (gleaned from) five people have been arrested and put on trial so far.

Two of the suspects were the managers of a Carrefour and an unnamed Hyper Market located in the municipality. The Carrefour manager was fined Rp 6 million (US$645) while the Hyper Market manager Rp 3 million. The crime was for stocking beer on the stores’ shelves.

They have existing permits of course. But this is a recent local municipality law. Malaysians should take heed.

Then it was the turn of “ladies of the night”. The Post also reported that Tangerang’s public order officers arrested at least 30 women “they decided were prostitutes”.

Are Rela men Thugs-in-Uniform?

They stand accused of violating the recently passed bylaw that prohibits anyone from engaging in “suspicious activities” which can (and will) be construed by the officers as prostitution.

The women who pled innocent still were fined Rp 1000 each by the judge before releasing them. Curiously those who admitted “behaving suspiciously”—why on earth would they admit this?—were fined very much higher between Rp 150,000 and Rp 550,000 or sentenced to three and eight days if they could not cough up the money.

Some of the women arrested during the raids said they were not prostitutes. The Post added, “One woman who is pregnant, asked the judge to summon her husband, which the judge adamantly refused. The judge banged his gavel, declared her guilty and ordered her to pay the fine. As she did not have the Rp 300,000 with her, she had no choice but to be taken directly to the women’s prison…her husband had no idea where she was. She was later found to be an elementary school teacher and housewife.

Another woman, who was waiting for her husband in a hotel lobby also fell victim and suffered the same treatment as the teacher. The judge said ‘the women had violated Article 1, Paragraph 4 of the 2005 bylaw, which prohibits anyone from hanging around on streets, in hotel lobbies, open fields or squares, boarding houses, entertainment centers, coffee shops or other people’s homes’.

No wonder the elementary school teacher was arrested, after all, she waiting at a bus stop after normal working hours” said the Post’s editorial.

Please take heed, Malaysia. This is the sign of the times. And a lot of you thought that Indonesia being a secular country is less “Islamic” than Malaysia. Well?

In line with akhlakul kharimah the next move on the morality agenda is to focus on schoolgirls’ thighs and knees. Hemlines would be lengthened. What the connection is between hemline and morality, and/or promiscuity is unclear.

Will the Malaysian schoolgirl pinafore one day be a relic?