1. Changes over the years: In our suburb (in East Java) it has been difficult to get candidates for RT. Many people approached say they are working, have long commutes and too tired to get involved. It’s no longer a prestige position which might lead to higher office, more a dogsbody having to sort out petty problems like parking. The monthly arisan are more effective in getting issues raised. Residents also becoming more independent and feisty – no longer tolerating busybodies and petty paperwork. Gotong royong maybe once a year to get trees pruned, with workers employed to do other community jobs.

  2. Paul Palmos says:

    Greetings little brother: because we are both busy people, I often haven’t the time to catch up on your always interesting activities, so these posts
    fill a lot of missing times of your life.
    Keep them coming.
    cheers, Paul.

  3. […] is rhetorically opposed to a kind of urban chauvinism which came to be associated with the years of Mahathir Mohamad, where development was particularly […]

  4. Christopher Skinner says:

    Delightful story thanks Frank. I look forward to more of your stories in the same vein 🙂 PS what should we do to encourage study of Bahasa Indonesia in Australian schools? Cheers CJ

  5. Les Rudd says:

    lucky the card arrived just before you left and you were able to get thru without delay.regards,Les Rudd. p.s. it was my mothers idea to send you the card.

  6. Elisabeth Jackson says:

    Really enjoyed reading this Frank! Hope you will share more of your experiences.

  7. And what about Prabowo’s health? Does he have the stomach – literally and metaphorically – for a sustained, physically taxing campaign which on current polling he’s destined to lose? Ah, the humiliation of being remembered as a two-time loser to a civilian with no supposedly grand pedigree, no history of shooting guns and strutting parades, and who even looks nervous on a horse.

    On TV Prabowo appears to have a mouth droop which could indicate the after-effects of a stroke – furiously (too furiously?) denied by his backers. His shirt rip-off performance suggests he’s worried – slim Jokowi doesn’t need such exhibitionism

  8. Greg says:

    “The relationship between the executive and judiciary was not always smooth in these legal battles. It is only at the upper courts – the Court of Appeal and Federal Court – where there was a 100% decision rate in favour of the government.”

    Why do Malaysians continue to waste time going to the courts, or even participating in elections — when the outcome is in favour of the government?

  9. Liam Gammon Liam Gammon says:

    Thanks John, that’s very interesting to hear. One meeting—well, that’s a friendly chat. Three meetings? That arguably smacks of ‘negotiating terms’. Looking forward to your next piece.

  10. John McBeth says:

    Actually, Prabowo and Luhut have had three meetings that I know of in the last month or so.

  11. Dr Francis (Frank) Palmos says:

    Daniel Peterson’s ‘Saving Grace’ assessment is one of the finest portrayal of the present bullying trend that mirrored the rise of the Communist Party from 1963, where logic played no part in adversarial dialogues.
    Even the demonstrations seem like copycat tactics. The anti-Ahok outbreaks I have witnessed used similar tactics to create yet another Big Lie environment to drown out voices of reason, as occurred in mid-1965.
    Jakarta CBD, an easy target, was the arena for mob outbreaks, just as it is today. In 1965 the PKI drove a Sino-inspired campaign of intimidation that saw the media shutdown, intimidating posters along all major roads, savage hate language and threats of brutal violence against “contra revolutionaries.”
    From January 1965, the departure from the UN and Big Lie propaganda dominated the air waves. Voices of reason were quelled. Antara news agency fell under Sukarno/PKI control and at least twenty newspapers were shut down, their editors jailed. Dissenters were sidelined from teaching and civil service jobs.
    It is hard to exaggerate the vexatious PKI propaganda and racial hatred of their hit squads in Jakarta in these months. Foreign correspondents were often targeted when on reporting assignments, so agencies sent local staff who kept a low profile to avoid camera destruction.
    Jakartans lived in an Orwellian world where people believed they were at war daily against Malaysia on Borneo border.
    There was a big price to pay: The few citizens who went abroad in 1965 fearing war and hostility were astonished to find peace and prosperity in both Singapore and Malaysia.
    Their next surprise was not so pleasant: No Banks or money changers would accept Indonesian Rupiah. It was down to worthless, worldwide.
    Currency issued by states run by religious warriors soon loses appeal.
    I doubt that will be a consideration by those now imbued with the dangerous fever that usually ends with bankruptcy and bloodshed.
    – Frank Palmos, Co-founder and President of the Djakarta Foreign Correspondents Club, 1964-1970. Herald-Sun Australia correspondent, special writer to the New York Times, Washington Post.

  12. Sam Deedes says:

    What was behind the investigation of those sharing their thoughts by WhatsApp? Did the government crack the encryption? Did they get the cooperation of Facebook? Or were WhatsApp messages leaked by a hostile insider? You have to know who your friends are these days.

  13. Chris Beale says:

    Looks like an excellent book to add to my library. But it could have been enhanced by wider Asian comparisons. Eg. why does the culture of impunity and democratic manipulation persevere in South-east Asia, when it has VERY CLEARLY gone in parts of North-east Asia – eg. former South Korean President Park just sentenced to 24 years jail. Paul Chambers partly explains this by saying South-east Asian militaries remain more entrenched. But Singapore is not a military dictatorship, nor is Cambodia – nor, superficially, is Myanmar. This book looks like a very good beginning to a vast field of research, where there not yet many clear, over-riding answers. Thanks for publishing.

  14. daniel says:

    sustaining the old world tribal psyche is the failure of modernity to offer better solutions.

    the dewa-rajas set are trying so hard to be part of the 1 per cent that grew from neoliberal political economies. the financing wolf of wallstreet with siphoned petrol money is an ironic intersection of these two worldviews.

  15. James Guild says:

    Hi Mathew, thanks for your comments and feedback!

    1. Point taken. The difference between how PLN purchases energy from renewable and thermal sources could be clarified with more precision. However, based on my analysis of last year’s barrage of new regulations the main point is still the same: PLN is trying to hold down costs for power it purchases from both renewable and thermal IPPs which is not very compatible with adding capacity at the scale they’ve been talking about.

    2. I didn’t mean to imply that state-led infrastructure development caused Indonesia’s financial crisis. However, once the value of the rupiah fell, the way in which the New Order had designed and implemented its infrastructure development efforts exposed it to a great deal of financial liability and that certainly exacerbated the situation and contributed to the regime’s ouster. PLN was loaded up with financial liabilities, including purchase agreements that it had signed with a bunch of foreign IPPs, denominated in dollars that it couldn’t pay. They’ve not really taken too many steps to prevent that from happening again, although a rupiah-denominated global bond issue might help hedge some risk. The main point is not that PLN’s debt did or will precipitate a fiscal crisis, but to note that if there is a crisis of some kind they are still exposed to many of the same weaknesses that existed in the 90s.

  16. Matthew Busch says:

    This is a well written and intelligent piece, but it has two factual errors.

    One, on feed-in tariffs, the author suggests FITs have been deployed for both renewables and coal. In fact, they have only been used for renewables, and indeed the very concept of a FIT basically only applies to renewables (and only those of a certain small to medium-sized scale). FITs for renewables are a price signal to developers that if they brought a project that fit in with PLN’s RUPTL they would receive a certain tariff. Crucially these tariffs were above what would be offered for large-scale thermal generation (but below the short-term diesel-fired PPAs PLN relied upon in many remote areas where there were strong prospects for renewables), and intended to incentivise renewables investment. I am not aware of anywhere in the world where FITs are applied for thermal generation. Instead, most thermal IPPs were awarded through tenders on the basis of two ‘envelopes’ – one technical and one price. Regulations have been changed in recent years to allow PLN to contract for more thermal generation through direct appointment, as well as the regulation of tariffs that prevents PLN from paying tariffs for new power than its existing average procurement cost. This is hardly a FIT, and in fact was designed to hold down the price PLN would pay for new thermal generation, rather than incentivise new investment. Using FIT in this way conflates two very different things.

    Two, the author seems to suggest Indonesia experienced an infrastructure-induced fiscal crisis during the AFC: “ambitious state-led infrastructure development…that turned into a regime-crippling liability”. This is incorrect. In fact, the massive increase in government debt followed the onset of the crisis and came from the cost of rescuing virtually the entire banking sector. Prior to the crisis public debt-to-GDP was a barely over 20%. Instead, Indonesia experienced a banking crisis brought on by the depreciation of the rupiah – first, from regional contagion effects, and then through the combined effects of an ill-advised central bank attempt to deal with the malfunctioning intra-bank market without also controlling the money supply along with concerns about the policy response and the future prospects for the regime (leading more investors and Indonesian corporates to flee the rupiah). This, along with massive intra-group lending at many major banks, created a cycle of losses and bank runs that got out of control.

  17. Nursabihah says:

    hello Mr Daud. It’s a pleasure to see your comment. How can I get in contact with you regarding your thesis? I am writing a term paper about the preservation of the language used by the people of Cocos. You can reach me by email at

  18. […] Read the complete article by Nien Yuan Cheng on New Mandala. […]

  19. […] Ultimately, it is questionable whether the Committee achieved its stated objectives. The Government’s views on legislation are widely-known, and its treatment of differing views have been one of confrontation, giving this the impression of a legitimising process rather than a genuinely consultative one. Nonetheless, the debate over Operation Coldstore has helped to ignite public contestation over a foundational moment in Singapore’s political history. […]

  20. Nien Yuan Cheng Nien Yuan Cheng says:

    Thanks so much Adrian, indeed this talk, which weaves a social network analysis of sorts with oral history and art history, takes a much needed look at the perspectives of the Balinese that were often disregarded in the hostile exchanges between (predominantly Western) academics. It’s a two, three, six-way street!