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News in Brief – Week Ending 06/07/08

At the beginning of the week there was a good article about the upcoming elections in 2009 and my favourite pollie Megawati is still courting favour with the people of Indonesia. This was obvious in a new survey that suggests former president Megawati Soekarnoputri would win an election if it were held thanks to the government’s decision to raise fuel prices. The survey, conducted by Indo Barometer 10 days after the fuel prices went up, found 30.4 percent of respondents would vote for Megawati for president compared to only 20.7 percent for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. So, it seems SBY will have to kiss a few more babies and stir the crowds more in his corner at the rallies. Another leader not looking good in the ballot box is East Timor’s President Jose Ramos Horta who has been accused of ignoring victims by granting clemency to militia members who killed nuns and priests during a bout of unrest in 1999. Several high profile murderers have already been granted conditional release from prison since the May decree. A group of 11 East Timorese citizens – representing human rights groups, lawyers and a member of parliament – said a recent presidential decree, which handed 94 criminals partial or full pardons, is unconstitutional and wants it revoked.

I have come across crocodiles many times on my travels and learned over the decades to respect them, politely. However, a search team has been unable to locate the body of a man presumed dead after he was attacked by a crocodile on June 27 in the Rokan River delta area, east of Tuan Syeh Island in Bangko, Riau. Somehow, unfortunately, I don’t think they ever will. On another note, it appears that after two months of delay, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has formed a ‘powerful’ climate change council to speed up efforts to combat global warming. Some of you might say it’s about time and I would agree with you. The council involved 16 Cabinet members, with State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar serving as its executive chairman. That should be powerful enough as I respect this man and is a person that is going to get the job done.

Terrorism is never far from the news with a lot of newspapers reporting terrorist activity and police arrests. This is one that is sure to rock the tourism to Sumatra but only just a little. A Singaporean who met several times with Osama bin Laden was among nine terror suspects arrested in western Indonesia. The police seize a cache of powerful bombs packed with bullets. The men initially planned to attack Western tourists on Sumatra Island, but changed their minds after realizing too many Indonesian lives could be lost. That was very kind of them, but, what the hell were they doing with them in the first place and, how did they get into the country. Indonesia is a magical place for tourists and the island of Sumatra one of its nicest places. One can only hope that fanatics do not get onto the island of Bali as the island is enjoying a resurgence in tourism, thanks partly to an increasing number of Australians rediscovering the Island of the Gods. Australians are flocking to the resort island in droves, despite the Australian government maintaining its travel advisory warning tourists against visiting Indonesia. Australians tend to ignore warnings. Well, a majority of them do until something happens.

The oldest profession in the world just doesn’t offer its clientele lovely services, businesses in the areas where they operate are also affected if there is a closure or a clampdown on prostitution. This has happened in Bandung since the municipal government shut down the Saritem prostitution area in the Andir district of Bandung, West Java and residents have struggled to find work. Apparently hundreds have lost their jobs since the red-light district was closed a year ago. There are some guys who won’t be needing the service of the ‘ladies of the night’ are the Nigerians facing death. The plan to execute the five convicts who have been on death row for years is part of the Indonesian authorities` efforts to speed up the execution of 57 convicts, some of whom have been on death row since 1994 and this comes after two Nigerians faced a firing squad for drug offences last week. Peddling drugs, in my opinion is heinous. There is also another dude going to get the chop. An Indonesian man who murdered 42 women in “black magic” rituals aimed at increasing his supernatural powers will soon be executed by firing squad. Self-proclaimed shaman Ahmad Suraji was sentenced to death in 1998 after police found the women’s bodies buried in a sugar cane field in North Sumatra. It’s good to see that the authorities are at least dealing with these dastardly persons.

And to finish the week off, not good news. A researcher says the number of orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia has declined sharply mostly because of illegal logging and the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations. It amazes me how care and love for the environment, the creatures in their natural habitats and the panoramic beauty of Indonesia is rapidly being sold out for money-hungry investors. But, it is comforting to know that there are environmental organisations in Indonesia such as WAHLI to keep the situation in check. However, they can only do so much.

And Folks, that’s the news that is the news from around the archipelago this week, or at least, that what is worth mentioning!.