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News in Brief – Week Ending 08/06/08

Let’s start the week with a bit of almost deadly hilarity. It appears a group of honey bears have stormed a residential site for tea plantation workers in Solok regency in West Sumatra. This has happened over the last three days, sparking fear among the residents. I can understand them being worried. Imagine having uninvited guests for dinner. Or, there’s a knock on the door and, lo and behold, furry residents appear. Not so funny, however, was when members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) roamed freely despite a history of frequently taking the law into their own hands and attacking and burning buildings of other groups. The latest attack blamed on this radical group took place last Sunday. At least 70 people were injured in the assault on activists of the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion who were gathered to rally peacefully at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta. This is what you call a rumble-in-Jakarta. It seems that Jakarta is copping it all round after a tidal wave of over two metres flooded parts of Jakarta as the city government and citizens raced to hold the water back with emergency embankments, a government official said. The height of the water was far greater than earlier predicted. I haven’t heard yet if any surfers were on hand to rip the tide.

On the environmental front much has been said about developing and using alternative energy in Indonesia but not much of it has been realized so far. A discourse on it, however, emerged again in recent days as the world crude price is sky-rocketing, forcing the government to raise domestic fuel oil prices. And, academics and experts are now being urged to conduct more research to identify alternative energy products in anticipation of an energy crisis with the crude price in the world market having reached US$135 per barrel. So, how do we get this alternative energy?. Invest of course but not at the expense of the environment. Already around 60 percent of the total 85,393 hectares of mangrove forest areas in North Sumatra, have been damaged seriously. Most of the mangrove areas have been damaged due to the opening of shrimp ponds and human encroachment. Okay, so shrimp ponds are not your biofuel issue but the land had to be cleared first and in doing so destroying the environment of the area.

This really gets up my nose. The illegal trade and hunting of wild animals, including endangered Sumatran tigers and elephants, has reached alarming levels in several parts of Sumatra. In Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra, a forest ranger team on Tuesday arrested two people believed to be members of a wild animal trade syndicate. They were caught while trading two stuffed Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) believed to have been a year old at the time of their death. This sort of crime should attract at least 20 years imprisonment in my opinion.

As if there ain’t enough motorbikes in Indonesia at the moment. Now, PT Astra Honda Motor, the Indonesian motorcycle unit of Japan’s Honda Motor Co. Ltd., launched a new, smaller version of Vario scooter to grab the market lead from bitter rival Yamaha. The race is on!. Apparently the 110-cc engine Honda Beat, as its name, is expected to become the main weapon to beat Yamaha in the country’s growing scooter market. Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned bicycle to get around the streets. It produced no pollution, was good for your health and less people got run over. At least one person is doing the right thing by the environment. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono marked World Environment Day on Thursday with a call for citizens to make a bigger effort to plant trees across the massive archipelago. Indonesia planted some 79 million trees in a day-long event ahead of a global climate change conference on the resort island of Bali in December, but Yudhoyono said the nation had to do more. Great idea, because then there will be more trees in the near future to chop down in the illegal logging trade.

And finally this week, we have the Australian Prime Minister’s proposal for an Asian Pacific Union. This has caused quite a stir in some Asian circles but it seems Indonesia likes the idea. The Indonesian government is eager to make a deeper study on Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd`s recent statement in which he proposed the creation of an Asia Pacific Union, similar to the European Union, by 2020 and this was according to the Foreign Ministry. Going on past track-records Australia might have a hard time from its long-time nemesis, Malaysia. That’s life!.

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