A “perfect” communication breakdown

Posted in Indonesia on 22 March 2008 by hanafirais28

Adnan Buyung Nasution came to Singapore two days ago together with former attorney Abdur Rahman. Both were “detained” by Changi immigration officials for “random investigation” for two hours. They were released after Adnan Buyung called Indonesia’s embassy in Singapore for intervention.

Indonesia’s mass media (detikcom, kompas, and the jakarta post to mention some) has been stirring up the event as “incident”. But apart from the upcoming controversy over those two presidential advisors coming to Singapore, I could not stand laughing at how messy Indonesia’s political communication is as soon as that news broke up. Take a look at this.

Firstly, Adnan Buyung said that he came to Singapore for a medical check-up after being released.

[Before going further with the story, it just simply raised a question. Why then the former attorney Abdur Rahman Saleh joining him? Is he an escort of Adnan Buyung now? That just did not make sense].

Secondly, and if that above is true, it is becoming sillier because Yudhoyono two weeks ago just said that people should not go abroad for medical treatments since Indonesia could tackle them.

[Despite the President’s own such narrow statement (since state now cannot restrict human movements as well as capital flows), his own advisors’ going to Singapore for medical check-up means that they just stabbed Yudhoyono from behind very embarrassingly!]

Thirdly, when Hatta Rajasa, the minister of state’s secretariat, was asked by the media about the incident, he said Adnan Buyung was going to Singapore for his daughter’s medical treatment, not his own treatment – as opposed to Adnan’s self-claim. He said Adnan really needed to see his daughter.

[So, who is actually having a medical treatment? Adnan or the daughter?]

Forthly, when further asked if Adnan went to Singapore to see his former client Sjamsul Nursalim who is now living in Singapore, the minister said that it would be impossible.

(Nursalim is one of the hunted corrupt conglomerates by Indonesia’s government because of running away with Indonesia’s central bank’s liquidity aid in 1998).

The minister said that advisors were required to give daily reports to the President via the minister.

[So, Adnan must have forgotten to tell the minister that he went to Singapore for his own medical treatment. Not the daughter.]

Fifthly, this is getting funnier, Adnan’s private secretary was asked by the media if her boss’ going to Singapore was for a treatment. She said – surprise, surprise – “no, my boss went to Singapore for a vacation”!.

[I guess Adnan once he is back to his office will fire the secretary].

Sixthly, again, if all is about those medical stuff, why Abdur Rahman Saleh was there too?

Adnan, a lawyer. Rahman, an attorney. What should link them both by coming to Singapore if not for legal purpose i.e. Nursalim purpose? One said “private medical check-up”, another said “daughter’s treatment”, some other said “vacation”. All were just becoming absurd.

I then remembered one of Pramoedya’s sayings about reading political news in Indonesia: read it the other way around. Meaning, what is denied and claimed by the officials is actually the truth. So, both approaching the corrupt Nursalim is the truth.

Indonesia’s parliament has been chasing the central bank’s liquidity aid abuse recently and it might affect Yudhoyono’s bid for 2009 negatively. These two advisors perhaps are sent by the President himself to strike a deal with the corrupt Nursalim of how to have a “win-win solution”. [If this really happened, Yudhoyono is playing with fire indeed].

Unfortunate for them, Singapore’s immigration officials “uncovered” the plot. Good for the public to know then.

[Yudhoyono or the minister should have told the immigration to do it clandestine way].

Overall, it was a “perfect” communication breakdown. If this were a military combat, it means one another in the same batallion would all die because of their own shooting each other due to the given wrong communication details.

Sad indeed for Yudhoyono, the minister, and the advisors.


Badawi Countdown

Posted in Southeast Asia on 21 March 2008 by hanafirais28

The National Front’s (Barisan Nasional) biggest political setback few weeks ago is leading to pick its own victim to compensate. It is Badawi who might be sacrificed due to his failure in maintaining the coalition power’s establishment in this recent election.

From outside, Anwar Ibrahim-led opposition of Alternative Front (Barisan Alternatif – by the way, why do they like using this military term “barisan”?) consisting of PAS, DAP, and PKR has been starting to show its leverage. Winning five states including the richest state, Selangor, the opposition has managed to share power accordingly and executed new policies by scrapping the National Economic Policy (NEP). Mahathir implicitly even demanded Badawi to step down to take the responsibility of failing to maintain stability.

From inside, Mahathir’s son being part of UMNO’s Youth wing has also resonated Badawi’s resignation. Though Badawi’s son-in-law being the Youth’s chairman would “take care” of the insider’s demand of resignation, UMNO’s internal politics is just getting more tense. Former finance minister and royal prince Razaleigh Hamzah together with Najib Razak, the deputy PM, are likely to contest Badawi for this August’s UMNO congress for chairmanship.

Even Badawi has come up with his new cabinet this week, he does not show conviction that he would offer something new to overcome issues that voters have been telling him: rising crimes, rising prices, rising ethnic tensions. Badawi is just counting down his power to diminish since nothing is changing.

Regulating media moguls

Posted in Media on 21 March 2008 by hanafirais28

This week there was a fierce debate in Indonesia’s national parliament between Commission I and the Ministry of Department of Communication and Information Technology (DOCI) on regulating media ownership especially on television stations.

Harry Tanoesoedibjo’s MNC and Chairul Tanjung’s PARA groups were accused of having disobeyed the laws (Broadcast Law 32/2002 and Governmental decree 50/2005) by owning television stations which lead to media concentration.

MNC owns RCTI, TPI, and Global TV. PARA owns TRANS7 and TRANSTV. By the way, they should also have mentioned Bakrie group of owning ANTV and TVONE (formerly Lativi) – perhaps because the latter group is linked to Golkar therefore the parliament members did not want to offend their own mates by mentioning Bakrie.

Regarding this broadcast industry, I would think that DOCI could learn from end of last year’s decision by Bank Indonesia of “single presence policy” in banking business. It rules that one owner can only own one bank. It is to avoid monopoly hence lowering barrier to entry to new players.

It worked. Regarding this policy, Temasek Holding for example released its ownership of BII and indeed a new player, Maybank (Malaysia Bank) came in to buy the shares and ownership of BII. It just ran smooth.

Now DOCI’s turn to take its role. MNC, PARA, and Bakrie have been reaping big revenues from television commercials by broadcasting mostly cheap programmes (VHS programmes of “Violence, Horror, and Sex”). DOCI could endorse divestiture of the television station ownership e.g. TPI ownership should be divested so that MNC is not the sole owner.

Would DOCI do it? Would Yudhoyono take the risk of limiting media moguls power?

In fact, DOCI and Yudhoyono government still owe to their constitutional mandates that they have to actually implement “network television system” as requested by the Law. The system rules that each station firm has to divest their ownership with local business partners. It has been pended due to  political calculation of the incumbent not to risk media support for 2009.

DOCI should just revoke the law regulating the system and then change it to another system which the US has been applying: owned-and-operated stations and affiliate stations as a network television system scheme of ownership.

How fast are you?

Posted in Media on 2 March 2008 by hanafirais28

Let’s Speedtest this!

I have got only 54 per minute 🙂

Prison Break in Singapore

Posted in Southeast Asia on 28 February 2008 by hanafirais28

This is not about Michael Scofield and friends coming to Singapore. This is really a prison break by a terrorist suspect, Mas Selamat Kastari, from Singapore’s Whitley Road Detention Centre. Since yesterday, he is now still at large.

It is a striking news having seen Singapore’s claim as the best defence and tight security country and the strongest in the region. It also took place in an unprecedented, easy way out: the suspect just ran away by deceiving police that he wanted to go to toilet? If true, the suspect is really translating his name into real – “Selamat” is Safe.

The post-escape measures have been deployed very heavily by Singapore’s security apparatus around the Centre and throughout the borders. The momentum to bring back the suspect to prison would only be very short in, perhaps, 2×24 hours since the prison break yesterday.

Longer than that, it may ‘delegitimize’ government’s credibility. And the worst is if the suspect is at large for good. People’s highly-established expectation of “Singapore is the most secure” may then be shaken.

But today (20 March), according to Indonesia’s daily KOMPAS quoting an intelligence expert Dynno Chressbon, Mas Selamat Kastari’s fate is only possible under two scenarios.

First, he has been killed by the authority or will be made killed under a battle against terrorists as in al-Ghozi in the Philippines or al-Faruk in Iraq. Second, he is sent to the US “for loan” since the US is going to conduct trials against the captured terrorists in June for further interrogation. That I think makes more sense now.

When our government is captured…

Posted in Indonesia on 28 February 2008 by hanafirais28

There are two things in this week which frustrate me about our government.

First, the president protected 13 mining companies by his decree (PP 2/2008) to extract resources in the supposedly-preserved forest areas.

The forest-plundering decree originated in the previous government. It was very obvious then that Megawati government was forced by the thirteen mining companies to allow mining in the restricted area. It was highly resisted by people, activists. But it just went dry.

Now, Yudhoyono seems to just copy his predecessor’s plundering behaviour whom he always criticized. He said innocently that “the decree is not my product. It is just a continuation from the previous administration”. Imagine that!

Second, the seemingly heroic health minister, Siti Fadillah Supari, who just published a book disclosing WHO conspiracy on avian flu, made a very low comment in order to protecting milk industry.

Mothers and their children in West Java and other parts in Java have been threatened by the carelessness (or perhaps deliberation to be precise) of milk industry. It has produced dangerous milk products for babies and kids since they contained ’Enterobacter Sakazakii’ – a life-threatening bacteria.

The minister just commented that “do not worry, it is just part of business wars”.

I should expect to see such things more from this present government. When it comes to businesses, industries (mention it – from mining to milk for babies) interests, our government just surrenders its head and heart to them and putting its “innocent” face to the people.

Government of Indonesia lives (or loves) being captured by the businesses while it should actually regulate them, not captured. If that is the case, “Government is the biggest corruptor”, as once Koran Tempo mentioned a month ago – no wonder that fighting corruption in the country is going nowhere since”the broom to sweep the dirty floor itself is dirty”. What can you expect?

East Timor Menu? None Interested.

Posted in International Relations on 22 February 2008 by hanafirais28

Please read this commentary by clicking here. When it comes to paragraph 3, Indonesia is said to be “brutal”, “struggle against Indonesia”, what do you feel and think?

From that commentary, since getting its independence from Indonesia, East Timor has been only progressing from a trouble to another problem, from a failure to another crisis. Too many players (the UN, Portugal, Australia, domestic factions) betting their interests to rule East Timor. In the end, none would be interested in East Timor.

The Rise of Indonesia’s Antitrust Body

Posted in Indonesia on 21 February 2008 by hanafirais28

The Indonesia’s Antitrust Regulatory Body, KPPU, sentenced Singapore-owned Temasek to divest its 15% share in one of its Indonesia’s telecommunication companies of either Indosat or Telkomsel early this year. KPPU concluded that Temasek had practiced monopoly in the industry due to its more than majority shareholding which consequently implicated the whole market share. Indosat and Telkomsel are the biggest telecommunication companies in Indonesia.

The “battle” between KPPU versus Temasek is still going on now in the court. Not only that. Regardless the controversy of the case above, KPPU seems to now showing its muscle in regulating other similar industries as well.

Having managed to sentence Temasek, the regulatory body run by young idealists are now investigating some national mobile companies as well such as XL, Telkomsel, Indosat (again), and others. It indicated that these companies  are playing the game of cartel in setting high prices for short message services (SMS). It was found out that all SMS cost should only bear for Rp 75 (S$ 0.01), not Rp 350 (S$ 0.04) as at present operated.

Still in the similar industry, KPPU has been receiving some reports that Indonesia’s over-the-air television owners have trespassed the law of cross-ownership. Ten national private television stations (RCTI, TPI, GlobalTV, SCTV, Indosiar, ANTV, Lativi, TransTV, Trans7, and MetroTV) are only almost all owned by three big groups of MNC, Bakrie, and Fofo only. Furthermore, they also cross-own other businesses such as radios, newspapers, magazines, cable TVs, and also telco services. KPPU is still verifying and seeking for the best method to see if the accusation is necessary to follow up.

It does not stop here. There has been concern nowadays that traditional markets in cities have been eroded by the rapid existences of hypermarket such as Carrefour. It is thought that the biggest retail company is now leading the trend towards monopoly. And again, KPPU is very likely to proceed for further verification as well.

In short, giants like telco companies and retail corporation in Indonesia are now facing the challenge from the previously-underestimated antitrust body KPPU. I see that such regulatory body’s power in Indonesia is emerging now. Its rising might make sense. Public, such as mobile users, TV viewers, farmers, local traders, feel nowadays that expecting the government and parliament to act for them and protect their interests is hopeless. Their turn to such regulatory body such KPPU is now becoming a hope – borrowing Obama’s favorite term 🙂

Regulatory bodies like KPPU are not alone. KPK – Anti Corruption Commission agency- is doing its job now (although wishy washy targeting the big fish). KPI – regulatory body for broadcast industry – is showing its existence having received so many complaints from viewers of television contents of violence, horror, and pornography. And still some other similar agencies for regulatory purposes.

It shows the irony of democracy. People are moving away from the democratic institutions (governments, members of parliament) that they themselves have voted for. They now move to trust such regulatory bodies which basically are not democratically-and-directly elected by themselves. This is perhaps what Robert Dahl mentioned once as the “inborn flaw of democracy”. Wallahualam bishawab.


Posted in International Relations on 21 February 2008 by hanafirais28

“I don’t see any reason why the pattern developed in Maryland, Virginia and Wisconsin – of Obama being able to cut into the base of Hillary Clinton’s vote – will stop when you get to Ohio,” says Professor John Kessel, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University. In his view, Barack Obama will “do very well” in the state on 4 March.

I quoted that line above from the BBC online news just now – we should see if Prof Kessel is right in two weeks time. I listened to a lecture by Thomas Mann yesterday at the School about the US election. One thing I remember in mind from his lecture is that since the Potomac primaries two weeks ago, Obama has started to build an expanding different social bases for his voters. Those who have been traditionally supporting Clinton e.g. the Latinos, white women and men, and lower income and low educated voters are now turning to vote for Obama. These voters have tended to “go where the wind blows” and that means the role of public opinion plays a crucial role. In every election, in any democratic country, it is key to take into account social bases which comprises the voter behaviors.

Though polls like Rasmussen, USASurvey, and others are now indicating that Clinton is leading over Obama, the US media coverage seems to set its agenda by favoring to have all possibilities open – something which the media in Indonesia must learn very hard. This benefits Obama now that these two weeks left heading for Ohio and Texas primaries could be changing the polls.

Given all the hypes on Obama nowadays, and if he really then became the President, we perhaps must also bear in mind if the Democrat’s US foreign policy would really change from its traditional values. I am afraid that, like Clinton when faced with Rwanda genocide, only things mattered most to the US interest would the President take action.

School and Industry

Posted in Public Policy on 18 February 2008 by hanafirais28

Having received emails intensively about future jobs for the past few days, I must say I have to salute LKYSPP’s “The Office of Career Services”! Its industrial network with big international corporations, organizations such as International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Singapore Airlines, Bloomberg (just to mention some) has been just “amazing”. Such organizations will even come down to the School to offer jobs for the graduates here. Reverse: It’s not the students looking for jobs, but the industry seeking for them.

Well, there is always a consequence of such sweet relationship between school and industry. Generally speaking, it is a conformation between the two. Curriculum is set to absorb industry’s needs (courses like political risk analysis, financial management would really fit) while the latter would allow for more space for the best graduates to work for them. A mutual relation indeed.

But, apart from there above, I personally have a little note. Perhaps next time in the future, the School should also offer “democracy 101” core module despite “economics” and “statistics” as other cores to have a “balanced life”. That should be interesting.