Poor tourists are unwelcome in NTT, Governor Says

The governor of an Indonesian province that is home to the famed Komodo dragon said poor tourists are not welcome there, local media reported on Friday.

East Nusa Tenggara Governor Victor Laiskodat said his province was on the list of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020 and therefore should be a premium destination.

“Tourists who come here must be rich,” Laiskodat was quoted by the Kompas newspaper as saying Thursday. “Those who are poor may not come … we have many people like that, so we don’t want to see more of them.”

East Nusa Tenggara is one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia.

Laiskodat has proposed that people who want access to Komodo island, home to the giant lizard, should be charged a hefty entrance fee. Visitors are currently charged 150,000 rupiah (10 dollars) for access to the park.

The government this year dropped a plan to close the island for a year in 2020 as part of conservation efforts and instead decided to turn it into a premium tourism destination.

Officials said visitors who do not want to pay the entrance fee can visit nearby Rinca island, where smaller Komodo dragons live.

Komodo National Park, home to more than 5,000 Komodo dragons, is listed by National Geographic as one of the world’s top 10 destinations. It receives more than 10,000 visitors per month.

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Push for all things halal divide opinion in Indonesia

After an official suggested that the Lake Toba area on Indonesia’s Sumatra island could be turned into a halal tourism destination, activist Togu Simorangkir came up with the idea of holding a pork festival as an act of resistance.

The event from October 25-26 involved pork cooking and pig catching competitions and was attended by 300,000 people from all over the country, according to Simorangkir.

“It was a big success even though it was just a spontaneous response against making North Sumatra a halal destination,” says Simorangkir, a British-educated activist who founded Alusi Tao Toba, a foundation dedicated to improving the communities around Lake Toba.

“The festival is not about religion, but about maximizing local tourism potential,” he says, adding that most people in the area make a living as farmers.

Muslims are forbidden from eating pork under Islamic rules because the meat is considered unclean.

The Indonesian government established a new halal certification agency under the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2017. Since then, everything from refrigerators and microwaves to cat food can be certified as halal, or religiously permissible.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but is also home to several other religions. About 63 per cent of North Sumatra’s 15 million people are Muslim, but members of the indigenous Batak tribe, to which Simorangkir belongs, are mainly Christian.

Simorangkir says the idea of halal tourism in North Sumatra is divisive.

“I think there’s no need to divide people based on religion,” he says. “Here there are many mosques and people from all over the world come.”

“If they want tourism to thrive here, they should crack down on companies that destroy the environment,” he adds.

Simorangkir says the pork festival was initially opposed by local leaders and tour operators because of fears it would offend Muslims and hurt tourism.

“The word ‘pig’ has negative connotations in our society, when in fact it’s just an animal, like cows and buffaloes,” he says.

Critics fear that halal tourism, intended to attract Muslim visitors from wealthy Middle Eastern countries and all over the world, could mean a ban on alcohol, separate facilities for men and women and other restrictions.

North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi has denied suggestions he wants to turn the Lake Toba area into a sharia-compliant destination.

“It’s a misunderstanding,” he was quoted as saying by Detik.com, adding that he was simply suggesting that infrastructure be improved to serve visitors from Muslim countries such as Malaysia.

“So, when Muslims come to a place, […] there’s halal food,” he said. “Even in Thailand, where Buddhists are the majority, there are halal restaurants.”

The head of the Religious Ministry’s Halal Certification Administering Agency, Sukoso, says food and drinks, cosmetics, drugs and other consumer products will have to be certified halal by 2026 according to a 2014 law.

“As for household goods, it should be determined what materials they are made of,” he says, adding that products made of leather are subject to halal certification to ensure they do not contain materials from pigs.

The country’s first halal certified corrective glasses were launched in early November by PT Atalla Indonesia, according to the state Antara news agency.

“Even though glasses are not yet among products that need to be halal certified, the company has done it. I appreciate the effort,” Industry Ministry official Gati Wibawaningsih said at the launch event.

Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp last year launched what it described as the first line of halal refrigerators in Indonesia.

The company expects sales in the segment to grow between 10 and 20 per cent with the introduction of halal products.

“We want our customers to have peace of mind when using our products,” Sharp Electronics Indonesia sales general manager Andri Adi Utomo said in a statement.

But some Indonesians have questioned why consumer products needs to be certified halal, with many taking to social media to ait their views.

“Now that there are halal glasses, watching porn will no longer be sinful,” one Twitter user joked.

Talk of introducing halal tourism to cater to Muslim visitors in the popular resort island of Bali, a mainly Hindu enclave of Indonesia, has also faced opposition from locals.

Earlier this year, vice presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno sparked controversy after he said he would promote halal tourism in Bali if he and his presidential running mate Prabowo Subianto were elected.

They were defeated by incumbent President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin in the April election.

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster rejected the idea.

“Bali is a cultural tourism destination,” he told local media. “There’s no need for such narrow branding.”

Jerinx, the frontman of popular Bali-based rock band Superman Is Dead, said the concept was irrelevant.

“Bali has always been friendly to Muslims. What the f*** is wrong with you people?” he wrote on Twitter.

Second student dies after anti-government rally turns violent in Sulawesi

 A second student has died after protesters clashed with police on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island during a rally against legislation that critics fear would undermine freedoms and anti-corruption efforts, an official said Friday.

Police fired tear gas to quell rock-throwing protesters who gathered outside the legislative council building in Kendari, the capital of South-east Sulawesi on Thursday. 

One student died of a bullet wound during the violence, authorities said.

“This morning, another student, who was critically injured, died because of bleeding in the head,” said the chief provincial ombudsman, Mastri Susilo.   

This week tens of thousands of students across the country have been holding daily protests, which have often turned violent, against revisions to the criminal code which include the criminalization of sex outside marriage, co-habitation and insulting the president.

The violence in Kendari followed clashes on Tuesday in Jakarta that left more than 260 students and 39 police injured as security personnel and protesters faced each other outside the national parliament building, police said.

The proposed changes to the criminal code would see consensual sex outside of marriage punishable by up to one year in prison, while a couple living together without being married could be jailed for up to six months.

Anyone who insults the president or vice president could be handed a prison term of up to four-and-a-half years. This was decriminalized by the Constitutional Court in 2016 after a legal challenge by citizens.

The protesters also demanded the government revoke recent revisions to a law governing the country’s anti-corruption commission that activists warn could severely threaten the body’s independence.

The protesters also demanded the government revoke recent revisions to a law governing the country’s anti-corruption commission that activists warn could severely threaten the body’s independence.

President Joko Widodo on Thursday sought to reassure the public that he remained committed to democracy. “Don’t you ever doubt my commitment on this,” he told reporters.

He said he was considering issuing a decree in lieu of law to replace the recently passed bill on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

“We will decide and inform the public soon,” he said. KPK commissioners and activists have criticized Joko for agreeing to the revision, saying that the changes could spell the end of the independent body.

Since it was established in 2002, the KPK has arrested and prosecuted former ministers, governors, central bankers and legislators with a conviction rate of nearly 100 per cent.

The agency’s success has made it one of the most respected institutions in a country where confidence in law enforcement agencies is low.

Earlier this month, the parliament also picked a new board of commissioners for KPK, led by a police general accused of ethic violations when he was an investigator at the commission.

The appointment of the police general, Firli Bahuri, prompted the current board of commissioners to tender their resignation to Joko.

KPK officials said that Firli was dismissed as an investigator last year after he met with two suspects being investigated by the agency.

Since it was established in 2002, the KPK has arrested and prosecuted former ministers, governors, central bankers and legislators with a conviction rate of nearly 100 per cent.

The agency’s success has made it one of the most respected institutions in a country where confidence in law enforcement agencies is low.


Indonesians amused by German firm’s phallic name

A small German corporate management company has become an online sensation in Indonesia for its phallic name. 

The Facebook page of Kontool, which is spelled in a similar way to an Indonesian slang word for penis, kontol, has been flooded with cheeky comments from Indonesians who find the name funny.

Kontool is a trending topic on Indonesian Twitter on Tuesday and news website viva.co.id is running with the headline: “Do you like Kontool? Thank you Indonesia” in a story that also delves into the company’s history.  

“Your company should come to indonesia. I think kontool is very popular here, and I think most people here would love your product,” a Facebook user wrote.

The company said it found out the meaning of the name in the Indonesian language after the viral wave.  

“When we will come with our product to your market… I think we have to find a new name…but first we have to conquer the German market,” it said.

The company’s Facebook page later posted a new slogan for the firm: Bigger and Stronger, and directed Indonesians to a merchandise shop selling t-shirts, cups and bags that it said was created overnight. 

“A lot of people asked about merchandising products of kontool. For you we build up an internet shop overnight. If you love kontool, like we do, you can order a funny t-shirt with ‘I love kontool’.” 

Gojek’s solution to plastic pollution

The Indonesian do-it-all app Gojek is taking steps to tackle the mounting problem of plastic waste, to which it has inadvertently contributed through its hugely popular food delivery service.

Gofood is now available in 74 cities with 400,000 food merchant partners, most of them small and mom-and-pop eateries previously unserved by existing food delivery services. That adds up to a lot of packaging in a country that is already the second-biggest source of plastic waste after China in the world’s oceans.

 

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A scavenger was sorting and collecting plastic bag waste at the top of a garbage mountain in Bantar Gebang landfill in Bekasi, West Java, where tonnes of trash from Jakarta is dumped everyday. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Gojek co-founder Kevin Aluwi, speaking at an event to unveil a new corporate logo last month, said some food merchant partners had begun charging customers for plastic spoons and forks, and some have switched to biodegradable or paper-based container bags, while Gofood itself is ready to do its part.

“Starting this month (July), we are distributing special bags to drivers whose Gofood order volumes are high. The bag can contain a lot of food orders, so there is no need to use plastic bags anymore,” Kevin said, responding to a question about how the company aimed to solve the plastic waste problem.

The anti-waste initiatives are in keeping with the spirit embodied by the new logo, which resembles a simple power-on button and has been dubbed as “Solv”. Gojek is aiming to be Southeast Asia’s super app offering more than 20 on-demand services, including grocery shopping, house cleaning, massage, laundry and vehicle maintenance and repair in a single platform.

That’s in addition to the document delivery and motorcycle ride-hailing services that were the first offerings of the company when it was founded in 2015. Now valued at US$10 billion and offering services from food to finance, Gojek is looking to make itself indispensable to customers.

The food delivery service is now available in Vietnam, where it is the second-biggest player in the segment, and in Thailand, where the company has expanded along with its motorcycle taxis and car-hailing services.

Gojek is now eyeing Singapore where its car drivers may have to handle food deliveries because the city-state doesn’t recognize motorcycle taxis, said Andre Soelistyo, president of the Gojek group.

“Gofood has become the largest food delivery service in Southeast Asia, even larger than similar services in India even though our population is only a quarter of India’s,” he said.

But food delivery apps have become so popular in so many countries that excess use of takeout plastic containers, utensils and packaging has become a major concern.

The Indian restaurant portal Zomato, which has a food delivery service that processes 16.5 million orders a month, is a case in point. Founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal wrote in a September 2018 blog post that an “unintended consequence” of the business was that it had increased the use of more plastic packaging material.

All the food delivery aggregators in India combined process around 35-40 million orders a month, he wrote.

“These many orders add up to 22,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste created every month in India. And whether we intend it or not, quite a lot of it ends up in the ocean,” Deepinder wrote.

The Zomato app now offers consumers an option not to include plastic cutlery in their orders and works with food merchant partners to help them comply.

“Much as we care about delighting our partners and our users, we must also care about the impact we have on our planet,” Deepinder wrote.

Read the full story in Bangkok Post

 

Indonesian nationalism at a peak

Indonesians always find new ideas for celebrating the Aug. 17 Independence Day. While the most common celebration is a simple raising of the national flag, it has become a tradition for people to do it in extreme places, such as the top of a mountain.

In a vast archipelago that stretches 5,245 kilometers along the equator, Indonesian thrill-seekers who want to raise the flag on high are spoilt with options with 500 mountains, of which 127 are active volcanoes and 22 are showing increased signs of activity.

Upacara bendera Rinjani
Mountain climbers held a flag-raising ceremony on the edge of a crater at the top of Indonesia’s second-highest mountain, Mount Rinjani, in Lombok island on Aug. 17, 2019. Photo: Balai Taman Nasional Gunung Rinjani  

Miena Muzdalifah, a mountain climber from Bandung, West Java, had her first high-altitude flag-raising moment in 2018 on Mount Hawu, a limestone mountain in Padalarang, west of Bandung. It was part of a simultaneous flag-hoisting ceremony in four compass directions that surround Bandung that her group, the Bandung Mountain Climbers Community, held last year.

“There was a special sense of pride to be able to raise the red-and-white (flag) at a high altitude. We had to undergo a certain process to read the limestone cliff’s summit,” Miena said.

“It was a great feeling and it boosted my sense of nationalism and patriotism,” she added.

The high enthusiasm to celebrate Independence Day by climbing a mountain, especially the most popular ones and those located in national parks, has resulted in such an excess of climbers that park managements have to impose quotas. The limit fills up so quickly that climbers have to book online far ahead of their trip.

Mount Rinjani in Lombok Island, a 3,726-meter-high active volcano and the second-highest mountain in Indonesia, imposed a quota of 500 climbers per day. The restriction took effect after all four trails on the mountain were reopened for climbers on June 14. They had been closed following the 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the island on July 2018.

Sudiyono, head of Mount Rinjani National Park, said the mountain is also popular with foreign hikers, who have made up 80 percent of its climbers since the reopening.

Last year, rescuers had to evacuate 1,226 climbers, including 696 foreigners, who were stranded in various spots on the mountain, including its iconic crater lake, Segara Anak, due to landslides triggered by the powerful quake.

“It was always very crowded with climbers celebrating independence each year. After the earthquake, we have been improving our climbing procedures. We want to maintain manageable numbers for safety and for conservation purposes,” Sudiyono said.

Rahman Mukhlis, secretary-general of the Indonesia Mountain Guide Association, has had the chance to celebrate Independence Day on two of Indonesia’s seven highest summits, Mount Rinjani and Mount Latimojong, a 3,478-meter-high non-volcanic mountain in South Sulawesi.

“When we climb mountains, we get to know more about our country. We gain a better understanding of our socio-cultural environment by interacting with the locals and seeing first-hand our country’s beautiful nature. We see a different view of the country from above,” Rahman said.

Dody Permana, a long-time mountain climber, had his Independence Day moment years ago on Java’s highest mountain, Mount Semeru, which sits 3,676 meters above sea level in East Java province and is one of Indonesia’s seven highest summits.

Mount Semeru used to host thousands of climbers for Independence Day celebrations. But since May, the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park has imposed a quota of 600 climbers per day after months of closure following intense rainfall at the height of the rainy season in January.

“The Independence Day holiday is always a good opportunity to climb together with a group of friends. It felt heroic when we had a flag-raising ceremony in an unusual place, such as the top of a mountain,” Dody said.

Read the full story in Arab News

 

Hundreds escape from West Papua prison during rioting

 At least 258 inmates escaped from a prison in Indonesia’s West Papua province during a rally against the treatment of Papuan students on the main island of Java, an official said Tuesday.

Thousands of people marched in West Papua on Monday and set fire to several government buildings in response to a crackdown on Papuan students in East Java who were protesting for self-determination for their homeland on Friday. 

Prisoners at the state penitentiary in Sorong city, which held 547 inmates, rioted and set parts of the building ablaze after they were provoked by protesters, said the director general of corrections, Ade Kusumanto. 

The demonstrators tore down an outer wall and escaped, he said. 

“The protesters threw rocks at the prison, causing the prioners to riot and attack guards,” Ade said, adding that one guard was injured in the fray. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for calm on Monday, saying that the government respects Papuans’ dignity and is committed to their welfare. 

Police arrested dozens of the Papuan protesters during the rally in East Java but later released them. 

Papuan activists said they were subjected to harsh treatment and racist abuse. 

Indonesian security forces have intensified operations in Papua  after separatist rebels killed about two dozen construction workers building a road in December. 

Separatists have fought for independence for the region since the 1960s. 

Papua and West Papua provinces make up the Indonesian half of New Guinea island.