The Southeast Asian Times
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What they're saying
around the region.


US couple keep their word and miss court verdict
Malaysia high court judge See Mee Chun dismissed a suit filed by an American couple against the Perak Islamic Religious authority this week.
The couple, Randal K. Barnhart, 67, and his wife Carole Joanne, 66, had sought compensation of ringgit 4,315 and costs after the Islamic religious authority raided their hotel room five years ago.
Then the Perak Islamic Religious authority believed that a ‘sinful act’ was in progress in the Langkawi resort island hotel suit where the American couple were asleep in the early hours of the morning
If the authority was not allowed to inspect hotels, unmarried Muslim couples would take the opportunity to commit sins there without any fear or conscience, said the then director of the Religious authority after the raid on October, 14 2006.
The Americans who were not 'an unmarried Muslim couple' were at the hotel island resort because they were planning to retire in Malaysia under Malaysia’s second home plan.
They changed their mind about living in Malaysia there and then and said that they would sue the Islamic Religious authority.
The Americans left Malaysia the day of the raid and vowed never to return.
And true to their word they did not appear in court to hear the judge dismiss the compensation claim which included the cost of a one way air ticket from Malaysia to the US the day after the Islamic Religious Authority raided their hotel suite.

The Southeast Asian Times, 1 November 2013



The Bali cowboy saves the last dance for Shapelle Corby


What does the Gambah-dancing Bali cowboy do when his use-by-date comes around, tourist arrivals drop and it's harder to please the dwindling number of women who travel alone to this paradise island in search of pleasure?
What does the old gigolo who cannot bring himself to flash a shit eater’s grin - as required of a waiter at a five-star Kuta beach hotel - do when he has to compete with younger Gambah-dancing cowboys for the attention of the discerning tourist?
What does the middle-aged Bali cowboy do when he has been jilted by the left-over American hippy he met at a Bali “love in” and who promised to send him dollars and come back for him but never did?
What does the redundant Bali cowboy do when he finds that the squillions of dollars that have been spent in Bali by the squillions of tourists since the first tourist left a footprint on Kuta Beach about half a century ago have passed him by?.
There is no place on the beach for the Bali cowboy to watch the sunset and fly a kite when he retires.
What does the Bali cowboy do when someone from Hong Kong steals the traditional Balinese motifs that were used in the making of silver jewelry, patents them in Hong Kong and then threatens to sue the Bali artists who created them if they use them ever again?
What does the Bali cowboy do when he finds that the rice fields are gone?
Green turf, golf balls, golf buggies and bungalows have displaced thousands of Balinese and driven the Gambah dancers to Kuta.
The old cowboy had no where to go when he realised that all he had been taught to do was the Gambah dance; that his fingernails were too long to work in the paddy fields and that his days as a gigolo were numbered.
But the middle-aged Balinese was a product of his economic environment and it did not take him long to come up with a money making scheme that would last until Shapelle Corby walked free from Kerobokan prison or was carried out for a Bali funeral ceremony.
The unemployable gigolo became a tour guide as you do if you are a Balinese who does not want to be a waiter, whose heart was broken by an American love child who espoused love not war, who as much as he tried could not earn enough rupiah to buy a Bali bungalow, whose signature motif has been stolen, whose rice field is now a golf course and last but not least who could dance the Gambah.
The Gambah-dancing Bali cowboy came up with the tour of all Bali tours.
He called it the Schapelle Corby tour
The Bali cowboy said that he would pick you up from your hotel himself and drive you to Kerobokan Prison where you could have your photo taken with Schapelle Corby.
The old Bali cowboy said that he would provide chairs outside Shapelle's cell on an all- day tour so that the tourist could sit and talk to Schapelle throughout the day.
The Gumbah-dancing cowboy said that food and gifts but no gunja could be given to Shapelle but that it would have to be first checked by the prison guards.
This tour of all Bali tours is to cost a mere $10 Australian.
The Southeast Asian Times, August 2010


Lightning again strikes Singapore

Two lightning strikes on Singapore Island in less than two years proves wrong the old saying that lightning never strikes the same place twice.
The first strike struck Singapore’s national icon the Merlion in March last year and the second the Singapore flyer - touted as the worlds biggest Ferris wheel - last week.
The 200 passengers aboard were uninjured as were the tourists on the Singapore rivers edge where the half fish half lion Merlion was struck last year.
Lightning conductors were fitted to both the Ferris wheel and the eight-metre-tall statue of the Merlion but failed to stop the strike.
Both lightning strikes on the about 650 square kilometre island were read as a sign from the heavens and open to immediate interpretation.
The strike on the Merlion that left a hole in the lion’s head was read as a warning to the Peoples Action Party about their economic growth-at-any -cost ambitions.
Singaporeans said that they had to compete with imported labour to earn S$400 a month as cleaners and that the Peoples Action Party led by the Lees was “prostituting” Singapore to “foreigners.”
A similiar interpretation was made of the lightning strike on the Ferris wheel last week.
Wake up people! This is a warning from above that we need to change, said a Singaporean
Another asked - in light of the lightning strike on the tourist carrying Ferris wheel - if Singapore should be selling itself as a tourist destination.
“Are you sure we can market ourselves as a tourist stop?” asked the Singaporean.
Maybe a sex stop or gambling stop after all a quarter of the visitors to Singapore were prostitutes working on social visit passes. A quarter were clients of the prostitutes. A quarter were relatives of the foreigners who are working in Singapore on social visit visas. Only about one twentieth of the final quarter are genuine tourists said the know it all Singaporean.
The Southeast Asian Times, July 2010


Singapore: From Camelot to Alcatraz
T
he Straits Times has revealed that more than half of 628 Singaporeans asked if they were happy living in Singapore
replied no.
Only 138 asked the question said yes they were happy in Camelot-like Singapore while 87 would not commit themselves to a yes or no and said “maybe.”
A further 29 were not sure if they were happy or unhappy about living in Singapore.
Why 374 were decidedly not happy about living on a tropical island in the cleanest city in Southeast Asia and on the same island as novelist Catherine Lim was a question not included in the survey.
Would the unhappy Singaporeans be happy if they were allowed to run “amok” in Orchard road like the Thais did in Silom Road Bangkok was also a question that was not asked.
The just-opened resort casino has not made this unhappy lot of Singaporeans happy either.
Nor have thousands of Indonesian and Philippine maids that have been imported to clean and look after husbands and children at slave-driver prices brought happiness.
The unhappy Singaporeans on this growth-driven island were also not asked this personal question: Are you a bankrupt?
The answer yes could well account for the disproportionate number of unhappy Singaporeans as revealed by the survey.
Bankrupts are by law not allowed to leave the island without the State’s permission.
The rise in the number of bankrupts who have breached the Singapore Bankruptcy Act by attempting to escape - from what to the bankrupt has become Alcatraz- is the highest in the three years that such attempts have been recorded.
The at least one-a-day recorded attempted escape is due to the newly- established cooperation between Singapore’s Insolvency and Public Trustee's Office and the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority.
The crosschecking between the two Singapore government agencies has thwarted the efforts of declared bankrupts to abscond by land, sea or air and has added to their unhappiness.
Declared bankrupts caught attempting to escape are liable to a fine of up to S$10,000 and or an imprisonment for up to two years.
If the 374 of the 628 Singaporeans surveyed are un-discharged bankrupts and confined to the island then it goes without saying that the unhappy Singaporeans answered the question “Are you happy living in Singapore?' truthfully.

The Southeast Asian Times, May 2010


April Fool's Day arrives early in Sidoarjo


President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s suggestion that the continuing mudflow at Sidoarjo, about 600 kilometres east of Jakarta, be made a tourist attraction coincided appropriately with April 1.
“With good layout and good concepts, we can turn this place into something useful for the community, whether as a geological tourist attraction, fishery or for other public activities," he said after a rare flying visit to the disaster earlier this week.
"If it’s managed well, I have confidence this will be an attractive place and bring good to the local community. We need to think of a long-term solution and development of the district for the interests of the larger community."
The Golkar Party’s Priyo Budi Santoso immediately endorsed the proposal.
“We can finally show the world that a scary area can be utilized as a beautiful area for tourism,” Golkar's told reporters at the House of Representatives in Jakarta.
Explorer Lapindo Brantas, a company affiliated with Golkar chairman and former People’s Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie and which scientists blame for the disaster that began in May 2006, would do its best to make the dream come true, he said.
Others believe that the only dream the thousands of villagers displaced by the mud flow want to come true is payment of the compensation that has been promised them and prosecution of the guilty.
Unfortunately, that is far more difficult than promoting a proposed Disneyland on a site where 12 villages have been buried; 13 people killed and more than 42,000 displaced.
The Indonesian Supreme Court ruled last year that there was no evidence to show the company was responsible, despite a collection of scientific evidence that shows otherwise.
The Southeast Asian Times, April 2010



Island-naming team runs aground

A national team led by the president himself and including several ministers established in 2007 to name Indonesia's 9,500 mostly uninhabited islands has hit a reef.
Three years later there are still 300 of the about 18,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago without a name.
The hiatus puts the status of the unnamed islands in deepwater.
East Nusa Tenggara provincial secretariat administrative officer Ricard Djami says the 300 islands will be wiped off the Indonesian map if agreement about their names is not reached in time to register them with the United Nations.
“Some residents want islands named after their ancestors but others want them named after animals,” he explained.
Naming the islands will legitimise territorial claims and that is why the East Nusa Tenggara provincial secretariat administrative officer has not given up on the islanders agreeing to names for the 300 islands.
A team from the provincial and regency administrations will be sent to mediate the names for the islands this month, said Ricard Djami.
The administrators believe neighbourhood fishermen could hoist a flag on an unnamed island and claim it for their country. The fear of losing sovereignty over the islands gave rise to calls for the deployment of military battalions to guard the islands in 2007 followed by calls late last year for a special allowance for the soldiers assigned to guard the islands.

The Southeast Asian Times, March 2010



The continuing 12th Asean decorative lamppost summit
Further to the 124 decorative lampposts that were supposed to be installed along the ceremonial routes that led to the Cebu International Convention Centre for the 12th Asean summit in January 2007.
You may remember that the Philippines Ombudsman ordered officials of the Public Works and Highways Department not to pay another peso for the decorative lamp posts immediately the summit ended.
By then the Department of Public Works and Highways had paid 85 percent of the amount shown on the invoice to the two contractors who supplied and installed the lampposts.
But the Ombudsman stopped payment of the outstanding balance when he saw that the made-in- China lampposts were marked up at well over 2000 percent and that at least 30 of the lampposts were installed in a holiday resort and not on the road leading to the summit where such important matters as the establishment of an Asean economic union had been discussed.
The public assistance and corruption prevention ombudsman office inspectors were still investigating the huge discrepancy between the cost price and the selling price of the lampposts a year after the Asean summit.
They revealed in 2008 that the actual amount paid by the Philippines Public Works and Highways Department for the supply and installation of the decorative lampposts was pesos 365 million or almost US$7.500.000.00.
That was enough for Associate Justice Francisco Villaruz Jr to direct the sheriff to arrest the regional director and the assistant regional director of the Public Works and Highways, the former Cebu Mayor and nine others in the Public Works and Highways Department.
The assistant director and chairman of Bids and Awards Committee, the officer in charge and assistant chief of the maintenance division and other members of the Bids and Awards committee were also to be arrested.
And so was the chairman of Construction and Development Corporation who was accused of violating the Philippine Republic Act 3019 in the alleged overpriced acquisition and installation of lamp posts and street light facilities for the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Asean, Summit held in Cebu in 2007.
But two years and three months after the summit that was to be remembered for the birth of the organisation’s charter rather than for the chicanery of the country’s Public Works and Highways Department and its Bids and Awards Committee has not brought the conviction of any of the above that in all included 21 officials and the two contractors any closer.
The latest development in the 12th Asean decorative lampposts summit is that the charges against one of the contractors have been dropped by the prosecution who said it had no case.
The lawyer for the second contractor is now asking the same for his client.
Apparently the dropping of the case is the fault of the Acting Deputy Ombudsman, Virginia Palanca-Santiago who has been accused of bias and prejidice against the two contractors.
It appears to follow that if there is no case to answer for the contractors then there will be no case to answer for the 21 officials who were also charged over the supply and installation of lampposts for the 12th Asean decorative lamppost summit of January 2007.
The Southeast Asian Times, May 2009


Advertisements between Tsunami's

Tourists relaxing on Phuket’s Patong beach were no doubt hoping that the proposal to use the Tsunami-warning-tower speakers for advertising was an April fool’s joke.
This desperate idea was thought up by a special committee appointed to come up with ideas to generate revenue in Phuket.
Its chairman, Boonterd Wattanatong, thinks the proposal to turn 19 Tsunami warning towers into transmitters for advertisements is brilliant even if the tourists do not.
He is amazed that no one thought of it earlier.
The Tsunami warning sirens can be heard over a radius of 1500 metres and this means that every tourist on the beach would hear advertisements for the promotion of Thai kick boxing, Patong discotheques, tailors, cinema and tattoo and massage parlours.
“This really is a win-win situation for everyone, because it doesn’t make much sense to have these expensive, high-tech towers just sitting there doing nothing all the time especially when they could be generating revenues for the province and customers for advertisers,” said the committee chairman.
Advertisers would be able to buy advertising time that will be blasted at tourists from seven in the morning to seven in the evening.
“All we care about is ensuring that the advertisements run all day without interruption, so that we maximize revenue for the province,” he said.
The Southeast Asian Times, April 2009



End of the road for tyre spikers
There will be less praying and swearing from motorcyclists on the roads of Indonesia and Viet Nam from this week but not so in Malaysia.
Fewer punctures will lessen the swearing in Jakarta where signs that warn motorcyclists to watch for nails have been erected along nail spiked roads.
The importune warnings were not erected by the Jakarta Transport agency as you might expect but by art students from the Jakarta National University.
The artists applied for a permit to erect the warning signs from the Jakarta Transport agency but were refused.
But they were determined to warn motorcyclists that the road was spiked and that the conveniently located tyre repair shop was there to make money from the nails scattered all over the road.
The tyres of the artists themselves had been flattened on the spiked roads and like everyone else with a puncture – they were relieved to find a tyre repair shop just a hundred metres away.
The artists posted their works of art on the nail spiked Jakarta roads under the guise of the Jakarta Biennal 2009 art festival.
This festival encourages artists to create works of art from life in the city streets.
The artists stuck the signs on lamposts along the spiked streets in the early hours of the morning while the tyre repairers slept.
The Jakarta police collected about a kilo of nails from these streets the next morning.

Viet Nam
There will be less swearing and sighs of relief in Viet Nam too because motorcyclists there will not have to pay to have their spiked tyres fixed at all.
As of last week a mobile motorbike service team will drive the highways of Ho Chi Minh City looking to fix tyres that have been punctured by nails deliberately scattered on the roads.
This team of former servicemen and volunteers, including unemployed youth, will co ordinate with the Ho Chi Minh City police in their effort.
The motorbike repair shop cannot make any money from the nail spiked tyres if the mobile motorbike service team fix the punctured tyres for free.
The mobile motorbike service teams should be given a medal or a merit certificate just like the one given to Vo Van De last November after he made the equivalent of a citizen’s arrest.
This highway hero caught a nail scatterer red handed, nabbed him and handed him over to the police and for his patriotic act was given a certificate of merit by the Dong Nai Provincial Peoples Committee.

Malaysia
But there will be more swearing and prayers from motorcyclists riding across the Penang Bridge, Malaysia, for a while yet.
The Penang Consumers Association says that it has warned the management of the bridge to do something about the nails that are scattered over the bridge road several times.
The association says that 442 motorcycles punctures were reported on the bridge in 2007 and that this increased to 520 in 2008 but the number is believed to be far higher.
The association says scattered nails punctured the tyres of 14 motorcycles in just one day last week.
The association wants the police to investigate the possible collusion between those who spike the bridge road and a nearby motorcycle repair shop.
It has also recommended that the bridge managers establish a tyre-repair patrol.
The Southeast Asian Times, March 2009


Japan Communist Party studies study tours
The amount of yen Tokyo metropolitan assembly members spent on so called study tours has at last been revealed by the Samurai-like Japan Communist Party.
The honourable members have calculated that almost 60 million yen has been spent during the last three years by members of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and the Komei Party for so called study tours of France, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Spain and New York.
The investigation of Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly expenditure revealed that each travelling assembly member spent more than three million yen a trip - much more than the national average cost of an overseas “study tour.”
The Japan Communist Party found that tax payer money was spent on business class seats on flights from Japan to France where the assembly members were supposed to study UNESCO listed World Heritage sites.
The assembly members hired limousines to travel for 12 hours to the heritage sites when they could have travelled the distance by train in two hours.
The investigation revealed that thousands of yen was spent on “tour conductors” who were paid to accompany the assembly members after dark.
But the revelation that the Tokyo metropolitan assembly members had squandered the money that was entrusted to the State by the city’s citizens was not all that the Japan Communist Party found.
It found that the assembly members, who were required to submit a report on their so called study tours to the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, had plagiarised the result from previous tours.
One such report was found to have been copied word for word from a report submitted by an official from the Japan External Trade Organisation.
The “study tours” were resumed in 2001 after having been put on hold for about four years following complaints from Tokyo’s citizens and the Japan Communist Party.
The Japan Communist Party is happy to say that its members have not participated in any so called “study tours” since 1993.
The Southeast Asian Times, January 2009


Cops in blue to catch crooks in black
The Manila police chief has come up with a plan that in theory will catch not only crooks who impersonate police but expose police who are crooks.
And in keeping with the plan, Police chief Jefferson Soriano, has banned all 15,000 Manila police - including the Special Weapons and Tactics or SWAT team - from wearing T shirts and jackets with police insignia or the special black uniforms, badges or emblems worn by the SWAT team.
He has also ordered all metro police to wear regular blue uniforms until further notice in order to expose the gang of crooks who have committed at least 16 major robberies in Manila in the last year.
“No police will wear the black uniform or any other colour in Metro Manila other than the blue uniform,” the police chief told the Philippine media this week
The crooks, who wore the special SWAT black uniforms including bullet-proof vests while they robbed banks and entered secured buildings, were armed with high-power firearms including M-203 grenade launchers and M-16 and M-14 rifles.
The theory follows that anyone in Manila wearing the special black SWAT team uniform, T shirts or jacket with police insignia during the ban that begins this week is a crook.
Police chief Soriano warned both police and civilians not to wear the SWAT uniform at the media conference.
But the flaw in the plan that would in theory expose the crooks and the crooked cops is that both Manila crooks and the crooked cops now know the plan
The police chief also told the media that he had instructed police wearing regular blue uniforms to arrest the crooks wearing the banned black uniforms.
“If they point their guns at you, you point your guns at them”' the police chief told the good cops in blue for all the crooks in Manila to hear.

The Southeast Asian Times, November 2008

Awaiting a polar icecap to melt

The melting of the Artic ice will cause seas to rise and that's good news for Malaysia as far as the country’s Maritime Institute is concerned.
And this despite the fact that the rising waters will sink thousands of the neighbourhood’s islands.
For example, about 2000 of Indonesia’s 18,000 islands are expected to disappear by 2030.
The rising sea will bring bad tidings to Indonesia but good economical tidings to Peninsular Malaysia despite the fact that fewer ships will ply the pirate-ridden Straits of Malacca.
Maritime institute of Malaysia director-general Datuk Cheah Kong Wai welcomes the melting of the northern Artic ice cap because the disappearance of the ice means that more of the world’s cargoes will be carried through the once fabled but now navigable Northwest Passage between the northern Atlantic and northern Pacific oceans.
And this will save Malaysia money.
The director-general says that Malaysia does not make any money from the thousands of ships that sail the Malacca Straits.
The vessels are provided with navigation services for smooth sailing on this historically strategic Southeast Asian sea lane and none of the container ships are paying for it, he says.
The ships sail straight through the Malacca Straits without stopping at a Malaysian port and that means there is no port and light dues to pay.
“That means they ply the Malacca Straits for free,” he says.
The northern polar ice is expected to melt by 2030 and this means that ships sailing straight through the Malacca Straits can do so toll free for another 22 years.

The Southeast Asian Times
, November 2008


Lamposts at ASEAN summit gone but not forgotten

The world may well remember the 12th Asean summit that was held in Cebu in January 2007 for the birth of the organisation’s charter but in the Philippines it is more likely to be remembered for the chicanery of the country’s Public Works and Highways Department and its Bids and Awards Committee.
In particular, the summit will be remembered for the lamp posts that were installed, or not all installed, along the ceremonial routes that led to the Cebu International Convention Centre where it was agreed to establish an Asean economic union by 2015.
It will also be remembered that the Philippines ombudsman ordered officials of the Public Works and Highways Department not to pay another peso for the decorative lamp posts immediately after the summit ended.
Payment was stopped because two different invoices for the lamp posts that arrived at the ombudsman’s public assistance and corruption prevention office were marked up at well over 2000 percent.
One invoice showed that 124 Asean decorative lamp posts were bought in China for about 14 million pesos, or about 11,000 pesos each; the second showed that 124 Asean decorative lamp posts cost 30 million pesos or 250,000 pesos each.
The public assistance and corruption prevention office ombudsman inspectors, who then counted lamp posts in Cebu, found at least 30 installed in a holiday resort but few along the ceremonial route to the Cebu International Convention Centre.
And now, more than a year after the summit, the inspectors have found that the real amount paid by the Philippines Public Works and Highways Department for lamp posts was 365 million Pesos.
Associate Justice Francisco Villaruz Jr has directed the sheriff to arrest the regional director and the assistant regional director of the Public Works and Highways, the former Cebu Mayor and nine others in the Public Works and Highways Department.
The assistant director and chairman of Bids and Awards Committee, the officer in charge and assistant chief of the maintenance division and other members of the Bids and Awards committee have also been arrested.
So too has the chairman of Construction and Development Corporation.
He is accused of violating the Philippine Republic Act 3019 in the alleged overpriced acquisition and installation of lamp posts and street light facilities in Cebu for the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Asean, Summit in 2007.
The Southeast Asian Times, June 2008


Bandung lecturer manoeuvred into retirement
Fifty-six-year-old Bandung Institute of Public Administration lecturer Inu Kencana Syafiie was expecting to retire at 65 and would have if it were not for a surprise promotion.
The promotion to Indonesia's Home Ministry followed his exposure of the corrupt goings on at the Bandung institute.
And the promotion to the Home ministry means that the lecturer is due to retire before he has even started the new job.
Home Ministry officials retire at 55.
The lecturer is now on his way to the National Commission on Human Rights to say that his promotion was tantamount to the sack.
The Southeast Asian Times, May 2008

Whose who and who's paying in Ha Noi Zoo?
An investigation by the Viet Nam's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry into who is doing what on public land under the land use regulations revealed that land at the Ha Noi Zoo was used for more than providing accommodation for orangutans.
The investigation found that the aptly named Ha Noi Zoo Company that manages the zoo had let large pieces of the land belonging to the zoo to accommodate restaurants, various office buildings including a transport company office, a tennis court and a Karaoke Bar.
Needless to say that the Ministry came to the conclusion that the land use regulations were not strict enough when it was discovered that the tennis court and the restaurant alone were sitting on 3000 sq metres of the zoo's land.
And worse the Hanoi Zoo company had given the tennis court and the restaurant a twenty year lease.
But that has not stopped the Ha Noi's peoples Committee from ordering the demolition of all the illegally constructed buildings in the Zoo.
The Karaoke Bar that sat on 500 sq metres of land was demolished in January.
The tennis court and the restaurant are to be demolished next week and that leaves the now retired director of the zoo under investigation for his part in the letting of public land.
The investigators have found that the Hanoi Zoo company received millions of dong every year from the letting of the illegal buildings on state owned or public land.
The Southeast Asian Times, April 2008


Historians to decide if Soeharto is a hero
The course of Indonesian history could change if a bill before the House of representatives is passed because it will decide if the former president Soeharto is a national hero or not.
The bill that has been on the table since March last year recommends that the Central Heroes Building agency committee that selects a national hero be changed.
This is the same selection committee that declared Siti Hartinah who died in 1996 a national heroine soon after.
Siti Hartinah was the wife of former president of Indonesia, Haji Muhammad Soeharto, who died last week.
Indonesian historians say that they are outnumbered by the military on the hero selection committee.
They say that the selection committee should be dominated by historians to make sure that the granting of hero status
is based on historical facts.
And they say that the historians on the selection committee should have a knowledge of Indonesia's colonial history.
The bill before the house of representatives proposes that a new selection team should be headed by the president and include two historians, only two military persons and three others who have been awarded an order of merit or other decorations.
At least one Indonesian historian said that he could not find anything that made him want to call former president Soeharto a hero.
But the historians say that proposed changes to the selection committee before the house will make no difference to the outcome because most of the committee members will have come from the military anyway.
Indonesia has 141 national heroes on its books and if the proposal to change the 19 members of the selection committee is rejected by the house former president and general Soeharto will be national hero number 142.

The Southeast Asian Times, February 2008


She'll be apples,
but not for Australia and New Zealand

The World Trade Organisation will act as referee between Australia and New Zealand over a dispute about apples whether Australia likes it or not.
The Australian veto in Geneva last week of New-Zealand’s appeal to the WTO seeking the lifting of the 86-year-old ban on the import of New Zealand apples will mean that Australians will not be eating New Zealand apples for at least another year.
Under WTO rules, Australia can veto the New Zealand appeal to the WTO once only.
This means that NZ can ask the WTO to investigate if Australia has breached international law with its ban on the import of New Zealand apples again next year.
Australia has kept the apple import ban since 1921 with the excuse that New Zealand apple trees had a disease that reduced the ability to produce fruit and Australia did not want this disability to spread to their apple trees.
Why it has taken New Zealand 86 years to challenge the apple ban policy is a question that Australia should put to New Zealand.
Australia should ask New Zealand if the sudden impatience with the apple ban policy has anything to do with the rise in apple growing costs and the expensive NZ dollar.
New Zealand’s only competitor in the southern hemisphere is Australia and that's bad apples for New Zealand but competition from China, the worlds biggest apple grower and apple juice producer, with no competitor in either the southern hemisphere or the northern hemisphere is rotten apples for both New Zealand and Australia.
Anyway Australia must have got wind of the New Zealand plan to appeal to the WTO across the Tasman because it has found more excuses to extend the apple import ban.
Australia told New Zealand only last year that is was investigating seven more pests and diseases that it feared could enter Australia on New Zealand apples.
It could easily be 88 years before Australians will bite into an New Zealand apple because the WTO is not known for its hasty decisions but Australia be warned the WTO has been known to say 'change your policy or else'.

The Southeast Asian Times, December 2007


Fighting for peace in peace week
One of the warring places on earth that celebrated peace week last week was Mindanao in the southern Philippines.
And to celebrate peace as an alternative to war Davao City held a ceremony under the banner of 2007 Mindanao Week of Peace.
The ceremony was opened by the mayor, Rodrigo Duterte who said that he hoped the peace celebration would result in something good.
'We want to achieve peace more than we want to fight using our weapons,' he said to the crowd of armed police, military and navy personel, school children, students from the Mindanao South Korean Youth Camp, Davao city councillers, Muslim and Christian religious representatives, Davao city citizens including the indigeneous Lumads.
The mayor didn't say how the about 33,000 Lumads who live on the biggest undeveloped copper and gold deposits in Southeast Asia could achieve peace against the onslaught of the worlds biggest mining companies.
The Mayor did say in his speech that he hoped the 2007 Mindanao Week of Peace celebration for Muslims and Christians was good for not only Peace week.
But the Mayor dashed any hope for a lasting peace when he said
'Someday the Philippine National Police will be walking armed not with a gun but with a bible' without saying which bible the police would be armed with.

The Southeast Asian Times, December 2007



Insurance promotion backfires
Viet Nam’s first privately-owned insurer came up with a plan last month that could have sold thousands, if not millions, of insurance polices.
The cunning plan was devised about two months ahead of a law that makes the wearing of helmets compulsory and would have provided a windfall but for the science and technology ministry.
The non-life insurer’s big plan was to give away a helmet with every motorbike insurance policy sold in the lead up to the implementation of the helmet law on Saturday, December 15.
The Ho Chi Minh City insurer had just started giving away a helmet with every two-year VND160,000 insurance policy when it found that the helmets were defective.
The untimely discovery was made by a motorbike insurer who found that the helmet he was given was not up to the national safety standard.
The science and technology minister stamps the helmets not once but twice to show that the helmets match required safety standards.
The insurer, who paid about VND45,000 for each of the give- away helmets, bought them without the required stamps on the helmet.
The Southeast Asian Times, December 2007


lawyers get together in Singapore

None of the 3,500 lawyers gathered to talk law under a single roof, between four walls, on carpet floors, fluro lights on with all airconditioners going in Singapore earlier this month were arrested.
Instead Singapore police threatened to arrest Singapore Democratic Party, Secretary General, Chee Soon yet again as he stood alone on a hot chewing gum free Singapore street, under a hazy sky, between skyscrapers and shop houses in sticky weather protesting yet again about the Singapore law that says it's illegal to have public gatherings of five or more people in Singapore without a permit.
As it happened Chee Soon had just been released from prison in the week that the lawyers were in town.
He had served a three week sentence for not paying the fine ordered by a Singapore judge for attempting to leave Singapore without state authority.
Chee Soon had been declared bankrupt and as a bankrupt he cannot either leave Singapore without state authority or stand for election.
He was fined S$4000 for attempting to leave Singapore without government approval and because he didn't pay the fine he went to jail
And thats just what the mob of lawyers from 198 bar associations around the world were talking about at their gathering in the safety of the Singapore convention centre.
Questions about why political defendants in the city state had never won libel suits that had been brought against them by government officials and why permits for gatherings are denied to political opponents of the government may not have been answered but they did receive loud applause from the more than five lawyers who gathered in Singapore to talk shop.
The Southeast Asian Times, October 2007


Alarm bells go off at PNG Post
Why didn’t security alarms go off at three airports in three countries when 190 rounds of ammunition, 140 slug shots and 50 12 gauge cartridges went through on their way to Papua New Guinea last month?
This load of ammunition began its journey in the United States and was eventually detected but not at any of the three airports.
The ammunition was to have been transferred from an international flight to a domestic flight after arriving at Papua New Guinea's Port Moresby's international airport for delivery to Madang.
But the domestic flight was cancelled and the ammunition was put in the post.
And it was then that the ammunition was detected by PNG Post and police arrested 39- year-old Joseph Nuwi Somp as he collected it at the Madang Post Office.
He told police he bought the ammunition while he was attending a summer camp in North America.
He was charged with smuggling under the customs act and being in possession of firearms under the firearms Act
But under PNG law he could not be charged with both.
So he was charged for smuggling under the customs act and was fined Kina 4,000 last week.
But his appearance in court does not go anyway towards answering the question about why the security alarms did not go off before take off in the United States, then Sydney, and finally in Port Moresby.
Nor does the smuggling conviction go anyway towards answering the question about what Joseph Nuwi Somp was going to do with the ammunition either.

The Southeast Asian Times, October 2007



Standing up to the Thai royal anthem
A Hollywood movie about to be shown in a Bangkok cinema drew more than boos last week.
But it was not the movie that the shouting was about.
The shouting and then the throwing of popcorn was directed at two in the audience who sat while the royal anthem played.
This act of irreverence prompted the audience to shout, throw popcorn and then water from their bottles at the two who would not stand for the royal anthem.
A scuffle broke out amid accusations that the recalcitrants were not really Thais and were unpatriotic and disloyal to the monarchy.
The scuffle was still going when the police arrived to break it up.
One of the two who would not stand for the Royal anthem was non other than Chotisak Onsueng - the co-ordinator of the protest against the military coup of September 19.
He says that he has not stood for the the royal anthem in the past but this was the first time he had got into a scuffle over it.
The anti coup organiser did not say if he stood when the other Thai anthem played.
This is the anthem described by Thai Princess Chumbhot Paribatra in the 1970s as nationalist and republican.
The Southeast Asian Times, October 2007



PNG rumours prove rumours
Rumours that Papua New Guinea PM Sir Michael Somare was in exile in Brisbane then Sydney and then in Singapore flew up and down the Fly River yesterday.
The rumour followed the rumour that the PM would not return to PNG because he would be arrested by the PNG military as he set foot on the tarmac.
That the PM and his entourage were on their way home from New York after talks with United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon about the climate and former US president, Bill Clinton about HIV/AIDS is true.
It is also true that Papua New Guinea's national airline Air Niugini's flight from Singapore to Port Moresby was cancelled.
Air Niugini's Wasantha Kumarasiri says that the aircraft scheduled to fly the PM home was grounded but that the airline would arrange a special flight from Singapore to Port Moresby so that he was in Port Moresby in time to attend the opening session of parliament.
And it is no rumour that the parliament will open with the tabling of the Julian Moti inquiry report bits of which have been leaked to the media.
Its also no rumour that Somare has been accused of sanctioning the clandestine PNG military flight that whisked Julian Moti off to the Solomon Islands in October last year and away from extradition to Australia.
And it is true that Solomon Islands Finance Minister, Gordon Darcy Lilo said : “I think Australia sees Moti as a threat may be because he could create some difficulties for them having free access to their operations in the Pacific.”
One of the bits from the Moti report that was leaked says “there was a very high level of collaboration and collusion between Mr Somare and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare over Mr Moti's escape.”
And this is why PNG PM Somare wants the Moti report declared null and void.
Meanwhile the rumour that the PNG military are waiting at the Port Moresby's Jackson International airport to arrest PM Somare were dispelled by its Commander Peter Ilau who described the rumours of the arrest as 'street rubbish'.

The Southeast Asian Times, October 2007



No dragon ladies thankyou
The employment of thousands of Chinese maids was stopped before an agreement between Malaysia and China to let the maids into Malaysian homes could be signed.
The decision to stop the employment of the 'little dragon ladies' as they have come to be called was made by Malaysia's Deputy Home Minister Tan Chai Ho after complaints from women who feared that the Chinese maids would rob them not only of their husbands but of their homes were made by the hundreds to the Wanita Malaysian Chinese Associations, Dr Ng Yen Yen.
“We are firm in our stand against the hiring of domestic maids from China, said Dr Ng Yen Yen after calls from women who did not want maids from China in their homes.
She said that the women had told her that 'the little dragon ladies' come to Malaysia and cause havoc to their families by enticing their husbands.'
Dr Ng said in defence of the women who would not let a Chinese maid through the front door of their homes that their stand did not indicate disrespect for Chinese women but rather a precautionary measure until the distinction between a Chinese maid and a 'dragon lady' was defined.
The Southeast Asian Times, July 2007



He said shoo not shoot
A call for clarification by a member of the Ipoh Legislative Assembly last week drew attention to another such clarification - given by a former prime minister.
The Ipoh assembly member was advocating a loosening of the Malaysian economy when he said "Councillors who waste millions of Ringgit should be shot."
When asked for clarification and if he was joking the assembly member said that he was using the term " shoot them" to express the severity of the offence and not the physical act of shooting.
Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir was also asked to clarify what he had said when he was talking about what to do about the Vietnamese boat people.
This was at a time when there were hundreds of Vietnamese river boats washing up on Malaysian shores.
The former prime minister told the Malaysian Parliament that he had said 'shoo them' not 'shoot them'.
The Southeast Asian Times, April 2007


Phantom teachers in PNG schools
Questions about what happens to the money spent on the education of Papua New Guinea's children were answered last week.
The World Bank, AusAid and the Papua New Guinea government now know why some Papua New Guinea schools have no teachers at all.
You don’t have to be a World Bank auditor to count the number of teachers actually teaching and check their names against those on the national payroll
A check of the national education payroll showed that there were teachers who had been paid to teach but had never taught in any class rooms of the 214 primary and community schools investigated by the World Bank.
The discrepancy - as you would expect from the world bank - was expressed in percentages.
Its representative, Gauvrav Datt, calculated that 15 percent of teachers on the country’s national payroll had never been seen in a classroom.
A further six percent were on the payroll list but were actually absent without pay.
This adds up to 21 percent less teachers in PNG class rooms than there should be.
And you don’t have to be a World Bank auditor to work out why PNG schools without teachers have closed.

The Southeast Asian Times, April 2007


Counting lamp posts after ASEAN Summit
The Philippines ombudsman has ordered officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways not to pay another peso for 124 lamp posts.
These are the lamp posts that were supposed to be installled along the ceremonial routes that led to the Cebu International Convention Centre where the 12th ASEAN summit was held in January.
Although the Department of Public Works and Highways had already paid 85 percent of the amount to the contractor who supplied the lamposts the ombudsman stopped payment of the outstanding balance.
The payment to this contractor was stopped because another contractor had supplied the Presidential Anti Graft Commission
with information that it could not ignore.
He said that 30 million Pesos for 124 lamp posts or 250,000 Pesos each was not right.
The contactor gave the Presidential Anti Graft Commission an invoice that showed that the 124 ASEAN decorative lamp posts were bought in China for about 14 million Pesos or about 11,000 Pesos each.
The Presidential Anti Graft commssion inspectors have spent hours counting lamp posts and in the last count found that 30 were installed in a holiday resort.
The Southeast Asian Times, March 2007


Lawyers asked to boycott Singapore
Calls for the yearly International Bar Association convention to be held anywhere but Singapore now includes the Swedish member of Parliament, Birgitta Ohlsson.
Her letter to the International Bar Association last week asked the Association to reconsider the convention venue because she says 'Singapore leaves democracy in a shambolic state'.
And the Swedish MP is not the only one who does not want the International Bar Association to hold its convention in the City State this year.
Hong Kong director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando, said 'I can’t believe these people could be going there,' of the 3,000 lawyers expected to attend the convention in October.
Calls for the International Bar Association to boycott Singapore are growing louder following a letter two weeks ago to the Association from the general secretary of the Singapore Democratic Party, Chee Soon Juan,
who was fined S$4000 on Monday for attempting to leave home without government authority.
His confinement to Singapore Island began when not one but two former Singapore PM's, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, sued for defamation and won.
Needless to say he could not pay the money awarded to the former MP's by the court and was declared bankrupt.
This meant that as a bankrupt he was unable to leave the Island and worse is barred from standing for election on it.
Chee Soon Juan's letter to the International Bar Association on the 15th of February says that detention without trial, state control of the media, mandatory death sentence for drug traffickers, criminalisation of homosexuality, barring of gatherings and speaking in public and the use of defamation suits to silence critics are examples of 'disturbing developments' in Singapore..
He ends his message by saying: ' I apologise for the length of this letter but I wanted to give you a comprehensive picture of the human rights situation and the abysmal lack of the rule of law in Singapore. Even so I have had to omit much more information because of space constraints. But as you can see, much of what is happening in Singapore goes against many, if not most, of what the International Bar Association stands and works for and for this reason and for the sake of the rule of law in Singapore I would like to ask the IBA to re-consider its decision to hold its 2007 Annual Conference here.
The Southeast Asian Times, March 2007


Jewish tit for a Muslim tat in Australia
The divide between Jews and Muslims was widened this week with the arrival in Australia of Professor Raphael Israeli who was described by the media as an expert in Islamic history.
"You should not let fundamentalist Imams come here'', he told the Australian press.
'Screen them a 1000 times before they are admitted and after they are admitted screen what they say in the mosque." said the Professor.
Keysar Trad, of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, was not going to let Professor Israel from Israel get away without adding to the already over done discriminatory security checks.
He told the Australian media that 'Not only religious clerics need to be screened before entering Australia but also academics. This type of academic does nothing but create hatred, suspicion and division. We should review not only what the man has said but also those who have sponsored him, to see if they endorse those comments."
Professor Raphael Israeli is from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and his hosts are the Shalom Institute of the University of New South Wales and the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council.
The Southeast Asian Times February 2007


Capital punishment for real estate agent

That Viet Nam is unforgiving of real estate agents who sell State - Owned land was proven by judges of the Ho Chi Minh City Supreme People's Court last week.
The judges sentenced a real estate agent to death.
His accomplices, a district peoples committee chairman, and a district communist party secretary were sententenced to 36 years in jail between them for bribary and for perverting the course of justice.
The real estate agent was found guilty of selling land owned by the state for 10,000,000,000,000 Viet Nam Dong and was sentenced by the court to pay with his life.
About the same time France announced that it had offered Viet Nam its centuries of property registration expertise to build a land registry database.
The Southeast Asian Times February 2007


Naming Islands before they disappear

More than half of Indonesia’s about 18,000 islands do not have names.
But not for long.
A national team to name the islands has been formed to give names to the about 9,500 nameless islands by the end of the year.
The team will be led by the president himself and will include several ministers.
Giving names to the mostly unpopulated islands will legitimise territorial claims but the rush to name all the nameless islands by the end of the year could prove redundant.
The weather forecast for 2030 includes the prediction that about 2000 of Indonesian islands will by then have disappeared under the sea.
The Southeast Asian Times February 2007


Tipp-off stops looting of public property

The rise in the theft of metals from Malaysia's public utilities— from 32 million ringgit in 2005 to 105 million ringgit in 2006 — an increase of about 300 percent — prompted the Energy, Water and Communications Minister, Dr Lim Keng to action.
First, he provided an emergency number for the public to ring if they should see anyone lifting a steel manhole cover from the street, unscrewing a park tap, rolling electrical cable, dismantling a street lamp or pocketing a brass urn at a temple.
But not only did the minister urge the public to ring 999, he is also working with the Internal Security Ministry to change the Second-Hand Dealers Act of 1946 so that scrap metal dealers will get a heavy fine if found dealing in stolen metal.
The minister is very pleased with the results of his public awareness campaign which has included the offer of a reward leading to the arrest of the metal thieves.
Metals, including brass urns, fire hydrants, water meters, lamp posts, power cables, abandoned British cannons and other antiques, including giant woks, were discovered in urban Malacca just days after the emergency number was announced and just in time to save them from the smelter.
The Southeast Asian Times January 2007


Singapore wants less consensus for ASEAN
Singapore's accusation that the nine other member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are all talk and no action came a day before the first draft for a new charter was put to the ASEAN member country representatives who are meeting at Cebu, the Philippines, this week.
'If the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Brunei, continue to do more of the same ASEAN will become one of those organisations which will slowly fade into the sunset', says Singapore's deputy prime minister Shunmugan Jayakumar.
As it happens the Singapore deputy prime minister is on the 'eminent persons' panel whose job is to draw up a new charter for the forty year old association.
'The proposed charter is a radical departure from the ASEAN members traditional policy of non - intervention in the affairs' of the other member countries,' says former Philippine president Fidel Ramos who is also on the 'eminent persons' panel.
The former Philippine president thinks that decisions by consensus should be retained but if consensus cannot be achieved then the ASEAN members should reach a decision by vote..
'The traditional policy of non-intervention may be adjusted and sanctions imposed for non-compliance and could include the suspension of an ASEAN member country but not expulsion' says the former Philippine president.
However consensus to the proposed changes for the final draft of the charter to be put to the ASEAN members at the next summit to be held in Singapore at the end of the year is yet to be achieved.

The Southeast Asian Times January 2007

Stop stray bullets say three out of four
Filipinos were quick to ask if the Arroyo government had done enough to stop injuries from fire crackers and stray bullets in 2006.
An online poll was run on the second day of the new year.
This was after 872 firecracker-related injuries and 35 injuries caused by stray bullets were recorded for the year by the health department.
The figures show that the injuries from fire crackers and stray bullets was almost double that for the year before..
"'Do you think the government has done enough to prevent firecracker injuries and stray bullet fatalities this year?" was the question asked at the end of a year that recorded the killing of 11 journalists.
One in four said the government was doing enough to prevent firecracker injuries and stray bullet fatalities.
The Southeast Asian Times December 2006


Malaysia’s religious raiders cannot be stopped

There is no stopping the Perak Islamic Religious authority from raiding a hotel if it believes that there is a ‘sinful act’ in progress.
'If the authority is not allowed to inspect hotels, unmarried Muslim couples will take the opportunity to commit sins there without any fear or conscience,' responded its director Jamry Sury to suggestions that it should stop the raids.
It is not the first time that the Islamic religious authority has been asked to stop raiding hotel rooms and calls for the policing to be stopped until strict guidelines are written for the religious vigilantes were rejected last week.
The renewed call for the raiders came after they raided a hotel believing they would find an unmarried Islamic couple in the room.
Instead, they found a middle-aged married American couple asleep.
The Americans were at the hotel because they were planning to retire in Malaysia under Malaysia’s second home plan.
Needless to say they have changed their mind about living in Malaysia and say they will sue the Islamic Religious authority.
The Americans left Malaysia the day of the raid after vowing never to return.

The Southeast Asian Times December 2006