Indonesia

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Book Review: Building on Borrowed Time: Rising Seas and Failing Infrastructure in Semarang by Lukas Ley

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/09/2022 - 8:53pm in

In Building on Borrowed Time: Rising Seas and Failing Infrastructure in SemarangLukas Ley offers a new ethnography exploring how people in Semarang, Indonesia, deal with the everyday threat of flooding. This fascinating book is worthwhile reading not only for urban studies scholars but for all those wanting to understand the complexity of living in a chronic disaster area from the perspective of inhabitants, writes Adrian Perkasa.

This book review is published by the LSE Southeast Asia blog and LSE Review of Books blog as part of a collaborative series focusing on timely and important social science books from and about Southeast Asia.

Building on Borrowed Time: Rising Seas and Failing Infrastructure in Semarang. Lukas Ley. University of Minnesota Press. 2022. 

Book cover of Building on Borrowed TimeThere are plenty of works on Indonesian kampung (neighbourhood); however, only a few discuss a kampung where disaster is chronic. In his first monograph, Building on Borrowed Time: Rising Seas and Failing Infrastructure in SemarangLukas Ley eloquently describes the kampung Kemijen at Semarang that always faces floods, particularly robRob is a local Javanese term for tidal flooding or tidewater. Tidal flooding has been a threat to Java’s northern shore, particularly in Semarang. It occurs on a constant basis, and the intensity worsens year after year.

Perhaps the reader of this book expects a gloomy or murky illustration of the kampung. On the contrary, Ley offers the sense of local residents’ buoyancy in facing the rob. He employs ‘sinking-in’ observation as a method to study ‘the permutations of the river, infrastructural shifts, and the social experience of flooding’ (27) in Kemijen. As he presents in his book, only the last part contains the feelings of frustration and disappointment for the residents, or at least his main interlocutors.

Ley’s study has five chapters, excluding the introduction and afterword. By using historical documents, colonial maps and secondary literature references, he writes a kind of historiography of the northern wetlands area of Semarang city from the colonial period to more recent times. In the second chapter, Ley attempts to comprehend the influence of political transition and evolving urban ecology on the development of poor neighbourhoods in Semarang’s north via water governance.

In the subsequent chapter, he captures what everyday life looks and feels like in the Northern part of Semarang today. This part has the most pictures compared to other chapters because it contains a photo-ethnographic tour. Chapter Four analyses how government-sponsored citizen participation initiatives change local behaviour and how the actions of organising bottom-up responses to rob affect social order in the kampung. The last chapter, with the title ‘Promise’, shows how the initial optimism of the new polder project at Kemijen, which required local residents’ active participation, slowly faded into disillusionment.

According to Ley, living in the marshy North Semarang has exposed residents to several dangers, including illness outbreaks and periodic floods, since at least the early twentieth century.

Due to the government’s stigmatisation, danger began to develop from inside the kampung over time. Furthermore, danger emanates from the city’s defective infrastructure, which was intended to cure it of its imagined gloomy features. Instead of the government providing a solution, communities and people must organise their own resources in order to respond to an unequally distributed danger, particularly rob.

Semarang Old Town on river

Image Credit: ‘Polder Tawang’ by jatmika jati licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

The latest solution by the government discussed in this book is the Semarang polder project. Designed by a consortium of Dutch and Indonesian experts, this project was imagined as the beginning of a new era of urban water management in Indonesia. A polder system, in short, is a hydrologically closed system consisting of dikes, dams and water pumps. Following the Netherlands’ polder system, the polder in Indonesia also created a requirement for public involvement, especially local residents. Indeed, the Semarang’s polder in the Banger area established a special water authority called SIMA in 2010. In this authority, local residents and academics were able to play an important role. Unfortunately, this idea is facing failure and only reproducing a cultural imaginary of North Semarang since the Dutch colonial period.

The colonial period according to Ley, is a source of the marginality of the Northern area in Semarang urban development discourses. He argues that colonial urban planning placed the ‘‘swamp particularly low in the hierarchy of liveable places, was strongly associated with a degraded human needing (hygienic) discipline” (51).

Consequently, the colonial government saw urban kampung and its residents as a source of danger, as backward and as lagging behind the trend of human evolution. Two chapters at the book’s beginning elucidate how the colonial power’s spatial hierarchy still has a big influence over contemporary images and ideas of kampung Kemijen and its people. Ley also brings the case of normalisasi sungai (river normalisation) during the 1980s as the epitome of that colonial view.

Looking at another policy of the Indonesian regime during that era, namely Normalisasi Kehidupan Kampus (the normalisation of campus life), Ley argues that river normalisation ‘intended to deter people from settling along rivers that were thought to constitute a realm in which subversive subjects lived and flourished’ (70). The government often condemned the people who settled illegally on the riverbank as a primary cause of floods. Moreover, he draws a linkage between the river normalisation in the 1980s and state modernisation and interventions in the colonial period. He writes that ‘river normalization, a colonial vehicle of modernization, never actually ended’ (88).

On this point, this fascinating book may lend itself to criticism. In fact, there was no river normalisation project at all in Semarang during the colonial period. In Chapter Two, Ley describes how the Indonesian government only initiated river normalisation in 1985. By making a kind of a longue-durée linkage to the colonial past, Ley easily gets trapped into what Frederick Cooper (2005) called looking at history ahistorically, especially by performing leapfrogging legacies. In short, the authors who follow this mode of writing tend to claim that something at time A caused something in time C without considering time B, which lies in between. In this book, Ley says almost nothing about the period after decolonisation and just makes the claim that what happened with the river-related projects is the continuation of the modernisation projects in the colonial period. Perhaps Ley did not have the opportunity to engage with several historiographical works in Indonesian that deal with Semarang in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Furthermore, another shortcoming of this book is that many Indonesian words or terms have translation errors. Although it is not only intended for Indonesian but general readers, those who understand Indonesian will be disturbed by this issue. For instance, kota bawa (18) means city-bring and is not a translation of the low-lying part of Semarang. It should be kota bawahPegal (68) means painful or sore. Perhaps what the author means is begal or robber. Neither the Indonesian nor Javanese word guyung (77) means united. Maybe what the authors means is guyubDigemas budaya (141) literally means excited about culture. Perhaps what Ley means is dikemas budaya. Another puzzling term is heran saya budaya (182), where I failed to find the proper intention of what the author means.

All in all, the book is worth reading not only for urban studies scholars but also for general readers who want to explore the complexity of living in a chronic disaster area not from the state’s but from the neighbourhood’s perspective.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, the LSE Southeast Asia blog or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

Peer under the sea of the Indonesian archipelago through this photo essay

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/09/2022 - 1:21pm in

A number of man-made forces are threatening these creatures

Originally published on Global Voices


A frog fish (antennariidae) photographed in Amed, Indonesia's coral reefs. Photo used with permission.

As the largest archipelago in the world, with over 17,000 islands, Indonesia’s coastal waters are host to a vast and diverse network of marine life and ecosystems. As rising ocean temperatures due to climate change increasingly threaten marine ecosystems, it's worth taking an up-close and personal look at some of the strange and otherworldly creatures who inhabit the oceans we hold dear, as well as the forces that threaten them.

This photo essay presents a brief snapshot of the biodiversity in Indonesia’s coastal ecosystem and discusses the environmental and social threats they face. 

Pikachu nudibranch


Pikachu Nudibranch. Photo used with permission.

These little creatures are found in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. They get their name because they resemble the iconic Pokemon character. Spanning just five centimeters in length, they are difficult to locate and are a relatively rare find.

The boxer crab


The boxer crab. photo used with permission.

The Boxer Crab is one of the more interesting creatures found on the Indonesian seabed. It has a symbiotic relationship with stinging sea anemones — it feeds them in exchange for protection — and holds them in its front claws to frighten potential predators.

“These crabs wield sea anemones attached to their claws in horizontal motions as they move,” says Seven Seas Media, a marine watch group. “This colorful display serves as a natural deterrent to predators, and when directly threatened, the crab will utilize the sea anemone in a forward, ‘punching’ movement towards the aggressor.”

Emperor shrimp


The emperor shrimp. Photo used with permission

These colorful shrimp can grow to a length of 1.9 centimeters and are often found living on larger hosts.

A pygmy and common hippocampus seahorse


A pygmy seahorse (left) and a common hippocampus seahorse (right). Photos used with permission.

At a maximum of two centimeters, the pygmy seahorse (left) is one of the smallest seahorse species in the world.


The Coral Triangle from Wikipedia. Used via CC-BY-SA-4.0

It is exclusively found in the Coral Triangle, a triangular region spanning from the Philippines and Malaysia in the east to Indonesia and Timor Leste in the south, and the Solomon Islands to the West. This pink seahorse typically resides in pink palm fan corals or other soft corals and seagrasses that allow it to camouflage itself remarkably well.

The second image is of the common hippocampus seahorse. Like all seahorses, the hippocampus uses its tail as an anchor to bind itself to corals, plants, and other surfaces. It is probably most famous for its unusual method of reproduction, in which the female produces eggs, which the male incubates through a pouch in its tail until giving birth.

Fimbriated moray eel


Fimbriated moray eel. Photo used with permission.

The fimbriated moray eel can reach a length of 81 centimeters. There are over 200 different species of moray eel, most of which are poisonous. While these eels rarely attack humans, if threatened, they have been known to attack, and their bites contain dangerous toxins. Their razor-sharp teeth can also cause significant bleeding and are infamously painful. Most attacks reportedly occur when scuba divers unwittingly put their hands into holes occupied by moray eels.

Cuttlefish


Cuttlefish. Photo used with permission.

The cuttlefish, or cuttles, is a Cephalopod, cousin to the better-known squid and octopus, and is often hunted to be sold as seafood. They are believed to be one of the smartest invertebrates. According to National Geographic:

Cuttlefish have a large brain-to-body size ratio—among the biggest of all invertebrates—which makes them incredibly intelligent. They can count and can remember what, where, and when they last ate; a memory trait once believed to be unique to humans.

Some species of cuttlefish are classified as endangered. Presently, their biggest threats are ocean acidification — changes in the pH of the ocean due to growing carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere and ocean — and overfishing.

Christmas tree worm


Christmas tree worm. Photo used with permission.

Christmas tree worms are spiral-shaped worms named for their festive, conical appearance. They typically span about 3.8 centimeters long and can be found in many colors, including red, orange, green, and yellow. They use their colorful plumes for passive feeding and respiration. They are sedentary creatures as the worm burrows into the rock to anchor itself amid current fluctuations. They are very sensitive to the environment around them and, if feeling threatened, will quickly retract into their burrow.

Marine threats

According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, “more than half of the world’s marine species may stand on the brink of extinction by 2100.” They add:

Rising temperatures increase the risk of irreversible loss of marine and coastal ecosystems. Today, widespread changes have been observed, including damage to coral reefs and mangroves that support ocean life, and migration of species to higher latitudes and altitudes where the water could be cooler.

Most of the creatures featured above inhabit Indonesia's reef ecosystems. About 25 percent of all sealife reside in the “rainforests of the sea” — the coral reefs. These reefs are dense gardens teeming with life and biodiversity. They also play an essential part in maintaining marine ecosystems and protecting land from erosion.

Aside from their biological importance, they are also a major source of jobs for coastal communities, a crucial economic driver, and a source of food and medicines. 

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as of 2016, 3 billion people rely on the oceans for their livelihoods, and more than 350 million jobs are linked to oceans worldwide.

Indonesia has an area of about 51,020 km2 of coral reefs  — representing about 18 percent of the world's total.

However, it's becoming clear that the magnificent creatures featured in this piece, as well as our coastal economies, are under threat as the climate crisis warms ocean waters and threatens coastal ecosystems. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has already experienced significant coral bleaching, a phenomenon where brightly colored corals go dormant and turn a ghostly white due to outside pressures such as warming temperatures, pollutants, or a change in water pH levels. A report published by Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority  in May 2022 shows that 91 percent of the great barrier reef “exhibited some bleaching.”


Coral bleaching. Scott reef, April 2016. Photo via the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Free to use.

Though some groups are trying to restore the coral reefs, such as this all-women coral conservation team in Gilli Air, Indonesia, it is clear that without serious societal changes, the next generation may not be able to meet the amazing creatures featured above.

Eco-tourism and diving

The photos were gathered by experienced dive masters — experts who have passed a number of diving courses and trials, approved by the international diving course leaders, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) or Scuba Schools International (SSI).

Though experienced instructors know how to navigate marine ecosystems in sustainable ways, recreational diving can both directly and indirectly cause harm to marine life.

The direct harm unfolds underwater as inexperienced divers have been known to bump, kick, crush, or disturb the corals and marine life.

Increased development on the coasts for dive centers and other tourism recreation facilities, coral damage due to increased boat usage, and pollution from motorboat gas are also posing an indirect threat to the coasts. Increased coastal usage and development also lead to larger amounts of waste and plastic, which inevitably end up in the ocean.

Some dive organizers, scientists, and governments are hoping to mitigate these risks by blocking overused dive sites, allowing the area to recuperate, and introducing permits.

There are also initiatives like the Green Fins initiative and Project AWARE, two global underwater conservation movements. They have a number of campaigns tackling litter and plastic problems, threats to sharks and other marine predators, promoting sustainable diving and marine tourism, and funding coral regeneration projects.

Gabriel Grimsditch, program manager at the UN Environmental Program’s Marine and Coastal Ecosystems Branch, summed up the challenges of implementing sustainable coastal tourism.

Tourism can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is hugely important for the economy and can bring people close to nature so that they appreciate the wonders of the ocean more. On the other hand, if it is not done sustainably, it can kill the very ecosystem that tourists have come to visit.

Eleventh meeting | ASIA DIALOGUE ON FORCED MIGRATION | 2022

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/08/2022 - 12:00am in

The Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration (ADFM) convened virtually for its eleventh meeting in 2022, with part part one taking place on 24 March and the second part taking place on 1 July.

We were delighted to have opening remarks from the distinguished Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Retno Marsudi, and the Foreign Minister of Malaysia, Saifuddin Abdullah in part one of the meeting.

Other attendees and presenters included senior government officials from eight countries, international organisations and civil society representatives. 

Key documents for part one:

Key documents for part two:

The March meeting focused on opportunities for reform of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime on its twentieth anniversary this year.

This culminated in the Future Ready report, setting out an eight-step plan to strengthen and clarify the Bali Process so countries in the Indo-Pacific can manage forced migration crises in a way that is durable, effective and humane.

The ADFM has worked closely with the Bali Process since its inception in 2015 to strengthen the multilateral body’s ability to address forced migration in the Indo Pacific. This includes considerable work in 2016 following the Andaman Sea crisis.

The July meeting focused on ongoing humanitarian and displacement crises in Afghanistan and Myanmar, and discussed how the region can prepare and respond more effectively. COVID-19 and the invasion of Ukraine underscore the importance of not only responding to crises as they occur but being prepared for future events.

The co-convenors’ statement from this meeting highlights points of agreement and a number of opportunities ahead which states can use to develop more humane responses to forced migration challenges.

The next ADFM meeting will be convened in person over two days, likely in the first quarter of 2023. We welcome suggestions for areas of focus.

The post Eleventh meeting | ASIA DIALOGUE ON FORCED MIGRATION | 2022 appeared first on Centre for Policy Development.

Book Review: Palm Oil: The Grease of Empire by Max Haiven

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/07/2022 - 8:47pm in

In Palm Oil: The Grease of Empire, Max Haiven tells the story of palm oil, showing how its ubiquity is intertwined with global histories of imperialist and capitalist expansion. In challenging readers to ‘unforget’ palm oil’s entanglements with exploitation, this book foregrounds the importance of class analysis and struggle in the palm oil industry if we are to identify prospects for collective emancipation, writes Audi Ali.

Palm Oil: The Grease of Empire. Max Haiven. Pluto Press. 2022.

Find this book (affiliate link):amazon-logo

Book cover of Palm OilOn 7 September 1981, the Malaysia state-owned investment company, Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), orchestrated a rapid purchase of shares of British-owned palm oil conglomerate, Guthrie Corporation Limited, owning a majority stake by midday. This ‘backdoor nationalisation’ was motivated by the desire to ‘wrestle back control’ of plantations that were then still owned by foreign investors – a legacy of British colonial rule and a prerequisite of the independence granted in 1957. The Indonesians were less coy: President Sukarno nationalised former Dutch businesses in 1958. After Suharto’s coup, palm oil and rubber plantations received generous fund injections from the World Bank in the hope of trickle-down development. Taking control of commodity production was seen as central to these respective nationalist projects to usher in revenue and emancipation.

It is now well-documented that the palm oil industry is problematic. Its environmental impact is tremendous: its 27 million hectares of land contribute to massive deforestation and the clearing of peatlands accounts for 6 per cent of global carbon emissions. In Southeast Asia where the months usually alternate between sunshine and monsoon rains, there is an emergence of a ‘third season’ of haze in recent decades caused by land clearing, direly limiting visibility and impairing health. The palm oil industry additionally depends on exploitable labour, while smallholders are subject to increasing control of access to the global market by large palm oil conglomerations working in concert with the state, eager to extract revenue in the name of national development. Who benefits? The story is more complicated than narratives of nationalist victories.

Max Haiven’s Palm Oil: The Grease of Empire tells the story of palm oil and draws out the implications of its evolution from being a cultural and trade product of the Edo Kingdom to a symbol of ‘capitalist, imperial modernity’ serving the needs of the British Empire to an export of postcolonial governments eager to assert their sovereignty in global commodity chains. Haiven recounts this evolution to foreground the exploitation in the industry and to contribute to its unforgetting. Palm Oil recasts this exploitation as ‘sacrifices’ – drawing on Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s characterisation of how certain groups are made more disposable through the prison system – made in pursuit of palm oil’s ‘profound cheapness’ that has led to its ubiquity. It is this ubiquity that prompts Haiven to ask the question that animates the book: what does it mean to be a human so enmeshed in palm oil production?

Image Credit: Pixabay CCO

Most of the palm oil in the market is now known as ‘refined, bleached and deodorised’ (RBD) palm oil. It is extracted from the African palm tree, Elaieis guineensis, which produces oil that is known for its deep red colour as well as its distinctive scent and flavour. These traits are deeply ingrained in the cultural memories of West Africans, a source of pride and filial nostalgia. The RBD variant emerged out of longstanding efforts to efface any of palm oil’s observable character to facilitate its various usages: in a range of products from candles to soap, inks to instant noodles, margarine to industry lubricants and, of course, cooking oil. That the RBD variant is so featureless probably contributed significantly to our collective ‘forgetting’ – a form of commodity fetishism – of cheap palm oil as being sourced through exploitation.

Palm Oil explores how commodity fetishism was and is at play in the palm oil industry. Cheap palm oil-based candles were marketed to British working-class consumers as an ethical choice to wean West Africa from the slave trade. In the case of palm oil soaps sold by William Lever (founder of the company that later merged to become Unilever), they were marketed as a way of taking care of personal hygiene, with cleanliness and filth associated with skin complexion.

These mystifications served to facilitate capitalist and imperial expansion. Lever went on to establish palm oil plantations in Congo which displaced smallholders, and the 1897 British Punitive Expedition against the Edo Kingdom was partly motivated by the need to control palm production to be more ‘efficient’. Palm Oil weaves these accounts together to portray how the commodity fetishism of palm oil directed global racial hierarchies to serve imperial, capitalist expansion and obscured labour exploitation and land expropriation in the colonies in the construction of ‘ethical consumers’ in the metropole.

This obfuscation continues in the contemporary world, the difference being that its main architects are now postcolonial states and regional business elites. As the price of rubber plummeted in the 1970s, Malaysia and Indonesia turned to palm oil as a vehicle for industrialising the agricultural sector and one of the main planks for their developmental agenda. A land development agency in Malaysia, FELDA, recruited the peasantry and organised them into planned smallholdings that fed fruit bunches into state-owned mills and refineries. This project quickly encountered the problem of land shortage which was temporarily fixed with the acquisition of Guthrie Corporation Limited. In Indonesia, similar smallholding programmes were initiated but at somewhat less coordinated and intense levels, until 2006 when the country exceeded Malaysia as the top producer of palm oil. Underlying the development agenda in both countries is the proletarianisation of smallholders and Indigenous communities, alienated from their land and losing their means of subsistence.

Palm Oil’s notions of ‘forgetting’ and ‘sacrifices’ are compelling ways of framing the socio-cultural construction of cheap labour. The drive to develop capitalist enterprises is for the sake of development agendas which have fuelled the expropriation of lands, either by the state or private companies. The book picks out a few notable instances of ‘forgetting’: customary land rights are disregarded by the state in favour of palm oil corporations, forcing whole communities into waged work; lands that were forcibly acquired in the past could sometimes be certified as ‘sustainable’. The workers are in turn sacrificed at the ‘altar of accumulation’ for the sake of producing cheap palm oil, their labour devalued and their lives subject to the persistent surveillance and monitoring techniques deployed on the plantations.

However, like various development projects of postcolonial nations, the palm oil industry has an ambivalent legacy. While it certainly depends on exploitation and expropriation, the development of palm oil production has yielded notable improvements in the lives of the subaltern in terms of income and provided avenues for employment where none better was available. As Palm Oil notes, it is not that subaltern dissent did not occur, but it was stifled by repression and, crucially, by narrowing the possibility that another life without palm oil is possible. FELDA, for instance, was noted for its lavish expenditure in the resettlement of smallholding families; the incomes of these smallholders were also notably higher than the rest of the peasantry. The industry continues to provide revenue that the Indonesian and Malaysian states could tap to fund other developmental goals. The dilemma that it is perhaps better to be exploited than to be starving in the capitalist order is something that is not adequately captured by Haiven. Rather than an unequivocal ‘curse’, palm oil’s cheapness may also represent the subaltern’s desperate wish.

This very short book is not meant to be read as a comprehensive account of the history of palm oil. Instead, it is more of a vignette of its travels across time, space and bodies, which I think yields a convincing portrait of palm oil’s impact. Haiven perhaps intends the book as an impressionistic account of class struggle that is imbricated in core-periphery relations and the hegemonic articulation of the development agenda that systematically favours capital. Palm Oil’s chapters are phrased as questions – ‘Whose fat?’, ‘Whose surplus?’, ‘Whose story?’ – meant to dispel the mystique and to foreground the social relations that permit the production of cheap palm oil. These questions are attempts at grasping ways of being ‘alchemically different’ kinds of humans who could act in solidarity with each other in ways that go beyond Eurocentric consumer advocacy.

Industry watchers have observed how equity ownership of palm oil conglomerates have ‘regionalised’, with Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian capital possessing interlocking shares in a dizzying array of companies. Labour, too, in a way, has regionalised with the pool of exploitable labour being sourced more consistently from dispossessed communities in Sumatera and Kalimantan and toiling in plantations across national borders. Palm Oil emphatically points out that it makes sense to foreground class analysis and struggle in the palm oil industry if we are to identify prospects for collective emancipation.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

 

Dutton Demands Irish Border Be Shut To Keep Out Potato Blight

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/07/2022 - 7:00am in

Opposition Leader the Dark Lord Peter Dutton has demanded that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese close the Irish border before the dreaded potato blight hits the country.

”This government needs to get off their backsides and take some action,” said the Dark Lord. ”Lives are at stake if this dreaded potato blight hits our shores.”

”Won’t somebody think of my family?”

When asked why, given when he was in government there were constant delays, should the Albanese Government jump to the Opposition’s demands, the Dark Lord said: ”Albanese needs to learn when I and Rupert say “Jump”, then he needs to say “How high?” ‘

”I am a very important person, and definitely not a monster. Don’t believe me? Just ask my wife!”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to strangle a few puppies before Question Time. It helps get me in the mood.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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Fast Drums, Slow Genocide: West Papuan group Sorong Samarai at WOMAD

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/07/2022 - 12:22pm in

Three little boys hug each other tight as the waves crash over them, threatening to swamp their wooden canoe. This is Torres Strait, to the north of Australia, and the Roem brothers have been sent away across the ocean by their mother and father because they fear for their children’s lives.

In a few moments, two of those little boys—Yoshi and Sammy Roem, now famed drummers, singers and dancers—will take to the stage under the bright lights of Adelaide’s world music festival, WOMAD. Backstage, Yoshi tells me,‘We got lost on the sea for five days…there was a reason for that journey—so we could be here today, just carrying the voice of freedom, carrying the voice of free West Papua’.

In 2006, Yoshi and Sammy were political refugees, chased by the Indonesian army and navy until they washed up on Cape York. Today they are Australian citizens and cultural warriors for the friends and family they left behind in Indonesia’s eastern province of West Papua. Tonight, in Adelaide, the impact on the audience is clear as Yoshi drums his way onto the main stage, traditional tifa drum in hand, to join the ten-piece electro-trad drum-and-dance fusion extravaganza Sorong Samarai.

WOMAD is one of the great world-music festivals, loved and applauded by artists, music lovers and festival connoisseurs. This year WOMAD is thirty years old, and it has never looked better. There’s a beautiful arboretum garden, shady and pleasant, even under the sting of the hot South Australian sun. There’s world food, and great South Australian vino and cold beer aplenty, in what must be the greatest musical beer-garden in the world.

Yoshi muses, This band, the Sorong Samarai band, we say, “music is our weapon of choice”. We tackle the issue of West Papua through dance and music and songline. Just putting the flag on stage, just holding this flag, is a huge privilege. Back home it is forbidden, many people die for this flag’. As Australia and the world focus on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, noisily demanding justice for an innocent civilian population, the invaded and brutalised farmers and families of Australia’s neighbour West Papua go unseen and ignored.

Unlike many of the other inspiring acts on WOMAD’s many stages, Sorong Samarai tells a clear political story—a narrative of neocolonial genocide and ecocide in their homeland. In Papua they say that ‘all men are birds’, meaning that everybody sings and is close to nature, embedded in the forests, mountains and ocean, and carrying the stories of earth, creation and bio-interdependency in their singing. This connection to nature, place and history is evident as the Sorong Samarai crew carries the cultural torch for a legendary and loved West Papuan academic and musician, who no longer sings his gentle songs about land, language and the spirits of the rainforest because he was murdered by Indonesian special forces in November 1983, his body dumped in a forgotten jungle grave. Tonight, Yoshi and the band will channel the music and spirit of Arnold Ap, poet and martyr for the West Papuan people.

An anthropologist and musicologist at the Cendrawasih Museum, Ap travelled across West Papua recording the songs and languages of the 400-plus distinct language groups, and formed the legendary cultural revival band Mambesak. Mambesak’s songs exalted the beauty of local life and land, and became wildly popular as songs of resistance. They meme-ed their way across the Indonesian archipelago, syncing with human rights struggles in South Maluku, Borneo, Aceh and even Java, where anti-Suharto activists added them to the canon of protest against the corrupt kleptocracy of President Suharto and his brutal military.

Yoshi knows many of Ap’s protest songs by heart. He and his brothers grew up singing them in Wamena, the capital of the beautiful Baliem Valley in the West Papuan highlands. ‘Arnold Ap, he’s a legend, he sung songlines in our languages. As a young West Papuan I see him as an example. In Jayapura [capital of West Papua] the local hip-hop musos like and sample Arnold Ap. Like him, they use local language to sing’.

Under strobing lights and smoke, Sorong Samarai is in a frenzy. Yoshi and Sammy dance in tandem, centre stage, combining chic Melbourne hip-hop moves with Papuan tribal dance. Log drums roll frenetic rhythms in an ecstatic climax and the crowd roars in appreciation. In the breath between songs, two women wrapped in West Papuan flags join the band on stage and burst into song: Petra and Rosa Rumwaropen, who with their sister Lea make up singing trio The Black Sistaz. Petra recalls, ‘I was born into the political movement through music, because my father was a member of the Black Brothers. Growing up we were taught to keep the culture alive through their music. Like Arnold Ap, carrying on the same message and struggle’.She continues:

Petra’s father, Agust Rumwaropen, was a founding member of the Black Brothers. The rock-reggae-funk-trad fusion band formed in Jayapura in 1974 in reaction to the Indonesian invasion of Dutch Nui Guinea in 1963 and the bogus UN-supervised referendum on Papuan independence in 1969, in which 1025 West Papuans were hand-picked and, under military supervision, forced to vote to join the Republic of Indonesia. Exiled West Papuan elder and leader Jacob Rumbiak says, ‘The 1025 were locked up by the Indonesian military and told to vote for Indonesia or their accursed tongues would be cut from their accursed mouths’. TheBlack Brothers would not be silenced, and went on to inspire generations of musicians and political resistance in West Papua and across Melanesia, in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

Airileke Ingram, the leader of Sorong Samarai, counts the band in, and ten drummers fly into a cataclysm of pounding beats. The band’s co-founder Ronny Kareni thumps out a fat funk base line on electric bass. Screaming electric guitar joins the rising rhythm, sending the WOMAD audience into a pogoing dance delirium.

Ronny says, ‘Sorong Samarai is a band but it’s also become a movement in itself, where the simple words, Sorong (western tip of island of Papua) and Samarai (eastern tip), have become everyday language to symbolise the struggle of the people of West Papua’. One thing the Black Brothers, Mambesak and Sorong Samarai have in common is that their music is a conduit to convey the basic human right of freedom of cultural and political expression. ‘Like these music legends, we sing about the memory of suffering as a healing process in our collective movement, we sing about truth and justice in our land, and to remind ourselves and the world that full freedom for West Papua is possible’.

Music is irresistible. Arnold Ap’s weekly radio show in Jayapura spread the idea of music as a counter-force to neocolonialism, military occupation and cultural destruction. The rising popularity of his music saw Ap arrested and imprisoned. Kopassus special forces—Indonesian military trained by Australia—tortured, starved and beat him in his Jayapura prison cell. Fearing for his life, Ap gained access to an old reel-to-reel tape recorder and a guitar, and alone in his cell, only days before his death, wrote a love note to his wife and recorded his last song, ‘The Mystery of Life’, a gentle song praising life, love and land. The note and tape were smuggled out of prison and across the border into Papua New Guinea, where Ap’s wife and children had fled as political refugees.

Yale University suggests that since Indonesia first invaded West Papua in the early 1960s, 400,000 men, women and children have been killed, echoing the better-known killing fields of Indonesia’s brutal occupation of East Timor. With only two thirds of its operating budget supplied by Jakarta, the Indonesian military must fund its activities via an opaque mix of legal and illegal businesses. In West Papua, far from the prying eyes and bleeding hearts of modern Jakarta, it has found an Eldorado of gold, oil and timber.

Ronny Kareni says that tens of thousands of Indonesian soldiers now occupy West Papua. No one knows the true figure. The Indonesian army, partially trained and armed by the United States and Australia, has a documented history of mass rape, torture and murder. Since 2017, it has been involved in ‘sweeping operations’, occupying villages, machine-gunning settlements from helicopters, actions that have sent tens of thousands of refugees fleeing into the forest, some into neighbouring Papua New Guinea. Today there are as many as 60,000 to 100,000 internally displaced people, while, under military protection and coordination, thousands of kilometres of virgin rainforest are being cut down and sold off, assisting in the systematic destruction of the third greatest forest on earth.

Cymbals shimmer and crash; the drums crescendo and fall silent. The stage is dark, the gig is over, the breathless WOMAD audience is blown away by the life-force of the Papuan drums and voices.

Backstage, in the artists’ garden, theSorong Samarai players rest, recoup and reflect. Yoshi says, ‘I was looking at social media and seeing people posting their voice about Ukraine. And that’s cool, okay, I pray for them, but it makes me feel little. It makes us feel down, to be honest, little, like we’re no one, just because we’re black, because we’re not white skin and blue eyes, being West Papuan.  But we’re human too’.

Petra joins in, ‘Just this week there were student protests where peaceful protesters were injured, shot and arrested. It’s an ongoing situation. We call it a slow genocide. Every day, especially in the highlands, where it’s remote, people are being attacked, villages are being bombed. West Papua is Australia’s closet neighbour, and there’s no media coverage of what’s been happening there’. She continues, ‘My one message to the Australian prime minister would be, “Stop turning a blind eye to your brother, to your neighbour, we’re only 250km away from you, we’re on your doorstop, people are dying, you need to step up and do something”’. Ronny smiles as he eats a salad and smashes a two-litre bottle of water. ‘We call on the Australian government to be vocal on human rights in West Papua just as they have been for Ukraine. The leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, which Australia is a member of, have agreed to call for a visit of the UN Human Rights Commissioner to West Papua to carry out an impartial investigation. This is what Austra

West Papuan independence fighters 1971
WE ARE NOT MONKEYS!, BY PETER ARNDT

PETER ARNDT, OCT 2019

As Indonesian brutality intensifies, the Papuan struggle for independence reaches a crisis

Pacific groups celebrate Ocean Week by opposing deep sea mining

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/06/2022 - 4:35pm in

Ocean protectors urged ‘Stop Ocean Crime, Ban Deep Sea Mining’

Originally published on Global Voices


‘Ban Deep Sea Mining”. Photo from the Facebook page of Oxfam in the Pacific. Used with permission.

Various Pacific groups celebrated Ocean Week and Ocean Day on June 8 by calling on officials to reject deep-sea mining (DSM) in the region.

Deep-sea mining is the practice of extracting minerals from the ocean floor, which threatens marine life and ecosystems. Because of its potentially massive impact, the International Seabed Authority of the United Nations is drafting regulations against deep-sea mining that could take effect in July 2023. So far, the island nations of Nauru and Tonga have expressed interest in pursuing measures to ban or limit DSM.

The regional network Pacific Blue Line is actively opposing DSM and warns how this extractive practice would exacerbate the harsh impact of climate change that is already ravaging island communities in the Oceania region.

Pacific governments keen to pursue DSM have to ask themselves, to what extent are they willing to destroy the ocean’s life support system during a time of climate, and planetary emergency and in what is commonly known as the age of extinction. Our governments must ask themselves who stands to gain the most from the destruction of our ocean.

It would be beyond ironic if leaders of Pacific Island countries, which are already at the forefront of the impacts of climate change and facing existential threats to territorial integrity, allow themselves to be persuaded to mine the ocean floor, thereby pushing the world into the doomsday scenario.

A petition was launched to mobilize public opposition against DSM. This initiative is supported by the Pacific Parliamentarians’ Alliance on Deep Sea Mining which released a statement highlighting the destructive colonial legacy in the Pacific and how DSM would exacerbate the exploitation of the region under the guise of pursuing development.

Recent Pacific history is replete with experiences of exploitation under the guise of social and economic development pathways that, in reality, involved frontier industries that were inherently experimental. Decades of atmospheric and underground or submarine nuclear testing, terrestrial mining and other land-based extractive industries are pertinent examples. Such historical exploitation holds much responsibility for the realities of many Pacific Islands societies today; realities that serve to shrink our options and entice our countries to repeat unsustainable patterns of economic development.

During the Ocean Week in early June, Pacific Blue organized lectures and webinars to explain how DSM would destroy not just the environment but also the way of life in island communities.

Instead of DSM, Pacific groups have unveiled an alternative agenda promoting a “blue economy” that focuses on ocean protection and grassroots development.

In celebration of Ocean Day, grassroots organizations around the pacific organized protests and events to reflect the growing opposition to DSM. In West Papua, Indonesia, young volunteers organized a coastal clean-up while promoting a petition against DSM.


Young Papuans taking a pledge against deep sea mining. Photo from the Facebook page of Youngsolwara

In Fiji, the Pacific Conference of Churches gathered several individuals and groups together as part of the campaign against DSM:


A group activity celebrating Ocean Week. Photo from the Facebook page of the Pacific Conference of Churches.


“Stop Ocean Crime”. Photo from the Facebook page of the Pacific Conference of Churches.


Coastal clean up near the University of South Pacific. Photo from the Facebook page of the Pacific Conference of Churches

Abbott Tells Friends That He Would’ve Beaten The Indonesian President In A Bike Race

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/06/2022 - 8:13am in

Former Minister for Women (yep, really) Tony Abbott has been overheard telling friends in Manly how if he were still Prime Minister he would’ve soundly defeated Indonesian President Joko Widodo in a bike race.

The boast came after the current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Indonesian President enjoyed a bike ride together in the grounds of the Presidential palace.

”Tony was very confident that he could take on any World leader in a bike race,” said a Waiter who overheard the conversation. ”He kept reminding everyone about the time that he threatened to shirtfront Putin.”

”Of course he piped down when it was suggested that he should fly to the Ukraine and follow through on his threats.”

Former Prime Minister Abbott could not be reached for comment as he was currently training just in case any World leaders decided to try him.

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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Book Review: Strategies of Authoritarian Survival and Dissensus in Southeast Asia by Sokphea Young

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/04/2022 - 9:12pm in

In Strategies of Authoritarian Survival and Dissensus in Southeast Asia, Sokphea Young argues that the success of civil society organisation (CSO) movements in Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia depends largely on whether these movements are seen as threats to the regime’s winning coalition. This book’s powerful examination lays important foundations for further research examining the link between regime survival and civil society success, writes Bavo Stevens

This book review is published by the LSE Southeast Asia blog and LSE Review of Books blog as part of a collaborative series focusing on timely and important social science books from and about Southeast Asia.

Strategies of Authoritarian Survival and Dissensus in Southeast Asia: Weak Men Versus Strongmen. Sokphea Young. Palgrave. 2021.  

Strategies of Authoritarian Survival and Dissensus in Southeast Asia cover‘Why do some movements succeed while others fail in the context of a regime’s political survival?’ That is the question at the heart of Sokphea Young’s ambitious book, Strategies of Authoritarian Survival and Dissensus in Southeast Asia. The book engages with the complex literatures on authoritarian repression and clientelism to tease out when civil society organisation (CSO) movements and protests are successful in achieving their aims. Young’s close analysis of contemporary Cambodia, alongside two shorter interventions on Indonesia and Malaysia, suggests that the success of CSO movements ultimately depends on how regimes respond to them. Young’s work shows that even when CSOs are strong and well-organised, their success largely depends on whether they are seen as threats to the regime. When CSOs are seen as a threat, regimes are likely to opt for repression. But when CSOs are not seen as a threat, regimes are less likely to repress and opt instead for a concessionary strategy.

In the first part of the book, Young broadly examines the politics of authoritarian control and the political development of modern Cambodia, showing how issues of patrimonialism, repression and control intersect in the country. Young effectively lays out the central challenges that rulers confront in holding on to power, particularly in maintaining support from their winning coalitions through effective client-patron relations. Young casts Prime Minister Hun Sen as the central patron in Cambodia, who has used extractive economic institutions to maintain support and partial political legitimacy. A second strategy that Young describes is the co-option of CSOs, especially CSOs whose work closely aligns with the interests of the regime.

Police officer in Cambodia

Image Credit: Crop of ‘Police’ by Damien @ Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0

Young then examines two cases emblematic of his central thesis. The first case looks at a peasant movement targeting a powerful Cambodian senator with close ties to the ruling regime and a sugar company. The well-organised movement that developed in response to the expropriation of land by the sugar company threatened the interest of the Baron and, by extension, the ruling regime. The regime’s violent crackdown on protestors and intimidation of activists, in addition to blocking action through the courts, mean that the movement failed to achieve its demands, including the return of the expropriated land.

The second case presents a slightly different story. A European company with agricultural stakes in the country faced a loosely organised response by an indigenous community that felt its land was unfairly expropriated by the company. But unlike the Sugar Baron, the local partner that worked with the European company did not have strong ties to the ruling regime. As a consequence, the regime felt less threatened by the community’s movement, which gave its local officials the space to use regulatory instruments to address the CSO movement’s demands as part of its more concessional strategy. The community was able to partially fulfil its goal and received some compensation for its lost land.

In short, the first CSO movement, despite being relatively strong and well-organised, threatened the regime’s neo-patrimonial network and faced a repressive response that prevented it from achieving its goals. The second CSO movement, which was relatively weak and more loosely organised, did not threaten the regime’s network, and faced a more concessionary strategy that allowed it to partially achieve its goals. The argument presented in these two chapters is overall convincing. The in-depth analysis of these two cases with a broader discussion of CSO movements and neo-patrimonialism presents a convincing case of Young’s argument: it is ultimately the regime’s response that matters the most.

It is in its discussion of Cambodia that the ambitions and strengths of the book shine. By identifying how ‘threats from society’ can challenge the interests of a regime’s neo-patrimonial network, Young is able to show that distinguishing between threats of authoritarian power-sharing and control, like Milan Svolik also demonstrates, is not always so clear cut. Rather, they inform each other; threats from society and threats from elites are linked.

The strong discussion on Cambodia sets Young up for an interesting comparative analysis with Malaysia and Indonesia in the two penultimate chapters of the book. Though Young is able to show that similar patterns existed in Malaysia and Indonesia, this is not argued as clearly as the earlier chapters on Cambodia. For one, the analytical focus in the Malaysia and Indonesia chapters shifts somewhat from CSO movements and the neo-patrimonial networks of the regimes to the survival strategies of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Suharto, former President of Indonesia. The chapters point to changes to the winning coalitions of the respective regimes, rivalries that existed within these coalitions and how Mahathir and Suharto navigated their rivalries with other elites and responded to challenges from society. Young’s discussion in these chapters is not as sophisticated as his analyses of CSO movements in Cambodia because the reader is given less information on the strength and strategies of the CSO movements Young studies nor evidence on the winning coalition of the regime.

Secondly, where Young does discuss CSO movements, the neo-patrimonial links appear more tenuous. For instance, in the chapter on Malaysia, Young discusses several dam-building projects. One of the projects Young highlights is the Bakun project, which resumed after the Asian financial crisis with one of the Prime Minister’s close friends, Ting Pek Khiing, awarded the contract. This suggests that similar dynamics are at play, but it is never clearly established if Ting Pek Khiing was an initial member of Mahathir’s winning coalition, what the scope and strength of the CSO movement that protested the project were or if broader economic factors following the 1997 crisis influenced the decision to move forward with the project.

Similar concerns emerge in the chapter on Indonesia, where Young discusses similar examples of resistance. One notable example is the movement against the Kedung Ombo dam project. The project faced continued protests from the people of Boyolali whose land was to be flooded. The protestors took their case to court, with the Supreme Court ultimately ruling for $4.5 million in compensation. Suharto intervened and overturned the project and the compensation was voided. Young argues that Suharto intervened to maintain the economic interests of the crony system that underpinned his regime since many dams were funded by Indonesian cement companies, some of which belonged to his siblings and allies. But if that is the primary reason why the Kedung Ombo project moved forward, it is left somewhat unclear why the movement against the Lindu dam project was more successful. Like the Bakun project in Malaysia, questions about the scope and strength of the CSO movement also remain unanswered.

Despite some of these limitations, Young’s book offers a powerful look at the strategies of authoritarian survival and how they shape the success and failure of CSO movements. It is work by scholars like Young that helps add significant nuance to our understanding of how authoritarian regimes can operate. Young sheds light on why authoritarian regimes respond differently to the demands of similar civil society organisations and demonstrates that the neat divide between threats from elites and threats from society in understanding regime durability is rarely so neat. The book is therefore able to lay important foundations for further research that examines the link between regime survival and civil society success.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Gamechanger’ for Charities Could be on the Way

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/02/2015 - 10:16am in