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Top death, a "gift" to Indonesia

Noordin M. Top, Islamic extremist and terrorist with ties to al-Qaeda, is finally killed in Java. Police arrest anti-corruption commission members. President Obama is expected to be greeted with open arms in Jakarta in November. The bailout of the Indonesia's banking system puts the soon-to-be Vice President and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani in the hot seat. A famous porn star is set to start filming, much to the chagrin of Muslim groups. Also, the end of Ramadan is celebrated with fewer deaths than usual during the annual Idul Fitrie festivities.

Top News: Indonesia’ police chief called it “a gift” during the holy month of Ramadan – Southeast Asia’s most-wanted terrorist, Noordin M. Top, is dead. Indonesian security forces killed Top Sept. 17 during a seven hour firefight at his hideout in Central Java.


They found him riddled with bullets hiding in the bathroom of a tin shack. Three of his compatriots, all of them allegedly connected to the July 17 hotel bombings in Jakarta, were also killed. Inside the shack, police found 440 pounds of explosives, an M-16 machine gun and documents linking Noordin’s cell with al-Qaeda.


Analysts have called Top’s death a symbolic victory, but warn that his support structure, centered around a dozen or so radical Islamic boarding schools, still exists — meaning another Top could easily emerge. Others have been more critical, criticizing the government for only going after terrorist leaders and not the hearts and minds of radical Muslims on a grassroots level.


Top’s body is to be shipped to Malaysia, where he is from. The burials of the three other terrorists killed in the raid, however, have been greeted with protests in their hometowns by villagers who don’t want anything to do with them. The mens' families and their neighbors have clashed over the issue for several weeks now.


In Jakarta, police arrested two members of the powerful anti-corruption commission, ratcheting up a standoff between the two institutions. Though the members have not yet been to court, they have been roundly dismissed by the public and forced to resign. The conflict between the corruption commission and police has severely handicapped the body, which has been widely praised for helping to rout out corruption in numerous sectors, including at high levels of government.


President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been elected to two terms largely because of his promise to eradicate corruption, at first refused to intervene. But as parliamentarians, many of whom view the anti-corruption commission as their personal nemesis, considered stripping the commission of its power, Yudhoyono entered the fray. The president issued an emergency presidential decree in lieu of a law requiring the posts vacated by the now-disgraced members to be quickly filled with new blood.


Corruption will likely be a subject of discussion when U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Jakarta, where he lived for four years as a boy, on Nov. 12. Obama will stay only one or two days while en route to an APEC meeting in Singapore.


Indonesians, who are fiercely proud that a U.S. president was partly educated in Indonesia, have been anxiously awaiting his arrival since his election and he will likely receive a hero’s welcome.


Money: A scandal involving the government bailout of Bank Century, a small Indonesian bank with a checkered history, continues to plague the country’s leading financial reformers. Both Boediono, the former central bank chief and soon to be vice-president, and Sri Mulyani, the country’s celebrated finance minister, will be questioned by authorities this week for approving the bailout.


Public anger over bailout, which blew up to almost $6 billion, continues to grow despite assurances from Mulyani that it was necessary in order to prevent any destabilization among the country’s banking sector.


Elsewhere: Some Indonesian Muslim groups are falling all over themselves after a production house announced they would be bringing the Japanese French-Canadian porn star, Miyabi, to Indonesia to film a movie. Though there would be no nudity, the Muslim groups say they are worried about what damage having a porn star in the country could do to its image.


The movie, however, is set to shoot and Miyabi is still set to arrive. She will appear only sporadically in the film, which is about a group of men who, obsessed with her, try to kidnap her.


The mass exodus that is Idul Fitrie — the end of Ramadan — came and went this year with slightly fewer road deaths than usual: about 300 people. Every year 30 million people leave Indonesian cities for their rural hometowns, causing massive traffic tie-ups and, in some cases, heinous accidents. Dozens of Indonesians were severely injured during the annual Idul Fitrie handouts. In once case, several people were injured as thousand lined up outside the home of Jakarta’s mayor to receive 10 or 20,000 Rupiah, about 1 to 2 dollars.