United Nations Declaration (Articles 1 - 30):

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Incoming UN chief names three women to top posts

Incoming UN chief names three women to top posts
Nigerian Minister of the Environment Amina Mohammed, seen in 2015, will be the UN's number two official (AFP Photo/Mireya ACIERTO)
Sustainable Development
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


The Declaration of Human Freedom

Archangel Michael (Via Steve Beckow), Feb. 19, 2011

Every being is a divine and eternal soul living in a temporal body. Every being was alive before birth and will live after death.

Every soul enters into physical life for the purpose of experience and education, that it may, in the course of many lifetimes, learn its true identity as a fragment of the Divine.

Life itself is a constant process of spiritual evolution and unfoldment, based on free choice, that continues until such time as we realize our true nature and return to the Divine from which we came.

No soul enters life to serve another, except by choice, but to serve its own purpose and that of the Divine from which it came.

All life is governed by natural and universal laws which precede and outweigh the laws of humanity. These laws, such as the law of karma, the law of attraction, and the law of free will, are decreed by God to order existence and assist each person to achieve life’s purpose.

No government can or should survive that derives its existence from the enforced submission of its people or that denies its people their basic rights and freedoms.

Life is a movement from one existence to another, in varied venues throughout the universe and in other universes and dimensions of existence. We are not alone in the universe but share it with other civilizations, most of them peace-loving, many of whom are more advanced than we are, some of whom can be seen with our eyes and some of whom cannot.

The evidence of our five senses is not the final arbiter of existence. Humans are spiritual as well as physical entities and the spiritual side of life transcends the physical. God is a Spirit and the final touchstone of God’s Truth is not physical but spiritual. The Truth is to be found within.

God is one and, because of this, souls are one. They form a unity. They are meant to live in peace and harmony together in a “common unity” or community. The use of force to settle affairs runs contrary to natural law. Every person should have the right to conduct his or her own affairs without force, as long as his or her choices do not harm another.

No person shall be forced into marriage against his or her will. No woman shall be forced to bear or not bear children, against her will. No person shall be forced to hold or not hold views or worship in a manner contrary to his or her choice. Nothing vital to existence shall be withheld from another if it is within the community’s power to give.

Every person shall retain the ability to think, speak, and act as they choose, as long as they not harm another. Every person has the right to choose, study and practice the education and career of their choice without interference, provided they not harm another.

No one has the right to kill another. No one has the right to steal from another. No one has the right to force himself or herself upon another in any way.

Any government that harms its citizens, deprives them of their property or rights without their consent, or makes offensive war upon its neighbors, no matter how it misrepresents the situation, has lost its legitimacy. No government may govern without the consent of its people. All governments are tasked with seeing to the wellbeing of their citizens. Any government which forces its citizens to see to its own wellbeing without attending to theirs has lost its legitimacy.

Men and women are meant to live fulfilling lives, free of want, wherever they wish and under the conditions they desire, providing their choices do not harm another and are humanly attainable.

Children are meant to live lives under the beneficent protection of all, free of exploitation, with unhindered access to the necessities of life, education, and health care.

All forms of exploitation, oppression, and persecution run counter to universal and natural law. All disagreements are meant to be resolved amicably.

Any human law that runs counter to natural and universal law is invalid and should not survive. The enactment or enforcement of human law that runs counter to natural and universal law brings consequences that cannot be escaped, in this life or another. While one may escape temporal justice, one does not escape divine justice.

All outcomes are to the greater glory of God and to God do we look for the fulfillment of our needs and for love, peace, and wisdom. So let it be. Aum/Amen.



Pope Francis arrives for historic first US visit

Pope Francis arrives for historic first US visit
Pope Francis laughs alongside US President Barack Obama upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, on September 22, 2015, on the start of a 3-day trip to Washington (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Today's doodle in the U.S. celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech on its 50th anniversary (28 Aug 2013)

'Love is love': Obama lauds gay marriage activists in hailing 'a victory for America'

'Love is love': Obama lauds gay marriage activists in hailing 'a victory for America'
The White House released this image, of the building colored like the rainbow flag, on Facebook following the supreme court’s ruling. Photograph: Facebook
"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Merkel says Turkey media crackdown 'highly alarming'

Merkel says Turkey media crackdown 'highly alarming'
Reporters Without Borders labels Erdogan as 'enemy of press freedom'

Search This Blog

Monday, December 31, 2007

Malaysia backpedals on Allah ban for Christian paper, renews its permit

The Jakarta Post

KUALA LUMPUR (AP): A Roman Catholic newspaper said Monday the government has reversed its decision to ban the publication over its use of the word "Allah," easing a row that strained racial harmony in the multiethnic country.

In a surprising about-turn over the weekend, the government renewed The Herald weekly's 2008 permit without any conditions, said its editor Rev. Lawrence Andrew.

"There are no conditions, there was no mention of the Allah ban," he told The Associated Press.

Internal security officials declined to comment when contacted.

The ministry had repeatedly warned The Herald that its printing permit may be revoked if it continued to use "Allah" as a synonym for God in its Malay-language section. After The Herald refused, it was told in early December that its Malay-language section would be banned from January.

All publications in Malaysia require a government permit, which is renewed annually.

The government said "Allah" refers to the Muslim God and can only be used by Muslims.

Allah, an Arabic word, means God in Bahasa Melayu also, the language of Malays who are Muslims and form 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people. Officials feared that using the word Allah in Christian literature would confuse the Malays and draw them to Christianity.

Malaysian Christians have argued that Allah is an Arabic word that was used by Christians before Islam. Even in Malaysia, Malay-speaking Christians have used the word Allah for generations.

"You can't deny a people the use of its language," said Andrew, adding that the community is grateful the ban was not imposed. "It was certainly a good thing for the country as a whole that we can accept one another. We need to be moderate and have tolerance."

The Herald, which has a circulation of 12,000 copies, publishes reports in four languages - English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil - for the country's 900,000 Catholics.

The Herald will, however, pursue its court action to get a legal endorsement for what it says is its Constitutional right to use "Allah," Andrew said.

A church in Sabah state in eastern Malaysia has also sued the government for preventing it from using the word "Allah" in its Malay-language literature. The church has not received any notification that they can use the literature and they say the ban violates the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution.

Religion issues are extremely sensitive in Malaysia, where minorities often complain that their rights are trampled upon by overzealous Muslim bureaucrats with Islamic leanings. They accuse the government of not doing enough to prevent this, and of tacitly taking part in the alleged discrimination.

The minorities are mostly ethnic Chinese, who follow Christianity and Buddhism and account for 25 percent of the population, followed by ethnic Indians who are mostly Hindus and are 10 percent.

Press experts slam Malaysian minister

Alfian, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Media observers criticized Saturday the statement made by a Malaysian minister regarding press freedom in Indonesia, saying the media here was more democratic than in Malaysia.

Communications expert from the University of Indonesia Effendi Gazali said Malaysian Information Minister Dato' Seri Zainudin had made a mistake by concluding the Indonesian media was insensitive to Malaysian politics on the basis that the views of Malaysian government opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim were given space in the local media.

"That was a huge mistake," he said, referring to the minister's actions. "He (the minister) said that just to protect his government's interest."

He said the minister should not have made an issue of the fact that an Indonesian reporter interviewed Anwar Ibrahim.

"We Indonesians would be very happy if the Malaysian media or scholars criticized President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or other Indonesian leaders."

Similar comments came from the secretary general of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Abdul Manan.

Manan said the minister viewed the issue from the Malaysian perspective, a country where the press is suppressed by the state.

"What's wrong with interviewing Anwar Ibrahim? Indonesians also have the right to know what's going on in Malaysia."

Manan said the media in the neighboring country was now in more or less the same situation as was the Indonesian press during the New Order regime.

"Press freedom is very limited in Malaysia, which makes the media there less critical of the government.

"Rallies or other events that may reflect negatively on the government are rarely covered because doing so invites repression," said Manan.

The minister's comments came amid other criticism of an October interview with Anwar on a talk show called K!CK Andy on Metro TV.

Host and Metro TV chief executive Andy F. Noya said Anwar Ibrahim was interviewed because of his ideas on Indonesia-Malaysia relations and the rise of Asians in international leadership circles.

"As a reformist leader, Anwar's thought is worth listening to," Andy told The Jakarta Post.

He added that Metro TV had no intention of meddling in Malaysia's internal matters.

"It's not the responsibility of the Indonesian press to maintain the stability of Malaysian politics. That's the responsibility of the Malaysian government."

"Speaking of sensitivity, how sensitive are the Malaysian government and media about Indonesia," said Andy.

Effendi said the Malaysian government and media frequently labeled Indonesia's democracy and press "too open" and misguided, while intimating that Malaysian democracy was on the right track.

"That was exactly how (New Order information minister) Harmoko and other New Order leaders used to defend themselves when they were asked by the international community about democracy in Indonesia."

Although economically Malaysia is now wealthier than Indonesia, he said Indonesians should be happy to know they are living in a more democratic system.

"Democracy in Malaysia is an artificial democracy. Just look at the trial of Anwar Ibrahim."

"Even people conducting peaceful demonstrations are taken into custody for internal security reasons," said Effendi.

He added that although Indonesian democracy had yet to bring prosperity to the people, at least the political tension in the country did not lead to bloodshed as it did in other countries.

"Despite some problems, we are on the path to real democracy," he said.

However, both Effendi and Manan said Indonesia still had work to do to see through the implementation of democracy and media performance.

"Our democracy has yet to guarantee law enforcement which is one of the essential pillars of democracy," said Effendi.

Manan said Indonesian journalists needed to work harder to improve their public image.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Malaysia releases 4 Jemaah Islamiyah terror suspects held without trial, rights group says

The Jakarta Post

KUALA LUMPUR (AP): Malaysia has released four alleged members of a Southeast Asian terror network who had been imprisoned without trial for more than five years, a human rights group said.

The men were arrested in late 2002 under the Internal Security Act - which allows indefinite detention without trial - during a crackdown on the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network.

The Malaysian government jailed more than 200 militant suspects between 2001 and 2003, but many have been released in batches over the past few years.

Four more detainees - Bakkery Mahhamud, Mohd Zamri Sukirman, Sabri Jaafar and Zamzuri Sukirman - were freed from a prison center on Dec. 19 on the condition that they report regularly to police and remain within the districts where they live, the Abolish ISA Movement said in a statement late Friday.

It was believed to be the third release this year of militant suspects held under the ISA without trial. Activists estimate a total of eight others were freed in June and August, but authorities did not publicly announce their release.

Internal Security Ministry officials could not immediately be contacted.

Authorities have said in some previous cases that suspects were freed after they repented following rehabilitation programs and counseling that ISA detainees typically undergo.

Malaysian opposition and human rights groups have repeatedly called for the ISA to be repealed, saying the law is abused to silence dissidents. The government has said it is necessary to protect national security and ensure stability.

The Abolish ISA Movement said it was "concerned by the conditional and selective release of the ISA detainees."

"There are scores of detainees who are still being detained ... for the same allegations as those who were released," the group said. "None of them has been tried in a court of law, but sentenced by the Internal Security Minister to indefinite detention without trial."

At Jemaah Islamiyah's peak in early 2000, it had members in several Southeast Asian nations, though officials say the group has been decimated in recent years in a regional crackdown supported by the United States and other Western governments.

Among the strikes attributed to Jemaah Islamiyah and affiliate groups are the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists; the 2003 and 2004 attacks on the J.W. Marriott Hotel and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta; and the 2005 triple suicide bombings on restaurants in Bali.

Related Articles:

Ten Saudi Guantanamo inmates free
Former Guantanamo Bay Detainee Hicks Freed from Australian Jail

Pakistan's tragedy should serve as lesson for us

Rizal Sukma, Jakarta (Jakarta Post)

The news came as a shock to the world. The assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, added another tragedy to the long history of violence in that country. It also reminded the world of the unstable nature of Pakistan's politics. The assassination will certainly turn the situation from bad to worse. The prospect for a long period of political instability in Pakistan can no longer be overlooked.

Benazir Bhutto was a brave lady. On the day of her return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile in October, she narrowly escaped suicide attacks that left more than 130 people dead. Despite various death threats directed at her, she was determined to go ahead with her campaign for the election scheduled in January 2008. The rally she attended last Thursday in Rawalpindi was her last. We all should respect her courage to stand for what she believed in.

People might have different opinions about her. However, it is important to recognize that Benazir Bhutto was a symbol of gender equality not only in the Muslim-majority society of Pakistan but throughout the Muslim world. She became the first female prime minister in 1988 and was elected again in 1993. She was a source of inspiration to female politicians in male-dominated political societies across the world.

We mourn her death. Even more so because within the context of Pakistan's chaotic politics, it might be difficult to determine who is responsible for this heinous and cowardly act. Every group could be suspect. Speculations abound as to the possible involvement of terrorists, radical extremists, and even rogue elements within the government of President Pervez Musharraf.

The world must condemn the assassination, and put pressure on President Musharraf to immediately investigate it. Pakistan's politics has been marred by violence for too long. Once lauded as a democracy, it has now become a military-run state characterized by political assassinations, terrorist attacks, and religious extremism. President Musharraf has been accused of being too soft in combating these three deadly political diseases.

The tragedy in Pakistan should also serve as an important lesson for all of us here in Indonesia. Before the military coup led by General Musharraf, Pakistan was undergoing an experiment in democracy. But democracy failed to take root. The political elite were, and still are, locked in endless political bickering, and corruption became rampant. The society is divided and characterized by intra-religious conflicts among different Muslim groups.

The chaotic nature of Pakistan's democratic experiment could have been the reason behind General Musharraf's move to take over power through a military coup. The military muscle, however, has made the situation worse. Within an undemocratic system, violence becomes a way for the people to articulate their political aspirations, express anger and frustration, and settle differences.

It would be far-fetched to suggest that Indonesia could become another Pakistan. Our democratic experiment has so far resulted in a much better consolidation process. We have not experienced political assassinations (God forbid). Political competition and the quest for power were resolved in two free and fair general elections, first in 1999 and then in 2004.

However, procedural democracy alone, as manifested in general elections and multi-party politics, is not enough. Democratic norms and values must also be entrenched among the political elite and general society. We need to improve governance, respect human rights, defend freedom of expression, strengthen the rule of law, and curb violence.

We should also remember that the three deadly political diseases of Pakistan -- political bickering, corruption, and religious extremism -- are also present in Indonesia. Except for corruption, their levels are much less here. However, we should be vigilant, because these problems could become worse if we do not tend to them.

Despite the process of democratization that began in 1998, the use of violence remains a visible feature of both political and social life. While violence is still an exception rather than a norm, it is absolutely necessary for the government to pay more attention to the problem of law enforcement. What happened in Pakistan clearly shows that a state's inability to enforce the law is a recipe for political instability.

The writer is the deputy executive director of the Centre for Strategic International Studies in Jakarta.

Malaysian minister says Indonesian press too open, insensitive

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar

The Malaysian information minister criticized the Indonesian press for being too open, saying the media here is insensitive to Malaysian politics.

Dato' Seri Zainudin said the Indonesian media was "too excited" by the freedoms it had been granted since the downfall of the New Order regime in 1998.

Speaking to journalists after a meeting with Malaysian students studying in Bali at the Wina Holliday Inn in Kuta, the minister criticized the Indonesian media for providing air time to Malaysian opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

In October, Anwar was interviewed on Metro TV's talk show Kick Andy. In the interview, Anwar spoke candidly about corruption and the suppression of the press in Malaysia, topics that are rarely covered by the mainstream media there.

"We view this as insensitive. We would never provide space for the opposition of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or someone anti-Indonesian in the Malaysian media," Zainudin said.

He asked the media in both countries to refrain from reporting on issues that could provoke negative feelings.

"The media should emphasize the positive and seek good things to report," he said. "After all, we want to create a good relationship between the two countries."

Indonesia has been ranked 100th out of 169 countries in the Reporters Without Borders' 2007 Press Freedom Index, while Malaysia ranked 124th, dropping 32 places from last year. It was Malaysia's lowest position in its media history.

In Southeast Asia, Cambodia topped the list (ranked 85th in the world), followed by Timor Leste (94th).

Indonesia's press freedom boomed after the downfall of Soeharto in 1998 and the closure of the Information Ministry, an institution that controlled the media in Indonesia, in 1999 by the then president Abdurrahman Wahid, and the passing of the 1999 Press Law, guaranteeing press freedom in Indonesia.

Zainudin said Indonesia was facing the "euphoria of freedom after being suppressed".

He added that in Malaysia the media has never been suppressed, while suggesting that Malaysia has a "guided" freedom.

Most Malaysian newspapers and electronic media outlets are controlled by the government or political parties in the ruling coalition. They also operate with a government license, which must be renewed annually. Internet news sites do not have these restrictions.

Contacted by telephone in Jakarta, chairman of the Indonesian Press Council Ichlasul Amal said Indonesian press freedom was in line with the spirit of reform and democracy and that the Malaysian media was the one that should be more open.

"There is a lot of information that the Malaysian public needs to know, but which is inaccessible. The news there has become homogeneous," he said.

Ichlasul said that in Indonesia, the biggest threat to press freedom was within journalists themselves. "A lack of professionalism and work ethics will jeopardize press freedom here. If journalists do not improve themselves, they will lose their credibility and the public's trust in them."

SBY book shows 'true face' of Indonesia

Alfian, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched Friday Indonesia on the Move, a compilation of his articles and speeches depicting a "true picture" of Indonesia.

Yudhoyono said the book could be used to tell the global community about Indonesia.

"We have often been judged by perceptions, instead of reality ... and that is not fair," he said.

"I agreed that my articles and speeches could be published as a book because I want Indonesia to be better understood by the world," he said.

Yudhoyono said the title was chosen because the phrase accurately portrayed the development of the country.

"Indonesia is moving forward with all its challenges and problems," he said.

The President said that although Indonesia had yet to completely survive the impact of the economic crisis, the country had made significant progress in the last 10 years.

"New problems emerge, but if we honestly evaluate them, we will find some achievements and progress along the way," he said.

"Don't you think that democracy and human rights protection are getting better in this country?" Yudhoyono said.

Indonesia, he added, had also moved forward in terms of economic growth.

"From 7 percent (before the crisis), it dropped to minus 13 percent (when the crisis hit in 1997), which was a huge contraction. But now we can reach at least 6 percent growth," said Yudhoyono, adding that if Indonesians continued to work hard, the country could reach 7 percent growth again, but with better underlying systems.

He said that Indonesia had also shown progress in eradicating conflicts and corruption. "The conflicts in our society are getting smaller and milder," said Yudhoyono.

"Although we are not satisfied yet, but as a grateful people let's declare 'we are on the move'," said Yudhoyono, to applause from the audience, which consisted of national leaders, cabinet members and some ambassadors.

Indonesia on the Move contains Yudhoyono's speeches and articles from the end of 2005 until the end of 2006. The book includes other authors' articles and comments on Yudhoyono's leadership. The book was edited by presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal and published by Bhuana Ilmu Popular, under the Kompas and Gramedia Group.

The book launch was accompanied by the opening of a new Gramedia book store on Jl. Matraman, Central Jakarta.

Yudhoyono urged the audience to support efforts to increase reading among Indonesians. He said reading was needed for Indonesia to become an advanced society. "An advanced society comes from a learning society and a learning society comes from s reading society," said Yudhoyono.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Pope calls for end to conflicts

BBC News

Tuesday, 25 December 2007, 12:20 GMT

He denounced terrorism and violence that victimised children and women.

His address came as millions of Christians around the world celebrated the traditional day of Christ's birth.

Earlier, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, the biblical site of Jesus's birth, thousands of worshippers celebrated midnight Mass.

'Joy, hope and peace'

The Pope spoke from a balcony in St Peter's Basilica in Rome, overlooking the square where thousands of people had gathered in the winter sunshine.

He said he hoped the "light of Christ" would "shine forth and bring consolation to those who live in the darkness of poverty, injustice and war".

In his Urbi et Orbi speech (Latin for 'To the City and the World') he said: "May this Christmas truly be for all people a day of joy, hope and peace."

He urged political leaders to have the "wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions" to "ethnic, religious and political tensions... [which are] destroying the internal fabric of many countries and embittering international relations".

The address was broadcast live on television to dozens of countries and was followed by greetings in about 60 languages.

Abbas attends

In the Pope's midnight Mass at the basilica, he urged people to find time for God and the needy.

In front of St Peter's Basilica, a new floodlit Nativity scene was officially unveiled.

This year, the larger-than-life-size statues of the baby Jesus and his family have been placed in a Nativity scene set not in a Bethlehem stable but in a room in Joseph's house in Nazareth.

Vatican officials say the change was made to illustrate the notion that Jesus was born everywhere, not just in Bethlehem.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Muslim, joined the midnight Mass in Bethlehem and emphasised that not only Christians were celebrating the festival.

"The new year, God willing, will be a year of security and economic stability," he said.

"We pray next year will be the year of independence for the Palestinian people," he added.

Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Catholic leader in the Holy Land, called for peace in the Middle East as he led the Mass.

"This land belongs to God. It must not be for some a land of life and for others a land of occupation and a political prison," he said in a sermon delivered in his native Arabic.

Security fears

Local officials in Bethlehem say double the number of pilgrims have visited this year compared to last.

Fears about security and Israel's West Bank barrier - an imposing eight-metre (24ft) concrete wall separating the town from Jerusalem - have discouraged potential visitors in recent years.

During the second Palestinian uprising, which started in September 2000, tourism collapsed.

But with the relative stability of the last two years, tourists and pilgrims are returning to the town in larger numbers.

But the BBC's Bethany Bell says there are still far fewer tourists than there used to be before the uprising and that many of those celebrating outside the Church of the Nativity were local people.

There was still a heavy police presence, and before worshippers arrived bomb squads swept cars and buildings for explosives.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A merry Christmas to all - including Muslims

Muhammad Nafik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A Merry Christmas for Christians and Muslims. Why Muslims? Because Muslims should join festivities that commemorate the birth of Prophet Isa aka Jesus Christ.

The Koran actually cites not only Jesus' birthday, but also two other important moments in his existence -- his death and the day of his resurrection. This is clearly stated in Sura Maryam (Verse of Mary): 33, "So peace is on me (Jesus) the day I was born, the day that I die and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)".

If the Koran itself recorded Jesus as such, how come Muslims were prohibited by ulema from wishing Christians a merry Christmas? This goes against the fundamental truth of Islam.

If we are consistent in our faith, recognizing Jesus as a prophet in Islam, we should not hesitate to join his birthday celebrations. Whether our own celebrations are held in a different manner to Christians' is not an issue.

The statement in the Sura Maryam should, therefore, end the controversy of whether Muslims are allowed to give Christians a Christmas greeting.

Debates on this sensitive subject have continued to resurface each year, since the Indonesia Ulema Council issued a fatwa in 1981, banning Muslims from greeting Christians at Christmas.

The council said such behavior had bad implications for Muslims' common faith in Isa. The ulema said the greetings implied Muslims justified the Christian belief that Jesus is God, while Islam recognized him as a prophet.

The claim, which seems to be supported by many (if not most) Muslim clerics, was exaggerated and seems not to make sense given that greetings are a social courtesy. What is not allowed is for Muslims to be engaged in the ritual aspects of Christmas.

In the Koran, Jesus Christ is named Isa Almasih. He is described as a figure with many privileges, who was born without a father -- which Christians similarly believe.

While Jews accused Jesus' mother Maria (Maryam, Mary) of adultery and rejected his presence on earth, Islam considered him one of the Ulul Azmi (five supreme prophets) comprising Muhammad, Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), Noah (Nuh) and Isa (Jesus).

This is evidence that Islam recognizes and respects Jesus' nobility, and is the reason why we should celebrate his presence on earth, which served as a torch for the world in times of darkness and hopelessness.

Another substantial religious reason for Muslims to greet Christians during Christmas is the fact that the Koran promotes pluralism between communities of different faiths, ethnicities, cultures and groups.

The spiritual objective of this is for us to know and learn about people from other groups (li ta'arafu), to stop us fighting one another (li takhashamu), considering others infidels (li takafaru) or killing each other (li taqatalu).

In this respect, all religions should be treated as equal, to pave the way for free and fair dialogs in interfaith groups, without any subordination from any single party.

With regard to pluralism in this country, non-Muslims have shown themselves to be more tolerant than Muslims in numerous instances.

For example, when Indonesian Moslems observed Idul Fitri on Oct. 13-14, many Christians sincerely greeted them. These wishes were conveyed by leaders on television, through newspaper advertisements and other media facilities.

Some churches, like the one close to my housing complex in Ciputat on the city outskirts, even erected banners with Idul Fitri greetings.

In prayers held at public events, non-Muslims are never bothered or worried when this session is led by Muslims, but it would be a different story if non-Muslims led the prayers.

In constructing houses of worship, non-Muslims have faced more challenges and resistance than Muslims.

Such intolerance continues to rise amid the silence of moderate Islamic leaders in the world's biggest Muslim population.

To enlighten Indonesia's Muslim community such leaders must raise the issue more frequently at major events.

This Christmas is a good opportunity for Muslim leaders to campaign for pluralism, tolerance and co-existence. At least they can start by doing the same as Christians do when they greet us during post-Ramadhan festivities.

The preaching of pluralism would be more influential and effective if leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah -- the two biggest Muslim organizations in Indonesia -- joined hands with moderate scholars and other charismatic clerics to publicly wish Christians a Merry Christmas.

The writer can be reached at nafik@thejakartapost.com

'Tolerance, equality' key to peace in Medan

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

Christians across Indonesia are placing their faith in security officers for a peaceful Christmas. In Medan, North Sumatra, trust in fellow community members of different religions and ethnicities seems to have been the bedrock of peace here.

On Sunday afternoon Seni Juniati Sinuraya and a number of young friends were still busy preparing Christmas ornaments at the Stasi Santo Paulus Catholic Church in the Padang Bulan area.

Twenty others were still in a meeting for preparations.

Chief organizer Juniati Sinuraya said there were no constraints so far in celebrating Christmas, for which mass will be held Monday evening and Tuesday morning.

Some 150 families will attend, he said, while organizers are working closely with security people and the surrounding community.

"Hopefully like each year there will be no disruptions," Juniati said. "Locals here are highly tolerant."

An anthropologist at Medan State University, Albinus Silalahi, said religious tolerance in the province was high compared to other areas in the country.

He said mutual appreciation of followers of different faiths here contributed to the continuing harmony in North Sumatra.

"Mutual appreciation ... is a strong factor here, made possible by a degree of equality in various areas of life," he said.

The lecturer cited a fairly equal proportion of different groups represented in the bureaucracy and in the private sector despite the dominance of Muslims, reaching over 65 percent.

Current governor Rudolf Pardede is Christian, while Provincial Secretary Muchyan Tambuse is Muslim.

The statistics bureau lists some 12.6 million residents of North Sumatra, comprising 11 ethnic groups.

Muslims make up 65.45 percent, Catholics number 4.78 percent, Protestants 26.6 percent, Hindus 0.19 percent, Buddhists 2.82 percent and "others" 0.14 percent.

Various religious celebrations have been known to be peaceful, Albinus added.

Police and special anti terror forces are nevertheless on the alert in and around the capital.

Medan Police chief Sr.Comr. Bambang Sukamto said security authorities were ordered to "shoot on sight" if necessary anyone suspected of attacking Christmas celebrations.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Japan halts humpback whale hunt

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Japan has "temporarily halted" its much-criticized plan for a humpback whale hunt in the seas near Antarctica, said the chief Japanese government spokesman on Friday.

Japan has sought to calm criticizm from Australia by stopping its plan to hunt humpback whales.

Nobutaka Machimura said Japan is removing humpback whales from its hunting list for now in a gesture to enhance the dialogue at International Whaling Commission, torn in an emotional argument about whaling.

The IWC chairman had asked Japan not to hunt humpback whales while negotiations between Japan and anti-whaling nations continue, said Machimura.

Japan wants rational discussion based on scientific data and hopes the move will calm public opinion in Australia, which has been in an uproar over Japan's plan, Machimura said.

Japan has said the hunt is for scientific research and believes the practice is environmentally and scientifically sound.

Many in the international community believe such hunts amount to needless slaughter and serve only as a a pretext for retrieving whale meat to be sold in markets and restaurants.

Australia's government is urging Japan to end the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean" and plans to "step up efforts to end this senseless and brutal practice, using a range of diplomatic, legal and monitoring and surveillance initiatives."

The government -- in the vanguard of the whale-hunting opposition -- opposes "all commercial and 'scientific' whaling" and argues that there is no "credible scientific justification" for whale-hunting.

It says Japan's whaling vessels "are expected to kill as many as 935 minke whales, 50 threatened humpback whales and 50 endangered fin whales for so-called 'scientific research.' " But the halt does not apply to hunting the minke and fin whales.

Day of sacrifice celebrates the spirit of tolerance


Ary Hermawan, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar

Religious chanting to glorify God or takbir was soft and distant across the Hindu Island of Bali, but the celebratory spirit was high.

The keeper of Al-Furqon mosque in Denpasar, Hudi Purnomo, said religious tolerance was a key for the Muslim community in Bali.

"We (the Muslims) are a minority here," Hudi said Thursday.

"We chant the takbir from mosques only and usually stop at 10 p.m."

Heavy showers marked Idul Adha celebrations Thursday, forcing those who had planned to join a mass prayer at Puputan square in Renon area in the heart of Denpasar city to find alternative venues.

"I prayed at the Inna Grand Bali Beach hotel in Sanur," local resident Permanik said.

According to the tradition, mass prayers for Idul Adha and Idul Fitri celebrations should be held in open or public squares to showcase and strengthen the unity of the faith.

Prayers are only moved to mosques when it is raining.

Idul Adha commemorates the Prophet Abraham's act of sacrificing his oldest son, Ishmael, as commanded by God. Ishmael was eventually substituted with a ram.

Muslims are taught to donate a third of their meat to the poor, a third to friends and relatives, and to keep a third for themselves.

Animals used for sacrifice include goats, sheep, camels or cows.

Imam Sufaat, a managers at Al-Amanah mosque at the Finance Ministry's Bali office, said their mass prayer this year had been less enthusiastic than last year's.

He said this was because many Muslims had returned to celebrate the day in their hometowns, utilizing the government's joint leave policy.

"The rain has made it worse," Imam said.

With fewer Muslims celebrating Idul Adha at his mosque, Imam said the number of sacrificed animals had declined from 23 goats and six cows last year, to 18 goats and four cows this year.

There is no difference in the way Idul Adha is celebrated between Bali and Java, because most Muslims on the resort island are new migrants.

Each mosque usually sets up a committee to butcher the animals presented for sacrifice, Imam said.

Everybody is then invited to voluntarily help cut up and distribute the meat.

Imam said everyone in the neighborhood, including the street vendors outside the mosque, was invited to lend a hand.

"We have provided coupons for those people that we consider worthy of the meat and we have arranged for distribution," he said.

While Muslim clerics were at odds around whether non-Muslims should be given meat from the sacrificed animals, it has become a tradition for Balinese Muslims to offer meat to those Balinese Hindus who they consider in need of a donation.

"We always have a quota for trash-pickers and street vendors around here," Hudi said.

He said he did not consider them poor, but thought they deserved a share of the meat.

Imam said it was also customary for the people at the Finance Ministry's Bali office to give sacrificed meat to employees from "the lower level".

"We always provide a share to the office's janitors and security officers, irrespective of their beliefs," he said.

Hudi said Muslims were always careful when offering sacrificed meat to Hindus, who regard cows as sacred and refrain from eating beef.

"We only offer them goat meat," Hudi said.

"But if there is a mistake and we give them cow meat, they usually refuse politely or give it to other people."

He said he did not know for sure what the religious authorities said about giving sacrifice meat to non-Muslims.

"We're just doing what has been done through the years by our predecessors."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Putin named 'Person of the Year'

BBC News

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been named as Time Magazine's "Person of the Year".

The title was awarded to Mr Putin for his "extraordinary feat of leadership" in bringing stability to Russia, said Time's managing editor.

Former US Vice President Al Gore and Harry Potter author JK Rowling were runners-up for the title.

Last year the award was given to all members of the public who had created or downloaded content on the internet.

'Not an honour'

The magazine has given out its Person of the Year award every year since 1927.

Previous recipients have included US Presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

The title is "not an honour", but is given as "a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world - for better or for worse", according to the magazine.

Controversial recipients in the past have included Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Ayatollah Khomeini.

President Putin will be legally obliged to step down as Russian president next year, but is likely to become prime minister if his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, wins the presidential election in March.

Opinion polls suggest that Mr Putin is still very popular in Russia, but civil rights activists accuse him of cracking down on democratic opposition and free speech.

Monday, December 17, 2007

RI`s support for Palestine not linked to religion: Alatas

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Former foreign minister Ali Alatas said Indonesia was supporting the Palestinian struggle for independence not because of religion but because of a basic principle.

"Many quarters mistakenly think that Indonesia`s support for Palestine is related to religion," Alatas said here Monday during a dialog on Indonesia`s role in the post-Annapolis Middle East peace process.

He said Indonesia`s support was purely a matter of principle, something dictated by its constitution which says that independence is the inalienable right of every nation and therefore, all forms of colonialism must be abolished.

"Indonesia very much adheres to this principle. So, its support for Palestine is not because we share the same religion," he added.

Under this principle, Indonesia had been actively supporting other countries` independence such as that of South Africa and Nambibia.

"Indonesia has also taken an active part in the peace process toward the independence of Cambodia and the Philippines. All of this is not because of religious considerations but because of constitutional principles that have been adopted by the state," he said.

He said he regretted the opinion of certain quarters who had linked Indonesia`s support for the Palestinian struggle with Islam.

"This misperception exists not only in Indonesia but also in a number of other countries," Alatas said.

Israel Sends More Invitations

Monday, 17 December, 2007 | 16:17 WIB

TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta: The Israeli government is hoping for more visits from Indonesian notables to its country in an effort to create dialog between the two sides.

“Not only clergymen, but we also want to invite politicians, businessmen, artists and journalists,” said the Israeli Ambassador to Singapore, Illan Ben Dov, when contacted by Tempo via cellular phone yesterday (16/12).

According to Ben Dov, Indonesian and Israeli people need a dialog to eliminate misunderstandings as well as to build understanding and trust in each other.

This is because ignorance, he said, has spread radical Islamic ideology.

“The Palestine-Israel conflict is not a religious conflict, but rather a conflict over the seizing of territory,” he said.

Therefore, Ben Dov welcomed the visit of five Indonesian Muslim intellectuals to Israel between 2 and 8 December.

They were Syaif Mughni (Head of the East Java Muhammadiyah Regional Management), Abdul A'la (a lecturer at Sunan Ampel State Islamic University, Surabaya), Badrun Alaina (a lecturer at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta), Abdul Qadir (a lecturer at Alauddin State Islamic University, Makassar) and Dr Nuryadi (a lecturer at Hamka University, Jakarta).

They went at the invitation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the LibForAll Foundation, which was set up by former president Abdurrahman Wahid together with C. Holland Taylor.

“Our mission is not politics, but peace,” said A'la.

He also said that during his visit the group went to Sderot, a city in Southern Israel which was just abandoned by the mayor as it was bombarded by Palestinian soldiers every day, and the Gaza Strip.

A'la said he hoped that a sincere, honest and just dialog would continue to be developed, instead of terror and violence.

Faisal Assegaf

Saudi king 'pardons rape victim'

BBC News

The Saudi king has pardoned a female rape victim sentenced to jail and 200 lashes for being alone with a man raped in the same attack, reports say.

The "Qatif girl" case caused an international outcry with widespread criticism of the Saudi justice system.

The male and female victims were in a car together when they were abducted and raped by seven attackers, who were given jail sentences up to nine years.

Press reports say King Abdullah's move did not mean the sentence was wrong.

Quoted by the Jazirah newspaper, Justice Minister Abdullah al-Sheikh said the king had the right to issue pardons if it served the public interest.

Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to mix with men who are not close family members.

The custodial sentence plus 200 lashes was imposed after the woman, who has not been named, appealed against an earlier sentence of 90 lashes.

'Astonishing' case

The Saudi king frequently pardons criminals at the Eid al-Adha festival which takes place this week, but correspondents say that is usually announced by the official press agency.

The BBC's Heba Saleh says the king's decision to pardon the woman victim is already arousing controversy with some contributors to conservative websites, who say he has breached the rules of religion in order to appease critics in the West.

The US had called the punishment "astonishing", although it refused to condemn the Saudi justice system.

Human rights groups had been calling on King Abdullah, who has a reputation as a pro-Western reformer, to change it.

The justice ministry recently rejected what it saw as "foreign interference" in the case and insisted the ruling was legal and that the woman had confessed to having an affair with her fellow rape victim.

Earlier, the woman - who is a Shia Muslim from the Qatif area - had reportedly said she met the man in order to retrieve a photograph of them together, having herself recently got married.

She says two other men then entered the car and took them to a secluded area where others were waiting, and both she and her male companion were raped.

The woman's companion was sentenced to 90 lashes. It is not known if his sentence was also lifted.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Olympic torch 'going to N Korea'

BBC News

North Korea will host a leg of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games torch relay, state media has reported.

The flame, which is due to pass through 22 cities in the four months before the Games, is expected to reach North Korean capital Pyongyang on 28 April.

Chinese and North Korean officials made the agreement in Pyongyang, said the official Korean Central News Agency.

A day earlier the torch is scheduled to pass through the South Korean capital of Seoul on its way north, say reports.

The torch, which will be lit at Olympia in Greece on 25 March, is due to cover five continents before the event begins on 8 August.

The planned 137,000-km (85,000-mile) relay route will include a trip to the top of Mount Everest.

The two Koreas have agreed to send a joint team of officials to the Beijing Olympics by train, as part of reconciliation efforts after their 1950-1953 civil war.

UN Conference finally adopt Bali Roadmap

By Andi Abdussalam

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - After an extension for 24 hours, the 13th Conference of Parties (CoP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted the Bali Roadmap before it closed on Satuday evening.

"Bali Roadmap is a concensus reached by the UNFCCC for all countries to carry out their respective commitments to safeguard the earth," COP-13 Chairman Rachmat Witoelar said Saturday night.

The adoption of the Bali Roadmap came after marathon negotiations overnight which first settled a battle between Europe and the U.S. over whether the document should mention specific goals for rich countries` obligations to cut grenhouise gas emssions.

Witoelar said that negotiations were going at snail`s pace over the a demand how far developed countries would cut their greenhouse gases. In the draft developed nations had binding commitment to cut their emissions by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 level by 2020.

The UNFCCC conference, which was previously scheduled to be closed on Friday, was extended until 10 am on Saturday. But it was once again delayed until Saturday evening because India and China rejected a point in the draft on emission-cutting targets.

They argued that developed nations which had become gas emitters long before developing states should agree to cut their emissions more than developing countries.

India wanted the final text of the draft reviewed to allow developed nations to play a greater role in clean technology and funding for parties vulnerable to the impact of global warming.

The Bali Roadmap could however be endorsed after delegates agreed a non-binding emission cutting targets until 2012 and a binding target for the cutting of gas emissions until 2050.

After all, the Americans backed down after delegates criticized the US stand. "I think we have come a long way here," said Paula Dobriansky, head of the US delegation.

Witoelar said that developed countries would take the lead in reducing pollution and cutting carbon emissions. In this case, the efforts to mitigate climate change would not be made by developing countries alone.

"Indonesia for example, will continue to reduce gas emissions, plant trees and protect forests so that they would serve as carbon sinks," the COP president said.

In the meantime, Indonesian chief negotiator to the conference said that although talks in Saturday`s session were marked by tough debates, they finally resulted in a developed countries` agreement to take part in carbon emission mitigation efforts.

"It was evident that the US delegation has accepted the commitment and agreement as a result of the conference, so the developed countries will just adhere to what the cnference decides," Emil said on the sidelines of the conference.

Earlier, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer suddenly walked out of a plenary session of the Conference of Parties (COP) chaired by Rachmat Witoelar.

After uttering a few words, de Boer left the conference room at the Bali International Convention Center (BICC), the venue of the meeting, to the applause of the audience.

He left the room only moments after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had made their exit after addressing the session.

Conference sources said de Boer had walked out because he was upset that certain delegations had held a `secret meeting` without his consent as UNFCCC executive secretary. There was no information on which delegations had held the secret meeting.

Ban Ki-moon and Yudhoyono spoke at the plenary meeting in an effort to give a moral boost to negotiators of the UN climate change conference so that they could finish their talks that had been extended for 24 hours.

Ban Ki-moon called on the plenary session to take an important and ambitious decision. The UN chief asked delegates to take a decision that was beneficial for all. He said scientists had evidence on the importance of taking actions soon and mobilizing all efforts to face the impact of climate change.

"We appreciate all of you who have worked hard day and night to produce success, though you still have to make more progress in the future," the UN chief said.

He admitted that a decision of a negotiation should benefit and satisfy all parties while at the same time it should also be flexible.

In the meantime, President Susilo Bambang Yudohoyono who delivered his address earlier, said all delegates had spent a lot of time, energy and money in the last 12 days.

"Both developed and developing nations should move in the right direction. Without an effective road map that is accepted by all, there will be no goal that can be achieved," he said.

He said a road map for common commitment and interest should be flexible. Therefore, he urged delegates to continuously discuss the road map in 2008 and finish it in 2009.

Morgan Stanley Asia chairman says US heading to recession

Sydney (ANTARA News) - The US is heading for a recession and the rest of the world would be "dead wrong" to think this will not impact on growing Asian economies, Morgan Stanley senior executive Stephen Roach said Sunday.

In an interview with Sky News in Australia, Roach said the US Federal Reserve Bank would "most assuredly" cut interest rates again soon to boost the economy, following last week's 25 basis points reduction.

"The US is going into recession," he told AFP.

"They (the Federal Reserve) have a lot more work to do. They could cut their policy short-term interest rate by one to one-and-a-half percentage points over the next nine to 12 months."

Roach, who is chairman of the investment bank and trading firm's Asian arm, said it was wrong to think that the rapidly developing economies of China and India could fully compensate for a US recession.

"What is interesting, and potentially disturbing, is that the rest of the world just doesn't think this is a big deal any more," he said of the potential of a US recession.

"There is a view that the world is somehow decoupled from the American growth engine.

"I think that view will turn out to be dead wrong, and this is a global event with consequences for Asia and Australia."

Roach, in Australia for a business roundtable, said economies outside of the US needed to determine how their internal consumer demand compared with demand from American consumers in terms of keeping their economies booming.

"My conclusion is: not nearly as much as you would like," Roach said.

Growth in Asia was export led, with the American consumer often the "end game" of the Asian growth machine, he said.

"The US is a 9.5 trillion US dollar consumer. China is a 1.0 trillion US dollar consumer. India's a 650 billion US dollar consumer," he said.

"Mathematically, it is almost impossible for the young dynamic consumers of China and India to fill the void that would be left by what is likely to be a significant shortfall of US consumer demand."

Global warming pact set for 2009

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Nusa Dua, Bali

Bali gave birth Saturday to a landmark road map to create a new deal to fight global climate change, but only after nerve-wracking negotiations -- and persistent challenges from the United States.

Under heavy pressure from the rest of the delegates and possible international isolation, the U.S. dropped its last-ditch objections and joined the consensus hammered out at the conclusion of the two-week UN climate conference. "We want to be part of the road map ... and let me say to you that we will go forward and join the consensus," U.S. head of delegation Paula Dobriansky said, to cheers and a standing ovation from delegates representing some 190 countries.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had both appealed to the participants to come up with an agreed conclusion as the negotiations were earlier plunged into stalemate. "The magic moment came after both President Yudhoyono and the UN secretary-general delivered their incredible speeches, which changed the mood of the conference," UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Yvo de Boer said.

Although some still pointed to the failure of the conference to include any specific carbon emission reduction targets in the road map so as to accommodate the U.S.'s concerns, many immediately praised the agreement as it managed to combine the interests of developing and developed countries.

The road map sets out a clear agenda for key issues to be negotiated up to 2009, including action for adapting to the negative consequences of climate change, such as droughts and floods, ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ways to widely promote climate-friendly technologies and financing for both adaptation and mitigation measures.

Concluding the negotiations in 2009 will ensure that the new deal can come into force by 2013, following the expiry of the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol. "This is a real breakthrough, a real opportunity for the international community to successfully fight climate change.

Parties have recognized the urgency for action on climate change and have now provided the political response to what scientists have been telling us is needed," said conference president Rachmat Witoelar, who is the Indonesian environment minister. However, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, were quick to express their disappointment at the exclusion of clear carbon emission cut targets of 25 to 40 percent as mandated by the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to keep the earth's temperature rise below 2 degree Celsius.

The agreed long-term cooperative action recognizes the IPCC's findings and only stipulates that deep cuts in global emissions will be required to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention. The absence of targets was apparently aimed at persuading the U.S. to get on board.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda had insisted from the beginning that the negotiations should be inclusive. "We want to include the U.S. in the negotiations to make the international efforts to respond to climate change work. I met Paula (Dobriansky), and tried to understand the U.S. concerns. I think the key words are patience, compromise and flexibility," Hassan said at the conclusion of the conference.

Apart from Hassan, Indonesian negotiators, including former foreign minister Ali Alatas, former Indonesian Ambassador to Japan Soemadi Brotodiningrat, and Director General for Multilateral Affairs Reslan Izhar Djenie, Director for Economic and Environmental Affairs Salman Al Farisi, and Ngurah Swajaya, the director for political affairs at ASEAN, had worked around the clock to persuade others to come on board.

They managed to bridge the gap between the EU and developing countries that insisted that the inclusion of carbon-emission-cut targets for developed countries were crucial to guiding the next two rounds of negotiations in Poland in 2008 and Denmark in 2009, in which future commitments will be concluded, and the U.S., which feared it would be economically disadvantaged by the rise of China and India should it commit to fixed targets.