Indonesia: Blogger questioned by the police, Tsunami one year after and a Peaceful Christmas Eve

Blogger questioned by police

Last week, Herman Saksono, a blogger from Yogjakarta was questioned by the police because he posted (now removed) a modified picture of Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with Bambang Trihatmodjo, former president Soeharto's son.

The post was a parody of personal pictures where a married Bambang Trihatmojo was in a personal pose with a single Indonesian singer Mayangsari that was circulated in Internet.

Many bloggers thought his post is funny, but apparently for some people it's a dangerous attack against President's reputation.

Roy Suryo, who is a media personality, is the one who brought Herman's blog to media and authorities attention when he present it in front of journalist in Hotel Aryaduta during another event.

He also pointed out Priyadi, a popular blogger known for his strong stands against misinformation, to have a part in this “defamation act” only because he has put a link to Herman's post.

This move by the unpopular Roy Suryo against Herman and Priyadi has created huge backlash from Indonesian bloggers, citing the post as a right to freedom of expression and that Roy Suryo and the authorities has been overreacting to this whole thing.

In an interesting turn of events, I have the opportunity to ask the President directly (in Bahasa Indonesia) what he thinks about the picture. President Susilo have been visiting Bangkok, Thailand in an official visit and I asked him at Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok during dialog with Indonesian citizens who live in Bangkok.

He answer in a relax and easy manner that he never heard about this before and never even saw the picture himself. He continues that he thinks the picture is an okay thing because it was intended in humorous way and he does not think it as dangerous. However, he also suggested that our time might be more useful if we use it in other beneficial activities.

After that, several media reported President's answer (in Bahasa Indonesia) and named the fiasco as too similar to the old way of government doing thing under Soeharto's where everything must be under government’s control.

As a result Herman was never indicted and released, even tough he agrees to remove his post.

The chronology of this debacle summed up by Priyadi on this post: “Kronologi Kasus Roy Suryo” (in Bahasa Indonesia)

One year after Tsunami

Yosef Ardi on his blog Indonesia Today wrote about how one year after the Tsunami attacked Aceh and Nias province in Indonesia, which claimed more that 100,000 lives, the situation hasn't change much. As former US president Bill Clinton, the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami recovery wrote in International Herald Tribune: In Aceh and Nias people still live in unacceptable conditions and with minimal access to job opportunities.

Indonesia's Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) for Aceh and Nias planned to build 35 thousand units of new houses this year, but so far only 19,200 have been completed. It would take three more years to build more than 100,000 houses.

Bureaucratic delays and concerns about corruption has been named as the cause why the efforts to rebuild communities destroyed has been so slow.

In the other hand, I was told that there are too many hands involve and no clear authorities also bog down the campaign. There are more than 400 NGOs involved in Aceh aftermath of tsunami and security problem has been cite as why their effort is not effective.

Looking at the numbers give you the feeling that a stronger measure ought to be taken. As a result of low quality of land available for housing complex out of a commitment to build 13,364 units in West Aceh alone, only 625 units (4%) are completed.

Habitat for Humanity, for example, committed to build 3,000 houses but only seven (0.2%) units completed. (!!)

More on his post: “Tsunami in Aceh & Nias, One Year After”

Meanwhile, M. Muiz a blogger from Bogor, West Java on his post (in Indonesian) reminded us all Indonesian that rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh is an international effort that is also an opportunity to change world's perception of Indonesia as country ridden by incompetence, bureaucracy and corruption.

“This is the time to act and to prove our self that we can,” he pointed out. “Not a time to blab.” Hear, hear!

Peaceful Christmas

Despite serious warnings of terrorist attacks against Christian churches in Indonesia during Christmas, many Christmas Eve services and Masses have taken place without reports of trouble.

Writing from Bangkok on Agam's Gecko an expat who have been living in many places in Southeast Asia congratulates this as an extremely important good sign for the country. He wrote that, “If there was ever an occasion for that old aphorism, “No news is good news,” tonight was the night.”

Credits should be given to many individual's vigilance, along with robust security measures that included participation of many Muslim social organizations who basically just wants nothing bad happened during a few days left in 2005. We have been having a tough year already.

Okay, so we've been having a peaceful time, now, is it okay for a Muslim to wish Merry Christmas to their Christian friends?

As silly as this might sound to people from outside Indonesia but this question has become a source of puzzlement for many because apparently there's this notion (confirmed by conservative clerics) that Muslims are not supposed to wish Merry Christmas.

“But what if I have neighbors or friends that are celebrating Christmas, should I say something as a form of respect and friendship?” Imponk on his blog asked this question. Especially if these are close friends and that they have been whishing him well during Muslim celebrations.

Well I think, why not? Like what Imponk wrote, it's effortful sometimes being a Muslim but you don't have to make more so. :)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Indonesian bloggers!

Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru dari para blogger Indonesia!

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