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…

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…