Friday, January 27, 2012



I have just returned from a four day visit to yet another Indonesian city and this time, Padang in the island of Sumatera. Padang, the land of the Minangkabau is a city of of more than 850,000 people. This gracious people have an eye for business in their genes and can compete on equal or better terms with the Chinese. No need for quotas or AP’s. Maybe that’s why there is comparably a smaller Chinese population in Padang than other cities. Incidentally, there is also a very small Tamil… yes Tamil population in Padang.

This time, instead of flying from Johor Bahru and then lounging aimlessly for hours at the LCCT cattle station at Sepang, KL to catch a flight to Indonesia, I decided to first take a ferry from Stulang ferry terminal at the Zon, Johor Bahru to the island of Batam, Indonesia. The journey is about 90 minutes and there is a ferry every hour from Stulang (and vice-versa). I took the first ferry out at 8.30 am. Batam is on Waktu Indonesia Barat and an hour behind Malaysian time, which means when you arrive in Batam you have gained an hour. I arrived at Batam Center at 10 am Malaysian time or 9 am Indonesian time.

The 90 minute ferry ride is  a pleasant ride, though there is nothing much to do save for looking at the wide blue sea and reflecting on life unless you want while-away reading the New Straits Times or Star and get high blood pressure and thus spoiling your holiday.
Arriving at Batam Center ferry port, it is only a Rp70,000 for a taxi ride to the Airport or called Bandara (Airport) Hang Nadim. Incidentally there are more flights taking off from Batam Airport than from our Senai “ghostport”.

I had decided to try an Indonesian airline instead of travelling by Air Asia. Incidentally, had I chosen Air Asia, I would not be able to take Air Asia’s morning flight to Padang since Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur leaves from Johor Bahru  at about 8.30 am and Air Asia’s morning flight to Padang from LCCT Sepang, KL is also around that time  . The afternoon flight to Padang by Air Asia leaves from LCCT late afternoon. That means travelling to Kuala Lumpur in the morning and then lounging aimlessly in the LCCT cattle station before catching the late afternoon flight to Padang. Travelling via Stulang and then from Batam gives me an early start not to mention savings on the time difference.

Anyway, from Batam, I took Sriwijaya Air. Paid Rp350,000 (@RM125.00 all in) one way for Batam-Padang sector. Looking at the logo on the livery I sensed this maybe an airline owned by Indonesian Chinese. That was confirmed once inside the plane when reading Sriwijaya Air’s in-flight magazine. Apparently Sriwijaya Air is a Jakarta based airline founded by Chandra lie, Lie Hendry (a little on this guys later and which I really want to highlight), Andi Halim and Fandy Linga and commenced its first service in 2003. It now flies to almost all major cities in Indonesia and regionally it has a flight to Singapore and to Penang. It is categorized as a medium service airline which means alight refreshment is served in a box to all passengers. It has good leg space and eye pleasing stewardesses’.

Here is a little piece of history of Sriwijaya Air as extracted from the in-flight magazine.


Now, as I said earlier among the founders of this airline are Chandra Lie who is the President-Director of the airline. Here is his welcoming message as extracted from the in-flight magazine.

Look at the introduction. Despite not being a Muslim, Chandra Lie starts his message with the Muslim greeting “Assaalamu’alaikum wr wb”. He ends his message with “Wassalamu’alaikum wr wb”. Amazing isn’t it a Non Muslim using Islamic greeting. Imagine Air Asia’s Tony Fernandez in his in-flight magazine doing the same. No NGO’s, religious scholars, or any group has objected or protested Chandra Lie using such greetings. Imagine, if Non Muslim in Malaysia use such greeting. Imagine the reaction by Perkasa, Perkida, Hassan Ali, Harussani and other NGO’s may get into a hissy fit.

Now, here is something really unheard of. Again it is extracted from the in-flight magazine.


This must be a first ! It is the first time I have seen prayers seeking God’s providence and blessing in all faith. Islam, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddha and Confucian. Will we ever see a Malaysian airline do the same ? In fact do Malaysia Airlines or even Air Asia has the gumption to do what Sriwijaya Air has done? In fact, at first I thought that was a unique gesture by Sriwijaya Air. In the return flight from Padang to Batam, I travelled on Lion Air. Guess what in the seat pocket, there is a laminated prayer sheet and again for denomination. Maybe it is the norm in Indonesia.

Malaysia always bleats how moderate they are et all…and have international conferences trumpeting its “moderation”. Indonesia by action shows what is acceptance, tolerance and moderation. There are many things we can learn from Indonesia.

Lastly, here is a page extracted from the in-flight magazine of Sriwijaya. It shows a Christmas fellowship for all its staff and business associates at Sriwijaya Air’s prayer house.

The picture shows, Sriwijaya Air’s President-Director Chandra Lie, his wife and his children participating in the celebration. The four girls singing are his daughters. Haven’t heard any Sriwijaya staff or business staff complaining that the event was an attempt to change their “aqidah”.
This is a series on reflection from Indonesia. Norman Fernandez intend to visit Manado, Indonesia next. Feel free to send any information about Manado if you have visited there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I have uploaded this video from Syed Akbar Ali’s blog www. Watch it ! Imagine, only in this country can raving loonies find a captive audience to peddle their stupid yarn. Then again who can blame him when you have a spellbound audience who have enough time to listen to the claptrap. Maybe these people have all the time is because, their birth has bestowed them on them good fate and good luck for them. But for how long, Malaysia ?

Straits Times Friday January 20, 2012 front paged news that “Indonesia draws record Sgp$25billion or US$19.3 Billion in investments. Here are the highlights :
I Foreign investors pumped a record US$19.3 Billion into Indonesia, up 20% from last year;
ii Despite global downturn, officials expect that to rise another 25% this year.
iii Malaysia and Vietnam each attracted only around US$10 billion in pledged and actual foreign
investments last year
iv Last month Fitch Ratings raised Indonesia’s credit status to Investment status, Moody’s has
followed suit and Standard and Poor is expected to do the same in the coming months.
Indonesia’s Gross Domestic Product has crossed the US$1 trillion mark, thus joining economic powerhouses such as China, India and South Korea.

Indonesia’s has really come a long way and there has been remarkable changes since the economic crisis of 1997-1998 and the fall of President Soeharto after 32 years in power. Under Soeharto there was political stability and religious radicalism was almost unheard and there was some economic progress much of which was wiped away during the economic crisis of 1997-1998. Still, compared to its close Asean neighbours it was an economic laggard. Its people was reduced to eking out a living while Soeharto made Indonesia his personal fiefdom where he, his family and his cronies creamed and siphoned off much of its wealth. Incidentally, in Malaysia one politician has now replicated what Soeharto did and has made his state his and his family’s personal fiefdom.

The economic crisis of 1997-1998 which led to Soeharto’s downfall had a profound effect on Indonesia. From the dark days of the economic crisis and race riots, Indonesia has since then moved forward and is indeed moving forward at a rapid phase. For this credit must be given to former president Abdul Rahman Wahid (Gus Dur), whose compassionate presidency nursed the country after the terrible turmoil and the present president Susilo Bambang Yudhihono who has been a steady anchor in seeing Indonesia grow and develop.

Naturally there some serious problems to be tacked like infrastructural bottlenecks, red-tapes, ease of doing business, and corruption. However, gone are the days when politicians can easy loot the country and the corrupt live free from the long hands of the law. Now, with a greater degree of openness and transparency, crooked politicians and those who have breached their trust gets caught much more easily.

While Indonesia is on the accendancy, in the land of plenty called Malaysia, it is one big happy hunting grounds for politicians to enrich themselves and their families first, while throwing crumbs and bones to their community, reminding them to be thankful and frightening them that they will not get this if their benefactors lose political power. Rent seekers are now dime a dozen over here and working hard is an option rather than a choice with “kaut untung atas angin” being the job of choice.
Accountability is zilch and transparency is an alien word. The majority of the population in Malaysia care less about the financial mismanagements and financial sheninigans of the government, its agencies or by its ministers. Even the Auditor General’s annual expose merely extracts a little rumble of dissatisfaction and is quickly forgotten when the government dishes out RM500 for momentary appeasement. Since measures like this gives the people momentary happiness, the government continues to sedate the gullible population with regular handouts in different forms. Maybe its financial appeacement like these which allows many to have lots of free time so as to indulge in activities which bring no benefit, such as attending this type of ceramah’s where the preachers prey on their brethrens emotions, fear and anger.

It is however different in Indonesia where life is difficult and many still struggle to make a living. So people have less time to bicker over irrelevant things. People there are more interested in working hard to improve their lives. People have got no time for religious bigotry or fight over linguistic semantics or racial supremacy or get involved in things which is not going to benefit them or uplift their lives.

Here is another reason why I am convinced that Malaysia is heading for one direction and one direction only – southbound.
The New Straits Times Wednesday 25th January,2012 reports that The Obedient Wives Club (OWC), yup ! whose vice president Dr Rohaya Mohamed once told Muslim wives to be obedient to their husbands and to serve them like “first class prostitute” to prevent the men from straying, are at it again. Apparently it is starting an unusual campaign kicking off with “Rasulullah Tokoh Seks Suci Islam” to coincide with the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday this coming February 5 or 12th Rabiul Awal in the Islamic calendar. I think the title is an insult to Islam and the Prophet. Wonder if the authorities will take any action.

Anyway, here is the news in full :
Obedient Wives Club invites controversy, again
It embarks on an unusual campaign to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday
(New Straits Times) - THE Obedient Wives Club (OWC) is courting controversy with its unusual campaign to honour the Prophet Muhammad's birthday on Feb 5, or 12th Rabiul Awal in the Islamic calendar.
The campaign Rasulullah Tokoh Seks Suci Islam, aimed at redressing the growing moral decay among Muslims, will kick-off today at their headquarters in Pelangi Square, Damansara from 9am to noon with talks and an exhibition. It will be on for 12 days until the prophet's birthday.

It is, however, a closed-door event for invited guests and the local media.

OWC's spokesman Zaiton Omar when contacted yesterday, said they were disturbed with the growing trend of homosexuality and gay marriages and cited the recent case of a former Petronas-sponsored student who married his gay lover in Ireland.

"There are too many unhealthy elements in our society nowadays and we want to do something to right the wrong.

"We chose the prophet as he is revered and had led an exemplary life, and we want other Muslims to follow his way of life."

She said they deliberately chose the title despite knowing it would cause a stir among Muslims.

"The prophet is the perfect example ... he had 11 wives and the campaign will be perfect to celebrate his birthday."

Perak Mufti, Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria, felt the title was insulting to the prophet who had bequeathed a legacy of a great leadership by example to human civilisation.

"He was also portrayed as a good and sincere husband,

"The title is an insult to Islam and the prophet. OWC should change it and point out instead that the prophet was a good husband," he said.

He said the public's perception on sex topics would often be negative.

"Even in the Quran, there are no references to the prophet as a sexual figure or idol."

The OWC is no stranger to controversies since last June when its vice-president Dr Rohaya Mohamed told Muslim wives here to be obedient to their husbands and to serve them like a "first-class prostitute" to prevent the men from straying.

The OWC, which has 1,000 members -- 800 of whom are Malaysians, has since received brickbats from women's rights groups and the public.

Founded by Global Ikhwan Sdn Bhd, an off-shoot of the now defunct Al-Arqam movement, OWC has branches in Indonesia, Singapore and Jordan.

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(Norman Fernandez was recently on holiday in yet another Indonesian city of Padang, Sumatera and this is the first in a series of observation from Indonesia)