Guest Post: In retrospect – Yudhoyono and Indonesia’s scrapped democracy

indonesian democracy

One of the many Twitter pictures trending in Indonesia’s media (Source:


By Edward Tanoto

This article is solely of the author’s opinion.


It was an intense hour for Indonesia. The bill proposed for regional government election was deliberated by the House of Representatives for approval. At first, it seemed to pose no significant worries for the Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle. They have won the presidential race and the public seems to be ready to hear the good answer on better freedom in electing their local leaders. It was assumed to be a sure drift toward victory, until the Democratic Party decided to announce their 10 requirements of the reformed election system. But when their appeal was not taken seriously by the pro-direct election parliament members, they chose to walk out during the plenary session, sealing the fate. Losing the largest number of voices in the plenary session, the vote had a dramatic overkill of 226 to 135, the larger of which went to the decision to scrap regional leaders’ direct election. It signals a dark hour for democracy in Indonesia.

Immediately in its aftermath, many were quick to criticize the result. An overnight Twitter tag #ShameOnYouSBY gave the president, now in his final year, the global spotlight. 10,000 followers overnight came up to condemn the decision of the legislative. It portrays the Democratic Party as the bad guy and blame its leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for the fiasco. But, is this necessarily fair?

To shed some light, the 10 requirements postulated by the Democratic Party members are:

  1. The running regional candidates must be publicly tested for their integrity and capability
  2. Compulsory assessment on the cost efficiency of a regional election must be adhered to
  3. There must be control and limit of funds expended for the candidate’s campaign
  4. Accountability in the usage of campaign funds is required for each candidate
  5. Campaigning by money and vehicle propaganda is prohibited at all time
  6. Insulting and black propaganda is strictly prohibited
  7. There must be no involvement of the bureaucratic members
  8. No bureaucratic members can be displaced in the event of post-election
  9. Any post-election disputes must be settled
  10. Candidates must avoid violence instigated by their supporting parties’ decisions

(Source – in Bahasa Indonesia:



Edhy Prabowo, a Gerindra member gesturing during the vote on the bill in the House of Representatives. PHOTO: AFP


The ignorance of the other parties toward its proposal further infuriated the Democratic Party members so much that they chose to walk out of the plenary session and abstain from voting. However, looking at the points in the proposal, one cannot help but wonder what reason these parties had for ignoring such important points. A new bill requires clear and just rules before being implemented. This is especially so in a young democratic nation like Indonesia, where loopholes in the legislation are readily misused. They need well defined laws and assessments to ensure the bill’s effectiveness. The failure to realize this reflects just how little the parties have learnt from past mistakes.

The oblivion exercised by the other parties may have infuriated the Democratic Party, that in the spur of the moment, they may have decided to walk out of the plenary session. But, this also means giving the sure win to the opponents as the Democratic Party members currently make up the largest share in national parliamentary seats. With a such dramatic loss of supportive voices, it is almost unsurprising for the vote to go in the opposition’s favor. Then, looking at it, the Democratic Party may not be the only one to blame. Other parties should have given more weight to what it is postulating before dismissing it. However, the impulsive decision of the Democratic Party also reflects possible underlying query – does it even wish for the bill to be accepted in the first place? If it truly did, it should have known better than to abstain from the vote. Another possible speculation is that it may be a personal vendetta toward Indonesia Democratic Party – Struggle after years of political rivalries between the two. Should this have clouded their judgment, a more pressing issue will thus be to consolidate relationships between parties. They should endeavor toward healthy competition and not let their past disputes impact their judgment.

However, the lasting impact that this will leave means a major setback to Indonesia’s democracy. The passage of this bill means the same political leaders – remnants from the past authoritarian Suharto’s regime – will still remain political elites rather than the people. It will shift the power back to the higher-ups as people become discouraged from making their opinions heard. It will reopen the trauma of being gripped by powerful conglomerates, and worse, amplify the possibility of political dynasties on a regional level, further dismissing the 16 years’ worth of democratic reforms since 1998. Is this what President Yudhoyono want to leave his office with? If not, then Indonesia will have a long way to go.

All said and done, the final decision will be drafted by the Constitutional Court. Toward that day, Indonesians and pro-democracy leaders must make up their mind on what they truly want out of their country – and how they will achieve it.


Edward Tanoto is an Indonesian student currently in his final year at St. Andrew’s Junior College, Singapore.

This map helps you track countries’ promises in combating climate change

climate summit promises


As UN Climate Summit is still going on in New York City this week – this time, for the first time in modern history, with nearly 500,000 New Yorkers participating in a mass rally while ‘unofficially occupying Wall Street’ – world leaders continue discussing strategies and methods to reduce carbon emissions in each of their respective countries. Some still have conflicting agenda with others, politics as usual – but uneager to repeat the previous deadlocks in past summits, like those in Copenhagen and Rio de Janeiro, more countries are considering this issue more seriously than ever. United States, as the world’s current superpower, has taken its own initiatives, thanks to President Obama’s visions of ‘a greener America’, despite previous setbacks due to prevailing bipartisan conflicts in regard to this issue. Now, China and India, two of the world’s largest polluters, have also taken their own lead, albeit their leaders are not attending the summit this year. But, most importantly, it is not simply industrialized countries that take the action to solve this problem (Japan exempted), but also SIDS (small island developing states), which are classified ‘the most severely vulnerable’ group to any rise of sea levels, and also several Third World countries, including Ethiopia and a few African countries. The summit will still remain imperfect, each country presenting its own agenda, but this time, with more nation-states of all levels participating in this intense race to reverse the global warming trend, we must appreciate that there is progress, and there is hope, to salvage this planet for the sake of our future generations to come.

Here are just some examples:

1. Ethiopia: the President pledges a zero net emission by 2025.

2. Iceland: the country pledges to be completely carbon-free by 2050 (now the planet is investing huge amount of money in geothermal power and hydroelectric dams)

3. Tuvalu: the entire 10,000-people-strong country’s electricity sources will be 100% clean by 2020

4. Palau: supporting World Bank’s initiative to place ‘price tag’ on each ton of CO2 produced

5. Georgia: has ambition to become a major ‘hydropower giant’, and is working towards a carbon-free economy by 2050

6. Brunei: the country pledges to reduce energy consumption by nearly two-thirds by 2035

7. India: will double the capacity of solar and wind energy by 2020

8. China: is now on progress reducing 45% of its carbon emissions in 2005 level by 2020

9. United States: President Obama pledges more aggressive funding and support to clean technologies for developing countries worldwide

10. Indonesia: is now on track reducing 26% of its carbon emissions by 2020

Nonetheless, pledges will just remain pledges as long as we, the global citizens, do not monitor the efforts made by those governments in making sure those plans succeed. Thanks to both Google and UN Climate Summit organizers, for the first time ever, all these countries’ pledges are already posted on a special section on Google Maps Engine. To track out for more updates, click the link below:


Let’s support this global initiative to leave a friendly planet for our future generations to come.

Postcards From the Future: imagining a post-climate change Earth


‘The Gherkin’


Why you should visit this website: long before both North Pole and South Pole completely melt down, long before the rising sea waters flood away most of our planet’s major cities, long before climate change disrupts our whole patterns of life, you had better simply imagine, give a simple glimpse of thought, through these postcards Photoshopped by Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones, of what this world could have been if we hadn’t done anything to reduce the flows of carbon dioxide emissions now already at an increasingly dangerous level. You wouldn’t expect London turning into Venice, Buckingham Palace turning into a huge refugee camp, would you?


In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

foxconn explosion



The consequences of employing cheap labor for the sake of a product awaited by millions of people over the world, as many suicide cases, industrial accidents, and labor strikes in Foxconn factories, processing most of the world’s smartphones and other electronic devices, across China have shown.

Read the full article in The New York Times.




Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to cleaniPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

“If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department. “But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that.”

Apple is not the only electronics company doing business within a troubling supply system. Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.

Is China’s basic education a success, or does it destroy the morality of society?



Questioning the relevance of Chinese education system and the complicating situation faced by the country’s society at modern times.

Read the full article in China Daily Mail blog.




Just like experts claim, China’s basic education does give students more skills and knowledge – that at least seems to be right. However, as we know, China’s education system is an exam-oriented system. All skills are aimed at coping with countless types of exams.

This model has this effect in China: the schools, especially middle schools, become factories. Most Chinese middle schools simply force students to recite all the knowledge points so they can enter a good college, which is in turn is seen as an advertisement of middle schools success. What Chinese high school kids do is just deal with thousands of exam papers and become skilful on how to pass exams.

Most of them, however, have no knowledge at all. Math, for example, gives the illusion that Chinese students are superior. They can calculate numbers quickly. However, the calculator ruins the possibilities for Chinese students. The questions met in industrial projects are quite different from those on Chinese style education paper, and the graduates lose contact with reality.

In real-life projects, students are unable to use what they have learnt to solve real-life problems. So there is no wonder that Chinese students can’t do anything after such a long time of exam-oriented studies. Many students say, what they get in the six years middle school time is just how to deal with over difficult exams. No real skills.

The Facebook Comment That Ruined A Life


facebook victim


Justin Carter was an ordinary person – he played games, got active on Facebook, and did most stuff what teenagers normally do, but one unfortunate incident, which most of us barely care in our daily lives, puts his life, and his reputation, on jeopardy.

He posted a threatening comment in the social media site, and he was put in jail for a few months, and his legal case ends up in limbo.

Everyone, please be careful whenever you post something on Facebook.


Read his full story on Dallas Observer.




One of the comments appears to be a response to an earlier comment in which someone called Carter crazy. Carter’s retort was: “I’m fucked in the head alright, I think I’ma SHOOT UP A KINDERGARTEN [sic].”


When a person writing under the profile name “Hannah Love” responded with “i hope you [burn] in hell you fucking prick,” Carter put the cherry on top: “AND EAT THE BEATING HEART OF ONE OF THEM.” (The Austin police officer who wrote up the subsequent report noted: “all caps to emphasize his anger or rage.” )

That’s when someone in Canada — an individual as yet unidentified in court records — notified local authorities. Because Carter’s profile listed him as living in Austin, the Canadians sent the tip to the Austin Police Department. Along with a cell-phone screenshot of part of the thread and a link to Carter’s Facebook page, the tipster provided this narrative: “This man, Justin Carter, made a number of threats on Facebook to shoot up a class of kindergartners. … He also made numerous comments telling people to go shoot themselves in the face and drink bleach. The threats to shoot the children were made approximately an hour ago.”

The Library of Babel

library of babel


A surrealist short story by Jorge Luis Borges about a universe that entirely consists of libraries.

Read the full story in The Critical Point.




Some five hundred years ago, the chief of one of the upper hexagon came across a book as jumbled as all the others, but containing almost two pages of homogeneous lines. He showed his find to a traveling decipherer, who told him that the lines were written in Portuguese; others said it was Yiddish. Within the century experts had determined what the language actually was: a Samoyed-Lithuanian dialect of Guarani, with inflections from classical Arabic. The content was also determined: the rudiments of combinatory analysis, illustrated with examples of endlessly repeating variations. Those examples allowed a librarian of genius to discover the fundamental law of the Library.

Humans of HKUST – Life and everything within the campus


hkust redbird_sketch



(my personal request to everyone reading this blog)


Why you should visit this website: I, and four other friends studying in this university widely known for the ‘stress and tension’ it carries over, are making this project, modeled on Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York, to give everyone an elementary understanding about life, ideas, opinions, experiences, and stories that HKUST students, staff, or whoever contributing to this great university, want to share to the public. There may be sad stories, there may be mind-provoking ones, but there are also silly, quirky, and inspiring ones. Every person has different perspectives about life, and of course there are no ways we can enforce our own towards theirs. Therefore, as a sign of appreciation towards diverse mindsets, we create this platform to let everyone know more about what really is happening in this campus.


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