Mobile phone users fed up with receiving constant unsolicited text messages offering loans and business opportunities can now have the senders blocked by filing a complaint with the telecoms regulatory body, a communications ministry official said on Wednesday.
Mobile phone users have in recent months found themselves swamped by a deluge of unwanted SMS text messages advertising everything from collateral-free Rp 300 million ($34,000) loans to pharmaceutical delivery services, and consumers say their complaints have been ignored.
But no longer, says the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. Ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto on Wednesday said that phone users could now air their grievances with the Indonesian Telecommunications Regulatory Body (BRTI) and get the sender blocked from further contact.
“Users can write a formal complaint to both the BRTI and the mobile phone operator stating the spammers’ numbers to make them stop sending the text messages to the complainer’s number,” Gatot said.
Ricardo Indra, a spokesman for mobile phone operator Telkomsel confirmed the service was ready for use. “Users can also file complaints by SMS and send it to 1166,” he said.
Gatot added that the ministry had also been in touch with Bank Indonesia in an effort to enlist the central bank in the fight against text spammers. BI has a hotline — 0885 888509797 — for public complaints. As of February, it had received more than 11,000.
But the ministry wants BI to take a stand against banks’ use of third-party companies routinely hired to send text-based advertisements for loans.
However, Dify Djohansyah, a central bank spokesman, recently said that BI does not have the authority to influence outsourced advertising companies, nor to prohibit banks from employing those firms’ services. Offering loans through texts does not breach Indonesia’s banking laws.
How well the new scheme works, however, is too soon to tell. A ministerial decree meant to protect consumers from unwanted text advertisements was implemented in January 2009 to seemingly little impact.
Gatot said that under the decree, mass text advertisements had to include a phone number that people could call to stop receiving the offers.
He added that content providers found to be in violation of that decree were now being subject to an array of sanctions, ranging from being fined to having their operating licenses revoked.
In 2007, the BRTI reprimanded several content providers for sending daily mass text message updates from which users were unable to unsubscribe
Being a Hindu yogi once meant renouncing worldly pleasures for a life of solitary meditation, wandering the jungle in search of union with god.
Today, new-age yogis wander the globe from one retreat to another, stay in luxury hotels and preach to the converted masses through a headset microphone.
At the Bali Spirit Festival last week, yogis sold their take on life — along with complementary DVDs — as visitors from as far afield as the United States, Australia and Europe lapped up expensive yoga apparel, mats and mala beads. Just stepping through the festival gates cost $100 a day.
“I bought a gold pass for $500 and I find it hard to get $100 worth of yoga a day. At the same time, all the classes have been amazing, so in the end, I’m happy to have paid that,” said Australian Jean Cameron, 39.
A 2008 study published by the Yoga Journal valued the yoga industry in the United States alone at almost $6 billion a year, with some more recent estimates for the global industry rising to $18 billion.
Bali is an obvious hub for yoga fanatics. The Balinese are Hindu, the Indonesian island is rich with natural beauty and the government supports spiritual tourism including temple tours and visits to traditional healers.
Demand for such experiences spiked recently with the publication of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” — a romantic journey of self-discovery featuring a mystical encounter with a Balinese soothsayer.
Uma Inder, a Hatha yoga teacher, has witnessed the radical transformation of yoga in Bali. She moved from England to the island 22 years ago, spending her first seven years practicing yoga alone in the jungle.
“In those days you didn’t talk about yoga and no one really knew about it. Nowadays, it’s a social buzz. It’s now talked about, it’s paraded and it’s very much about entertainment,” Inder said.
Festival organizer Meghan Pappenheim makes no apologies for the commerciality of the event, and sees it as a positive way to draw more people to yoga.
“I’m the first to admit I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a capitalist. This event has a target market, and those are the people with the money who can go home and make a difference,” she said.
“My philosophy is that you make money and then you give it away. You make enough to buy a phone and a nice car, and you give the rest away.”
Only four years old, the festival itself is yet to turn a profit. But Pappenheim and her Balinese husband, Kadek Gunarta, say they have used the yoga boom to raise $36,000 for charity through various events.
The festival has a sponsor, Fiesta condoms, which donated $25,000 for an HIV/AIDS outreach program for Balinese high school students.
So far, Pappenheim and her husband have funded the festival from money they make from a small empire of businesses, which include a yoga center, an art gallery, an eco-friendly furniture studio and a cafe.
Pappenheim is optimistic that the festival too will become profitable as attendance numbers double annually. This year, she estimates 4,000 people participated.
The National Education Ministry said on Monday that it would not respond to a complaint filed by 12 independent academics against a new regulation on the appointment of state university heads.
Djoko Santoso, the ministry’s director general for secondary and higher education, insisted that the regulation giving the education minister a 35 percent vote in the appointment of the university heads was fair.
“It’s the right of every citizen to voice their dissatisfaction through legal avenues, but the decision [on the regulation] is final,” he said.
Last week, a group of academics filed a complaint with the Supreme Court against the regulation, calling it unfair.
Previously, only the university senates — composed of the deans of university departments — voted for candidates, before submitting a short list to the president for the final selection.
Trimoelja Soerjadi, a lawyer for the professors, said they had filed the complaint because they believed the regulation was not in line with democratic values.
“Each senate member has only one vote, so why does the minister of education have so many?” he said. “This goes against the one-person, one-vote principle of a democracy.”
He said the complaint was triggered by the high-profile appointment of a university head under the new regulation. The appointment took place at the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS) in Surabaya.
The incumbent rector, Priyo Suprobo, initially led the race with 60 of the 102 votes allocated to the ITS senate. Next was Triyogi Yuwono with 39 votes and Daniel Rosyid with three votes.
Just as it appeared that Priyo was headed for victory, the education minister, Muhammad Nuh, threw all his support behind Triyogi, who finished with 83 votes, ahead of Priyo with 68 and Daniel with five.
Djoko said, however, that while the minister controlled a large share of the votes in the elections, he still had to abide by a list of nine criteria in supporting a candidate.
Among the criteria are expertise, knowledge of the university’s approach to education, research, management and international relations.
Others are social awareness and sensitivity to community and environmental issues.
“This new regulation has been applied at several universities and they haven’t had a problem with it,” Djoko said. “It’s also more democratic because it gives the senate 65 percent of the vote and the minister 35 percent.”
Arief Rachman, an education expert, told the Jakarta Globe that the focus should be on creating a system to appoint rectors with the highest “intellectual virtue, autonomy, integrity, humility and courage.”
“We need rectors who have those characteristics, but the most important thing is that they should have the intellectual motivation and passion to keep doing research and contributing to the community, and this is what is currently lacking,” he said.
Many rectors, he added, were interested only in giving lectures while ignoring research.
He also called on university officials to work more closely with the government on public policies.
A number of state universities in Bali, South Kalimantan, North Sumatra and across Java have appointed rectors under the new regulation without any reported incidents.
While the government has been suggesting the nation find alternatives to a dwindling supply of locally grown rice, one teacher in Jakarta is promoting a program to grow the staple food in the middle of the city.
Suhri, an Indonesian language teacher at State Junior High School (SMPN) 209 in Kramat Jati, East Jakarta, has introduced a “Rice in a Bucket” cultivation program at his school as a way of teaching students about agriculture and self-sufficiency.
Despite not having a formal background in farming, he said a chance encounter at the rice-cultivating village he grew up in planted a seed that would grow into his innovative program.
“In 2007, my cousin in Ciamis district, in West Java, told me that anybody could plant rice nowadays without having to go out into the fields and get their suits and ties dirty,” he said.
“So I tried to get all the information I could and implemented the methods myself.”
Suhri said he tested the idea of planting rice in buckets at his house before eventually bringing the program to his school in 2007, starting with 50 buckets shared among the students.
“I didn’t want to propose the idea to the principal before I tried it myself. After I successfully harvested the organic rice from my own tiny rice field, then I took the idea to school,” he said.
“Fortunately, I got a positive response from the principal and we started the planting program in 2007.”
Suhri, who is also the coordinator of the school’s forestry program, said his students were excited to learn about growing rice in the city.
Yoga Setiawan, a ninth-grade student who has been taking part in the program, said growing rice in buckets was an innovative idea that he wanted to develop further once he finished school.
“Planting rice is actually not that difficult once you know how to do it,” he said.
Yoga said students bought their seeds at the local bird market and created the correct soil composition themselves.
“The first thing that we do is mix 60 percent soil and 40 percent compost. Then we let it sit for two to four weeks,” he said.
During those weeks waiting for the soil to set, the students prepare their rice plants by growing the sprouts that will be planted in the buckets.
Yoga said that although they never ate the rice they grew in the buckets, he and the other students were always excited when it came time to harvest.
“It takes us three and a half months to go from the preparation stage to harvest,” he said.
Suhri said that since 2007, students at the school had experimented with planting different types of rice to determine which variety was the best for the “Rice in a Bucket” project.
“We tried to plant Japanese rice in 2008, Situ Bagendit rice in 2009 and Ciherang rice in 2010,” he said. “Although Japanese rice tested better, the Japanese rice plant is the hardest to take care of because it is very tall.”
Suhri said the key to growing healthy rice plants with lots of stalks was to use organic liquid fertilizer — the best being your own urine.
“Before we began using urine as the extra organic fertilizer, each bucket only had 50 stalks of rice that produced one or two ounces of grain,” he said. “But since we’ve been using urine, each bucket produces 80 stalks of rice that can produce two to three ounces of grain.”
In order to reduce the smell from the urine, the students add grated ginger, galangal and turmeric mixed with water.
Ambar Susilowati, another ninth-grader involved in the program, said that aside from the fun of growing your own rice, the students also learned a lot about farming and rice cultivation.
“We’ve learned to appreciate farmers because they do so much hard work to grow the rice that ends up on the tables of so many Indonesians,” she said.
“That is why I always finish my food when I have breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Ambar, who will graduate in the middle of this year, added that she wanted to introduce the method to as many people as possible so they could grow their own rice at home.
“I hope this knowledge will not be left at this school once we graduate, but will be spread around the city and help make Jakarta a little greener with small rice buckets in every home,” she said.
Indonesia must have a law focused solely on the mechanisms, controls and procedures on wiretapping, human rights organizations say.
Zainal Abidin, deputy director of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), said on Friday that articles on wiretapping in existing regulations failed to protect the right to privacy.
Zainal’s comments came as the House of Representatives debates a new national intelligence bill, with legislators seeming to favor the idea of giving the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) the power to conduct wiretaps and track money trails without court permission.
The draft bill does not have any specifics on controls or watchdogs that are to supervise BIN in this regard. Zainal said the impact of allowing wiretapping to be carried out without proper controls and mechanisms could be damaging to the rights of private Indonesian citizens and infringe their human rights.
“There are currently a number of laws containing articles that authorize certain state bodies to conduct wiretaps,” he said, referring to the Anti-Narcotics Law, the Anti-Corruption Law and the Human Trafficking Law among others.
“These articles are vulnerable to abuse by law enforcers due to lack of controls and clarity, not to mention overlapping duties.”
Zainal said a special wiretapping law should list in clear detail the exact requirements needed to be met to obtain a permit to conduct a wiretap.
It should also specify how long the wiretapping would be allowed to continue and define limitations on who would have access to the data.
He added that the separate law should specify a body that would regulate and supervise agencies that conduct wiretaps.
Anggara Suwahju, a senior associate of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, agreed with Zainal.
“It [wiretapping] could be used to spy on political rivals, for instance. There needs to be clear controls, including, for example, getting court permission,” Anggara said.
Both Elsam and ICJR urged the House of Represenatives to launch a public discussion and listen to as much public feedback as possible before considering passing the national intelligence bill into law, particularly in relation to the regulations on wiretapping.
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology on Wednesday assured the public that it would not wiretap conversations taking place on social networking sites.
“We have no authority and no capacity to do that, so we will not be monitoring the social networking sites,” ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto said.
But he said that due to the open nature of social networking sites, many conversations were already viewable by regular Internet users.
“I assure you once again and as the [ICT] Minister has also repeteadly said, we are not going to monitor social networking sites,” he said.
He said that other government agencies, such as the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) or the National Police, might access online conversations.
“But it would be within the agency’s authority,” he said, adding that for the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, it would be illegitimate to conduct such monitoring in accordance with the 2008 Information and Electronic Transaction Law.
“It is ‘haram’ for us to do that, and in the law it is clear that it could only be done for a specific purpose and it would require permission from the highest authority of law enforcers,” Gatot said.
JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar said the government will give a reward to Indonesian migrant worker Rita Retnaningtyas for helping quake and tsunami victims in Japan.
"The government will consider this and give a reward to Rita," Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar said here Wednesday.
Linda’s statement was made to follow up on a Japanese government reward for Rita Retnaningtyas, a nurse at Miyagi hospital, who had helped many of the quake and tsunami victims. Linda said the Indonesian government was proud of Rita’s efforts in Japan in popularizing Indonesia in the world.
But Linda was still not sure about the form of government reward for the Indonesian nurse. Rita Retnaningtyas (35) came from Srondol Kulon, Banyumanik sub-district in Semarang, Central Java.
Rita who is employed as a nurse at Miyagi National Hospital, was sent in 2009 by the Indonesian Workers Placement and Protection Agency under cooperation between the Indonesia and Japanese governments. Rita and some of her friends were willing to stay in the areas hit by the March 11 quake and tsunami in Miyagi for social and humanitarian services.
JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - Indonesia said Thursday that an ASEAN plan to send Indonesian military observers to the disputed Thai-Cambodia border had stalled as it awaited approvals from Bangkok and Phnom Penh.
At a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta last month, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to accept Indonesian observers to a flashpoint section of the border where heavy fighting erupted in February.
ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan hailed the agreement as a “historic day” for the 10-nation block, but more than a month later the observer teams remain in Jakarta and Thailand’s military now says they are not needed.
“We’re still waiting for further approvals from both countries before we can proceed to go to the area,” Indonesian foreign ministry spokeswoman Kusuma Habir told AFP.
The observers had not received their operating orders and did not even know where they would be posted or for how long, she added.
“We hope that we will receive their approvals as soon as possible,” Habir said.
Thailand’s army chief, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, said Wednesday the observers were not wanted in the disputed area near an 11th-century temple because it was too dangerous and they would only complicate matters.
Prayut said the Thai defence ministry, armed forces and military commanders rejected the idea of outside monitors, but conceded it was up to the government to decide.
A Thai government spokesman denied however that there had been any change in Bangkok’s position, and said a joint border committee would be convened to iron out the details of the observers’ mission. Thailand and Cambodia have each accused the other of starting the border clashes, which erupted around the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.
BANDUNG, KOMPAS.com - The "Earth Hour" campaign by turning off electricity for an hour on March 26, 2011 throughout West Java, will save a total of 661.54 megawatts (MW), a local official said here Thursday.
"If only 10 percent of West Java followed the instruction, 661.54 MW would be saved, " head of the West Java environmental management agency Setiawa Wangsatmadja noted.
He added that Earth Hour is a global campaign that invites people in the world from individuals to governments to support reducing CO2 emissions that cause damage to the earth.
"For this year’s Earth Hour environmental campaign, the agency appealed to all people in West Java to turn off their lights and all electronic equipment for one hour from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm, because it is a peak hour," Setiawan said. The agency asserted that West Java province fully supports Earth Hour environmental campaign 2011.
"Symbolically, the campaign will be conducted at several locations that are icons of West Java such as Gedung Sate, Bandung City Hall as well as Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and Padjadjaran university campuses," Setiawan said.