Jul 02

The Garuda - A mythical bird and Indonesias national symbolThings happen for a reason in Indonesia. While I didn’t trust my eyes, when reading about Jusuf Kalla’s recent statements regarding Marihuana in food; the EU’s ban of Indonesian airlines flying into Europe didn’t come as a surprise at all.

After all the recent incidents surrounding Garuda Airlines, Adam Air and others, the EU probably wanted to show a strong hand – even though currently there isn’t a single Indonesian Airlines flying into Europe. Garuda was planning to take up again their Jakarta-Amsterdam route (which they suspended after the Asian Crisis) sometime in 2008, which would be a welcome competition for the current high-price trip serviced only by foreign airlines. Currently – prepare to pay anything above Euro 750 plus taxes, if you are planning to fly return from Europe to Jakarta or Bali for instance. No budget airlines in sight for long-haul.

What was remarkable though, was the quick promotion of local airlines to higher safety levels after internal benchmarking by the Transport Ministry. After talks of closure, even Adam Air jumped up a safety level.


So obviously there is still homework to do. Indonesia wants to work closely with the EU to have the ban lifted as early as possible.

Let’s hope that they are honestly shown the right things to achieve just that.

“Cannabis tikka with a rogan josh sauce”

And what was riding Jusuf Kalla? After all, though he is quite an open-minded, progressive and outspoken fella, he is still the Vice President of Indonesia. Yes, the same country that puts locals and foreigners alike behind bars for anything up to 10 years for just a few grams of joint material.

Aceh in northern Sumatra is just one region, where chefs are used to add a little bit extra spice to their meals. Here is the low-down by CNN and Jakarta Post:

Indonesia: Marijuana possession should remain a crime in Indonesia, but chefs who use the herb as a traditional way to season curries should not be arrested, the country’s vice president told local reporters. Cooks in Aceh province and other regions in the north of Sumatra island say they use tiny amounts of crushed marijuana leaves or seeds as a spice in certain dishes, like cannabis tika with a rogan josh sauce. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Vice President Yusuf Kalla said that there was “no way” Indonesia would legalize or decriminalize marijuana as some countries in western Europe have done. “It is all right to use it as a food seasoning, but it should not be fully legalized,” Kalla was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post. Kalla did not address the problems such a stance might pose to police tasked with arresting marijuana users. Officers have never previously cracked down on the use of marijuana in the kitchen or said the practice was a particular problem. Kalla and the police chief both reiterated their support for the death penalty for drug traffickers, noting that neighboring Malaysia and Singapore also execute offenders…

But maybe it all depends what cultural roots you have, where you live or in what direction public opinion is headed. Here I would say, things won’t change fast into more liberal directions, as long Indonesia takes countries like Singapore or Malaysia as role models.

Both, Drug Possession and Drug Trafficking are met here as there with harsh and rigid punishments – so better don’t even think about pushing your luck and trying it, while lazing under a shady palm tree at a lush tropical paradise! Hiding doesn’t help.

After all it’s no big loss either. As a traveler better watch out that you don’t break the law of the country you are in and nothing serious should happen to you, right?

Things happen for a reason.

While certainly the times for pot smokers in Indonesia won’t change anytime soon, they probably have to change for Indonesian Airlines sooner than later, if they want to stay afloat at domestic and international travel. After all, now, 10 years after the the Asian Crisis, Indonesia has 51 registered airlines. Some say much too many. It’s tough to tell, which is currently the safest airline in Indonesia.

Let’s hope that the newly announced ban will be a start to a healthy consolidation which would be good for the air travel industry and us travelers alike.

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written by Chris

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