Indonesian Journeys

Indonesian Journeys

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East Timorese children play inside a sports stadium

In just over ten years, Indonesia has transformed from a centralised authoritarian regime under Suharto to a decentralised multi-party democracy.

With parliamentary elections approaching in April and a presidential poll later in the year, what are the issues, challenges and expectations of the world's largest Muslim population?

Anita Barraud of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) travels to four very different parts of Indonesia where 240 million people are preparing for their general election.

Part three - The forgotten island - West Timor

West Timor is greatly overshadowed by its famous and now independent neighbour East Timor.

It is one of the poorest parts of Indonesia where people are severely malnourished.

Just as there are seasons here for planting and harvesting, there is a season called 'Musim Kelaperam', which means ‘the starving season'.

The rain does not fall and water is scarce, resulting in almost 60% of children under five suffering from chronic malnutrition.

West Timor has a fabled history as the Sandalwood Island, and for hundreds of years was a valuable source of what was once known as 'wooden gold'.

However, it is no longer the valued commodity it once was, and the island's dry hills lack the touristic appeal of its tropical neighbours further to the west, Bali and Lombok.

With the breaking away from Indonesia of half of this island as independent East Timor in 2002, this impoverished region also had to absorb nearly 200,000 refugees from fierce fighting.

Join Anita Barraud as she travels deep into the countryside and discovers malnutrition that rival parts of sub-Saharan Africa, visits farms in the north and discusses ancient clan ties with the descendant of a king.

Indonesian Journeys is co-production by ABC's Anita Barraud and the BBC's Neil Trevithick.

This documentary was first broadcast on ABC Radio National and aired on BBC World Service on Wednesday 11th March 2009.

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