I have just returned from a four day visit to yet another Indonesian city and this time, Padang in the island of Sumatera. Padang, the land of the Minangkabau is a city of of more than 850,000 people. This gracious people have an eye for business in their genes and can compete on equal or better terms with the Chinese. No need for quotas or AP’s. Maybe that’s why there is comparably a smaller Chinese population in Padang than other cities. Incidentally, there is also a very small Tamil… yes Tamil population in Padang.

This time, instead of flying from Johor Bahru and then lounging aimlessly for hours in LCCT cattle station at Sepang, KL to catch a flight to Indonesia, I decided to first take a ferry from Stulang ferry terminal at the Zon, Johor Bahru to the island of Batam, Indonesia. The journey is about 90 minutes and there is a ferry every hour from Stulang (and vice-versa). I took the first ferry out at 8.30 am. Batam is on Waktu Indonesia Barat and an hour behind Malaysian time, which means when you arrive in Batam you have gained an hour. I arrived at Batam Center at 10 am Malaysian time or 9 am Indonesian time.

The 90 minute ferry ride is a pleasant ride, though there is nothing much to do save for looking at the wide blue sea and reflecting life unless you want while-away reading the New Straits Times or Star and get high blood pressure and thus spoiling your holiday.
Arriving at Batam Center ferry port, it is only a Rp70,000 to the Airport or called Bandara (Airport) Hang Nadim. Incidentally there is more flights taking off from Batam Airport than from our Senai “ghostport”.

I had decided to try an Indonesian airline instead of travelling by Air Asia. Incidentally, had I chosen Air Asia, I would not be able to take Air Asia’s morning flight to Padang since Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur leaves from Johor Bahru at about 8.30 am and Air Asia’s morning flight to Padang from LCCT Sepang, KL is also around that time . The afternoon flight to Padang by Air Asia leaves from LCCT late afternoon. That means travelling to Kuala Lumpur in the morning and then lounging aimlessly in the LCCT cattle station before catching the late afternoon flight to Padang. Travelling via Stulang and then from Batam gives me an early start not to mention savings on the time difference.

Anyway, from Batam, I took Sriwijaya Air. Paid Rp350,000 (@RM125.00 all in) one way for Batam-Padang sector. Looking at the logo on the livery I sensed this maybe an airline owned by Indonesian Chinese. That was confirmed once inside the plane when reading Sriwijaya Air’s in-flight magazine. Apparently Sriwijaya Air is a Jakarta based airline founded by Chandra lie, Lie Hendry (a little on this guys later and which I really want to highlight), Andi Halim and Fandy Linga and commenced its first service in 2003. It now flies to almost all major cities in Indonesia and regionally it has a flight to Singapore and to Penang. It is categorized as a medium service airline which means alight refreshment is served in a box to all passengers. It has good leg space and eye pleasing stewardesses’.

Here is a little piece of history of Sriwijaya Air as extracted from the in-flight magazine.


Now, as I said earlier among the founders of this airline are Chandra Lie who is the President-Director of the airline. Here is his welcoming message as extracted from the in-flight magazine.

Look at the introduction. Despite not being a Muslim, Chandra Lie starts his message with the Muslim greeting “Assaalamu’alaikum wr wb”. He ends his message with “Wassalamu’alaikum wr wb”. Amazing isn’t it a Non Muslim using Islamic greeting. Imagine Air Asia’s Tony Fernandez in his in-flight magazine doing the same. No NGO’s, religious scholars, or any group has objected or protested Chandra Lie using such greetings. Imagine, if Non Muslim in Malaysia use such greeting. Imagine the reaction by Perkasa, Perkida, Hassan Ali, Harussani and other NGO’s may get into a hissy fit.

Now, here is something really unheard of. Again it is extracted from the in-flight magazine.


This must be a first ! It is the first time I have seen prayers seeking God’s providence and blessing in all faith. Islam, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddha and Confucian. Will we ever see a Malaysian airline do the same ? In fact do Malaysia Airlines or even Air Asia has the gumption to do what Sriwijaya Air has done? In fact, at first I thought that was a unique gesture by Sriwijaya Air. In the return flight from Padang to Batam, I travelled on Lion Air. Guess what in the seat pocket, there is a laminated prayer sheet and again for denomination. Maybe it is the norm in Indonesia.

Malaysia always bleats how moderate they are et all…and have international conferences trumpeting its “moderation”. Indonesia by action shows what is acceptance, tolerance and moderation. There are many things we can learn from Indonesia.

Lastly, here is a page extracted from the in-flight magazine of Sriwijaya. It shows a Christmas fellowship for all its staff and business associates at Sriwijaya Air’s prayer house.

The picture shows, Sriwijaya Air’s President-Director Chandra Lie, his wife and his children participating in the celebration. The four girls singing are his daughters. Haven’t heard any Sriwijaya staff or business staff complaining that the event was an attempt to change their “aqidah”.
This is a series on reflection from Indonesia. Norman Fernandez intend to visit Manado, Indonesia next. Feel free to send any information about Manado if you have visited there.

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