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News in Brief – Week Ending 18/05/08

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has protested against a plan to build hotels and villas in a number of districts in Bali province in support of the tourism industry. And, rightly so too because there has been too much development on the island and it’s always the farmers that suffer after having their land virtually robbed off them by unscrupulous developers. Here’s a development of amazing proportions. Former president Abdurrahman Wahid, who is more popularly known as Gus Dur, said he was ready to run for president in the 2009 general election. Apparently he was asked by his seniors to run in the 2009 general election, and decided to do so. He said one of his missions if he was elected president would be to shoot all foreign ships or boats illegally entering Indonesian waters. All I can say is ‘Happy days are here again…’ or ‘Is the Wizard of Oz still alive?’ When he was President last time and lost at the following elections they have to virtually pry him out of the big house. Good look to him I say because he is an enigmatic Indonesian.

I was in Yogyakarta when Indonesia has its very first democratic election and, running up to that, there were actually over 200 political parties enrolled but this was cut down to 110. The upcoming elections are not as loony as that. More than 60 political parties were officially registered at the Indonesian General Election Commission (KPU) on the closing registration date Tuesday to mark further the countdown to the 2009 elections. KPU member Andi Nurpati said Tuesday 66 parties have submitted their applications, but the commission’s head Abdul Hafiz Anshary put the figure at 61. My how things have changed since reformasi. Today thousands of Jakartans tune in to local radio stations to have the simple pleasure of listening to their favorite Mandarin songs that was not the case a decade ago. During the Soeharto era, the public display of Chinese culture was not allowed. After the reform movement in May 1998, however, the successive administrations changed few policies that affected the lives of millions of Chinese-Indonesians. Being married to a Javanese-Chinese, my wife listens to the Chinese music in Bali everyday.

Indonesia has a very bad drug situation and the police are doing their best to stop the import, distribution and use of narcotics. Narcotics and dangerous substances that are worth Rp118 billion were destroyed by fire at the front of the Office of Customs and Excise at Soekarno-Hatta airport. You can surely make a safe bet there were quite a few police standing down-wind of the fire and a lot of smiling Indonesians standing up-wind!. Geez, Garuda Indonesia must really be well and truly in the black with news of more destinations added to their list. Travelling to Indonesia could become much easier next month, when the country’s national airline Garuda’s maiden flight between Chennai and Medan when it is set to take off. Apparently, that the new flight would strengthen trade and tourism ties between the two regions. If they are making that much money then why don’t they buy new planes for their domestic routes?.

One person I have much admiration for is the Sultan of Yogyakarta. He is a man of much foresight and feels the suffering of the people of Yogyakarta as was the case during the devastating earthquake. And now he is off to Japan. Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X`s weeklong official visit to Japan starting next week is aimed at expanding cooperation with the main cities in Japan, studying the management of earthquakes, tourist promotion, and managing the dispatch of nurses.

And finally, here’s one to mark down on your calendar. Apparently, Indonesia should reduce its energy consumption or a large disaster will occur in 2050. The use of energy is alleged as the main cause of earth’s temperature rise of 6.4 celsius degree over the last century. Somehow I think it will happen well before then.

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