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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

NOVEMBER 12, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 45


Singapore singer Jacintha Abisheganaden - see Ja's Right for the Part Asiaweek Pictures

People:
Gus Dur Gives Comics Relief

Indonesians seek comic relief in their new chief
also:
Ja's Right for the Part
What a Girl Is Driven to Do


Anybody worried that power might go to Abdurrahman Wahid's head can rest easy - he is still Indonesia's Mr. Nice Guy. When comedy group Bagito depicted the half-blind president holding a phone to his forehead instead of his ear in a TV skit on Oct 23, it seemed there would be hell to pay. The cruel joke outraged many viewers, who called to complain just minutes after it aired. Apologies from the station director and the group swiftly followed. Wahid, pictured with his daughter Yenny Zannuba Arifah, brought the apologetic comedians over to the presidential palace. Instead of getting an earful for their tasteless parody, the group received a presidential pardon. It would be worse if they stopped being critical of the government, he said. The down-to-earth leader has retained his abhorrence of protocol at his new residence. Palace staff members who try to send his friends away when it gets late have been getting little cooperation from the chief. Affectionately called Gus Dur, the president is known to sneak his pals into his private rooms where they can continue their chats in peace.  

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Technology
Hong Kong property firms go high-tech

People
Indonesians seek comic relief in their new chief

Concepts
Cutting-edge cars at the Tokyo Motor Show

Myanmar
Our correspondent visits ASEAN's No. 1 pariah -- and discovers that nothing is as it seems

Newsmakers
Victims of India's national calamity

  RELATED STORIES
People: She's Keeping the Baby
Jackie Chan's controversial new role (10/29/99)

People: Glamor Girl in Trouble
An Anwar accuser falls on hard times (10/22/99)

People: The Art of Raising Hard Cash
Prince Jufri's distress sale of the century (10/15/99)

People: Singlished Out
A Singapore sitcom star may have to clean up his act (10/08/99)

People: Jet Kicks the Single Life
A Quiet(ish) wedding for kickmaster Jet Li (10/01/99)

Ja's Right for the Part
What do they say about being at the right place at the right time? For Ja, as Singapore singer Jacintha Abisheganaden is known to her fans, it was in a studio on Sunset Boulevard early last month, where she was recording her second jazz album, Autumn Leaves: The Songs of Johnny Mercer. Tipped off by a music journalist friend, director Ron Shelton listened in and evidently liked what he heard. Shelton (Tin Cup, Bull Durham) got her to sing the opening track for his new movie, Play It To The Bone. The film, about two best friends who are former boxers, stars Woody Harrelson, Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu. It is scheduled for release sometime next year. Between caring for her eight-month-old son (she has remarried after her divorce from songwriter-producer Dick Lee), Ja is also working on two other albums for the new millennium, including her third jazz collection. "Jazz is my first love," she explains. Then there's her cat (and the book she wants to write for it). But motherhood, she says, is what she enjoys most.  

What a Girl Is Driven to Do
People caught drinking and driving get little sympathy, but a Muslim - forbidden by religion from imbibing alcohol - can expect none. Worse still if you happen to be under the glare of public eyes. That's the situation Malaysian pop star Norwati Sadali finds herself in. Better known as "Watie" of the all-girl group Elite, Malaysia's homegrown Spice Girls, the 23-year-old was convicted of drunk driving last month and is now paying the price. It's not just the $475 fine either. The authorities immediately barred Elite from appearing on radio and TV, leaving KRU, the group's management company, no choice but to suspend her for three months in the hope that the ban might be lifted. Watie, meanwhile, says she took to the booze because of mounting criticism of her lifestyle - accusers say that she dresses too sexily, has too many boyfriends and to top it all, that she can't really sing. So what's a girl to do? There's still a spot open with the real Spice Girls. Sipping Spice maybe.

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