The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Monday, December 27, 2010


Scoop: Inside the FPI

Thanks to WikiLeaks we can now reveal the inner workings of the FPI otherwise known as the Friendly People’s Institution. A foreign embassy has bugged the organization and transcribed its meetings.

Many of the classified cables deal with the minutia of life in the FPI bunker, such as how to ensure only virgins wash the men’s’ jubah using halal soap so we’ve selected the most appropriate.

To protect individuals’ privacy we are calling the members Muhammad 1, Muhammad 2 and so on.

M1: Order, order, this meeting is about to start …

M7: Objection! You cannot use the word ‘order’. Our policy is ‘disorder’.

M1: Yes, yes, but to create disorder we need a plan. That means being united …

M2: Point of order! ‘United’ is haram. It stinks of the Great Satan.

M7: We cannot have order. I’ve said so already. Order is chaos.

M1: Move on – first the report from our Pornography Division. I call on the convenor:

M6 It’s been a busy month. We’ve had to view more than 20 films. In six we saw skirts above naked ankles and in four scenes certain chest organs were obvious despite many layers of clothing. (Gasps.) We had to return to the cinema five times to confirm these vile images, which is why our expenses are so high.

M1: So I see. Was that necessary?

M6: Absolutely, brother. It’s an onerous but sacred task we’ve undertaken. First we have to wear the despicable western clothes and dark glasses so we’re not recognised.

Next we must bring our comrades to see the odorous and sinful scenes for themselves so they know the depths of Western decadence.

MI: Quite so, but 500 tickets?

M6: Education isn’t cheap, brother.

M1: That means we’ll have to double the protection fees for Blok M bars so they can serve alcohol. By the way, I’d better take a look at these disgusting films myself to make sure your report is correct. Send me a ticket. Make that five. For my cousins. Now onto the Hearts and Minds project – but M3, your hand is bandaged.

M3: Correct, it is grievously hurt, sir. I tried to cut it off!

M1: But why?

M3: While looking for unauthorised places of worship I encountered a Christian leader. (Shouts of horror) Before I knew what was happening this person wished me Merry Christmas (screams) and shook my hand. You can imagine I felt doubly defiled, because the priest was a woman! I rushed to the nearest mosque and washed seven times, but the stain could not be eradicated. (Gasps). So I then tried to cut it off.

M1: Allah be praised – a true martyr. But you did not succeed?

M3: In the midst of my agony I heard a voice from heaven cry out: ‘If you have no hands, how can you strike the infidel?’ So I desisted.

M1: Did you get medical help?

M3: Indeed, sir. God directed me to the best hospital available, St Vincent de Paul. As a result I expect to be fully healed and can return to my duties of flushing out evil. (Much shouting of Allah Akbar – God is Great!)

M4: I move we suspend the meeting for lunch. We get a discount from McDonald’s.

M5: Foreign capitalists! We should be supporting our brothers, local traders.

M1: We can’t. We’ve smashed all their foodstalls because women and gamblers use them. Only McDonald’s is left.

M5: Alright, alright. In any case we need to understand the evil foods they serve to identify them on our next Sweeping. I’ll have a Big Mac with coleslaw.

M8: A Double Cheeseburger with fries for me. So when’s the next Sweeping? I love watching tourists flee.

M1: Here’s the problem. The government has asked us to tone down a bit. No problems with torching churches and Ahmadiyah mosques (noise of people gagging), but hotel occupation rates are dropping and damaging TNI’s income.

M6: OK. I move we concentrate on homosexuals. I’m sure I can find some if I pay a few local government officials to identify them. My order? Sure, a hamburger thanks. Make sure the server wears a jilbab.


Saturday, November 27, 2010


Live and let live

If he wasn’t an academic sparring with language, Professor Komaruddin Hidayat would make a fine boxer.

Not because the Rector of the State Islamic University (UIN) in Jakarta would be landing knockout blows. Instead he’d be deflecting punches, sidestepping wild swings and never letting his opponents get close enough for an upper cut.

Example: He supports pluralism. So how does his position fit with the fatwa (prohibition) on pluralism issued by the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI – Council of Indonesian Islamic Scholars)?

“The MUI has a different understanding of pluralism. I look at it in terms of sociology and anthropology. Maybe they consider it theologically.”

Try again: What’s the solution to the problem of Ahmadiyah (the sect under attack for claiming to be Islamic)?

“The government should take action. The police should give them protection.”

Try yet again: At a formal seminar he didn’t use the traditional assalam alaikum (peace be unto you) to address an audience dominated by Muslims.

Assalam alaikum is just a cultural greeting. You can spread peace through behavior, such as smiling and being friendly.”

So would it be right to label him a liberal Muslim, along with people like prominent activist Ulil Abshar Abdalla from the Liberal Islamic Network (JIL).

“You can call me a rational Muslim.”

Does this mean he’s opposed to JIL?

“It’s just a group, and so small. I appreciate that it’s good for intellectual exercises, but nothing else. It has so few followers. It’s difficult to be successful without government support.”

State-funding backs Dr Komaruddin’s university of 22,000 students. He reckons UIN is the finest tertiary institution of its kind in the Republic, and well positioned to create bonds with its counterparts elsewhere.

“We want to conduct research with Western campuses so staff and students can better understand Southeast Asian Islam, as opposed to Islam from the Middle East,” he said.

“We want to build ties based on education, business and good neighbourliness’, explaining Islam as a sociological and historical phenomenon.”

This was one of the reasons Mas Komar (as he’s known) has been in New Zealand with two colleagues. They’ve been presenting the rational face of Islam and hopefully to eclipse the image of tiger-eyed fundamentalists tugging their wispy beards as they demonise everything that’s not Muslim.

On the surface it’s a grand idea, but in discussions with Professor Paul Morris, head of Inter-Religious Understanding at Wellington’s Victoria University it became clear there’s a major obstacle to overcome.

Universities in NZ and many other Western countries teach religious studies, but not specific religions. Graduates do not have the qualifications to get leadership roles in mosques, churches or temples. A taxpayer-funded university like UIN could not exist in NZ.

The separation of religion and State would not have surprised Mas Komar because he’s filled his passport with inky stamps from more than 40 countries.

While many have been nations with Muslim majorities, others have been Western democracies where religion if of little importance.

Globetrotting as an ambassador-at-large for tolerant Islam would have seemed an unlikely career for the third of eight children born in Magelang, Central Java, 57 years ago.

His dad was a soldier, but that was a career the bright lad didn’t favor, and his parents didn’t push.

“My father was quite liberal, a good man,” Mas Komar said. “It was serendipity that put me into the academic life.

“I was sent to the cheapest and closest village pesantren (Islamic boarding school) where I was influenced by a very wonderful teacher. He told us that we had the right to enjoy life, and the good life is Islam. We should be vice-generals of God.

“He taught us about the dignity of human beings, the need for life-long learning and to live decently. God has given us heads to think, hearts to feel and hands to do good things.

“It’s death that creates religion, that makes life meaningful. If you don’t believe in an afterlife then there’s no incentive to do good.

“Everyone wants truth, beauty, peace and goodness. These are values implanted in us by God.”

After doing well at school the inspired student moved to Jakarta and the institution he now heads. Here he gained his first degree (in Islamic education) and then applied for an overseas scholarship.

He was successful (“by accident”) and headed to Turkey where he completed a doctorate in Western philosophy. Back home he returned to the UIN and in 1990 became a professor. Four years ago he was elected rector.

Apart from teaching and touring the world, Mas Komar is an occasional commentator in the mass media promoting his friendly and benign brand of Islam.

“”It’s no longer relevant to talk about conflict between Christianity and Islam,” he said. “Good religion means being a good citizen.

“We don’t like the aggression of global capitalism, but democracy and Islam are compatible. Marginalized Muslims get the benefit of democracy because they can get close to local decision makers.

“The problems we’ve had in Indonesia have not been created by democracy, but by the poor quality of politicians and failure of the political process.

“I’m an optimist. The people (voters) are getting wiser and more selective in evaluating candidates. A lot of lessons have been learned, but I think it will take three more elections to grow the maturity to evaluate politicians.

“The issue is this: How do we articulate the way to behave in a modern state, and how do we manage?

“Don’t make religion part of the problem, but the solution. Religion can solve the problems of society, and Indonesia could be a model, a world leader.

“My philosophy is live and let live. Life is a game. We can live together in a pluralist society.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 25 November 2010)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Listening to tourists – and learning Duncan Graham

The fresh smell air in the dawn, shine of sun, surrounded by volcanoes, smile of peoples along the way, hundreds heritage building, and variety color of shopping. pleasure. Expererience (sic). dreams. here in Bandung, Indonesia.

Don’t judge a book by its cover or a city by its publicity. Presented with this example of tangled English from the Bandung Tourist Board, a concerned Djoni Sofyan Iskandar apologised and promised better communications in the future.
He wasn’t the author, but as the well-travelled boss of the Bandung Institute of Tourism (BIT) and a fluent English speaker he manfully shouldered some of the blame.
“We need to better understand tourists and their needs and to respond appropriately,” he said in Wellington. “Mastering English is essential for everyone working in the business of tourism.”
Djoni was in the New Zealand capital to attend a United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference on TedQual.
This is the fancy acronym for Tourism Education Quality, indicating that travellers’ needs are being recognized along with the diversity of the industry. Tourism jostles dairy exports as the most important earner in the economy of NZ, a nation that’s a world leader in outdoor activities.
UNWO is trying to introduce what it calls ‘responsible tourism’ and codes of ethics, particularly in developing countries. The idea is to ensure local people get the benefits and that negative impacts on cultures and the environment are reduced.
Big building hotels and airports in places like Bali, and the inflow of thousands of foreigners with different expectations and values has disrupted traditional lifestyles, widening the gulf between rich and poor. Inevitably resentment follows.
Despite the Bandung language hiccup Djoni and his deputy Joko Suyono launched into an energetic defence of West Java’s capital and a robust promotion of the BIT, a State college with around 2,000 students.
He said 90 to 95 per cent found jobs in the industry, with 40 per cent working overseas. Cruise ships employed large numbers. According to BIT’s senior staff this puts the educator in the vanguard of hospitality trainers in the Republic.
Anyone querying this claim should be in the so-called Paris of Java in May 2012 when Bandung will host a major forum on Rethinking Tourism. This will also recognize BIT’s 50 years as a hotel and tourism academy. The forum will include strategies for sustainable development.
Also likely to be at the talkfest, if he doesn’t get snapped up by another agency in need of a dynamic promoter, will be Nyoman Madiun who directs the rival Bali Tourism Institute.
Like BIT this is classified as a STP (Sekolah Tinggi Pariwisata) or Tourism High School, though these institutions are more like Western polytechnics providing vocational education in management, catering, travel and related activities. The Bali institute was started in 1976 and has 1,300 students.
With his offsider Dewa Gde Byomantara and the two Bandung teachers, Nyoman also attended the UNWTO conference. Like any good entrepreneur he never paused to take a rest from promoting his island and drop reminders that Bandung, for all its grand attractions including Art Deco architecture, is not a destination on most foreigners’ Must See lists.
“There’s a need for the Indonesian government to boost spending in education and visitor facilities,” he said. “At the local level you have to get community involvement and support for tourism.
“We must listen to tourists, find out what they want and respond accordingly. Hygiene, accessibility and security are high on tourists’ demands – and we’ve still got someway to go here, particularly with cleanliness. There are so many streams developing, like cultural tourism, eco-tourism and adventure tours. ”
“Bali was lucky because the Dutch colonial government started promoting tourism early in the 20th century,” said Djoni. “It has continued off and on since then. Bandung is better known for textiles, but that will change in the next five years.”
“Everyone in Bali knows that tourism is our number one earner. It’s in our blood. Our culture is a seamless mix of religion and art that must be preserved,” replied Nyoman Madiun. “If tourists stopped coming tomorrow we would still be praying and dancing.
“We’re now looking towards Russia as a source for visitors, along with ASEAN countries and Western Europe. We want people to explore elsewhere and are promoting a Bali and Beyond campaign.”
Recalling that dour Malaysia attracts 27 million visitors a year while smile-free Singapore pulls in almost ten million, the obvious question is why the magnificent archipelago laden with historical, cultural and scenic riches and jolly people shuffles in with under seven million.
According to the feisty four tourism hotshots, all these figures are rubbery with visitors, business people and tourists being bundled together.
“Malaysian statistics include all those people who cross the Causeway every day from Singapore to Johor Bharu to work or study,” said BIT’s deputy director Joko Suyono. “But it’s not just numbers – the other factors are length of stay and what people do while in the country.
“The Indonesian figures are taken from tour operators’ statistics and don’t include individual visitors. Countries aren’t always measuring the same thing.”
There was also general agreement that the Visit Indonesia campaign was no real match for Malaysia’s Truly Asia advertising, its neighbour’s Surprising Singapore tag and the sub-continent’s Incredible India. All three countries saturate Western television with their joys and jingles.
“That’s because many in government don’t really understand tourism,” said Djoni Sofyan. “There’s not enough money in the budgets. Another problem is with the mentality of the people in the departments.
“There are government regulations that get in the way, such as queues for visas, and difficulties in implementing rules about foreign investments.
“To understand tourism you have to travel, to be a tourist. That’s essential. Too many haven’t been out of the country.”

(First published in the Jakarta Post 24 November 2010)

Monday, November 15, 2010


The Ministerial non handshake: An explanation

Good morning to all men, whether you are of the one true faith or a vile unbeliever destined to burn in hell unless you rapidly convert. Which reminds me, I must plan legislation to assist in this regard.

As your Disinformation Minister I have a responsibility to keep you informed of current events. So I’ve asked my ghost writer to explain the situation as if I’d written it myself - had I not been so busy being pious:

Now I want to make sure you understand the real facts regarding a certain happening featuring a guest to our beloved nation, the center of tolerance in a troubled world.

Let me say this: There have been many wicked lies spread about the reception by sinister forces opposed to the Unitary State, like You Tube.

So let me be absolutely clear; I did not shake hands with a non-man who is not my relative.

As you know, I am deeply pious, so here’s the unvarnished truth. As a very important person in Indonesia I was of course invited to meet another important man.

I did not expect this person to bring a non-male with him, so was caught by surprise. In fact when I saw what had happened I was deeply disgusted. Blatant pornoaksi! Politics and leadership is men’s business. All other people must stay in the kitchen and bedroom.

I will speak to the security guards and make sure they are disciplined for this serious breach of protocol.

When I shook hands with this tall black man I could not control my responses. His grip was firm and irresistible. I recognised him to be a true Muslim because he whispered Assalamu Alai’kum to me - though out of earshot from the Fox News reporter with the US press corps.

I tried to give him a brown envelope containing my nephew’s application for a scholarship at Yale along with a modest gift, but it was rudely snatched away by one of his aides.

As God is my witness I swear that he used black magic, for I could not stop my hand jerking forward once he had moved on. “Yes we can,” he said – and cast a spell. So I was forced against my will to have my hand grasped by this, this … non-male person.

Fortunately as a pious man I was able to resist lingering with the slightly moist palm, the sweet and slender fingers, the genuine warmth that exuded from every pore, the cool gaze from liquid brown welcoming eyes, the scent… That’s enough. I’m not a man to be tempted.

As a true believer I immediately left the room for the nearest toilet so I could scrub the offending body part at least seven times. However I was distracted by one of my assistants.

“Pak,” he whispered, “they’re about to serve lunch.”

What a dilemma! How should a responsible minister of the Republic respond when the dignity of the nation is at stake? Steak, actually, imported Angus and delicious, but be assured I did wash at the earliest opportunity after the six-course banquet followed by some excellent Australian wine.

You understand I had to sample this forbidden beverage in the name of research. I’m a man who needs to know about haram products so I can speak with authority when I warn the faithful of the effects.

While representing you at this function and feeling deeply concerned about the poor of our beloved nation who don’t have enough to eat, my staff were busy checking the records.

Do you know what they found? This leader of the Great Satanic nation is actually one of my relatives! Records kept when he was studying at a Pesantren (as all Indonesians should – and I think I’ll make this compulsory very soon) show his third cousin on his uncle’s brother’s side is also my cousin through my grandfather’s stepbrother’s fourth son.

This means that the non-man who accompanied the visitor is also a relative. That makes it OK for me to make body contact with the American’s companion.

So my actions were halal, God be thanked! Not that I touched the non-man willingly. As I said earlier it was black magic.


Thursday, November 04, 2010


(Picture above: Students from the Al Azhar school in Jakarta performing at the Southeast Asian Night Market on Wellington's waterfront in March 2010. The 2011 market will be held on the Wellington waterfront on Saturday 16 April.)
Learning about our Muslim neighbour

I hope the blinkered public service mandarins note your editorial (1 November) about engaging with a changing world. They need to expand their vision beyond China and India for trade, schooling, immigration and influence in Asia.

So far they’ve been overlooking a closer market of enormous political and strategic importance.

Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy with more Muslims than any other nation. It’s our nearest Asian neighbour, our second biggest market in Southeast Asia. Trade between us is worth almost $1.5 billion a year and growing. Most is in our favour. .

We’re frequently first in line giving aid following natural disasters, like SurfAid assisting with the current Mentawai Islands tsunami response. We’ve been closely involved in advising on earthquake damage mitigation and geothermal energy.

About 25 years ago the late Colin McLennan established a unique rehabilitation unit for disabled children in Yogyakarta. This Wellingtonian’s vision has now expanded to Bali and Nias.

Yet few seem to recognise the opportunities in what Trade and Enterprise calls a “relationship-driven market.” Earlier this year Amris Hassan, the outgoing Indonesian ambassador to NZ, commented in The Jakarta Post that many businesses were failing to seize the openings created through visits by leaders of both countries.

“NZ must capture the opportunities in education. Indonesian students seeking to study abroad provide a big market,” he wrote.
“NZ schools and universities say they want overseas students but to be frank they’re not doing enough to attract Indonesians … there are 20,000 Indonesians studying in Australia. That figure is 50 times larger than the number of Indonesians in NZ schools and universities.“
The NZ Embassy in Jakarta responded with a report underpinning Mr Hassan’s comments. It added that a better relationship in education should provide a direct economic benefit and “form a pillar in a stronger political relationship.”
Worthwhile words, but they’ve stimulated little movement in Wellington ministries. There’s still no government-to- government protocol for education.
It’s the same with tourism. Minimal effort is being put into promoting our attractions in Indonesia, a country of 240 million with a rapidly expanding and cashed-up middle class.
The faults aren’t one-sided. Live cattle sales to Indonesia have hit a gateless fence. A Free Trade Agreement with Indonesia hasn’t been finalised so young people can’t apply for NZ working holiday visas – and vice versa.
Sad because our image in Asia isn’t just clean and green – it’s also safe and welcoming, while Indonesia is a magic, friendly land for our youth to explore and learn about moderate Islam.
This absence of students and visitors means we live in the shadow of Australia while Kiwis only see the Archipelago from 10,000 metres as they fly to Europe for their OE.
Indonesia’s march to democracy is stunning. It has a large economy that will only grow bigger, and it has the power to be more than competitive with China.
We understand Prime Minister John Key plans to visit Indonesia early next year. That’s good news. However if the doors he opens aren’t used by NZ entrepreneurs and departmental heads prepared to include Indonesia in their Asian vision then he’s wasting his time.

(First published in The Dominion Post 4 November 2010)


Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Why wasn’t Indonesia better prepared for the tsunami that hit the Mentawai Islands?

It’s not as though the 7.5 scale earthquake and three-metre wave came as a total surprise. The west coast of Sumatra has long been known as one of the world’s most unstable zones where the tectonic plates kilometres below the earth slip and slide creating chaos on the surface. It was hit badly in 2004 and again in 2005.

With this experience it’s extraordinary that the Indonesian government hadn’t got a system in place ready to cope with tragedy.

Yes, the islands are remote. That’s not an excuse – they’ve always been remote.

Yes, the villages are poor and don’t have infrastructure like airports and emergency centres. Why not? Quite simply, power has long been centralised in Jakarta; as the kilometres from the capital increase, so the cash available for public services shrinks.

The nation’s administration was decentralised following the fall of military dictator Soeharto in 1998. However in reality few provinces have had the courage or ability to run their regions without support or approval from the capital.

The other excuse for the bloated and malfunctioning bureaucracy has been the mantra that Indonesia is a poor and developing nation. Both claims are rubbish. The country is rich in minerals, oil and gas but the wealth has not been distributed evenly. Much has been plundered for personal gain by officials and Soeharto cronies.

Indonesia ranks 111 on Transparency International’s list of corrupt countries, alongside Egypt. NZ is ranked top, along with Singapore and Denmark, as the least corrupt.

The government collects only a third of the taxes it’s legally entitled to gather. This year Gayus Tambunan, a low-ranking tax official, was found to have amassed more than US$3 million from bribes.

The rot continues in the Parliament. This year it planned to deal with 80 pieces of legislation, but has addressed only seven.

Indonesia’s Constitution includes the Pancasila (five principles) philosophy. Number Five upholds social justice for all Indonesians. It does not state these rights are just for city folk.

When President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited the tsunami site he questioned why people had been living in low-lying areas, though they’ve been there for generations. Planning regulations could have prohibited surfline settlement – but rules are easy to by-pass.

After the 2004 tsunami aid from Germany was used to install early warning systems. Sadly many have been dismantled for their saleable parts by fishermen, or have fallen into disrepair.

This has been known for some time, but never fixed.

New Zealand was the first outside country to offer aid to the people of the Mentawai Islands whose homes and families had been destroyed by the tsunami.

The early reports came from Westerners working with Surfaid – an international NGO established by Kiwi Dr Dave Jenkins. Back in 1999 he’d been working in Singapore and took a trip to the Mentawai for a surfing holiday.

He was shocked at the contrast between life on his luxury yacht and the sick and poor villagers who were suffering and dying from preventable diseases, like malaria.

He decided to do something and in the past 11 years has helped raise millions to help improve the health of the islanders. The Indonesian government has now appointed Surfaid as the lead NGO handling the emergency

I’ve just come back from Nias Island, just to the north of the Mentawai where I’ve seen the results of the 2004 tsunami and the 2005 earthquake.

After these events the government, supported by aid from overseas worked to rehabilitate the island. The bill was US$ 1 billion.

The repairs have been piecemeal. The main north-south road is in good condition but the roads inland are like NZ’s rocky riverbeds, and almost impassable.

An ambulance I was travelling in as a passenger, not a patient, was unable to reach homes on the outskirts of Gunungsitoli – the provincial capital that sits on the coast and is vulnerable to any tsunami.

Many homes have still not been repaired, though the administration has built a splendid set of offices on a hill, safe from big waves.

In the meantime money from overseas is being used to teach the public – particularly children – about ways they can prepare for natural disasters and what they should do when the earth shakes and the tides rush in.

The agency doing this job is not the government but a unit of Yakkum, an NGO based in Yogyakarta and originally set up by a New Zealand community worker, the late Colin McLennan.

Like Dr Dave Jenkins he was shocked at the sight of sick and poor people who were not being given proper care by the government.

He helped raise millions of dollars and Yakkum, which now operates in Bali, Central Java and Nias, helps thousands of handicapped people recover their lives and become useful members of society.

Indonesians are grateful – but are starting to ask why such responsibilities aren’t handled by the Indonesian government, caring for its own citizens..

(First published in Scoop (NZ) 1 November 2010 and On Line Opinion (Aust) 16 Nov.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010


A Man for all Cultures Duncan Graham

A prophet is not without honor – except in his own country and among his own kin.

Apart from being a Biblical text it could be the epitaph for Balinese composer Wayan Gde Yudane who finds his work better appreciated outside the Archipelago.

“To be honest, I’m not very popular in Indonesia,” he said in the New Zealand capital, Wellington while shuddering with a pneumatic-drill toothache.

“That’s why I like to live here. People enjoy my music and they respect me as a composer, though I’ve also had to wash dishes in a restaurant to make ends meet. I’ll have to get my tooth fixed in Indonesia. Dentists in NZ are so expensive.

“Despite these problems I can hear my music played here. I don’t know that I can do so in my homeland. The people there just listen to pop. In Wellington I offered to teach gamelan free. No Indonesians took up the chance – only Kiwis.

“I wrote the music for the NZ Trio when it performed in Jakarta. (In 2007) They play the best chamber music in the country, but when I went to the hotel they (staff) treated me like rubbish. Indonesians can be racist towards other Indonesians.”

The lean and lank Yudane wears the uniform of the Indonesian artist – black shapeless clothes, long hair, bearded wildman looks and benign countenance. His detached demeanor is at odds with intense feelings about his craft.

Though to call him an artis is to corrupt his creativity. The word, hijacked from English and since corrupted, has lost its quality of compliment. It’s been devalued by tabloid overuse, particularly when describing sinetron mayflies.

The 46-year old musician is no temporary talent or cultural monoglot. The son of an architect who made gamelan instruments, Yudane started his career, primarily as a sound and scenic designer in theater. That was after studying at the Academy of Performing Arts in Denpasar, graduating in 1991.

At that time gamelan music was everywhere. “I was surrounded by it – my family, my neighbors, my friends,” he said. “It wasn’t something separate. I was encouraged to become a musician.”

One of his earliest jobs was in Japan, at the Kumamoto Performing Arts Festival. He designed sets for the Singapore Arts Festival, then got a scholarship to study and work in France with the Le Temps Fort theatre company.

Yudane is now well known overseas, particularly in Australasia and Europe, as a contemporary composer experimenting in fusing the gamelan with Western music and instruments.

In Australia he won The Age newspaper’s Critics Award for Creative Excellence for his work with the Adelaide Festival. He also scored strong reviews for his “dramatic and technically ferocious” work Paradise Regained dedicated to the Bali bomb victims.

For the past six months he’s been working as artist-in-residence at the NZ School of Music. It’s not the first time he’s been in the South Pacific nation. He held a similar position eight years ago at Victoria University and is married to a Kiwi teacher.

Yudane’s farewell concert, titled Musical Hunters and Collectors (“I’m both) included Temporal Paradox, which involved a violin and a viola along with the gamelan, and the self-explanatory Causality for Piano.

Apart from his own compositions there were works by Wayan Lotring and Wayan Beratha.

Lotring, who died in 1983, is considered to be the most famous gamelan composer of the 20th century. He was responsible for a revision of Balinese compositions back in the 1920s; Yudane attributes this to the influence of the Dutch who brought Western music to the Archipelago.

Beratha, who is now 86, is credited with pioneering the gong kebyar style of gamelan, with lots of sudden clashing and mood shifts.

“I don’t know how to best describe gong kebyar,” Yudane said. Suggestions included fireworks, a metaphor he rejected because the image was too ephemeral. “Maybe like turning on a light switch – that’s better.

“I studied under Beratha – he’s my hero. But he won’t listen to my music – he doesn’t like it. He says it’s too Western, that it’s gone too far and is too individualistic.

“That’s OK. I’m a contemporary composer. The gamelan doesn’t just have to play traditional Indonesian music. I write what I like, though I want it to be listened to by everyone. My interests are eclectic. (The French composer) Debussy is my favorite.

“I tell students in Indonesia: ‘You must learn the tools. You must be able to write music. It’s OK in Indonesia to memorise, but you can’t do that overseas. You don’t need to go abroad but you must listen to music from everywhere.’”

Individualism: It’s the Indonesian curse (or quality) to be seen as different, strange, or maybe even dangerous if you stand apart from the crowd, like to walk alone and feel comfortable with your own company. No problems in the West, but a worry in the East.

“This is why so many follow pop kitsch (he spits out the words, as though he’s found a cockroach in his coffee) even though Indonesians claim to like gamelan,” he said.

“I don’t follow any trends, and I never will. Sometimes I feel that I’m not part of Indonesia.”

Wellington has two sets of gamelan, Balinese and Javanese, both played by performing arts students. Only one musician is Indonesian – Budi Putra, the cultural officer at the Indonesian Embassy.

Balinese gamelan music is quite different from Javanese, strident, energetic and declamatory. It’s also more disciplined than the enigmatic and subtle Javanese style.

By the time you read this Yudane will be back in Bali composing for film and theater. Then he’ll move to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, where he’s been before, and expects his work will get recognition and respect.

That doesn’t mean the man is vain or arrogant – he’s humble and polite, but hates the superficiality of pop with a loathing others reserve for snakes in the toilet - along with the public’s indifference to Indonesian music.

“My message to other composers is this: ‘Please don’t just listen to what you like. Widen your interests. Every single day new music is being made in the world. Make sure your work is interesting and exciting. Don’t go with the flow’.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 27 October 2010)


Monday, October 25, 2010


Making 1,000 friends – and zero enemies

Shortly after arriving in Wellington the new Indonesian ambassador to New Zealand, Antonius Agus Sriyono was introduced to a senior public servant.

“Just call me Tony,” said the casual Kiwi. Fortunately the newcomer had researched his posting well. He’d read about egalitarianism Down Under so wasn’t too nonplussed.

“I’d discovered this culture of informality grew out of the first settlements (in the early 19th century) when immigrants had to build their own houses and do everything themselves whatever job they’d had in their home country,” he said.

“This was the first time I’d encountered such familiarity in my 26 years as a diplomat. Usually it’s deferential, ‘sir’ or ‘excellency’. As a Javanese I know all about protocols. But I replied: ‘OK, just call me Agus’.”

This anecdote might give the impression that the Archipelago’s new man in the South Pacific (his responsibilities include Samoa and Tonga) is so laid back and adaptable that his Embassy is a retirement waiting lounge for burnt-out bureaucrats.

When he got the job his colleagues in Jakarta congratulated Agus on being appointed to a position where the occupations would be golf, fishing and sleeping.

He’s relaxed – but that’s not a synonym for slack. “I play a little golf but only at weekends,” he said.

“I don’t fish and I’m happy with six hours sleep. Everyone has to be here by 9 am and many are still working at night.”

As darkness doesn’t come till after 9 pm during summer and Jakarta is six hours behind Wellington, recreation time for staff is going to be in short supply if the 15th ambassador to NZ maintains the pace.

His priorities are getting more Indonesian workers into NZ (tough because language levels must be high and jobs scarce), more post-graduate students into NZ universities (difficult because Australia’s the favored destination) – and the top issue, improving trade.

In this task he faces several hurdles: Indonesia imports almost NZ$ 900 million (US $680 million) worth of goods from NZ, mostly primary produce. But the reverse trade, mainly petroleum and paper, is worth only NZ$ 570 million (US $430).

NZ is the international leader in dairy farming and grassland management. Agus said he was keen to get these skills into Indonesia to boost local supplies as the population consumes more milk – as opposed to milk powder. He’s initiating talks with Fonterra, the dairy cooperative that buys and processes most milk in NZ, to encourage investment in the Republic.

The second is that many business heavyweights in Indonesia think the NZ market with only 4.25 million people is too small to warrant their attention. Agus counters that although consumers are few they’ve got full wallets.

Then there’s the Free Trade Agreement between NZ and Indonesia, which has not been completely signed off despite being approved almost two years ago. The problem, according to Agus, is that Indonesia still subsidises some forms of agriculture while NZ farming is free of government support.

Also caught up in the FTA dispute is the working holiday scheme, which would allow young people to spend a year in each other’s countries earning, touring and hopefully developing understanding of other cultures.

The scheme already operates between NZ and Malaysia, Singapore and China, along with many European countries.

“Smart but poor people who would benefit from using these visas don’t have the money for air fares to go abroad,” Agus said. “We’ve got to find a way to get around this difficulty. I don’t want to see only the rich get such opportunities.”

If there have been any hiccups in Agus’s career they get swiftly swallowed. He was born in Magelang, Central Java in 1957 where his parents were teachers keen for their talented lad to join them at the chalkboard.

But Agus had other ideas. He’d always been a leader, even in school. He went to Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta graduating in international relations. After three years working in public relations for the property development company Ciputra Group he joined Foreign Affairs in 1984. Donning the dark suit and entering the high priesthood of diplomacy fulfilled a long held ambition to master the refined arts of subtle statespeak.

“I’d always been interested in history,” he said, “I don’t know why – maybe it’s in my genes. I have about 3,000 books in my library. Many are about leadership.

“I tell my staff they must learn to lead, to communicate effectively and clearly in speech and writing. They must mingle with the local people. They must have 1,000 friends – and no enemies. They must separate the personal from the professional.”

He’s had one book published – a text on international relations – and is now a third of the way through writing a book on the Cold War. Apart from English his language skills include Dutch (his first posting was in The Hague and his parents spoke Dutch), French, Portuguese and some Russian.

Agus’s last post before Wellington was Moscow where he was deputy chief of mission for two years. With his wife Astuti Retno Widiati Sriyono he has three children. One son is a diplomat in Australia, another a journalist with Tempo magazine in Jakarta and a daughter at school in NZ.

“I am conscious that Indonesia ranks 111 on the International Corruption Index and that NZ is the least corrupt country in the world,” he said. “I have zero tolerance of corruption and that applies to myself.

“One must have integrity. I learned that from my parents, and it was reinforced by the late Ali Alatas (foreign minister under the Soeharto regime). I worked for him as a private assistant. He was my hero.”

But successful diplomacy requires compromise. Doesn’t that cause difficulties?

“No problem, I’m a Javanese. I’m lucky – I come from the majority ethnic group and the minority religion. (He’s Catholic.)

“All diplomatic actions should be based on inter-cultural understanding of other countries and their history. I’m committed to fixing problems. What I preach is what I do and I try to do my best. I want to be a good listener. (He is.) Every night I pray: ‘God, I put myself in your hands’.

“There have been ups and downs but I’ve never regretted my career choice. Emotionally, rationally and professionally it’s a most satisfying job and I don’t expect this to be my last posting.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 25 October 2010)


Monday, October 04, 2010


A new solution to traffic jams

Traffic jams are expected to vanish throughout Indonesia once a new edict by a leading agency takes effect.

The surprise fatwa from the MUI (Motorcyclists’ Union of Indonesia) was announced just before mudik, the annual pilgrimage to hometown and parents undertaken by many Indonesians at the end of the slowing month.

MUI secretary Bangbang Twostroke said the fatwa prohibited the use of cars, which were now haram.

Although it was difficult to impose a fatwa on those groups that didn’t follow MUI’s teachings, it was expected that most would accept the ruling to avoid drawing attention to themselves and creating unnecessary conflict.

The roads would be far less congested once the fatwa was in place and all four-wheel vehicles were either locked up or deported. He added that two-wheel transport goes back centuries so reverting to the past would create a purer nation.

“You can’t hide on a motorbike,” Bangbang said. “Everyone can see what you’re up to. Behind the tinted windows of cars all sorts of immorality can take place.

“The MUI has long been concerned about the rise in popularity of other means of transport.

“We’ve had to accept the government’s five-brand policy, but there have been issues in some regions that have disturbed local communities.

“Allegations have been made of moves to Toyotarise Indonesians. I’ve even heard of preman (thugs) with Manado accents trying to Nissanise locals with promises of high trade-ins and cashbacks.

“The Mercedes trinity star is known to have other meanings. Those of us who believe in only one brand find the symbol offensive.”

The police have been instructed not to tolerate attempted conversions from two to four wheels by outside forces with other agendas.

FP1 (Friendly People of Indonesia) squads were ready to assist the police and ensure the fatwa was obeyed. Mr Bangbang rejected reports that FPI members had already started trashing cars as ‘baseless accusations from dark forces planning to overthrow the Unitary State’.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agama (Automobile, Gasoline and Mechanical Appliances) said no comment would be made on the MUI’s fatwa, though the minister welcomed any moves to restrict the number of road users, particularly those who didn’t follow the number one brand.

“In the past we’ve been tolerant of deviants like Suzuki and Yamaha, but it’s now time to disband them,” he said.

“The Minister realises this is a controversial move. It may be in breach of the Constitution, which allows citizens freedom to ride the brand of their choice. But no matter. Our founding fathers did not appreciate the threats now coming from outside. Public order must be maintained.”

During the slowing month, when petrol tanks may only be filled between dusk and dawn, reports of surly young men in gangs hanging around foodstalls at nightfall astride motorcycles have been causing concern among supporters of cars.

Last month it was claimed motorcycle numbers in Indonesia would double by 2015. Last year 6.5 million pedestrians converted to motorbikes, the majority choosing to follow Honda. For every car that rolls onto the road, five motorbikes take to the streets.

Mr Bangbang said it was clear the infrastructure could not cope. There just wasn’t enough room on public roads, so some users have to go. It was right and proper that those evicted from the highways should be the rich driving foreign cars and taking up too much space.

If action wasn’t taken now Jakarta could suffer a stroke as its traffic arteries became clogged by the cholesterol of unconstrained private transport.

“The reality is that this is a Honda nation,” he said. “Those who want to follow other forms of transport should move to North Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara or Bali where different brands are tolerated.

“However the transmigration of motorbikes from the overcrowded roads of Java to the quiet tracks of Central Kalimantan and elsewhere will continue. This means that the majorities in those regions may soon become the minorities.

“The alternative if for dissidents to embrace two-wheels with fervor if they want to remain citizens. This is a move that can only enhance democracy by ensuring that all Indonesians follow only one way.”

(First published in The Sunday Post 3 October 2010)


Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Raising triple threat performers

Noel Coward’s advice to Mrs Worthington to keep her daughter off the stage could have been written for Daryusti.

Like the famous English performer and composer Daryusti is multi-talented, a dancer, choreographer and academic – head of the Padangpanjang Institute of Arts in West Sumatra. He’s also the father of three girls.

“One is a chemist, another a doctor and the third is still studying,” he said. “I didn’t push them to go on the stage, though that’s what my father did to me. I know just how tough it can be.”

Daryusti’s father, a teacher and amateur drummer, urged his talented son to study the arts – which he did in Yogyakarta to get a master’s degree. Dad also sold food to help young Daryusti get a formal education along with qualifications from the university of hard knocks.

Those who think the entertainment industry as a life of non-stop glamor punctuated by air kissing get gored by reality when they seek enrolment at the Padangpanjang institute. Half the candidates don’t get beyond the doors of the stylish Minangkabau building with its multi-peak roof because they don’t make the grade.

At the moment 1,800 have gained entry to a multiplicity of courses in seven faculties covering most art forms, but they do need to watch their step. Failure to match the high standards required can rapidly lead to a dash for the exit, said Daryusti.

“We insist on students being disciplined,” he said in New Zealand while leading a cultural group called Sumatran Sounds. “None of our graduates are jobless because their quality is so high. We attract students from all parts of the Archipelago and most are women.

“That’s not surprising because Minangkabau culture is matrilineal. In West Sumatra children are close to their mothers – in Java they’re close to their fathers. Women are dominant in many areas including land and property ownership. Our fees aren’t high – Rp 600,000 (US $66) a semester for locals – and we have 22 overseas students.

“Applicants must also show creativity, talent, devotion to the arts and demonstrate a strong willingness to learn. Their flexibility and ability to improvise are also taken into consideration.”

Kiwi ethnomusicologist Dr Megan Collins who spent two years studying in Sumatra said the Institute was equal to prestigious arts institutions in Yogyakarta and Solo.

“It’s successful because it’s supported by the local communities as well as the national government,” she said. “It’s helping keep the arts in Sumatra alive.”

Some of these arts were on display during a week of workshops and performances in the NZ capital Wellington.

The visit of the 15 performers and four officials led by Daryusti was funded by the Indonesian Department of Education and the Indonesian Embassy in NZ.

Sadly the tour was not well publicised so few got the chance to see some spectacular and polished presentations that drew standing ovations from those lucky enough to attend two public performances.

These featured traditional Sumatran dancing and music, along with contemporary items featuring new instruments, and works exploring the fusion of European, Maori and Indonesian art. The artists were not afraid to adapt and alter, modify and contract to suit foreign audiences.

It’s not the first time the Institute has sent performers overseas. “We’ve been to Holland, Germany, Australia and the US,” said Daryusti. “We need to experience other cultures and draw on what we see and hear.

“We’re in Wellington because the previous ambassador Amris Hassan knew of Dr Collins’ studies in Sumatra and her role in the NZ School of Music which has a gamelan orchestra. ”

On the Wellington program that included “serious and challenging artistic material aimed at artists and university students” was a dynamic item called Tari Rundo (night watchman’s dance). This was choreographed by Daryusti and based on the neighborhood security system used in Indonesian villages.

Deftly using torches and sarong the male and female dancers moved with the elegance normally seen in traditional Western ballet, through to the energy found in boisterous Broadway musicals. The result was a robust piece that also owed much to contemporary Chinese theatre, as its creator acknowledged.

“Dance has to be created out of knowledge,” Daryusti said. “After observing, I write then deliver my ideas to the cast.

“When I’m directing dancers at first I tend to be authoritarian. If a doctor can’t cure his or her patients they can’t stay in medicine. It’s the same with the arts – do it right, get it right or quit. Dancers need to be fit and strong.

“However as the work develops I allow more ideas to come from the performers. I start as a dictator – but end as a democrat.”

More traditional works included the piring (plate) dance representing seasonal changes. The performers hold dishes in their palms only using centrifugal force to keep the crockery in place as they twirl, leap, dash and roll. It’s a dazzling piece demonstrating the performers’ dexterity – not a dance to try in the kitchen.

Randai is folk theatre that features much loud pounding of baggy pantaloons. It’s a rugged athletic work with elements similar to the Russian kalinka dancing.

Many pieces in the Sumatra Sounds repertoire require the cast to be ‘triple threats’ – the most feared and admired of stage performers able to sing, dance and act.

Daryusti is a small, dapper man with a penchant for flamboyant multi-colored ethnic jackets matched – or mismatched -with Western clothes. This makes him look nothing like the standard senior academic in bureaucratic black.

At 49 he still occasionally dances, but said his time was now taken up moving between board meetings, leaving little opportunity to star on the boards. It took four months of rehearsals to perfect Tari Rundo. His last public performance was in Melbourne in 2009.

“We like to tour overseas so people can learn more about Indonesian culture and visit our country,” he said. “Sumatran culture is seldom promoted, unlike music and dance from Java and Bali.

“This creates a misconception that Indonesian culture is only found in particular areas when in fact our unique cultures are spread throughout the Archipelago. We should love Indonesian culture, it is so diverse and every region has its own special characteristics.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 29 Sept 2010)


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


A JOB WITH BITE Duncan Graham, Nias

Most health professionals display their qualifications with pride.

Well framed, the fancy calligraphy glows from surgery walls assuring agony-wracked patients that they’re in good hands – and to justify charging equally painful bills.

But there’s no fancy diploma on the coarse-planked walls of dentist Warnidar Hulu’s riverbank surgery in Gunung Sitoli, capital of the west coast Sumatra island of Nias.

In fact there’s next to nothing in the nine square-meter shack which serves as surgery, waiting area, office and drop-in center. There’s a thin blue half-length curtain to shield sensitive patients as they lie on the rickety examination chair, but nothing to dampen the groans and yelps, or the nerve-piercing noise from the pedal-power drill and grinder.

Less honest practitioners of the bloody arts of tooth pulling might have got someone to dummy up a false certificate on a computer, but Warnidar, 43, is not one for subterfuge.

“Before the 2005 earthquake the government health department registered me and helped show me what to do, but they seem to have forgotten that now,” she said.

“There’s no running water so I use bottled water and Dettol (an antiseptic) for the instruments. If the patients want an anaesthetic I inject them with lidocaine. I never use the needles more than three times.

“They get me to go the hospital to make sure I’m healthy and don’t pass on any infections. No problem. I’m fit. All my teeth are my own, and I’ve never had toothache. I’ve never had a patient get ill from my treatment.”

That’s some claim, because she’s been in the business for more than 20 years, honing her skills with pliers, gougers, picks, probes and other tools handed down through her family.

For Warnidar was taught by her husband’s grandfather. He learned from his father who fled with many other families to Nias from Fuzhou in China’s Fujian Province. They escaped from discrimination and fighting during an early unsuccessful attempt at revolution, probably around 1911.

Then and now the family hasn’t been short of clients driven by pain and desperate for relief – or a new set of dentures.

Warnidar’s business is called Shonjaya, and it’s advertised on a hand-written board in red and white paint. The ‘S” is in the shape of a Chinese dragon. The title is a mix of the words for prosperity and the family name.

The location is ideal to attract attention, only meters from a bridge spanning the estuary of the River Nou, used by hundreds of vehicles every day. Many walk past to get access to the pig meat market opposite.

A regular sea breeze blows the noxious smells inland. The tide helps dispose of the waste. Well, some of it anyway. Stuck in the mud are the remnants of a police launch and other rotted craft along with plastic bags, street muck and all the debris of a busy town indifferent to garbage control. Close investigation unwise.

Warnidar’s neighbors are not so well housed. Her corrugated iron roof has been nailed down, and the shutters (no windows) actually open and close. The shop next door uses plastic string to hold down the scavenged rusting sheets and protect its stock of basic household goods.

A few planks on stilts lead to a tiny open-roofed shed. Bystanders can’t actually see what you are doing there, but they can view the results as they drop into the mud below.

“I used to visit my patients in their homes,” said Warnidar, “but it’s better for my five children if I’m in one place.

“The earthquake destroyed our house and with it my drill. My mother-in-law hurt her back. She was in hospital for six moths. The rest of my family was unhurt.

“The quake also damaged the examination couch. My husband Sho Cenghian is a good motorcycle mechanic. He used parts to make me a new drill and grinder. He also got some new pipes for the couch.”

She said that the government has tried to shut down her business three times, sending public order officials to tear down the riverside shanties.

“They smashed the other huts, but not mine,” she said. “I can be a tough woman. I threatened them with a knife. They’ve left me alone since then.”

But for how much longer? A new two-storey market built with post-quake reconstruction money and opened in 2008 stands empty. Warnidar said the rent of Rp 20 million (US $2,200) a year for a stall was too expensive for her and all the other small traders who are supposed to move off public land.

“I only earn Rp 3 million (US $330) a month. How can I afford to move?” she asked. “It would be better and cleaner there but we need government help and lower rents so we can shift.

“There’s no discrimination against the Chinese in Nias. Many have married with the locals. During the 1965 coup d’etat some people tried to force the Chinese out of Gunung Sitoli. However we weren’t bothered because my husband’s father had been a veteran (a revolutionary fighter in 1945.)

“I charge Rp 50,000 (US $5.50) for a filling and half that for an extraction. New teeth cost Rp 75,000 (US $8) each.

“There’s lots of competition – including the hospital. But you can walk in here and usually get treated straight away.”

The first interview was regularly interrupted as Warnidar treated one patient while another smothered her mouth with a bloody rag. Idle passers-by dropped in to gawk under the pretence of shooting the breeze.

The able Warnidar darted expertly between her plastic bowls of mixes and cements and patient, selecting the right instruments without hesitation, keeping up the banter with those not too pained to talk. There were lots of jokes and laughter, helping focus patients’ minds on other things.

She lacks formal qualifications. Her gear is primitive. The environment would repel those who expect hygiene in dentistry. But Warnidar’s couchside manner and obvious dexterity with pliers and grinder help offset the deficiencies. Just a little.

“Our grandfather used to say: ‘Better to be diligent in practice than theory,’” she said. “I agree.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 22 September 2010)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Uncovering the mysterious past

Wanted: A university with a strong commitment to anthropology and archaeology, or a passionate philanthropist with similar interests.

The task: To build on existing scholarly research and maintain an outstanding collection of artefacts, thereby preserving records of a mysterious past and its unique treasures.

The reward: International acclaim.

Last year Father Johannes Hammerle (pictured above), the founder and director of the Nias Heritage Museum had a major health scare, undergoing a prostate gland operation at a Sumatra hospital.

No cancer was detected and the German-born priest looks exceedingly spry. But he’s just a few months from turning three score and ten, and there’s nothing like an encounter with a surgeon’s scalpel to sharpen the mind.

Not that a Capuchin friar needs a mortality alert, but it just helps make the need for future planning even more urgent.

Nias was Father Johannes’ first posting. He arrived on 21 July in 1971 after spending months in Sumatra learning Indonesian.

“At the time if I’d had the chance to choose I would have stayed in Sumatra,” he said. “Why should I go to a little island?”

Apart from discovering that the majority were Protestant (though ministers say the introduced religions don’t run deep), the first shock was discovering that his Sumatra studies were of limited help.

The people of Nias spoke their own language. But where did it originate? Where did the people come from? What was their history and culture?

It had long been known that Nias had a megalithic culture, using stone slabs to make monuments, graves and religious symbols. But few researchers had probed deeper.

Blessed with the sort of curiosity that annoys pedestrian minds Father Johannes started to explore his strange parish, assembling more questions than answers wherever he trod the rugged mountain tracks into the dark interior.

His searches in libraries overseas were equally frustrating. Very little was known and even less had been written. During the 1920s a Danish doctor involved in a vaccination program on Nias had collected some artefacts, but these are now in Europe.

Although he had no background in anthropology Father Johannes had all the skills of scholarship necessary to help fill some of the gaps. He learned the local language and started building an information base constructed from oral traditions.

Unlike other parts of Indonesia no batu tulis (stones engraved with words) have been found to help provide clues to the people of the past. The first written record comes from an 851 account by an Arab trader and translated into French.

Some stories told of people living in a cave known as Togi Ndrawa just outside Gunung Sitoli, the west coast capital – though that’s too grand a title for what is little more than a large village. There are only around 600,000 people living in the 45 kilometer-wide island, slightly smaller than Bali but far less accessible.

The cave faced east towards Sumatra, more than 100 kilometers distant, and ideal to catch the morning sun. It opened deep into the limestone mountain 130 meters above sea level, and could have accommodated several families.

With assistance from local and overseas institutions, including Surabaya’s Airlangga University, excavations showed the old stories were true.

“We now know that people were there from at least 12,000 years ago till about 600 years before the present,” Father Johannes said. “We also discovered that some were also living in tree houses to get above the mosquitoes and snakes.

“Development started when the Chinese arrived in the 14th century AD, probably with the explorer Zheng He. They established a shipyard at Singkuang on the west coast of Sumatra opposite Nias.

“The newcomers brought new technologies, ideas and materials like iron and gold. The people began to live in simple houses and these developed into the oval-shaped timber structures on massive poles that we see today.”

However these buildings are disappearing in favor of modern homes, the changes accelerated by reconstruction programs following the December 2004 tsunami and March 2005 earthquake that together killed around 1,000 and injured many more.

Also vanished is the gold used in the elaborate crocodile skin armor and headdresses worn by the warlike people who specialised in head hunting, the trophies used to buy brides. Once colonialists arrived the gold began to move off the island.

Along with the treasures went the wildlife. The island is now strangely lacking in birds and animals.

Unlike many missionaries Father Johannes didn’t follow a philosophy of purging communities of the artefacts associated with their earlier faiths. Instead he began to collect them – and write a book denouncing the attitudes of some Christians towards pagan symbols.

Once word of a buyer got around, the market started to make demands beyond the capacity of Father Johannes’ budget. But he’s still been able to collect around 6000 items. Some are displayed in the splendid purpose-built museum, constructed mainly using donations from Germany, including his Black Forest hometown of Hansach.

As an exhibition of Indonesian culture it’s far ahead in content, quality and layout when compared with the pleasant but limited provincial State Museum in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra.

The Nias collection includes sharks’ teeth from millions of years ago when the island was under water and marvellous carved tigers, more like dogs with dragonheads for the artists had never seen such animals

Apart from linguistic studies, the latest project to uncover the origins of the Nias people involves collecting hundreds of DNA samples from people across the island. These are being processed in Europe.

Although he has become an Indonesian citizen, Father Johannes isn’t optimistic that the government will step in to help. Nor does he anticipate much assistance from overseas visitors. Most come for the surf.

“The people here are not yet interested in preserving the past,” he said. “They are too poor and concerned with getting enough food to survive, and surfers have no culture.

“I think it’s important that young people know about their culture and we have many schoolchildren visiting the museum.

“There are lots of rich people in Jakarta who were originally from Nias. Maybe they should be providing support.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 18 Aug 2010)


Tuesday, August 03, 2010



Dear World: I am Indonesian and I want to keep our environment green and clean. That’s the way to make the earth better. Sincerely, Intan Agustina.

Student Intan’s plea may not have stirred too many governments secure in their own responses to the planet’s pain. But it sure resonated among the young who care for the future – the place where they’ll be living.

Early July more than 200 high school students and their teachers from 16 countries gathered at a training facility in the East Java hilltown of Lawang ‘to make the earth better’.

The event was the 24th conference of the Caretakers of the Environment International (CEI), an NGO conceived in a Mexican restaurant on a freezing day in Chicago, nurtured in the Netherlands and now coming to maturity in Asia. (See panel)

During the weeklong conference participants visited rice fields, a rain forest, mangrove swamps and a grumbling volcano.

But it was their trip to a wildlife park that really roused their ire and illustrated a cultural and culinary distance from the West where pooches are princes and every cat a queen. Indonesia is no country for old dogs. Or any other edible beast.

The overseas students wanted the birds to have proper housing, and the alligators access to water. “They didn’t like the way the animals were being treated,” said Jakarta teacher Stien Matakupan. A prominent environmental activist she coordinated the conference titled Biodiversity and Culture.

“The students spoke to the zoo manager and stressed the importance of animals in the ecosystem and the need to treat them humanely. He listened and said he’d consider their concerns. This is how we progress. Small steps make big changes.

“Things are definitely getting better. Indonesian kids used to think that forests were full of evil spirits and rivers dangerous places. That’s changing.

“I’ve never been to an opening ceremony before in Indonesia where two ministries (Education and the Environment) were working together to support our goals.”

Commented Indonesian Carmelite Father Albertus Herwanta who is based in Rome but came to observe: “If we love God then we must respect all His creations. Jesus was a conservationist.”

Unlike many Indonesian conferences where the oldies dominate proceedings and the young are to be seen, though not heard, in this show the kids were kings.

At one stage an angry Swedish girl harangued the crowd for not paying full attention during a presentation on the benefits of wild herbs: “This is serious. We are here to learn. That’s why we came.”

The student was unfazed speaking in English in a foreign country where protocol trumps performance. The audience included many worthies, who in the local culture should be given respect even when snoring or shouting into cellphones.

Among them, but not offended and certainly alert despite being ill, was veteran greenie Dr Suryo Prawiroatmodjo. He’s a man who also takes such issues seriously and was enthused by the passion of the young.

A former zoo vet he started campaigning for the environment back in the Soeharto era when some considered conservation a synonym for communism.

He persevered, went overseas to meet like-minded others, ignored the naysayers and hostiles, stirred interest, lobbied intensively and founded CEI in Indonesia.

“This conference should help us build genuine friendships for a better future for everyone,” he said.

“It might inspire us to improve teaching systems and conditions. We need to show that good education is not necessarily expensive or unreachable.”

Most of the Indonesian schools represented at the conference were private, faith-based colleges turning out motivated students challenging the generation that’s raped the planet – holding their own amongst the outsiders and doing so in impeccable English.

But what about those who can’t afford anything more than basic State education? “The trouble is that many government staff are too frightened to embrace new ways of teaching,” Dr Suryo said.

“In Indonesia environmental issues are just taught as theory in the classroom. Overseas students go on field trips, they learn to do things practically in the wider community.”

The proof was in the projects, which included devising a high tech game involving snakes and rats in rice fields, conserving gilt-head bream in Turkey, breeding horseshoe crabs in Hong Kong, digging frog ditches in Poland and building cosy nesting sites for shivering birds in Scotland.

Prize winning student Claudia Castico wasn’t content with micro management. Her group’s project was How to Keep Portugal Clean. The Romanians also think big. They mustered 100,000 volunteers to clean up their country.

Curiously absent from the conference were participants from Australia and New Zealand, countries that are world leaders in conservation. Organisers said they’d been intimidated by travel warnings, something that didn’t bother the Americans

Oregon State University academic Dan Hoynacki, a CEI board director and frequent visitor to Indonesia, used the Lapindo mud volcano in East Java and the BP oil gush in the Gulf of Mexico to illustrate the importance of environmental care.

“These events are opening peoples’ eyes,” he said. “We can see the context and relevance. Real change has to be from the bottom up. It can only come with knowledge.

“I sense a perfect storm of change is on its way and it’s being driven by people working together across the world, particularly the young who are using modern technology to bridge the chasms, creating the global classroom on line.

“I want to see more and more school-to-school partnerships where students can ask others around the world: ‘How do you think we can fix this problem?’

“When students learn about these things in class they take the information back to their families. And so it spreads.”

Like most campaigners for the environment CEI President Birgitta Norden is an articulate and persuasive advocate. Despoilers beware; this Swedish biology teacher will have you on toast. Wholemeal, naturally.

“There’s been a big commitment by teachers focussing on landscape,” she said, “but we must also look at biodiversity in relation to culture. We need to consider the way people see the environment, the social and economic factors. There’s a need for holistic thinking. That’s what’s been happening at this conference.”

On the verandas long-skirted girls in headscarves sat alongside blondes in shorts and skimpy tops thrashing laptops and thumbing cellphones.

Here was generation green flashing ideas around the world it’s determined to save – ignoring the pessimism and indifference of generation grey. The Will Do kids, demolishing the old adage that elders are betters.

(Next year’s conference on heritage and tourism will be in Hungary.)

Craving for the right place

Back in the 1980s when Isabel Abrams was pushing ecology studies in Chicago she knew her chosen field wouldn’t boost her status as a credible science teacher.

“In those days the environmental class was for kids who couldn’t cope with the real stuff – they were seen as the lesser achievers,” she said.

She may have been in the frustrated minority but she was not alone. Chance meetings over tortillas and tamales in the windy city with people like fellow American Edward Radatz and Dutchman Arjan Wals, created the right mix to get things going.

Europe seemed more amenable to their ideas, and soon other teachers had joined, driven by personal concerns, not instructions from governments or employers.

“We were craving for a place to meet others who had the same hopes,” she said. And so the CEI was born. Indonesia came on board when she met Dr Suryo – “one of my great heroes.”

At the heart of the founders’ mission was a determination to show that studying the environment was more than collecting tadpoles, but undertaking serious classroom research and applying findings in the outside world that would benefit all.

Good teachers everywhere share a common goal whatever their discipline: Their holy quest is to find new ways of getting complex ideas across to their students, and fire the spark that ignites young minds.

Every day there’s news of yet another ecosystem collapse, species extinction and major poisoning. Coupled with these signs of onrushing disaster go calming messages from governments, debunking doomsayers and twisting research.

Climate change? A hoax. Limited resources? Impossible. There’s megaton’s more just waiting to be found. Pollution? A hiccup. New technology will fix everything.

What’s someone growing up in this world meant to think? Will there be anything left to share and enjoy?

Ms Abrams took her mission to a wider field. She turned science writer and produced The Nature of Chicago telling how glaciers created the site of the third largest city in the US, through to the need for city parks.

Her idea was to show urbanites their connection with the natural world.

“CEI wants to examine the issues; we are not an advocacy group,” she said, though that message seems to have bypassed the students calling for animal rights in Indonesian zoos.

“Young people, no matter where they live, should know why they need to be caretakers of the environment. The world is their laboratory. It must be treated with respect.”

And do the teachers of hard science still sniff at ecology majors? “I think environmental science is now mainstream.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 3 August 2010)


Monday, July 26, 2010


(Picture above: Seminar participants)


Orang-orang Indonesia adalah orang tetangga: Hubungan antara Orang Indonesia dan Orang Australia

When President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Australia earlier this year he spoke briefly about the close ties between Australia and Indonesia. I’ll give you the details.

Ketika Presiden Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono mengunjungi Australia awal tahun ini dia berbicara singkat tentang hubungan dekat antara Australia dan Indonesia. Saya akan memberikan secara detail.

The first is that we are historically linked. There is no doubt that the Aboriginal people of Australia came from Indonesia, working their way eastwards when the seas were a lot lower. Then it was possible to walk between islands or sail small canoes across narrow seas. That was about 50,000 years ago.

Yang pertama adalah bahwa kita secara historis terkait. Tidak ada keraguan bahwa orang-orang Aborigin di Australia berasal dari Indonesia, mereka berlayar ke arah timur ketika laut-laut banyak yang lebih rendah.

Lalu hal itu yang memungkinkan mereka untuk berjalan di antara pulau-pulau atau berlayar dengan perahu kecil menyeberangi lautan sempit. Itu terjadi sekitar 50.000 tahun yang lalu.

Global warming caused the seas to rise and cut Australia off from easy access with Indonesia. Aborigines, who form only one per cent of the Australian population, developed differently but many still look similar to people from Nusa Tenggara.

Global warming menyebabkan laut-laut naik dan membelah Australia keluar dari akses mudah dengan Indonesia. Orang-orang Aborigin, yang berada disana hanya satu persen dari populasi orang Australia, mereka hidup dan berkembang sangat berbeda tetapi banyak dari mereka masih terlihat sama seperti orang-orang dari Nusa Tenggara.
Closer to the present, but long before Europeans came to this part of the world, Bugis fishermen were sailing from Makassar to northern Australia. They stayed for up to six months and you can still see places where they lived.

Tetapi jauh sebelum orang-orang Eropa datang ke bagian dunia ini, orang-orang nelayan dari Bugis sedang berlayar dari Makassar ke bagian Utara Australia. Mereka tinggal selama enam bulan dan Anda masih dapat melihat tempat-tempat dimana mereka tinggal.

Some Bugis married Aboriginal women and took them back to South Sulawesi where they had children. Aboriginal words like balanda, wurupiah, prau and dopulu all come from Makassar.

Beberapa orang Bugis menikahi perempuan-perempuan Aborigin dan membawa mereka kembali ke Sulawesi Selatan ketika mereka memiliki anak. Kata-kata Aborigin seperti balanda, wurupiah, prau dan dopulu semua berasal dari Makassar.

Of course it’s obvious that we are neighbours. A flight from Kupang to Darwin takes only about an hour. When I lived in Perth I could catch a Garuda flight at 8 am, have breakfast on the plane, watch a movie, and have lunch in Bali.

Tentu saja sudah jelas bahwa kita adalah tetangga - silakan melihat di peta. Sebuah penerbangan dari Kupang ke Darwin hanya memakan waktu sekitar satu jam. Ketika saya tinggal di Perth saya bisa naik pesawat Garuda pukul 8 pagi, sarapan di pesawat, menonton film, dan makan siang di Bali.
Bali is so close and popular that many Australians think it’s their holiday island. If you go to Kuta beach, which is famous throughout the world for its surf, you’ll probably see more Westerners that Indonesians.

Bali begitu dekat dan populer sehingga banyak orang-orang Australia berpikir Pulau Bali tempat berlibur mereka. Jika Anda pergi ke pantai Kuta, yang mana terkenal di seluruh dunia untuk selancarnya, Anda mungkin akan melihat lebih banyak orang Barat daripada orang Indonesia.

Till recently Indonesian language was widely taught in Australian schools and we were all urged to learn more about your country and its culture. But that was before the Bali bombs in 2002 and 2005.

Sampai akhir-akhir ini bahasa Indonesia diajarkan secara luas di sekolah-sekolah Australia dan kami semua didesak untuk mempelajari lebih banyak tentang negara Indonesia dan budayanya. Tetapi itu sebelum terjadi bom Bali tahun 2002 dan 2005.
Both bombs deliberately targeted Westerners and Australians were the main victims, with 88 dying in the first bomb and more than 240 seriously injured. This terrible event has not been forgotten and sadly continues to influence our relationships.

Kedua bom Bali tersebut sengaja ditargetkan untuk orang Barat dan orang Australia, merekalah yang menjadi korban utama, dengan 88 orang meninggal di bom pertama dan lebih dari 240 orang terluka parah. Peristiwa mengerikan ini tidak terlupakan dan sangat sedih terus mempengaruhi hubungan kita.
Despite this Australia gives more aid to Indonesia than any other country, worth about 450 million Australian dollars a year. A lot of this money is being spent on schools. This is because we in the West believe that education is absolutely critical to a better future.

Meskipun Australia memberikan bantuan lebih ke Indonesia dari pada negara lain, senilai sekitar 450 juta dolar Australia setahun. Banyak dari uang ini diberikan untuk sekolah-sekolah. Ini karena kita di negara Barat percaya bahwa pendidikan adalah mutlak penting untuk masa depan yang lebih baik.

Unfortunately not everyone welcomes this money, with some extremists calling it ‘foreign intervention’ in Indonesia.

Sayangnya tidak semua orang menyambut uang ini, dan beberapa orang-orang ekstrimis menyebutnya “intervensi asing” di Indonesia.

Till recently your Constitutional requirement that 20 per cent of the national budget be spent on education has not been followed. In most areas schooling is not free and millions of children leave school with little or no education and no understanding of the complex issues of politics and economics. This means they are easily led by anyone who wants to manipulate public opinion.

Hingga saat ini Konstitusi anda, memerlukan 20 persen dari anggaran nasional yang diperuntukan untuk pendidikan belum dijalankan. Di kebanyakan daerah, sekolah tidak gratis dan jutaan anak-anak meninggalkan sekolah, dengan sedikit atau tidak ada pendidikan dan tidak ada pemahaman tentang isu-isu komplek akan politik dan ekonomi. Ini berarti, mereka dengan mudah dipimpin oleh siapa saja yang ingin memanupulasi opini publik.
In my culture we are encouraged to be independent and ask questions. Your culture is community based and more accepting of authority. You have big families that stay together. These are significant differences, which can affect our relationships. That’s because they colour our attitudes towards welfare and government responsibilities towards its citizens.

Dalam budaya saya, kita didorong untuk menjadi mandiri dan mengajukan pertanyaan. Budaya anda berbasis pada masyarakat dan lebih menerima otoritas. Anda memiliki keluarga besar yang tinggal bersama-sama.

Perbedaan-perbedaan ini signifikan, yang dapat mempengaruhi hubungan kita. Karena faktor-faktor perbedaan itu mewarnai sikap kita terhadap kesejahteraan dan tanggung jawab pemerintah terhadap warganya.

For example in the West we pay a lot of tax and we expect the government to look after us. Up to one third of everything we earn goes to the government in tax, and we cannot avoid paying tax.

Sebagai contoh di negara Barat kita membayar pajak untuk segalanya dan kita berharap pemerintah untuk memelihara kita. Sampai dengan sepertiga dari segala sesuatu yang kita dapatkan pergi ke pemerintah berupa pajak, dan kita tidak dapat menghindar untuk membayar pajak.
This money is used to build roads, schools and hospitals, pay the police, teachers and other government officials. Because we pay so much we demand good services, which include pensions and welfare to people who haven’t got a job or are too sick to work.

Uang ini digunakan untuk membangun jalan, sekolah dan rumah sakit, membayar polisi, guru, dan pejabat pemerintah lainnya.

Karena kita membayar begitu banyak kita menuntut pelayanan yang baik, yang meliputi pensiun dan kesejahteraan bagi orang-orang yang tidak punya pekerjaan atau yang terlalu sakit untuk bekerja.

Although the Indonesian government is now moving to repair the education system I fear this is not targeting the right group. Unless education is truly free right through the system, from city kampong to remote island village, millions of smart young people will miss out on schooling, and Indonesia will miss out on their skills.

Meskipun pemerintah Indonesia sekarang bergerak untuk memperbaiki sistem pendidikan, saya takut, ini tidak kena sasaran pada kelompok yang tepat.

Kecuali pendidikan benar-benar gratis, benar melalui sistem, dari kampung dikota ke desa pulau terpencil, jutaan orang muda yang cerdas akan kehilangan sekolah, dan Indonesia akan kehilangan orang-orang yang trampil.
By comparison, primary, secondary and high school education in my country is free – and compulsory. The money comes from the tax that everybody pays, whether or not they have children.

Sebagai perbandingan, SD, SMP dan SMA di negara saya gratis - dan wajib. Uang tersebut berasal dari pajak dimana semua orang bayar, apakah mereka memiliki anak atau tidak.

I could give many more examples to support your president’s comments. He sent his second son Edhie to a university in Perth where I used to teach. Vice president Boediono was educated in Australia and there are currently more than 16,000 Indonesians studying in Australia.

Saya bisa memberi contoh lebih banyak untuk mendukung komentar presiden anda. Ia mengirim putra keduanya Edhie ke universitas di Perth tempat dimana saya biasa mengajar.

Wakil Presiden Boediono sekolah di Australia dan saat ini terdapat lebih dari 16.000 warga Indonesia yang belajar di Australia.
Then there’s business. Few Australians realise that trade between Indonesia and Australia is huge, worth 4.5 billion Australian dollars every year and growing.

Kemudian ada bisnis. Beberapa orang Australia menyadari bahwa perdagangan antara Indonesia dan Australia sangat besar, senilai 4.5 milyard dolar Australia setiap tahun dan terus bertumbuh.
Despite all these facts I argue that it would be difficult to find two nations that are so close, yet their history, outlook, culture, foods and lifestyles are so completely different.

Walaupun semua fakta ini, saya berpendapat bahwa akan sulit untuk menemukan dua negara yang begitu dekat, sekalipun sejarah, pandangan, budaya, makanan dan gaya hidup sangat berbeda.

Of course that’s true in some parts of Indonesia; you can always find examples to make a point, but it doesn’t change my attitude. My opinion is based on being a regular visitor to Indonesia for many years, living in Surabaya and Malang for long periods and visiting many parts of Indonesia. I’m also married to an Indonesian from North Sulawesi but who spent most of her life in East Java.

Tentu saja itu benar di beberapa bagian Indonesia; Anda selalu dapat menemukan contoh-contoh untuk membuat poin, tapi tidak mengubah sikap saya.

Pendapat saya didasarkan pada ketika saya menjadi pengunjung tetap ke Indonesia selama bertahun-tahun, tinggal di Surabaya dan Malang untuk waktu yang lama dan mengunjungi banyak daerah di Indonesia. Saya juga menikah dengan seorang Indonesia dari Sulawesi Utara namun yang menghabiskan sebagian besar hidupnya di Jawa Timur.
If you reject my argument you will think everything is fine between our two countries. We can smile a lot at each other, make happy speeches and assume nothing much needs to be done.

Jika anda menolak argumen saya, anda akan berpikir semuanya baik antara dua negara kita. Kita bisa banyak tersenyum satu sama lain, membuat pidato bagus dan menganggap tidak banyak yang perlu dilakukan.

If you accept my reasoning then you’ll be extremely concerned. You will realise that we all have to do a lot of work to make sure we maintain our friendships so that you and I and our children can live in peace with each other.

Jika anda menerima alasan saya, maka anda menjadi sangat prihatin. Anda akan menyadari bahwa kita semua harus melakukan banyak kerja, untuk memastikan, agar kita memelihara persahabatan supaya anda dan saya serta anak-anak kita bisa hidup dengan damai satu sama lain.
Being a good neighbour is like having a good marriage. You must work on the relationship every day, showing courtesy, respect and understanding based on knowledge. And that’s difficult.

Menjadi tetangga yang baik adalah seperti memiliki pernikahan yang baik. Anda harus berusaha menjaga hubungan setiap hari, menunjukkan kesopanan, hormat dan memahami berdasarkan akan pengetahuan. Dan itu sulit.

Black American leader Martin Luther King said that nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity, and I believe that we have a large amount of both ignorance and stupidity in both countries.Pemimpin orang Amerika berkulit hitam Martin Luther King mengatakan bahwa tidak ada di dunia yang lebih berbahaya daripada ketidaktahuan yang tulus dan kebodohan yang teliti, dan saya percaya bahwa kita memiliki sejumlah besar baik ketidaktahuan dan kebodohan di kedua negara.
I’ll start with the ignorance and stupidity in Australia. Surveys of public attitudes show that about half the population doesn’t trust Indonesia. That figure is probably growing as more refugees from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq come to Indonesia and then take fishing boats to sail illegally to Australia.

Saya akan mulai dengan ketidaktahuan dan kebodohan di Australia. Survei terhadap sikap publik menunjukkan bahwa sekitar setengah dari penduduk Australia tidak percaya Indonesia.

Angka ini mungkin tumbuh sebagaimana bertambahnya pengungsi dari Afghanistan, Sri Lanka dan Irak datang ke Indonesia dan kemudian menggunakan perahu nelayan berlayar secara ilegal ke Australia.

This is not a big issue in Indonesia. It is a very big issue in Australia and many people are angry because we believe the Indonesian government should stop these people, and because President SBY promised to help stop people trafficking.

Ini bukan masalah besar di Indonesia. Ini masalah yang sangat besar di Australia dan banyak orang marah karena kita percaya bahwa pemerintah Indonesia harus bisa menghentikan orang-orang ini, dan karena Presiden SBY berjanji akan membantu menghentikan perdagangan manusia.

Much of the news we recive about Indonesia is bad or strange, or both. For example in the week before I wrote this speech the newspaper and television stories about Indonesia were about a two-year old boy who smokes 40 cigarettes a day, and an Aceh official buying 20,000 skirts to stop women wearing tight jeans.

Banyak berita yang kita terima tentang Indonesia adalah buruk atau aneh, atau kedua-duanya.

Misalnya dalam seminggu sebelum saya menulis pidato ini, cerita-cerita dikoran dan televisi tentang Indonesia adalah tentang seorang anak laki-laki berumur dua tahun yang merokok 40 batang sehari, dan seorang pejabat Aceh membeli 20,000 rok untuk menghentikan perempuan-perempuan mengenakan celana jins ketat.

Then there was a photograph of men sitting on the roof of a train from Depok to Jakarta – nothing unusual for Indonesians but for Westerners an example of Asian chaos and lack of discipline.

Lalu ada foto tentang orang-orang yang duduk diatap kereta api dari Depok ke Jakarta – tidak ada yang tidak biasa untuk orang-orang Indonesia tapi untuk orang Barat adalah sebuah contoh kekacauan orang Asia dan kurangnya disiplin.

These images are not representative of your great nation.

Gambar-gambar ini tidak mewakili bangsa anda yang besar.

The truth is that Australia doesn’t really know where it’s supposed to be in the world. It’s a large island off Southeast Asia mainly populated by white-skinned Europeans following a Western culture whose best friends are far away.

Yang benar yaitu, Australia benar-benar tidak tahu di mana seharusnya Australia berada di dunia. Sebuah pulau besar keluar dari Asia Tenggara yang dihuni terutama oleh orang-orang Eropa berkulit putih dengan membawa serta budaya Barat, dimana teman-teman mereka yang baik sangat jauh.

A cartoon map in a Malaysian newspapers once had Australia positioned in mid Atlantic, half way between Europe and the US. For many people that’s where their heart is – physically between the Indian and Pacific Oceans - but emotionally in the Northern Hemisphere, far away from Indonesia.

Sebuah peta kartun disurat kabar Malaysia pernah menunjukkan Australia diposisikan pada pertengahan Atlantik, setengah perjalanan antara Eropa dan AS.

Bagi banyak orang di sanalah hati mereka berada - secara fisik antara Samudra Hindia dan Pasifik - tetapi secara emosional di belahan bumi utara, jauh dari Indonesia.
Most people know that Indonesia is a heavily populated small country and that Australia is large and empty. For every one Australian there are ten Indonesians.

Kebanyakan orang tahu bahwa Indonesia adalah negara kecil berpenduduk padat, dan bahwa Australia adalah negara besar dan kosong. Untuk setiap satu orang Australia terdapat sepuluh orang Indonesia.
Looking at these facts, and remembering the Bali bombs, many Australians assume that Indonesia would like to invade Australia and if that happened, it would be almost impossible to defend the country without outside help. This is why Australia is such close friends with the United States.

Melihat pada fakta ini, dan mengingat bom-bom Bali, banyak orang Australia menganggap bahwa Indonesia ingin menyerbu Australia dan kalau itu terjadi, itu akan hampir mustahil untuk mempertahankan negara tanpa bantuan dari luar.

Inilah sebabnya mengapa Australia seperti teman dekat dengan Amerika Serikat.

I say this thinking is nonsense. It’s no secret that the Indonesian armed forces are not large and are not well equipped with modern weapons. Apart from that I have yet to meet anyone who thinks having a war with Australia would be a good idea. In fact most Indonesians are happy at home and few want to live anywhere else.

Saya katakan pikiran ini adalah omong kosong. Bukan rahasia bahwa angkatan bersenjata Indonesia tidak besar dan tidak dilengkapi dengan senjata-senjata modern.

Selain itu saya belum bertemu seseorang yang berpikir, berperang dengan Australia merupakan ide yang baik. Kenyataan sebagian besar rakyat Indonesia bahagia berada di rumah dan beberapa yang ingin tinggal di negara lain.

That’s because the differences are serious, and I’m not just talking about climate, language and food. Let’s go through the list starting with history.

Itu karena perbedaan-perbedaan yang serius, dan saya tidak hanya bicara tentang iklim, bahasa dan makanan. Mari kita lihat melalui daftar mulai dengan sejarah.
In the 1930s skulls found at Ngandong near the Solo River in Central Java were identified as belonging to a now extinct branch of our ancestors that may have lived about 100,000 years ago.

Pada tahun 1930 tengkorak-tengkorak ditemukan di Ngandong dekat Sungai Bengawan Solo di Jawa Tengah, yang diidentifikasi sebagai milik dari cabang nenek moyang kita yang sekarang sudah punah, yang mungkin telah hidup sekitar 100.000 tahun yang lalu.
The terraced wet rice cultivation system that you see in Bali and Java came from Vietnam about 3,000 years ago, so you can see that people have been living on these islands for a long time. You have developed a long and rich culture that goes far back, long before Islam and Christianity.

Sistim budidaya padi dengan tanah teras basah yang anda lihat di Bali dan Jawa berasal dari Vietnam sekitar 3.000 tahun yang lalu, sehingga anda dapat melihat bahwa orang-orang telah tinggal di pulau-pulau ini untuk jangka waktu yang lama.

Anda telah mengembangkan kebudayaan yang panjang dan kaya, yang pergi jauh ke belakang, jauh sebelum Islam dan Kristen.
However Europeans didn’t arrive in Australia in numbers until 1788 so modern Australia is really only 222 years old.

Bagaimanapun orang Eropa tidak tiba di Australia dalam hitungan bilangan sampai tahun 1788 jadi Australia modern adalah benar-benar hanya berumur 222 tahun.
Australia, like the United States, is an immigrant society. Indonesia is not. This is a most important fact when understanding the differences between our countries.

Australia, seperti Amerika Serikat, adalah masyarakat imigran. Indonesia bukan. Ini adalah fakta yang paling penting ketika memahami perbedaan antara negara kita.
In Australia you can find people who are Australian citizens living permanently in the country who have come from Italy, Singapore, Afghanistan, Turkey, South Africa … just about every ethnic group and nation on earth. That’s not the situation in Indonesia.

Di Australia, anda dapat menemukan orang-orang yang adalah warga negara Australia yang tinggal permanen di Australia berasal dari Italia, Singapura, Afghanistan, Turki, Afrika Selatan ... hampir setiap kelompok etnis dan bangsa di muka bumi. Itu bukan situasi di Indonesia.

But distrust is not exclusive to Australians. Indonesian officials do not trust people like me.

Tetapi ketidakpercayaan bukan eksklusif bagi orang Australia. Pejabat-pejabat Indonesia tidak percaya orang seperti saya.

In Indonesia I cannot own a house, a business or a bank account and even if I stay in Indonesia for the rest of my life and eventually gain Indonesian citizenship (which would be very difficult) I would never be considered Indonesian. That’s because I will always be a bule, a foreigner with a white skin.

Di Indonesia saya tidak bisa memiliki rumah, bisnis atau rekening bank dan bahkan jika saya tinggal di Indonesia untuk sisa hidup saya dan akhirnya mendapatkan kewarganegaraan Indonesia (yang akan sangat sulit).

Saya tidak akan pernah dianggap orang Indonesia. Itu karena saya selalu akan menjadi bule, orang asing dengan kulit putih.

That’s not the situation in NZ where we now live. My wife Erlinawati is a permanent resident. Together with me she owns a house, a business and a bank account.

Itu bukan situasi di NZ di mana kita tinggal sekarang. Istri saya Erlinawati adalah penduduk tetap. Bersama dengan saya, dia memiliki rumah, usaha dan rekening bank.

Modern Indonesia had to fight for independence in a bloody four-year war. Australia became separate from Britain in 1901 because we asked for independence, but remain part of the Commonwealth with the Queen as our head of State.

Modern Indonesia harus berjuang untuk kemerdekaan dalam perang berdarah empat-tahun. Australia menjadi terpisah dari Inggris pada tahun 1901 karena kita meminta kemerdekaan, tetapi tetap menjadi bagian dari Commonwealth dengan Ratu sebagai kepala Negara.

Because we still recognise our British heritage we keep the union jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, on our flag, and the Queen’s face on our money.

Karena kita masih mengakui (sebagai) warisan Inggris, maka kita memakai the union jack, bendera Inggris Raya, pada bendera kita, dan wajah Ratu tertera di uang kita.
Some people think this means we are still a colony of Britain. That’s not true, but we are members of the Commonwealth which the Queen heads, and which has 54 independent nation members, including Malaysia and Singapore.

Beberapa orang berpikir ini berarti kita masih koloni Inggris. Itu tidak benar, tapi kita adalah anggota Commonwealth yang dikepalai oleh Ratu, dan yang mana memiliki 54 anggota negara independen, termasuk Malaysia dan Singapura.
I’m often called a Belanda, though I am not Dutch, have never been to Holland and despise colonialism.

Saya sering kali disebut Belanda, walaupun saya bukan orang Belanda, dan saya tidak pernah ke Belanda dan saya tidak mendukung kolonialisme.

I’m also considered to be rich just because I’m a Westerner, when in my own country I’m just lower middle class. There are more seriously rich people in Indonesia than there are people in the whole of Australia.

Saya juga dianggap kaya hanya karena saya orang Barat, ketika di negara saya sendiri, saya hanya kelas menengah bawah. Ada lebih banyak masyarakat kaya di Indonesia daripada orang-orang di seluruh Australia.

I don’t like being called a rich immoral colonialist – just as you don’t want to be called corrupt terrorists. The media in both countries needs to do a lot of work to change these bad images – and education is the best way.

Saya tidak suka disebut orang kolonialis kaya tidak bermoral - juga dengan Anda tidak ingin disebut orang-orang teroris yang korupsi. Media di kedua negara perlu melakukan banyak kerja untuk mengubah image-image buruk ini - dan melalui pendidikan adalah cara yang terbaik.

Please urge your students to continue their education – make it life long. Open their minds, encourage them to read widely, listen to many people from different backgrounds, religions and cultures. Tell them to question everything. Travel overseas. The message is: Don’t just believe what you hear – go and find out for yourselves

Silakan mendorong murid-muridmu untuk melanjutkan pendidikan - dan buatlah hidup bermakna, buka pikiran anda, banyak membaca, dan dengarkan banyak orang dari latar belakang yang berbeda, agama dan budaya.

Bertanyalah tentang segala sesuatunya. Berliburlah ke luar negeri .. Jangan hanya percaya dengan apa yang Anda dengar - pergi dan temukan sendiri.

There are good scholarship opportunities for post graduates in Australian and NZ, but you must have good English (minimum IELTS 5 – and for many courses higher). You must be disciplined and determined because there are many distractions.

Ada kesempatan beasiswa yang baik untuk S2 dan S3 di Australia dan NZ, tetapi anda harus bisa berbahasa Inggris yang baik (minimum IELTS 5 – dan banyak bidang lain dibutuhkan yang lebih tinggi). Anda harus disiplin dan mempunyai tekat karena ada banyak gangguan.
To live in peace with each other it is important to be frank. And in case you are wrongly thinking that I am criticising Indonesians let me add that I would say exactly the same thing to Westerners.

Untuk hidup berdamai dengan satu sama lain, sangat penting untuk berterus terang. Dan jika anda salah berpikir bahwa saya mengkritik orang-orang Indonesia, izinkan saya menambahkan, bahwa saya akan mengatakan hal yang persis sama dengan orang-orang barat.

American journalist Ron Suskind, writing about the gap between Muslims and others, said: “Making contact with people who are not like you is one of the best things a person can do.”

Jurnalis Amerika Ron Suskind, menulis tentang gap antara orang-orang Islam dan lainnya, mengatakan: “Untuk berhubungan dengan orang yang tidak seperti kamu adalah salah satu cara yang terbaik seseorang dapat lakukan.”
Thank you for inviting me to talk to you today.

Terima kasih telah mengundang saya untuk berbicara dengan Anda hari ini.

(An edited version of a speech given at an international seminar at Bukittinggi, Sumatra on 18 July. sponsored by Muhamadiyah University, Pos Indonesia and Bank BTN)