Friday, December 05, 2008

Long, strange trip for one old building

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 07/15/2008 10:36 AM | City

ANTIQUE ELEGANCE: The National Archive Building, which was once the country house of the Dutch governor general Reinier de Klerk, is located outside the old city of Batavia. (JP/P.J. Leo)ANTIQUE ELEGANCE: The National Archive Building, which was once the country house of the Dutch governor general Reinier de Klerk, is located outside the old city of Batavia. (JP/P.J. Leo)

From the country house of a Dutch governor general to an orphanage and then to a mere office building to later an archive building, the National Archive Building is struggling to retain its value as one of the nation's heritage buildings.

As has happened to many historical sites in Jakarta, the building has been lost to new development, particularly to high-rise buildings.

Traveling along the busy Jl. Gajah Mada toward the Kota area, we can see the beautiful building to the left. The building, along with other buildings, earned the title of Batavia, or "Queen of the East".

The house was built in 1760 by Reinier de Klerk, a member of the Dutch highest council, Raad van Indie, or the Council of the Indies. Reinier was later appointed as Dutch governor general in 1777. He lived and held office here until he died in 1780.

Many houses in the area at that time were called buitenverblijven, or "house outside", because they were built on a rural area outside the old city of Batavia.

Built as the house of a high rank citizen during colonial time, the house occupied an enormous plot of land extending much further than the current 9,450-square-meter complex.

Baroque fanlight above the main entrance was carved with a symbol of hope. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)Baroque fanlight above the main entrance was carved with a symbol of hope. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)

The structure comprises of a main building, two separated pavilions on the left and right sides and a U-shaped annex building at the back of the main building.

The main house is a model of closed Dutch style, so called because it has no open gallery at the front or rear.

"As an 18th century building, it doesn't have any veranda surrounding it," National Archive Building Foundation director Tamalia Alisjahbana told The Jakarta Post recently.

"If you look at a 19th century building, for example Museum 45 or Gedong Juang, they have big verandas, open doors and windows."

Tamalia said that gradual change in the style of architecture of houses in Batavia was because of the attempt to adapt to the climate and the increasing control of the Dutch against the local rulers.

Batavia was just a small city back then. Around the city was a big city wall surrounded by a moat. This wall and moat is a defense against Banten in the west and Mataram in the east.

"We can trace the change of the style in its sister building, Toko Merah (Red Shop) on Jl. Kali Besar Barat, which is 30 years older," Tamalia said .

A dinning room setting upstairs in the main building, with an original painting portrait of De Klerk in the background. (JP/MVM)A dinning room setting upstairs in the main building, with an original painting portrait of De Klerk in the background. (JP/MVM)

"Because there was little land available, houses built in the 17th and early 18th century were like Amsterdam's town-houses. That is what Toko Merah is like."

"Thirty years later, the Dutch drained the swamp land in the north and created all these canals. This change brought in lots of mosquitoes causing malaria and other diseases, and Batavia became very unhealthy."

Tamalia said that around the same time, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) or Dutch East India Company subjugated Banten and Mataram kingdoms so it was safe for the Dutch to come outside.

"Some rich people like de Klerk built their houses outside the city wall," she said.

To a certain degree the house is adapted to the tropics, with its high ceilings and long and broad windows, large open fanlights above the doors, a cool stone floor, and a high, well insulated roof.

"The Dutch also realized that Batavia was hot, so they started to build buildings with open windows and doors. With the archive building you can see the change in 18th century and in 19th century you can see the neoclassical style with veranda all around, much cooler, everything was open," Tamalia said.

With its big protruding roof, the two-story building looks more like a town house in a big garden than a country house.

Flower pot carvings on the staircase. (JP/MVM)Flower pot carvings on the staircase. (JP/MVM)

The flat front shows sparse ornamental work. Seven big windows on the second floor and three windows on each side of the broad double-wing entrance stress the overall symmetrical proportions. The six windows downstairs show simple ornaments over the skylights.

The main door is flanked by red pilasters with gold-painted grooves and renaissance capitals supporting a carved top beam. In its carved fanlight we can see an allegorical figure of hope: A woman under a big umbrella holds a anchor.

She is placed amidst leaves and waves. The surrounding waves, sea flowers and plants point to the humble beginnings of de Klerk's career as a naval officer.

Another door inside the main hall shows the symbol of faith.

Matched by its interior design, the outside of the house shows a distinctive impression. The allegorical carvings of the fanlights over the main doors provide subdued light to the cool inner rooms.

In general the carvings look rather baroque, but the dark red and gold paint as well as the execution of some ornaments suggests a strong Chinese influence.

"It is a kind of renaissance style with baroque features," said Tamalia, explaining the architecture style with its carving of the mid-18th century colonial mansion.

On the walls of the main hall, there are a few rows of Dutch tiles with scenes from the Bible.

Dutch tiles depicting scenes from the Bible are believed to have been made in China after models from Delft. Some missing tiles were transferred to the National Museum in 1900 and were replaced by replicas in 1998. (JP/MVM)Dutch tiles depicting scenes from the Bible are believed to have been made in China after models from Delft. Some missing tiles were transferred to the National Museum in 1900 and were replaced by replicas in 1998. (JP/MVM)

The house has four entrances, and in the room to the left of the main entrance hall is a fine staircase leading to the second floor. The upstairs was used exclusively as private apartments for the family.

Beside being a house, the building also served as an office. De Klerk also pursued his own business even though it was forbidden for an official.

The six rooms on the first floor are believed to have been used as for meetings and offices.

The rooms on the right were assigned to tuan besar, or the master of the house, while rooms on the left were assigned to nyonya besar, or the lady of the house.

Many fine pieces of antique furniture on the ground and the second floor help retain the ambience of the 18th century in these rooms. The current furniture, however, are not part of the original furnishing of the house being sold by the heirs of the late proprietors.

More than 111 pieces of furniture, such as cupboards, bookcases, tables, settees, chairs and chests of different styles, dating from different periods and also made in several different places, can be seen in the main building.

You can find, for example, a shelf wall hanging probably made in Sri Lanka between 1602-1795, a Dutch style baby chair probably made in 1880 in Holland with mahogany from Cuba, and a Madura-Biedenmeyer style of twin chair probably made in Madura in late 19th century.

One of the twin Madura Biedenmeyer chairs at the archive building. According to antique expert Jan Veenendaal, these chairs were probably made in Madura in the late 19th century and are influenced by the English Biedermeyer style. (JP/MVM)One of the twin Madura Biedenmeyer chairs at the archive building. According to antique expert Jan Veenendaal, these chairs were probably made in Madura in the late 19th century and are influenced by the English Biedermeyer style. (JP/MVM)

Most of these furniture were donated by Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen or the Batavia Society for Art and Science to the Landsarchief van Nederlandsch-Indie or the Dutch Indies State Archive in 1925 after the first major renovation.

This society, founded in Batavia in April 24, 1778 by some Dutch intellectuals, including de Klerk, also donated its collection of furnitures to two other institutions which later became the National Museum and the Jakarta History Museum.

Tamalia said the collection had increased in the last ten years. The collection includes 38 antique maps dating back to the 16th century, and a number of paintings and drawings. Some of these maps and drawings were donated by their artists.

Last year the three museum invited Jan Veenendaal, an expert in Dutch colonial furniture, to identify their furniture collections. Coming to Jakarta with his own expense, Veenendaal identified the style, the materials, the period of production, and the place of production of these furniture.

"None of us really have a good index or inventory about the antique collection in these museums," Tamalia said .

"But now we have all the information and the three museums are now working on completing their inventory."

On the grounds of the house, we find separate pavilions for guest on each side of the main building. One of these pavilions is now used as a museum shop.

Next to the pavilions are spacious bijgebouwen, or annexes, which were used as a kitchen and storerooms. The two gables of the annex buildings are similar to those very common of the Cape Town, South Africa, once ruled from Batavia.

A replica of a slave bell, once used in the house. The original bell was cast in Batavia in 1772 by Johannes Borchhard and is now kept in the Werkspoor Museum in Amsterdam. (JP/MVM) A replica of a slave bell, once used in the house. The original bell was cast in Batavia in 1772 by Johannes Borchhard and is now kept in the Werkspoor Museum in Amsterdam. (JP/MVM)

In the courtyard there are two old cannons and a replica of a slave bell. The original bell was used to announce works and meals hours as well as unusual happenings.

This replica was cast in Beerta, the Netherlands in 1999 by Klokken-en Kunstgieterij Reiderland. The original bell was cast in Batavia in 1772 by Johannes Borchhard and is now kept in the Werkspoor Museum in Amsterdam.

Between 1926 and 1979 the building served as the archives and afterwards its condition deteriorated until its total restoration in 1997/1998.

The Jakarta provincial administration designated the building as one of heritage buildings on March 29, 1993 and followed by the then Education and Culture Ministry on June 16, 1998.

The National Archive Building Foundation managed the building after the 1998 renovation.

Four years later, UNESCO awarded the building the first prize in Cultural Heritage Award for the Asia Pacific region.

However, with no donation from the government and no entrance fee, the foundation mostly earned its income by renting the building out for exhibitions, weddings, seminars, product launches, fashion shows and parties as well as from the selling of books and souvenirs of its museum shop.

A home truth about the house of a Dutch governor-general

Tue, 07/15/2008 10:36 AM | City

(JP/Matheos Viktor Messakh)(JP/Matheos Viktor Messakh)

The house of Reinier de Klerk has its own history that might explain why it is the only buitenverblijen, or 'houses outside' the city, left on Jl. Gajah Mada and Jl. Hayam Wuruk.

For a long time during the 18th century, the two roads were the elite quarters of Batavia. They were later replaced by Weltevreden, the area around the present Lapangan Banteng and Medan Merdeka.

De Klerk lived in the house for nearly 20 years before dying there in 1780 as a governor general.

According to Adolf Heuken SJ in his book Historical Sites of Jakarta (Cipta Loka Caraka, 2000), de Klerk's very rich wife Sophia Francina Westpalm supported him throughout much of his career.

The mansion's upstairs is richly furnished with VOC period furniture. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)The mansion's upstairs is richly furnished with VOC period furniture. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)

When Sophia married de Klerk in 1754, she was already the widow of a former Council of the Indies member. Her son from her earlier marriage, Francois R. Radermacher, inherited de Klerk's mansion.

In 1786 Radermacher, the son the Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences founder, sold the property to another Council of the Indies member, John Siberg. The house's second owner eventually became governor general between 1801 and 1805, and stayed in the house during the entire French and English period (1808-1816).

After Siberg's death in 1817, the house was auctioned off by his widow and sold the following year, this time to Iehoede Leip Iegiel Igel, a Polish Jew who once served as a low-ranked guard to the house.

The story goes that on a hot day Igel fell asleep while guarding the entrance. When the governor general unexpectedly returned, he was given fifty strokes for his laziness. On that same day, he swore that he would own the premises one day.

(JP/Matheos Viktor Messakh)(JP/Matheos Viktor Messakh)

After finishing his military service Igel changed his name to Leendert Miero and started work as a goldsmith. He could neither read nor write, yet he made a fortune and bought the Pondok Gede estate.

In 1819 he acquired de Klerk's house and for the next fifteen years invited big crowds to celebrate the anniversary of his lashing day. Igel or Miero had no children from his two legal wives, but adopted his four natural children born to him by four different slaves.

The house was inhabited by Miero's heirs until it was sold again in 1844 to the College of Deacons at the Dutch Reformed Church. When used as an orphanage (until 1900), it suffered several alterations. But after it was sold to the government in 1901, the Greek-style chapel attached to its front was torn down in order to restore the original fa*ade.

For the next 25 years, it served as the office of the Mining Department with little attention being paid to its historic value.

There have been so many wonderful stories written about the events that happened in the mansion.

A box which was used as food container. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)A box which was used as food container. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)

It is said that in the simple houses behind de Klerk's mansion more than a hundred slaves lived and worked. Sixteen among them formed a band of musicians and entertained their master and his guests at night.

More than 50 slaves were emancipated and given some money to start their freedom, under the last will of Sophia in 1785. Others bought their emancipation.

The rest, roughly 100 slaves were auctioned off together with their wives and children. This auction took place on Jan. 28, 1786 in front of de Klerk's house.

In 1925 the house was thoroughly restored. Again it shined in its old splendor with its garden landscaped once more. It was used as office of the Landsarchief (State Archive).

The door on the right side of the main building. High ceilings, long and broad windows marked the change in Batavia's architecture style in 18th century after the Dutch conquered the local rulers. (JP/MVM) The door on the right side of the main building. High ceilings, long and broad windows marked the change in Batavia's architecture style in 18th century after the Dutch conquered the local rulers. (JP/MVM)

The institution was relocated in 1974 to Jl. Ampera Selatan in South Jakarta because humidity was creeping up and into the walls. After the transfer was completed in 1979, the house was no longer used by the national archives body.

The condition of the mid-18th century colonial mansion deteriorated. The paint peeled off and many carvings, doors, and windows split apart. The walls became wet because rain water could not flow into the canal in front of the house.

"The building was in a bad condition. There was half a meter of flooding every rainy season. Many parts of the building were dilapidated," said Tamalia Alisjahbana, executive director of the National Archive Building .

In 1995, some Dutch companies doing business in Jakarta collected money as a gift for the 50th anniversary of Indonesian Independence with the intention of restoring the mansion.

A memorandum was signed during the visit of Queen Beatrix, who gave a reception in this building, but for years no realistic proposals were made by Arsip Nasional.

In order to prevent further damage, the house underwent a thorough restoration from 1997 to 1998. The restoration was done to the highest standard using modern techniques after a careful study of the condition of the building, the problem of drainage and of all old paintings and photos.

An embedded strongbox in the offices of Tuan Besar. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)An embedded strongbox in the offices of Tuan Besar. (JP/Matheos V. Messakh)

On Nov. 1, 1998, the 1,270-square-meter mansion again regained its splendor.

"The building is believed to have a very good

"They wanted to tear it down in 1900, but it was saved by the Batavian Society. In 1998, they wanted to burn it down, but it was saved because we were completing the restorations.

"There are so many people coming here telling us that the building has a very good vibration, bringing good luck." --JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Monica sings from her cultural roots

The Jakarta Post | Wed, 12/03/2008 7:51 AM | People

MONICA AKIHARY: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)MONICA AKIHARY: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

JAKARTA: Lead singer of the Amsterdam-based group Boi Akih, Monica Akihary, said she sings almost exclusively in her father’s native language, Harukunese, because it is one of the most perfect languages to sing.

“This language is the perfect language for the singer because it has open vowels, which is good ... for melodies and also for improvisation. It’s a really beautiful language,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the JakJazz festival over the weekend.

In Harukunese, the language spoken on the Indonesian island of Haruku, in Maluku, Boi Akih means “Princess Akih”.

“Before we started Boi Akih, we listened to a lot of music from Africa. I didn’t understand the words but I really loved the African music. Then Niels (Niels Brouwer, Boi Akih’s guitarist) suggested I sing in my father’s language,” she said.

She added she often asked for her father’s help when writing song lyrics, because she barely understood the language.

“I grew up with Moluccan Malaysian and Bahasa Indonesia, not with Harukunese,” said the woman who studied sculpture at the Indonesian Arts Institute in Yogyakarta from 1989 to 1990.

“We perform a lot in Europe and also in Africa, and I have to say people don’t understand the words but they really love the atmosphere of our music,” said Monica. — JP/Matheos V. Messakh.

'It all started with the blues,' says Zue

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sun, 11/30/2008 10:34 AM | Headlines

It often rains on jazz nights -- but that didn't stop fans from hearing world-class and local noted musicians on the second night of Jakjazz 2008 on Saturday.

Some 30 performances were staged around and inside the Bung Karno Sports Center in Central Jakarta.

Local Agam Hamzah Acoustic Connection featured British-born Zue Bonnington, who opened the show entertaining hundreds of spectators.

"I've got two missions here. First is the regeneration of jazz. It's good that so many people love jazz now but it's not going to be enough just to have your favorites from seniors. We also have to think about the new generations," Zue told the audience from the stage.

"We have to give them opportunities like JakJazz. My second mission is to bring blues to everybody in Indonesia."

"The blues is where everything began. Without blues there would be no rock 'n roll, there would be no jazz. It's not a mission impossible," Zue told The Jakarta Post after the show.

Both local band Iga Mawarni and Friends and Amsterdam-based Boi Akih band drew nearly 1,000 spectators to their respective shows.

Iga Mawarni and Friends, formed in 2005, opened their show with "From Now On"; and the audience sang along to top hits such as "Andai Saja" (If Only), "Masquenada" and "Dansa Yo Dansa" (Dance lets Dance).

"I sang this song because I know that even in a crowded city like Jakarta, many people are lonely," Mawarni said after singing "Alone", as her fans shouted in approval.

Amsterdam-based Boi Akih mostly performed in the Maluku Malayan and Harukunese dialect, a language spoken on Haruku Island in Maluku province.

Boi Akih also performed Indonesian folk songs such as "Nona Hitam Manis" (Sweet Dark Girl), "Ole Sio", as well as "When Evening Falls", a song written in a combination of English and Harukunese.

Boi Akih's vocalist Monica Akihary said they were so impressed by the response of the public to their songs, especially those in the local dialect -- even though the audience might not have understood the words. Many Indonesians have not heard of Haruku.

"It seems that this language is actually perfect for singers because it has open vowels especially for melodies and also for improvising. It's really a beautiful language," Monica said after the show.

"We have performed a lot in Europe and also in Africa ... people don't understand the words but they love the atmosphere of the music, they really feel it inside their body. As a musician, it is the best compliment you can get," she said.

Apart from enjoying the music, young and old visitors munched at the foodstalls and painted T-shirts to take home.

Among other international performers late Saturday were the Australian Michelle Nicolle Quartet, Dutch Daniel Sahuleka, Japanese DJ Shuya, Open Hands Project Abraham Laboriel of the United States, French Roland Tchakounte and Malaysian Bassgroove100.

World-renowned Mexican bassist Abraham Laboriel, who has over 4,000 recordings and soundtracks, became emotional when a reporter asked about the difference between jazz 30 years ago and today.

"We have teenagers and children coming to watch. Thirty years ago we were playing jazz and now we are able to play jazz with our children. The best way to inspire your people to fall in love with music is to explain to them that music is really alive. It is not an art form to put in a museum. It's a lifestyle," Laboriel said, who has been awarded a honorary doctorate degree in music by the Berklee College of Music in the United States.

Other local bands such as Indra Lesmana Reborn, Barry Likumahuwa Project, Ireng Maulana & Friends and young stars Afgan and Andien also powered up the night on each of their respective stages.

Rossa celebrates her music career with concert

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 11/29/2008 11:33 AM | Entertainment

Rossa performs on stage during her “Persembahan Cinta” (Gift of Love) concert Wednesday night at the Plenary Hall of the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan, South Jakarta. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)Rossa performs on stage during her “Persembahan Cinta” (Gift of Love) concert Wednesday night at the Plenary Hall of the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan, South Jakarta. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

Rossa's stage Wednesday night reflected her career -- it had its ups and downs.

Singing 18 songs, her concert, titled Persembahan Cinta (Gift of Love) and performed at the Jakarta Convention Center's Plenary Hall, was a lifetime achievement for Rossa.

Dressed in a turquoise flared skirt, the mother of one opened her show with "Nada-Nada Cinta" (Rhythm of Love), sung in a cappella, causing a hush to fall over the audience and giving the impression she owned the stage.

The Erwin Gutawa Orchestra and Erwin Gutawa Band appeared from behind large sliding screens on two separate moving stages and accompanied Rossa till the end of the show.

Her next song was, "Terlalu Cinta" (So in Love) from her seventh album Yang Terpilih (The Chosen One), which had won her a Malaysian Anugerah Industry Muzik award in 2006 for best foreign artist.

The next 90 minutes were filled with 15 chart-topping songs, combining fast- and slow-paced melodies.

With some new up-tempo arrangements of her songs by noted composer Erwin Gutawa, Rossa -- who is known for her slow and mellow songs -- at times joined in with the 24 dancers from United Dance Works.

The 2003 hit "Malam Pertama" (The First Night), which became the soundtrack for the soap opera of the same title, had been rearranged to a fast salsa beat, which had the audience moving and shaking.

Rossa had five dress changes, with noted designers Sebastian Gunawan and Sally Koeswanto in charge of her wardrobe.

The Erwin Gutawa Orchestra played a significant role in the pop-classic collaborative concert, not only by smoothly filling the transition of one fast dress-change to another, but also by leaving no doubt that this truly was a concert.

Art director Jay Subijakto also fulfilled his promise to bring his architectural talent to the stage, allowing Rossa and the dancers to move freely during some fast rhythms.

Rossa, accompanied by the Erwin Gutawa Band, dances on stage during her Nov. 26 concert, which was considered a lifetime achievement for the 30-year-old singer. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)Rossa, accompanied by the Erwin Gutawa Band, dances on stage during her Nov. 26 concert, which was considered a lifetime achievement for the 30-year-old singer. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

Jay, who has directed 14 concerts, also provided the Erwin Gutawa Orchestra and Erwin Gutawa Band with a separate stage one level above the quadrilateral moving stages.

Returning to the stage after her first dress change, Rossa performed hits from her fourth album Aku Bukan Untukmu (I am not for you). Almost in tears, she told her fans how her progression to the top of her career had also been filled with much frustration and pessimism.

"In 1999, after I finished my first adult album, I was very frustrated because I couldn't find a song that I thought would become a hit. Then my producer came along with one that make me strong and brave," Rossa said before singing "Tegar" (Brave).

Rossa, who was born in Sumedang, West Java, on Oct. 9, 1978, started her career young in 1988. Little Rossa, whose real name is Rossa Roslaina Sri Handayani, caught the attention of a record company when she attended a vocal test with her mother, a local singer from Cianjur.

The company gave her a contract and she began working with musicians such as Franky Sahilatua, James F. Sundah, Uce F. Tekol and Areng Widodo, who helped her prepare her first album Untuk Sahabatku (For my Best Friend), an album of children's songs.

However, the album failed to meet the selling target and Rossa took a long hiatus before returning to the music industry eight years later with her second album Nada-Nada Cinta (Rhythm of Love).

Although she started to gain popularity through her second album, it took three years before she hit her stride and began launching albums every two years.

"I started my career at a very early age, but I never imagined I would reach all these (achievements)," Rossa said from the stage.

Throughout the concert, Rossa thanked those who had helped her throughout her career, including her best friend Melly Goeslaw and her mother.

The song her mother used to sing for her as a bedtime serenade was the only piece performed that did not come from one of her albums. She asked her mother to stand up before the crowd before singing "Bubui Bulan", a traditional song from West Java.

Ungu Band, which collaborated with Rossa on the soundtrack album for the movie Ayat-ayat Cinta (Verses of Love), appeared on stage in soft purple lighting, as vocalist Pasha sang with her in the duet "Tercipta Untukku" (Created for Me).

"The music was great and Rossa's performance was perfect, but there were some annoying flaws, such as when the microphone cracked (midway through a song) and (one) big screen that didn't work properly," Agus Wisman, a member of the vocal group Elfa Singers, who was watching from the audience, told The Jakarta Post after the concert.

Rossa's best friend Melly Goeslaw stole the show for a while when she appeared on stage in Japanese makeup and a Samurai-style outfit to duet with Rossa in "Hati Yang Terpilih" (The Chosen Heart).

Near the end of the show, Rossa appeared in a black Arabian-style gown, hypnotizing the crowd with her latest hit "Ayat-Ayat Cinta" with an Arabian rhythm. She opened the song with a Koranic recital.

The 30-year-old mother closed the show with "Nada-Nada Cinta" (Rhythm of Love) in a fast jazz style.

"Nothing is perfect. Although we had a little (microphone) problem in the middle of the concert, it didn't disturb Pasha and I and we finished the song perfectly," she said after the concert.

JakJazz swings into life with Lica Cecato, Zarro

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 11/29/2008 11:30 AM | Headlines

Hundreds of music lovers turned out at Istora Senayan Stadium in Central Jakarta on Friday for the opening of the 10th Jakarta International Jazz Festival, known as JakJazz.

Sultry Brazilian singer Lica Cecato and local band Zarro wowed the audience at the Amphitheatre stage with a sizzling combination of excellent music, vocals and dance.

The performers had rehearsed together for only a few hours, Cecato said, "but we could feel the connection during the performance. I found out that this country is a musical country ... The artists are catching up with music (trends) very fast," Cecato said after the show.

Eighteen-year-old student Vidi Aldiano stole the show with his performance of 10 songs, including five from his latest album, released two weeks ago.

The newcomer kicked off his set with "Masquenada", following it up with "Friday Night", "Tomorrow" and others from his new album.

The show just got hotter as Aldiano brought Keenan Nasution, J-Flow and Tohpati onto the stage.

"This was my first performance at JakJazz. I was a bit nervous at the beginning but when I was on stage I felt free," Aldiano said after the show.

"Jazz is difficult but good to listen to, with lots of variation."

Local band Kunokini hypnotized their crowd with their unique combinations of traditional and modern instruments. The audience laughed and sang along with the reggae version of the traditional Ambonese song "Rasa Sayange", a jazz version of a re-mixed Javanese traditional tune "Gundul Gundul Pancul" and Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up".

Little-known Abe Simpson Trio, featuring young singer Alexandro, had the honor of starting the action at the Jazz on Green stage, watched by a crowd of about 40 people.

Other international acts in the lineup were Ray Harris & The Fusion Experience, Kyoto Jazz Massive, Marina Xavier & Enrique Marcos and Kiboud Maulana & Friends.

Rain delayed the schedules of some shows and some performances overlapped but, as with most festivals, crowds roamed around before deciding where to stop for a listen.

Anti-cigarette protest mars Rossa concert

Sat, 11/29/2008 11:29 AM | Entertainment

Rossa's concert on Wednesday evening was marred by a protest involving around 40 demonstrators from the Indonesian Tobacco Control Network, the National Commission for Children Protection and the Total Ban Alliance.

They came to the Jakarta Convention Center's Plenary Hall to protest the tobacco industry's sponsorship of the concert.

Citing the example of Alicia Keys, who asked Philip Morris International to pull down billboards and posters promoting her concert in Jakarta in July, the protesters said by using such sponsorship the concert was indirectly encouraging children to smoke.

They also said that the National Commission for Child Protection had sent a letter on Nov. 22 to Rossa's management asking them to cancel it -- but it was to no avail.

"We understand that it might be impossible to cancel sponsorship just a few days before the concert. We just want them to not have any cigarette promotional materials during the concert. But if it's impossible, we just hope that it will be the last concert Rossa holds that uses them for sponsorship," protester Lisda Sundari told The Jakarta Post.

Responding to the protest, producer Erwin Gutawa said: "We are happy to have any sponsor. Please tell us if there are other companies who are willing to support us besides the ones that support us now." -- JP/Matheos Viktor Messakh

Sys NS blames govt for high ticket prices

The Jakarta Post | Sat, 11/29/2008 7:33 AM | People

SYS NS: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)SYS NS: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

JAKARTA: Actor and director Sys NS said he blames the government for not fully supporting the development of the music industry in the country, which has led to expensive ticket prices for concerts.

Sys, who is also the secretary general of the United Regions Party, said it wasn’t’ fair to put the blame solely on the tobacco industry, which usually provided the main sponsorship for music concerts.

“It’s kind of a dilemma. The music industry really needs support but nobody wants to support it, except the cigarette companies,” Sys told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of Rossa’s concert Wednesday night.

Sys lamented that Jakarta, as the country’s capital, had no decent concert hall. “We are supposed to have a concert building with a larger capacity than that of the Jakarta Convention Center, which can only hold about 3,000 people,” said the man who co-founded the Democrat Party in 2001 but withdrew from the party in 2007.

The 52-year-old, who turned to politics in 1999 and was appointed as a member the People Consultative Assembly from 1999 to 2004, said the government needed to provide a large concert hall as well as pose reasonable taxes on the music industry.

“The government should look at art as means to attract revenue. For example, the film industry in the U.S. is the second largest contributor to the country’s economy after the weapons industry,” said the man who was named Indonesia’s best disc jockey in 1975. — JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Jay incorporates his architectural skills

Matheos V. Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 11/22/2008 11:25 AM | People

JP/Ricky YudhistiraJP/Ricky Yudhistira

JAKARTA: Although he has not made a career out of what he learned at university, choreographer and art director Jay Subijakto said he always tried to use his architectural skills in his work.

“In designing a stage, I used many architectural skills in order to accommodate the choreography, but also in order to come out with the best quality sound,” Jay said on the sidelines of a press conference at the JustSteak restaurant in South Jakarta on Wednesday.

The man who has been the art director for more than 12 musical concerts lamented the country’s arts and music facilities.

“We all know that we are a big country with lots of arts and music heritage, but there is no building feasible for a concert. That’s why we have to play in convention centers,” said Jay, who earned his degree in architectural engineering at the University of Indonesia.

Jay, who is also a film director, and composer Erwin Gutawa are busy preparing the first solo concert for singer Rossa, which will be held on Nov. 26 in the Plenary Hall at Jakarta Convention Center. — JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Nadine feels connection with sea

Matheos V. Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 11/21/2008 10:37 AM | People

JP/Matheos V. Messakh JP/Matheos V. Messakh

JAKARTA: With her celebrity status, Miss Indonesia 2005 Nadine Chandrawinata could become a messenger or ambassador for any cause she wants.

But the 24-year-old actress and model said she wanted to be an ambassador for coral reefs because she is a ocean lover.

“I have some kind of connection with the sea. If I fall in love or if I’m feeling blue, I will go to the sea. The sea also gives me inspiration and ideas. So I think I have to do something for the sea,” Nadine told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of a national meeting on coral reefs in Jakarta on Wednesday evening.

Her concerns for sea conservation has seen the international environmental organization, the World Wildlife Fund, choose her as its ambassador for marine conservation. Wakatobi regency in Southeast Sulawesi province has also chosen Nadine, who is a certified diver, as its eco-tourism ambassador.

“The greatest users are human beings but the greatest destroyers are also human beings, so we need to educate people to preserve the abundance of colorful marine
life,” she said. “We can start form small things such as not littering.”—JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Ayu Utami, Nirwan Dewanto win Khatulistiwa literary prize

Ary Hermawan and Matheos Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 11/15/2008 11:03 AM | Headlines

Author Ayu Utami was announced the winner of the Khatulistiwa Literary Award 2008 late Thursday for her novel Bilangan Fu (Fu Number), a criticism of modernism, militarism and monotheism.

Ayu, who has slammed the award as a "literary competition without literary criticism", was represented at the event at Plaza Senayan, Central Jakarta, by her publisher, Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia.

"I am happy to receive the award, but I will not retract my criticism of the competition," she told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Nirwan Dewanto was awarded the prize in the poetry category for his work titled Jantung Lebah Ratu (The Queen Bee's Heart).

In the young talents category, Wa Ode Wulan Ratna was awarded for her work Cari Aku di Canti (Find Me in Canti). The 15 finalists in the three categories were also recognized for their achievements.

The Khatulistiwa award was established by writer and bookstore owner Richard Oh in 2001.

Ayu said her latest novel was "more solid and complex" than her previous ones, the critically acclaimed Saman and Larung, which was nominated for the award in 2002.

Ayu, who turns 40 this Nov. 21, also received the 2000 Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands government.

The award, which honors Indonesia's best fiction and poetry, selects original works published between July 2007 and June 2008 and distributed across Indonesia.

The winners in the prose and poetry categories each received Rp 100 million (US$8,800) in cash, while the winner of the young talented writer category received Rp 25 million.

The panel of judges in the final stages consisted of Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Budi Darma, Linda Christanty, Remy Sylado and Hamsad Rangkuti.

Seno Gumira Ajidarma praised Ayu Utami's criticism of current popular beliefs.

"She is brave enough to be unpopular in this way of writing. Many people think a novel should be a light read but Ayu dares to make people wrinkle their brows when they read Bilangan Fu," Seno said.

He said Nirwan Dewanto had shown great achievements with the poetic form in Jantung Lebah Ratu.

"The hardest thing in poetry is that you have to express some sophisticated ideas in a short and specific piece," Seno said.

As for Ayu's claim that the award lacked serious literary criticism, Seno, who has won awards himself, said, "Don't take it too seriously ... It's not like defending a doctorate thesis."

The other books that made it to the short list were Hubbu by Mashuri, Rahasia Meede (Meede's Secret) by ES Ito, Kacapiring by Danarto, and Glonggong by Junaedi Setiyono.

Shortlisted in the poetry category were also Teman-Temanku dari Atap Bahasa (My Friends from the Roof of Language) by Afrizal Malna, Pandora by Oka Rusmini, Sajak-sajak Menjelang Tidur (Bedtime Poems) by Wendoko, and Orgasmaya by Hasan Aspahani.

Sudjatmiko compares Obama to Kennedy

Fri, 11/07/2008 10:57 AM | People

JP/P.J. LeoJP/P.J. Leo

JAKARTA: Activist and politician Budiman Sudjatmiko said Obama's victory is one way U.S. citizens are protesting the hawkish style of their government's foreign policy.

"U.S. citizens are tired of their government's hawkish style that has gained them more enemies instead of friends in the world," Sudjatmiko told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The former political prisoner in Soeharto's era said the U.S. has been acting like "the world police" -- partly because they won the Cold War.

A similar phenomenon also happened when they idolized John F. Kennedy in the 1960s because they had grown weary of the aggressive style of presidents prior to Kennedy, he said.

"Obama has the will and the ability to make the American dream come true."

The former chairman of the Democratic People's Party (PRD), who is joining the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), feels optimistic that Indonesia could experience the same phenomenon in five to 10 years.

"The 1998 political reform has brought in a lot of young and independent cadres. It's just a matter of time before they step up to the political stage."--JP/Matheos Messakh

Widi finds yoga good for health

Tue, 11/25/2008 7:24 AM | People

WIDI: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)WIDI: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

JAKARTA: A move by Malaysia to ban yoga has failed to deter singer-actress Widi AB Three.

The singer, who started practicing yoga before the birth of her baby boy in May this year, said she would continue to practice yoga because of its benefit to her health.

“I don’t want to get involved in religious issues but I have felt many advantages of practicing yoga for my health, so why shouldn’t I continue practicing it?” the singer said Monday.

She was responding to the possibility that yoga could be banned for Indonesian Muslims following the move by Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council to issue an edict banning Muslims from practicing yoga. The council argued the Indian physical exercise contained elements of Hinduism and could corrupt Muslims.

“I think our relationship with God is a personal matter. Every single person has their own space for God in their heart. I have seen no problem with practicing yoga.” —JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Hehanusa too busy for politics

Mon, 11/24/2008 11:33 AM | People

JAKARTA: While other celebrities are turning to politics, singer Andre Hehanusa said he still has lots of entertainment work to keep him busy.

"I have no interest in getting involved in politics, because I think I still have many things to do creatively rather than become a politician," he told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

The singer, whose real name Andre Ronald Benito Hehanusa, said he was busy preparing his new album Living in Harmony, which would be launched in January 2009.

The album, he said, was themed on national harmony. He added he dedicated the album to the people in eastern Indonesia, which is where he was born and raised.

"We cannot just live for ourselves like nobody else matters in the world. The problem in our country is exclusivism ... many people talk big but actually they only live for themselves," said the artist who was born in Makassar on July 24, 1974.

Andre gained popularity during the 1990s through hits such as "Kuta Bali", "Bidadari" (Angel), and "Karena kutahu engkau begitu" (Because I know you're like that). -- JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Rossa, celebrating her singing career

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 11/22/2008 12:56 PM | Arts & Design

It took 10 albums before pop singer Rossa had enough courage to perform her first ever solo concert.

The concert, titled Persembahan Cinta (Gift of Love), will be staged Nov. 26 in the Jakarta Convention Center's Plenary Hall. It has been six months in the making, assisted by noted music director Erwin Gutawa and concert director Jay Subijakto.

"The concert is the answer to my prayers," the 30-year-old singer said. "I have been dreaming that one day I would have my own concert which would be seriously and carefully prepared but also entertaining."

Erwin has rearranged her songs, especially some of her mellow songs, to give different nuances. Different songs have been given different treatments to produce, for example, Arabian or Latin nuances.

"This is my homework and the test will be Nov. 26," Rosa said, whose real name is Sri Rosa Roslaina Handiyani.

Erwin said it did not take much effort to improve Rossa's performance, just needed to "expand her musical atmosphere".

"Everyone knows that her genre is pop but we will combine all kinds of music to make her performance different...," he said.

The concert will also be supported by more than 60 members of the Erwin Gutawa Orchestra, comprised mostly of young musicians, including a 15-year-old female drummer.

During the two-hour concert, Rossa will sing 18 of her hits including Nada-nada Cinta (Rhythms of love), Tegar (Brave), Hati Yang Terpilih (The chosen heart), Wanita Yang Kau Pilih (The woman you choose), Atas Nama Cinta (In the name of love) and Ayat-ayat Cinta (Verses of Love).

To prepare for this event, Rossa also canceled all of her shows across the country these past two months.

The concert will also feature Melly Goeslow, one of Rossa's best friends who wrote some of her songs, including her latest hit Ayat-ayat Cinta, as well as the Ungu band who collaborated with her on her latest album.

Jay Subijakto said he agreed to support Rossa because she knows how to deal with the trivialities of the country's music industry.

"She has lots of hits and this is something we have to support. A singer must have his or her own value and character. Many singing competitions now only rely on quantity rather than quality.

"Rossa knows how to deal with herself and with the music industry. While everyone else only relies on SMSs (text message) to boost their popularity, Rossa tries many channels to express her talent," Jay said.

The stage will be designed to accommodate some fast paces in a few of the new arrangements, which will be performed by 24 dancers from the United Dance Work (UDW), he said.

"We want people to know that Rossa is able to sing more than just slow and mellow songs."

Erwin said music is a way of expression.

"So when we hold a concert, not just the singer owns the concert. Everyone involved in the concert also has their own responsibilities, including me and Jay.

"We will combine our ideas and efforts to present our best," said the composer and conductor who established the Erwin Gutawa Orchestra in 1993.

Erwin said Rossa deserves to have a solo concert because of her many achievements, adding that usually a singer or musician will hold a solo concert after they have enough hits.

"A concerto in Latin means the best performance of an artist or a singer. So in the context of the music industry its a present to the audience after having many hit songs .... It means they must show their best."

Rossa, who was born in the West Java town of Sumedang, released her first album Nada-Nada Cinta (Rhythms of love) in 1996 and since 2002, she has released an album every year.

More than 180,000 copies of her soundtrack album Ayat-ayat Cinta (Verses of love) -- for the popular film of the same title -- have been sold. The album went platinum in March 2008.

Rossa, MTV Indonesia's best female singer in 2000, also received Malaysia's AIM Award for best foreign singer in May 2008.

Rossa's manager Intan said that about 95 percent of the tickets had been sold, and about 5 percent had been sold to countries where Rossa's albums are also released, such as Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia.

They are expecting 27 fans from Brunei, 52 from Malaysia and 40 from Hong Kong, she said.

"For a long time she did not have the courage to hold her own concert, and even after Erwin and Jay gave their support, she still hesitated," Intan said. "I think this is the right time for Rossa to show her best."

Erik Prabowo: Bringing green idea to surgery


Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Wed, 11/19/2008 10:58 AM | People

Erik Prabowo truly epitomizes the Confucius saying "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". While working the graveyard shift at Dr. Kariadi Hospital in Semarang one night in September 2007, the resident doctor read a poster on the wall to pass the time.

It advertised an international competition, run by German-based healthcare supplier B. Braun Melsungen, which sought out new and innovative ways to seal surgical wounds. He made some notes and launched an Internet search the next day.

This initial curiosity eventually saw him become the national winner and receive prize money of 5,000 euro last Tuesday from the B. Braun group. Erik is now headed for the international stage, and on Dec. 5 he will join researchers, medical professionals and designers from around the globe in Berlin for the announcement of the international winner.

"It feels like I have won the lottery. I thought it was a great competition, dealing with a problem many doctors face with stitches, and I was curious about innovations in these technologies," he said.

Born in Pekanbaru, Riau province in 1978, Erik applied to study medicine in 1996 to follow in the footsteps of his father, an army surgeon. He received his medical degree from Semarang's Diponegoro University in 2000.

An interest in computers almost saw him study electrical engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), but somewhat in a twist of fate, he failed the entrance test. Despite ending up highly successful, Erik had some personal fears that weren't really suited to a career in medicine. While performing his first ever surgical procedure in 2002, he fainted at the sight of all the blood.

"If I had to choose, I'd rather putter around with computers than read books," he said.

Following four months' of research, Erik submitted an abstract of his paper titled "Go Green Circle Sutures" to the competition.

The competition had invited surgeons, scientists from various disciplines and designers to submit ideas in the categories "natural science and technology", "medicine and handling" and "design and function". Erik had chosen the category which related to his daily routine; "design and function".

"This category suited my role as a doctor and a student."

Between his residency at Dr. Kariadi Hospital and studies at Diponegoro University, he managed to squeeze in time to submit the full paper two hours before the deadline on July 15.

Erik's paper was among the 20 submissions from Indonesia, but the jury panel selected Erik's paper as the national winner based on it's clarity, applicability and efficiency.

"He has a clear concept, and it is applicable. Many papers also had good concepts, but they lacked application," said Djoni Darmajaya, one of the jurors.

"He offered a solution for the 'memory effect', which is a stiffness condition of sutures. This idea deserved a reward.

"Another interesting aspect of his design was that he investigated the use of biodegradable materials. I think he has the potential to win on the international stage," Djoni added.

Erik decided to "go green" by adopting environmentally-friendly materials for his design, and by shaping and reducing the size of conventional stitches to emit less energy in production.

By changing the form of the exterior foil in conventional packaging from rectangular to circular, Erik was able to reduce the size by up to 40 percent.

Furthermore, he replaced the petroleum-based plastic packaging with a bioplastic that can be reused and easily recycled.

For the first time, his design made it possible to place a used needle back into the suture holder. This achievement means hospitals can now send steel needles back to their manufacturing companies to be recycled.

"Used needles and other contaminated materials are usually burned in an incinerator. In fact, they can be recycled and this will save energy."

Erik said he had examined other suture samples with environmental considerations -- reduce, reuse and recycle -- in mind before he made the decision to use polylactic acid made from maize and soybeans as the materials for his design.

"Many manufacturers are only paying the environmental-friendly issue lip service ... Medical products are usually recommended by doctors, and many people do not care about the environmental impact."

B. Braun Medical Indonesia's president director A. Manogaran hailed Erik's ability to promote the environment in his design.

"A century ago, physicians still stitched wounds with sutures made from mutton's intestines. Today, a broad range of materials are available enabling not only the best care for the body, but also the environment," said A Manogaran.

The 30-year-old doctor will join 27 other international contestants at the award ceremony supported by the German and British national surgeons' associations.

The competition itself was held by the company to commemorate the introduction of industrially produced, sterile sutures by B. Braun exactly 100 years ago.

First prize takes home 100,000 euros, with 50,000 and 25,000 euro prizes for second and third-place winners respectively.

"I was interested in the competition because I wanted to know about the future of wound closure. It is great to know there are others who share my passion."

Hadar Navis Gumay: Calling for public scrutiny in elections

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 11/17/2008 10:47 AM | People

For Hadar Navis Gumay, elections are all about details. No election should be considered democratic if it fails to meet democratic values and standards.

The man who has observed elections in more than five Asian and European countries believes an election should not be judged by its surface appearance.

"There are too many details in any election that need to be checked to make sure that they together form a democratic process," Hadar told The Jakarta Post recently.

As a process to form a government, elections, said the 48-year-old man, had always tempted governments and political parties to "meddle in or twist the election process, especially in the formulation of laws and regulations".

This is the reason why global election watchdogs are crucial, said Hadar, who has been executive director of the Center for Electoral Reform since 2005.

For the former urban sociology lecturer, if it wasn't for the influence of election watchdogs in the 1999 and 2004 elections, no one could ever have guessed the outcome of the elections that have helped put Indonesia on the path to democracy.

"We can't measure the contributions of election watchdogs quantitatively, but the presence and the massive activities of the election groups have made people think twice about being deceitful," said Hadar, who helped monitor the 1999 election, which was dubbed by many scholars as the country's first democratic election in its 44 years.

Shifting his career from lecturer at the University of Indonesia to an electoral reform activist, Hadar, who co-founded the University Network for Free and Fair Election in 1999, said a good election required good regulations guaranteeing justice and legal certainty, providing clear procedures and law enforcement.

"If we want a democratic election, we need to eliminate false regulations and articles that can be interpreted in different ways from our laws on elections.

"We also need an inclusive space for wider public participation, including for minority groups, such as women, religious groups, as well as freedom for the media and these requirements should appear in regulations," he said.

Some flaws in the country's regulations on legislative, regional and presidential elections, he added, were part of the efforts of political parties to retain power.

The newly enacted presidential election law, which requires a party or coalition of parties to win a minimum 20 percent of House seats or 25 percent of popular votes to be eligible to nominate a candidate, is also a breach of the Constitution, he said.

"This number is too high. The higher the nomination threshold, the more reclusive the system. Only a hand full of candidates who are strongly supported by their parties will gain the advantage.

"How can we hope for changes if it so difficult to be nominated?"

The argument used by legislators that a higher nomination threshold increases efficiency is baseless and threatens candidate legitimacy, Hadar said.

"Having two rounds in the election will definitely help produce a more legitimate president. Trying to push it to one round is a big mistake. Besides, not being democratic, it also breaches the Constitution."

The mechanism to decide elected candidates in the legislative elections based on a ranking system, Hadar said, was inconsistent with the open list system mandated by the law on legislative elections, which stipulates that a candidate will be more likely to win a House seat if he gains more popular votes.

"The open list system implies that people should have a greater chance of deciding their representatives while political parties can only decide candidates."

However, the law also stipulates that if no candidate nominated by a party attains 30 percent of popular votes, the party's highest ranked nominee will win the seat.

"This is not fair because the candidate at the bottom of the list might win more votes than the ones at the top. This means that parties still have the power to decide rather than the people."

Hadar said this flaw would spark conflicts between the candidates and in turn affect how the elected lawmakers are promulgated.

Although laws and regulations on elections have their specific flaws, Hadar said, the biggest challenge facing the integrity of the elections process was the public's lack of civic knowledge.

"We need to educate people so that they are knowledgeable and aware, to nurture democratic values and to empower them with the skills required to solve problems with society."

He added the many violent conflicts that have taken place during previous elections in many regions was evidence of a lack of democratic values among the public.

"They didn't know how to deal with problem in a non-violent way," he said, adding that although the success of the elections depended on many factors, none was more important than the role of the General Elections Commission (KPU).

"If KPU can do its job well, in line with the existing regulations, and be independent and professional, they will crush all opportunities for violations."

Hadar said the KPU was restricted by its dependence on its budget allocation from the government, which had resulted in many delays in electoral procedures.

"It's like one of their hands has been tied behind their back so they have to work with one hand."

He lamented the KPU for not publishing its rules and regulations with the public.

With the April 9 legislative elections drawing nearer, Hadar said the KPU would not make any progress in the next three months.

"I have a feeling the legislative elections will be a total mess if the KPU doesn't change the way they operate from now on."

Baswedan laments election law

Mon, 11/10/2008 11:09 AM | People

JP/Matheos V. MessakhJP/Matheos V. Messakh

JAKARTA: Academic Anies R. Baswedan is not happy. He claims that the newly enacted law on presidential elections, which makes it tougher to nominate a candidate, shows that major political parties are still trying to maintain their grip on the country.

"It's wouldn't be a big problem if the country's political parties had served as good vehicles for political recruitment. But we know from many regional elections that they're not," he said.

Anies was included on the U.S. based Foreign Policy magazine's prestigious list of 100 top world public intellectuals, published in its May-June edition. He shares the company of global pundits including Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama and Nobel laureates Al Gore and Muhammad Yunus.

The new law on presidential elections requires a party or a coalition of parties to win at least 20 percent of seats in the House of Representatives or 25 percent of the popular vote to be eligible to nominate a candidate.

The Paramadina University rector, who is the country's youngest university rector, said the country should allow greater opportunities for the emergence of new candidates. "The country needs new reformers," he said. -- JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Suhartono: Taking pencak silat overseas

Matheos Viktor Messakh , for The Jakarta Post , Nusa Dua, Bali | Wed, 11/05/2008 10:31 AM | People

Indonesia suffered a setback when pencak silat champion Diyan Kristianto was injured while fighting Brunei Darussalam's Amirul Ahati during the recent Bali Asian Beach Games.

Ironically, the man who brought the Bruneian competitor to the point where he could vanquish a master of Indonesia's home grown sport is himself Indonesian.

Suhartono, a former Indonesian pencak silat champion himself, began his journey to international prominence in 1995, when Vietnam asked the Indonesian Pencak Silat Federation (IPSI) to help them find a coach for their pencak silat team.

Suhartono, who at the time was helping Jakarta's team prepare for the 1996 National Games as head coach, said he initially refused the offer.

"I asked them to look for another coach, because I was preparing the team for the national games. I said I would only go if they didn't find anyone else. It turned out they couldn't, so I had to go, because I had promised," Suhartono said.

The father of two took coaching the Vietnamese athletes very seriously.

"The Vietnamese are a spirited people. They took learning silat maneuvers seriously. Their country's dedication to the sport helps silat's development," he said.

Suhartono helped Vietnam reach the top of international competition. Vietnam first demonstrated their new-found abilities at the 1999 Southeast Asian Games in Bandar Seri Begawan, where they earned three gold medals, three silver and two bronze. Indonesia, however, dominated the games with five gold medals.

At the 2001 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, the Vietnamese got revenge, defeating Indonesia. Suhartono's athletes brought home seven gold medals, three silver and two bronze. Indonesia won five golds, followed by Malaysia with three.

The achievement was repeated when Vietnam hosted the 2003 SEA Games. The hosts swept the games with seven golds, while Indonesia only brought home five.

In 1999 Suhartono's success in coaching the Vietnamese athletes bought him the prestigious honorable star medallion class III, an award bestowed on him by Vietnam's then president Tran Duc Luong.

Suhartono also received the Huan Chuong VI Su Nghiep The Duc The Thao award from Vietnam's National Olympics Committee.

After his success in coaching Vietnam's silat team, the Philippines' government asked him to train its athletes -- he accepted the challenge.

When coaching the Philippines team, Suhartono had an uncomfortable experience, caught between his team members and Philippines' intelligence agents. Three months before the 2005 SEA Games, at the French Open, the Philippines team won six gold medals and became the general champion, but six out of the 10 athletes refused to return to their home country.

Suhartono had to ask for help from the president of the International Pencak Silat Association (Persilat), Edi Nalapraya, to stop his interrogation.

Suhartono persevered, and prepared the four remaining team members for the 2005 SEA Games; they won one gold and two silver medals. But, his former team, Vietnam emerged as general champion, with seven gold medals. Indonesia followed with five gold medals.

After handling the Filipino athletes, Suhartono returned to Vietnam for a year to train the country's junior athletes before being asked by Thailand's Olympics Committee to train their team.

Seven months of training with Suhartono led the Thais to victory in the 2007 SEA Games with four gold, one silver and five bronze medals. Indonesia won five gold medals, while Vietnam won three.

In April 2007, Brunei's Olympics committee asked the master to handle their athletes until 2010. Suhartono said he might stay in Brunei for the next five years.

"It's a process. Within the first two years of my time in Vietnam for example, we could only win two gold medals in a world championship," Suhartono said.

In all his time coaching overseas teams, he faced a dilemma, knowing that he was sharing the knowledge and skill of his home land with its rivals.

But, standing on a base of professionalism, his strong will to develop the sport kept him focused.

"Many questions were raised concerning my nationalism, but I have to say that my goal is to develop silat around the world, so that Indonesian's traditional sport can be known everywhere.

"My calling is to prove my professionalism. It's not a question of nationalism. I will be ready at any time if Indonesia needs me," said the man, who returned to Indonesia to train the Bali team for the July National Games.

Suhartono says the key to his coaching success is research.

"A coach is not merely responsible for coaching but should become a researcher too. He should be up to date on the various techniques and know what to expect from a rival team," he said.

"Through this method a coach can combine techniques or even develop new ones," said Suhartono.

Suhartono is currently preparing a book on the development of pencak silat techniques throughout history, as well as a video on the fighting techniques.

The man, who began learning pencak silat when he was just 10 years-old, said he explored other martial arts, such as boxing and karate, to combine their techniques with traditional Malay martial art techniques.

To explore pencak silat techniques further he had to learn how to use computer visualization programs.

Before leaving for Vietnam, Suhartono modeled for an illustrated book on fighting techniques, prepared by IPSI's research and development division, in collaboration with the ministry of education. However, the book was never published.

"After the head of IPSI's research and development division died, nobody paid the project any attention and I was already abroad. What I taught abroad is actually the content of the book," said Suhartono.

English may also be one of the 51-year-old coach's keys to success.

Before forging his path as a professional pencak silat coach, Suhartono worked as a salesman of nuclear laboratory equipment, which gave him the opportunity to learn English.

"One of my advantages as a coach is my language skills, many coaches have problems communicating with foreign athletes," he said.

Suhartono said that the many perguruan (schools of pencak silat), each with its own stances, hampers the sports development.

With more than 800 perguruans, he said it would be hard to combine techniques and tricks -- especially if each perguruan was unwilling to cooperate.

"The problem with Indonesia is we have many systems but no willingness to sit together and evaluate the techniques and tricks or come up with new techniques to win fights".

He also cited the bad relationship between IPSI's leaders as an impediment to pencak silats development in the country.

"There is an unharmonious relationship among the leaders. Everybody should be at peace with each other to make good decisions for the development of pencak silat".

He urged them to come up with up to date techniques and work hard on research and development in order to win.

"A coach is not only a physical trainer but a technical and tricks trainer. Someone may be big and have great power, but without the right techniques and tricks he will lose easily".

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