A Letter to My Nieces

Dear Aira (4), Nada (2), and Azalea (3 months) on the island of Java,
and Meutia (3) and Khania (6 months) in the eastern part of the county, in our hometown,

I am writing this letter just a moment after I made a video call to three of you Aira, Nada, and crying Azalea in her Mom's arms. Nothing more joyful for me than when I see you are still smiling, laughing, dancing and singing confidently in front of the phone camera, no pressure at all. To some extent, I also address my letter to my other two beautiful nieces Meutia and Khania who happen to be born and growing up on the same island where I was spending my childhood. Perhaps our childhood story would have some similarities although not the most part.

You might not be able to understand what the story I am going to share through this letter at the present time. Moreover, it might take another few years for you to grab the notions your faraway uncle is writing about. However, allow me first to write, a letter that you can read some day in your future, whether you are in the good mood or just accidentally drop by on this blog after conflicting with your crush.

First, please take a look at the video below.

She is Kartini. Just a gentle reminder. You might have heard or read her on Bahasa, English or even Dutch. You might have known her very well, better than I do, through the book you read at school or by reading her biography and her moving letters circulated in the virtual world. Particularly for Aira, Nada, and Azalea, she might have some special space in your heart for four of you were born on the same island, Java. And for the other reason, that three of you are inheriting the half Javanese blood. For my other two Meutia and Khania, regardless two of you (just like me) have no strong connection with Kartini's home island by blood nor race, still, she is a relevant inspiration. You might still see some issues in our hometown is no much different than the era of Kartini. But I hope my guess is far from correct in your time.

She is a female, just like you. That is why this letter is written and addressed to all of you.

As I assumed you have had a knowledge about her in advance already, I will tell you the story of people around me that is relevant to hers.

As you might have known, I was working for few months helping my professor during the last year of my undergraduate program. My work was mainly to collect and verify the data of new students accepted to the university where I earned my degree. From this working experience, I gathered a lot of information that I think, I need to disseminate them to aspiring high school students in regard to how they could pass the selection to enter a public university, including the mechanism of financial aids to those who are in need.

When my term almost finished, I decided to travel home to see my parents, an old man and woman whom you call "grandparents". An old couple who used to sleep next to you when you visit them. The two who are always worried when one of you is getting ill. They never change. The same way how they take care of me. Perhaps, one or even two of them are now taking a rest in peace forever under the blue sky. But their love to all of you never fade.

Back then at home, I met a few high school students in the neighbourhood who were very much eager to go to university, all of them were females. Each of them had a big dream although they were too shy to express themselves. I tried my best to help them applying for their dream campus, from preparing all the required documents, writing a motivation letter, contacting their school so that the letter of reference was issued. Giving the fact that some of them were in need of educational aids, I suggested them to apply for the full scholarship provided by the government. They did everything.

But not until I received a call from my Mom, your grandma. She informed me that none of them accepted. I was a bit disappointed. However, in spite of the rejection, some of them still made their own way, continuing to a private university and vocational diploma. The plan B still works anyway. But not for one girl. It is an exception. I should not mention her name but her story. She was forced by her father to marry someone whom she was not even falling in love with, an older male with some wealth. Her determination for her own future and her education were knocked down to the feet of her father's will, a forced marriage at the age of 18. Her mother is working overseas as a domestic worker. Through her marriage, by her family, she is expected to help the family financially, at the expense of her dream and education. Frankly, I was sad and sorry.

Dear Aira, Nada, Azalea, Meutia, and Khania,

Perhaps your parents forget to tell you about my grandparents, those who you don't see and remember their face anymore but through photographs. Allow me to share a bit about them.

In my whole life, I am only able to talk to three of the four. Your great-grandpa from your grandma (now it is getting complicated, sorry) passed way when your grandma was only 6 years old. His wife, your great-grandma, passed away just one year before I moved to Europe. Aira and Nada, just a kind reminder, your great-grandma said goodbye for the very last time when I and your Mom (whom I call older sister) and together with two of you when you were still toddler were sitting next to her. From her, I learned that age and unfortunate condition should not stop you to get an education. Until her very last age, she never wore any glasses to help her reading.

She was born during an unfortunate situation, World War II. She was spending her childhood both during the Dutch and Japanese occupation. But she only attended school during the Japanese occupation and did not continue afterwards because the situation was not possible, the continuing war and a force to work. Not long after that, she married to someone who I identified as "mysterious" man. I am inheriting his blood by 25% yet still no idea how he looks like. No even one photograph is left. The only theory I know about him, the story from your late great-grandma who identified her husband as a loving, calm, and productive writer whose books never published in any publication. But he had to leave his family forever at the very short time of being a father. He passed away because of ill.

Your great grandma said: "He did not continue attending a formal school. Only a few years. His parents did not allow him. The situation was also not possible at that time. And it is his big disappointment. He made a revenge by writing some books". And his books, written by his own hand do still exist. When I was a child, I used to opened them (even though I do not understand what he wrote for they were written in Jawi script). But I hope someday I could show to all of you his pieces of work.

Dear my lovely nieces. Now you are living in a great freedom and a multitude of choices, something that you may take them for granted. For some other girls, and for my grandparents, it was such a privilege, indeed. Make your voice and help them. You do not necessarily see them by their race, faith, and skin colour. It is even none of your business. Those girls are just like you, human being with a big dream.

Your uncle,

Kingdom of The Netherlands
February 2017

With love

Jokowi's speech at Den Haag: Worth listening to?

Post Scriptum.: the video is in Bahasa

In front of around 500 spectators, not all of them Indonesians though, "Jokowi", - Indonesian ruling president, once an unknown meuble exporter who fell himself into political arena, a then former mayor of Surakarta (best known as Solo) in Central Java, a gambler of his own political faith who later run and once sit at the most sought seat of governorship in Indonesia's sprawling capital, Jakarta - shows up with modest white long-sleeve shirt, followed by an incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs (a former Indonesian ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands). Enthusiastic Indonesians and Dutch in the room - out of around 15,000 Garuda-passport holders in the Netherlands - welcome the president with ovation, after a 16-year long-awaited visit of a top-notch leader of far east archipelagic country finally landing on homeland of Indonesia's longest-running trade partner ever, putting aside the colonialism history.

So, what makes Jokowi's visit special the most for his spectators and for the rest Indonesians in the Netherlands in general? His appearance, hand-shaking, photo selfie? Perhaps, but for a distant observer, I would say, the speech, leaving all the deals and signatory partnership behind the negotiation table alone.

It's definitely not a typical (formal) presidential speech, but I would say, more likely a progress report with some humors and puns in the mid of talk, judging from video above. He is not Obama, nor Putin nor even a Soekarno. Rather comparing himself to other persona, looking at Jokowi's very own style (and the content of course) - not rhetoric yet straightforward, not much eloquent yet up-to-dated, and the diction? simple, common, and general, understandable for most people inside the room - is rather striking, at least for me myself.

Jokowi's talk ranges from bureaucratic issue to fashion, from Sumatera to Papua, as follows

"Openness and Competition" He Says

Jokowi's story telling is heralded with explanation of economic crisis in Greece, its development, later affected European Union (EU) economic stability, in parallel caused Yuan (China's currency) depreciation, then responded by The Fed's interest rate increase, at the end affected Indonesia's investment flow resulting in economic slowdown (indicated by weakening GDP growth). Later the president tells audiences about how other countries responded to economic instability and how its adaptation mechanism works, the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) for instance were thus formed.

"Thus, we have to integrate!

"The option is only two, moving fast (thus we cooperate with other countries in turn, being open) or left behind (as if we rather opt to sleep/hiatus)"

No less important than being 'open', he emphasizes that Indonesians should be challenged with "competition". His critics on rampant behavior - as he refers to stereotyped typical Indonesians - of being "lazy ass" is no less striking to witness that the president is frankly admitting his people's weakness, interestingly right in front of his people himself. He opines that people being lazy naturally because they are too much living in their comfort zone, less or no challenge created at all. Laziness is definitely not in a good fashion nowadays and never, he argues, considering it an inhibiting factor that deteriorates competitiveness strength (Indonesia currently ranks 37th, far below neighboring countries Singapore's 2nd, Malaysia's 18th and Thailand's 32nd, indeed still far from old friend the Netherlands' 5th out of 140 countries measured, source here). Jokowi is definitely not happy, infuriated much? Could be yet he smirks. His "Revolusi Mental" jargon is hoped not being translated as a mere political euphoria.

Jokowi's call to "moving fast" is clear and doable in his measures. To support his argument, Jokowi shares successful stories of two public banks, a national flag carrier and a state-owned oil company. He mentions Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI46), Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), Garuda Indonesia Airlines and Pertamina (oil company) as four good examples of how reformation in companies (both the management and the human resource) are progressing. They all once had shared common issues, unprofitable state-owned enterprises, almost bankrupt, unachieved vision, and unaccomplished self-made targets. What's wrong? Jokowi's simple answer is only in one sentence, "They had no competitors". He further explains, in Indonesia once the market becomes more liberalized, untapped, and openly competitive, as results; private banks from other countries are being more present, more private airlines were born, foreign oil company started to operate their gas station in big cities, all of these new changes in Indonesia's business landscape had given a nerve and hard pressures to the long-run unprofitable state-owned enterprises. Jokowi smiles as he might whisper "punch on your face and work it out now!"

Surprisingly, being hit by all pressures from within and outside the countries, these four companies in return made a fight back. A big transformation was made and is still progressing. Evidenced by current statistics, expert report, and brand quality measurement; it assures that BNI and BRI are now listed in Forbes 2000,  BRI recently is the only bank in the world with owned satellite, Garuda Indonesia airlines recently has been awarded 5-star airlines by Skytrax, and Pertamina's expansion overseas is taking place.

In brief, Jokowi again reaffirms "Openness and competition are the keys".

Does he know the "Know-How"?

Straight to the points, Jokowi coins two methods in order to trigger the development and investment in the sprawling archipelagic country; deregulation and infrastructure acceleration. He then shares:

"We currently have around 3,000 regional regulations that are troublesome (for investment). Then I asked the regulatory maker: 

J: 'How long does it take (to deal with the troubles)?'

RM: 'We need to evaluate them'

J: 'Nonsense! Delete them all! The world is running, we are a big boat'

The complexity of bureaucratic system in Indonesia is definitely not sort of his fancy. Jokowi states that his focus in his recent one-half year running presidential duty is to revolt the inefficient system. In the other hand, he says that he once complained to Investment Board about how lame their performance is. 

"I asked: How long does it take to issue an investment certificate? Their answer is 2 years. It's totally crazy. then I said I only tolerate 22 days, then scaling down to weeks, and now why not in hours. And yes, now investment certificate issuance can be issued in only 3 hours for 8 items"

The other story he shares (about during his incumbency as Governor of Jakarta):

"The Business Trade License (SIUP) issuance process in Jakarta was once crazy. When I made an impromptu ("blusukan") to regional investment board office as I received so many complaints from small-medium entrepreneurs, I discovered that the barrier was rather the signature beholder himself, the person in charge (head of office) was inexistent during my visit. He was out of office during working hours. Then I immediately left the office and throw the documents into trash bin. The next day, I fired him. Now I urge the implementation of three-shift work for public services, one-shift work is no longer enough to fulfill the demand. I hope it will work. We have to really run, like really".

Talking about infrastructure development, he then plays with the slides and projector remote controller that show photos of current under construction various projects being held in the country, namely; (a) the longest toll road ever in Sumatera island (Jalan Tol Trans-Sumatera) that connects bottom down province of Lampung to the westernmost province on the tip of Sumatera island, Aceh province that stretches as long as 2,818 km, believed to later beating down the record of current existing Trans-Java toll road; (b) the railway system in Sulawesi island (Jalur Kereta Api Trans-Sulawesi) that later in total will be 2,000 km long connecting city of Makassar in South Sulawesi to Manado (capital of North Sulawesi), making it the longest railway system ever made in Indonesia after the long time established railway system in Java island during Dutch occupation years ago; (c) the most striking one, Trans-Papua road network, will be the title holder of the longest road network ever in Indonesia that will stretch as long as 4,325 km long, including the bridge that will connect Indonesia's westernmost province Papua to neighboring Papua New Guinea (PNG). However, this project is known as the most challenging in terms of geographical feature and security. The under construction projects will tone down the domination of the already densely populated Java island. 

Jokowi's focus on disparity in Papua is among the concern that he wants to solve. Given the fact that goods price in Papua is extremely high compared to ones in other regions. He says that he feels guilty of this plight. Based on investigation it is found that high cost of goods transport from production base has caused the price is rocketing. Through the infrastructure development and transportation improvement, he expects that in near future price disparity will no longer be issue in Papua. 

In addition, Jokowi also shares the story behind the ambitious dams construction (targeting 49 dams built in 5 years). Goverment of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) - a province prone to drought, among the risky beaten tracks - made a call and asked the president to build dam for agriculture, irrigation, and water supply. Inspired by solid determination of NTT's governor, 7 dams are being built in there and many more may come to exist.

Key Messages

The "Revolusi Mental" slogan as he, for several times, calls for a change in work ethics and attitude. He says that he concerns about national services. He urges - particularly to young people who seize the biggest demographic portion - "We are not about going backward, thus open your gadget and learn something from internet, being smart is not enough, be unique and creative!"

Creative-Economy and Education

Jokowi says that he is inspired by Silicon Valley, K-Pop, creative economy and talented young people. His last visit to the United States - including visiting Google and Facebook headquarter - and welcome by Facebook founder himself Mark, is the new milestone of technology transfer from West to far East, he expects. He says that he already created a partnership with top-notch tech companies in Silicon Valley that will allow around 1,000 Indonesian tech-preneurs and starts-up every year to follow the specialized program that will enable knowledge and technology transfer. 

"My dream is to have our own Facebook, our own Google etc. as what China does now. Moreover, animation, fashion, dress, and culinary will be our next iconic creative economy. Now we are about appointing out city of Bandung in West Java as headquarter of Economy Creative Division".

He also shares his recent trip to UK about how he met young Indonesian designers are making way in London fashion industry.

"When I was in London (as part of his one-week visit in four European countries, Germany, UK, the Netherlands, and later Belgium), I met 5 young Indonesian designers at their 20s who currently are establishing their career as fashion designers. I'm so much surprised knowing the fact that their brands are exhibited in the premium center of shopping district in London and their works sold out in just one week for a premium price. Then I told British Council, I will sponsor and encourage more young talented designers to unleash their wings in London, please welcome them". 

The story of vocational school in Germany is no less interesting to listen to as Jokowi, again, picks an experience from his recent trip.

"We all know that Germany is very popular for its quality vocational schools. I met education division and asked about how many Indonesians attending vocational schools here in Germany (excluding university, research)? There are only 200. I said, too low. Well, the number that I expect to have now is about 20,000. We are urgently needing quality vocational school graduate as they are the most well prepared in technical stuff, particularly technology. I'm so much inspired by Techno-Park in Germany. I talked to the education division, we will send 20,000 young Indonesians soon for vocational training and education."

Not satisfied with European successful story, Jokowi again talks about K-Pop, a pop culture from South Korea that has successfully penetrated and welcome in Asia and some other countries outside Asia, a creative money machine for South Korean's economy other than Samsung.

"When South Korean president visited Indonesia, I asked, how long was it prepared to make a K-Pop a big wave? It is 14 years, from audition of hundred thousands scaling down to only few debutante(s) who successfully make a stage. The concept was really well prepared before it launched to the market and boom! Many young people even in Indonesia are big fan of K-Pop. I am ambushed. Also, story from UK, I talked in business forum that One-Direction, Aerosmith are quite popular in Indonesia". Jokowi himself is a big fan of metal music!

Jokowi admits that it takes some times to create a big wave from creative economy. However, he says he is optimistic the richness of Indonesian cultures can be optimized as selling value, not only beneficially from economy but also branding the image of the country itself in the meantime.


Den Haag, the last stop of his European trip. In the closing part, he envisions that "education and culture" are two main interests that he cares much (aside from economy as this one is priority) when he is asked his view toward partnership with the Netherlands, as not much discussed in his speech. From his answer, I take a note that in order to understand the long relationship between the former colony "Indonesia/East Indies" and the Netherlands nowadays, cultural mission, education, and people-to-people interaction are among the best approach, which make the relationship between the two is unique and different. He also suggests that Indonesian president to visit the Netherlands for at least once in three years. Save the best for last (?)

Anyway, thanks President Jokowi for visiting the Netherlands!
*At least I have something to write ;-)

Rumor Has It: Political Turmoil In A Faraway Utopia

Should a newly-elected Regent weigh in a nonuniversal political interest?

Disclaimer: This article may contain unfamiliar situation, too narrowed coverage, even not an interesting case for some people.

Sumbawa Regent is signing a petition (image source: findonews)

The island of Sumbawa is nowhere and synonymous to utopia when it comes to political discourses. Even the most recent regency-level election held until the newly-elected regent commenced his assignment in office, it was never a news or yet not too astonishing to be broadcasted by national scale media. The only source I could discover was and is until now from locally-established online news portal, covered by local journalists. The other way, paying attention on Facebook timeline where fellow natives voluntarily expressed their political tendency in a non-formal manner. 

The island has been long time associated - in a careless defending word, judged - to unfavorable poverty, low human development index, to some extent, an insignificant player in national arena, resulting in unstaggering bargaining position. Not a surprise, even if national agenda could have diminished priority given to the local government in the island (in this case in particular, Regency of Sumbawa) against the favor of most of local's interests.

The most recent, a persona applauded by some fellow natives - or in the other rough assumption most of them - as a prominent representative and antithesis of the deliberate aid-needed locals, has made a national headline, one of few rare events. Fahri Hamzah (FH), the island-hailed figure, a politician who once successfully sat at high seat in a hierarchical political party he associated to, is now detached from membership of Prosperous Justice Party (in Bahasa abbreviated as PKS), an Islamist-line party who often comes up with controversial debate against pluralists.

The public reaction mixed, as seen on Twitterland and Facebook page, although some of them do not care about. However, the most striking concern is that how the people in his home island react to. 

In reaction to FH's political dismissal, the island's town of Sumbawa has expressed their dissatisfaction through an unusual demonstration. His sympathists gathered up, marched along the town's main street, occupied PKS-room in the House of Regional Representative, and turning stance against the party, a political organization once they were attached to. (This information is presented based on insight from FH's supporters' Facebook fanpage www.facebook.com/Kami-Bersama-Fahri-Hamzah)

More surprisingly, the newly elected Regent (HM Husni Jibril) also expressed the same feeling as he led the demonstrators signing for petition (source: findonews), giving a stance that he is disappointed by PKS's decision to detach FH's membership. The reason behind this is rather reflexive common sense, a brotherhood emotion, than a political rationale.

The question is, "Is it necessary for a newly-elected Regent to weigh in an nonuniversal political interest?". Given the people of Sumbawa he is representing is not entirely associated to PKS-party, the fact that there are some other people in the regency belong to other parties, independent and even not associated to any political party. Those people might put aside interest on this issue, rather they probably scream out their stomach that they might need food, healthy sanitation, proper education, medical aids, and other urgent basic needs for living. Why not he bother himself with people-oriented political agenda (tackling chronic social-economic issues) that every citizen in the regency can benefit from, those who voted for him and paid him with their taxes.

As a leader with immense authority governing majority part of the island, - a hidden treasure that might pay growing attention of outsider for its mesmerizing and beautiful landscape - the regent could start with a strategic development plan that every citizen can monitor, respond, participate and give feedback in a transparent and democratic way. Rather juggling himself with petition and support for one person, hundred of thousands in the island are waiting for a change, a real change initiated by the Regent.