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Jakarta celebrates the Menteng Kid’s victory
November 7th, 2008

Jakarta shared the anxiety and the joy of the U.S presidential election won by new Indonesian darling Barack Hussein Obama on Wednesday.

It was a special day for students of Obama’s former school SDN Menteng 01, Central Jakarta, who gathered at the school’s hall to watch the final results pour in. Several pictures of Obama during his school years there were prominently displayed.

A 15-minute silence has been held here every day since Monday to allow the students to pray for Obama’s victory.

“Every day we have something different to pray for, but since Monday we have prayed for him,” said principal Kuwadiyanto.

Obama, or Barry as he was affectionately called during his time in Indonesia, enrolled in the school — then named SD Besuki — as a third-grader in 1968. He previously attended the Fransiskus Asisi Catholic School, also in Central Jakarta.

Obama’s historic election as the next U.S. president was a dream come true for his supporters in Indonesia.

“I think it’s good motivation for the children to study hard and set their dreams high,” Kuwadiyanto said.

Israella Dharmawan, Barry’s former teacher at Fransiskus Asisi and an avid follower of the U.S. election, said she was proud and touched by Barry’s win.
“I hope to see him become a good president and keep his campaign promises,” she said, adding he was good, cheerful and easygoing as a young boy.

“I remember he once wrote two stories titled ‘My mother, my idol’ and ‘I want to be a  president’,” she said.

Obama’s former classmates at SDN Menteng 01 also recalled the times they spent at Café Pisa, Menteng, with the now U.S. president-elect.
Obama moved to Indonesia at the age of six with his mother Ann Dunham and his Indonesian stepfather Lolo Soetoro. He lived in Jakarta from 1967 to 1971.
In the rest of the capital, Jakartans cheered the election of Anak Menteng (the Menteng Kid) as America’s first black president.

“Though I am not an American, I am very happy to hear that a child who studied in Menteng will be the next U.S. president,” Sugiyono, a taxi driver, said after hearing radio reports of Obama’s win.

The U.S. Embassy and USINDO organized a U.S. Election Day event at the InterContinental Hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Most of the guests were non-Americans.

“It’s no longer a U.S. election,” one guest said. “It looks like an international election. People all over the world are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the election.”

Among U.S. Ambassador Cameron R. Hume’s invited guests were presidential spokesmen Dino Patti Djalal and Andi Mallarangeng, former ministers Emil Salim and Alwi Shihab, members of the House of Representatives, scholars, journalists and diplomats.

Despite their busy schedules, the British, Swiss, German, Austrian, Brazilian, Mexican, Jordanian, Tunisian, Palestinian and Singaporean ambassadors turned up to witness the historic moment.

Enda Nasution, who chairs the Obama for Indonesia society, celebrated Obama’s victory with 300 members of the group, which was founded over the Internet.

“It’s great to be part of history. No one thought Obama would win the U.S. presidency,” Enda said.

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Obama victory inspires RI youth
November 7th, 2008

A’an Suryana, Jakarta

“Hip, hip horray, Obama,” Arum Pusparini, an employee at a private company in Jakarta, writes.

“Congratulations Obama,” shouts Ganjar Pranowo, a legislator with The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

“Congratulations, Mas (brother) Obama. When are you going to buy us a meal (to celebrate the victory), Mas?” Miranti Cempakawangi, an alumni of the University of Indonesia who also works for a private company, writes affectionately.

The lines they wrote Wednesday (Jakarta time) on facebook.com, shortly after Barack Hussein Obama was confirmed winner of the dramatic U.S. election, really represented the jubilant sentiment felt by many young Indonesians.

The sentiment is easy to understand, considering that Obama has historical roots in the country. Obama lived here in Menteng, Jakarta, with his American mother Ann Dunham and Indonesian father Lolo Soetoro between 1967 and 1971. Thus, like many other Jakartans at that time, Obama and his family shared the burden of living in an economically struggling Indonesian urban area.

Jakarta in that period, like other cities in Indonesia, had been left bankrupt by the Sukarno regime, which was too preoccupied with political adventuring and neglected the nation’s economy. Under command of Gen. Soeharto, the country slowly consolidated its economy following the political upheaval that bankrupted the country’s economy and even took the lives of top brass Army generals and hundreds of thousands of communist party members.

Obama himself, like other kids of his age, went to both Indonesian public and private schools, in which he was exposed to Indonesian culture, making him the first American president able to understand Indonesian, albeit only a little.

The exposure to other cultures and education has contributed to what Obama is today. He has turned out to be quite different from other fellow Republicans. He is accommodating and eager to listen to other views. He is not the guy that likes to impose his view on others. He is confident, but not arrogant.

He understands the bigger picture of Asian culture, particularly Indonesia, and that can help him boost ties between the U.S. and Indonesia.

With these qualities and historical roots, no wonder many young people here have since Wednesday begun pinning high hopes on Obama to help improve Indonesia.

This hope explains why the excitement has been ubiquitous among youths around the capital ever since Obama was elected U.S. president.

Aside from the subconscious hope that draws fervent excitement, Obama himself has already established himself as a role model for young Indonesians. His rise to the top resembles a rags-to-riches story reminiscent of Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations”, which still resonates after more than a hundred years.

It is hard to imagine that a young black boy who had few contacts could go on to claim the most powerful and coveted post a human can occupy today.

The challenges seemed undefeatable. The African American race is still the most problematic and disadvantaged in the United States. Discrimination against blacks endures to this day, although formally the state ended the segregation policy in the 1960s thanks largely to efforts by Martin Luther King.

Against the backdrop of an era of racial discrimination, it seemed impossible for a black man to become president of the United States.

Despite his race, which has been a liability and an asset, Obama also faced other more technical challenges during his campaign period, in part because he was relatively new to U.S. politics.

However, Obama proved that he could overcome any challenges and finally broke the myth that only persons of white skin and well-connected families could become president.

With his achievement, he has helped rejuvenate belief that America is still the land of opportunity and meritocracy.

And this defining moment in American history has not only inspired Americans, but Indonesians too. “If a Menteng kid like Obama can make it, everybody here should have the same opportunity to rise to the top,” said a researcher who works for a private firm in Palmerah, Central Jakarta.

Indonesia is still a young nation and we are still in the process of establishing a civil society that upholds meritocracy.

In our journey to get there, Obama’s ascendancy to power inspires the belief in every young person in the country that someday, no matter their disadvantages, in spite of money, race, religion or family background, their hopes can become reality.

The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post

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Pornography bill passage disappoints Bali: Governor
November 1st, 2008

Dicky Christanto and Ni Komang Erviani ,  The Jakarta Post

Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika expressed concern about the House of Representatives’ decision to pass the controversial porn bill into law during a plenary session in Jakarta on Thursday.

Pastika reiterated that the passage into law only meant one thing: lawmakers had ignored Balinese hopes.

“We will continue to oppose the porn law as this has been our stance from the first,” Pastika told reporters.

When asked whether his administration had prepared further legal actions to challenge the new law, Pastika said he would have to discuss it with the province’s legal advisors before taking any further steps.

“We’ll see what happens with the new law before exploring legal options,” he said.

Both the administration and the provincial council had sent an official letter to the central government protesting the porn bill deliberation. They argued that voting on the bill would threaten the country’s current balance between unity and pluralism due to its obscure wording. The letter recommended tabling the initiative indefinitely.

Besides Bali’s official protest against the bill, the civic group Bali People’s Component (KRB), made up of local artists and activists, launched noisy mass protests as well.

Commenting on the passing of the porn bill into law, KRB’s coordinator I Gusti Ngurah Harta said his group has begun preparing legal materials to challenge the porn law.

“We’ll get ready to challenge it by filing a request for judicial review with the Constitutional Court,” he told The Jakarta Post, adding KRB’s team of legal experts was led by I Dewa Gede Palguna, one of Bali’s noted legal activists and former Constitutional Court jurist.

With regard to the team’s preparation, Palguna said the team would wait to get the official copy of the porn law, adding, “of course, we’ll read the new law as it was passed carefully before we take any legal action to challenge it”.

If the judicial review were to fail, he added, then the KRB would ask the provincial administration and legislature to start considering whether Bali should pursue special-autonomy status, which would give the Balinese a basis for disregarding the porn law.

“We will continue to oppose it at any price,” he said.

Initially discussed by lawmakers back in 1997, the porn bill was then considered controversial by many rights activists and legal experts who found the bill’s language outlined too narrow a perspective for interpreting sexuality.

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JETSTAR’S inaugural Perth to Bali flight was packed today despite an updated warning on travel to the Indonesian island
October 27th, 2008

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade updated its travel advice for Indonesia on Friday, warning the imminent executions of the Bali bombers would compound an already significant terrorism risk.

The update followed Friday’s announcement by Indonesia that the three Islamic militants would be put before a firing squad in early November for their roles in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings.

Jetstar corporate relations general manager Simon Westaway said the travel warning had been in place for many years, but Bali remained a popular destination for Australians.

“The level of warning isn’t changed but they did reissue an advisory and we will obviously be continuing to monitor the situation,” Mr Westaway said.

“The important point to make is the existing warning has been in place for Bali for many years now.”

The warning had not deterred travellers on the first flight on the Jetstar service from Perth.

“I’m just observing here at the airport this morning, we’ve got a full flight load of people going up to Denpasar and from our perspective it’s business as usual,” Mr Westaway said.

Bali has regained its popularity as a holiday destination since the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005.

Mr Westaway said the market had returned solidly in the last 18 months and Jetstar had added additional capacity out of Sydney and Melbourne in response.

The Perth service will fly tri-weekly initially before being boosted to four times a week in December, Mr Westaway said.

“Bali has returned as a destination for Australians, it has in many ways always been Australia’s leading international playground in terms of visitation,” he said.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith yesterday advised Australians to check official travel advice before travelling to Bali.

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VP closes Asian Beach Games in Bali
October 27th, 2008

Nusa Dua, Bali (ANTARA News)- Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla officially closed the first Asian Beach Games (ABG) 2008 on Sunday (Oct 26) night in Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Nusa Dua, Bali.

Jusuf Kalla on the occasion expressed his feeling of proud of the struggle showed by athletes from 45 Asian countries. The ABG was opened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on October 18.

The Asian Beach Games was participated in by around 10,000 athletes from 45 countries including China, Japan, Afghanistan, Laos and Macau.

“I am grateful to all athletes of the 45 countries who have strived for your all countries,” Kalla said.

The vice president also expressed his appreciation to Bali provincial administration and its people, who had fully supported the first ABG event.

“I also expressed my high appreciation to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) which has entrusted Indonesia to organize the ABG. We hope the second ABG tournament which will be held in Oman in 2010 can run well,” said Kalla, who was among ohter things accompanied by the ABG steering committee chairman, Adhyaksa Dault, OCA vice president Timothy Fox and organizing committee chairwoman Rita Subowo.

Jusuf Kalla was also proud of what has been achieved by Indonesian contingent with their success as an overall champion, which grabbed 23 gold medals, eight silver and 20 bronze medals.

Thailand appeared as runner-up with ten gold medals, 17 silvers and ten bronze medals.

Earlier, OCA vice president Timothy Fox, who represented OCA president Sheikh Ahmad A Fahad Al Sabah in his closing remarks also highly appreciated on what Indonesia had conducted as host of the international sports event.

The ABG closing ceremony was also highlighted by several attractions like dancing performaces.

Prior to the arrival of the vice president, Saharadja band from contemporary music from Bali showed musical entertainment at Lotus Pond stage.

The event also featuring several Indonesian artists including senior female artist Titiek Puspa. Oman will be the 2nd host the ABG in 2010.

There were 17 beach sport branches in the sport event such as beach volleyball, dragon boat racing, body building, beach soccer, beach handball, beach pencaksilat (traditional martial art), beach wrestling, jet-skiing, marathon swimming, para-gliding, sailing, triathlon, windsurfing, woodball and sepaktakraw.(*)

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Beach Games batch leaves for Bali
October 15th, 2008

THE second batch of the Bahrain delegation left yesterday for Indonesia for the first edition of the Asian Beach Games to be held on Bali Island starting Saturday.

A total of 23 members, including 16 players who will represent three disciplines – beach volleyball, beach soccer and sailing – are expected to arrive in Bali today along with their coaches and administrators.

The beach soccer team is being headed by Mubarak Al Shaer and includes manager Fayad Mahmood, Brazilian coach Gustavo Zloccowick and players Ibrahim Hassan, Amir Shebib, Ali Habib, Ibrahim Abdulla, Sadeq Marhoon, Hussam Al Mannai, Yaqoob, Salah Salman, Isa Saleh and Mahmood Al Ghawi.

Mohammed Al Fardan is leading the beach volleyball team delegation which also consists of coach Ali Jaffer and players Sadeq Ibrahim, Qader Abdulla, Ayman Haroona and Hassan Aqeel.

The sailing delegation will be headed by Sameer Shuwaiter and will also have coach Qassim bin Jamia besides two sailors – Omar Abdulaziz and Ahmed Salman.

Meanwhile, the third and final batch will leave tomorrow. It will be headed by Supreme Council for Youth and Sports vice-president and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Isa bin Rashid Al Khalifa.

Shaikh Isa will be accompanied by Bahrain Volleyball Association president Shaikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Shaikh Abdulla bin Rashid Al Khalifa from the General Organisation for Youth and Sports and BOC secretary Raed Buhammod.

Delegation director Numan Al Hassan and treasurer Jassim Al Shomeli led the first batch of the delegation earlier this week.

Soon after their arrival, both officials made necessary arrangements to secure the accommodation for the rest of the delegation members besides other procedures before the arrival of the remaining Bahraini members.

Both the beach soccer and beach volleyball competitions will start on the first day of the Games while sailing will commence on Sunday.

The 31-member Bahraini delegation is looking to make a major impact during the nine-day event which will see a total of 3,876 athletes, representing 45 Asian countries, in the fray.

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Bank Indonesia moves to boost currency
October 15th, 2008

Indonesia’s central bank has unveiled new measures to ease downward pressure on the rupiah, after the national currency fell to its lowest level in three years last week.

Bank Indonesia will extend the maximum period for foreign exchange swaps to one month, up from one week.

The bank’s governor, Boediono, says it will reduce the amount of foreign exchange reserves that commercial banks must hold in the central bank to one percent of total foreign currency deposits, down from an earlier figure of three percent.

He says these new policies are aimed at ensuring the supply of dollars in the domestic market.

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