Indonesian ingenuity

Having worked a lot with Indonesians over more than 50 years I have learnt to respect their ingenuity and ability to get things to work by simple means.

During the difficult times of the 1960’s there few places in Indonesia with electricity, but in Sembawang there were a workshop that had a working lathe machine.
How did that work when there were no electric power?
Simple. Two bicycles were set up with a pulley system to drive the lathe machine. Willing men took turn to paddle the bikes for a few rupias.

During Konfrontasi, when the small tankers charted by Pertamina to run supply around the archipelago were banned from going to Singapore for repairs and supplies, the Engineers could go this work shop to produce parts they needed to keep the machinery ticking over.

In today’s CNA there is an article that reminded me of this and many other proofs the the so called “3rd world Villagers” may not be as dumb as they have been made out to be in certain circles:

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For me, I don’t consider the type of labor that globalists such as yourself want to import (aka, 3rd world villiagers) to be dumb as much as not desirable. Yes, they are cheap…yes, they work hard…yes they can patch shit together when new spares aren’t available…but then there’s this from your article:

"Rasid once found a severed coil in the micro hydro power plant’s electric panel during a routine check.

The moment he tried to reconnect the wire, he was jolted unconscious by the electric shock, and fell right into the pulley system attached to the generator."

This culture of cut corners to get it done is dangerous for both personnel and machinery. Particularly when the one cutting corners doesn’t have the underlying education to understand what he is doing and why it may have worked before but it won’t this time. When those from this culture are transplanted to the west, that “half-ass engineering” attitude comes right along with them because that’s what they know…that’s just how things are done. Being a MacGyver is a great SECONDARY skill, but is not worth a shit as a primary means of operating.

(before you ask Bugge…

I find it particularly ironic that this “3rd world villagers are awesome, please get some on all your ships” drivel coming from a Norwegian. In my experience, 95% of the Norwegians I’ve encountered with technical backgrounds (Aker, Pusnes, NCL, FRAMO), have the most elitist, cocky, dismissive attitude and wouldn’t spit on someone who didn’t use the OEM parts and the factory authorized service personnel.


You describe god ol’ Redneck Engineering perfectly there. The mud boats in the GoM was built to be simple to accommodate them.

Preventive maintenance is not the strong suite of most Indonesians, but the old saying “If it ain’t broke, why fix it” wasn’t invented by them.

Maybe because I have worked with both “3rd world villagers” and Rednecks for many years and I have great respect for their abilities to fix things.

I have also worked with highly educated people with no practical understanding, regardless of which “village” they came from,

As to the attitude of some Norwegians and other Westerners, I totally agree with you. I have seen this myself and also let them know my opinion of such attitudes. (As I have done on this forum)

Having lived in Asia most of my life, and worked with people of all races and nationalities I believe I’m able to judge for myself, thank you.

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Indonesia taxes the cr*p out of everything and they make nothing.
Same model in Brazil.
Unable to make much if anything for their oil n gas industries.
Both too corrupt for their own good.
Neither have much of a future in the automated robot world where if industry does start they will need far less workers than they have now.

They can’t organize a garbage pick up! And trying to get out of that country in a hurry (had a big family emergency) was a leasing in inept corruption. Please.

Indonesia is a country with great potential and always will be.

Potential? Absolutely. The will to turn things in their own country? Not so much. Really a shame - bunch of smart people too

I had an Indonesian fitter who fabricated an outside accommodation ladder onboard with the facilities offered on an anchor handler. One would had of sworn that it had been manufactured in a shipyard.
Would Singapore be where it is today if Sukarno had had his way and been successful with the Indonesian confrontation?
I would say that many Americans outside this forum are unfamiliar with The Malaysian Emergency and the confrontation but in both conflicts guerrilla warfare was defeated by conventional forces.
Papua New Guinea is another country with breathtaking potential but none of it realised. Africa, well we could go on for months on that topic.

Not only Americans.How many Europeans know much about S.E.Asian recent history, other then when and where British, Dutch, French or American interests and/or forces were involved?

Sukarno was a great freedom fighter and Father of modern day Indonesia, but his policy of self-reliance and his dream of greater Indonesia, incl. everything from Burma to Papua New Guinea was a sign of Grandiosity and his narcissism. Yet he was a great statesman and are still revered by many, both in Indonesia and beyond.

Him being friendly with Communist China and Russia was seen as a treat by USA, who liked the strongman Suharto better, even though he ruled as a Dictator and caused the death of anywhere from 2-4 million, mostly Chinese, during the first years of his reign.

Once he had full control, which took abt. 5 years, he did a lot of good for Indonesia, but when he lost that control in the 1990’s to his greedy wife, known as “Madam 10%”, his offspring and cronies, he became irrelevant and sacrificed on the alter of “Democracy” and “Humen Rights”. He was no longer wanted and seen as an embarrassment to the power that be.

Yes, Indonesia has great potential, both in natural resources and as a market for manufactured goods from more developed countries. But corruption and lack of infrastructure is holding it back.

There are a growing middle class with good education and skills, who are not hung up in the old ways and aligences and a large trainable workforce.
It is still a long way to go, but for us who have seen the changes, especially in the last few years, we can see the day when Indonesia will take it’s rightful place as a major nation.

Not least a major Maritime nation, which was the dream of vice President Adam Malik already in the late 1960’s. Unfortunately it has still not materialized, but the natural foundation for such a development is in place, with a long seafaring tradition and huge territorial waters, not to mention their EEZ. It is not a question of if, but when.

You have summarised things pretty well. When 9/11happened shipping companies that called at US ports hurriedly ditched their Indonesian crews because they were overwhelmingly Muslim and I feel the effects of this are still being felt.
Philippino crewing agencies also rejected Muslim crew in favour of Christian crew.
Some of this appeared lost on Homeland Security who aggressively questioned Pacific Islanders whose religion was Methodist or Roman Catholic Filipinos when clearing the ship.

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They are committing a very good version of genocide in Papua at the moment, they have no use for the locals so a just gunning them down.
Very long sad history their just like Timor all thanks to the USA.
They need to get out of Papua as well.
Very little press as you can all see

Your right but political considerations mean that this is being swept under the carpet. I can see a future blow up over mineral rights between Indonesia and Australia in the future.

Australia was very quick to support independence for Timor Leste, although it had little possibility of surviving as an independent nation without extensive foreign aid for the foreseeable future. It was well on the way to be integrated in Indonesia, with some resistance and some atrocities, but for some reason both Australia and the US was dead set on independence, although the resistance leaders were dedicated Socialist.

Why?? Because Australia had found oil and gas in Timor Gap, which was within 200 n.miles from Timor, but further from the Australian mainland. So they claimed the extended continental shelf rule and some small reefs on their side of the gap.

Reasoning?? It is easier to bully a small country that is totally dependent on their aid than to bargain with the 5th most populous country in the world. A few millions a year in aid for great riches for decades. It is a no brainer.

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This may sound like a wet dream to some here, but will it do any good for Indonesian shipping and the Indonesian economy as a whole??:

you have no idea what you are talking about.
Timor wanted independence from that day in 1975.

Australia was thrown out of Timor with a very underhand deal done by the USA ( Kissinger) many yeas ago along then the TNI moved in murdering Australians etc etc.
It was a big deal in Australia at the time and no explanation given.
It has all been buried in official secrets acts of all the countries involved.
If you want to understand what has happened in Asia you need to go back to the very first League of Nations Meeting post WW1
The TNI have a reputation only next to the Japanese as the butchers of Asia
The hidden history of them kidnapping children and taking them back to Indo is also just coming out thanks to DNA testing.
Timorese have never spoken a language in common with the rest of indo.

If you think that is complicated look at the history of Papua

( yes Australia got caught doing some dodgy stuff on oil rights recently)
Indo want the mine in Papua, locals would be happy to just close it like Bouganville and then try to gain independence as well.

I disagree with you on that one.and on your description of events in East Timor.
I have lived most of my life in Asia and watched the events there first hand since the 1960’s.
I have also read extensively about the history of the region, especially S.E.Asia, so I don’t think I have any less knowledge of the subject then you.

The killing of the 5 Australian journalists on the boarder with West Timor in 1975 has never been fully proven, one way or the other, but it gave Australia an excuse for meddling.

As for the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, it was very much supported by the US (Kissinger) because Freteline and Gusmao was seen as a hardline Communists, thus a dangerous man that had to be stopped from taking power.

Yes there were atrocities carried out be both side in the independence struggle, but Indonesia was also spending lots of money and efforts to integrate East Timor into Indonesia. Bahasa Indonesia was introduced as a common language in schools and administration and is still widely used.

Here is a time line of events, from the Portuguese invasion and colonisation up to today, incl. the dispute with Australia over maritime borders and oil rights:

Where is Timor Leste today? It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with wide spread poverty and malnutrition. Without even their own currency:

Would they have been better off as part of Indonesia? Well, there is no way to know that for sure, but in the years since 1998 (fall of Suharto) to today, Indonesia has developed into a stable democracy and have had a steady growth in economy and human rights ever since.
Is it perfect? Not at all, but which country is?

The Free Papua movement is a fringe organization with little support in the general population, both indigenous and recent migrants for other parts of Indonesia.
They are mainly protesting against the American owned Grasberg copper and gold mine, which is a major polluter of the rivers and employ mainly imported labourer from Sulawesi and senior staff from Java, Australia and USA:

the timeline does show they always wanted independence.
The bitter and twisted Military took vengeance when they left.

The plan in Papua is to reduce the indigenous population so if there ever was a vote it would go indo’s way. More at stake here as it has a running mine.

There were an resistance movement in place before the Portuguese withdrawal, but it was as much a communist rebellion as an independence against colonial rule. Hence the US support of an Indonesian action to take control of the territory in the wake of a unilateral Portuguese withdrawal from all their colonies. (Except Macau)

The “Transmigrasi” project was as much about reducing the population pressure on Java and Madura as about diluting the indigenous population on other islands, incl. then Irian Barat.
The same happened in Kalimantan (Borneo) where the Dayaks went back to headhunting to chase out the Madurans in 1997-98.

Here is a more comprehensive history of Dutch New Guinea/West Papua:

In your timeline the entire bit about the Trikora and the involvement of Suharto in the fighting against the Dutch, with American, British and Australian backing, was missing:
This is where many Indonesian heros was created and still being and still being celebrated.

Some of the Dutch from Hollandia (now Jayapura) moved across the border into PNG. A father and son team escaped with a tug and a couple of barges and set up shop in Vanimo, just across the border and 40 n.m. from Hollandia. They started a Stevedoring business there.
But as a sideline the son was one of the leaders of the West Papua Independence movement. He went missing at times, going across the border to blow up bridges and power pylons just to irritate the TNI.

PS> I spent a total of abt. three years trading on New Guinea. First on the Australian side and later from Singapore to East Indonesia, incl. Irian Barat.
This was between mid-1968 to mid-1972, with a break of 1-1/2 year to go to school back in Norway and a few months working for an American mud boats company in S.E.Asia.

BTW; The only part of the island’s coastline I have never crossed is just that part from Jayapura to Vanimo.

BTW: Australia and Timor Leste has reached an agreement on their maritime border:

But obstacles to the deal still exists about the position of processing plant for LNG and the exact shears of the spoil:

Thanks for those links
so the Indo’s used the commies to fight the commies and the USA had to bend over so the Indos didnt stay with the Commies
The Plebiscite never happened.
Papua and Timor both wanted independence and the Indo’s tried to stop it.
Both countries used as cannon fodder