The sex-obsessed world of Brunei

BRUNEI-RELIGION-SHARIA-LAW

 

Following the latest implementation of harsh Sharia legal codes on this tiny, oil-rich country with a population barely larger than 415,000 – about 30% of whom are non-Muslims, New York Post investigates further about the deep hypocrisy that is going on inside the central authority, or precisely, what exactly the sultan – and his close relatives – are actually doing ‘behind closed doors’.

Read the full article here.

 

Excerpt:

 

Under Sharia law, the following is considered criminal behavior, punishable by fines, jail, amputation of limbs, public flogging or death by stoning: absence from Friday prayer services; becoming pregnant out of wedlock; wearing indecent clothing, and for women, refusal to wear a hijab; employing a non-Muslim babysitter; the use of the word “Allah” by Christians and the discussion of faith by any non-Muslims; publicly eating or drinking during Ramadan; theft; homosexuality; and adultery.

The Sultan, now 67, has slowly been moving Brunei in this direction for decades, but this recent, drastic declaration has no clear motive. Brunei is so rich with oil it’s fully independent; nor is it a target of Islamic extremists.

So, why now?

“Who knows?” says Reza Aslan, religious scholar and author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” “This is obviously not coming from a place of religious devotion, since the Sultan himself is in violation of every single rule of Sharia law you could possibly imagine.”

The Iraqi who saved Norway

al farouk

 

 

The story of how Farouk al-Kasim, an Iraqi oil engineer, seeking refuge out of his country’s internal turmoil, ended up rescuing the whole Norwegian nation from their resource curse, the ‘Dutch disease’. Read the full article on Financial Times.

 

Excerpt:

 

In 1952, the Iraq Petroleum Company had reluctantly agreed to train young Iraqis to work alongside its colonial-era masters. It would sponsor batches of Iraqi students to study abroad with the promise of a job afterwards. At only 16, the precocious al-Kasim was selected for the first intake and sent to study petroleum geology at Imperial College London. He returned to Iraq in 1957 – by then married to Solfrid, who had been working in London as an au pair.

Once home, al-Kasim started his working life at the company. Half a century later, eyes shining with glee, he recalls the first time he entered the oil executives’ club in Basra. “I walked across the room, straight up to the bar, where I sat down and ordered a drink. Then I turned around and looked back at all the British managers with their wives, who were staring at me in silence. It was the first time they had seen an Iraqi enter the club, except as a servant.”

But the company could reassure itself that he was no radical anti-imperialist. “I’m a mild man … I got the impression that I fitted in their scheme as a balanced person who will take over management at one time, and treat IPC fairly.” When he left at 31, he was number five at the company and its highest-ranking Iraqi.

Al-Kasim and his family wouldn’t have left Iraq but for their son’s medical problems, but even so, the move was politically sensitive. In the past, he’d been stopped at the border on orders from the secret police, who considered him a key figure for any future nationalisation of the oil industry. Now it took months to secure permission to take his son for what they had to pretend would be short-term medical treatment abroad. “It was a smuggling operation … we were only trying to save the life of our youngest child. But in Iraq, these things don’t matter.”

The prison life of Mikhail Khodorkovsky

khodorkovsky

 

 

Let us make an analogy like this: Napoleon was once a conqueror, and in his deathbed, he became a by-product of his own political ideals.

The nearly same thing applies, at least, for the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky: once Russia’s richest man, once a frequenter of Davos meetings and other first-class economic summits either in Moscow or abroad, once a close ally of Vladimir Putin, once an owner of Russia’s largest oil empire, Yukos, a terrific conqueror of the country’s abundant oil reserves worth hundred billion dollars, and also once one of Russia’s most feared oligarchs, now he is mostly a man of ‘nothing’. Charged with attempts to challenge Kremlin, during Putin’s rule, he now lost his golden seat (also a side effect of his own political ideals), and is now incarcerated in a below-freezing Siberian prison, possibly for decades.

Financial Times journalist, Neil Buckley, goes in-depth to reveal to us more about Khodorkovsky’s new life in prison, and how it has tremendously changed his life.

Personal suggestion: tune in to Coldplay’s Viva La Vida to increase your understanding of this article.

Excerpt:

 

Has ever a businessman experienced such a dizzying ascent to fortune, then such a headlong plunge from grace?

Khodorkovsky used money from setting up a small business in Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika era to found a bank, Menatep, which benefited from big deposits of Russian government budget funds. The profits helped buy a stake in Yukos in the infamous “loans-for-shares” privatisations of 1995, when the businessmen who would become oligarchs loaned money to a near-bankrupt government and were allowed to buy state assets at knock-down prices. Within years, the couple of hundred million dollars he spent gaining control of Yukos had become billions.

Khodorkovsky was the first oligarch to realise the way to real wealth was not by simply selling oil but by adopting western governance standards to boost the Yukos share price. He was the first, too, to reinvent himself, like the US robber barons a century earlier, as a philanthropist, launching the non-profit Open Russia Foundation to run educational projects.

His fallout with Putin had many causes. Khodorkovsky dared to confront the president with a thinly veiled allegation of top-level corruption in a televised meeting in February 2003. He tried to build a private oil pipeline to China, contravening state policy. He engaged in aggressive lobbying against increases in oil taxes. He negotiated to sell a stake in Yukos to America’s ExxonMobil. He was simply too independent. He refused to take his place in the matrix of competing interests and clans, of state and private oligarchs, held in check not by rule of law but, as Russians say, po ponyatiyam, “by understandings” – with Putin as arbiter.

 

What Venezuela can learn from Norway

 

 

The passing-out of El Commandante, the all-beloved Hugo Chavez is surely a dolour unimaginable for most of the Venezuela’s population. A leader long rhapsodized by his populace, Chavez’s providential touch and fame has been elevated into something, something so well-revered and eulogized, as though he were a demigod assigned on Earth by the glorious Heaven.

But who could no more discern clearly at the country’s situation than the hangers-on themselves?

In reality, we have to be honest that even Venezuela itself has become, unofficially, ‘the Saudi Arabia of petroleum’. The answer lies on its extensively leviathan oil reserves – exactly the largest on the planet. Orinoco Belt may be the nation’s touch of Midas – it is estimated as many as 513 billion barrels of oil may be deposited throughout the territory. Enumerating that amount, it is almost twice as abundant as Saudi Arabia’s 265 billion barrels. Assume that oil production be maintained at similar output – approximately 2.45 million barrels a day, using 2011 standards – Venezuela should have held on as a prosperous country for 6 centuries.

 

 

With reserves estimated at 513 billion barrels of oil, Venezuela could possibly surpass Saudi Arabia – if the country were well-prepared to invest more in improving extracting technology currently existing in the industry.

 

Even under Chavez’s leadership and superintendence, Venezuela should have stricken the hot iron better than Middle East did.

Truth be told, as of today, nearly 30 percent of the country’s 30 million are critically poor. Crime rates in Caracas, the capital, are exceedingly high, that nearly 120,000 homicides were reported from 1999 to 2010. Transparency International, meanwhile, placed the country’s corruption perception index (CPI) on an average scale of 1.9 out of 10, and ranked the nation on number 164, in 2010 (compared to Indonesia’s 110th rank, our country is, slightly gratefully, better than the former).

Peter Maass, author of Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil, recounted his experience while covering the city for his book:

Caracas had a booming business in luxury cars and the highest rate of gun violence in the world for cities not at war. The capital’s infrastructure, ignored during decades of economic doldrums, continued to be ignored during the boom. A highway to the airport had to be rerouted for months due to a bridge that was in danger of collapsing; what had been an hour-long commute to the airport required three to four hours over a zigzag of back roads.

In addition, there was a mismanagement in managing the oil revenues. Not that the bulk went to tower cranes and more skyscrapers; human fallacies accounted for the occurrence. It was good that PDVSA, the country’s sole state oil authority, was obliged to provide much of the perquisite to social programs, ranging from building schools, providing cheap healthcare, subsidizing fuel prices and costs of basic items, and setting up cooperatives. Yet, Chavez made a great mistake: instead of placing such responsibility on the ministries involved, all these tasks were instead accomplished by PDVSA. Peter Maass noted as follows:

Chavez calculated that PDVSA’s revamped staff would be more loyal and more capable than the civil servants whose uninspired presence lent government ministries the aura of early retirement homes for bureaucrats.

 

 

One of the PDVSA’s oil refineries.

 

 

Worse, Chavez had fired nearly 18,000 managers and engineers working for PDVSA, human resources needed to operate and administer the company’s daily operation, due to 2002-2003 workers’ strike. In consequence, PDVSA encountered numerous difficulties in sustaining their business practices. The situation even festered when most of the social responsibilities were on PDVSA’s hand, not the ministries’. Peter Maass wrote:

Chavez did not just order PDVSA to boost its community spending by a few percentage points; he turned the firm into the engine of revolutionary change. PDVSA allotted more to its social projects in 2006 – nearly US$ 10 billion – than to its operations (US$ 5.9 billion). In a sense, it became a development agency with oil wells. No other oil company, whether publicly-traded or state-owned, spent nearly as much on non-core programs. In Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other oil countries, state-owned firms tend to have modest social programs. Their surpluses are transferred to the Treasury and distributed to ministries that chase the holy grail of sustainable development. Usually they fail. You can build colleges, as Saudi Arabia did, but that doesn’t mean the degrees will count for much or that jobs will await the graduates.

A point well noted.

Much of the oil revenues also went up into subsidies of basic items’ prices; Chavez’s administration had even set up Mercal, a chain of supermarkets ‘extraordinarily’ dedicated to selling all basic items at a cost 50% lower to all Venezuelans. But even the mushrooming number of such stores – numbered at thousands throughout the country – could not help solving the country’s long-term problems.

Peter Maass summed up as follows:

In Venezuela, it was as though a well-meaning doctor [referring to Chavez] was using the wrong instruments and wrong procedures to operate on a sick patient. Even during the boom years, signs of failure were ample – price controls on foodstuffs were leading to shortages [due to excess in demand], and the government was spending so much on subsidies that it was running into deficit problems, which is a striking achievement when large amounts of revenues are being received from oil sales. Chavez’s policies, intended to break the resource curse, seemed likely to prolong it………They did an awful job, but giving away money is not going to solve people’s problems. We have a saying here: ‘Bread for today and hunger for tomorrow’.

And what can Norway offer to teach Venezuelan government? Allocate more of the oil money, instead of petty subsidies which only offer short-term solution, to sovereign wealth fund.

 

 

One of Statoil’s main refineries. Through The Government Pension Fund of Norway (GPF), the sovereign wealth fund is committed to maintain the integrity of being a pro-sustainability advocate; one of their regulations includes blacklisting companies which they deem ‘having pursued ecologically disadvantageous business practices’ for investment.

 

 

What is a sovereign wealth fund (SWF)? To make it easier to comprehend, just consider this analogy: every household, even a big nation, needs savings. When money is earned, it is important that some bits of the coming-ins are saved to appropriate adequate funds for future generations. Imagine that your dad toils in the office, earns a typical salary, say, 500 dollars a month, and makes use of one-fifth of the income for family savings. But what if your dad, rather than save 100 dollars to anticipate possible events in the future, instead spoil you and your siblings (exclude your mom) with ‘subsidies’ worth 490 dollars, where you can shop and buy whatever you need? That is the case Venezuela is being faced. Chavez is generous, but he’s been way too free-handed that he now spoils the citizens’ needs.

Norwegian government, in this context, is far much wiser. They realize that ‘oil boom’ is no more than a temporary, fast-come-fast-go phenomenon, that they need to save up such golden opportunity to entirely improve their nation’s living standards. But that does not mean they are overlooking the people’s education and healthcare needs. They do still fully pay the citizens’ education and healthcare fees, but unlike Venezuelan government, they are not subsidizing prices of consumer goods. They realize such policy only yields more kief among the citizens.

Here is their scheme: portions of Statoil’s – Norwegian state-owned oil and gas corporation – revenues will go to the The Government Pension Fund of Norway (GPF), the state’s sole SWF. When money is collected, the government hires individuals to manage those funds. But that also does not imply that the managers may run the money at their own will. The government sets up a conservative regulation – most of the funds shall not be invested into stocks, but obligation, as stocks tend to be more volatile and riskier than the latter.

As of 2013, the total funds managed by GPF, mostly from oil revenues, have surpassed nearly 716 billion US$. If it were divided equally among its 5 million Toms, Dicks, and Harries, every individual could attain an additional of nearly equivalent to 143,200 dollars. Even though Norway still primarily depends on oil production to account for its GDP (oil exports contribute to 45% of the GDP), Norway, also itself a socialist economy, shows virtually no signs of contracting a possible recession. While most of its counterparts in European Union are struggling against double-digits unemployment and possibly double-dip recession, most Norwegians remain calm, stable, and unaffected (except for the 2011 massacre, an ‘unlikely’ event).

 

 

In fact, the government of Norway does not only compensate its citizens for education and healthcare; they also provide all-expenses-paid tour overseas packages for the country’s elders.

 

 

Substantively, it is not that the Venezuelan government has no comprehension of what SWF is; they even have one, namely Fondo para la Estabilizacion Macroeconomica (FEM – Macroeconomic Stability Fund). Nevertheless, the funds accumulated reach no fewer than 800 million US$. If spread across its 30 million inhabitants, every person would procure only 26 dollars and 70 cents, an amount adequate enough to rear food supplies a full week. Even to reach a minimum level, the amount saved should be 100 billion US$ for an energy superpower wannabe like Venezuela.

With Hugo Chavez passing away and Nicolas Maduro, his vice, being sworn in as ‘temporary President’, such tasks prevail the government’s challenges to manage such abundance – whether it will be a mirage for its people, or worse, nothing more than a deadly, contaminating black liquid.

 

 

Empire state of commotion

Source: antarafoto.com

Widespread protests opposing the planned fuel price hike – from Rp 4500 to Rp 6000 a litre – have plagued a plethora of major cities and towns throughout Indonesia within a few weeks. Almost every hour, quotidian, we could witness on television reports on how these ‘people’s fighters’, day and night, in a perpetual motion involved in endless brawls against policemen. Personally, I pitied the most those policemen – albeit I even never have an acquaintance who’s in this job – who had to resist much pain of being stoned by those mobster-behaving nation’s next labelled ‘intellects’, something which has been the consequence of being the caretakers of national safety. And the civilians, inobliviously, who were not able to proceed their work as a by-product of the demonstrators smashing things into smithereens. And, more miserably, 3 policemen and 3 journalists were badly injured in an acid attack by unknown provocators. Some red-plate vehicles (indicating that these belong to state employees) were prey to their bursting wrath. But, above those all, the bulk of their actions – claiming to be inspired by the 1998 en masse demonstrations which successfully brought Soeharto’s power to the end of his tethers – no longer attracted sympathy from majority of the citizens. Rather than feel ‘represented’, they instead concluded to have been much ‘hampered’ by the manners these university students expressed their opinions.

Our school was even vacanted for 2 days – fearing the students’ safety – on both Tuesday and Saturday last week because of what they did. Many of us – as seen from their tweets – seemed to kill time while monitoring the current situation taking place in major cities across Indonesia. But, often, no matter how wrought-up the commotion was between the protestors and the security forces – such as Flintstone-era stone wars, jostling-turned-wrestling duels, or water-cannon attractions, we were often interrupted with still-water-run-deep interviews between news broadcasters and ‘seemingly-expertise’ economists, happy-talk politicians who seemed to fully support what the ‘intellects’ did, even if it’s wrong in pursuance of most of the society, and little-known leaders of student leagues claiming to be ‘the most staunchful opponents’ of government’s policies they considered to be all neo-liberal and bring no benefits for proletariats, who possess no ‘a-fault-confessed-is-half-redressed’ conventional wisdom, who all the time turned A to Z whenever audiences, through interactive phone calls, frequently denounced their methods. Endlessly waiting for the hourly headline news to know the latest condition, particularly about the lumping protests in our hometown, I instead found myself so time-wasting listening to their dialogues. And more repugnant is, to know the open encouragement by some parliamentarians that ‘university students are always victimized, while the policemen are way too repressive’. They said so as though the citizens were kindergarten students.

Among all the big cities in Indonesia, Medan was the first in terms of having huge numbers of civilians involved in mass rallies as protests against fuel price hike. On 26th March, what the coordinators had warned against authorities in the government days prior that they would bring in more than 15 thousand labors, university students, farmers, fishermen, and cadgers seemed to have come true. Rumors spread up rapidly through Blackberry Messenger that riots, in no time, would possibly be the follow-up after the mass protests. One broadcast message warned that the protesters were actually targeting Chinese-owned businesses, having a 1998 tragedy rehearsed in more horrifying scale than ever. Another one, exaggeratingly as it sounds, claimed that the sender had heard from secret insiders that as many as 800 thousand masses, all around North Sumatera, would turn the entire Medan, until Berastagi, into oceans of fire and maelstrom, with numerous names of streets being mentioned (for even more information, it also included Hillpark in Bandar Baru). 800 thousand? I asked myself, will all these so-called ’800,000’ show up, having themselves grilled under the scalding sun with little-paid wherewithal, while insofar, most of the jobs they hold in are still in very safe condition, far from the threats of being laid-off by their bosses?

But, as far as my Blackberry has ever received such peculiar messages, there was one that seemingly provoked my mind not to worry, but more to gaggle, instead. The mastermind behind the broadcast message must be some sorts of nosy bratz who simply favor in playing truants, warning us that schools in Medan and Jakarta will be occupied by protesters. Only Medan and Jakarta, while all the protesters were actually aiming for legislative offices, traffic roundabouts in city centers, and places of vital interest (Pertamina offices, highways, industrial zones, or airports (airports? What’s the connection?))? If it were so, why wouldn’t the protesters just simply blockade all the schools nationwide? Why only Medan and Jakarta? Isn’t that showing off inequality?

Nevertheless, the school’s staff immediately informed us to go back home as far as 12.40 pm, with the exception that teachers, particularly those having schedules until 3 pm or more, would have to stay. That message was delivered almost in tandem with the beginning of the obtestation, situated exactly in front of the office of North Sumatera’s representative body, as broadcast in my Twitter feed (I opened my Blackberry under-the-table at that time, violation of a school rule). Supposed to end at 2.50 pm, all of the students were instead told to leave after the school bell rang at the destined time. Hundreds of parents rushed in to classes to find their children and take them back. Furthermore, the first and second junior high school students even called it a day, knowing that their schedule usually starts at 12.50 pm.

Public relations division of our city’s metropolitan police force had previously advised that businesses, schools, and all daily activities in Medan go on as usual, and be not affected by any broadcast messages or SMS they referred to as ‘unclear’. But what actually happened was a total reversal. Thousands of businesses were closed, roads and streets were mostly vacant, and some schools caught on to the same way. Meanwhile, most of the red-plate vehicles, and oil-tanks dared not to circle around the city, fearing of disfiguration efforts by some of the anarchists. So were some of the gas tanks here.

The climax was when all the masses took a walk from the representative body’s offices into Polonia airport. Trying to blockade the entire territories, what happened next was stone war: protesters dismantled one by one all the barbed fences both the police and army had set up as anticipation. Police fired tear gas and enormous streams of water against the protesters. Worse, a Petronas gas station only a stone’s throw away from Polonia almost became prey to the angry masses. And that’s what the TV stations reported. However, on the next day, whether it’s true or false, as written in newspapers, it was said that the crowds had successfully looted away countless stuff from the minimarket and KFC restaurant inside the gas station. It remained blurred which report was correct and which was falsified, but for sure, this had highlighted the ultimately rough-and-tumble side of our ‘next leaders’. The next day, the airport was heavily guarded by 1500 troops within the radius of 150 meters, with not even a single protester allowed to get in.

ANDRI GINTING/SUMUT POS-

Source: Sumut Pos

27th March was another one of the last days in March we really feared of. Some leaders of little-known student bodies threatened to bring 2.5 million citizens into the streets, to boycott the entire economic activities over the country, and even to occupy Presidential Palace and House of Representatives, and to force SBY-Boediono to step down. Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDIP), the most outspoken opposition party, bandwagoned exactly what they did, by threatening the government to dispatch 1 million of its cadres across all the main roads in all the country’s main cities. In total, it’s 3.5 million.

But a few days later, it was found out that ‘only’ no more than 80 thousand people – nationwide –did really take to the streets. Yet, no matter how ‘underachieved’ the demonstrations were, still they looked terrifying to the civilians. There was stone war going on in Jakarta, while another one took place in Makassar, where the students out-Heroded Herod by throwing down the gauntlets not only on police, but also ordinary citizens (and Makassar had the highest frequencies of such occurrences), while some others also came off in cities such as Bandung, Surabaya, Medan (it was a luck that demonstration lasted peacefully here on that day, after governor of North Sumatera ‘promised’ to bring such disputes to the state level), and more than 120 regencies/cities largely overlooked by the mass media.

On the same day, fearing of our safety, most of us decided not to crucify our lives for education’s sake. The school unofficially called it ‘a day’. In our class, only 1 student was present. In our neighboring class, only 2 came. Many of the classes were totally vacant, while Science classes were a bit more thickset than those in the Social stream, with some of the classes still having 10 and 20 students each, in between. But, above those all, given the compensation by the school that our absence would not affect our overall scores, I noticed that some of the students merely considered it a ‘blessing in disguise’. Ah, never mind about that.

ANTARAFOTO

Source: Viva News

In the long run, the most determining date was 31st March, in which it was decided in the plenary session whether the government would increase fuel prices or not. There has been intense disputation between government and House of Representatives for more than one week, from day to night and night to day (sometimes the debate went on until more than 2 am), about the scale of subsidies supposedly distributed if the fuel prices are to go up. PDIP, Hanura, and Gerindra remained hard-headedly in their position, totally opposed to government’s policy they believed would make the poor even poorer. Partai Demokrat insisted that more than three-quarters of the total subsidies, reportedly this year costs our national expenditure more than 150 trillion rupiah, instead go to the upper-class elites, those able to obtain cars. Golkar and PKS turned out to be confusing societies. Firstly held to the consensus by Setgab (a multi-party coalition secretariat consisted of Demokrat, Golkar, PAN, PKB, PPP, and PKS) that fuel prices – no matter how the situation is – must be raised by a-third on 1st April, they instead made a surprising U-turn, totally countervailing the government’s proposal, one day before the plenary session took place.

Exactly on the same day House of Representatives held the session, mass demonstrations again took place, but this time, they turned out to be even more brutal than have been previously imagined. Previously on Thursday, there was intense brawl occurring in Jakarta. One police post was set ablaze, some police cars were smashed and set fire, and many policemen were wounded in the incident. However, what really sent us down the shivers was the rumor that as many as 8 university students had been shot with bullets, real bullets, by the riot police. If that were to happen, as my parents and some others worried, another 1998 tragedy would be inevitable to avoid. (note: one day after 4 Trisakti students were shot dead during a demonstration against fuel price hike, mass lootings and murders took place almost everywhere around the country, largely targeting Chinese-Indonesians)

The street fight, in fact, happened to be in Salemba.

Fortunately, the rumor was not true, despite the fact that these 8 students were really shot, but with rubber bullets, instead.

On 1st April, anticipating any further possible riots, all of us were told – through Blackberry Messenger – that we didn’t have to attend the school on the day before the decision was implemented. I myself received more than 10 similar broadcast messages, while some friends of mine received more than 20. While asking for verification from the school whether it’s already proven or not, one of my friends suddenly Ping-ed me, informing that our class’ form teacher had ordered me to send messages to all my classmates, demanding them not to come for their safety. At the same time, having known that areas surrounding my home had also been blocked by the students burning unused car tyres, my mom advised me not to go on tuition anymore.

Everyone was in deep uncertainty what the final decision would be. The plenary session was continuously delayed many times, firstly from 1 to 2 pm, in which the session lasted approximately one hour, from 4 to 5 pm, from 5 to 6 pm, then dinner, then from 6 to 7 pm, again from 7 to 8 pm, again 8 to 10 pm, until most of the representatives began to lose patience, before the session resumed at 10.40 pm. The meeting, as everyone saw and tweeted what they churned out, turned out to be ‘funnier’, in tragicomedy contexts, than the demonstrations themselves. Before the session began, hundreds of students clashed with hundreds of riot police amidst the rain, no more than a few hundred meters from my own home. Some of the civilians threw stones at the police as well. They kept on blocking three main roads of Medan until a further 7 hours, before they were forcefully disbanded at 10 pm. Many of the police posts were smashed to smithereens and burnt to ruins. Some dozens were captured and brought in to the nearby police stations. Another similar thing also occurred in Makassar, and in Jakarta, altogether. The situation in Jakarta, as reported on TV stations, even reminded me of a New Year celebration, as riot police unstoppably launched fireworks, in many colors, around House of Representatives, forcing the protesters to get out of the complex.

Police fired tear gas in front of House of Representatives to disband protesters.

Back to the nation-determining plenary session. Throughout the meeting, from 10.40 pm to almost 1.30 am, I could hear hundreds of ‘Interruption!’ exclamations pronounced very loudly by the parliamentarians against headship of the meeting. Chairman of the House of Representatives, Marzuki Alie, must be the most patient person in the world. No matter how many times (hundreds, as I guess) he’s been yelled at ‘Chief!’ by those unforbearing members aspiring to interrupt his speech to voice out their opinions, his face, though a bit annoyed, seemingly had so much patience to go on with the meeting. (the same thing he had done for the rest by procrastinating the schedule, perhaps to extend their patience limits, but who knows?) Someone sang Mbah Surip’s reggae-style ‘Tak Gendong’, and some others acted as though they were kindergarten kids. Some screamed, and some others almost began fist fights. Some ignored, and some did finger-pointing against each other in a very furious manner. Some later walked-out (as PDIP and Hanura members did), and some students in yellow jackets (known to be from UI, Indonesia’s best university) had pushing against the security guards. Some were hard-headed, and others seemed to be Janus-faced, double-faced hypocrites. That’s how their plenary session be defined, I guess.

After the chairmanship decided to use voting system, here’s the final result that we got: 356 out of 531 House of Representative members (including those from Golkar and PKS) decided to NOT increase fuel prices on 1st April. It was instead resolved by further analysis on 6 months whether oil crude price, pegged at NYMEX standards, will surpass 120.75 US$ a barrel or not. In case that happens, the fuel price hike is automatically implemented. That also means we have 6 months to wait, 6 months in uncertainty. Our fear, indeed, is instead postponed to a further period as already decided.

Personally, I can’t decide which one is the most suitable policy to adjust our national budgets and its steepening deficits. It seems that every side, either the staunchful supporters or the opposition, do seemingly have their own reasons and statistics to prove their alternatives are best implemented. But, as far as I know, our oil industry has long been problematic and overtly corrupt, and given that factor, our government seemed to have no more other ways but to place the most frequently staked political commodity, at stake itself. That’s what I can say.

*****

3 to 4 years ago, I once read through a few blog posts by oil engineers, claiming that a geological fault located west of Simeulue Islands, Aceh, is estimated to have contained Brobdingnagian amounts of oil reserves. The range may be between 100, in minimum, and 350, in maximum, billion barrels. Even if it’s proven that the fault – a by-product of 2004 Aceh disaster – does have oil as much as the former, we would have been in almost similar position with oil-producing gold-laden sultanates like Kuwait. But what if there were 350 billion barrels? It could make us even richer than Saudi Arabia, and we might be the ‘Saudi Arabia of petroleum’ ourselves. But, long after the time has passed, there’s little, or even a no, progress on the hypothesis. Has the news report itself been concealed? I can’t decide.

Even if it were correct, I’m not sure the oil itself will give Indonesia so much prosperity as the extracting companies have promised. The commotion will still be there, instigated by endless rivalries of corporations, political parties, or superpowers, thristy of power and influence. Or worse, possibly, oil may be utilized as a ‘weapon’ to acquire power. It brings a nation wealth, but it also brings a nation curses as well, Midas-style.

And that’s why I titled this article ‘empire state of commotion’.