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Indonesian democracy tarnished by local elections rule change – Nikkei Asian Review

The Indonesian parliament just before the start of a recent debate on direct local elections (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA – Djayadi Hanan, a politics lecturer at Jakarta’s Paramadina University, believes Yudhoyono has tarnished his reputation as a democratic leader. “People and history will remember SBY as a president who put a halt on the progress of Indonesia’s democracy,” Hanan told the Nikkei Asian Review. “He had the power to stop it and save Indonesian local democracy.”

Making a meal of Indonesia’s cassava – The Edge Review

Cassava plantation near Bogor (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

BOJONG KEMANG – Saiful Santoso, 47, has been growing cassava for 17 years on his half-hectare farm a half hour drive from Bogor in west Java. But for the past 4 years Saiful’s crop has been eaten into by phenacoccus manihoti, the cassava pink mealybug – costing him between 20 to 40 per cent of his cassava each year since then. 2014 might not be as bad as other years, Saiful told The Edge Review. “It’s been raining, and the mealybug likes dry weather.”

Elastic woes – The Edge Review

Tapping rubber is  a job mostly done by smallholders (Photo: Simon Roughneen, central Sri Lanka. June 2014)

JAKARTA – A five year slump in rubber prices has hit Indonesia’s 2 million rubber farmers hard, slashing their incomes almost in half and prompting some to look at switching to other crops. “In the current price scenario of continuous fall in prices, small growers across regions are expected to respond through controlling natural rubber supply, irregular tapping plus accelerated clearing of aging trees and a shift to other crops like oil palm,” said Lekshmi Nair.

A step backward – The Edge Review

Joko Widodo election campaign poster in Solo (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YOGYAKARTA – Before Joko Widodo takes over as President, Indonesia’s MP’s will vote on September 25 whether to revert to an old system under which heads of local government – including mayors – are chosen by local lawmakers rather than directly elected by voters. The proposed legislation is proving divisive, with the president-elect describing it as a potential setback for democracy in Indonesia. Another opposing change is Yogyakarta Mayor H. Haryadi Suyuti. “Let the people decide, let the people choose their own representative,” the mayor said.

A new man readies for office in Indonesia – The Irrawaddy

Joko Widodo signs guitar at event organised by supporters in south Jakarta in July (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA – While Widodo didn’t spend very long in office in Jakarta – a job described by some as the 3rd most powerful in Indonesia, he did enough to convince former President Megawati Sukarnoputri – daughter of Sukarno, the country’s first President – to set aside her ambitions to run again and throw her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) behind Widodo.

KDDI, Sumitomo raise stakes in Myanmar mobile battle – Nikkei Asian Review

On Sept. 2 in Yangon, an early morning queue for MPT's new  3G SIM cards  (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – After partnering with KDDI and Sumitomo, Myanmar’s state-backed MPT in early September launched the first batch of 5 million $1.50 3G mobile SIM cards that it plans to sell this year. The release of the cards created minor havoc in Yangon’s downtown shopping district and elsewhere, drawing long queues.

Bye, by-elections – The Edge Review

Aung San Suu Kyi speaking June 2013 World Economic Forum BBC debate in Naypyidaw (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – There was some feigned surprise when the election commission announced last weekend that Myanmar will not, after all, hold by-elections for 35 vacant parliamentary seats. The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said it was happy with annoucement. Commission head Tin Aye met with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi on September 6, the day before the commission’s announcement.

Painting by numbers – The Edge Review/RTÉ World Report

Census taking in Pa-O village in Shan State in April  (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – A little over six years ago, after holding a rigged referendum to adopt a disputed constitution, Myanmar’s junta announced, with almost comic certainty, that “the population of the country is 57,504,368,” despite not having held a census since 1983. Six years on, Myanmar’s nominally-civilian government can claim a better grasp on how many people actually live in the country.

Cargill warns on Indonesian palm oil curbs – Nikkei Asian Review

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JAKARTA — Ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joko Widodo, one of the world’s largest agribusinesses has warned that Indonesia’s proposal to lower the cap on foreign ownership of oil palm plantations will deter foreign investment in the industry. John Hartmann, CEO of Cargill Tropical Palm Holdings, told the Nikkei Asian Review that a draft bill proposing the curbs came as a surprise and said his company hopes the Indonesian parliament will reconsider the move.