Indonesian muslim cleric detained for marrying 12-year old girl

pujiono-cahyo-widiantoA muslim cleric has been detained by police for marrying a 12 year old girl in central Java. Cleric Pujiono Cahyo Widianto, 43 has been detained along with the girl’s father.

An AP article says the man intended to marry two other girls aged 7 and 9.

“This is pedophilia … pure and simple,” said Arist Merdeka Sirait, secretary general of the National Commission for Children’s Rights, who praised the police action. “We aren’t living in the Stone Age here, we have to protect our children against these kinds of things.”

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Upcoming elections – what are they all about

On April 9 there will be an election to choose the members of parliament with the presidential election on July 8th.

Indonesia only had its first direct elections for president since 2004.

Not surprisingly, most people I have spoken to in Indonesia are pretty cynical about the whole process. The current president is President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who is a member of the Democrat Party.

One of the biggest issues is corruption in the government. Indonesia ranks 126th on the Corruption Perception Index. Ahead of Cambodia, the Philippines and Laos, but behind Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Religion will also be a key issue in the elections, with some parties pushing for Indonesia to become an Islamic state.

Indonesia has cancelled a scheduled football (soccer) match with New Zealand, because of security concerns with the election.

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Islamic books sell like hot cakes: Jakarta Post

The Jakarta Post reports that Islam books were the “surprise” best sellers for many bookstores at the 8th Islamic Book Fair.

Somehow that doesn’t seem to much of a surprise to me. I like one of the comments on the article: “Hmmmmm…. Islam books were the hot sellers at an Islamic Book Fair…..Imagine that…. I’d imagine that at a cake sale, cakes would be a hot seller as well.”

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The week that was

I haven’t felt well this week after coming back from Bukit Lawang, so I didn’t do as much as I would have liked on the blog.

It is getting closer to the elections here and every channel on television has non-stop reporting and debating – pity I can’t understand anything.

Here are some stories that I wanted to write about but didn’t get the chance.

Christianity Today who obviously have their own agenda, but I thought they had a good article on the spread of Shari’ah law in Indonesia, something which worries me about the country.

Legislation in Padang requires both Muslim and non-Muslim women to wear headscarves, while a law in Tangerang allows women found “loitering” on the street after 10 p.m. to be arrested for prostitution.

Five Indonesians made it onto the Forbes rich list. Brothers Michael Hartono and Budi Hartono are owners of the country’s second-largest cigarette company – Djarum. Just as most developed countries are banning cigarette smoking from all public places, it is still fine in Indonesia to chain smoke clove cigarettes on public buses.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono fell ill with a stomach upset. And presumably after he got better, he had a call from President Obama where they discussed education, health care, climate change, counterterrorism -and bird flu.

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Australia to open disaster center in Jakarta

Just as I wrote the other day that the Australian government didn’t seem to be working much with Indonesia and now I read that Australia is working to create a disaster center in Jakarta.

The prime minister told reporters that a study by Australia and Indonesia found that half the world’s megacities are in locations vulnerable to earthquakes, and issues like climate change, urbanisation and poor land use were exacerbating the impact of other natural disasters.

“Also our region is subject to intense volcanic activity and now we see the consequence increase storm activity and with greater intensity,” Rudd told reporters. “With natural disasters, none of us can predict who will be the next victim, who will be hit next and often there is so little notice when they come.”

Australia has pledged to spend $67 million on the center over a period of five years. It is good to see the two governments co-operating on new projects. The center seems like a reasonable idea, but then you start to think that the money could be better spent in other areas, and even as Rudd says it is impossible to predict where or when the next disaster is going to happen.

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Buddha bar forced to close in Jakarta

buddha-bar-restaurantBuddhist college students have forced the newly established “Buddha Bar” to close, demanding the bar change its name. The Jakarta Post reports:

“We’ve sealed the Buddha-Bar and it will remain closed until the matter is resolved. The management team has also agreed not to open the bar,” Indonesian Buddhist Students Association (AMB) representative Widodo said, as quoted by

“The bar itself is also filled with Buddhist symbols and artifacts. Its presence is offensive to the Buddhist community in Indonesia.”

The bar is part of a chain of restaurants with businesses in “London, New York, Dubai, Sao Paulo, Kiev, Cairo and Beirut.”

I can understand the problem the students might have with the bar, but the question is, why is it only in Indonesia that the bar has caused controversy.

“Buddha Bar” is also the name of a music CD compilation and there is a Buddha bar also in Australia that is not part of the aforementioned chain.

I really wonder if it would raise an eyebrow if they opened a branch in Thailand which is 94.7 per cent Buddhist.

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Papau 5 could return to Australia soon

INDONESIA-AUSTRALIA-IMMIGRATION-COURTFive Australians who were detained for illegally entering Indonesia could return back to Australia soon, AFP reports.

“The judges accepted our arguments that the pilot decided to land as the tower official gave verbal permission despite the pilot’s explanation that they hadn’t obtained landing permit documents,” he said.

“The conversation between the pilot and the tower official in Merauke’s airport had been recorded and we gave a copy to the court.”

The Australians involved were pilot William Scott-Bloxam and his wife, Vera, plus Hubert Hufer, Karen Burke and Keith Ronald Mortimer.

We can only speculate what they were doing flying over or into Papau, which is a “sensitive” area in Indonesia.

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Lion Air plane skids off the runway

A Lion Air plane skidded off the runway flying from Makassar, South Sulawesi Province. Fortunately no one was injured in the incident.

“The heavy rain and a sudden gust of wind may have caused the plane to skid but we are still waiting for an official report from airport officials,” Lion Air spokesman Edward Sirait said. “No one was hurt and damage to the plane was minimal.”

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An accident waiting to happen

The first time I noticed the bamboo suspension bridge in Bukit Lawang was when I asked the lady in the restaurant (warung) where the toilet was. She pointed across the bridge to a place on the other side of the river. It was my second bottle of Bintang and I wasn’t too keen on trying to cross the suspension bridge that looked like it had come straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. It wouldn’t be long and it would be dark, so I thought I could just skip behind a tree to avoid having to navigate the bridge.

suspension bridge

The next day we changed hotels that was across from the suspension bridge, so there was no way of avoiding it. It was Sunday in Bukit Lawang and people had started arriving from Medan to spend the day swimming in the river and having parties. Our hotel had a good view of the bridge and I watched as more and more people started crossing the suspension bridge ignoring the “Maximum 6 people” sign that was posted on either end of the bridge.

suspension bridge

At one point the whole bridge had people on it, when suddenly it dropped a couple of feet. People screamed as the bridge bounced up and down. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. Fortunately, the bridge did not collapse and everybody was able to clear it. I thought it would then be closed off in case there had been some damage done, but no, people kept crossing it like nothing happened. They did however pay attention to the “maximum six people” warning.

Not long after a few guys started pushing a massive amplifier across the bridge. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Amazingly they made it across without incident.

suspension bridge

I know it’s not that high, but the river moves pretty quickly and I am sure not everyone can swim. There were also lots of people and kids playing in the river and crossing underneath it. The bridge is also held together with rusty nails and bits of wire, so maybe no one would have gotten killed but the whole scenario just seemed like a disaster waiting to happen.

suspension bridge

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See the orangutans now before it is too late

Sumatra Orangutan Bukit LawangI just came back from a weekend in Bukit Lawang. Bukit Lawang is about a three hour, bumpy bus ride from Medan and is apparently one of the best places for seeing orangutans in the wild. It was my second trip to Bukit Lawang, but the first time to see orangutans.

There is a feeding area where National Park staff feed the orangutans two times a day – at around 8:30 a.m. in the morning and 2:30 p.m. You need to pay an entrance fee of around 20,000 rupiah for foreigners and 50,000 rupiahs to take photos.

When you arrive in Bukit Lawang you will be met by one of the many “guides” who won’t leave you alone until you book a trekking trip with them. It is easy though to get to the feeding station without a guide. When it is close to feeding time, just keep going up the river past the “Jungle Inn” hotel, where there is a small boat to take you across the river. You can pay your money there or at the National Park office near where the becaks (motorized rickshaws) park.

The National Park guide said morning was better to see more orangutans. I was only able to see two, but the previous day there were seven. The orangutans live in the wild and make their way to the feeding station if they need food. The park rangers feed them milk and bananas.

It was incredible to see them up so close, just a meter or so away. They looked at us while we took pictures. The larger orangutan was 5 months pregnant.

There are only around 7,000 orangutans left in Sumatra according to Wiki and they could be extinct by 2012. They are beautiful and amazing creatures and it would be a huge loss to see them become extinct. Apparently 96 per cent of their genes are the same as humans. The forests are being logged for timber and the land is used for palm oil and rubber plantations.

The park entrance fees are sent to the government, but little of that makes it way back to the National Park. The guides said they hadn’t been paid for two months.

I guarantee that anyone who makes the trip to see the orangutans, you will come back an ardent conservationist.

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

Sumatra Orangutans

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