Category Archives: Indonesia

The World Remembers 64th Anniversary of the West-Sponsored Coup in Iran

After WWII, the West had one huge ‘problem’ on its hands: all three most populous Muslim countries on Earth – Egypt, Iran and Indonesia – were clearly moving in one similar direction, joining a group of patriotic, peaceful and tolerant nations. They were deeply concerned about the welfare of their citizens, and by no means were they willing to allow foreign colonialist powers to plunder their resources, or enslave their people.

In the 1950’s, the world was rapidly changing, and there was suddenly hope that the countries which were oppressed and pillaged for decades and centuries by first the European and then North American geopolitical and business interests, would finally break their shackles and stand proudly on their own feet.

Several Communist countries in Eastern Europe, but also newly liberated China, were actively helping with a rapid de-colonizing process in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Those developments were exactly what the West in general and both the U.K. and the U.S. in particular, were not ready or willing to accept. ‘Ancient’ belief in some sort of ‘inherited right’ to colonize, to loot and to control entire the non-white world, was deeply engraved in the psyche of the rulers in both Europe and North America.

Peaceful, tolerant and socially oriented Islam was seen as a tremendous threat, at least in London, Washington, and Paris. It had to be stopped, even destroyed — resolutely and by all available means. Only the pre-approved Wahhabism, which was collaborative with the West and from the onset at least partially ‘co-produced’ by the British Empire, was singled-out and allowed to ‘bloom and succeed’.

*****

Iran fell first, in 1953.

Actually, it did not fall; it was brutally destroyed.

According to the logic of the Empire, Iran had to be derailed and ruined, in order to prevent a so-called ‘domino effect’.

As written by Irfan Ahmad, an Associate Professor of Political Anthropology at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India”:

…Major theatre of de-democratization was Iran, whose elected government was overthrown, in 1953, by a US-UK alliance. Mohammad Mosaddeq was Iran’s elected prime minister. He enjoyed the approval of Iran’s parliament for his nationalization program. The US and UK organized a CIA-led coup to oust Mosaddeq – because Iran refused make oil concessions to the West. During World War II, the UK had taken control of Iran to prevent oil from being passed to its ally, the Soviet Union. Through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the UK continued to control Iran’s oil after the war. The French-educated Mosaddeq was highly critical of Iran’s draining of resources to the West. Soon after getting elected as prime minister in March 1951, Mosaddeq and his National Front alliance had moved to nationalize Iranian oil and throw out foreign control of oil fields. One such was the Abadan refinery, then the largest in the world. The UK retaliated by imposing economic sanctions, backed by its heavy naval presence in the region. Mosaddeq, however, was undeterred; his popularity only increased among the Iranian people. Faced with Mosaddeq’s resistance, the UK-US alliance staged a coup to over throw Mosaddeq’s government.

*****

Egypt was next.  France, the U.K. and Israel attacked it in 1956 during the so-called “Suez Canal Crises”. Although the invasion eventually ended and the Canal stayed in the hands of Egypt, the country never fully recovered. There were further Israeli attacks and invasions, and after President Gamal Abdel Nasser passed away in 1970, gross meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs by the Western countries. Gradually, Egypt was turned into an impoverished client state.

In Indonesia, a progressive and religiously tolerant President Ahmed Sukarno was overthrown more than a decade after Mohammad Mosaddeq in Iran. The coup took place in 1965, with direct involvement of the United States. Between 1 and 3 million people were brutally slaughtered.

Sukarno’s main ‘sins’, at least in the eyes of the Western Empire, consisted of strong left wing, patriotic stands, which included nationalization of almost all natural resources. Sukarno was also one of the founding fathers of the non-aligned movement.

By the end of the 1960’s, socialism in the Muslim countries had been almost thoroughly demolished. A dark era of collaboration, particularly in the [Persian] Gulf region, arrived.

The 1953 coup in Iran was later replicated in various parts of the world, even as far as Latin America.

For years it is has been no secret that the U.S and the U.K. planned and executed this deadly event.

In its article, CIA admits role in 1953 Iranian coup, published on 19 August 2013, The Guardian reported:

The CIA has publicly admitted for the first time that it was behind the notorious 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, in documents that also show how the British government tried to block the release of information about its own involvement in his overthrow.

On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents.

The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.

Declassified, U.S Department of State “Top Secret” documents from 1952, also clearly demonstrated great appetite of the U.K. to perform the coup in Iran:

Subject: Proposal to Organize a Coup d’etat in Iran

Problem:

The British foreign Office has informed us that it would be disposed to attempt to bring about a coup d’état in Iran, replacing the Mosadeq Government by one which would be more “reliable”, if the American government agreed to cooperate…

Although the U.S. government was originally hesitant about supporting the U.K. in planning to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, it soon changed its mind and allowed the CIA to plot and execute the coup.

What followed was 26 years of perversely brutal rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi, as well as of the British-US control over almost all great natural resources of Iran.

In brief: the West performed an experiment on Iran and on its people: how would the country react to a bloodbath, to overthrowing its popular leader, to a theft of its resources?

*****

As it did for centuries, the U.K. ‘scored’: it correctly predicted that it would be able to ‘get away with murder’. It managed to convince its offspring, the United States, that huge international crimes pay, as long as they are committed barefaced.

And the US industrialized these crimes, as it earlier did production of automobiles or radio sets. Crimes got mass-produced. One ‘inappropriate’ government after another got overthrown, destroyed; all over the world: Congo, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam… Crimes were piling up, and still are.

1953 in Iran marked the beginning of a ‘new chapter’ in the world history – a terrible and brutal chapter.

Iranian people and Iranian leadership are well aware of it. The country that suffered so much, the country which lost hundreds of thousands of its sons and daughters to Western imperialism, geopolitical games as well as naked greed, is now standing tall and strong, unwilling to surrender or to even budge.

It wants to go forward, it is going forward, but in its own direction, at its own pace, for the benefit of its people.

Iran is not alone. There is now an entire powerful alliance in place, consisting of countries from all over the world: an alliance of those who are not afraid to confront deadly expansionism and consequent terror. From Bolivia to China, from South Africa to Russia, Syria, Venezuela and the Philippines, people are remembering Iran of 1953, determined to defend their countries and the world against the greatest evil, which is imperialism!

Borneo (Kalimantan): A Frontline for Survival of our Planet

Ricardo Vaz: You are preparing a new documentary film about a big island, Borneo, which is shared by three Asian countries. Which was the triggering factor for making this film now?

Andre Vltchek: The triggering factor was a simple shock. I’m not what you’d call an environmentalist. Of course, I care about our planet, about our wonderful creatures, plants, oceans, rivers and deserts. I don’t want them to suffer, to disappear. I wrote an entire book about the plight of South Pacific island nations, called Oceania, but that was all – I never made one single film about the environmental destruction.

Mount Kimabalu in Borneo, Malaysia

But after visiting Borneo earlier this year (2017), something changed inside me. The island used to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, covered by impenetrable tropical forests, high mountains, and mighty rivers. Its many kingdoms and cultures were self-sufficient and thoroughly unique. Thousands of animal species were coexisting in harmony, sharing the living space with other creatures like birds, butterflies and rare plants, trees and flowers. It was a magic, gentle and pure world…

And it was all not so long ago. Many things are even documented by stunning old photographs…

Then, Western colonialism changed, basically ruined everything; as it had ruined everything almost everything, all over the world.

Soon nothing left of Indonesia

Dutch and British invaders, showing no respect and no interest in local people and their habitat, began doing here what they have been doing everywhere for centuries: plundering, stealing, cutting down trees, extracting riches from under the earth, enslaving the locals.

Single-handedly ruining the mountain

Later on, after semi-independence, the West corrupted local elites and introduced savage capitalism onto basically the entire island of Borneo. In Indonesia, the situation has been the most brutal, since 1965, when the pro-Western treasonous military overthrew the progressive anti-imperialist President Sukarno, putting on the throne a beast, a nitwit and a shameless collaborator, General Suharto. His barefaced money-hungry clique, together with Saudi-type religious bigots, has been running the country until this very moment.

Everything that can be extracted is taken away

Result: there is almost nothing left of the native forest. Indonesia has the fastest rate of tropical deforestation of any other nation on Earth. Rivers are polluted, often toxic. Hundreds of species are gone forever. Unbridled coal mining is scarring the land. Horrid palm oil plantations are replacing everything. As more and more riches are being found underground, the greater is the destruction. Indonesia is one of the most corrupt nations in the world, partially because of the shameful culture of collaboration of its ‘elites’ with the West, and with extreme capitalism.

Logging what is left of Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo

What I saw in Borneo simply shocked me. From now on I’ll refuse to shut up. If Indonesians themselves are too scared or too programmed to address the situation, I’ll try to do it myself.

RV: It seems that amnesia about the massive suffering of enslaved people, provoked by foreign imperialist administrations, is not the main concern of the traditional colonial powers like France, Britain or the US. For 75 years Borneo was a British ‘protectorate’. After its political independence, did UK put into practice a neo-colonial approach, aiming at keeping control of the island’s resources? If yes, what means have been used?

AV: Yes, of course. Brits and Dutch, as well as others did it.

There were many well-established neo-colonial strategies implemented in Borneo.

First of all, the elites in all three countries (Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) are almost totally under control of the West. What is often called ‘corruption’ here is, in fact, nothing else other than ‘collaboration’ with the foreign powers. Colonialism never died here – in fact, it is alive and well in Borneo, and almost everywhere in Southeast Asia. The local ‘elites’ are serving the interests of both European and North American powers. They are willing to rob, to impoverish their own people, so they can maintain their own profits and privileges, and fill their own coffers, as well as those of the neo-colonialists.

New landscape of Kalimantan

Education and ‘culture’ are also playing their terrible roles. Education in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia is almost fully controlled by the Western demagogues, and it is ‘sprinkled’ generously with the extreme and intolerant religious currents, predominantly imported from the Gulf and from the West. Those few writers, filmmakers and film producers who could still be found here, are producing mainly absolute rubbish, and not addressing anything rebellious, socialist or revolutionary here. Almost all of them are well remunerated from the West and expected to shut up. I described it in great details in my latest novel Aurora.

The situation in education is even worse: professors are chasing diplomas and PhD’s instead of fighting for their island. They are ‘pacified’, bought by the privileges and by pathetic ‘feel good’ rewards, like those fully paid trips to Europe or the United States. They are paid to travel to the lands of their former colonial masters like UK or Holland, and ‘learn’, instead of spitting into the faces of those who have been robbing them for long and horrendous centuries. After getting indoctrinated at home and abroad, teachers and professors return home and continue their destructive work, brainwashing and indoctrinating both children and youth.

The young generation is taught how to get well-paid professions, how to make money and how to serve Western imperialism and savage capitalism, instead of fighting for, or defending their country or their almost destroyed islands, like Borneo. It is thoroughly shameful! The people who are ruling Southeast Asia would be executed for treason in places like Cuba, China or Russia!

RV: Back in 2012, Barack Obama announced a “pivot to Asia”. Is Southeast Asia already turning into the next Middle East because of the US imperialist ambitions?

AV: Good question, but it came a little bit too late. Southeast Asia and the Middle East are not all that different, anymore.

Look, in both parts of the world, the West used the most extreme religious streams, in order to enslave, brainwash and ‘pacify’ the local population. And it is not only Islam that has been used and abused by Washington, London and Paris. Every imaginable and unimaginable fundamentalist religious torrent was injected into this part of the world.

Result: this enormous part of the world does not have one single great scientist, philosopher, writer or a film director! Not one, just imagine!

The more destroyed, damaged and brainwashed this part of the world becomes, the more it is hailed by the Western mass media as ‘successful’, ‘tolerant’ and ‘democratic’. It is all just one highway robbery, a terrible, cynical joke, but it is being accepted ‘at home and abroad’, as most of the lies that are being spread by the Western indoctrinators are tolerated and embraced, as they are always well paid for.

RV: How are you planning to produce your documentary film? Are you being funded by some organization?

AV: I have no idea… I’m not funded by anyone.

This is how I always work: I recycle what I make from my books and films into my new work, into my revolutionary struggle for survival of our planet. I often run myself into the ground; periodically I collapse. But then I collect myself, get up somehow, and try to continue my struggle, my journey.

This time I actually asked my readers for support. Borneo is a tremendous story and it may need two films: one short and one feature one. I used the fundraising system: GoGetFunding. I asked for US$20,000, which would hardly cover a half of basic expenses. So far I collected US$60. That would not pay even for a couple of memory cards. But I never give up.

As the great Chilean President Salvador Allende used to say: “Adelante Camaradas, venceremos nuevamente!”

As an internationalist, I feel that it is simply my duty to fight for Borneo, as it is my duty to fight for Afghanistan or for Venezuela.

If someone is ready to support my work and my struggle, I’ll be grateful. If no one will, I’ll do it on my own, somehow! Attempts to destroy our planet do not wait. Why should I?

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are the revolutionary novel Aurora and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: Exposing Lies Of The Empire and Fighting Against Western Imperialism. View his other books here. Watch his Rwanda Gambit, a documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. He continues to work around the world and can be reached through his website and Twitter. Read other articles by Andre.

Trump’s Claws Penetrating Bali

“America first” and “to hell with the rest of the world”! One single stroke of hand, one signature, and over 1,000 hardworking people in Bali, Indonesia, suddenly ended up on the pavement. No second thoughts, no mercy. American savage capitalist ways met and embraced that fabled Indonesian feudalism, which was implanted into this country several decades ago, precisely after the 1965 military coup sponsored by the West.

U.S. President Donald Trump, always on the lookout for some great business opportunities, finally found one in Bali (and one more in West Java), a tropical, once paradise-like Indonesian island. And not just somewhere in Bali, but right next to the holiest and the most spectacular Hindu temple in the country, Tanah Lot.

Tanah Lot temple from still existing Pan Pacific hotel

It is true that he was not the first one determined to destroy the area. An enormous hotel and golf resort, Le Meridien teamed up with several Indonesian businesses, and perpetrated a land grab, forcing out thousands of local people. That was a long time ago. Then the Pan Pacific hotel chain moved in, purchased the property, and is running it to this day.

However, Mr. Trump is now planning something truly monumental here, in the middle of the iconic rice fields and dormant rural countryside: a shout of hedonism, a 6-star opulent, a concrete monstrosity, which will certainly and irreversibly dwarf the local culture and the traditional Balinese aesthetics.

Mr. Trump teamed up with Hary Tanoesoedibjo, an unsavory and ruthless Indonesian businessman. It is actually feared by many that Mr. Tanoesoedibjo (and others around him) are now manipulating Indonesian politics, on behalf of the West, trying to eliminate progressive elements that have managed to enter (some say ‘miraculously’) the Indonesian government. It is also no secret that Mr. Tanoesoedibjo himself has high political ambitions, and will most likely be running for the post of president.

The US geopolitical interests, as well as the interests of the local business “elites”, have always been directly antagonistic to the interests of the Indonesian poor (still the great majority of the country’s population).

I spoke to Ms. Ni Luh, working in the Guest Relations Department of the Pan Pacific Hotel:

I have been employed by this property for more than 20 years. First it was Le Meridien, now it is Pan Pacific. Soon the hotel will be closing down. I was told this on the February 14, 2017, on Valentine’s Day. I was devastated. I just took a bank loan of Rp. 60 million (US$4.000), for the education of my child, and I had only managed to pay one single installment, before hearing ‘the news’. How will I be able to repay that loan if I lose my job in July? I feel very scared and very sad.

I am a single mother; my child is still in junior high school. I cannot rely on anybody else.

I heard that we would only get severance pay of Rp. 40 millions (US$3.000). And that is after 20 years of service. Our union here is still trying to negotiate to get at least Rp. 100 millions, but I’m not sure they will succeed.

This land is now owned by Hary Tanoe and Donald Trump. It is big – 103 hectares. I heard that they want to expand, to acquire more land that is still owned by the villagers. This new hotel will be huge, with 125 suites. They call it a 6 star property. And they’ll create a totally new golf course here.

There was a deal, between the first owners and the employees. I checked. This deal will be now fully ignored by the new owners: Trump/Tanoe.  I went to the surrounding villages, where everyone appears to be in total distress.

Ms. Ketut, who works at a small eatery, Warung Bu Dini, on the main road leading to the Tanah Lot temple, appears to be angry and desperate:

The biggest problem with the change of ownership of the Nirwana Bali Resorts is that there will be more than 800 villagers who will lose their jobs.

Some say over one thousand.

Ms. Ketut continues:

When Nirwana Bali acquired our lands, we signed agreements that said: with each ‘ownership of land certificate’, the owners will provide 2-4 jobs to the families of the certificate holders. The new owners, Hary Tanoe and Donald Trump, simply do not intend to honor those agreements anymore. There is obviously nothing we can do about it.

Our ‘warung’ will also suffer, when they close the hotel in July 2017. Some golfers are actually our customers. Now, for 3 years almost no one will be eating here.

To put things into perspective: to protest or to defend one’s rights in Indonesia is extremely dangerous. People who dare to go against the ‘big interests’, often get beaten, they disappear, their houses are burned, wives and daughters raped.

Three years is a long period of time, especially in a country where many are living from day to day, with no ‘reserves’ and no savings.

Mr. Trump must know it, and, of course, he doesn’t care.

Ms. Ni Luh concludes:

They are not going to re-hire us, at least not people they will consider to be already ‘too old’ (I’m 43 years old now). They don’t care that we have worked here for 20 years and that this is in a way our second home. I’ll have to find another job. How, I don’t know, but I have to: I have a child to feed.

Ms. Indra, her colleague at the Pan Pacific Hotel, seems to be in a same boat:

We are all very sad and feel very uncertain. My son will go to university this year, but I am losing my job very soon.

*****

In the meantime, Bali is collapsing, like the rest of Indonesia. It is already ruined environmentally; it is infested by notorious traffic jams, pollution and lack of public spaces. During and after the Financial Crises of 1997-98, most of the Balinese families in the tourist areas were forced to sell their land. Instead of running their own businesses as before, local people are now mostly employed by big companies, either Javanese or foreign. Living conditions are tough.

Tanah Lot through present golf course

Idyllic, artistic and sensual Bali is basically gone. In a predominantly Muslim country, it still functions as some sort of a duty-free island, where alcohol and pork are widely available, and where clubs are open until the wee hours. There are also a few beautiful rice fields between the terrible urban sprawls with no sidewalks and no public transportation to speak of (still a norm for most of the cities in Indonesia).

Instead of artists, writers and dreamers, Bali is now catering to mass tourism.

One chain 5-star hotel after another is opening its doors, on the beaches and in the spectacular ravines. Instead of integrating themselves into the cultural and traditional landscape, these hotels are creating huge luxury “bubbles”, fully separated from the rest of the island.

Now Donald Trump has found his niche.

Confidently, the Trump International Hotel & Tower Bali site declares:

Trump Hotels has exciting plans to open the collection’s first resort in Asia as Trump International Hotel & Tower Bali. When completed, the luxurious resort will be the largest and most integrated lifestyle resort destination in Bali.

But what about the island, what about the villages and what about the people? All that, obviously, matters nothing!

The site further boasts:

Built atop a sheer cliff along a sweeping coastline, the development will offer breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean and Tanah Lot, the most popular tourist and cultural icon of Bali.

What will soon come up will be an enormous golf resort, next to the iconic temple, which is totally unique, in fact, it is an island during high tide, accessible only during those times of the day when the tide is low. But even the temple is already damaged; it is reinforced by badly poured concrete. It is surrounded by horrible eateries on the ‘shore’. Right before the sunset, hundreds of huge buses are bringing thousands of indifferent tourists for a quick glimpse. Nothing is serene in Bali anymore.

Paradoxically (but in a way logically by turbo-capitalist Indonesian standards), the greatest views of the temple will be ‘reserved’ for the richest of the rich, for those who will be able to afford to stay and to play at the luxury hotel and golf course owned by Mr. Trump.

Somehow, at least to me, the advertisements of the future hotel look more like a requiem for the island of Bali.

*****

My history with Bali is long. I used to come here, periodically, to shut myself off from the world, and to write. Even when I used to live in my beloved Chile, I would fly to Bali, to the other side of the world, via Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kuala Lumpur.

Bali used to be serene. It used to have soul – capricious, unpredictable, but soul nevertheless.

I wrote my revolutionary novel, Point of No Return, in Ubud. Exile or Terasing! Di negeri sendiri, a book with Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the greatest Indonesian writer, and with Ms. Rossie Indira, was actually edited in Tanah Lot.

I avoid the island now; I have done so for many years. I only come when some calamity occurs, or something truly significant.

This time, the symbolism is clear: what is happening in Tanah Lot is indicating, brutally, although on a small scale, how the world and Indonesia will be governed from Washington, in the upcoming years.

• Originally published by NEO

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

U.S. “Jihadi Express”: Indonesia, Afghanistan, Syria, Philippines

It was late at night but the new Terminal 3 at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport outside Jakarta was still bustling with families and friends waiting for their loved ones returning from abroad.

My friend Noor Huda Ismail was just arriving from Singapore, and I decided to pick him up and discuss ‘certain issues’ with him in the car, on the way to the capital. Lately he and I were busy, awfully busy, and a one-hour journey seemed to be the most appropriate setting for the exchange of at least some essential ideas and information.

Noor Huda Ismail and I

Huda could easily pass for the most knowledgeable Indonesian “expert on terrorism”; a Muslim man who grew up and was educated in the madrasahs that have produced some of the most notorious jihadi cadres in the country. Later he became the man who managed to ‘get away’ from the extremism, to study, and to finally become a respected filmmaker and a thinker.

For years, both of us have been studying a complex web produced by Western imperialism – a web, which has literally destroyed entire countries, while locking other ones ‘behind bars’, in virtual neo-colonialist slavery. All this done in the name of ‘freedom’ and democracy, naturally, and often using various religions as tools, even as weapons.

Inside the car we managed to quickly ‘compare notes’. Huda filled me in on his groundbreaking film Jihad Selfie, while I informed him about my political revolutionary novel Aurora, and my big work in progress, a book about Afghanistan. I also mentioned my future ‘Afghan’ film, a dark love story, a drama about betrayal, collaboration and the virtual collapse of one family; a film which I’m preparing to produce and direct sometime during the next year.

“Afghanistan,” he says, “that’s where the roots of so many things lie… You recall that in the 80’s, the U.S. was using some local, Indonesian, jihadi cadres, sending them to Afghanistan…”

I knew about it; I knew something, but not everything. The fact that both Indonesian and Malaysian citizens went to fight against the Soviet Union, Karmal, and then Mohammad Najibullah’s government in Afghanistan, was something that I have never yet addressed in my books or films. Now I suddenly felt that it was important, extremely important, to address this fact.

“Huda,” I asked, as we were slowly progressing through perpetual traffic jam of Jakarta, “how many Indonesian men went to fight in Afghanistan, after the 1979 Soviet intervention?”

Huda didn’t hesitate. He always knows the numbers:

Just from one group, there were 350 fighters. Indonesians fought in Afghanistan, and were based in a camp belonging to Ittehad-al-Islami (Islamic Union). Ustad Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf ran the camp. Of course Rab Rasul Sayyaf is Wahhabi, and the Wahhabis have been fully funded by the U.S. What we are seeing now, all those ‘terrorist threats’, is a blowback effect, of what the U.S. has done in the region, specifically in Afghanistan. And even the ISIS now: in 2003 they came to topple Saddam…

Could I meet one of the Afghan ‘alumni’ here in Jakarta?

“Of course you can,” he nodded, “I’ll arrange it, while you are here.”

*****

Before an encounter with an “Afghan” jihadi cadre, I travelled to the city of Bandung, where I met Iman Soleh, a professor at the Faculty of Social and Political Science (University of Padjadjaran – UNPAD). He is yet another renowned authority on ‘terrorism’. He came to my hotel, accompanied by his wife, Professor Antik Bintari, a conflict management expert who teaches at the same university.

Prof Iman Soleh and Prof Antik Bintar

For quite some time, professor Iman Soleh and I discussed the link between the ‘old guard’ Southeast Asian (mainly Indonesians and Malaysians) jihadi cadres, so-called ‘Afghan alumni’, and the vanguard, a ‘new wave’, that which is now trying to destabilize, even destroy both Syria and the Philippines.

While the name ‘jihad’ itself has been used habitually and ‘liberally’ all over the Western mainstream media, it was clear to all of us at the table that behind the brutal combat as well as most of the horrors unleashed in such places like Syria and Philippines, hidden are the geopolitical interests of the West in general and of the United States in particular.

Professor Soleh has explained the latest ‘dynamics’:

Since World War Two, the U.S. was afraid of so-called ‘domino effects’. Among other things that are now happening in the Philippines under president Duterte, the government is curbing activities of the multi-national mining conglomerates, and the West cannot accept that. Philippines are putting its environmental concerns above the short-term profits! For the millions of left-wing activists here in Indonesia and all over Southeast Asia, Duterte is a role model.

Therefore, following the imperialist logic, the Philippines have to be attacked and destabilized, as has already been done to Syria. Defiance is punishable by death. And how else other than through the most effective weapons which the West has been utilizing for years and decades: extremist religious terrorist groups. What better assembly of fighters to choose for that difficult task than the jihadists from the groups that had already proven to be so effective and lethal in places such as Afghanistan?

Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI) goodies on display in Jakarta

By now, almost nobody who is at least to some extent informed on the subject has any doubts that the West is mainly interested in maintaining ‘perpetual conflict’ in several regions of the world. As Professor Soleh observes:

I think all this is not just to ‘destabilize’ the Philippines, but also because the country has conflict areas that could be ‘nurtured’. The best example is predominantly Muslim island of Mindanao, vs. the rest of the Philippines, which is predominantly a Catholic country. As we know, the Philippines is also involved in the South China Sea dispute with the PRC, and the U.S. is trying to fully dominate the region…

And President Duterte is committing an ‘unpardonable crime’ in the eyes of Washington and London, by trying to resolve the territorial conflict with China, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

*****

But back to the “Jihadi Express…” It is important to understand the background:

The Indonesian jihadi, Salafi group Darul Islam, fought for a caliphate and against the secular and socialist state headed by President Sukarno, in the 1950’s and well into the 1960’s. “Terror is halal”, they used to say.

Professor Saleh further clarifies:

Eventually the Indonesian state dismantled ‘Darul Islam’, but there was an off-shoot of it created soon, ‘Komando Jihad’.

Komando Jihad later transformed into a transnational Southeast Asian group Jamaah Islamiyah (with its spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir). The group has been maintaining active links and cooperation with al-Qaeda and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines, to name just two religious guerillas.

Fighters from Komando Jihad then went to Afghanistan. Ideologically they were hard-core Salafis, but with the Western support. They received Western help to acquire weapons and other basics. According to my contacts in the Indonesian intelligence community, the U.S. was backing this infiltration of Afghanistan by ‘Komando Jihad’ and by others. I’m also in possession of a piece of information that the Indonesian army (TNI) commander in the 1980’s, General Moerdani, was supporting Indonesian and Afghan jihadists, by supplying them with the weapons (including the AK-47’s).

Again, according to my Indonesian intelligence sources, the ‘departure’ itself of the Indonesian jihadists for Afghanistan was also directly helped by the U.S., under the cover of ‘Islamic study groups’ and other ‘communities’, and the route that was utilized was: Indonesia – Malaysia – Philippines – Afghanistan.

These are not well-publicized facts, but they should not surprise anyone familiar with Indonesian history: after the brutal 1965 U.S.-sponsored military/religious coup, Indonesia rapidly transformed itself from an anti-imperialist, internationalist and progressive country into the closest Western ally in the entire Southeast Asia. The main ‘ideology’ of the new fascist pro-Western regime of General Suharto became “anti-Communism”. For months and years, the Communists as well as alleged ‘Communists’ were slaughtered all over the archipelago, while Communist ideology was banned, as were the Chinese language and culture, including dragons and cakes. The anti-Communist propaganda became the main sample of the ‘intellectual’ diet. The fourth most populous country on Earth went through a total reset, became one of the most ‘religious’ places on Earth, and soon after collapsed both socially and intellectually.

Poster of Radical FPI in Jakarta

Allegations of “atheism” against the Communists were used in Indonesia in order to stir and radicalize thousands of potential and already existing jihadi cadres. Anti-atheism, even anti-secularism, became the rallying cry of those who were ready to sacrifice their lives for the ultimate goal and dream – a caliphate.

The West in Afghanistan played the same ‘game’, during the “Soviet era”, as it did in Indonesia after 1965, and elsewhere. It is clear and obvious that the imperialist scheme designed in Washington and London has been interchangeable and successfully applicable in many different geographical locations.

In Kabul, in March 2017, a legendary Afghan intellectual, Dr. Omara Khan Masoudi, explained to me:

The biggest mistake the Soviet Union made here was to attack religion outrightly. If they’d first stuck to equal rights, and slowly worked it up towards the contradictions of religion, it could perhaps have worked… But they began blaming religion for our backwardness, in fact for everything. Or at least this is how it was interpreted by the coalition of their enemies, and of course by the West.

Now, why is the present Western invasion so ‘successful’; why is there so little in terms of intellectual opposition? Look at the regime in Kabul… During its rule, the US convinced people that Western intervention was ‘positive’, ‘respectful of their religion and cultures’. They kept repeating ‘under this and that UN convention’, and again ‘as decided by the UN’… They used NATO, a huge group of countries, as an umbrella. There was a ‘brilliantly effective’ protocol that they developed… According to them, they never did anything unilaterally, always by ‘international consensus’ and in order to ‘help Afghan people’. On the other hand, the Soviet Union never had the slightest chance to explain itself. It was attacked immediately, and on all fronts.

In reality, the West has always been using (and finally it has managed to divert) Islam. Some great Muslim scholars, including those that I met in Teheran, believe that Washington, London, Paris and other centers of the Western imperialism and neo-colonialism, actually succeeded, in many parts of the world, to create a totally new and (to many true and intellectual Muslims) unrecognizable religion.

*****

Indonesian jihadi cadres hardened in Afghanistan and trained by the Pakistanis eventually returned to their country. There, they went to “work”, participating in such bloodlettings and killings as those in Ambon (Maluku) and Poso (Sulawesi). In Ambon the conflict continued from 1999 to 2002, and while it lasted, allegedly 8,000 people died, while thousands belonging to both sexes were involuntarily and brutally circumcised and genitally mutilated. In Ambon, I saw the jihadi cadres in action, hacking to death a young innocent boy, right in front of the eyes of a cheering crowd of onlookers. I later described the horror of this incident in my novel Point of No Return.

Little did I know, then, what I was really witnessing and trying to document. Only much later, in Bandung, in May 2017, a couple of professors, Iman Soleh and Antik Bintari, explained to me:

Poso and Ambon, that’s the “Afghani Link”. During those massacres, there were still some ‘old jihadists’ from the Afghan days, participating in the actual fighting. However, there were also some ‘fresh’ fighters there, many of them undergoing exercises with the Indonesian ‘Afghans’. Poso and Ambon conflicts were in fact serving as two training grounds. After that, a new generation of combatants had risen.

*****

That same night – very late at night – after driving for hours on hopelessly congested highway that connects the cities of Bandung and Jakarta, I met Mr. Farihin, an active member of the outlawed “JI” (Jamaah Islamiyah), a man who personally met Osama bin Laden, a warrior who fought in Paktia and other provinces in Afghanistan, a former Mujahedeen, an unapologetic jihadist.

I was longing to know, to understand, how the old ‘Afghan alumni’ were thinking, how they saw the world, and what their goals were.

JI fighter Farihin

Mr. Farihin was actually an impressive human being: upright, strong, manly, proud, extremely polite, and totally brainwashed…

His hatred for Communism knew no boundaries; it was epic. He dreamed, he ‘saw’ Communists everywhere, all over the world: in Syria, in the present-day Russia, even in Karzai’s and Ghani’s Afghanistan. Anything remotely secular, anything that was not a caliphate, was “Communist” in his simple but determined mind of a combatant.

We began with Osama bin Laden:

I met Osama fleetingly, in 1987 and 1988, but in those days he was not an ‘ulama’. He was funding Mujahedeen. He was a contractor in Paktia Province and he was based in the north of that province, in an Arab camp, helping Mujahedeen and also building the roads. After Soviets entered Afghanistan, Osama’s people made a ‘council’; it was like a shadow Mujahedeen government.

Mr. Farihin came to Afghanistan in 1987. After his group NII (Negara Islam Indonesia – Islamic State of Indonesia) received ‘an invitation’ from Mujahedeen.

What prompted him to go to Afghanistan?

There was news all over Indonesia, that a Muslim country was attacked by the Soviet Union. My initial desire was to fight the USSR. At the beginning I was not allowed to fight, and it was not Afghanistan where I was sent; it was Pakistan. I was ordered to study at Etihad Islami Military Academy there. At some point, all foreign jihadis had to leave Pakistan, so we were moved directly to Afghanistan. In Paktia Province they built an entire camp for us. We were attacked by the Soviets there, on several occasions; us, as well as the ‘Arab Camp’. MIG-21 jet fighters were used. But by then, Russians were already beginning their withdrawal. After the Soviets left, Afghanistan was still governed by a Communist government, so we fought it, too. I was ready to fight: first the Soviets, than that Communist Afghan governments. I saw Russian prisoners, pilots, shackled, in Pakistan. I was not affraid of them.

I quickly noticed that Mr. Farihin was not proud of the support his group and Mujahedeen in general were receiving from the United States and the rest of the West. He kept repeating that he did not “see” any direct U.S. support, that supplies just kept coming from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Muslim countries. For him, it was essential that his fight in Afghanistan would be seen as a ‘pure’, pan-Islamic struggle.

I was not there to contradict him, I was there to listen.

He spoke about the fronts on which he had fought: Nangarhar, Jalalabad among others: “I was rotating between the fronts. The war, the battles were ‘orderly’”.

“But what was the goal?” I asked.

He didn’t hesitate one single moment.

The goal was simple: in Afghanistan we wanted to prevent the Communist ideology from being accepted.

How much did he know about the Communism?

Actually, my knowledge about it was very shallow. That’s fine: we were war machines for Mujahedeen. What we were told was that the Communists don’t believe in God, and that they are professing secularism.

I wondered whether they knew anything about the improving medical system, about the all of a sudden decent education, about public housing, transportation, and culture?

Almost everything done by the Communists was good, I know… But because they believed in Communism and socialism, it was not right, it was ‘haram’. Our pledge to God was what really mattered. In terms of importance, God was Number 1, and only then came the world of humans.

I asked him how he sees Afghanistan now.

As long as their government is Communist, we’ll fight it… And I pray that Taliban wins.

For a moment I thought that I had misunderstood: the Afghanistan government is Communist? Doesn’t he know anything about the U.S., about the Western occupation?

Yes but the U.S. went to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, not Communism. The government is still Communist; a puppet regime of Russia.

I quickly changed the subject, but things did not improve. I asked him about Syria, about Iraq. He replied politely:

I train, we train volunteers who are ready to go and fight in Syria. It is because Syria is not only Communist, you know – Assad and Russians – but also it is Shi’a.

Being Shi’a is an arch crime in today’s Indonesia. People are getting killed, ostracized, and intimidated for being Shi’a. I witnessed it once, on the island of Madura.

‘Aghan alumni’ are training fighters that are ready to go abroad, both ideologically and militarily. Whether the government knows, I’m not sure. Perhaps intelligence knows. During Suharto era, the fight against Communism was supported. I saw Indonesian intelligence operating in the Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar, Pakistan. We were told by the Pakistani intelligence that the Indonesian intelligence was deployed in the region. Indonesia was then supporting Mujahedeen, and we were receiving some Indonesian supplies, including food. Indonesia and Pakistan were then very good friends; Pakistani intellegence made our life very easy: we were going back and forth, freely, between Afghanistan and Pakistan, across the border, while civilians were not allowed…

And what was their fee? Certainly jihad is not fought for free?

The lowest pay was then US$150 per month, a lot of money in poor Indonesia, in the late 1980’s. Between US$300 and US$400 for the officers.

Before we parted, we talked about Afghanistan, the country. He remembered it fondly:

I like the country, it is beautiful. I liked religious life there. Afghans were very kind to us, treated us like guests… We were offered their women, too, to marry, but the dowry was too high. Some had blue eyes, and we wanted to marry them, badly, but really: we couldn’t afford their women with our modest ‘salaries’.

Does he miss Afghanistan?

“Yes.”

“Me, too,” I nodded. “But I’m going back, soon.”

We didn’t embrace. By then he sensed that we belonged to the opposite sides of the barricade, and that most likely we were arch enemies. But until we parted, both of us remained polite, excessively polite: the Afghan way.

*****

Dina Y. Sulaeman

“Jihad in Indonesia – against the Western imperialism? Oh no, no way…” smiles Dina Y. Sulaeman, an Indonesian political analyst, an author of the book Salju Di Aleppo (Snow of Aleppo):

Jihad in which Indonesians want to participate is based on hate… In my book, I explain that the Indonesian fighters in Syria are mainly affiliated with several groups: ‘Ikhwanul Muslimin’, ‘Hizbut Tahrir’ and Al Qaeda/ISIS. Unfortunately these groups have supporters in Indonesia. They keep spreading fake photos and videos about Syria, to ignite sympathy, even anger of Indonesian people, so they give donations or even join jihad. It’s a good deal for them. They are waging ‘holy war’, they’ll go to heaven, and plus they get paid. They accuse president Assad of being ‘infidel’. That’s their rallying cry.

Indonesian mass media ‘coverage’ is only directly translating what is said by the Western media: the CNN, the BBC and others…. If not those, then at least Al-Jazeera which is often even worse… As a result, Indonesians are ‘very concerned’ about Syria.’ Of course, in my books I’m trying to correct the misconceptions, but the propaganda apparatus is so powerful.

“Like in Afghanistan,” I add.

Earlier I asked Noor Huda Ismail: “But the Afghan ‘alumni’ and the ISIS do not necessarily like each other, do they?”

Huda nods, but then he adds:

Al-Qaida and ISIS do not get along well. In the context, most of the fighters, those who support ISIS, they have been gathering in the same mosque. They are using social media. Maybe the Afghan ‘alumni’ and the ISIS supporters do not like each other, but they share the same ideology; the root, the matter is the same, which is toppling and challenging the secular systems.

“Including the one in Indonesia.”

“Yes, including the one here.”

Jihadi Express is now rolling, gaining speed. One country after another is being shred to pieces under its merciless wheels.

Those who think that it is “all about oil” are mistaken.  The West is, of course, trying to control, fully and brutally, all that moves in the Middle East, North Africa and as far as Iran and Afghanistan. But that’s definitely not all: jihadi groups, created by the West and its allies in the Gulf, have been used to destabilize the two greatest adversaries of the West: Russia and China.

Soviet Union was tricked into Afghanistan in 1979, and then brutally destroyed. Afghanistan itself was ‘sacrificed’ in the process, its social structures broken, and all hope its people were enjoying, choked. China is now also greatly suffering from the operations of several Muslim terrorist groups, as well as from other religious implants, which are without exception supported by the West.

The Philippines is most likely the next ‘front’. It has been for years and decades, in Sulu and elsewhere, but as this report goes to print, things are deteriorating, getting more and more desperate there.

To fight terrorism in such places like Syria and Afghanistan, has been and will be increasingly, one of the main foreign policy goals of both Moscow and Beijing; in order to help those countries under siege, but also in order to prevent them from becoming the training grounds of the ‘anti-Communist’ and anti-secularist terrorist armies.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Indonesian Borneo is Finished: They Also Rape Orangutans

How destructive can man get, how ruthless, in his quest to secure maximum profit, even as he endangers the very survival of our planet?

The tropical forests of Kalimantan (known as Borneo in Malaysia), the third largest island in the world, have almost totally disappeared. Coal mines are savagely scarring the hills; the rivers are polluted, and countless species are endangered or already extinct.

It is all a terrible sight, whether you see it from the air or when driving (or walking) through the devastation that is taking place on the ground. The soil is black; it is often saturated with chemicals. Dead stubs of trees are accusatively pointing towards the sky. Many wonderful creatures, big and small, who used to proudly inhabit this tropical paradise, are now hiding in the depth of what remains of one of the largest tropical jungles on earth.

Engines are instantly roaring everywhere; huge equipment is continually cutting through something pure, or digging and finally transporting what has already been extracted, killed, or taken down mercilessly.

Ms. Mira Lubis, Senior Lecturer at Tanjungpura University, Pontianak in Western Kalimantan, summarizes the situation honestly but brutally:

I think we, the people of Borneo, have lost our sovereignty over our own space and resources, under the pressure of global capitalism… Apparently, we just became poor despite all the wealth that we have.

*****

One morning I looked from my hotel window in the city of Samarinda (East Kalimantan), spotting an enormous coal barge. It was sitting right in front of me, stubbornly, under the bridge (one of only two bridges connecting two shores of this steamy city of 850,000). The barge was too big to move, as the current appeared to be too strong. One push boat and one tugboat were trying to move it against the torrent, in vain.

Everything that can be extracted is taken away

I went downstairs and encountered a frustrated Mr. Jailani, a shipping manager employed by a coal company. “They were supposed to use a pilot boat, but there is none in sight,” he lamented. “This happens so often. Coal barges already hit this bridge on at least three occasions.”

Coal mines were exactly what I was looking for, but he dismissed my questions with a polite but firm answer:

You can never make it to the mines. They are off-limits. Guards are everywhere, and you’d have to have special permit to enter the area. And there is not much to see, anyway. Our company was recently awarded a prize for environmental consciousness.

I decided to ignore his words and polite warning. I went to Sambutan, a mining town a 40-minute drive from Samarinda. At some point, continuous and depressing urban sprawl gave way to a fully devastated landscape. Some images were striking: a man, alone, with a metal bar, single-handedly crumbling the entire side of a mountain, supposedly in order to sell stone for a local construction site.

Nearby, in a makeshift stall, a couple and a child were selling fruits. I asked them about the mountain and the man, and they replied with a certain amount of admiration:

We are selling coconuts here for almost two years. For as long as we are here, he has been here as well. He is a real daredevil. What he is doing is so dangerous, but he never stumbles, never falls.

Before Makroman town, we turn left, soon leaving the main road behind. Wherever one looks, the entire landscape is ruined: mountains mutilated beyond recognition, forests gone, and huge tracts of land “cleared.”

Despite what I already witnessed in all corners of Indonesia for years, I’m still not prepared for what soon opens in front of my eyes: the endless and horrifying sprawl of natural calamity: dozens of square kilometers of dust, noise, and mud.

I try to avoid 100-ton trucks, which almost run my car off the path. They are transporting coal. I see filthy processing plants. I see old, rusty equipment scattered all around the area.

Suddenly I realize that I’m “there,” in the middle of the notorious ‘PT CEM’ (Cahaya Energi Mandiri), a giant Indonesian-South Korean coalmining joint venture.

I’m not supposed to be here, and to see all this with my own eyes. But I’m entering the mining area with a car equipped with local license plates. It is right before 1pm – the end of lunch hour. Checkpoints are unattended. I step on the gas, and dash in. Guards will soon return, but it will be too late to stop me. My rented car is already cutting through dirt and dust, progressing towards its goal.

Moonscape of PT CEM

PT CEM has operated in this area since 2008, and it counts on mining concessions covering approximately 1,600 hectares, in the area of Sungai Siring, Samarinda.

In Indonesia, the images of natural disasters like this one are hardly ever publicized. Mining in Papua, Kalimantan, Sumatra, and elsewhere brings in billions of dollars annually, into both government coffers and into the deep pockets of corrupt individuals. This country, with the fourth-largest population on earth, is producing very little, but is extracting in an unbridled manner all that is still available above and below the ground. National mass media is fully subservient to both local and foreign business interests.

*****

The native population is stuck with low-paying jobs and almost no benefits. The environment is “changing,” pollution is reaching epic proportions, but there is very little awareness, even among the poorest of the poor, of the dreadfulness of the situation.

On the way out from the mining site, three men (sub-contractors of PT CEM) are trying to fix their broken truck. They speak, first reluctantly, then more and more openly:

The pay here is very low. Our basic salary consists of US$115 per month, which is below official minimum wage. We have no health insurance, and no housing allowances.

In nearby Makroman, Ms. Suwarti, a housewife married to a farmer, explains:

We have two lots, each with 200 square meters, producing bananas and other crops, but the mining company wanted to use it. They offered compensation of only US$110. If we’d refuse, the company would still grab and use the land, but would give us no compensation. After all, coal that was extracted from our plot, they filled the pit but now nothing can grow there, anymore. The land is ruined. We were very angry, but what could small people like us do?

It is like this all over the area, all over Kalimantan, all over the entire Indonesian archipelago.

People are often confused; only few of them are fully aware of the situation.

Ms. Ruswidah owns a store near Muara Badak. She appears to be content with the increasing number of palm oil plantations:

I think it is good that there are palm oil plantations here because there are many people out of jobs after an oil company VICO closed down its operation here. Business is very bad for me now. Now, at least there is something replacing VICO.

Then she continues:

Palm oil plantation is good for the environment around here. Why? Because after they set up this plantation here, there are no more forest fires here. I have already seen three big forest fires in my life, and I’m only 36 years old. Before, bad people would just burn the forest down, but now at palm oil plantations, they have guards.

What Ms. Ruswidah doesn’t know or doesn’t want to know, is that most of the forest fires in the area were triggered in order to “clear” the land for either palm oil plantations or for mining operations.

Broken infrastructure and kids begging

Few kilometers further down the road, I speak to Ms. Nurliah, who used to work for PT. Kelapa Taruk, a palm oil plantation owned by Korean. Now she is considered an “outsource worker”:

They used to pay me Rp. 76,300/day (US$5.7). But now, they pay us according to our performance. They pay us Rp. 200,000 per hectare, and Rp. 100,000 for chemical spraying per hectare.

The Korean company is using the customary lands that belongs to the village. Usually they negotiate a 25-year contract. And there is always some profit sharing scheme with the village, but I don’t know the details. They don’t share this information with us, laborers.

Recently, the Korean company hired a Javanese manager. Since he is in charge, the conditions of our jobs here are becoming worse and worse. Now for the whole month we probably get paid only about Rp. 1,5 million (US$112). They don’t construct school and don’t provide health insurance. I don’t think we get any benefits from having palm oil plantations here.

*****

Mr. Yhenda Permana, director of LNG-producing company PT Badak NGL, which is based in Kalimantan, says:

I’m very sad to see destruction of Kalimantan. If we look from above, the island is already ‘bald,’ dotted with black toxic lakes. They burn the forest with, even with orangutans still living there. Local people do it, but who is behind them? Protected forests are also logged out and burned. Afterwards, in most of cases, palm oil is planted.

One of the national forests I visited, symbolically named ‘Bukit Soeharto’ (Suharto’s Hill) is almost gone. I ask an old local lady, Ms. Halbi, who is selling basic goods at the side of the road, whether there is any respect for native protected forests on this island:

We are allowed to grow some plants here. Even I do. Pepper and dragon fruit. It is not our land, but nobody does anything to stop us.

Stubs and stubs, everywhere, ‘replacing’ magnificent trees, in what used to be one of the greatest areas, often described as “the lungs of the planet Earth.”

Ms. Windrati Kaliman, former lecturer at INSTIPER (Plantation Technology Institute) Yogyakarta, has her theory on the matter:

Massive deforestation accelerated after ‘de-centralization.’ Now local governments are free to give permits for logging. Rainforest is being converted into palm oil plantations and mines. In theory, protected forests and parks cannot be used for logging, but in reality they are: In Kalimantan, but also in Aceh, Riau, and many other parts of the country.

It is not only trees that are disappearing, and not only people who are living in increasing misery.

The legendary Borneo orangutan is almost extinct. And so are bears, countless species of birds, and insects.

Family of orangutans now in safety

In Samboja Orangutan Sanctuary & Rehabilitation Center, Mr. Andreas (a caretaker), can barely hide his outrage:

You cannot imagine what is being done to these intelligent and fascinating apes. This one – we rescued him from a timber plant. Just for fun they had him chained under the generator, for years. As a result, he lost his hearing and suffers from brain damage. It is very common in Kalimantan to hunt for female orangutans, shave them and sell them for sex to desperate forestry workers. It is like rape, like horrible slavery. Remember, these apes have 97% same DNA as humans, and as humans, they have 4 types of blood.

I walk around the Center, observing from the distance these fascinating, melancholic creatures. So many awful stories and fates! This used to be a paradise on Earth: for apes, for other mammals, for butterflies, plants and hundreds of different trees. This used to be “the end of the world” and the beginning. Oh Borneo, what is left of you now?

Instead of tropical forests palm oil plantations everywhere

I traveled through several parts of Indonesian Kalimantan, around Samarinda and Balikpapan, as well as Pontianak. I testify that I saw those “black lakes and rivers,” as well as countless open pits, and palm oil plantations, almost everywhere. I flew over hundreds of kilometers of hellish wastelands. I listened to people suffering from cancer, from respiratory diseases, but above all, from hopelessness.

Ms. Mira Lubis confirmed what I discovered:

Now the Kapuas River and its tributaries are increasingly polluted by all types of waste, ranging from household waste, pesticides, fertilizers to mercury, which is mainly dispersed because of mining activities and large scale palm oil plantations. This creates a serious threat to the survival of communities along the river network…

As Mr. Yhenda Permana concluded:

Can you imagine, this once stunningly beautiful island with deep native forests and thousands of living creatures, is now converted and ‘dedicated’ to only one crop: palm oil?

The tragedy is not only devastating Kalimantan, but almost the whole of Indonesia. This is what has been happening to this country with a deep and ancient culture, and enormous natural beauty, ever since the 1965 US-sponsored coup, and re-introduction of savage capitalism, feudalism, and unrestrained corruption.

Pertamina oil rigs at sunset

Not much is left. Who knows whether anything at all will remain here in one or two decades from now? If not, then what will happen? But the savage capitalism does not bother to ask such questions. It consumes, it plunders everything, while it can. In Indonesia, it seems that there is absolutely nothing that can stop it!

• Original, shorter version, first published by RT

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Deviant Diva: Schapelle Corby Returns to Australia

In his work on celebrity, Daniel Boorstin drew a firm line under a field that has since become the mirror of its own study, in industry within media studies.  The modern celebrity, he surmised, is “well-known for their own well-knownness”.

The celebrity as criminal came later, but was nonetheless an outgrowth of the same aspect, boosted, in no small part, by curiosity and plain voyeurism.  Australia’s Schapelle Corby, to take one example in this dubious pantheon of figures, found herself swept up in a heady discourse of rage and presumption once she was intercepted at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar on October 8, 2004.

She had, in her possession, 4.2 kilos of cannabis concealed in a carry bag designed for holding surfboards.  In May 2005, she was found guilty of drug importation, receiving a 20 year sentence instead of the more conclusive ending of a firing squad.  Former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono shaved five years off her sentence, accepting grounds of mental illness. In February 2014, she was granted conditional parole and released, remaining in Indonesia till this month.

Even now, the media vultures ponder her next move on Australian soil.  Will she give an exclusive?  Will she defy criminal restrictions on charging for any story she might divulge?  For now, the Courier Mail is keen to announce that she is being protected by that “bodyguard to the stars” John McCleod, whose credits include protecting “the Dalia Lama, Lady Gaga and Roger Federer”.

What Corby became, over time, was an encoded, cultural message, cipher to frustration, indignation and a pulpit for the irate sermon.  She was deemed pretty.  Her tear ducts worked with intensity, her face a mess of manicured grief.  Her audience was polarised, though a Morgan poll taken a week after her conviction suggested that 51 percent of Australians thought her innocent.

With the Internet in 2005 already a phenomenon of viral intensity, spreading messages and anger at speed, sympathy for Corby became a matter of patriotic necessity.  That Indonesia had a separation of powers doctrine that prevented the government from directly tampering with a judicial verdict was an inconvenient fact: surely third world countries did that sort of thing with casual indifference.  And the trial should have been conducted in English!

The Corby campaign soon realised the potency of focusing on the Indonesian justice system, and Indonesians in general, capitalising, to no small extent, on the trauma of the Bali bombings of October 2002 where 88 of the 202 killed were Australians.

Fantasies of violence, usually directed against Indonesians, became the norm.  Prosecutor Ida Bagus Wiswantanu became a conspicuous target.  Bloggers came with various suggestions verging on lunacy, many not falling that far short of military intervention, assisted by Australia’s elite SAS force.

There were calls that Australian aid for a tsunami-ravaged country be recalled to make an example of its creaky judicial system. The Corby affair became such a boiling matter as to make Australia’s foreign minister Alexander Downer call for sober reflection.  Indonesia’s courts were “legitimately established.  Just because courts are in Indonesia isn’t a reason to conclude that their courts are somehow completely corrupt and unacceptable.”

Similarities were immediately spotted with Australia’s previous female crime celebrity.  Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton rushed a note to Corby in her Bali prison soon after the verdict was handed down.  “Seeing your verdict and the reaction to it made me feel like I had been kicked all over again.  My heart bleeds for you.”

Chamberlain-Creighton had herself been the object of media combing, damning and objectification, a devil, or darling, of spectacle. In 1980, her nine week old daughter Azaria disappeared from an Uluru campsite, whisked away, so she claimed, by an enterprising dingo.  The words uttered at this occurrence were immortalised in print and subsequently by Meryl Streep in a manner more strained than strine: “The dingo’s got my baby.”

Tongues wagged; rumours swirled, and the report by the Northern Territory Deputy Coroner Elizabeth Morris in 2012 eventually concluded that the dingo most probably did it.  All other “reasonable possibilities” had been excluded.

Location, padded with meaning, is all important in this.  Each incident had its sizzling site, its capturing mystery. In the case of Azaria’s disappearance, there was the demon fanged dingo lurking in hostile territory, the dreaded, swallowing Australian interior; in the case of Corby, her actions took place in Bali, a place feminist Anne Summers has rightly noted to be “a tropical paradise that has served as a national balm” for Australians.

The Corby phenomenon also edged its way into gender narratives, with notions of “gender-inflicted media messages” that prove almost assaulting in their quality.  Scholars wishing to make their mark in the crowded field of deviant discourse have suggested that the treatment of Corby heralded a new species of criminal: the “deviant diva”.

Transgression could be linked, not merely to the crime committed, but gender. Mangled terms of heavy clunk have been introduced, including that advanced by Belinda Middleweek: the “celebrified criminal”.

Ultimately, one feels for such rarefied, categorised figures. They erred, but became conduits for parochial indignation.  Even now, journalists such as Larry Pickering insist on holding the torch with zeal, noting such “anomalies” as “AFP involvement and missing CCTV tapes from three separate airports.”[7] Ordinary folly becomes a matter of heroic tragedy rather than bungled miscalculation.  Idiocy assumes the form of idealised innocence writ large. Such is the lot of the modern deviant diva.

Blasphemy as Weapon: Undermining Ahok

The result of all of this, besides the abuse of law, is that people may be afraid to exert their rights to be critical of Muslims who use religion to justify inexcusable actions.
The Jakarta Post, October 18, 2016

One need not be a zealot in the human rights field to find the latest turn in Indonesian politics disconcerting.  Jakarta’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, was always a nicely packaged target, confident and assertive, very much the beaming confident politician.  Being Chinese was one aspect of the problem; being a non-Muslim was the other. From that standpoint, vulnerabilities were always going to be emphasised, and slip-ups pounced upon ruthlessly.

Indonesia’s post-colonial history is littered with bloody spectaculars, featuring outbursts of sectarian atrocity or state-directed massacres of political opponents. Ahok’s case is not in that league, but it opens a window to it, shining dark rays of foreboding as to what might come.  At times, for instance, in 1998, the Chinese minority has found itself to be a convenient target of spoilation and vengeance.

It took one remark by Ahok to light the powder keg.  “Maybe in your heart,” suggested Ahok last September to unsuspecting fishermen in the Thousand Islands province, “you think you couldn’t vote for me – but you are being lied to by using Al Maidah 51.”

The particular Koranic verse has become something of a crutch, used by candidates who have preferred the weapon of scripture, dubiously interpreted, to the weapon of sound policy. Clerics have waded into the business, some suggesting that al-Maidah: 51 makes the case that non-Muslims should not be leaders in Muslim communities.  Be wary, effectively, of the religious foreigner who seeks alliances.  As the Jakarta Post surmised, “This kind of interpretation goes against the principle of good citizenship.”

As with much theological disputation, there is no agreement, sensible or otherwise, on this point, and the argument that such a passage requires a current modern interpretation is sorely needed.  The fundamentalist roadblock here, however, is a formidable one indeed.  When linked to political opportunism, it becomes lethal.

The deputy secretary-general of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) gave a demonstration about how moderate he was intending to be by suggesting last October that religious defamation had to be punished by “death, crucifixion or at least hand amputation and expulsion.”

Unfortunately for those willing to engage in any sensible debate, the good deputy was referring to the hirabah verses, which stress punishment of such crimes as sedition, piracy, robbery and highway robbery.  Islamic State followers would have approved, given their own reference to those passages in justifying their treatment of the infidel.

Individuals such as Rizieq Shibab of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), twice imprisoned for inciting violence, also smelt blood, shifting the focus away from soft-headed clericalism to the Koran itself.  Protests were organised, and the fever, once stirred, concerned Indonesian authorities.

The trial gave an inkling that Ahok might still have his day, receiving the lightest of sentences.  The prosecution team were not convinced that he had ever intended to insult Islam, and for that reason, pushed for a suspended sentence.  The defence were buoyed, and it was one marked by curious references, not least of all the comparison, made by Ahok himself, to the resilient clown-fish Nemo, who braves against the current.

His supporters were also to be found aplenty, spanning the spectrum.  City Hall was assailed with decorative flower boards and balloons festooned with messages of encouragement.  Even for various Muslims, Ahok was their man.

The five judges of the North Jakarta District Court, donning faces and views of severity, thought otherwise, conforming to a long pattern that tends to find blasphemy even where there is none.  They were already under pressure from such groups as the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) to impose the maximum sentence of five years. Rizieq, who had also been a witness for the prosecution, made his views felt.

Ahok was to be made an example of, deserving a jail sentence for having deliberately made a nuisance of himself in his position as governor.  Not only had he blasphemed with intent; he had also threatened public order.

Judge Abdul Rosyad was in a particularly scolding mood, detecting a certain lack of guilt on Ahok’s part.  “As Governor, as a public officer, the defendant should have known that religion is a sensitive issue so he should have avoided talking about religion.”  Not that this meant opponents could not use religion, or at least its pretext, in terms of framing their opposition to Ahok.  As ever, the victim in this case deserved punishment rather than protection.

Lynch mob justice is never pretty, and resisting it, if not scotching it altogether, is the hallmark of maturity.  It has been a maturity that the current Indonesian president praises, and one seen to have emerged in the post-Suharto era.

Scratching the surface reveals otherwise, a society of tinder waiting to catch fire and conflagrate.  The Indonesian government, aware of this, is seeking to have the agitating, pro global-Caliphate group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, disbanded through the courts.  But for Ahok, this whole process has meant one thing: the establishment was going to give the protestors what they wanted, though others would have preferred something more appropriately savage.

The Universal Lesson of East Timor

On May 5, John Pilger was presented with the Order of Timor-Leste by East Timor’s Ambassador to Australia, Abel Gutteras, in recognition of his reporting on East Timor under Indonesia’s brutal occupation, especially his landmark documentary film, Death of a Nation: the Timor Conspiracy. The following is John Pilger’s response.

Filming undercover in East Timor in 1993 I followed a landscape of crosses: great black crosses etched against the sky, crosses on peaks, crosses marching down the hillsides, crosses beside the road. They littered the earth and crowded the eye.

The inscriptions on the crosses revealed the extinction of whole families, wiped out in the space of a year, a month, a day. Village after village stood as memorials.

Kraras is one such village. Known as the “village of the widows”, the population of 287 people was murdered by Indonesian troops.

Using a typewriter with a faded ribbon, a local priest had recorded the name, age, cause of death and date of the killing of every victim. In the last column, he identified the Indonesian battalion responsible for each murder. It was evidence of genocide.

I still have this document, which I find difficult to put down, as if the blood of East Timor is fresh on its pages.

On the list is the dos Anjos family.

In 1987, I interviewed Arthur Stevenson, known as Steve, a former Australian commando who had fought the Japanese in the Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1942. He told me the story of Celestino dos Anjos, whose ingenuity and bravery had saved his life, and the lives of other Australian soldiers fighting behind Japanese lines.

Steve described the day leaflets fluttered down from a Royal Australian Air Force plane; “We shall never forget you,” the leaflets said. Soon afterwards, the Australians were ordered to abandon the island of Timor, leaving the people to their fate.

When I met Steve, he had just received a letter from Celestino’s son, Virgillo, who was the same age as his own son. Virgillo wrote that his father had survived the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, but he went on: “In August 1983, Indonesian forces entered our village, Kraras. They looted, burned and massacred, with fighter aircraft overhead. On 27 September 1983, they made my father and my wife dig their own graves and they machine-gunned them. My wife was pregnant.”

The Kraras list is an extraordinary political document that shames Indonesia’s Faustian partners in the West and teaches us how much of the world is run. The fighter aircraft that attacked Kraras came from the United States; the machine guns and surface-to-air missiles came from Britain; the silence and betrayal came from Australia.

The priest of Kraras wrote on the final page: “To the capitalist governors of the world, Timor’s petroleum smells better than Timorese blood and tears. Who will take this truth to the world? … It is evident that Indonesia would never have committed such a crime if it had not received favourable guarantees from [Western] governments.”

As the Indonesian dictator General Suharto was about to invade East Timor (the Portuguese had abandoned their colony), he tipped off the ambassadors of Australia, the United States and Britain. In secret cables subsequently leaked, the Australian ambassador, Richard Woolcott, urged his government to “act in a way which would be designed to minimise the public impact in Australia and show private understanding to Indonesia.” He alluded to the beckoning spoils of oil and gas in the Timor Sea that separated the island from northern Australia.

There was no word of concern for the Timorese.

In my experience as a reporter, East Timor was the greatest crime of the late 20th century. I had much to do with Cambodia, yet not even Pol Pot put to death as many people – proportionally — as Suharto killed and starved in East Timor.

In 1993, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Australian Parliament estimated that “at least 200,000” East Timorese, a third of the population, had perished under Suharto.

Australia was the only western country formally to recognise Indonesia’s genocidal conquest. The murderous Indonesian special forces known as Kopassus were trained by Australian special forces at a base near Perth. The prize in resources, said Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, was worth “zillions” of dollars.

In my 1994 film, Death of a Nation: the Timor Conspiracy, a gloating Evans is filmed lifting a champagne glass as he and Ali Alatas, Suharto’s foreign minister, fly over the Timor Sea, having signed a piratical treaty that divided the oil and gas riches of the Timor Sea.

I also filmed witnesses such as Abel Gutteras, now the Ambassador of Timor-Leste (East Timor’s post independence name) to Australia. He told me, “We believe we can win and we can count on all those people in the world to listen — that nothing is impossible, and peace and freedom are always worth fighting for.”

Remarkably, they did win. Many people all over the world did hear them, and a tireless movement added to the pressure on Suharto’s backers in Washington, London and Canberra to abandon the dictator.

But there was also a silence. For years, the free press of the complicit countries all but ignored East Timor. There were honourable exceptions, such as the courageous Max Stahl, who filmed the 1991 massacre in the Santa Cruz cemetery. Leading journalists almost literally fell at the feet of Suharto. In a photograph of a group of Australian editors visiting Jakarta, led by the Murdoch editor Paul Kelly, one of them is bowing to Suharto, the genocidist.

From 1999 to 2002, the Australian Government took an estimated $1.2 billion in revenue from one oil and gas field in the Timor Sea. During the same period, Australia gave less than $200 million in so-called aid to East Timor.

In 2002, two months before East Timor won its independence, as Ben Doherty reported in January, “Australia secretly withdrew from the maritime boundary dispute resolution procedures of the UN convention the Law of the Sea, and the equivalent jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, so that it could not be compelled into legally binding international arbitration”.

The former Prime Minister John Howard has described his government’s role in East Timor’s independence as “noble”. Howard’s foreign minister, Alexander Downer, once burst into the cabinet room in Dili, East Timor, and told Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, “We are very tough … Let me give you a tutorial in politics …”

Today, it is Timor-Leste that is giving the tutorial in politics. After years of trickery and bullying by Canberra, the people of Timor-Leste have demanded and won the right to negotiate before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) a legal maritime boundary and a proper share of the oil and gas.

Australia owes Timor Leste a huge debt — some would say, billions of dollars in reparations. Australia should hand over, unconditionally, all royalties collected since Gareth Evans toasted Suharto’s dictatorship while flying over the graves of its victims.

The Economist lauds Timor-Leste as the most democratic country in southeast Asia today. Is that an accolade? Or does it mean approval of a small and vulnerable country joining the great game of globalisation?

For the weakest, globalisation is an insidious colonialism that enables transnational finance and its camp-followers to penetrate deeper, as Edward Said wrote, than the old imperialists in their gun boats.

It can mean a model of development that gave Indonesia, under Suharto, gross inequality and corruption; that drove people off their land and into slums, then boasted about a growth rate.

The people of Timor-Leste deserve better than faint praise from the “capitalist governors of the world”, as the priest of Kraras wrote. They did not fight and die and vote for entrenched poverty and a growth rate. They deserve the right to sustain themselves when the oil and gas run out as it will. At the very least, their courage ought to be a beacon in our memory: a universal political lesson.

Bravo, Timor-Leste. Bravo and beware.