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

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Here’s SBY’s bedside read  

Attack on Ahmadiyah compound (International Crisis Group)


What sort of liberty must a good society give to members of minorities whose religion the majority finds incorrect, or even sinful and bad?  What limits could a decent society impose on religious behavior?

These questions, articulated by American philosopher Martha Nussbaum in The New Religious Intolerance, confronted settlers in the United States in the 17th century.  Many were escapees from mainstream religious persecution in the Old World, determined to fashion a fresh social order. 

The issues surfaced again in 1945 when Soekarno rejected hardliners seeking to impose Sharia law.  He needed the minority Christians, Hindus and Buddhists on board to launch the new nation in a world tired of religious conflict, praying for an example of accord.

The questions remain valid today as the Presidential Palace ponders the right response to attacks on churchgoers in Bogor and Bekasi. Then there’s persecution of Shiites and Ahmadiyahs trying to sustain their belief in Chapter XI of the Constitution - the section guaranteeing religious freedom for all. 

In seeking solutions to these questions President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his advisers could enrich their decision-making by reading this book and mull over its central idea – that fear drives hate, and little will change till this is understood and confronted.

What sort of fear? Professor Nussbaum (she teaches law and ethics at the University of Chicago) includes primitive anxieties about the unknown, and threats of difference driven by ignorance. 

Heading the list is Islamophobia, the black death of reason and respect, infecting the West in ways that lead voters and legislators to react irrationally.

In Switzerland, a nation famed for its prosperity and independence, a referendum resulted in a ban on mosque minarets.  Only five per cent of the population is Islamic.  The restriction was opposed by the Parliament, Jewish communities and Catholic bishops, but 57 per cent of the population, stoked by agitators using cartoons that made the minarets look like missiles, voted to prohibit. 

France and Italy (centers of world fashion) have banned burkas even though only a wisp of women choose this dress – one estimate is under 3,000.

In the US and Britain the media immediately assumed that last year’s massacre in Norway that took 76 lives was the work of Al Qaeda. Later we learned the gunman was a psychopath hating Muslims.

In the US there are too many stories to list here of travellers with Islamic names and ‘Middle-Eastern appearance’ being targeted by zealous immigration officials.

Then there’s the case of Park 51, the Islamic proposal to build a multi-faith community center close to Ground Zero, the site of the twin towers destroyed in 2001.

It wasn’t a mosque, though it did include prayer space.  The controversy features heavily in this book as an example of the need for informed leadership, to comment with care and to never let such debates get hijacked by demagogues.

At first people supported the center and saw no harm.  Then a campaign of hate and lies began and what the author calls the ‘cascade’ of hostility, with people rushing to join others who claim to know the truth.

The proposers weren’t faultless. Comments Professor Nussbaum: “Park 51 was a set of good ideas too hastily put forward with too little clarification of goals and concepts, and much too little consultation with the local community.” 

At the start of the 2010 Ramadhan President Barack Obama, a skilled orator and wordsmith, said “… I believe that Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as anyone else in this country.”

However a day later he “clarified” his position saying he was only commenting on the constitutional question, not “the wisdom of making the decision to build a mosque there.”  Presidential prevarication isn’t exclusive to Indonesia.

Two stand-outs make this book valuable.  The author writes with clarity, rare for an academic. She’s also a moderate, pragmatic about the need for tough security measures but arguing these must be based on the unbiased presentation of facts.

Till recently the FBI taught recruits about Islam using writings varying from the questionable to the grossly bigoted. Simplistic clichés smothered truths.  The difference between Sunni and Shiite was misrepresented or ignored.  So was the fact that Indonesia and India have the world’s largest populations of Muslims. 

The author concludes “that the suspicion and mistrust of academic scholarship by the FBI that began during the McCarthy era have never really ended.”

In the interfaith business it’s easy to get depressed. Just when imams and bishops shake hands the warped ones decide that hate is better than harmony.  All the fine words are blasted apart and it’s start-over time again. 

The fearmongers move in with disguised agendas, their half-truths and untruths fill the hole left by the ditherers, and the rat is off and running. There’s no rest for the righteous.

The Greek philosopher Socrates advocated the ‘examined life’ with a democracy “thoughtful rather than impetuous, deliberative rather than unthinkingly adversarial.”

Sounds good, but there’s a catch, as the author reveals:

“The insight that Socrates lacked was that politics and government have no business telling people what God is or how to find the meaning of life.

“Even if governments don’t coerce people, the very announcement that a given religion (or anti-religion) is a preferred view is a kind of insult to people who in all conscience cannot share this view.

“That’s a point that Socrates and many philosophers after him, have utterly failed to understand.”

The New Religious Intolerance
Martha C Nussbaum
Harvard University Press 2012

(First published in The Sunday Post, 22 September 2012)



Time to rethink the sales pitch

Not a tourist show - this parade in Malang, East Java, was for the locals and a traffic stopper - literally.  And yes, they are wearing headscarves

  I’d like to claim credit, but that has to go to Patrick Winn, a man with a nose for nuances.  The Bangkok-based correspondent for the US on-line news site Global Post was first to comment on the Indonesian government’s latest tourist lure Wonderful Indonesia.

“In the chief promotional video you won't find a single skull cap, hijab or minaret at sunset,” he reported. “Islamic life, one of Indonesia's defining qualities, is conspicuously absent.”
He’s right.  The five-minute tape – and a shorter TV commercial version - is professional.  There are cute kids flying kites and bare-shouldered beauties flicking fingers – but it’s more Benoa than Bekasi.
In the global competition for visitors with visa stamps and Visa cards, seduction has become big business, no longer a fill-in for a handyman with a handycam. 
High production values require matching budgets.  Sadly creativity and cost don’t always marry well.  This is an industry that plagiarises shamelessly, though that’s not always the director’s fault. 
Calling the shots are the executive producers who’ve seen their rivals’ spectaculars and reckon that a look alike will be just as successful.
So they demand more slim-waisted couples watching an Armageddon sunset over a placid beach having just scuba-dived clean coral alive with rainbow fish. 
Over a dinner of fresh-caught crays they’ll watch a cultural floor show. Later come close encounters with plump furry creatures and the chance to sample even more local fare served by jolly gap-toothed rustics.
These are five-star resort images, accessible only to those who think a massage is hard work – for them, not the masseur.
The tone was set long ago by campaigns like Malaysia, Truly Asia.
Indonesia’s latest offering is beautiful – and boring. It could be anywhere in Southeast Asia. Even the title is bland. (The alliterative ‘Incredible’ has already been pinched by India.) Popular?  Sadly, no. When writing this BTW it had scored less than 2,000 hits.
Mr Winn asks if the absence of Islamic symbols is intentional.  Perhaps producers fear references to the faith followed by most Indonesians will turn-off prospective visitors with different beliefs.
Why shy? The Global Peace Index ranks Indonesia above the US, India and Thailand, all major tourist destinations. Recent outbreaks of religious violence in Indonesia have been appalling but they’ve been small, isolated and inter-religious, not anti-tourist.
Visitors don’t need to follow the world’s second largest religion to appreciate the beauty of Islamic artistic expression, richly inventive because living things can’t be depicted.
Mosques are obvious attractions.  There are hundreds – here’s a few I know – Tuban’s multi-minaret, intricately-patterned Grand Mosque and Surabaya’s Chinese themed Zheng He.
If age and culture appeal, the mosques constructed after the arrival of the nine saints (Wali Songo) are must-visits.  There’s Surabaya’s Ampel (plus Arab kampong) and Demak’s Grand Mosque built in timber in the 15th century.  This is pure Javanese architecture – no dome but a tiered teak roof.
The blending of Hindu, Buddhism and Islamic symbols indicates that the shift in religions was probably gradual and relatively peaceful.

The women of the Archipelago are just as beautiful as those in Bali particularly when wearing the elegant and colourful headscarves of the most fashionable.  Sensuous? Absolutely.
The pre-Islamic Majapahit Era is alive in East Java through the dances, stories, carvings and performances still found in villages.  They’re authentic, staged for cultural maintenance, not tourist dollars.
Although poorly preserved, the statuary and temples that have survived climate, neglect and vandalism are accessible, though not well known. It’s not exaggerating to say archaeological marvels are everywhere and seldom corrupted by commercialism.
Here’s one of a hundred examples: Just off the Surabaya-Malang highway flanking a narrow nondescript street stand two giant stone dvarapala, the gate guardians of the Singosari kingdom, 800 years old and remarkably telegenic. 
Last year Malaysia got 25 million visitors, Singapore around half that number.  Vast Indonesia, with far more attractions, is targeting just eight million with its new campaign.
By ignoring Islam and the nation’s rich cultural history the curiously labelled Ministry for Tourism and Creative Economy is another misnomer.  How about a Ministry of Creative Tourism to market the magic and mystery – and boost the economy beyond Bali?   

(First published in The Sunday Post, 22 September 2012)

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Fish donuts, Pancasila and much ado about Islam                       

It’s deep winter. Another cold front is rolling across the South Pacific and nothing escapes.  Flooding is widespread. Landslips close roads.  Aircraft have been grounded.

But not the Air Nelson flight that bumps down between rainsqualls at Napier airport after 55 minutes churning from Wellington.  The plane is a Bombardier; today it’s a flying washing machine.

Indonesian ambassador Antonius Agus Sriyono is hustled into a car by an effervescent Ken Aldred, chair of the local NZ Institute of International Affairs.  He’s a former British arms control negotiator determined that distance from Westminster is no bar to staying close to global affairs.

Today his members want to hear about democracy in Indonesia.  Host and guest snatch a café sandwich.  There are no staff to carry bags, drive or advise.

Despite the weather by 2 pm the basic Havelock North Club has a crowd of 60 (“and most over 60,” quips Mr Aldred) – but that doesn’t mean they’re ill informed or indifferent. 

There’s a chattering of former diplomats, academics and senior government officials who’ve swapped Wellington, Whitehall and Washington for the lush NZ East Coast. 

They’re here to make wine, breed livestock or just enjoy the rustic lifestyle - but these folk aren’t rustics.  Joints creak, but synapses are supple.

Fortunately Mr Sriyono is a liberal Catholic; others might have found the bar and ten slot machines an uncomfortable environment for a speech by a senior government official, particularly during Ramadhan.

“Most Indonesians believe that the individual exists in the context of his family,” says the speaker flicking through the power points.  “The family is the building brick of society. 

“There are cultural differences between Western and Indonesian society.  These differences have implications on their respective understanding of democracy.”

The listening is serious There’s no post-lunch dozing or surreptitious cellphone thumbing.  Then the questions fly

Why is it so difficult to book internal flights in Indonesia using the Internet, asks a man keen to plan his own tour.

The question puzzles.  Ambassadors have staff for such tasks.  There are new direct flights from Auckland to Denpasar, but that’s not the point. Indonesians use travel agents and don’t trust Internet payments, while Kiwis are DIY (do it yourself) people.  A neat illustration of cultural differences.

Is democracy taught in Indonesian schools?  “Yes, but people’s understanding of the word differs. I learn a lot from you regarding egalitarianism – it’s embedded in your culture and life.”

Religious discrimination?  “I’ve never encountered it in community or career.”

Questions target education and religion.  Do State schools teach Islam?  Is Islam incompatible with modernity?  How many women are in Parliament? Are Muslims driving the political agenda?  Who decides who becomes a Muslim leader – are they elected?  Does democracy extend to local government levels?

“I’m an atheist,” states a questioner with religious conviction.  “Is tolerance taught in schools?”  The man is cautioned against expressing his non-belief in public should he visit Indonesia: “I don’t think you’ll have many friends if you do.”

Colonel Andrew Renton-Green, a former intelligence director retrieved his language skills from years studying the Indonesian Army to offer thanks plus tea and biscuits. All plain and homely.  This is a protocol-free zone.

Three stops while heading to the next function.  Before an Indian curry a quick diversion to a second-hand bookshop for texts on democracy and history. This is Ambassadorial heaven – he’s writing two books but stresses: “Only at weekends.”

Another halt is at an Indonesian art and artefacts store.  When owner Trish Dooney imported her first container a confused Javanese dispatcher addressed the goods to Fish Donut.  So that’s become the shop name.

Although the NZ economy slumbers, interest in Indonesian craft has warranted a second outlet on the west coast.

Standing amongst the glittering creative richness of his hometown (he’s from Yogya, the nation’s cultural heart) Mr Sriyono exclaims:  “This makes me feel proud.”

It was an emotion that infected an evening seminar at the State-run tertiary Eastern Institute of Technology where a dozen Indonesians turned up to hear their representative speak.  Among them was Leon Kamal Armond who brought his family to NZ for a better future.

They landed with two suitcases, no contacts but an excess of determination.

Now Leon and his wife are working and their two kids are getting a Kiwi education.  Leon also chairs the local Indonesia Association.

Also among the 60 overcoated guests are young officials from Laos, Timor Leste, Vietnam and Cambodia, in NZ to boost their English skills.  All were keen (particularly those from Myanmar) to know more about their ASEAN neighbor’s venture into this strange land called Democracy

“Pancasila democracy that prevailed during President Suharto’s time in power was an antithesis to liberal democracy and guided democracy,” says the guest speaker exercising the Republic’s newfound freedoms of expression.

“It is unfortunate that for more than three decades (Pancasila democracy) was used as a vehicle for accumulating the elites’ power.  The paradox is that Pancasila democracy was manipulated by an authoritarian government.’

Here the questions are different.  Is terrorism threatening Indonesian democracy?  “It’s a problem, but we can manage.” Are all your difficulties inwards looking?  “Yes

What are the major issues?  “Corruption and how to maintain pluralism. If we fail to be tolerant we’re a failed state.” 

Back at the hotel the Indonesians wait with parochial problems – issues of visa changes and contract clauses. Miscommunication or misrepresentation?  The meeting ends just before midnight with requests for documents. 

“It’s been a rewarding trip, well worthwhile to spend time out of Wellington at the grassroots,” said Mr Sriyono.  His hosts, sipping the region’s fine wines were equally upbeat.   “People here really want to know more about Indonesia.”

(The author travelled courtesy of the Indonesian Embassy.)

First published in The Jakarta Post 20 September 2012


Monday, September 17, 2012


 Trashing trash, not critics

While protestors in Sydney were raging against an anti-Islam You Tube video clip, 60 Indonesians in the New Zealand capital were roving Wellington beaches.

Members of the local Indonesian Muslim community spent Sunday morning cleaning bays around Wellington harbor, stuffing broken bottles, torn plastic, dented beer cans, skimpy underwear and even a discarded condom into black bags.

“We are not going to protest the video,” said a surgically-gloved Ruliyati Dewi (below) who coordinated the voluntary garbage gather. “We are different kinds of Muslims who love this country.  

“We want to show that Indonesians are peaceful people who care for the environment.” Although NZ has anti-litter laws, trash is still dumped in beauty spots.

“There’s a story about the Prophet being regularly abused by the same man as he went to pray,” said Ruliyati’s husband Nino Triono (right). “He didn’t retaliate. 

“One day the abuser was absent. The Prophet inquired and found the man sick, so he visited him and prayed for his recovery.  This is an example we must follow and teach our children.”

(For a sophisticated analysis of reaction to the video read ABC broadcaster Waleed Aly's articuate commentary here: 


This letter was published in The Wellingtonian on 20 September:

The Editor:
While Sydney was suffering from violent street protests against the grossly offensive You Tube video, in Wellington 60 Indonesian Muslims were cleaning up the bays around  Point Jerningham
Organiser Ruliyati Dewi told me there would be no protests because “we are different kinds of Muslims who love this country”.
As a Christian I congratulate my fellow expats on their fine example of tolerance and service. 

Erlinawati Graham, Crofton Downs


Friday, September 14, 2012


Get the message: No Advantage! Right?       

'Labor's moral drift', by Fiona Katauskas
Cartoon: Eureka Street


Potential visitors to Australia can watch You Tubes showing majestic landscapes and fine shopping.  ‘Please come,’ they say, ‘stay and enjoy our beautiful country’s advantages.’

Now there’s another program available, though carrying a starkly different message.  Titled: No Advantage the 40-second clips are pitched to the foreign asylum seekers in Indonesia keen to cross the Indian Ocean but facing tough new laws designed to swamp their plans.

Instead of making it to Sydney they’ll be sent to Manus Island off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, and the Micronesian island of Nauru.

This tiny South Pacific nation was once known as Pleasant Island, but the videos don’t feature slim couples downing cocktails before dashing into shimmering surf.

Instead the images show basic barrack-style accommodation designed to show that life in these poor and isolated outposts will be bleak and boring. There’ll be guards and wire fences. 

Just in case viewers don’t get the message a stern male voice says “No Advantage” five times.

Nauru, a textbook example of a failed state, has only 10,000 residents, but will house an expected 1,500 asylum seekers. No shopping malls, little to do, nowhere to go. Better stay in Indonesia patiently waiting to leave when officially approved.

But will the 4,000 registered – and a similar number of unregistered - Afghans Iraqis and Sri Lankans, packed in cheap hotels around the Archipelago and sustained by international aid pittances, watch and take heed? 

Unlikely. More than 1,000 men, women and children have drowned trying to reach Australia since 2001 – the latest last month. (Aug)  Such awful deaths should deter all but the most desperate from clambering aboard decrepit fishing boats crewed by kids – but they don’t.

Political and religious freedom, high wages and quality lifestyles make Australia a magnet for the persecuted and fearful.  Along with the US, Canada and a few north European countries, Australia is the great refuge, the promised land of opportunity and safety, work and welfare – a destination worth a few years on a little island, for everyone knows the wait won’t be forever.

The videos are the latest strategy in a complex series of policies rapidly introduced and passed last month (Aug) by the Australian Parliament.

They follow the release of a 162-page report compiled by a three-man expert committee appointed by the government.  This was headed by former defence chief Angus Houston and supported by refugee advocate Paris Aristotle and foreign affairs academic Michael L'Estrange.  It was a trio of such integrity and authority that its views had to be taken seriously.

They were, breaking the deadlock that has gripped Australian politics for the last few years as the boats kept coming. Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has forecast 180,000 boat people a year if the deterrents don’t work.

Houston said his 22 recommendation report was: “Hard-headed, but not hard-hearted; that practicality and fairness should take precedence over theory and inertia; and that the perfect should not be allowed to become the enemy of the good.”

In brief those with money to buy passage on a boat will no longer have a headstart over those with equal or better claims for resettlement but no dollars or desire to risk their lives.

Refugee support groups remain unhappy even though numbers accepted will immediately jump from 13,500 to 20,000 a year.

The previous government of Liberal John Howard shunted asylum seekers off to Nauru and Manus. The boats stopped coming, but the refugees eventually got to Australia and the camps closed.

The Jakarta-based people traffickers reopened their businesses after 2007.  In that year the Labor Party took office and dumped Howard’s so-called Pacific Solution claiming it was cruel to make people wait years to be processed.

But that’s now their fate.  Boat people will remain in Nauru and Manus for as long as they’d stay in Indonesia or Malaysia if waiting to access what the Houston report calls “regular migration pathways and established international arrangement

More likely to deter is a stop to family reunions through the special humanitarian program for those arriving by boat.  In the past men who’ve made the trip and got permanent residence then called in their relatives.

Houston also recommends “bilateral cooperation on asylum seeker issues with Indonesia be advanced as a matter of urgency.”

This reinvents the wheel.  Indonesia and Australia already have long-standing talk tanks.  They include the Bali Process on People Smuggling, co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia.  It has 46 members and has been in place since 2002.

How effective? The figures speak: In the past ten years about 410 boats carrying around 25,000 people have sailed to Australia.  In the week following Canberra’s acceptance of the Houston recommendations nine boats quit Indonesia and delivered their human cargo.

If you’d still like to visit the Great South Land and cuddle a koala don’t be deterred by all this negativity.  Provided you’ve got the cash for a holiday, a visa and intention to return home you’re welcome. Just don’t come by boat.

(First published in The Jakarta Post 13 Sept 2012)

Monday, September 10, 2012


Confronting cancer                                           


Some seek fickle fame, others riches.  Chandra Kirana would be happy if she could just find a marker for colorectal (bowel) cancer that will make the diagnosis simple and lead to a cure.

Success would be major news and celebrations universal, not exclusive to the elite of international biomedicists.  These are the top white coats hunting the elusive markers that will show whether a patient is seriously sick or just off color.

It’s painstaking work demanding patience, critical thinking, perseverance and, literally, microscopic attention to detail.  It could also earn the scientist who cracks the code a Nobel Prize and applause for the nation that nurtured such talent.

But Dr Kirana can’t work in Indonesia despite her research showing the Archipelago is rich with plants that may prevent or cure a wide range of diseases, including the Big C.

“There isn’t the equipment, or if there is there’s no budget for maintenance,” she said in New Zealand.  “In some universities there’s not enough money for laboratory rats.

“It would be good if that wasn’t the situation but I’ve had to spend 18 of my 48 years out of my homeland to study and work.”

Bowel cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world behind lung and breast. Screening for over 50s is often recommended, particularly if family members have the disease.

The incidence was once low in Asia.  No longer, as people abandon traditional plain, fresh and wholesome fare for the preserved and processed foods of the West.

The trend has links with toilet terror – irregular visits, pain and a red stain noticed in the bowl before flushing.  Wise ones are in a doctor’s waiting room before the cistern refills.

“This doesn’t mean you have cancer, it could be something else,” said Dr Kirana.  “However at the moment the next stage in treatment is a colonoscopy, which is very harsh and intrusive.”  

Skip this paragraph if you’re squeamish for even the brazen find the procedure embarrassing and discomforting. It involves inserting a camera on a 1.3 meter long flexible tube through the sedated patient’s anus.  Samples from the bowel walls may be taken for analysis.

Now imagine not having to bare your bottom but an arm to provide a simple blood sample.  This can be tested to determine if the problem is piles, benign polyps or cancer. 

When the prognosis is bad, but the disease spotted before spreading, it’s scalpel time.  If in a Wellington operating theater before the anaesthetic wafts you into wonderland you might notice Dr Kirana waiting for the surgeon to excise the diseased gut.

She then slices out the cancer, snap freezes it in liquid nitrogen and heads back to her university laboratory.  Here she examines the cells using laser capture microdissection and mass spectrometry equipment, analysing, thinking in every dimension, trying to spot the aberrations or patterns that might provide the clue.

Her speciality is proteomics, the study of proteins and the way they behave. This research is so leading edge that the word – a mash of ‘protein’ and ‘genome’ - didn’t exist before 1997. The science is moving so fast the technology is trailing researchers’ demands.

Dr Kirana grew up in a village near Probolinggo in the sweetlands of East Java.  Many evenings she walked through cathedrals of green cane taking dinner to her father, a chemist in a sugar mill.

“My Dad worked hard and I felt sorry for him,” she said.  “We weren’t rich. I went to government schools. I knew I had to do my best to please my family, though I was never pressured to study.  But I did well and was always getting top grades.”

She wasn’t alone.  Along with determination her family has splendid intellectual genes.  Her mother studied to be a doctor before costs crippled hopes.  Her siblings have turned to science and teaching.

“At first I just expected to be a wife and never thought of going abroad, even though I’d learned English,” Dr Kirana said.  “Then I wanted to be a doctor and was admitted to the medical faculty at a university in Solo (Central Java).

“However I worried that if my patients died their families would be distressed and maybe I couldn’t cope. Better to work behind the scenes.”

So she joined the Biology Faculty at Yogya’s University of Gadjah Mada (UGM).  After graduating she taught at Malang’s Brawijaya University, got married and discovered the other element necessary for a successful career – a supportive spouse.

When the couples’ two daughters were born Eko gave up his bank job to become a house-husband. 

Unfulfilled with one qualification Dr Kirana went back to UGM for a master’s degree in science.  She won an Australian scholarship, picked up another master’s degree at Adelaide University, then a doctorate.

A fan of jamu, the traditional herbal remedies of Indonesia, she examined turmeric, the yellow spice widely used in cooking, medicine and cosmetics, particularly skin care.  It may have anti-cancer properties.

Other plants under her microscope have been the tastily named zingiber, a genus of gingers with a place in kitchen and sickroom.

After working as a postdoctoral fellow for CSIRO, the prestigious Australian government science agency, in 2007 Dr Kirana returned to Indonesia expecting employment.

Instead she encountered obstructive nose-picking paper shufflers who wouldn’t make eye contact.  “It was a culture shock,” she said.  “I was so angry.”  Within a month she was back on a Boeing heading for a job at NZ’s Wakefield Gastroenterology Research Trust.

In Wellington chairing the Indonesian community group till this year and singing in the Embassy choir are proof her position and stellar qualifications haven’t made her arrogant or aloof.

And her diet?  As a Muslim she doesn’t drink or smoke.  She feeds her family wholemeal bread, home-grown green vegetables and, of course, turmeric extract.  

“I love going to work each day,” she said. “I’m very lucky.  I’m my own boss. My message to young Indonesians is to work hard.  The rewards aren’t always immediate but they do come.”

(First published in The Jakarta Post 10 September 2012)