Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Marwah Daud Ibrahim: Tipping the balance of power

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Wed, 02/11/2009 10:33 AM | People

Marwah Daud: Courtesy of Marwah DaudMarwah Daud: Courtesy of Marwah Daud

Plenty of people, especially politicians, talk about inequality in Indonesian politics, but only a few can walk the walk.

Lawmaker Marwah Daud Ibrahim is not just walking it, but marching.

“My main concern as a politician is how to make people confident and believe that this nation is a big nation,” she says. “We are a great nation but we feel small; we are a rich country but we feel poor. It’s not enough to say that our inferiority comes from colonialism. As a nation we aren’t united in our dreams, ideals and aspirations.”

In 1994, after school dropout rates hit new highs, Marwah founded the Orbit Scholarship Foundation. In 1995, when people were rashly cutting down forests, she promoted the idea of establishing an “agropolitan” – an agriculture-based village of unemployed graduates – at the logging site in Bukit Sutra, South Sulawesi.

During the political upheaval of 1998, she was quietly visiting remote areas promoting the supply of energy and food based on local advantages.

Since 1996, she has been out and about in the country’s east, which tends to lag behind the west, visiting remote islands, and talking to people about how they can succeed. She also has traveled to educate women’s groups.

And in a political sphere dominated by men, Marwah is deeply involved in the fight for raising the number of women in parliament.

“We should be equal as a nation, regardless of our backgrounds. This is the first thing any leader must do.”

Marwah has always been positive about life and she wants to share that energy with others.
“God gives every one of us our potential and also provides all the chances. The success of this nation is the accumulation of the success of every single person in the country,” she says.

Thanks to her many contributions, Marwah was chosen on Nov. 5, 2008, by the Nation Integrity Council (DIB), a group of eight organizations, to run for president. Last year she was also chosen by the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) as one of the nation’s inspiring women.

She has since declared she will run for the presidency with or without the support of her party, Golkar. She has a dream for the country, which she hopes to share with all her fellow citizens: “Nusantara Jaya 2045” – a vision of Indonesia in 2045, leading not just Asia, but the world.

“A dream or vision is something between belief and hope,” she says. “You can get what you want if you have belief and hope as well as determination. God gives us the ability to dream and if you really do what you need to do, you can get what you want.”

Her own story demonstrates how she has lived this creed.

Marwah was born in Takkalala in South Sulawesi on Nov. 8, 1956, the second of eight children. From an early age, she demonstrated great academic prowess; while at school she dreamed of traveling the world, and developed an admiration for Benjamin Franklin because of his many contributions to history.

After graduating from high school with flying colors, Marwah decided to study communications at university, despite her family’s lack of money. She put herself through university thanks to a “Work Study Program” and then a scholarship.

When she later had the chance to go to the University of Pennsylvania to do a nondegree course, she decided not to return to Indonesia before finishing her doctorate, despite having funding for only one semester.

“When I first attended a class [in the United States], I knew this was the education system I needed. You already know that if you want achieve certain goals, you have to do certain things. We don’t have that in Indonesia.”

Through a combination of hard work, support from friends, scholarships and sheer determination, Marwah managed to get in the States both a master’s – after which she married Ibrahim Taju, her former colleague and activist – and a doctorate degree – the latter despite bearing two children and working two jobs at the same time.

The key to her success, she says, is not a brilliant mind but planning.

“I’m only being diligent and using my time systematically. Preparation makes perfect,” says Marwah. “My father said that if you want to wake up at a certain time just tell yourself and if necessary tell the pillow. Even now I always wake up early and never use an alarm clock.”

In 1989, several colleagues asked Marwah to become a candidate for the Golkar Party. Finally, she turned to politics in 1992 when she was elected as a lawmaker, a position she has held ever since.

Now, she wants to run for president to help advance the nation.

“It’s not about the position but about the authority to do more for the people. Many things I have done still have a limited impact. I imagine this can become a national program. Everybody is talking about poverty, but there are differences in how to go about it.”

Rihanna pulls yet another no-show for RI fans

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Wed, 02/11/2009 9:08 AM | Headlines

Rihanna: AP/KEVORK DJANSEZIANRihanna: AP/KEVORK DJANSEZIAN

After two days of speculation, fans in Indonesia had to swallow the bitter truth that pop superstar Rihanna had cancelled her concert here for the second time, following reports that she had accused longtime boyfriend Chris Brown of assault.

Promoter ShowMaster told a press conference late Tuesday that it had held a teleconference with Rihanna’s management to confirm the cancellation.

“We spoke to Tony Goldring of the William Morris Agency [WMA] on Monday at 11:50 p.m. [Jakarta time],” said promoter Troy Reza Warokka.

“The main cause of the cancellation was related to Sunday night’s incident.

“What happened to Rihanna could happen to anybody else. The incident was unexpected.”

Brown had been slated to perform at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday night, but was instead processed by the police on a charge connected to an alleged assault on a woman, reportedly identified as his girlfriend Rihanna, the 21-year-old pop princess.

Both Rihanna and Brown pulled out of the Grammys hours before Sunday’s telecast.
The Los Angeles Times, citing law enforcement officials close to the case and other sources it did not name, reported that Rihanna told police that Brown had hurt her the night before the Grammy Awards.

Rihanna, a Barbados-born singer, stormed the international music charts and radio playlists with her single “Umbrella”. Her other popular hits include “Take A Bow”, “S.O.S”, “Don’t Stop the Music” and “Disturbia”.

Troy said disappointed fans could reclaim their money at ticket boxes from Thursday.

“We are very disappointed [with the cancellation] but that’s a business consequence,” he said.
Troy said that Rihanna’s management, through WMA vice president of business affairs Ruth Estrada, had offered “to reschedule the performance for the future”.

“That’s their offer, but we must first evaluate it,” he said.

Cell phone operator AXIS, the main sponsor of the concert, said in a press statement, “Regretfully, AXIS has to announce that Rihanna Live in Concert, which was slated for Thursday, has to be postponed for the second time.”

Rihanna had been scheduled to perform in Jakarta on Nov. 14, 2008. But the Grammy-award winning singer called off the show over security fears after the Australian government issued a travel warning for Indonesia following the executions of the three Bali bombers.

Despite higher ticket prices, fans were still enthusiastic to grab them. The organizers had set the lowest ticket price, for Festival class, at Rp 1.25 million (US$ 112) each, higher than November’s Rp 750,000. The prices for the Tribune and VIP classes remained unchanged from last year’s Rp 2 million and Rp 2.5 million, respectively.

On Feb. 13, Rihanna also cancelled her concert in Kuala Lumpur.

Her planned concert there drew negative publicity after organizers said she would shun skimpy outfits to conform with the Muslim-majority country’s strict rules on performers’ dress.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Creativity can restore the lost soul in Indonesian journalism

Mon, 02/09/2009 5:12 PM | Headlines

Journalism today isn't what it used to be 50 or 60 years ago, and the one element that is sorely missing is its soul, says Rosihan Anwar, Indonesia's longest serving and living journalist. At 87, Rosihan was present and was reporting almost all the important turns in the modern history of Indonesia, going back as far as the independence struggle against Dutch colonialism in the late 1940s. During his career that spanned more than six decades, he has had several brushes with the law with different regimes and spent time behind bars because of his work. Still writing prolifically for several publications (I need the money, he says), Rosihan talked to The Jakarta Post's Sabam Siagian, Endy M. Bayuni and Matheos V. Messakh at his home in Menteng, Central Jakarta, in connection with National Press Day, which falls on Monday.

The Jakarta Post: How has journalism changed compared to when you started?

Rosihan Anwar: In those days, we saw ourselves as the fighting press. Now, we have a capitalist press, one dominated by big money. The family-owned newspapers that proliferated in the 1940s as part of the independence struggle are mostly gone. The few that are still around live a subsistence life, or have merged with big companies.

Can journalists do anything about it?

You can't fight the big money.

How would you characterize the fighting press?

In those days, there was solidarity among journalists, even when we competed against one another. Today, that element is missing. Journalists from the established media don't care about the fate of colleagues in other publications. Everyone is for himself. I am not being nostalgic, but in newspapers that I started, my salary as editor-in-chief was not that much more from my deputy. The spirit of socialism was there.

But didn't you have your differences with other prominent journalists then?

I was constantly fighting with B.M. Diah *founder of family-owned Merdeka daily*. I enjoyed fighting with him. But in spite of our differences, we remained true friends. We would use expletives to insult one another when we were angry, but never to the point of breaking up our friendship. The same with Mochtar Lubis. We had our political fights then, but we stayed friends to his death.

What else is missing in today's journalism?

Traditionally, the press sees itself as fighting for the interests of the oppressed, the marginalized, and in those days, we risked being sent into exile or jail. We tried to pay attention to the interests of the people.

You don't think that still exists today?

Sure, it's there. The press, for example, covered how the floods affected the people, and helped to raise the government's attention. But the press would drop the story after a few days before the problem is resolved and move on to the next story. It's the same with print and with broadcast media.

So the press has the responsibility to make sure that problems are resolved?

It's what I call the crusading press. The press has a duty to the public. You should go beyond the news.

Instead, we see a market press, one that caters to the market, and one that engages in sensationalism. Publications are more segmented into sections, one for fashion, one for sports and so on. That's tabloid journalism. When you cater to the market, you cater to the lowest taste.

So what can journalists really do?

Don't blame the journalists. They are products of the time. The key is in the hands of publishers and the editorial boards. But as long as journalism is concerned only with profit, it is losing its soul.

There are too many interest groups to cater to. That's what you get in a liberal capitalist system. The media is dictated by circulation and ratings.

How do journalists then stay relevant in this kind of environment?

Journalists must make sure they have bargaining power. At the French newspaper Le Monde, for instance, the editors could tell the publisher to stay away. "Don't touch the story," they would tell the publisher.

Journalists need to be creative and find opportunities to stay relevant.

I don't think you need to be too pessimistic about your job. But you need to be creative, and in crusading journalism, you need to be prepared to make sacrifices.

What about the environment, there is press freedom in Indonesia, right?

Our freedom is still being constrained, not so much by the government as in the past, but by pressure groups. Those thugs in white robes, for example. They are scandalous.

We need to have a free and independent press for our nation-building process. The Indian model of development, for instance, is based upon democracy, where a free press is essential. The Indian model is messy, chaotic and almost unplanned, but as the saying goes, the economy continues to grow while the government sleeps.

We must fight for the freedom of the press.

So it's not all a lost cause working as a journalist in Indonesia?

No. Realistically, profit is important. But surely as a human being, you still have your conscience, and that at times you feel the need to respond whenever you hear a cry of despair.

Rosihan Anwar: The last Mohican of Indonesian journalists

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Mon, 02/09/2009 10:08 AM | People

JP/Ricky YudhistiraJP/Ricky Yudhistira

Sharp, bright and straightforward are three words that best describe legendary journalist Rosihan Anwar.

At 87, the man known as “the last of the Mohicans of Indonesian journalism” still regularly writes columns for several national media, such as the Cek&Ricek tabloid, the Waspada newspaper and the Business News newspaper or Jawa Pos.

“I will continue to write until I drop dead,” he told The Jakarta Post, laughing at his modest home in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Citing his best friend Mochtar Lubis, who suffered from Alzheimers during his final years, Rosihan said the main reason he wanted to write was to prevent senility.

He also writes for his life.

“I have to write because there is no social welfare in this damned country. I have no pension so I have to write,” said the author of more than 40 books. The last book he authored was Petite Histoire Indonesia, on Indonesian history.

In his study room, he wrote all his articles using his 40-year-old Facit 1620 typewriter. A small bed is nearby, a place is where he would lay down when he tired.

Writing did make him sharp. Smoothly, he could rehearse the contents of a book he read during high school, such as Stefan Sweig’s Marie Antoinette, one of his favorites.

Rosihan was born on May 10, 1922 in Kubang Nan Dua, West Sumatra. His father, Anwar Maharaja Sutan, was a Demang, or a prominent local leader in Padang, West Sumatra.

He finished his studies at the Dutch elementary school for natives or Holland Inlandesche School (HIS) in 1935 and the Dutch colonial secondary school or Meer Uitgebreid Lager Onderwijs (MULO) in 1939, both in Padang.

He continued his education at the prestigious Dutch colonial high school or Algemeene Middelbare School (AMS) in 1942 in Yogyakarta.

Rosihan stayed at his teacher, Tjan Tjoe Siem’s, house where he had the opportunity to read Siem’s collection of books.

His style of writing, he admitted, was influenced by Austrian writer Stefan Sweig, which displays a broad knowledge of many historical figures and is very well-written.

Rosihan said he became a journalist by accident in April 1943 when he joined Asia Raya, the only newspaper allowed to be circulated by the Japanese military during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia.

At that time, he had passed a test to become a prosecutor, but he needed money as his parents did not provide him with financial assistance.

“It never crossed my mind to become a journalist. When I finished high school, I wanted to go to the Netherlands to study philology. However, fate brought me to journalism,” said the man who speaks many foreign languages.

On Oct. 1, 1945, Rosihan became an editor of the Merdeka daily newspaper, but because of a conflict with B.M. Diah, he quit the paper on Oct. 7, 1947. He later founded the Siasat magazine on Jan. 1, 1947 and became the chief editor until the magazine died in 1957.

In 1948 he also founded the Pedoman newspaper and became its chief editor until former president Sukarno forcibly closed the newspaper in 1961, and later president Soeharto did the same in 1974 for its criticism of the authoritarian regime.

Rosihan married Siti Zuraida Sanawi on April 25, 1947. He met Siti Zuraida at the Asia Raya newspaper and they have two daughters, one son, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

The man, who was regarded by former president Sukarno as “a good boy” in terms of his attitude toward women, said he never questioned the judgment of his wife.

“When former president Soeharto appointed me ambassador to Vietnam, she said there was no point going there while our children stayed in Indonesia. I refused the appointment, which made Soeharto angry.”

As a journalist who has lived through the Dutch colonial period, the Japanese occupation, and independence, Rosihan has had many experiences a journalist can be proud of.

He was there during the Nov. 10, 1945, battle in Surabaya and witnessed other battles during the revolution.

He covered numerous events such as parliamentary meetings during the revolution, negotiations between Indonesian delegations and the Netherlands, the early trips of former president Sukarno and vice president Mohammad Hatta as well as attending the Malino Conference in Malino, South Sulawesi.

“I thank God that I was present at every crisis in Indonesian history,” he said.

He also had experience as a correspondent for several foreign media publications, including Australia’s The Age, the Hindustan Times in New Delhi, London-based news agency World Forum Features, and the Asian weekly in Hong Kong (1967-1971).

From 1976 to 1985 he was a correspondent of Singapore’s The Straits, and the New Straits Times in Kuala Lumpur. The two newspapers only terminated his service because he was already 63 years old.

Old journalists never die; they only fade away. Rosihan Anwar is one of them.

Developing failure?

Sat, 02/07/2009 1:06 PM | Lifestyle
With apartments sprouting up across the city, Jakarta could soon be more crowded than ever.
Urban planner from Trisakti University, Yayat Supriatna, said the likelihood of problems represents a failure on the part of the government to provide better housing for people.
Living in the suburbs, he said, became very costly for many who work in the city, making people go back to the city.
For for those who are less fortunate, the only way to get around is to rely on public transportation, no matter the problems.
"In the 1970s and 1980s the Jakarta's middle class flocked to the suburbs like Pondok Indah, Bekasi and Depok, but now it's becoming so difficult to live in the suburbs. It creates many problems, especially with access to workplaces. So beginingg in the late 1990s there has been a trend of people moving back to the city," Yayat Supriatna said.
"People just don't need a neighborhood anymore, as long as they can pay for what they think is efficient in terms of distance, time, cost and choice fits what they need."
Developers saw the opportunity and have favored the 'superblock' approach. A superblock is a vertical complex complete with supporting facilities, including shops and offices.
Due to land speculation, which was not anticipated by the government, up to 60,000 hectare of land reserved for housing around the greater Jakarta has been bought by developers. This shows that the government has not done its job to provide affordable housing, Yayat said.
To build a house in Jakarta is nearly as expensive as to buy an apartment.
"How can we be able to buy a house at an affordable price if all the land is owned by developers, building materials cost are high and the tax burden falls on the buyer?"
All these problems, he said, have made housing not just a mere social matter but a capital or investment matter.
"Only if the government acts quite extremely and buys back land to provide houses for people we will be able to find affordable housing prices."
He said that, the government's low cost apartment projects (Rusunami), are build on state-owned land, meaning that the government has no ability to provide land for housing except from what they already own.
The choice to build many high rise and luxury apartments also makes many people worry that it is a heavy burden will be put on the environment and create social problems.
"The biggest question is where does the water supply come from? I doubt they will only rely on the water company PDAM. If they use ground water, how much will they use?"
Beside environmental damage, there are concerns about emergency preparedness incase of a disaster and social control among the occupants of apartments.
Supriatna said that the development of apartments and condominiums by big business has gotten out of control.
"What we really need is to provide the informal sector with a subsidy so that they can provide themselves with affordable housing.
"The government is not the developer. They are supposed to only provide an attractive climate for the property business. If they lose control over the property business, only a certain class of people can afford proper housing."--JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Changing skyline Time to get back to the city?

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 02/07/2009 1:06 PM | Lifestyle
In between: A man reads ads for apartments during a property expo in Jakarta. (JP/ Ricky Yudhistira)In between: A man reads ads for apartments during a property expo in Jakarta. (JP/ Ricky Yudhistira)
Jakarta's skyline is changing. Many billboards advertise great apartments - smartly themed they sell ideas of romantic rhythms to tropical paradises. In five years time, will the skyline be full of glittering towers?
Probably. But many simply do not care about the affect this will have on the city's worsening traffic and environment.
Novita Imelda finds living in apartment suits her needs.
She actually bought a house in a township in Tangerang back in 1999 but when she got married six years later, they bought an apartment in Central Jakarta as it was closer to their places of work.
She said that before buying the apartment she and her husband used to spend two to three hours a day traveling back and forth between their working places in Sudirman in Central Jakarta and Slipi in West Jakarta.
"Now it only takes 15 minutes for me and five minutes for my husband to get to work," said the mother of one, brimming with joy.
The young family found living in apartment more practical, efficient and safe, although it costs them more than buying a house. They first bought a studio and when the baby came, they bought a three-bedroom apartment.
"Of course it's more expensive. with the same price, we could buy a good house," Novita said. "But an apartment is more practical and easier to maintain."
Home sweet home: Two women checkout the interior design of an upscale apartment in Sudirman area, Central Jakarta (JP/ P.J. Leo)Home sweet home: Two women checkout the interior design of an upscale apartment in Sudirman area, Central Jakarta (JP/ P.J. Leo)
In the past, many people shied away from staying in high-rise buildings, preferring to live in houses.
But with bad traffic and the cost of building or buying a house continuing to escalate, people have started to change their minds and reconsider their options.
In the last few years, more and more people, mostly professionals and executives, cannot resist the temptation of living closer to their workplaces - enabling them to escape being trapped for hours in traffic, spend quality time with their loved ones or simply enjoy more "me time".
"People are willing to pay more as long as they get what they want, especially for those with a good career.," Evi Susanti, Associate Director of PT Procon Indah, a Jakarta-based property consultancy, said
Over the past three years, more apartments are being built for the middle- and lower-income segments with the price tags are between Rp 200 and Rp 400 million.
For those who prefer to rent, the prices range from Rp 2 million up to Rp 5 million per month.
The hassle of endless traffic jams has seen the construction of many apartment buildings close to prime business districts.
"They never build far away from Jl. Sudirman, Jl. Rasuna Said, Jl. Thamrin or Jl. Gatot Subroto. These are where the concentration of the projects have been within the last five years."
Data from Procon shows that from 2004 to mid 2007, the number of apartments has grown by 60.4 percent, as demand grew by 67.8 percent.
Procon's market review showed that in the fourth quarter of 2008, the cumulative supply for condominiums in Jakarta reached 65, 260 units, with an annual availability of 8,400.
Although analysts anticipate that, due to the current global financial crisis, the property business will be sluggish within the next two years, but insist that property is a safe investment, as there is stable demand from the upper-middle class for property in strategic locations.
Beside the distance to workplaces, Procon's latest research shows that the size and number of bedrooms, facilities offered, the architecture style and payment scheme on an apartment are also top considerations.
Almost 50 percent of residents own their apartment at use it as their first house, up to 20 percent use their apartment as their second house or a house for their extended family members and more than 30 percent rented them.
Despite the crisis, developers are still frantically trying to come up with seductive marketing strategies including offering flexibility of payment terms.
"Attractive payment schemes are one of the reasons why many executives and professionals are willing to buy an apartment rather than renting a room or a house.," Evi said.
Before interest rates increased in October last year, most buyers used bank loans to buy but the crisis has made many developers change their strategy, offering blunt payments to accommodate the demand of market.
"After October 2008, we advised our clients to reshape their payment schemes. Smart developers are usually responsive to market need or nobody will buy."
The relatively steady prospects for property investments attract the buyers who just want to use their apartment as a rental property.
"Buying a house outside the city will take a long time to sell back for profit. It might be sold at a loss if you're in hurry, but buying an apartment and selling it back in four or five years, you might gain more than 50 percent in profit."
With such a picture in mind, returning back to the city might seem like a good choice.

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