All The President’s Men: Jokowi’s Need for a Cabinet Reshuffle

By N Mark Castro

As the country awaits the much-need cabinet reshuffle, let’s look at some of the controversial statements of our beloved public servants.

failLet’s start with the very wealthy Minister of Trade Rachmat Gobel who, prior to his appointment, was the local partner and franchise owner of PT. Panasonic Gobel. According to reports, he would divest himself from ownership.

So far, so good.

During the earlier part of his appointment, Rachmat revealed that the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transportation should be governed by the Ministry of Industry. With the unification, according to him, progress in Indonesia can be guaranteed.

That’s how gung-ho he was. He wasn’t satisfied with one Ministry, he wanted two more.

Now, Ministers are supposed to be the representative of the president. They can engage and debate the president, argue each issue, but they are there to convey the message of the president, not theirs. They are there to stand for the president who could not be in all places at the same time.

Which brings the controversy about Minister Gobel quite, how shall we say it, peculiar. Read the rest of this entry


Girl, Interrupted: Marsha Siagian


By N Mark Castro

Marsha Siagan: Accountant and Fashion Designer.


One look at her and you’d confuse her for a carefree college student that was both charming and smart in your eyes and singlehandedly responsible for other boys’ getting itchy pants.

Once you take a closer look and get to know what she does, you’ll be blown away how much she’s done in so short a time.

Pretty and sweet, yes, but this 26 year old is no cutie-pie. She is pure guts and steel: finishing her Accounting degree at the prestigious University of Melbourne, returning back to Indonesia to work in PT Astra International as Strategic Planner, then giving it up to pursue her passion by moving to the UK to get a degree on Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear at the University of the Arts London | London College of Fashion.

All by the time she turned 26.

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Indonesia’s Most Powerful Industry: Tobacco

By N Mark Castro



How quickly the public forgets.

A few months ago, the president defied international community by executing drug traffickers and declaring to the world that Indonesia is confronted with a deadly crisis of drug abuse, killing 18,000 people annually.

He further disclosed that the number of drug users who could not be rehabilitated amounted to 1.2 million and nearly 50 of them die every day. “In total about 18,000 die every year due to illegal drug consumption,” Jokowi said.

Those were his exact words.
Read the rest of this entry

Vesākha: Selamat Hari Waisak

By N Mark Castro

Although it is not “Buddha’s Birthday,” it is sometimes referred to as such as it commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition.

In Indonesia, it is celebrated as a national holiday based on the constitutionally recognized official religions. The exact date varies as it follows the Asian lunisolar calendars.

The World’s Largest Buddhist Temple


You would normally associate Buddhism in China, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Japan as major points of references considering that it’s been said Siddhartha Gautama spread his way of life in China and India, while emanating from Nepal. Sri Lanka’s 70% and Thailand’s 90% of population practice Buddhism while Japan’s Zen Buddhism had been responsible for its entry in the West.

What is amazing to note is that in the world’s largest Moslem population, Indonesia, sits the world’s largest Buddhist temple.

It’s a testament to the commitment of the ancestors and founding fathers of Indonesia to its Pancasila Principle or Unity in Diversity.

Read the rest of this entry

Mary Jane Veloso Case: Whose At Fault?


To clarify, efforts to reduce the sentence of Mary Jane Veloso is not an assault on the sovereignty of Indonesia.

It is not the fault of Indonesians or the government. It is a law that we should repeal as it can happen to anyone.

If execution is indeed needed, then reserve it for heinous crimes: the child rapists, the terrorists, the corrupt that steal from the nation and betray the public trust. And even then, apply the most stringent requirements before a life is taken away.

The problem with Mary Jane is that she could be any of the OBEDIENT Indonesian maids who will never touch what their employers give them.

If they are told to bring a bag to another country with drugs that they are not aware of, they will do so. And they will be caught. And they will be executed.

And that is why Mary Jane will be executed, and her two children left behind as orphans.

Her 6 year old son was 1 year old then when she left for a land she hoped would bring money for her family. Instead, her son now is meeting her mother for the first time in a long time, the mother she only saw on pictures left behind, and she will be executed via a firing squad, along with 9 others, and those shots will reverberate forever.

It’s the law.

And I am only hoping that President Joko Widodo will stand upon the promise he once made that he would fight for human rights.

Surely this one begs for it.

After all, what is a life of a citizen between friends?


Photo from Rappler Indonesia

Mary Jane Veloso Fund


Mary Jane Veloso: A Case of Humanity

Mary Jane Veloso, for all intents and purposes, is slated to be executed tomorrow, April 28, 2015 in Indonesia.

The University of the Philippines’ Alumni Association Indonesia (UPAAI) have started a fund drive campaign to provide assistance to Mary Jane Veloso’s family and two young children.

Isang pagtitipon-tipon at pagtutulungan para sa isang huling paalam.

And Justice For All – The Mary Jane Veloso Case

By N Mark Castro

Close your eyes and picture Indah.

Picture Indah living a provincial life in one of the thousands of islands in Indonesia. She has two young boys that has become the source of her life, her happiness.

She was abandoned by her husband, her children abandoned by their father.

She was dirt poor.

She wasn’t exactly pretty.

Picture Indah.

She’s one of many living a life under $2 a day. Read the rest of this entry

How A Loser Lived Forever and the Influence of the Roman Empire to the World


By his own account Quintus Horatius Flaccus was a rotten soldier. He fought for the losing side in the civil wars; when the order came to “Charge!” he dropped his shield and ran like mad in the wrong direction.

Back in Rome he landed a post as a petty bureaucrat, a quaestor’s clerk — not much of a job but one that left time for writing poetry on the side. He came to know great architects and builders, judges, sculptors, and political leaders. And Quintus Horatius Flaccus himself never governed a province, never built an aqueduct or temple, never created a striking bronze sculpture.

Still, when this Roman sat down in 23 B.C. to review his life’s accomplishments, he concluded that his contributions in poetry would outlast whatever the soldiers and builders had achieved:

Exegi monumentum aere perennius

Regalique situ pyramidum altius …

Non omnis moriar.

(I have erected a monument more lasting than bronze

And taller than the regal peak of the pyramids …

I shall never completely die.)

That famous epilogue from the third book of Odes has been endlessly quoted as testament to the immortality of literature and, most of all, its writer.

It was written by a man named in the entire known world as Horace. Read the rest of this entry

Slaughterhouse 44

By N Mark Castro

“All this happened, more or less.” – Slaughterhouse Five

Filipino elite cops remains arrive in Manila

This was the result of incompetence: pure and simple.

Because on January 25, 2015, suspended Philippine National Chief (PNP) Alan Purisima — who could not logically explain how he acquired his massive wealth before Congress — decided to initiate a plan to capture Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan.

Despite his suspension yet enjoying the confidence of President Benigno Aquino III, he hatched the plan and by-passed his direct superior, Secretary Mar Roxas of the Department of Local and Interior Government (DILG) and his replacement, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina.

So under his delusions of success, suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima ordered SAF Director Getulio Napeñas three platoons of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) police squad to enter the guerrilla enclave of Tukanalipao, Mindanao, Philippines, with the goal of detaining two high-ranking terrorists, Zulkifli Abdhir and Basit Usman. Read the rest of this entry

Charlotte Setijadi

Anthropologist & Contemporary Historian of Chinese Diaspora in Southeast Asia


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