Why I won’t live in Indonesia forever

It seems you just can’t escape the radical religious zealots. In the U.S. they’re busy legislating about women’s bodies and railing against the civil rights of gays. In Indonesia, like in the U.S. of years past (and still in some places of the country), the religious radicals are waging warfare against alcohol – they even say it’s the primary cause of adultery.

Interestingly, I doubt the U.S. religious radicals would get along with the Muslim religious radicals in Indonesia, although they have many of the same social restrictions wish lists.

This whole Ramadan thing seems so much more restrictive this

New friend Re - beautiful lady, wonderful personality, loves my cat. She is going home (kampung) for Ramadan shortly.

New friend Re – beautiful lady, wonderful personality, loves my cat. She is going home (kampung) for Ramadan shortly.

year, maybe because I’m noticing more. Because of this small radical religious minority, the government is restricting business operations and damaging Indonesia’s tourism and investment reputations. They can’t see the big picture because of their radical blinders. Probably, they would just like to get all the western “invaders” out of their country, despite all the economic benefits they bring.

And the restrictions don’t seem to be enforced equally. Case in point: Goodies restaurant.

There are nine days during the 30-day Ramada observance where alcohol sales are prohibited completely, a major hit on business opportunities for the restaurant, hotel and tourism industries. These days are seperated into 3-day periods, with the first occurring on the first three days of Ramadan, which fell on the past Tuesday-Thursday.

Like last year, Goodies was open for business on those three days, as well as the six additional days that are highly restrictive and the other 21 days of Ramadan. Like last year, Goodies was selling alcohol, under the impression this was allowed based on its restaurant license, which, by the way, took nearly six years to obtain. But unlike last year, this year a small group of religious radicals threatened the local government with reprisals if they didn’t crack down on all the infidels. In addition, it appears that others in the restaurant/bar industry here took out their jealousy about the success of Goodies by informing the authorities.

So on came the jack boots, in the form of 15 Tourism Department guys in uniform at about 10:30 Thursday night. At the time, it was comical. The next day, however, the authorities told us we could not sell alcohol until after 9 p.m., effectively decimating our business and ruining our most successful night – Friday free beer happy hour, which normally runs from 5:30-7 p.m.

Given that Goodies is a sport bar/restaurant, alcohol sales are an integral – and significant – part of the business. But, other restaurants in town are selling beer starting at 6:30, while we have to wait until 9. Either someone is paying bribes to government officials or Goodies is being singled out. We’re looking into the situation but, in the meantime, beer is being served in coffee mugs and tea pots.

Incidentally, you can’t even have alcohol in sight during Ramadan; it has to be hidden behind curtains or in a back room. We had ours in a back room but the Tourism folks could see a bit of it and we had to throw a tablecloth over the offending bottles. I love religion.

And now, the Indonesian government, led by the religious radicals, is considering more restrictive measures and allowing districts to impose complete, all-year bans on alcohol in their areas; and there is a move to ban alcohol throughout the country. Here is how the Jakarta papers played it:

Indonesia faces alcohol sale ban after FPI court win

SALES AND distribution of alcohol could be banned in some parts of Indonesia after Muslim hard-liners won a Supreme Court victory, an official said last week. While it is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, the sale of alcohol for the small number who drink and tourists has until now been allowed.

Some local authorities, where Islamic hard-liners are influential, introduced bylaws banning the sale and distribution of alcohol. But these could never be enforced due to a 1997 presidential decree prohibiting local governments taking it upon themselves to ban the sale of alcohol.

More than 22 regencies and municipalities, including Tangerang in Banten, and Depok and Indramayu in West Java, have issued bylaws prohibiting the sale of alcohol.

Now a prominent hard-line group, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), has succeeded in getting the decree overturned in a judicial review at the Supreme Court, a spokesman for the court said.

Spokesman Ridwan Mansyur told AFP: “The Supreme Court has accepted the judicial review filed by the FPI… as the presidential decree… failed to bring peace and public order to Indonesian communities.”

The FPI, notorious for conducting raids on “sinful” bars and nightclubs, hailed the victory, which will allow local authorities to enforce the bylaws.

“All Indonesian Muslims are overjoyed,” Jakarta FPI head Salim Alatas told AFP. “The ruling has saved generations from the negative impact of alcohol.”

Members of the FPI and Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) rioted last year in front of the Home Ministry after it issued a regulation forcing regional administrations to annul the bylaws. Last year, the FPI also raided minimarkets that sold alcoholic beverages in Tangerang.

Head of the Tangerang FPI Habib, Muhammad bin Toha Assegaff, claimed that the open sale of alcohol had contributed to recent rapes in Greater Jakarta.

“Alcoholic beverages are closely related to adultery,” he said.

The secretary general of the Islamist United Development Party (PPP) Romahurmuzy heralded the ruling as the first step toward a nation-wide ban on alcohol.

“This is the beginning of the victory for Muslims in Indonesia in terms of the fight against alcohol,” he said. “This is also in line with the PPP’s fight to eradicate alcohol from the country.”

The deputy chairman of the Indonesian Commission on Child Protection (KPAI) Asrorun N. Sholeh offered similar support of the ruling, stating “laws are created to protect society, not only to protect drinkers’ interests.”

Asrorun, who is also the deputy head of Fatwa Commission for the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), called for a total ban on alcohol, including in provinces like the Hindu-majority Bali, which relies heavily on tourist dollars from Western vacationers.

“The verdict reaffirms the general knowledge that we all already knew: that alcohol is bad for you, from the medical aspect,” he said. “The economy and social cultural impact is also very negative.”

The Jakarta Entertainment Establishment Owners Association (APHI) disagreed, explaining that a ban on alcohol would decimate Indonesia’s tourism sector. The sale of alcohol also generates a significant amount of tax revenue for the state, Adrian Mailite, chairman of APHI, said.

“Last year the tax excise from alcohol reached Rp 53 trillion and the tourism sector contributed to 60 percent of that total,” he said. “If you ban alcohol foreign tourists won’t come here anymore. Even if they do come, they won’t stay long. Banning alcohol is a very dangerous move.”

Sales of alcoholic beverages in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, have soared by more than 20% annually over the past three years as the economy has grown at an average of 6%.

PT Multi Bintang Indonesia, the producer of Bintang and Heineken beers, recorded a 30% jump in revenue to Rp 2.41 trillion (US$245 million) last year from Rp 1.85 trillion in 2011.

The company has said that the robust economy will see the alcoholic beverage industry enjoy a further boost this year. – From news reports

Alcohol bill moves forward

THE HOUSE of Representatives has agreed to accept a draft bill proposed by the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP), which calls for stricter regulation of alcoholic beverages, for deliberation by the Legislative Body (Baleg).

The PPP proposal has received a second wind following the decision by the Supreme Court to abolish a 1997 presidential decree which had prevented local administrations from prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages.

With the abolition of the decree, local administrations now have the freedom to ban the sale and distribution of alcoholic drinks within their jurisdiction.

The PPP’s draft had proposed a complete ban on all beverages containing any levels of alcohol in the country. Those who produce and distribute alcoholic beverages would face a maximum of 10-years’ and five-years’ imprisonment respectively. Consumers of alcoholic drinks could be sentenced to two years in prison.

PPP lawmaker Ahmad Yani said that the Baleg had watered down some of the party’s proposals, changing a total ban to stricter distribution and consumption. “It now includes stricter rules on production and levels of alcohol, as well as designated areas for consumption,” the senior lawmaker said.

Although the Baleg has yet to finish discussion of the draft, Yani said his faction would keep pushing for the endorsement of the bill this year, arguing that a legal vacuum on the distribution of alcoholic drinks could be exploited by those who could benefit from the situation.

Under the 1997 decree, the distribution and sale of drinks containing more than 5% alcohol were legal if they were sold in hotels, bars, clubs and certain areas designated by the central government. The decree put those alcoholic beverages under supervision while the sale of drinks with an alcohol level below 5%, including beer, was freely allowed.

The legal vacuum could easily be exploited by firebrand groups, constitutional expert Fajrul Falaakh said. “With the Supreme Court ruling, the FPI and other parties could try for a complete ban. Some religions in our society allow the consumption or use of alcoholic beverages [for rituals],” Fajrul said. – The Jakarta Post

What is bizarre in all of this is that there are a few breweries in Indonesia. Bintang and Heineken are brewed and sold here. In addition, just a few days after the news above, the government began considering another change to encourage liquor companies to invest in Indonesia with more brewing and distilling operations.

What a joke!

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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2 Responses to Why I won’t live in Indonesia forever

  1. Living in Indonesia is one hell of a roller coaster ride. Religion here plays an integral role not in spreading the good word but used as leverage for raking in moolah by whatever means possible. It’s ashame that we can only stand and watch while a beautiful country is slowly decimated by fanaticism, nepotism and corruption. Drink up (while you still can).

  2. Anthony Flagiello says:

    Glad you feel that way. This is problem with a lot religious zealots and the biggest reason the world is so divided take

    care,Ant P.S. Like the pics of your love interest as well as the others.

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