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, April 10, 2016



Acting on best advice

Hi and welcome to the Wonderful Indonesia 2016 Visitor Promotion Awards.  It’s been a tight contest in a big field with many worthy performances, particularly in the popular long-running LGBT series Outrageous Statements.

Who could forget its memorable theme song?  Amazing nation, what a destination. It’s the only place to stay; come out, be gay.

The judges found it tough, but in the end were unanimous.   Step up the Immigration Department.  Give them a hearty hand, folks!

You guys have done the industry proud.  You’ve put the nation on the map, drawn attention to its spellbinding diversity, natural wonder and quirky attitudes.  You’ve attracted publicity beyond the reach of bribes.  Now every woman’s magazine reader knows Indonesia is heartthrob haven.

As you’ll remember last year’s winner was Maritime Affairs and Fisheries under Minister Susi ‘Torpedo’ Pudjiastuti.  She took out the Best Costume Award with her arresting naval fatigues and matching helmet modelled on a former East German warship. 

By sinking 23 foreign poachers this month Smokin’ Susi reasserted our position as an international power, jealous of its reputation.

No one, apart from Chinese sailors with faster boats and bigger guns, nets one red and white fish and gets to sail away unhooked. Many expected she’d reprise her pistol-packin’ role with the explosive sequel Sovereign Borders 2, getting great billing here and overseas. 

Not to be; Susi has been overtaken.  Not by an infuriated foreign fisher but another department.  Which shows the strength of competition in an open society.

This year’s Best Performance Award goes to the Directorate General for Immigration at the Law and Human Rights Ministry.

Spokesman Heru ‘Hero’ Santoso impressed with his firm patriotic declaration: Anyone disobeying his agency’s rules faces being blacklisted forever from the blackened stumps of once pristine forests. 

The career public servant’s strident statement moved the judges to overlook ridicule and see the positives.  Put your hands together for this year’s Best Emerging Talent.


Thank you, everybody, it’s a great honor.  Let me seize the opportunity and say this: Those who don’t respect the way we mistreat our land and its resources can go back to their own ravaged landscapes and toxic rivers.  Leave ours alone, I say. We do our own despoiling.

Thespians may be Tinseltown titanics in LA, but once they step off the track in Gunung Leuser National Park their reputations mean nothing among the orang-utans and our vigilant officials.

In my latest performance, which your kindness has voted most memorable. I called out US actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

As you and all celebrity watchers now know from my speech, the man had the effrontery to enter our Republic as a tourist.  If I hadn’t been so outspoken few would have known of his presence.

His visa allowed him the right to a massage in Sanur and a counterfeit watch in Kuta. However rules expressly prohibit foreigners from opening their mouths without a permit, unless to drink beer and eat hamburgers.

There’s nothing unusual here; try rubbishing the royals in Thailand or the party in China and see what happens. 

Unfortunately the Wolf of Wall Street abused our generosity by prowling around Sumatra.  Had he tweeted his admiration for our monoculture and blamed himself for selecting a hazy day he’d have stayed within the law.

Instead the self-styled campaigner against global warming made a provocative statement, inciting my anger and discrediting the democratically- elected government. This is what he tweeted:

‘The expansion of palm oil plantations is fragmenting the forest and cutting off key elephant migration corridors … a world-class biodiversity hotspot, but palm oil expansion is destroying this unique place’.

I refused to let such defamatory comments pass unnoticed.  Before the Mental Revolution we might have looked the other way. But those days have departed.

The Oscar winner’s minders should have reminded him that while he might play a 19th century frontiersman wrestling grizzly bears in Montana, in 21st century Indonesia he has to confront the ferocious fellows of Immigration.  We are not so easily overcome.

If DiCaprio hadn’t fled while we were busy at prayer he’d have been deported.  I can assure you he’ll not be allowed back.  We won’t entertain a revenant. Duncan Graham

(First published in The Jakarta Post 10 April 2016)

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