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Showing posts from June, 2011

Impact of Saudi-Indo tensions on Australia

My debut contribution to the Lowy Institute's Interpreter blog has gone live:

On 18 June, Indonesian maid Ruyati binti Sapubi was executed by beheading in Saudi Arabia after she was convicted of murdering her employer who, according to Ruyati, had kept her in the country against her will. The action sparked an immediate and sharp wave of public sympathy in Indonesia. Within days, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced a moratorium on Indonesian citizens heading to the Gulf kingdom for work, starting on 1 August.

While the issue has profound implications for the relationship between those two countries, it also has an indirect impact on Australia-Indonesia relations.

Here's why.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Badminton's fun. Who knew?

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In the part of the world where I'm from, badminton is more likely the answer to a trivia question than a sport people would play or watch. To many Australians, there's something just a bit twee and silly about the sport, especially when compared to the fast pace of tennis. But there are some parts of the world where badminton is all the rage: Denmark, Taiwan, and, yes, Indonesia.

This week is the Indonesia Open, one of the five premier events on the global badminton circuit. And so I ventured to the Istora indoor sports venue, which sits in the shadows of the Gelora Bung Karno stadium that was the site of my Persija Jakarta experience last Sunday.

I went along on Wednesday, the opening day of the main competition - and really enjoyed it.

The element I had previously dismissed as a weakness of the sport - the unusual movement of the shuttlecock through the air - is in fact its great strength. You see, no matter how hard you strike a shuttlecock, and it has apparently been clocked …

Football fanaticism, Jakarta style

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There are few things that give you a flavour of a city more than thronging with fans at a sporting event.

And having spent an afternoon shouting myself hoarse with the Jakmania fanatics that drape themselves in orange in support of Persija Jakarta, I can confirm that the Indonesian capital is no exception.

Yesterday was their final game for the season in the Indonesia Super League of soccer (or football, to the purists), played in the imposing concrete cauldron that is Gelora Bung Karno in Senayan. The home side was taking on PSPS Pekanbaru, hailing from an utterly unremarkable city on Sumatra.

I went to the game with a small dose of trepidation given it was the side's first home fixture after a several-week ban imposed by police following a small riot outside a game in early April.

Still, emboldened by curiosity, I followed the crowd of enthusiastic young supporters who had gathered on the curb not far from my home, waiting for a bus. After wading through the inevitable macet (traffi…

Bashir verdict

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So Abu Bakar Bashir will serve 15 years for terror - if the verdict can survive the appeals process, which has not been the case following past convictions.

I suspect the verdict will bring some relief to victims of terror attacks that Bashir has previously been associated with,including the carnage of Bali in 2002, even if that connection may not have been provable nor criminal under the laws in place at the time.

It will also send a wave of relief through the Indonesian government, for whom the inability to obtain a terror conviction against Bashir was a source of embarrassment, given his notoriety.

Keen to see things first-hand, I headed down to the South Jakarta District Court complex yesterday to watch the verdict unfold. There was no shortage of company, with about 1000 Bashir supporters from Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid watched over by several hundred members of the Jakarta police and a strong contingent of journalists.

The Bashir supporters were certainly vocal, but at no time did it lo…

Five ideas to tackle Jakarta's traffic congestion

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It's a cliché for expats in Jakarta to complain about the 'macet', the traffic that clogs many roads much of the time and makes trips through the city ordeals of epic proportions. It's also a cliché for new arrivals to to offer a magic bullet solution, usually prefaced by the phrase "If only they'd...".

But I'm different. I don't offer one silver bullet solution. That would be folly. Instead I offer five ideas that each would make things a little bit easier, and if combined would have a significant impact on the congestion of the city's roads. It would be naive to expect they could leave the cities roads unclogged - this is a place of 9.6 million people according to the official count - but they would leave them flowing a lot better than they do at the moment.

Indonesians recognise things have got to change. A recent study from the Jakarta Transportation Agency put the cost of congestion at 46 trillion rupiah ($US5.4 billion). And late last mont…