Monday, April 23, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: ANZAC DAY – LEST WE FORGET - For those who would r...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: ANZAC DAY – LEST WE FORGET - For those who would r...: ANZAC DAY – LEST WE FORGET 25th April... For those who would re-live one of the greatest yet unheralded Australian yarns ever told ...

ANZAC DAY – LEST WE FORGET - For those who would re-live one of the greatest yet unheralded Australian yarns ever told

25th April...

For those who would re-live one of the greatest yet unheralded Australian yarns ever told

I wandered thru a country town, 'cos I had some time to spare,
And went into an antique shop to see what was in there.
Old Bikes and pumps and kero lamps, but hidden by it all,
A photo of a soldier boy – an Anzac on the Wall.

'The Anzac have a name?' I asked. The old man answered 'No'.
The ones who could have told me mate, have passed on long ago.
The old man kept on talking and, according to his tale,
The photo was unwanted junk bought from a clearance sale.

I asked around', the old man said, 'but no-one knows his face,
He's been on that wall twenty years... Deserves a better place.
For some-one must have loved him, so it seems a shame somehow.'
I nodded in agreement and then said, 'I'll take him now.' 

My nameless digger's photo, well it was a sorry sight
A cracked glass pane and a broken frame - I had to make it right
To prise the photo from its frame I took care just in case,
Cause only sticky paper held the cardboard back in place. 

I peeled away the faded screed and much to my surprise,
Two letters and a telegram appeared before my eyes
The first reveals my Anzac's name, and regiment of course
John Mathew Francis Stuart - of Australia's own Light Horse.

This letter written from the front... My interest now was keen
This note was dated August seventh 1917
'Dear Mum, I'm at Khalasa Springs not far from the Red Sea
They say it's in the Bible - looks like a Billabong to me. 

'My Kathy wrote I'm in her prayers... she's still my bride to be
I just can't wait to see you both, you're all the world to me.
And Mum you'll soon meet Bluey, last month they shipped him out
I told him to call on you when he's up and about.' 

'That bluey is a larrikin, and we all thought it funny
He lobbed a Turkish hand grenade into the CO's dunny.
I told you how he dragged me wounded, in from no man's land
He stopped the bleeding, closed the wound, with only his bare hand.'

'Then he copped it at the front from some stray shrapnel blast
It was my turn to drag him in and I thought he wouldn't last.
He woke up in hospital, and nearly lost his mind
Cause out there on the battlefield he'd left one leg behind.' 

'He's been in a bad way Mum, he knows he'll ride no more
Like me he loves a horse's back, he was a champ before.
So Please Mum can you take him in, he's been like my own brother
Raised in a Queensland orphanage he' s never known a mother.' 

But Struth, I miss Australia Mum, and in my mind each day
I am a mountain cattleman on high plains far away.
I'm mustering white-faced cattle, with no camel's hump in sight
And I waltz my Matilda by a campfire every night

I wonder who rides Billy, I heard the pub burnt down
I'll always love you and please say hooroo to all in town'.
The second letter I could see, was in a lady's hand
An answer to her soldier son there in a foreign land. 

Her copperplate was perfect, the pages neat and clean
It bore the date, November 3rd 1917.
'T'was hard enough to lose your Dad, without you at the war
I'd hoped you would be home by now - each day I miss you more'

'Your Kathy calls around a lot since you have been away
To share with me her hopes and dreams about your wedding day.
And Bluey has arrived - and what a godsend he has been
We talked and laughed for days about the things you've done and seen'

'He really is a comfort, and works hard around the farm,
I read the same hope in his eyes that you won't come to harm.
McConnell's kids rode Billy, but suddenly that changed.
We had a violent lightning storm, and it was really strange.' 

'Last Wednesday, just on midnight, not a single cloud in sight,
It raged for several minutes, it gave us all a fright.
It really spooked your Billy - and he screamed and bucked and reared
And then he rushed the sliprail fence, which by a foot he cleared' 

'They brought him back next afternoon, but something's changed I fear
It's like the day you brought him home, for no one can get near.
Remember when you caught him with his black and flowing mane?
Now horse breakers fear the beast that only you can tame,'

'That's why we need you home son' - then the flow of ink went dry-
This letter was unfinished, and I couldn't work out why.
Until I started reading, the letter number three
A yellow telegram delivered news of tragedy,

Her son killed in action - oh - what pain that must have been
The same date as her letter - 3rd November 1917
This letter which was never sent, became then one of three
She sealed behind the photo's face - the face she longed to see. 

And John's home town's old timers - children when he went to war
Would say no greater cattleman had left the town before.
They knew his widowed mother well - and with respect did tell
How when she lost her only boy she lost her mind as well. 

She could not face the awful truth, to strangers she would speak
'My Johnny's at the war you know, he's coming home next week.'
They all remembered Bluey he stayed on to the end.
A younger man with wooden leg became her closest friend.

And he would go and find her when she wandered old and weak
And always softly say 'yes dear - John will be home next week.'
Then when she died Bluey moved on, to Queensland some did say.
I tried to find out where he went, but don't know to this day.

And Kathy never wed - a lonely spinster some found odd.
She wouldn't set foot in a church - she'd turned her back on God.
John's mother left no Will I learned on my detective trail.
This explains my photo's journey, of that clearance sale.

So I continued digging, cause I wanted to know more.
I found John's name with thousands, in the records of the war.
His last ride proved his courage - a ride you will acclaim
The Light Horse Charge at Beersheba of everlasting fame.

That last day in October, back in 1917
At 4pm our brave boys fell - that sad fact I did glean.
That's when John's life was sacrificed, the record's crystal clear
But 4pm in Beersheba is midnight over here...... 

So as John's gallant spirit rose to cross the great divide,
Were lightning bolts back home, a signal from the other side?
Is that why Billy bolted and went racing as in pain?
Because he'd never feel his master on his back again? 


Was it coincidental? same time - same day - same date?
Some proof of numerology, or just a quirk of fate?
I think it's more than that you know, as I've heard wiser men,
Acknowledge there are many things that go beyond our ken

Where craggy peaks guard secrets 'neath dark skies torn asunder,
Where hoof-beats are companions to the rolling waves of thunder
Where lightning cracks like 303's and ricochets again
Where howling moaning gusts of wind sound just like dying men. 

Some Mountain cattlemen have sworn on lonely alpine track,
They've glimpsed a huge black stallion - Light Horseman on his back.
Yes sceptics say, it's swirling clouds just forming apparitions
Oh no, my friend you can't dismiss all this as superstition. 

The desert of Beersheba - or windswept Aussie range,
John Stuart rides on forever there - Now I don't find that strange.
Now some gaze upon this photo, and they often question me
And I tell them a small white lie, and say he's family.

'You must be proud of him.' they say - I tell them, one and all,
That's why he takes - the pride of place - my Anzac on the Wall.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Earth Day should Celebrate “Engines and Electricit...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Earth Day should Celebrate “Engines and Electricit...: Earth Day should Celebrate “Engines and Electricity” Most chapters of human history are defined by the tools and machines that were u...

Earth Day should Celebrate “Engines and Electricity” - Most chapters of human history are defined by the tools and machines that were used

Earth Day should Celebrate “Engines and Electricity”

Most chapters of human history are defined by the tools and machines that were used.

In the Stone Age, the first tools were “green tools” – digging sticks, spears, boomerangs, bows and arrows made of wood; and axes, clubs, knives and grinders made of stone. These were all powered by human energy.

Then humans learned how to control fire for warmth, cooking, warfare and hunting.
Another clever person invented the wheel and we harnessed animal power using donkeys, horses, mules and oxen, and made better tools like bridles, saddles and yokes from wood, fibre and leather.

All of these tools made hunting, gathering and trade easier and more reliable.

Then wooden ploughs revolutionised the cultivation of wild grasses for food for animals and humans. Farming started.

Trade and exchange was made easier with money using rare commodities like gold, silver, gems and shells.

Tool-making made a huge advance in the Bronze Age with the discovery of how to extract metals like copper, lead, zinc and tin from natural ores using charcoal. Brass, bronze and pewter made many useful tools. These were then replaced with better tools when man discovered how to smelt iron and make steel.

Then along came the game-changers – engines and electricity.

The steam engine, running on wood and then on coal or oil, revolutionised life with steam-driven pumps, traction engines and locomotives releasing millions of draught animals from transport duty. 

Then came electricity when steam engines were used to drive generators. All the windmills, coaches, sailing ships, lamps, stoves and dryers powered by green energy (wind, water, wood, animal energy, whale oil and beeswax) became obsolete.

Mankind made another leap forward with the invention of internal combustion engines using petroleum liquids and gases for fuel. An even bigger leap was the harnessing of nuclear power to produce almost unlimited clean energy from controlled reactions using tiny amounts of fuel.

Nothing in life is without risk, and every tool or engine can be misused. On balance, however, tools, engines and electricity have allowed humans to live better from less land and natural resources per person than ever before. Societies with an abundance of capital equipment are richer, have lower population growth and have the leisure and resources to provide far more environmental protection,

... therefore we should spend “Earth Day” celebrating “Engines and Electricity”. Viv Forbes

Viv has a degree in Applied Science Geology and is a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Are military assistance programs important for US–...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Are military assistance programs important for US–...: Are military assistance programs important for US–Indonesia ties? Following US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to Indonesia in...

Are military assistance programs important for US–Indonesia ties?

Are military assistance programs important for US–Indonesia ties?

Following US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to Indonesia in late January 2018, military assistance programs have emerged as the centrepiece of the US–Indonesia relationship, both in terms of ‘hardware’ (arms sales) and ‘software’ (education and training aid).

By late February, the Indonesian Air Force finally received two dozen used F-16 fighter jets from the United States, a delivery heralded as the largest transfer of defence articles in the history of the relationship. But a narrative is emerging concerning the extent to which arms sales are part of a regional power play between the United States, China and Russia to swing Indonesia’s foreign policy alignment.

Military education and training assistance have been touted as key to solidifying US–Indonesia ties as China’s hegemonic behaviour intensifies. Officials are now seeking to restore education and training of the controversial Indonesian Army Special Forces. A recent Council on Foreign Relations report suggested the United States should increase funding for the International Military and Education Training (IMET) programs for Indonesian soldiers to ‘solidify pro-US sentiment’ and promote professionalism within the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI).

But military assistance alone is a shaky foundation on which to prop US–Indonesia ties.

Indonesian policymakers acknowledge that US military assistance will always be subject to the ebbs and flows of domestic politics in Washington. The US military embargo in the 1990s and early 2000s continues to remind defence policymakers that US assistance comes and goes.

Such uncertainty has driven Indonesia to diversify its arms suppliers. Not only did Indonesia’s arms imports jump from US$36 million in 2005 to almost US$1.2 billion last year, but the number of country suppliers rose from 6 to 23. The pool of 32 countries supplying arms to Indonesia has remained constant since 1950 but each country’s market share fluctuates.

The United States has never been Indonesia’s top arms supplier. During the Cold War, the United States’ average market share was just behind that of the Soviet Union at 20 per cent. From 1992 to 2017, US market share dropped to 10 per cent behind Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Netherlands and South Korea.

At the same time, Indonesia’s existing arms and equipment are decaying. Between 1950 and 2016 Indonesia imported 39 types of weaponry and military platforms — aircraft, helicopters, radar systems and missiles, among others — 29 of which are now more than 30 years old. It is farfetched to suggest that Indonesia’s recent push to obtain 11 new Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets — a move that reportedly made Washington unhappy — somehow represents a foreign policy shift. Indonesia’s arms procurement prioritises replacing antiquated military technology across the board, rather than a foreign policy orientation alone.

These trends suggest that the United States is unlikely to be the dominant arms supplier providing Indonesia’s ‘Minimum Essential Forces’ requirements. Nor will it be consistent enough to erase the memory of the military embargo. Indonesia’s supplier diversity is not cost-effective. But having two dozen suppliers means that no single country can have leverage over Indonesia’s defence sector.

No other country (except for Australia in recent years) comes close to the United States in providing foreign education and training for Indonesian officers. Since the 1950s, thousands of Indonesian officers have gone through some form of US-based training or education. By 2015, the Indonesian Army had sent 186 officers to study in 21 different countries. Fifty of them were enrolled in 34 courses and programs across the United States.

But it seems that these programs have not had their desired organisational effect. The military’s doctrinal documents and education materials in recent decades barely align with US conceptions of war-fighting, professionalism or civil–military relations. Out of the 677 Indonesian Army generals who graduated from the academy from 1950 to 1990, less than 16 per cent were trained in one of the US programs.

This trajectory of minimal effect despite maximum effort is unsurprising. Both Indonesia and the United States value military education and training programs for their ability to boost bilateral ties, not for their operational or organisational results. Jakarta also believes that US training confers international legitimacy and fills the occasional training needs. Washington meanwhile believes that education and training programs provide access to and influence over key members of the military elite.

Absent in the relationship is a serious effort on behalf of both states to evaluate how these courses or programs can ‘remodel’ the TNI in the long run. Without systematic ways to measure the success of US training, any claim that IMET funding will ‘turn’ Indonesia towards the US or boost TNI professionalism seems misplaced.

Taken together, US arms sales and training programs are not yet significant enough to influence Indonesia’s foreign policy trajectory, the TNI’s professional development or the country’s overall defence capability expansion. In other words, ‘security deliverables’ alone make for a poor foundation for US–Indonesia ties.

Both presidents Yudhoyono and Obama recognised this reality and instead crafted an expansive US–Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership in 2010 (which led to the Strategic Partnership in 2015). Policymakers would do well to focus on the Strategic Partnership to deal with the broader strategic challenges facing the region rather than haggling over more arms or training.

Evan A Laksmana is a senior researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Indonesia and a visiting fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research, Seattle, WA.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despi...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despi...: What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despite some continued advances, Jakarta remains woefully underequipped Last week, Indon...

What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despite some continued advances, Jakarta remains woefully underequipped

What’s Next for Indonesia’s Submarine Fleet? Despite some continued advances, Jakarta remains woefully underequipped

Last week, Indonesia’s military chief Hadi Tjahjanto led a delegation to South Korea to review progress on cooperation between the two sides with respect to submarines. The development once again put the spotlight on Indonesia’s growing but still limited submarine capability as the Southeast Asian state considers future options for expanding its fleet.

As I have noted before, Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic state, once operated one of the more capable submarine forces in Asia with 12 Whiskey-class submarines purchases from the Soviet Union back in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, however, it is woefully underequipped, with just two German-built Type 209 submarines along with one of the three South Korean submarines it had ordered back in 2012 and received last year (with the other scheduled for delivery back to Indonesia soon and the third being constructed in Indonesia)

Even taking into account that full order, with the Type 209s expected to be decommissioned soon, Indonesia would still be well short of the 12 submarines Indonesian defense officials have said the country needs to police its waters. And while there have been attempts to address this significant gap with talk of the mulling of new submarine purchases from various sources, last year IHS Jane’s cited multiple unnamed Indonesian naval sources as confirming that Indonesia had cut its requirement from 12 submarines to just eight.

Last week, there was yet another update on Indonesia’s submarine fleet when Indonesian military chief Hadi Tjahjanto led a delegation to visit the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) shipyard in South Korea where submarine work had been ongoing. During the visit, Tjahjanto received a briefing on developments, including on arrangements between Indonesia and South Korea on technology transfer.

During his visit, details were also released regarding future steps on Indonesia’s South Korea-built submarines. In particular, local media outlets picked up on the fact that the second South Korean-built submarine would be coming home soon. The submarine, which will be in the service as KRI Ardadedali with pennant number 404 after commissioning, will begin its journey from South Korea back home to Indonesia on April 23.

Tjahjanto during his visit also made reference to the submarine cooperation as part of wider Indonesia-South Korea defense cooperation. As I have noted previously, both sides have been talking up gains on this front within broader ties, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s state visit to Indonesia last November did see the two countries elevate ties to a special strategic partnership with some defense-related items. Nonetheless, the reality is that even the pace of some of the existing collaboration has been quite slow to materialize, much like Indonesia’s efforts to develop its submarine capabilities. By Prashanth Parameswaran for The Diplomat

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indone...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indone...: As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indonesia Opens a Door Relations between Indonesia and Russia seem to be getting closer a...

As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indonesia Opens a Door

As Russia Faces Colder Relations With West, Indonesia Opens a Door

Relations between Indonesia and Russia seem to be getting closer and closer as top officials agreed to speed up the drafting of a new strategic partnership agreement in Moscow last month.

Jakarta. Relations between Indonesia and Russia seem to be getting closer and closer as top officials agreed to speed up the drafting of a new strategic partnership agreement in Moscow last month.

"We agree that the necessary conditions have been created for elevating our relations to the level of strategic partnership. We have agreed to accelerate the drafting of a corresponding declaration," Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after meeting with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on March 13, according to a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The progress in bilateral relations materialized less than a year after Retno and Lavrov signed a Plan of Consultation for 2017-2019, which was aimed at intensifying dialogue between the two countries.

The document was signed as part of Lavrov’s visit to Jakarta in August, during which Indonesia and Russia agreed to strengthen cooperation in trade, exchange of information and counterterrorism efforts.

"At this moment, we are negotiating it [the draft] and we are hoping that Indonesia-Russia’s strategic partnership agreement can be signed when President Vladimir Putin visits Indonesia, hopefully later this year," Minister Retno said at the time, published in a video provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and seen by the Jakarta Globe.

When the two countries celebrated 65 years of diplomatic ties in 2015, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin touched on his country’s readiness to increase cooperation, as part of an effort to guarantee stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

At a bilateral meeting with Putin in May 2016 in Sochi, Russia, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo expressed Indonesia’s interest in expanding cooperation in trade, politics and culture.

"Our relations date back from the time of Indonesia’s first president, and I think we need to increase it further. I want our economic, political and cultural relations to continue developing," Jokowi said then, as quoted in a statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat.

As Indonesia continues to play a more prominent role in Southeast Asia and the broader Asia-Pacific region, its deepening ties and intensive engagement with Russia may prove to be noteworthy in the bilateral and global context.

Bilateral Relations

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the former Soviet Union shared close relations with Indonesia, during which former President Sukarno and Soviet leader Nikita Khurshchev visited each other’s capital city.

Relations between the USSR and Indonesia remained intact even under President Suharto's anti-communist regime, compared to the suspension of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and China from 1967 to 1990.

At the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Indonesia was one of more than 60 countries that boycotted the games in protest of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Indonesia-Russia relations have improved significantly in recent years, with high-level engagement among top officials.

According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Putin is likely to reciprocate Jokowi’s 2016 visit in the near future, possibly later this year.

Indonesia seeks to tap into the Russian market, which has a total population of over 144 million people.

Indonesia and Russia recorded a 19.7 percent increase in bilateral trade last year to $2.5 billion, with around 40 percent of Indonesian exports to Russia comprising of palm oil products.

With the support of Russia, Indonesia is also working on a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Members of the union comprise of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said more than 110,000 Russian tourists visited Indonesia in 2017, a 27 percent increase from the year before.

Russia provided 161 scholarships for Indonesian students in 2017, an increase from 100 scholarships in 2016. The Russian Embassy in Jakarta told the Globe that it is currently working to further increase the number of scholarships it sponsors here.

With the new strategic partnership agreement in sight, Teuku Rezasyah, an international relations expert from Padjajaran University, emphasized that both countries need to form working groups across different sectors of cooperation to garner the full potential at hand.

Defense Cooperation

One of the major highlights of bilateral relations between the two countries has been strong cooperation in the defense sector. Russia is a major arms supplier to Indonesia, and both countries recently signed a contract for Indonesia’s purchase of 11 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets through a barter deal.

Based on several media reports, the deal consisted of a trade of Indonesian commodities, including palm oil and coffee, for the Sukhoi jets.

According to Teuku, Russia’s willingness to engage in a barter deal with Indonesia illustrates a high level of trust.

He told the Globe that Indonesia and Russia must expand their defense cooperation to include regular exchanges of military personnel.

In early March, Chief Security Minister Wiranto hosted the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, in Jakarta for Indonesia's and Russia’s fourth bilateral consultation.

During the meeting, Wiranto and Patrushev agreed to continue close cooperation in counterterrorism efforts, including through their financial intelligence units to reduce risks of terrorism financing.

Contemporary Issues

Russia is amid a diplomatic rift with a number of Western countries over the poisoning of a former Russian spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter in the United Kingdom, which took place on March 4.

More than 20 countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK.

In spite of its free and active foreign policy, Indonesia does not seem inclined to follow the mass condemnation against Russia.

"Indonesia has chosen not to meddle [in the issue] to sustain its good relations [with Russia] … This showcases Indonesia’s maturity," Teuku said, noting that the British government has yet to provide hard evidence to support their accusations against Russia.

As high level engagement seems to indicate deepening ties between Indonesia and Russia, Teuku also said that both countries have always had mutual respect for each other.

"Russia sees Indonesia as a trustworthy partner, and we never question their credibility at the international stage," Teuku concluded.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s 2018 Regional Elections: The Generals’...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s 2018 Regional Elections: The Generals’...: Indonesia’s 2018 Regional Elections: The Generals’ Election, More Officers In Politics, More Democracy? – Analysis Several military a...

Indonesia’s 2018 Regional Elections: The Generals’ Election, More Officers In Politics, More Democracy? – Analysis

Indonesia’s 2018 Regional Elections: The Generals’ Election, More Officers In Politics, More Democracy? – Analysis

Several military and police generals have announced their candidacies for the 2018 simultaneous regional elections before they retire from active service. What induced these generals to enter politics and what does it portend for Indonesian democracy?

Five active military and police generals have announced their early retirement to contest in Indonesia’s highly anticipated regional elections currently underway for governor or vice-governor. Their participation in the elections, taking place all at the same time known as pilkada serentak, is a significant development. Generals who enter politics usually do so after they fully retire.

The generals have aligned themselves to different political parties in these gubernatorial elections. These parties belong to either the ruling coalition of President Joko Widodo, such as PDI-P, Golkar, NasDem and PAN, or the opposition led by Prabowo Subianto, such as Gerindra and PKS. For the regional elections, however, the political alignments are more fluid as candidates may end up being backed by parties that do not support them at the national level.

Who Are The Generals?

The senior officers who retired prematurely include Lieutenant General Edy Rahmayadi (formerly Chief of Army Strategic Reserve Command/KOSTRAD); Brigadier General Edy Nasution (formerly Commander of Riau Military Resort Command); Inspector General Murad Ismail (formerly Chief of the Police’s Paramilitary Unit, the Mobile Brigade Corps/BRIMOB); Inspector General Safaruddin (formerly East Kalimantan Regional Police Chief); and Inspector General Anton Charliyan (formerly Deputy Head of the Police Education and Training Institute) who previously served as the West Java Regional Police Chief.

Gen Edy Rahmayadi, who currently serves as the Chairman of Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), is running as a candidate in North Sumatra province with endorsement from Gerindra, Golkar, PAN, PKS, and NasDem. Gen Edy Nasution runs as a vice-governor candidate for the Riau province with endorsement from Nasdem, PAN, and PKS. Gen Murad runs as a candidate in Maluku province with endorsement from eight political parties, including PDI-P and Gerindra.

Insp-Gen Safaruddin, on the other hand, runs as a vice-governor candidate in East Kalimantan province, whereas Gen Anton runs as vice-governor candidate in West Java. Both Safaruddin and Anton run on the PDIP ticket.

The Indonesian Constitution and election rules guarantee every citizen the ability to exercise their political rights, including running in an election, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, and profession. To maintain impartiality and professionalism of state institutions, police officers and military personnel are required to resign or retire from their institutions should they wish to enter politics.

Slippery Slope?

How these regulations operate was demonstrated recently by Agus Yudhoyono, a former major in the Indonesian Army, who retired early from the military to run in the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2017. Another case was Yoyok Riyo Sudibyo, formerly a major in the Indonesian Army, who retired early from the military to enter business, before running and getting elected as the Regent of Batang in 2012.

Retired military and police officers, on the other hand, are free to exercise their political rights given their having transitioned to civilian life. It is a contentious issue when military and police officers express, even if tacitly, their interest to exercise their political rights before they resign from their posts. This is because it could affect the professionalism of the respective institutions.

Given their extensive influence over the rank-and- file of the respective institutions they lead and the strategic offices they hold, it is feared their plan may lead to the abuse of authority, resulting in the politicising of both institutions, directly or indirectly.

Indeed, the abovementioned legislations restrict both military and police personnel from voting. Family members or close acquaintances, however, could be enticed, as the legislations do not bind them. Additionally, military personnel and police officers with patronage links to the candidates could be mobilised to influence the outcome of the election in various subtle ways.

On top of institutional influence, relations with societal groups and communities in a given region could be leveraged by the prospective candidates from the military to gain an edge over their competitors.

Push and Pull Factors

Push and pull factors play a key role in the generals’ early transition to politics. Personal aspirations seem to be a common driver. Generals Edy Rahmayadi and Murad, for instance, had indicated their willingness to serve and to help develop their respective home provinces. Another critical push factor is the mandatory retirement age and the subsequent uncertainties that come with it.

By transitioning early to politics using the momentum of the regional elections, the generals could avoid the uncertainties of their own future. Finally, the backlog in career pathways due to the shortage of posts in the military is another compelling driver for military officers, not only generals but also mid-ranking officers, pushing them to find alternative career paths.

The inability of political parties to groom party figures with extensive political capital – i.e. financial resources, political networks and popularity, among others – is a critical pull factor. The simultaneity of regional elections means that parties would have to compete in numerous regions and at different levels of the elections, in turn increasing the demand for capable, tested and popular party cadres.

‘Ready-made’ Leaders?

Producing electable party-groomed cadres in numbers, however, is a time consuming and costly undertaking. Moreover, as party identification in Indonesia is low and individual figures feature more prominently in regional elections, there is little guarantee the investment parties make in grooming their cadres would yield pay off.

Military and police generals, therefore, are a logical group of potential leaders to be tapped considering that they possess ready-to-use political capital that could plug the chronic lack of leadership grooming among Indonesian political parties. These generals are also relatively well-known thanks to their military or police backgrounds, their capacity to bankroll their own campaigns, and the substantial personal networks forged during their time of service.

Even though their popularity and influence will slowly decline over time, retired senior military and police officers remain suitable candidates. More importantly, they can be recruited almost instantaneously without having to exhaust precious resources or time to groom and train them.

Implications for Indonesia’s Democracy

What does this trend mean for Indonesia’s democracy? First, it shows that political parties struggle to nurture electable party cadres, In the long run, such deficiency may result in dependency on stop-gap solutions, which reliance on military officers can lead to. The trend also shows that political parties are highly short term-oriented, prioritising practical gains over long term benefits.

Secondly, the trend may compromise both military and police professionalism, particularly the need for both institutions to remain politically neutral during election campaigns.

Although the political participation of active military and police generals in elections may not directly contravene the existing laws and regulations, it may compromise their commitment to professional ethics and duties to safeguard the country and to uphold and enforce laws.

*Keoni Marzuki is a Senior Analyst with the Indonesia Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Dedi Dinarto is a Research Associate with the Indonesia Programme. This is the first in a series on Indonesia’s simultaneous regional elections.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s Salim routs Filipino cronies

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s Salim routs Filipino cronies: Indonesia’s Salim routs Filipino cronies Last February 24, all media, no matter what their political persuasion, were in a chorus of ...

Indonesia’s Salim routs Filipino cronies

Indonesia’s Salim routs Filipino cronies

Last February 24, all media, no matter what their political persuasion, were in a chorus of praise reporting the following news: One Victorico Vargas beat Jose Cojuangco in an election for the presidency of the Philippine Olympic Committee, the body responsible for our nation’s performance in that global event. It was a heated contest, with Vargas having to ask a court two years ago to issue an order for the POC to undertake the election.

Yes, that Cojuangco was the brother of the late Cory Aquino and the uncle of her son, former President Noynoy Aquino 3rd, an exemplar of the Philippines’ old landed political elite.

This newspaper made it its banner story, the first time sports news was headlined in any newspaper, except of course for boxing champion Manny Pacquiao’s victories: “Vargas routs Cojuangco.” The article’s lead celebratory paragraph was that of nearly all media outlets, including the three biggest newspapers: “Finally change has come in Philippine sports.” “Cojuangco’s 13-year reign has ended.”

Not a single media outfit though bothered to explain who the hell this Vargas —whom they all referred to by his nickname “Ricky” rather than his official name “Victorico” – is, and how he could beat the patriarch of one of the country’s most powerful oligarch clans. They all merely reported that he was the head of the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines. Nobody even reported what sport he played, and I was told it was solely bowling. Weren’t they even curious who this Vargas was?

Pangilinan surrogate

I am not exaggerating at all when I assert that Vargas wouldn’t win an election for chairman of his barangay’s sports committee. He won the POC presidency beating Cojuangco because of one thing, and one thing only:
He is the surrogate of PLDT chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan. MVP, as he is fondly called by a servile media, in turn is the surrogate in the Philippines of Anthoni Salim, whose family’s wealth grew during Indonesian President Suharto’s 31-year rule, mainly because the patriarch was the dictator’s biggest crony.

If surrogate is too obscure a word, Pangilinan and Vargas are merely executives—employees, minions and lackeys though are valid synonyms—in the companies that Salim tightly controls: PLDT and the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co., Ltd., the latter being the holding company for the Metro Pacific conglomerate in the country.

Pangilinan is Salim’s top executive at PLDT, Metro Pacific, Meralco and over three dozen Philippine companies the Indonesian tycoon controls—a structure that evades the Constitution’s limit on foreign ownership of public utilities.

As I have written in so many columns and in my book Colossal Deception: How Foreigners Control Our Telecoms Sector, Salim is the single biggest stockholder, with 45 percent, of First Pacific, with the rest of the stocks held by American and European magnates. Through First Pacific’s subsidiaries, Salim is the biggest stockholder of PLDT, holding 26 percent of its shares. Pangilinan owns a minuscule 1.6 percent of First Pacific and 0.1 percent of PLDT.

Vargas was a Citibank Bangkok human resources executive—an expertise that very rarely takes one to the top posts in the corporate world—until Pangilinan recruited him into PLDT in 2007 as its personnel management head.

Not with the top

Vargas isn’t among Salim’s top executives which, other than Pangilinan, consist of strategist Edward Tortorici, finance man Robert Nicholson, and legal brain-trust (and chairman of Philippine Star, Business World and Salim’s other media outfits) Ray Espinosa.

The firm Vargas was assigned to handle, and where he stayed for five years, Maynilad Water, had not been a profit center that First Pacific has never reported any income from it – hardly a track record that would catapult him in 2016 to being one of only three Filipinos with the assistant-director rank in Salim’s holding and command-center firm.

(The other two assistant directors are Espinosa and Marilyn A. Victorio-Aquino – both from the Sycip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan law offices which, I was told, thought up the legal way in which PLDT could skirt constitutional limits on foreign capital in public utilities and even in media. A long-time director of First Pacific, said to have guided Pangilinan through the maze of Philippine business and politics since the 1990s, is former President Aquino’s foreign affairs secretary, Albert del Rosario.)

The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s article on Vargas’ election as POC president read: “Vargas got a big morale boost from the presence of PLDT/Smart CEO Manny V. Pangilinan, who immediately pledged P20 million as seed money for the POC.” It reported nothing more though on Pangilinan’s role.

That report would be a classic example of stupid journalism: Even when facts and events are in front of a stupid reporter, he would not see what is really the news.

Pangilinan didn’t just give Vargas “a morale boost.” Vargas role in Philippine sports has been entirely Pangilinan’s creation: He was his cock in that cockfight over the presidency of the POC, the culmination of the Salim executive’s campaign in the past many years to be a patron – and a force – in Philippine sports.

Sports patron

Pangilinan was even awarded “Sports Patron of the Year” in 2010 by a sports writers’ association. In 2011, he set up his “Manuel V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation,” which he says supports basketball, boxing, cycling, taekwondo, badminton, tennis, running and football. At its launch, he gave a huge replica of a check for P80 million payable to the Philippine Football Federation, as the conglomerate’s 10-year funding commitment to it.

Pangilinan has also portrayed himself as a patron of the most popular sport in the country, basketball. Three First Pacific companies have teams in the professional league, the Philippine Basketball Association. He has bankrolled the basketball team of his college alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila, since 2005, that of San Beda, where he studied up to high school and most recently, that of the University of the Philippines.

Through PLDT subsidiary Smart Communications, Pangilinan has financed Gilas Pilipinas, the country’s national basketball team that competes in international competitions. Pangilinan also became a patron of boxing and got himself the position of chairman of the board of trustees of the Philippine Amateur Boxing Association, a post he later gave to Vargas, while retaining the chairman-emeritus title.

Vargas has been head of PLDT’s “Business Transformation Office” since 2016. The company‘s PR head Ramon Isberto has been unable to explain to me what it is exactly that the office does that it should be headed by a senior vice president, Vargas.

My sources claimed though that the overriding task that Pangilinan has given Vargas is to be his surrogate in Philippine sports, in tandem with Meralco’s senior vice president, Afredo Panlilio.

It is certainly to Pangilinan’s credit that he is now the country’s biggest patron of sports. You would be born yesterday though if you think such a hard-nosed executive of a monopoly capitalist is doing it out of patriotism.

Pangilinan’s being a patron of sports, his being a big financial donor to his alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila, and his control of more than 12 hospitals—all of course funded by the conglomerate Salim controls— has been one of the most successful PR operations I’ve seen in my career as a journalist.

Concealed from public

Through such contributions — which probably converts into some form of tax deductions — he has gained so much prestige that the fact is concealed from the public mind, or accepted by the elites, that an Indonesian tycoon has managed to be the owner of the country’s biggest public-utility conglomerate. The Constitution had wisely prohibited this, yet Philippine presidents since 1998, and our own elites, have closed their eyes to this huge anomaly.

Salim had wrested control of PLDT in 1998 from the Ramon Cojuangco clan that was a Marcos, and then a Cory, crony. He then bought in the late 2000s the electricity monopoly Meralco and water utility monopoly Maynilad Water from the pre-martial law oligarch Lopez clan that had been close to Cory Aquino. His purchase of the Lopezes’ First Philippine Infrastructure at that time was Salim’s base, funded partly also by the huge profits of PLDT, to get into infrastructure, that today his conglomerate is the biggest in that sector.

The kicking out of Jose Cojuangco from the POC is just another chapter in our country’s sad recent history of an Indonesian crony routing Filipino cronies.

At least the Filipino cronies had kept their profits—at least a big part of them—here, unlike the Indonesian who has pumped out of the country about $2 billion in profits since 2005. (See my column, “Foreign firms generating super-profits from PH telecom duopoly,” November 22, 2017.)

Vargas as well as Panlilio though seem not to be just Pangilinan’s surrogates in Philippine sports. Very surprisingly and strangely, the two are the top investors in certain companies that created the layers of corporations that Salim argues makes his conglomerate majority Filipino-owned, even as Vargas and Panlilio appear effectively to be dummying for Salim. I have discussed this in my book and in my columns two years ago: “The Indonesian billionaires behind the ‘MVP Group’; “Indonesian tycoon skirts Charter limits through corporate layers”; and “Closet billionaires . . . or corporate dummies?”

I have asked Vargas through PLDT’s PR man to comment again on these columns so I can give his side, that he isn’t one of Salim’s corporate dummies, in a column next Wednesday. I have been waiting for his comment for two weeks.

Rigoberto Tiglao