ASEAN Economics Politics & government

[2742] Good luck Mr. Jokowi

I have not been following the Indonesian presidential election closely in the sense that I am unfamiliar with detailed policy proposals from both candidates, Jokowi and Prabowo. I remember from some time back that Jokowi specifically offered little detail, leading to the criticism that he has no idea what he is doing and betting on his clean, humble image to win. But I think I have heard or read some proposals along the way. But what I do know is that there is a difference between the two candidates and Prabowo comes out as nationalistic, protectionist candidate, which I think is bad for Malaysia and for Asean integration.

Malaysia and Indonesia are having it relatively good in the past year or so. There have not been too many ugly and petty spats around the accusation of cultural theft. Others are more serious, like the abuse of Indonesian workers in Malaysia and the haze. I should not mention the haze because looking outside right now in Kuala Lumpur, it is pretty bad. Normally I can spot the Petronas Twin Towers from here but right now, it is all white. Walking outside is unpleasant. It is hot, humid and acrid. It is impossible to tolerate the condition. In the past,  Malaysians (and Singaporeans) had been quick to blame their largest neighbor but I think both have to come suspect and possibly realize that the perpetrators of the opening burning in Sumatra and elsewhere (including in some parts of Malaysia) are Malaysian and Singaporean-held plantation companies. And besides, we consume the very products produced by the plantations there. I do not mean that Indonesia is blameless, but solving it requires regional cooperation to address it.

Still, apart from the unpleasant smell, we are not at each other’s throat and I think that is partly because of the reconciliatory tone, or rather, non-aggressive approach taken by the political leadership of both countries, Malaysia and Singapore. I suppose, it is also because the current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has no incentive to appease the more populist crowd who love a chance to slam Malaysia. He is approaching his term limit after all. But even earlier in his term, I think he preferred discussion rather than Sukarno-style rhetoric when dealing with Malaysia.

I do not believe the relatively good period of Malaysia-Indonesia relations will last very long if Prabowo becomes the new Indonesian President. Prabowo appears very nationalistic and I think he would be easy for him to ride on those anti-Malaysian sentiments, especially if things do not go according to his plan in Indonesia. It will always easy to shift the blame to foreigners than focus on the actual problems at hand.

Prabowo also appears to be a protectionist. Having a nationalistic and protectionist President is probably bad news for Malaysia and for Asean integration. It is bad news for Malaysia because there is a lot of Malaysian investment in Indonesia, from plantation to banking. Indonesia is already trying to limit exports of raw material, hoping to develop its own industries. Prabowo looks like the person who would go further for a more comprehensive protectionism across industries. Indonesia is also behind in Asean Open Skies initiative, while most others have agreed and even done opening up.

Also, having Prabowo campaigning with fascist theme is not all too hot for a libertarian like me. Having a fascist Indonesia will take pressure off Malaysia to liberal further. As in right now, I think Indonesia has some democratic and liberal credential to nudge Malaysia in the right way, in a small way. I suppose it is like the one of those Newton’s laws: bodies of mass attract each other and Indonesia is a very large body compared to Malaysia. Having a big, bad fascist right next door is like having a big, bad, black hole across the narrow sea.

Asean wants to integrate closer by 2015. It does not appear that all the goals set will be achieved within target but having its largest members dragging its feet or even regressing will make integration harder than it already is.

This is not to say Jokowi is all free-trade liberal. But I think Jokowi is more even-minded when it comes to Indonesia’s role in making the AEC a success.

I am a regionalist and I am so because I see global effect at closer integration is going nowhere. So, I would like to see the Asean initiative moves forward. Also, as a Malaysia, it is really tiring arguing about petty stuff. I think only Jokowi can do good on both fronts.

So, good luck Mr. Jokowi. I hope you will win the Indonesian election.

Photography Travels

[2695] Mountains greet thee

Bali was my final destination after two or three weeks travelling all the way by land from Jakarta. As I crossed the Bali Sea on a boat from Banyuwangi, Gilimanuk and this greeted me:

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I do not remember the name of this mountain. It could be Prapat Agung but looking at the map, the twin (even three?) peaks might suggest it is not.

Photography Travels

[2694] Rocks smash romantic words

Prambanan's silhouette

When I first read of Prambanan, in my mind there was an amazing structure that overwhelmed everything. But my expectation of it proved too much. I felt too many words had romanticized blocks of big ancient rocks.

Please do not get me wrong. Prambanan, from afar, looks amazing, mysterious. It imposes itself on its surroundings.

It is just that the experience of actually being there erodes the very air that makes it out of this world. It likes being awed by a rainbow but once you have learned that it is merely an interaction between light and water vapor, it ceases to be mysterious. It becomes just physics. And here was Prambanan representing the gods of Hindu built by the Sanjayas, once rival to the mighty Sailendras and Srivijaya: a pile of ancient rocks.

It does not help that I have been to Siem Reap. There, reality was grander than anything I had imagined. Rightly or wrongly, experience informs expectation and Angkor pushed my expectation of everything else that came from that particular era of Southeast Asian history even higher. Whatever expectation I had of Pagan, Borobodur and Prambanan got pushed up no thanks to the Angkor temples.

My expectation was Icarus. Reality was the sun. Prambanan is not as impressive as I had first imagined.

But I am glad that I visited Prambanan anyway. As always, it is always good having something concrete to back up the stuff I read in books to reaffirm that things out there are not just some fancy imagination concocted by the human mind. They are real and once upon a time, they were the centers of the world.

Personal Photography Travels

[2693] A farmer in Bali works harder than me

I have not been updating this blog of mine as often as I would like to. I have been busy with work and life in general.

Still, I have lots to say but just not enough time to write. I partly blame Twitter for that, which allows me to blow some steam off so that none accumulates to make me really wants to write anything in full. It is surprising how 140 characters can do wonders sometimes.

The fact that I have stopped writing for The Sun and Selangor Times after the May 5 election does not help in pushing me to write more.

But there is stuff in the pipeline and I want to warm up before things get too fast on that front. So, blogging is a good way to give me a giddy-up moment.

Also, one thing with me is that I feel ashamed if I see somebody works harder than me. And here is a self guilt-tripping for me:

A farmer in Bali

He is a farmer somewhere in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, some time late in the morning. And he works way harder than me.

This was pretty far off from the main road. I was on a bicycle, exploring the place and took a nap somewhere under a coconut tree. It was an awesome in-between jobs vacation.

Okay. I want to take more holiday. Crap.

Photography Travels

[2665] Mount Lawu, Java

Prior to traveling to Java, I had never seen a volcano before. And I am happy to write that the first ever volcano I saw with my very own naked eyes were the mythical Mount Merbabu and its twin, Merapi on my early morning approach to Yogyakarta in Central Java. I actually got to the foot of Merapi. Time however was extremely short and so, I did not spend too much time there. Merapi last erupted in 2010 and there were signs of the eruption everywhere. Especially impressive was a crevasse which molten earth ran through downhill. It must have been a sight to remember.

Anyway… this one is not one of those two famous volcanoes however. This is Mount Lawu, I think, slightly to the east of Surakarta, or probably better known as Solo.

Mount Lawu, Central Java

I kind of regretted for not spending time in Solo. Nearby are the ruins of Majapahit. Maybe, the next time I decide to have an adventure in Java, I will spend some time exploring Solo and its environs. And I will definitely spend some more time in Yogyakarta. Did I tell you that I love Yogyakarta?

The photo is not the greatest. I took the shot inside of the train, through the glass window. And I was on my long range lens, which allows only limited amount of light into the camera. But I love it still because it is the only concrete thing that I have to remind of where I was, if I ever grow old and lose my memory to become a old man some time in the late 21st century.

Or maybe, hopefully, some time in the early 22nd century. I still want to see my flying cars.