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August 2006

Indonesia behind the learning curve

By Bill Guerin, Asia Times (Hong Kong)
August 31, 2006

JAKARTA - Indonesia is arguably Asia's least
well-educated country, and the government is largely
to blame. With 30% of its 242 million population
school-aged, the world's largest Muslim country ranks
lowest among its Asian neighbors in terms of public
education expenditure.

A minuscule 0.03% of the Indonesian workforce has
earned a university degree, according to government
statistics. Only 39% of 12-to-15-year-olds ever make
it to secondary school. Addressing a major world
conference this month on training and development in
Kuala Lumpur, Telkom Indonesia chairman Tanri Abeng
lamented that more than 80% of Indonesians have only a
primary-school education.

With a record 40 million people unemployed, the
education system's failure means that Indonesia's pool
of unskilled and increasingly unemployable labor is
growing exponentially. That's bad economic and social
news for a country that nearly a decade after the
1997-98 Asian financial crisis is still straining to
recover from the economic adversity and displacement.


I am posting this article from the South China Morning Post (Monday, August 21, 2006) about a Cuban medical team in Indonesia as I think it points to a quality of social cooperation or assistance among countries that is quite remarkable. It is a contrast with the nature of cooperation/assistance from Australia to Indonesia.


Cuba proves size doesn't matter on the world aid front

When a quake hit Java in May, Havana was quick to lend a humanitarian
hand - as it often does, writes Tom Fawthrop

More than two months after the earthquake that killed almost 6,000
people on Java, much of the world's international relief effort has
wound down. An army of medics from countries including Italy, Japan,
Poland and Pakistan have long returned home.

But among the ruins of 100,000 homes, a team of doctors from one small
Caribbean country is labouring to support the estimated 650,000 people
affected by the quake in May.


On 16 August, in Sydney, I attended a public lecture organised by UNIYA, a Jesuit think tank. The topic was: Good Neighbour, Bad Neighbour - What's the difference? Australia's relations with Indonesia.
The speakers were:
A. Sidney Jones, Director of the South East Asia Project at the International Crisis Group, Jakarta,
B. Prof Peter King, Founding President, later Director, of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University and
C. Prof Frank Brennan, Professor of Law in the Institute of Legal Studies at the Australian Catholic University; former Director, Jesuit Refugee Service in East Timor.

The venue was the Eugene Goossens Hall, at the ABC Centre. Between 80-100 people attended in the quite large hall. I only recognised a few of those present. I think the bulk of those there come from the active Catholic constituency, with a sprinkling of university people and activists.

The speeches and discussion were disappointingly narrow, with the subject of the relations between the two countries (peoples, societies, governments??) being viewed very myopically.


If anybody wants to send in any of the lyrics of Sawung Jabo's songs, especially with English translations, I will put them up on the blog.

On August 5 in Jakarta, we attended a concert: “Satu Langkah Sejuta Cakrawala: an anthology by Sawung Jabo” (One step, a million horizons) with the performaces by the musician Sawung Jabo and his musical comrades: Innisisri (drum and percussion), Totok Tewel, Suzan Piper (backing vocals), Firman Sitompul (Cello), Hari Pochang (harmonica, guitar, vocal), Mukti-Mukti (guitar vocal), Gondrong Gunarto (percussion, kecapi, cuk, saluang), Ary Juliyant (tin whistle, fiddle), Ucok Hitabarat (violin), Baruna (backing vocal), Julyandi (electric guitar) and Donny Suwung (backing vocal).

I don’t know enough about musical categories to be definite about how to categorise the music. For me it was a kind of dynamic pop music, incorporating a range of Indonesian instruments as well as Western instruments. The music ranged from being soothing and pleasant to energetic and lively and awakening. It was great to listen to. Each of the musicians were able to display their skills and talent and impressed me and the audience.


Revitriyoso Husodo has been a cultural activist for more than ten years. He studies at Gajah Mada State University in Jogjakarta as well as at the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Between 2000-2003, he was a leader of JAKER (Peoples Cultural Network). He later started a new group, called the Rahayu Movement and since 2005 has been working as the Program Officer for Networking and Culture at the Institute of Global Justice (IGJ) in Jakarta.

On August 4, a new book, compiled by Revi, as he is known, was launched at the IGJ offices. The speakers included Alex Supartono, a Jakarta fine arts curator and activist, as well as myself. Revi’s new book was entitled THE ART OF RESISTANCE. It was a book of photographs that he had taken while helping organize a demonstration against the World Trade Organisation (WTO), during a WTO meeting in Hongkong in December, 2005. There are 89 black and white photos in the book. About 20-30 of these were also on display in a photographic exhibit in the gallery section of the IGJ offices, where the book launch was held. The launch was well attended by the media, with at least two television stations and two radio stations interviewing Revi as well as the speakers.


Below is a page 5 extensive article on the launch of the PRD initiated electoral party PAPERNAS and other new parties. This is a major breakthrough in publicity for this initiative. Hopefully I can put up an English translation soon.


The Goethe Institute in Sam Ratulangi Street, Jakarta was packed out as at least 400 people gathered to commemorate the life and work of Pramoedya Ananta Toer on the occasion of 100 days since his passing away. The event was organized by Yayasan Penelitian Korban Politik 1965 (YPKP – Foundation for Research into the Political Victims of 1965) of which Pramoedya was a member. The commemoration, which was held in the evening, followed an extended discussion in the afternoon of a new book by Pramoedya’s brother, Koesalah Soebagyo Toer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer – from very close up. The discussion was an occasion for people to exchange reminiscences and assessments of Pramoedya as they knew him.

There was a dynamic mix of people there: from the old pre-1965 Left, communists and Soekarnoists; activists from the contemporary Left, the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD), the Institute for Global Justice (IGJ), Praxis and a range of others – probably more than I recognized, There was also just a mix of people who had read Pram, his readers, a steadily growing constituency from all kinds of backgrounds, young and old, rich and poor. The reach of Pramoedya’s works grows steadily and the size of gatherings of his readers are only held back by the limited funds to advertise events.


Women’s movement activists and artists unite

Last April around 100 activists, mainly women, united to organise the first women’s cultural festival to be held in Jakarta for several decades, at least. The festival began on 5 April and ended on 21 April, the birthday of Kartini, who wrote and campaigned on women’s rights at the beginning of the century. The momentum for the festival developed in April 2002 after activists from Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity for Human Rights), staged a performance of an adaptation of Nawal El Saadawi’s novel, Women at Point Zero, a story of the oppression of women in Egypt and that exulted in the spirit of a woman’s defiance of that oppression. It was a unique event also in that it brought together women’s movement activists, community arts activists, as well as TV actors and celebrities.


For an interesting article on a recent mobilisation of several thousand of people from the Jakarta semi-proletarian poor (kaum miskin kota - KMK - urban poor), see the article by Zely Ariane

For further background material see the 1997 interview with Marlin on the politics of the mobilisation of the urban poor.

I am still in Jakarta finishing off university work. Unfortunately an old illness, adhesive capulitis (frozen shoulder) has returned to hit me in the right arm. This is preventing me from doing any extended typing, as well as being generally a pain – in all senses. So I have had a bit less time to get out and meet contacts but I did speak at a discussion organized by PRAXIS, another organized by the Workers Accuse Alliance and attended the public launch of a new party PAPPERNAS.

Last week, I was guest speaker at an event organized by a group called PRAXIS, a loose network of several NGOS, mostly smaller ones, and local single issue activist groups. (There are literally thousands of these active day – fragments of active dissent.) PRAXIS seems to act as a kind of resources secretariat for some of these, but it also organizes monthly forums.


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