Sexy Video Titillates Indonesia

An extramarital affair involving a senior Indonesian politician and his mistress is highlighting a contentious debate in Indonesia over traditional Islamic attitudes towards sex and morality. A 42-second video clip shot on a camera phone and circulating widely since early this month shows pudgy lawmaker Yahya Zaini naked, laughing and chatting as he advances on…

Indonesia, Malaysia push a biofuels cartel

Just as the administration of US President George W Bush is being urged by a group of leading US business executives and senior military officers to act decisively to break America’s dependence on oil and the EU is seeking alternative energy sources, Malaysia and Indonesia want to create a an Opec-style cartel based on one…

Will Al-Jazeera Change Malaysia?

Given the docile nature of the local press, Malaysia seems a curious base for one of the world’s most aggressive and controversial news organizations. But now at least a handful of the country’s 23 million citizens can wake up to 24-hour-a-day English-language broadcasts from Kuala Lumpur by Al-Jazeera, the television channel whose facilities US President…

Getting Out of Jail Free

The conditional release of former dictator Suharto’s youngest son, 44-year-old Hutomo ‘Tommy’ Mandala Putra, after serving only five years for ordering the murder of the Supreme Court judge who convicted him of corruption, is a serious blow to those seeking to reform Indonesia’s legal system and an unfortunate signal to international investors of how far…

Resurrected

Two Indonesian tycoons with massive amounts of debt have escaped bankruptcy and are flourishing again, partly as a result of government shelter and forgiveness and partly because of the convenient location of Singapore as a nearby safe haven. Both own separate Singapore paper and pulp enterprises that are among the biggest in the world.  Both…

What a difference a faith makes!

The three Catholic Indonesians who were executed on 21 September were the latter.  Known as the “Poso Three”, Fabianus Tibo, Marianus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva were accused of inciting violence between Muslims and Christians in 2000 that led to the deaths of some 1,000 people in the Poso port region of Sulawesi island.  Before…

The Mists of Yogya

The train pulls into Yogyakarta’s main railway station. Produce is unloaded, sons and daughters are shuttled home and visitors, eager to explore the bastion of Javanese culture, follow the path of other tourists. They make a beeline for Borobudur, Jalan Malioboro or the Sultan’s Palace (Kraton). They bypass an unassuming enclave of warungs (stalls) behind…

Indonesia’s gusher of gas, mud and graft

On May 28 at 10 a.m., something terrible went wrong deep inside Banjar Panji I.  There, 1,800 meters into the exploratory gas well being drilled near the Surabaya satellite town of Sidoarjo, about 900 km. southeast of Jakarta, investigators believe employees of PT Lapindo Brantas, the company drilling the well, “broke every rule in the…

Indonesia’s growing drug problem

Two years ago, Indonesian authorities tied a 32-year-old Thai woman named Namsong Sirilak and a 62-year-old Indian named Saelow Prasert to palm trees at dawn in northern Sumatra and shot them for trafficking in heroin -- only weeks after the execution of their Indian accomplice, Ayodhya Prasad Chaubey. That might have been a spectacular answer…

Bali: Trouble in Paradise

Kuta, Bali – The Bali bombs of 2002 and 2005 confirmed local conventional wisdom: bad things on the island come from Java. The 2005 bombings not only revived the slump in tourism, which accounts for at least 40 percent of Bali’s economy, but exacerbated ancient animosities as well. But while other parts of Indonesia have…