Atchafalaya Swamp

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Mat Salo's Sometimes Weekly Indo Reports

Birth of a new sport: Malaysia Bashing

Oh let’ see.

[Flipping through yesterday’s The Jakarta Post’s July 7, 2007 issue]

Hmmm, more “Malaysia-bashing”, so what else is new?

Perhaps Malaysia deserved to be bashed. . .

Luthfi Assyaukanie’s analysis, entitled “The growing discrimination against minorities in Malaysia” is strongly critical of Malaysia’s policies. Luthfi is a research fellow at the Freedom Institute, Jakarta, and a lot of his “research” was apparently garnered by trawling through RPK’s Malaysia Today. So Luthfi is an unabashed “Malaysia Watcher”, which in my opinion, is a good thing. It’s always interesting to know what our neighbors think of us – whether our dirty laundry hanging in the clothesline offends them.

His main target is Badawi’s Islam Hadhari, with Luthfi stressing the concept to be flawed, and preceded to shred two of the “Ten principles of Islam Hadhari”, namely:

  • Freedom and independence for the people

  • Protection of the rights of minority groups

Luthfi stated various recent examples to back his argument, and include “the conversion issues”: Muslim woman married to a Hindu, arrested and sent for rehabilitation and R. Subashini’s case whose husband converted to Islam. The latter failed to get a Civil Court custodial hearing and was forced to go to Sharia court. The no-brainer was, of course, Madam Subashini losing custody of her children. To her, seeking recourse in a Sharia court is akin to putting a kitten in a dog kennel.

Then there was Lina Joy, which in Luthfi’s said was a “contradiction that is Islam Hadhari”. And so on.

He also quoted Anwar Ibrahim, who claimed disappointment over the cancellation of the inter-faith conference last May, and said, 'A dialogue would enable us to quell the tensions that arise from our differences'. Luthfi echoed Anwar’s sentiment stating, ‘the last minute cancellation . . . itself a manifestation of the paradox of the oft-campaigned “Islam Hadhari”’.

Wow, this is all heady stuff. On the one hand, Luthfi appeared to be right. But are they, really?

But for Luthfi’s essay to appear on the influential editorial page of Indonesia’s premier English broadsheet means Badawi’s Islam Hadhari is being watched very closely by its neighbor Indonesia, which may or may not spell anything on the diplomatic front.

But with “sensational” news that was played up in the Indonesian press recently, in particular the maltreatment of its Tee-Kay-Weys (TKW – Tenaga Kerja Wanita – maids, to you and me) - Malaysia seems to be fair game for the sport of “Malaysia Bashing”.

So how my fellow citizens in Bolaysia, are we “fair game”?

[Please also see a related story in Kak Ena's recent blog]

Pak Obama, warga Indonesia?

On a lighter note, I was much taken with today’s Sunday Edition of
The Jakarta Post. In it was a story by an American journalist bent on discovering U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s Indonesian past.

Senator Obama’s colorful C.V. included a four year stint in Menteng, Indonesia, where the Senator once lived in a modest house with a single-mother parent (and an absent father) and attended grade school there.

The reporter had also tracked down Senator Obama’s one-time teacher, a certain “Ibu Is”, and also met one of the potential U.S. president’s classmate.

Ibu Is had brought the reporter Trish Anderton into Fransiskus Assisi’s grade school office, where the register listed the US Senator as “Barry Soetoro”.

To quote Miss Anderton:

'Barack Obama was born to a white American mother and a black Kenyan father. The couple split up when he was two years old. Then his mother fell in love with an Indonesian named Lolo Soetoro. She married him and moved with Obama to Jakarta in 1967.

Obama wasn't shielded in an expat bubble. He played with Indonesian kids and went to Indonesian schools. But his mother's marriage failed, and Obama moved to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. He grew up to become a community organizer and eventually a Democratic senator and presidential hopeful'.

My, my, somewhere among the ¼ billion is an Indonesian with the name Lolo Soetoro, and whether he will ever come out to claim his stake on the Senator is anybody’s guess. He was once , after all, Obama’s “father”. Perhaps Mr. Lolo has passed on, but it will indeed be interesting if Senator Obama ever gets to be President of The United States.

You can bet that all kinds of people would come out of the woodwork here in Indonesia, claiming a “connection” to the Most Powerful Man on Earth.

Oh Senator, gi mana Pak?

The Iconic Pak Zainudin

Yesterday, Pak Zizou, former Les Blues skipper and three-time FIFA Player of the Year, descended by chopper to the remote village of Cisaat, Subang, West Java. Cisaat is about a four hour drive from Jakarta.

Zizou is in town as part of his United Nations Development Program’s involvement as a Goodwill Ambassador. A coaching clinic was held for Cisaat’s lucky elementary school students. Frank Riboud, the French Danone Groupe President was also shown in the papers to be kicking the ball, amidst the backdrop of dairy cows and jilbab-clad schoolgirls.

According to the
story, the organizers claimed that “the village will become a model milk-producing village”. Groupe Danone is financing the project. Anybody who has been to Indonesia and drank it’s most popular bottled water “Aqua” already knows that Danone owns "Aqua".

Sometime earlier this morning, Indonesian TV news carried footage of “Pak Zainudin” playing “Futsal on the Street” on Jalan Jend. Sudirman. No doubt sponsored by Danone as well.

Syabas Pak Zainudin!

More news on the former Juventus' and Real Madrid's playmaker here.


Mat Salo, with the roving eye, was appointed Bolaysia's "Roving Ambassador" to Balikpapan recently. A chance meeting with Mejar Mahzan, Malaysia's Military Liason Officer there precipitated the event. Kapten Mohd. Faizal of Samarinda's Malaysian Military Liason Office was also present to commemorate and bear witness to the occasion.

What the hell did Mat Salo get himself into this time?

Part of his duties include getting a list of all known Warga Bolaysia who are residents of this oil-town. The reason, according to the Mejar, in case "something happens" - like war due to situation of the disputed territories in the Ambalaat region, for instance. Or to repatriate mortal remains. Let's not go there, oh puhleeeze.

Contrary to popular opinion, he does not get paid for this thankless appointment. Nor is he privy to lucrative MINDEF contracts.

Apparently, some years back, an M.O.U. was signed between the two countries to foster good military relations by providing corresponding liason offices in Borneo. In Kuching, an Indonesian Military Liason Officer with the rank of Major is also provided a car and suitable premises to host Indonesia's Liason Office.

The funny thing was, when Mejar Mahzan and Mat Salo first met, the Mejar spoke in the Indonesian dialect and Mat Salo had no choice but to reply in-kind. It was only after Mat Salo had identified himself properly did the slang of the Air Tawar, Perak native changed.

Doesn't MS look like a native Bolaysian anymore? Well, this is news, indeed.

There are no consulates in either Balikpapan or Samarinda and the only consulate is in Pontianak, an eight hour drive south of Kuching, Sarawak. But "Ponti" might as well be in Timbuktu, as there are no direct flights there. Not from Balikpapan anyway. Pontianak is also inacessible by road from Balikpapan, and I read somewhere that the 4WD Petronas Nusantara expedition took three days to get from Pontianak to here.

I understand the expedition also required the use of pontoons and ferries. And a whole lot of money too.