Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
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Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Train of Thought

In Indonesia Japan Expo 2008, the Japanese showed off their super-fast train technology. Known as shinkansen, it is fast (can go up to 300 km per hour), convenient, and - of course being Japanese - almost always on time.

And apparently we can't wait to have one. It is said that PT Industri Kereta Api (INKA) is planning to produce our own shinkansen by 2016 [1]. Japan Transportation Consultant has done a preleminary study and expect Indonesia to have the train in 2020 [2].

Now maybe a good time to wake up and smell the coffee (or the locomotive fume), because there is something wrong with this picture.

Let's see what kind of railway service that we have today:

PT Kereta Api, our state-owned railway company, serves routes in Java, South Sumatera, West Sumatra and North Sumatra.

That's it. (That's according to their website [3], at least).

Meaning Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and the rest are pretty much train-less.

And yet we want shinkansen, like the one Japan has.

Well, Japan also has a massive railway network, covering the whole country. Why don't we copy that? You can literally go by train from Hokkaido (that's up north) to Kyushu (down south) [4].

Is it all served by Shinkansen? Of course not: some routes in rural Japan have so few passengers that it is only served by what is called 'one-man-train'. It's literally just one train-car, operated by one man, who would also stand by the door when the train stops to check your ticket because the stations it serves along the way are not even manned.
There is not enough passengers to make fast train profitable.

But at least the area is covered by train.

Before we even think of having shinkansen, shouldn't we focus on this first? Indonesia is not just Java. Building a railway is like opening up new blood vessels for the country. Train allows goods to be transported easier, faster and a lot cheaper. We always talk about how the eastern part of Indonesia is left behind economy-wise. This is one reason why. How can you do business and prosper when getting around is so difficult and expensive?

Build the network first and serve it well (meaning safe, clean and reliable). After that we can talk about speed.

Speaking of serving it well, here's a thought: if we have a shinkansen and it is operated by the same competence that we have right now in running our train, we're probably better off without one.
Untuk versi bahasa Indonesia, klik di sini.


[1] Kompas - Kapan Indonesia Punya Shinkansen?
[2] Kompas - Jepang Mulai Kaji KA Super Cepat Di Indonesia
[3] PT Kereta Api - Peta Perjalanan Kereta Api
[4] Japan Railways Group - timetable and fares

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


We all witnessed a phenomenon today that we thought we would never see in our lifetime: A first African-American ever elected to the highest office in America.

Indonesians, of course, just like many people in any other countries, are mostly for Obama. The online survey in for example, gave Obama an even bigger landslide than he actually got in the election.

So we love Obama, no doubt about it.
Now the question is: if there is an 'obama' in our country, will we be able to spot him? Or better yet, will we vote for him?

So let's play with our imagination and draw a picture of our 'obama' :
Barack Obama is half white, half black. His mother is a white woman from Kansas and his father came from Kenya. In America, white is the majority, and black is the biggest minority.
In Indonesia, that would make our 'obama' half native Indonesian and half Chinese. Let's just say, our 'obama' has a javanese mother from Solo, central Java, and an Indonesian-Chinese father with ancestors from Fujian province, China.

Barack Obama has an African name. That name is not very common in the US and even Obama himself frequently refers to himself as a person 'with a funny name'.
So let's give our 'obama' a name that is not originally Indonesian. Let's call him Vincent Tjoa. (this is just an imaginary name. A mere example).

Barack Obama is a christian, while his father is a muslim. Christianity is the major religion in the US. So In Indonesia, this would make our Vincent a muslim (the majority), but with a christian father.

Vincent Tjoa, a muslim, mother from Solo, and christian father originally from Fujian, China. Picture it yet?

Let's build up our Vincent character some more using our imagination:
Just like Obama, our Vincent is young, patriotic and full of idealism. His life has not been easy. His father abandoned him when he was small and he was mostly raised by his grandparents in Solo, far from richness. Yet through his own perseverence he managed to graduate first from one of the top school in the country. (Let's say he graduated from ITB or UI).
Soon after he graduated, instead of taking a high-paying job in Jakarta, he chose to work in his community helping the poor.

He then went into politics, and became a member of parliament. He is new, with more idealism than experience, yet wildly popular. He has many supporters among young people, who are tired looking at Indonesia's same old corrupt politics. The young people think Vincent understands them. Understands their aspirations. Their ideals. They believe Vincent will be able to lead Indonesia to the better.

Two years later Vincent decided to run for the presidency.

He runs a grass root, efficient, discipline campaign, offering to bring change to Indonesian politics: He promised to end the divisive politics based on religion, race and ethnicity in Indonesia. "There is no javanese Indonesia. there is no chinese Indonesia, there is no muslim Indonesia, there is no christian Indonesia. There is only one Indonesia! Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, unity in diversity".

Vincent makes beautiful speeches. A great orator. He inspires. He has the ability to move people. Give them hope.
And to top it up, he has an incredibly structured, detailed plan on how to bring Indonesia to a brighter future. "Our prosperity is within reach", he said, "if only we can all work together. It is not about me, it is about you. About Indonesia."

His opponent is an old timer yet a very popular Indonesian politician. A native Indonesian, a devout muslim, a former Indonesian military man who has been in politics for a very long time and part of the political establishment. He is incredibly wealthy and his campaign is run by old faces of the establishment's political machine. Unfortunately, this is the same establishment that some Indonesian people view as the status quo: tolerating the corrupt culture and too slow to move the country forward.

Now, here's the question: Given the story above, will we, Indonesians, vote for our Vincent Tjoa to be Indonesia's next president ? Or will we vote for his opponent?

Can we get past his background, his christian father from Fujian province, his name, and his half chinese ethnicity, and vote for him?

If not, why not?
If not, then why are we cheering for Barack Obama? Because Obama offers a dream that we can never achieve?

After one decade Indonesia has moved from a dictatorship to a democracy. And not just any democracy. A good one too. The one that works.
And democracy works even better if we use it to bring about our future. To realize what we can achieve. And to choose the best person who can lead us to achieve them.

Shouldn't we look at a candidate based on his or her quality? On what future he or she can offer to us?
The best person. Not the best person with this or that religion, this or that race, or this or that ethnic group. And certainly not because he or she is a celebrity, a tv personality, a singer, or an actor.

The best person, period.

Knowing that we are dying to change our future, so desperate to change our country to the better, are we willing to keep an open mind and embrace the 'obama' among us? Our Vincent Tjoa?
Will we even consider him as a candidate at all? Will we vote for him and trust him to lead us?

Or are we going to cling on to the same old divisive politics, same old status quo while at the same time happily cheering for America's Obama?
Isn't that hypocrisy?

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