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Updated: 1 year 46 weeks ago

End of a TV era: 'American Idol' vows 'spectacular' finale

Wed, 2016-03-30 12:29

In this image released by Fox, judges, (from left), Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. appear on the set of "American Idol," in Los Angeles. The cultural phenomenon that changed the face of television and created some of today’s biggest music stars, will kick off a three-night Grand Finale week on Tuesday, April 5. (FOX via AP/Ray Mickshaw)

"American Idol," which gave the world Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson, has one more chance to mint a star before it fades into TV and music history.

Whether viewers choose a future chart-topper or trivia question remains to be seen. But executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, who helped translate Britain's "Pop Idol" into the Fox version that debuted in 2002, said the farewell episode will be memorable.

"It's going to be a rather spectacular show," Lythgoe promised, with all the former winners on hand along with past contestants and "other surprises" in the two-hour finale.

"It's about the American idols, about reminding people of 15 seasons," he said, as well as giving the final winner his or her share of the spotlight.

The contenders for the title are finalists MacKenzie Bourg, 23, of Lafayette, Louisiana; Trent Harmon, 24, of Amory, Mississippi; La'Porsha Renae, 22, of McComb, Mississippi; and Dalton Rapattoni, 19, of Dallas.

The field will have been trimmed to three for the final competition episode, 8-9 p.m. EDT Wednesday, April 6, with the winner announced the next night, 8-10:06 p.m. EDT Thursday, April 7. Lythgoe, who exited the series in 2013, returned to produce the concluding night's broadcast.

Clarkson, the inaugural "Idol," is set to perform, as are Underwood and the other winners including Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Jordin Sparks and Scotty McCreery. Among the many contestants taking part: Clay Aiken, Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Elliott Yamin and LaToya London.

Past "Idol" finales became known for flaunting superstars, perhaps none more important than Prince. His performance in the 2006 season-ender signaled that the show had transcended its image as overblown karaoke and become a respectable showcase for established artists.

But Lythgoe downplays the importance of celebrities as part of the finale — or the contest itself.

"It isn't about big stars coming on and singing their record. 'American Idol' was never about that. It was about the young stars we created," he said.

Lythgoe can't avoid a bit of impish humor involving a certain pair of divas, former judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, who famously clashed during their shared 2013 tenure.

"I've invited them back to the finale to sing 'That's What Friends Are For,'" he said.

Current judges Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban will help usher the show out.

Before the finale, Fox is stoking nostalgia with "American Idol: American Dream," a 90-minute special airing at 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 5. Host Ryan Seacrest, original judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson and former contestants will be among those reminiscing and sharing insider tidbits.

Season seven contestant David Hernandez already is feeling a sense of loss.

"I only really associate great memories with being on that show," he said. While some others are reluctant to credit their careers to "Idol," he gladly admits it — and so, he points out, does one of the show's biggest graduates.

"Even to this day, when Carrie Underwood accepts her Grammys and other awards, she says, 'Thank you, 'American Idol,' this wouldn't be possible,'" Hernandez said. "I'm so thankful just to have fans in the Philippines or in Europe who say, 'I remember you on that show. I bought your album.'"

"Idol" was as much a boost for Fox as any of its young singers, ruling the TV ratings as the No. 1 series for an astounding nine consecutive years.

Lythgoe said he was confident that British mega-producer Simon Fuller's "Pop Idol" format, with its unusual behind-the-scenes view of contestant auditions, would export well. And he told Fox executives just that.

"You realize this program is going to take you across the board, from grandchildren to grandparents," Lythgoe recalled saying. "This was a family show at a time when family members were each disappearing into their own rooms to watch television."

Although he firmly believed in it, he said, "Simon Cowell packed his suitcase for two weeks."

While Cowell's barbed criticism of contestants helped drive the show's popularity, it also made for a rocky start with Abdul, who favored a more nurturing approach with the show's young talent.

"Paula couldn't understand how this English guy next to her could be so rude and ruthless," he said. "So she was in tears a great deal of the time and terribly upset. Then to see them come together. ... Simon, Paula and Randy are the three judges that everybody will remember."

Season six winner Sparks calls the show worthy of a grand send-off.

"It fulfilled so many dreams and encouraged so many people, even if they aren't singers. There are people who watch the show and are touched by it. I'm sad that it's going to be gone because of that, because of the lives that it touched." (+)

Categories: Indonesian News

Outlier Tea in Search of a Place

Wed, 2016-03-30 12:29

Your cup of tea: Tayu green tea brewed in the Chinese way

Nutty, somewhat bitter with an overburnt aroma. That’s the taste of Tayu green tea — also known as Jebus tea or nampong cha in Chinese.

The aroma filled the air when the tea was brewed by a visiting administrator of the Jakarta-based Tea Lovers Community in Tayu — a hamlet in Ketap village where the tea is produced, in Jebus district in West Bangka regency.

They were drawn there for three reasons.

At an altitude of 15 to 20 meters above sea level, with slope percentages ranging from 3 to 8, Tayu is arguably home to the country’s only lowland tea estates — an outlier because most tea plants in the country are grown in the highlands.

The estates are family or household-owned and operated smallholdings, which is also an outlier because the other tea estates in the country are normally owned and run by state plantation companies (PTPN), private corporations or private individuals.

Third, head of West Bangka regency’s Agriculture, Plantation and Animal Husbandry Service, Azmal Az, sees the smallholdings as a regency asset that merits the creation of a line item in its budget — not only for development and promotion purposes but also for the obtainment of geographical indication (GI), a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.

Which, again, is an outlier because the tea estates are, for the most part, situated on state-owned production forests which render them — according to Minister of Forestry Decree No. 798/2012 that governs changes of designation and function of provincial forest areas — ineligible for assistance unless they are relocated to areas designated for other uses.

So, for now, the local plantation authorities are focusing on marketing Tayu tea which they regard as an icon of both Tayu and Jebus. They sought advice and assisance from the visiting guests as one of them is the Head of the Promotion Division of the Indonesian Tea Board.

Offered at the source at Rp 5,000 per box of two 50 gram aluminum foil packets and or at Rp 300,000 per kg in a simple plastic sack, mostly through a Bangka Chinese network, the tea is considered expensive and difficult to obtain.

In contrast to most of the tea produced in the country, which come from broad-leaf Camellia sinensis var assamica plants, this lowland tea comes from the small-leafed Camellia sinensis var sinensis plant known for its hardiness and ability to produce some of the finest teas on earth.

Moreover, the plants are of 60 to 100 years of age, according to both Azmal Az and Erwin Malik, the regency field officer responsible for cultivation.

Rather uncared for, growing slowly in full sunshine, these old trees must have, as plant physiology studies have shown, high production of secondary metabolites responsible for more intense flavor, and in some cases, more complex and subtle flavors, which young plants do not generally produce.

While grown in Indonesia, the tea is, however, essentially Chinese as it is produced by Chinese Indonesians using a traditional wok-roasting method passed down to them by their Chinese ancestors.

Having returned to Jakarta, I took a sample of the tea to Chinese tea expert Suwarni Widjaja. She brewed the leaves rapidly and lightly with boiling water, not at the 70 to 80 degree Celsius commonly prescribed for green tea. Suwarni explained that this was unnecessary as the tea leaves came from old trees grown in tropical lowland areas.

The result was surprising. The captivating aroma of roasted seasoned seaweed reflected in a savory, mineral liquor reminiscent of boiled edamame.

An aroma of roasted corn came out instead of burnt flavors. There was no astringency and the after taste was slightly salty. After the third steeping, the flavors started to fade away gracefully.

If effort is made to make the tea organic, diversify it, promote it as artisanal exotic product linked to the history of the island’s Chinese migrants and tin mining, and make the estates tourism-friendly, the tea may soon become a sought-after experience.

— Arif Suryobuwono

Categories: Indonesian News

Obama seeing China leader as South China Sea tensions rise

Wed, 2016-03-30 12:29

In this photo taken Nov. 30, 2015, President Barack Obama meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Le Bourget, France. President Barack Obama will be meeting with Asian leaders in Washington this week as fears grow that long-smoldering tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea could flare into conflict. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Barack Obama will be meeting with Asian leaders in Washington this week as fears grow that long-smoldering tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea risk flaring into conflict.

World leaders, including those from China, Japan and South Korea, will be in town for a summit hosted by Obama on nuclear security — the final round in the U.S. president's drive for international action to stop materials that could be used for an atomic weapon or dirty bomb from getting into terrorist hands.

But other pressing security issues will be up for discussion on the sidelines of the two-day gathering that starts Thursday.

Obama will on Thursday meet separately with China's President Xi Jinping at a time when frictions between the two world powers over China's island-building in strategic waters are growing and look set to intensify with an upcoming ruling from an international tribunal on Beijing's sweeping territorial claims.

The U.S. president is also meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Washington is looking for an elusive unity between its core allies in Asia as threats from North Korea reach fever-pitch after Pyongyang was stung with tough sanctions in response to its recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

Obama will be urging China to implement the U.N. sanctions it signed up to for use against North Korea, its traditional ally. For his part, Xi will want the U.S. to restart negotiations with the authoritarian government of Kim Jong Un, which has been touting progress in miniaturizing nuclear devices and missile technology that could directly threaten America.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that if North Korea keeps advancing its weapons programs, the U.S. will be compelled to take defensive measures that China will not like, such as the deployment of a missile defense system being discussed with South Korea. Beijing is concerned the system's radar could cover Chinese territory.

"The bottom line remains that as long as North Korea continues in this direction, advancing its nuclear program, advancing its missile program, we are going to have to take these steps to defend ourselves and to defend our partners," Blinken told a Washington think tank.

With Obama's presidency in its final year, there's uncertainty among Asian nations on what the next administration will portend. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is calling for Japan and South Korea to pay more for U.S. military protection, and is advocating a tougher trade policy toward China.

Deepen engagement

During his seven years in office, Obama has deepened engagement with Asia, despite the huge distraction of chaos in the Middle East. The U.S. and China have cooperated on issues like climate change and nuclear security, even as their strategic rivalry has grown.

The U.S. is a major player in China's fast-growing nuclear industry, and this month, the U.S. and China opened a center in Beijing to train technicians and scientists from across the Asia-Pacific on nuclear security.

But when Obama and Xi meet, the hottest topic will be the most divisive one: China's bold pursuit of its sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China has reclaimed more than 3,000 acres of land in the past two years near sea lanes crucial for world trade. On these artificial islands, Beijing has installed airstrips and other military facilities that U.S. intelligence assesses will enable China to project offensive military power in the region by early next year.

Despite conflicting territorial claims from five other Asian governments, China contends it has a historic right to most of the South China Sea and maintains the U.S. has no business there. It accuses the U.S. of stoking tensions by sending military ships and planes through the area on freedom of navigation maneuvers.

"Washington should know that the more provocative moves it makes against China, the more counter-measures Beijing will take. Such an undesirable cycle may push both sides nearer confrontation and cause both to prepare for the worst-case scenario, potentially making it self-fulfilling," the U.S. edition of the state-supported China Daily said in a recent editorial.

The stakes are set to rise by mid-year when an international arbitration body is set to rule on a case brought by the Philippines challenging the legal basis of the nine-dash line — Beijing's rough demarcation of its claims.

If the Hague-based tribunal rules in the Philippines' favor, as most experts anticipate, it could undermine China's insistence that its stance is consistent with international law. China has refused to participate in the arbitration and says it will ignore the ruling, but a growing number of countries say both parties should be bound by it.

Jeffrey Bader, Obama's former principal advisor on Asia, wrote in a commentary ahead of the summit that there's concern in Washington and the region about how China might react to the ruling, and whether it will militarily challenge Filipino territorial claims. He said that as the Philippines is a U.S. ally, Obama "may warn Xi of the risks of escalation."

The last time Xi visited Washington, in September, he publicly said that China did not intend to pursue militarization in the Spratly islands where most of land reclamation has happened — a statement that U.S. officials remind Beijing of at every opportunity. But in recent weeks, China has reportedly positioned more military equipment on disputed islands in the South China Sea. (ags)

Categories: Indonesian News

Game Of Thrones' Bran Stark coming to Singapore on April 2

Wed, 2016-03-30 12:29

Actors Isaac Hempstead Wright (left) as Bran Stark and Max von Sydow as the Three-Eyed Raven in Game of Thrones Season 6(Twitter/GameOfThrones)

Mark the date: Game Of Thrones' English actor Isaac Hempstead Wright will be making his appearance at Ion Orchard on April 2.

Wright, 17, plays the character of Bran Stark in the globally successful fantasy series about an epic struggle for power. Bran was not seen in Season 5 of the show, presumably learning about his powers from the wizard-like Three-Eyed Raven and fans are eagerly awaiting his return in Season 6. The 10 new episodes begin airing on HBO here on April 25 at 9am, the same time as in the United States.

The Emmy Award-winning series is based on George R.R. Martin's best-selling book series A Song Of Ice And Fire. Volume 6, The Winds Of Winter, is expected to answer burning questions, such as whether popular character Jon Snow died, but it will not be out by the time the show airs. This means the show will be going into uncharted territory even for fans who have been avidly following the novels.

For those who are keen to take a picture with Wright, follow HBO Asia on Facebook for updates, or participate in StarHub's contest (www.starhub.com/got-contest), which offers subscribers the chance to meet him.

Details of his appearance at The Game Of Thrones Experience: Worlds Of Westeros will be broadcast on HBO Asia's social media platforms.

In addition, the show's devotees may also ascend the forbidding ice Wall in a virtual Castle Black winch elevator, sit on a replica of the fought-over Iron Throne and even pose for snaps with the fearsome Drogon. StarHub customers will be given priority for these activities.

The Game Of Thrones Experience: Worlds Of Westeros (#GOTAsiaWOW, #BranStarkInSG)

When: April 2 to 7

Time: 10am to 10pm

Where: Ion Orchard, Basement 4 Atrium

Categories: Indonesian News

Terror suspect’s death to be probed

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

Amid reports of physical abuse, the Muhammadiyah central committee (PP) and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) will investigate the death of terror suspect Siyono of Klaten, Central Java, during his arrest by the National Police’s Densus 88 counterterrorism unit earlier this month.

“We will arrange for an autopsy for Siyono’s body to determine whether a human rights violation led to his death,” Komnas HAM member Siane Indriani told The Jakarta Post at the Muhammadiyah office on Tuesday.

Siane accompanied Siyono’s wife, Suratmi, who filed a report over her husband’s death and requested legal assistance from the Muhammadiyah PP, which was represented by one of its heads, Busyro Muqodas, and Iwan Satriawan, deputy head of the justice and human rights council.

“We will be assisted by five forensics experts from Yogyakarta Muhammadiyah University (UMY) for the autopsy,” said Siane.

Siyono, from Brengkungan village, Klaten regency, was arrested by Densus 88 members on March 8. He was allegedly killed on March 10 during an arrest by Densus 88, and buried on March 13.

The National Police said Siyono, who police claim was the commander of Neo Jamaah Islamiyah, died after an encounter with an Densus 88 member who asked where he was hiding his weapons.

Busyro said that he regretted the actions of Densus 88 that led to Siyono’s death, adding that he did not believe that the pint-sized Siyono dared to resist arrest.

“Even if he resisted arrest, he could be overpowered and there was no need to kill him. We regret that the methods commonly used during the New Order are still being used,” said Busyro.

He also called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his Cabinet ministers to be transparent and form an independent team to evaluate the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and Densus 88.

“Siyono’s death concerns humanity and has nothing to do with a particular religion,” he said.

During the meeting, Suratmi, who came with her three children, also entrusted two bundles of neatly packed cash, believed to be given by the police, to Busyro.

She said that the bundles of cash further convinced her that her husband’s death was unnatural. The money was given by two women who were not in uniform, named Ayu and Lastri, who met her when she was picking up her husband’s body in Jakarta.

“They said a bundle of the money was for funeral expenses and the other for my children. However, the cash provision has instead further caused anxiety,” she said.

After giving the money, a woman, who claimed to be Ayu, also repeatedly asked her to accept her husband’s death and not take legal measures, Suratmi said.

Following her husband’s death, she claimed that she was approached by officers, believed to be Densus 88 members, at her home in Klaten. They arrived in a black car.

Separately, National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti has also ordered the force’s Internal Affairs Division (Propam) to investigate Siyono’s death.

He said there might have been violations but declined to comment further, saying that he would wait for Propam to conclude its investigation into Siyono’s death.

Categories: Indonesian News

Govt remains indecisive over resolving historic rights abuses

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

The government said on Tuesday that it had yet to decide on what actions to take to resolve historic human rights abuses as several mechanisms were still being considered.

Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki said that the government was still discussing what would be the best format for the solutions, whether it will take judicial or non-judicial measures.

He said that the discussion was also seeking to find out whether the government needed to set up a special body tasked to solve historic human rights abuse cases, or if they would be solved by existing law enforcement institutions.

One of the challenges the government is facing in solving the cases was that some of the perpetrators had already died, making it hard for a judicial body to collect evidence to confirm their offenses, Teten added.

“Probably a better format for the solution is reconciliation, but if we talk about reconciliation there will be demands to bring out the truth about the cases before agreeing on a reconciliation. Whether we need an ad hoc team to handle the reconciliation is still being discussed, but the point is there must be a solution to the matter,” Teten said.

He said that it would take a while for the government to solve the abuse cases because President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration was currently focused on repairing the economy.

“I think all will agree that hungry stomachs can lead to turmoil; more human rights problems will emerge. I believe the President is indeed heavy on the economy because the President perceives if the economy gets better and people’s welfare gets better, we can handle such problems even better,” he said.

The slow progress at the State Palace, as well as in the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and other relevant ministries has made activists, victims and families come to the Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres) to urge Jokowi to form an independent commission directly under him to reveal the truth of the historic abuses and help the victims and families.

Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace chairman Hendardi said that he hoped that the board could channel the aspirations directly to the President to have the commission formed faster.

“We demand the President form a presidential task force, consisting of intellectuals and not government people, including Komnas HAM [state commission for human rights], nor the military, intelligence or the police, all of which were part of the problems themselves,” he told reporters after meeting with Wantimpres.

They demand the team and government meet and question witnesses, many of whom are still alive.

“We reject the government’s reason for dragging out the progress saying there is not enough evidence because many of them are still alive,” Hendardi said.

Setara, victims and families cited former president BJ Habibie, former Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. (ret) Wiranto and Maj. Gen. (ret) Kivlan Zein, a former military officer who admits to knowing the locations of the persons who went missing during the 1997/1998 tragedies, as examples of witnesses.

The team will then conclude whether the solution should go through a judicial or non-judicial process; either way will have to include revelations of the truth and the perpetrators behind the incidents.

Setara and others are worried that the government will only apologize as a way to solve everything without revealing the truth as the government keeps saying its lacks evidence.

The dossiers of seven major cases were completed by the state commission of human rights (Komnas HAM) in 2002, but the AGO always returns them because of a lack of evidence.

The cases include the 1989 Talangsari incident in Central Lampung, the 2001 and 2003 Wamena and Wasior incidents in Papua, various kidnappings and unresolved shootings in the 1980s, the 1965 communist purge and the 1998 May riots.

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Categories: Indonesian News

Guess what?: Sheryl makes movie debut

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

Singer Sheryl Sheinafia will be the main female lead in Raditya Dika’s new comedy movie Koala Kumal (Shabby Koala), kapanlagi.com reported over the weekend.

“The movie will be my debut as a lead actor. I will also sing the soundtrack theme,” said the 19-year-old, popular for her single “Kutunggu Kau Putus” (Until You Break Up).

It is the second time she has been involved in one of Raditya’s film projects. Previously, she appeared in the comedian-cum-director’s film Marmut Merah Jambu (Pink Guinea Pig) in 2014.

“I will act opposite Raditya Dika as his best friend. It’s difficult to be funny, but during readings Raditya gave me the freedom to create the character.”

The film, which will also star Acha Septriasa and Nino Fernandez, will start shooting in April and is set for release mid-year

Categories: Indonesian News

Guess what?: Gita busy working as producer

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

After the success of the Di Atas Rata-rata (Above Average) compilation album, known as DARR, singer-songwriter Gita Gutawa is working on a second installment of the project, scouting for teen musicians and singers.

Gita, 22, and her music composer father Erwin Gutawa have produced an album for young musicians and will hold a live concert on April 2.

“Learning to become a producer is a new sensation for me. Currently, I’m handling a concert and becoming an organizer as well.

“I still perform on-air and off-air as a singer, but I am now preoccupied with DARR. I want to focus on the project first and do my best because these kids really need to be put under the spotlight,” she said as reported by kapanlagi.com.

Erwin said that Gita had shown an interest in event production long before turning to singing.

“Even during her teens she had already developed a sense of becoming a behind-the-scenes performer. She was involved in the concerts I produced, but not because I told her to,” he said.

Categories: Indonesian News

Cupcake ReSolution Spreading a sense of hope

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

Cupcake ReSolution is making a difference in a big way even if it still has a long road ahead.

Cupcake ReSolution — a social impact initiative that aims to help less-fortunate children rightfully claim their birth certificates, a process that is far more challenging than it should be — was co-founded by Fatya Azlika and Patrice Madurai in 2015, just two years after the latter started the initiative in South Africa to help identity-less children there.

The two initially met in Den Haag, the Netherlands in 2012, when Fatya was chairing the Economic and Social Council at the European International Model UN, in which Madurai was a delegate.

It only made sense for an Indonesia-focused version of the initiative.

“Demographically speaking, Indonesia and Africa share the same characteristics and problems regarding children with no identities,” explains Fatya,

“Both are experiencing obstacles to creating proper and equal access for health and education for all children. Feeling truly inspired and challenged, the idea came to me to establish Cupcake ReSolution in Indonesia.”

The question is of course what exactly does cupcakes have to do with all of this? For the founders, it has to do with giving the children a tangible sign of hope.

Fatya considers hope and dreams as something taught to us from an early age, ever since we blew out birthday candles as children while wishing for things.

However, for these children, she said wishes, hopes and dreams are something so distant and impossible to reach. Consequently, these kids will never be aware of their rights and how special they are.

Sweet treat: Children enjoy their cupcakes during Cupcake ReSolution’s campaign. The social impact initiative works to restore hope and help children who are not issued birth certificates after being born.

“With a cupcake, we are trying to spread a sense of hope, love and happiness by providing an opportunity for children to blow out their very own candle, eat their very own cupcake and start dreaming and wishing for a brighter future,” Fatya says.

“For the kids, it will begin a mindset shift to start believing in dreams and wishes. For us, it is a gesture of love and care and sound out a movement to raise awareness.”

To set things up, Fatya and Madurai began brainstorming, conducting research, as well as onsite surveys and interviews. They formed a community called Katalisator Kesetaraan or Gender Catalyst (KATASETA) and proposed Cupcake ReSolution as the first project they would tackle.

“Our main goal is simple, to bring equality — in terms of basic rights for education and health — for all children in Indonesia so that they will have a better future,” Fatya says.

The first ever Cupcake ReSolution was conducted in Jakarta on Nov. 29 last year with 50 houses visited and 300 cupcakes successfully distributed.

It’s not just about distributing cupcakes — Cupcake ReSolution’s main job is to find a way through the country’s notoriously ineffective bureaucracy. Thanks to Cupcake ReSolution, other several improvements have been implemented. For one, the issuance of birth certificates is now free of charge.

However, Fatya said there are apparently still fraudulent practices occurring as identified by the village neighborhood (RT) level, from which people still need their authority to issue supporting letters for registration.

As the complications of registration stays the same, she said, birth certificates require seven government-issued documents. In some circumstances, lack of awareness coupled by stigmatization are hampering the process of birth certificate registration.

“[The] best approach is to streamline and to digitize the process of birth certificate registration. With this approach, we believe that the birth certificate registration process can [improve its efficiency] significantly,” Fatya says.

For Fatya and Madurai, giving the children access to their birth certificate will lead them away from the many challenges they would face otherwise.

“The issues are limitless for the kids and also for Indonesia. First, millions of births are not registered in Indonesia so these children don’t have legal identities. This situation condemns them to anonymity, and often being marginalized, because simple activities — from opening a bank account, claiming basic health services or attending good schools — often requires a legal identity,” explains Fatya.

Simply put, children with birth certificates will have better access to basic health services and education. Consequently, better educational outcomes would result.

However, she says, Indonesia still lacks accurate data to effectively plan, budget and deliver health and education services to children — with between 50 and 75 percent of Indonesian children not having birth certificates.

“Finally, most importantly, these ‘invisible children’ will often lose hope and lose sight for a better future, which will trap them forever in the vicious cycle of poverty. Therefore, we need to fully be in the spirit of attaining the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] in which we strongly need to eradicate poverty.”

— Photos courtesy of Cupcake ReSolution

Categories: Indonesian News

Commentary: Jokowi’s hardball may mothball Masela gas project until 2022

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s decision to choose an onshore liquefaction process for the giant Masela gas project could be right for domestic political consumption.

But his hardball approach and policy inconsistency, without taking into account the prevailing weak oil-market conditions, could jeopardize the commercial viability of the whole Masela LNG project gas development in southern Maluku.

That was our main reading of the President’s decision last Wednesday to select an onshore liquefaction (OLNG) concept for the Masela project, which sits on almost 11 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in the Arafura Sea.

His decision overrules the recommendations of the SKKMigas upstream oil and gas regulatory body, his energy and mineral resources minister and the oil and gas contractors, Inpex-Shell, which all chose a floating LNG (FLNG) concept.

Ordering Inpex-Shell to go back to the drawing board to prepare an OLNG project will possibly postpone the final investment decision on the project until 2022, almost three years after a new government takes over.

Both Inpex and Shell say they have not received the final documents on the President’s decision, so were unable to make any meaningful comment, except confirming that the project would suffer another delay.

But analysts have noted that since this is a huge project, Inpex-Shell will certainly conduct a disciplined approach to see whether the OLNG project will be consistent with their requirements for a development concept that is commercially robust across a range of scenarios.

Wood Mackenzie consulting company observed in its latest report that “ the decision to go onshore will not only extend the time to first gas [delivery] but also brings into questions Inpex and partner Shell’s commitment to the project”.

Inpex-Shell had previously looked into both OLNG and FLNG options but had selected a FLNG concept because it would cost over US$7 billion less than the estimated $22 billion for an OLNG, as well as being faster to develop.

They will certainly ask for more incentives to make the project commercially viable and bankable, but these additional incentives could wipe out most of the economic advantages (multiplier impacts) Jokowi had in mind when he chose an OLNG over a FLNG.

Upstream oil and gas analysts here estimate that Inpex-Shell will need at least two years to conduct another environmental impact analysis, another one year for a more detailed feasibility study on the OLNG and one year more for finalizing its final plan of development (POD).

Even if the government speeds up approval of the POD, the oil companies will still need another two years to seek potential buyers and lenders. Hence analysts predict Inpex-Shell will not make a final investment decision until 2022. If the contract for the project’s front-end engineering design is awarded within one year later, engineering, procurement and construction will start only in 2023 and the plant will come on-stream in 2029.

The main predicament in this process is that Inpex-Shell will have to negotiate an extension of the Masela block concession, which will end in 2028, because even under the original POD for a FLNG, as proposed by the contractors, the project had been scheduled to start production only in 2024/2025.

Fortunately, though, the extension of an oil and gas production contract can be negotiated 10 years before its end. But negotiations for the contract’s extension are unlikely to start in 2018, an election year, when inordinately strong nationalist sentiments heat up campaigns.

The negotiation process will also plunge the project into political and social quagmire, as the Maluku provincial and regency administrations, as well as state-owned Pertamina oil company, may demand a piece of the huge gas-resource pie.

Since this is a gas business and all the risks are to be borne by Inpex-Shell, commercial viability is the key to determining whether the project will advance to the implementation stage or end up mothballed.

The main question then is who will buy the gas and at what prices and for how long. When it comes to the LNG market, many analysts have predicted a market glut within the next 10-15 years, with an estimated additional capacity of 50 million tons a year to come on stream, mainly in Australia, the US, Africa and Malaysia.

The day Jokowi announced his choice of OLNG for Masela, newspapers in Australia reported that Woodside Petroleum and its partners, including Shell, had shelved plans to build the $30 billion Browse floating LNG project off Australia in the face of global oversupply. The decision means there are no longer any major gas export projects under serious consideration in Australia after a $220bn-plus run of investment decisions unprecedented anywhere in the world.

The pace of development of giant gas export schemes has slowed globally, as LNG prices have plummeted with oil prices, prompting many companies to delay funding decisions until business conditions brighten.

In Asia, LNG prices have plunged by 80 percent over the past two years. The basic question then is whether the much larger cost and the more complex development of OLNG justifies spending vast amounts of money at current oil prices below $40/barrel.

Yet more important is whether potential lenders who will put up at least 80 percent of the investment will be convinced that their credit will be returned. After all, most giant oil and gas companies have seen their available funds for development decimated by slumping prices.

Categories: Indonesian News

New product

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

Insurance firm Panin Dai-ichi Life vice president director Simon Imanto (left) and director Jutany Japit show a promotional poster at the launch of the company’s Premier Heritage Plan on Tuesday in Jakarta. The product is aimed at providing customers with financial protection solutions in the present and future.(JP/DON)

Categories: Indonesian News

Fresh catch

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

Customers select various types of fish at an auction in Batang regency Central Java. Fish products have been selling for as low as Rp 12,000 (90 US cents) per kilogram this season.(JP/Agus Maryono)

Categories: Indonesian News

Jokowi gives ‘full support’ to taxmen

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has once again extended his support to tax officials carrying out their duties amid the challenges of meeting the government’s high tax-collection target.

On Tuesday morning, the President briefed 56 echelon I and II officials working at the taxation directorate general (DJP) and regional offices. It was his third visit to the DJP since assuming office in October 2014.

“I’ve been here twice before. It means I’m giving full support to all tax officials,” he said in a press conference after the briefing.

Considering that 2016 is the year of law enforcement for tax, such support is needed when tax officials crack down on rich tax evaders, including individuals with strong political ties or affiliations.

“Everybody is equal. If they have not paid their tax obligations, we will make them pay,” Jokowi said.

The former furniture businessman emphasized that tax officials must be supported in order to achieve the tax revenue target as it played a crucial role in financing development.

This year the government is eyeing around Rp 1.36 quadrillion (US$101.79 billion) in tax revenues, an increase of 28.2 percent from the achievement posted in 2015.

Many have said that the target, which is contained in the 2016 state budget, is overly optimistic, citing the ongoing economic slowdown, both global and domestic.

However, the President hinted that a downward revision of the target was under way, saying that the administration did not want to be too optimistic. “We want to be optimistic, but realistic.”

Revision of the state budget is expected to take place between June and July, before which the tax amnesty bill is expected to be passed, House of Representatives Speaker Ade Komarudin has told The Jakarta Post.

The bill is expected to lead to the repatriation of billions of dollars held by Indonesians overseas and result in a multi-billion-dollar boost to state revenues.

However, Jokowi was quick to refute any notion that the government is relying too much on the tax amnesty bill to jack up state revenues, saying: “There’s no such thing as dependence on the tax amnesty […] Tax amnesty or not, we have made the calculations.”

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said that it would turn to individual taxpayers as the basis for future revenues, arguing that they were more immune to economic slowdown compared to corporate taxpayers.

Last year the DJP reaped Rp 9 trillion in individual income tax (PPh), more than double what it obtained in 2014. As the focus is now on individuals, the DJP hopes to see this figure double again this year.

Separately, Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) economists urged the government not to force its tax amnesty plan even though the realization of tax revenues only reached Rp 122.4 trillion by February, a mere 9 percent of the overall target this year in the state budget.

CORE economist Akhmad Akbar Susamto said that although the outlook on meeting the tax-collection target seemed grim, the government should focus on maintaining the fiscal momentum by immediately preparing the revisions for the state budget instead of trying to push the tax amnesty bill.

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Categories: Indonesian News

As Sri goes home, 1,000 Indonesians await in Syria

Wed, 2016-03-30 11:00

The rescue of Sri Rahayu from Raqqa — dubbed the capital of the Islamic State (IS) movement — was rather suspenseful.

The 40-year-old domestic worker and native of Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara, traveled under the shade of mountains to Aleppo with an employee from the labor agency that hired her, for around six days. They drove away from main roads to avoid suspicion and unwanted encounters.

If they happened to bump into someone in their clandestine journey, the man would introduce Sri — who wore a hijab — as his wife, as being discovered might cost them dearly.

“I couldn’t bring any of my belongings with me. The only thing that mattered was that I arrive in Aleppo safely,” she told a press conference held at the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

She was picked up by the Indonesian protection and repatriation team midway and sheltered in Aleppo for around three months, before traveling to Damascus on March 12 with the help of Muhamad Abdulkader Akraa, a lawyer hired by the Indonesian embassy who was awarded the Hasan Wirajuda award last year for his dedication to saving Indonesian citizens in Syria.

Sri — who entered Syria in 2011 — was retrieved from Raqqah six months after the Indonesian embassy detected her presence in the city in June 2015 and planned a rescue.

She had worked in the city for over two years, after her contract as a domestic worker in Aleppo expired and the agency that brought her into the country farmed her out to a new employer in Raqqah, some 160 kilometers to the east of Aleppo. The agency lied to her, telling her that the Indonesian embassy had closed after the war.

With mounting terrors — from regular bombings, seeing homes being raided and occupied by IS fighters to witnessing severed heads put on display after a fresh execution — Sri was tempted to flee and contacted a friend in Aleppo, who later forwarded her number to the Indonesian embassy.

Her employer was especially concerned about her safety, she said, after his house was bombed last year. Her employer — who paid her well — had been looking for ways to send her out of town.

“I couldn’t bring any of my belongings with me. The only thing that mattered was that I arrive in Aleppo safely.”

Sri was among 33 Indonesian citizens who made their way home from Syria on Tuesday, flown by the Indonesian protection and repatriation team as the 237th batch evacuated from Syria since 2012.

A total of 12,217 Indonesians have been repatriated from Syria since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, most of whom are domestic workers, according to the Foreign Ministry’s director for the protection of Indonesian nationals and entities abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal.

It was estimated that 12,517 Indonesians resided in Syria in 2012, but the repatriation team’s job was nowhere near done, Lalu told reporters in the conference, as the figure was inflated over the years by possible illegal entries.

“Our latest estimate is that there might be around 1,000 more Indonesians living in Syria,” he said.

In Aleppo, once a thriving city in Syria and currently one of the most dangerous areas in the country, Indonesians might be residing undetected.

However, an exact calculation is impossible as many of them are probably working in shut-in Arab houses and have no access to the outside world, or have moved out of the town with their employees to avoid terror in Aleppo.

Lalu said that the embassy had cooperated with a number of parties, from the local wing of Red Crescent and taxi drivers, to disseminate information for evacuation and to detect the whereabouts of Indonesian

“We are cooperating with cab drivers by giving them pamphlets with our embassy’s contact number written on it, to hand out to passengers that look Indonesian. If possible, we ask the drivers to take them directly to the embassy and we pay them there,” he said.

Maintaining contact with evacuated citizens is also important, he added, as they could be key in locating other Indonesians trapped in the country.

However, not all of them want to go home. Among the difficulties in evacuating Indonesians, he said, was that repatriation was voluntary.

“Some Indonesians live in relatively calm cities, like Damascus, and persevere to continue working there and choose to stay,” he said.

Categories: Indonesian News

Revitalized colonial building stands out in numerous ways

Wed, 2016-03-30 09:58

Financial district charm: Olveh building at Jl. Jembatan Batu No. 50 in Pinangsia, West Jakarta. Pinangsia is derived from the Dutch word financieel (financial), showing that the area was a business district in colonial times.(JP/DON)

The latest building revitalized by the Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corporation (JOTRC) in Kota Tua, West Jakarta, has a unique story and represents an impressive architectural achievement.

Archaeologist Candrian Attahiyat said during a discussion recently that the building, erected in 1921-1922 for Dutch life insurance company Olveh (Onderlinge Levensverzekering Van Eigen Hulp), was not located in the main Batavia (now Kota Tua) old town complex built by the Dutch colonialists and was rather small compared to other colonial buildings.

Candrian said, however, that the building, designed by renowned Dutch architects Richard LA Schoemaker and CP Wolff Schoemaker, was unlike any other. “The building is sexy, beautiful. If you see it from afar, you can recognize it easily.”

Historians have found no valid source to ascertain whether the building was mainly designed by Richard or his brother Wolff.

Candrian said the symmetrical design, its slim figure and the twin tower made the building stand out.

He said the most interesting thing about the building was the original floor that was 90 centimeter below the current one.

“That means the road in front of the building may have been around 120 cm below,” he said.

The archaeologist, who has studied Kota Tua for years, said the building was built near the Chinese community.

“The building itself was in front of a Chinese temple that was actually older than Olveh,” he said.

“The uniqueness of the building lies in the fact that the color was white, ornamented with stained glass,” he said.

However, the preservation team could only save one stained glass window, he added.

The building has two holes on the third floor to place ventilation fans. “However, they were never installed, as they never arrived from the Netherlands,” he said.

Another interesting feature of the building is the balcony. “It is quite advanced for its time, as it is quite wide, almost two meters,” he said. Most balconies without pillars at that time, he said, would only measure around 120 cm.

Olveh was built in an area now called Pinangsia. “Pinangsia was derived from Dutch word financien [financial],” he said.

Insurance company Olveh at the time occupied the third floor only. The first and second floor were leased to other companies.

Candrian said records showed that the opening of the building was celebrated with an ondel-ondel (Betawi giant effigy) performance.

The building was taken over by the Indonesia government in 1961 and handed to state-owned life insurer Jiwasraya.

“The building was abandoned during the 1998 riot, just like other businesses that were shut down at the time,” Candrian explained.

Candrian, who is also the former head of the cultural heritage conservation unit of the Old Town management agency, said the building was unfortunately not listed as a cultural heritage building.

“It is partly my fault. However, we have prepared the documents to register it right away,” he said.

Boy Bhirawa, the architect tasked with revitalizing Olveh, said the biggest challenge in renovating the building was reviving its soul. “Buildings should have souls, so in the end, the city will have a soul,” he said.

Boy said that when he first visited the building, he found the floor had been coated many times. “We dug it out to find the original floor, as we want to restore it,” he said, adding that the coatings had helped protect the original floor.

Boy said, however, that reviving the old surface would put the building at risk of flooding by groundwater in the rainy season.

“We eventually installed a pump to ensure that water can be flushed out of the building,” he said.

Boy said he also considered protecting the bricks, produced in the Netherlands. “We need to plaster the walls to protect the bricks, but it is expensive to use breathing plaster and paint,” he said, adding that the renovation had cost almost Rp 3 billion (US$228,000).

Categories: Indonesian News

Greater Jakarta: Jakarta, Italy to cooperate in fashion, sport

Wed, 2016-03-30 09:58

The Jakarta administration is set to cooperate with Italy to develop the local fashion industry.

Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaha Purnama said the city administration would help artists and micro entrepreneurs cooperate with fashion figures from Italy.

“Our artists and entrepreneurs will cooperate with fashion professionals from Italy. We will set up a co-working space near Melati Reservoir in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta,” Ahok said after a meeting with Italian Ambassador to Indonesia Vittorio Sandalli at City Hall on Tuesday as quoted by beritajakarta.com.

Ahok said the city administration hoped the artists and entrepreneurs would be able to participate in the annual Jakarta Fashion Week.

He further explained that Italy was not only known for its fashion but also soccer. Thus, the city administration would send soccer and futsal players as well as other athletes to train in Italy.

Categories: Indonesian News

Editorial: Thorny road to equal rights

Wed, 2016-03-30 09:58

Santa Clara, a Catholic church in North Bekasi, east of Jakarta, finally gained a building permit last year, after a process that had taken 18 years. Bekasi Mayor Rahmat Effendi said all requirements had been met; the local chapter of the Inter-Religious Harmony Forum (FKUB) had also issued a recommendation for the church as the congregation had gathered the minimum approval of 60 locals and 90 future users of the house of worship.

However, for the recent Palm Sunday Mass, devotees were still forced to pray in the street, their shophouse too small for the hundreds of attendants. Not only is their church not yet finished; the administration had asked them to suspend construction following protests by hard-line Muslims who demand the permit be revoked. The hard-liners make accusations of, among other things, efforts at Christianization — an oft-trumpeted fears following the traumatic undermining of Islamist influence under former strongman Soeharto — and manipulation of the required signatures.

Witnessing Santa Clara’s fate, other local congregations who have yet to own a church are pessimistic about obtaining permits. Meanwhile, many Muslims are deeply embarrassed by such protests and intimidation. Plenty of devotees are much more comfortable with the Muslims who joined traditional Easter observations, as in Central Java, in the spirit of the national slogan of “unity in diversity”.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, who supports the mayor’s decision to issue the permit for Santa Clara, has urged dialogue among disputing parties, suggesting legal measures if needed. But regarding the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, also in West Java, the mayor has not executed the Supreme Court ruling mandating the church’s construction.

Therefore, though he was just doing his job, Mayor Rahmat is among very few leaders willing to stand up to protesters in the name of religion. In Singkil in Aceh, 13 churches are under pressure to close down by dominant Muslims.

In this latest addition to the long list of appalling treatment of minorities, so far the President’s ministers are consistent with Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s drive to employ “the state’s presence” to end discrimination and human rights violations. Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo also supports the Bekasi mayor’s decision — and more importantly, late last year Tjahjo suggested reducing or even scrapping the requisite to collect signatures for approval. The state should be facilitating the right to worship, Tjahjo said.

Campaigners for Indonesia’s pluralism reiterate that such hardships are rare, and Muslims also report difficulties in building mosques in areas where they are not the majority. But naturally the dominant population does not experience the bulk of such hardship.

If the Santa Clara case goes up to the Supreme Court, the ultimate test will be of President Jokowi, of whether he has greater commitment to upholdingthe constitutional right to freedom of worship than his predecessor. Citing the 2006 ministerial decree on houses of worship, where local leaders have the highest authority, then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono refused to put his foot down. President Jokowi must encourage the necessary steps to end discrimination and suffering among several minorities — and revoke the 2006 decree altogether.

Categories: Indonesian News

Islands in focus: Farmers attend workshop for certification

Wed, 2016-03-30 09:58

Farmers from the Independent Farmers Association are participating in a three-day workshop, organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Agriculture Ministry and Asian Agri palm oil group, aimed at helping them improve production.

Riau Agriculture Agency development division head Muhadi, said the workshop, which began Tuesday, would feature sessions on legality and plantation management, environmental management and farmer organizations.

“The certification is designed to help plantation workers and owners improve the quality of their produce,” he said, adding that those who attended the workshop would receive guidance in implementing what they had learned during the sessions.

“There will also be an audit, and if they are successful, they will be the first independent farmers in Indonesia to receive certification,” he said.

Categories: Indonesian News

Islands in focus: Residents restless after Mt. Sinabung eruption

Wed, 2016-03-30 09:58

Residents living around Mount Sinabung in Karo Regency, North Sumatra, are afraid to leave their houses after increasing volcanic activity over the past two days.

On Tuesday, Sinabung erupted at least three times, spewing volcanic ash to heights of up to 2,500 meters and pyroclastic flows reaching as far as 2 kilometers.

A farmer from Gurukinayan village, Warga Sembiring, said he was surprised by the eruption as it had been a while since Sinabung last erupted.

“The eruption this morning was quite large. Many people who had gone to the fields returned home immediately,” he said.

Another local, Ahmad Sitepu, said he hoped that the volcanic activity would decrease soon so residents could return to tending their fields.

Head of the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center’s (PVMBG) Mount Sinabung observation post, Armen Putra, said eruptions would continue in line with the increased seismic activity.

Categories: Indonesian News

Canadian artist transforms into comic characters online

Wed, 2016-03-30 09:58

In this March 19 photo, Kay Pike transforms herself using body paint and latex into Superman while live streaming at her home in Calgary, Alberta. The Canadian artist turns her body into different characters for an Internet audience. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Kay Pike stands in front of a giant mirror, dabs her brush into paint and touches it to her skin.

She'll repeat the motion thousands of times over the next 12 hours as she transforms from a willowy blond artist to dark-haired Superman for viewers following along online. Twice a week, the 28-year-old turns her body into a different character for an Internet audience.

"We don't talk about gender roles on my channel. In fact, when people say, 'You should paint yourself as Superwoman,' I'm like, 'No. I want to paint myself as Superman,'" says Pike, who, when she's done, looks like she could have been ripped from a comic book panel.

Pike is a fan of cosplay, in which participants wear costumes to represent a character from anime, comic books, cartoons, video games or movies.

After sitting as a body paint model for a friend, Pike realized she could still dress up without having to make a costume. She posted a video of her first solo effort on Reddit and it caught the attention of Twitch.tv, a live-streaming company in San Francisco.

"One week later, I was live streaming body paint on Twitch."

Pike started in December and already has 163,000 followers on Instagram.

She receives a little advertising money but relies more on donations from viewers and from Patreon.com, a crowdfunding site for artists. There is also cash from her fashion line, which she sells at comic conventions, as well as appearance fees.

"It's like small income from a lot of different places that add up to a mortgage payment."

Superman is a favorite of her husband, Moose, who narrates, reads posts from her followers and runs things behind the scenes.

In between singing along to pop music and answering questions from her followers, Pike gives step-by-step details on how she creates the character.

She was led to painting characters for cosplay "to get out of some mega-social anxiety. Having the fashion line, we're going to the shows, right? I totally, 100 percent could not talk to anyone on the other side of the camera."

Pike refers to all her creations as her "little paint children." She said it would be boring and lonely to do the painting without an audience.

"At the end, it's a little sad to wash it off." (ags)

Categories: Indonesian News