JAKARTA – Another messy split looms for the one-time political powerhouse Golkar, the party of Indonesia’s former dictator Suharto, following a rancorous annual conference over the past week. Aburizal Bakrie, a billionaire businessman, was re-elected as party leader on Wednesday evening after sidelining several senior party rivals who wanted Golkar to join the coalition government. In what sounded like a scene from British comedy classic Blackadder, a recording surfaced of a Bakrie aide telling delegates in Bali that he had a “cunning plan” to ensure Bakrie was re-elected. It worked: Bakrie won unopposed after his six opponents dropped out or refused to run, claiming the vote was tainted.
JAKARTA – Despite the threat of political opposition and public protests, Indonesian President Joko Widodo this week raised fuel prices in a move he said will free up revenue for infrastructure improvements and social spending. Aziz Pane, chairman of Indonesia’s Tyre Manufacturers Association, said that his group had been calling on successive governments to allocate more money to improving Indonesia’s infrastructure, which means cutting the fuel subsidy. “But they have all been afraid of the oil mafia,” he told The Edge Review.
JAKARTA/KUALA LUMPUR – To counter ISIS in Indonesia, the Widodo government is considering further measures, according to Ahmad Suaedy, coordinator of the Abdurrahman Wahid Center for Inter-Faith Dialogue and Peace. “The Indonesian government is now looking for the legal basis to prohibit and provide sanctions that deter Muslims from involvement with [Islamic State] and other forms of radicalism and terrorism,” he said.
YANGON – Standing next to Suu Kyi on Nov. 14, Obama said that barring the NLD leader “doesn’t make much sense.” But he did not raise the issue when speaking later at Yangon University. Nor did Suu Kyi’s eligibility come up during an hour-long question and answer session with students after the speech. Opinions differ about the importance of the clause. Lamin Oo, a Myanmar filmmaker whose name was mentioned by Obama during his speech, said afterwards that “if that issue was an important one for [young people] it would have come up in questions.” However, Kyaw Thu, a former actor turned philanthropist, said the constitution should be changed to allow Suu Kyi stand. “Obama should push for this with Thein Sein,” Kyaw Thu said.
YANGON – Myanmar has jailed several journalists this year, while one reporter, Ko Par Gyi, was murdered by the army in the country’s east. Some new laws have been heavily criticised, while calls to amend the country’s constitution, which gives the army a veto-wielding 25 percent of parliament seats, have not prompted any change yet.”I think we certainly did see a lot of reforms in 2012 and 2013, but 2014 has perhaps added an element of realism, with the concerns over the constitutional amendment process,” Melissa Crouch, Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore, told The Edge Review.
YANGON – “Our education system is really bad and we need to reform it,” Phyoe Phyoe Aung, a student union leader, told The Edge Review. “Before our education system was wholly controlled by the government, and that effect is still being felt,” added the 26 year old former political prisoner.
YANGON – Rip-Off Rangoon, where a plate of Lok Lak about half as good as you’d get in Phnom Penh costs US$10. Where a handful of veneered restaurants and bars slap on an extra couple thousand kyat, every few months, for diminishing portions of an exponentially-depreciating quality of fare. Refusing to join the race to the bottom is The Phayre’s Gastrobar a new restaurant with nighthawk aspirations next door to the famous Pansodan Gallery.
HALIDOLAR, East Timor — Three years ago, Maximiliano de Sosa had neither electricity nor basic farm machinery. Now, there is power around the clock and a tractor that de Sosa can rent to plow his small plot of land about 40 minutes’ drive from Dili, the capital. Perched on a 30cm ridge between de Sosa’s mustard crop and a neighbor’s spinach plants, an electric pump sucks water from a 12-meter borehole, making it easier to irrigate crops during the searing dry season. “If we don’t have electricity, we have to carry water half a kilometer and then water the crops by hand,” said de Sosa.
JAKARTA – Beermakers Heineken and Carlsberg are showing interest in setting up operations in East Timor. Tony Duarte told The Edge Review that the proposed Heineken deal will raise the country’s profile as an investment destination. “Timor-Leste will be placed in a spotlight of countries in which world renown[ed] companies will be able to consider and may eventually attract them to look for other business opportunities for investment in the country,” Duarte said.
JAKARTA – On July 8, the day before Indonesia’s presidential election, legislators voted to amend key workings of the country’s parliament. Any other day, this would have been headline news. But the country was transfixed by the contest between Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, then deemed too close to call but in the end won by Jokowi by a 6 per cent margin.