Image(s) of the Week – 158 (Coal Tar)

Grubbing around last night for this week’s images, I didn’t want have another image of a Rohingya child. Nor did I want a picture of the devastation wrought by Mother Nature in Nepal, or the manmade devastation in Iraq and Syria being perpetrated by the inaptly named ISIS.

(Having a genocidal army of religious nutcases named after Isis, the Egyptian Goddess  of  Magic and Giver of Life is incongruous, to say the least!)

About 21,000 gallons of oil spilled from an abandoned pipeline near Refugio state beach in California on Wednesday (20th), spreading over four miles within hours. An army of volunteers has been cleaning the beach and animal shelters are facing a long task rescuing and cleaning the affected wildlife

Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Continuing my browse through the Guardian, I came across a page headed with this picture of smoggy Jakarta

Photograph: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images

Shares in Asia Resource Minerals (ARM), a mining company listed in London, have been suspended because its former boss is staging a sit-in at the Jakarta head office of its main subsidiary, PT Berau Coal. This is the company formerly owned by the Bakrie Boys, who went into partnership with Nat Rothschild and floated the company on the London Stock Exchange.

The history of what went wrong is convoluted, but what is clear from the article is that Amir Sambodo, who resigned in March as chief executive of ARM and of PT Berau Coal, has been refusing to let in two executives from ARM, the company formerly known as Bumi which has been mired in scandals during its time on the stock market.

Sambodo is now reported to have employed 100 security guards (premen?) to protect him during his occupation of the Indonesian operation, which appears to have been going on since Tuesday.

It all seems rather murky to me.

Image of the Week – 157 (Human Trafficking)

There, but for the grace of God go you or I …

Photograph: Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images

There have been so many images reaching our TV screens and other media outlets that choosing just one for this week’s image was difficult. My simple solution was to pick the first one I came across this morning. That it portrays the doe-eyes of a group of rescued migrant children in the fishing town of Kuala Langsa in Aceh, is not meant to tug at our heart strings. It could have been their parents, grandparents, cousins and aunties.

This is yet another crisis emanating from religious bigotry. The Rohingya are ethnic Muslims, originally from Bangladesh who had settled in Burma/Myanmar, but forced to flee by the country’s Buddhist majority. En route they have fallen prey to Thai traffickers, also Buddhist.

Where did they expect to go?

That question is irrelevant because the governments of neighbouring countries, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have refused to take responsibility and allow them to come ashore. Those that have made it that far have been forced back out to sea, with minimal supplies, to drift as their ships run out of fuel. Meanwhile, most traffickers have made off with the ‘ransoms’ they charged these desperate people.

This past week, some one thousand have been rescued from their plight by Acehnese fishermen, and are now sheltered in local community facilities, while the local and national government ‘authorities’ dither..

The community of south-east Asian countries (ASEAN) turns a blind eye to the situation in one of its member countries, and hopes the problem will resolve itself.

Indonesia’s current narrow-minded nationalism precludes a humanitarian solution – so why not let them all die while we hold regional conferences, next week, next month …?
Note: The derivation of my lead-in quote is uncertain. For those of us who abhor religious bigotry, I prefer the thought that “there but for the accident of birth ...”

Images of the Week – 156 (Animal Trafficking)

Photograph: Paul Hilton/WCS

Three to four thousand frozen pangolins lie in a pit before being burnt in Medan, Indonesia. This huge seizure was a joint operation between the Indonesian National Police’s criminal investigation division and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s wildlife crimes unit, from a warehouse in Medan, the largest city on the island of Sumatra, on 23 April. A total of 96 live animals were found including five tonnes of frozen pangolins, 77kg of scales with an estimated street value of $1.8m (£1.2m), plus 24 bear paws.

Photograph: Jefta Images/Barcroft Media

A yellow-crested cockatoo inserted in empty water bottles for illegal trade, found by police officials at Port of Tanjung Perak in Surabaya, Indonesia.

Indonesian police have arrested a suspected (eh?) wildlife smuggler after discovering nearly two dozen rare live birds, mostly yellow-crested cockatoos, jammed inside plastic water bottles in his luggage.

Photographs show the birds, with distinctive yellow plumage, peering out of the bottles after being found by officers. The bottoms of the bottles had been cut off to squeeze the birds inside.

Image of Last Week – Martyrs

This was the sunset over Jakartass Towers last Tuesday around six pm. I gazed at it and wondered if something similar was over Nusakambangan Island, off the south coast of Central Java. Was it an omen? I knew, the world knew, that in a short six hours eight drug traffickers on the prison island were facing their final curtain, the final act of a farce performed live on TV sets worldwide.

I don’t pray often … who to, what to? … but that evening I prayed that the eight would have the strength to face their executioners with dignity. A ninth, a Frenchman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, had been given a temporary reprieve because his appeal process had not been completed. He was lucky … but only if he has some quality time ahead of his delayed demise.

The Brazilian, a certified paranoid schizophrenic, wasn’t aware until the final moments that he was about to be shot at by 12 uniformed military men, three of them with live rounds. When he finally understood, he said quietly and softly: “This is not right, I made one small mistake, and I shouldn’t have to die for it.”

The Indonesian, the one non-foreigner, had attempted to carry c.60 kilogrammes of marijuana from Aceh to Java. He was caught 15 years ago; marijuana is not part of the ‘drug problem’. There are no recorded cases of anyone dying from it. Besides, at that time, the men behind the illegal trade were the police and army, maybe even now.

Of the Africans, little was told. Media racism?

The main focus has been on the two Australians who were caught, along with seven others, trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia … not in. So, what possible danger did they represent to Indonesian youth?

Then there was … and for the moment, thankfully still is … Mary-Jane. A mother of two, seeking work as a domestic worker here in order to support her family back home. Her contact, journey arranger, slipped … wrong word … placed? sealed? two kilogrammes of heroin into her suitcase. An innocent abroad, with minimal English matched in her incomprehension by the court appointed Indonesian speaking interpreter who didn’t understand Tagalog, Mary-Jane’s mother tongue.

She was prepped in her cell ready for the walk to the distant field when she learned that she’d been given a reprieve, “only temporary” gloated the Attorney-General, because Mary-Jane’s recruiter in the clear case of human trafficking had turned herself into the police fearful for her own life.

Some of the above was revealed to us afterwards.

As the hour approached many of us prayed, knowing that eight were to simultaneously face their personal twelve. Relatives and religious counsellors gathered in the tents erected in the adjacent field.

Dressed in white, with black crosses across their hearts as targets, the eight sang hymns as they were lead to their fate. Tied to the poles which were to prevent them slipping, they all refused blindfolds and sang Amazing Grace as they stared ahead. When the shots echoed through the night, their relatives became hysterical.

And the executioners wept too. They were just doing their jobs.

The eight died with dignity.

Those who condemned them must now live out their lives with indignity, with black clouds of shame heaped upon them at home and abroad.

The Governor of South Sumatra, a hitherto unknown actor in the circus, stepped forward to refuse burial space to the Indonesian, but didn’t consult with his kampung who would have accepted his remains.

The affair will simmer on. Will the French man and Mary-Jane be given a permanent reprieve? And will the now surfacing allegations of judicial corruption which condemned the two Australians be proven?

What of the others on death row, over one hundred of them.

This question is now surfacing: why are the kingpins of drug trafficking in Indonesia sentenced to terms in prison where they are able to carry on their trade? Will British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford be next in the firing line while her recruiters, who reputedly paid £1 million in order to be dealt with leniently, serve out their short sentences of a maximum of six years?

How many more sunsets will she see?

Image of the Week – 154 (Ogres)

Photograph: James Rushforth/GuardianWitness

The coastal town of Wyre, in Lancashire, north west England, has created a Mythic Coast Artwork trail.

Sea Ogre is one of the “striking structures [which] have brought to life The Sea Swallow – a specially commissioned children’s story book that combines local folklore, myth and legend about Wyre’s coastline.”

If only all municipalities were so enlightened: Let The People Play should be a universal policy.
Sadly, in Indonesia this week it is more a case of Let The People Pray – the ogres are not so benign this week.

I have the front page of today’s Jakarta Post in front of me as I type this….

I’m not a praying man seeking help for whatever life brings me. However, this public travesty, the pleasure in blood-letting on display from public figures, from President Jokowi, who was elected because he seemed to offer hope, downwards, now leaves me despairing for the future of the country I have adopted as my home.

Reading the Jakarta Globe online report, I was struck by the comment left by Gyorotonic who offers sentiments I share … a prayer.

Dear President Jokowi.

A wise leader will always show compassion. You should feel morally obligated to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. Please tell us that there will be no more executions during the term of your Presidency!

It will be a show of significant strength, not a show of weakness.

In the event that you fail to grant clemency and the executions proceed, the whole world will be witness to these murders. This is not in the interests of Indonesia.

We remain hopeful that this will not occur. Let us hope that you are having a change of heart in relation to the death penalty and will now follow the right path in dealing with the real issues affecting the citizens of country you were chosen to lead: corruption, education, poverty, health care.


Image(s) of the Week – 153 (Take Your Pic)

It’s Good News Week.

Or is it?

When selecting my Image of the Week, I look for photographs or paintings which have a pictorial resonance in the sense that there’s a need to linger. Some of my choices point to an exhibition currently on, or make you blink and look twice, or are a landscape which transports one away from the cloistered existence we find ourselves in and make a good screen ‘wallpaper’.

Others have a personal resonance with me, being connected to my activities, both past and present. Jakartass has always been about duality with my ‘Home Thoughts From Abroad’ and ‘Alien Thoughts From Home’. The two images I present here are in the latter category. Taken this past week from my lifetime daily read, UK’s Guardian newspaper, they depict two recent events here in Indonesia. You decide which one has more resonance for you.

Top cop inaugurated
Photo: Darren Whiteside/Reuters

Jab the dog.
Photo: Made Nagi/EPA

The thousands of stray dogs on Bali’s resort island of Indonesia (sic) have become a threat to the local tourism industry” which has become a threat to the island’s environment.

Image of the Week – 153 (Candid Camera)

The Guardian has a series ‘That’s me in the (iconic) picture‘. I’ve chosen the one above of Mt. Tungurahua in Ecuador because this week we can ‘celebrate’ the two hundredth anniversary of the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history, that of Mt. Tambora on 10th April 1815.

The debris ejected into the atmosphere lead to such a drop in temperatures that the following year, 1816, has been dubbed The Year Without a Summer. There were massive crop failures and starvation, which in turn lead to migrations. Other consequences, some suggest, include the foundation of the Mormon religion in the USA and the invention of a velocipede, a forerunner of the bicycle, in Germany.

In Switzerland, the incessant rainfall lead to Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein, and in England landscape artist JMW Turner painted yellow skies.

Chichester Canal (1828)

(I could have chosen one of Kim Sear’s animal portraits because today she’s getting married to tennis star Andy Murray. I think the happy couple deserve a bit of privacy though, don’t you?)

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