THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #11: In a trial of tolerance, Indonesia fails

The Ahok trial has come to an end. The judges ruled Ahok guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to two years in prison. The sentence was higher than the prosecution’s demands — 2 years of probation and 1 year in prison if Ahok reoffended — and was considered an unfair decision by many of his supporters and the general public following the trials.

Justice has failed. If Ahok’s trial did anything positive, it showed the world that Indonesia’s blasphemy laws belong not in a democratic and plural society.  It also showed that Indonesia may as well fall into extremist clutches.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #10: Jakarta changes leadership

The quick count results of the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial elections show that Anies-Sandi has secured the majority vote. As shown below, Anies-Sandi is in the lead with 58%, leaving Ahok-Djarot behind with 42%. As history may show, quick count results tend to not be that far off the mark. So, Jakartans will have to welcome Anies-Sandi as their new governor for the next period.

 

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As seen on Jakarta Post website

 

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Le’ Notes #32: Intelligence, the basics

This post covers the basics of intelligence: what it is, why it’s important, and how it works.

What is intelligence?

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When the word “intelligence” is brought up, you might have vivid images of a savvy English spy, drinking a martini (“Shaken, not stirred”) and conversing with a drop-dead beauty while surreptitiously listening in to the big bad mob boss on the other side of the club. Most likely, the word is associated with espionage and sabotage, the work of CIA spooks in third world countries like Jason Bourne (Bourne series) or Michael Westen (Burn Notice). But that is often the exception, rather than the norm. Most of the time, intelligence analysts are quietly sitting behind a computer and staring at a screen, occasionally yawning and adjusting his buttocks, waiting for a ping to come up. Covert action, like depicted in Hollywood movies, are also included in the activities of intelligence, but they arguably make up a very small piece of the overall pie.

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Le’ Notes #31: Theoretical interpretations of Indonesia’s politics

This post discusses the theoretical interpretations of Indonesian politics from the New Order to the ongoing Reformasi era.

The first leg of my journey starts with understanding the different theoretical interpretations of Indonesia’s political system. Most of the scholarly work on Indonesia is focused on the New Order: its genesis, peak, and violent crumble. The market for Indonesian history is practically saturated with New Order stuff with a bit of Sukarno on the side and the colonial and ancient times (the lattermost nobody really cares about at this point, but is slightly important nonetheless). In this summary, I’ll go through the various schools of interpretation, which were mostly conducted by Western academics.

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Reading science fiction in an age of political turbulence

Lately, I’ve found myself reading more classic science fiction. I went through Asimov’s entire Foundation saga, and am currently reading Clarke’s Odyssey series and his Rama series. The science fiction of old reflected a time of general optimism for space travel and colonisation. One day, we’d escape our cradle, Earth, and settle throughout the galaxy. We may or may not encounter other intelligent life-forms; even Asimov thought humans would be the dominant space-faring species in the Milky Way (but he hinted, at the end of Foundation and Earth, that Andromeda may host a new form of life we’ve yet to encounter).

The main enabler for us to engage in space travel would be technology. As we sailed the seas with ships and aircraft carriers, so too will we travel the stars in advanced starships like the USS Enterprise. At this moment, we’re taking baby steps towards the development of space technology, slowly and clumsily crawling towards that dramatic breakthrough or “revolution” that would propel us into the future. But, Asimov’s dreams of humans establishing a galactic empire tens of thousands of years into the future maybe under attack.

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Le’ Notes #30: The hard and soft of counter-terrorism efforts

This post briefly discusses the two major approaches to addressing terrorism, the “hard” and “soft” approaches.

“We could do this the easy way or the hard way,” said the CIA officer, preparing the standard operating kit for waterboarding.

If you’re a fan of the 24 TV-series or Zero Dark Thirty and the many other terrorism-related movies out there, you’d pretty much have a glimpse of how the United States handles terrorism: showing the terrorists who’s boss. The Bush administration was notorious for launching the War on Terror, a move which did kill Osama Bin Laden, but gave us ISIS with a vengeance and a century’s worth of problems in the Middle East.

Despite some of the successes of the War on Terror, it has often been criticised as being “counter-terrorist” rather than “counter-terrorism”. The former suggests a focused obsession on killing terrorists as opposed to addressing the larger, structural issues that gave rise to the “illness” in the first place. Thus, in the recent years, we’ve seen a “softer” approach to counter-terrorism. As opposed to invading Iraq and ordering drone strikes, the soft approach attempts to address terrorism as an issue that stems from extremist ideology. What needs to be attacked is the ideology, rather than the terrorists themselves.

Both approaches have their own merits and shortcomings, and that’s what I attempt to briefly discuss.

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Le’ Notes #29: Networks and social groups in radicalisation

This post discusses the role of networks and social groups in the radicalisation process.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend a screening of Noor Huda Ismail’s latest documentary, Jihad Selfie. He documented the life of 17-year old Aceh boy, Akbar, who got a scholarship to study in Turkey and was inspired to join ISIS, highlighting the role of the internet and social media in expediting the recruitment process. It did open my eyes to the infinite potential of social networks as a pathway towards radicalisation.

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Le’ Notes #28: Why is it so hard to buy military transformation?

This post discusses the factors that make buying military transformation so difficult.

Why doesn’t the military get with the program? Why does the government seem so reluctant to buy those shiny new Gen-5 planes and ships? These are some of the questions I had when I was a snot-nosed undergrad aspiring to solve all of the country’s defence problems. I thought we could buy our way out of being a big country with a meagre defence force. I thought the government was stupid because it didn’t (or was too slow) to embrace the technological marvels that were on sale. The truth is, defence acquisition may be one of the most convoluted processes within the government, aside from implementing neoliberal macroeconomic policies.

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