Yudhoyono Paints Himself into the West’s Corner

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ignited a storm of criticism in his predominantly Muslim country by backing last month’s UN Security Council resolution to escalate sanctions against Iran. At issue is whether a largely Muslim country can stand against the interests of another Muslim country in a rapidly polarizing world.  Despite the astonishing levels…

Politics and Free Expression in Indonesia

Once a week in Jakarta, the antics of a fictitious president named Si Butet dari Yogya – whose initials are “coincidentally” the same as those of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – have convulsed television viewers on a show called Republik Mimpi (Republic of Dreams) and driven ratings through the roof. But State Minister of…

Suharto Scion’s Channel Islands Treasure Hunt

The shadowy world of offshore British financial hideaways is the latest battleground for efforts by Indonesians to come to terms with the legacy of their former dictator, Suharto, and his children. The case demonstrates how closely intertwined the disgraced dictator and his family remain with tainted Indonesian officials still in office, and how difficult it…

Sand in Singapore’s Gears

It started with a barge-load of Indonesian sand, or a whole fleet of them, delayed for the last two months on their way to Singapore to be used in reclamation projects. At first Indonesian officials insisted the sand without a country was held up for environmental reasons. Now, it appears the sand is actually political…

Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi May be Primed to Explode

Intelligence reports in Indonesia and Australia are signaling that murderous sectarian violence is about to return to the Poso area of central Sulawesi by such fundamentalist organizations as Jemaah Islamiah. Last week, claiming information that militants blamed for the deadly series of bombings in Bali and Jakarta over the past several years could be in…

Smoker’s Paradise

From the terraced emerald slopes of Bali to the jam-packed kampungs of Sumatra, the 13,500 islands of Indonesia reek with the sweet scent of clove cigarettes, known as kretek for the crackling sound they make when they burn.. Indonesia remains a smoker’s paradise. An estimated 141 million of the country’s 245 million people smoke cigarettes,…

The High Risk of Travel in Indonesia

The discovery on the sea bottom Monday off West Sulawesi of what is believed to be the wreckage of a Boeing 737-400 that crashed on New Year’s day dramatically points up Indonesia’s astonishingly bad air and sea transport safety record, especially since the turn of the century. Owned by three-year old budget carrier Adam Air,…

The Boxing Day Tsunami Two Years Later

Sometimes a tragedy is the very thing that triggers progress.  This is true in the case of Indonesia, one of the most-affected countries by the Asian tsunami that happened on Boxing Day two years ago.  Billed as one the world’s worst natural disasters, the 26 December 2004 disaster took approximately 230,000 lives in several Asian…

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…