HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 25, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


It’s official. The Diary and Vulcan, god of the underworld and chief patron of volcanic excess, are no longer speaking. Vulcan has been blacklisted. Until further notice, even if we should by chance fly over one of the spectacular mountain vents that lead down to his lair in the underworld, we shall affect an air of lofty distain and total disinterest and shan’t even go “Ooh! Ah!” on a sotto voce basis. This is because we were marooned in Australia at a critical time because of the risk of suspended particulate matter in the air above Bali.

OK, volcanic dust is special in that it is basically glass and its impact can puncture aircraft hulls, make windows instantly opaque, kill jet engines and get into places that require lubricants to which in later maintenance cycles the fused glass dangerously denies entry. In that respect, Vulcan’s damaging offerings are far more immediately a risk, even though less ubiquitously fatal, than all the other detritus, that man-made stuff, which hangs around in the island air every day.

The disruption to The Diary’s travel plans was a nuisance – we accept its necessity: that’s not the point – principally because of two things. First, it meant we couldn’t get to the ROLE Models charity dinner at RIMBA on Nov. 21. This was especially irritating because we like a good bash and Mike O’Leary and ROLE Foundation do a fabulous job of empowering disadvantaged Indonesian women who would otherwise have lives of unfulfilled promise and low economic status. The second irritant was that the delay meant we were out of the country when our temporary resident visa expired. That’s a big no-no because unavoidable absence is not an excuse. You just have to start over with the bureaucratic bun-fight, which is a nuisance.

That personal problem pales into insignificance against the economic cost to Bali (and Lombok) of Mt Rinjani’s activity. While we were cooling our heels in Western Australia we saw a photo of Ngurah Rai’s arrivals area on Facebook. It was empty.

With a Skirl and a Whirl

Alastair Speirs, publisher of Now Jakarta and Now Bali – and of Made Wijaya’s Stranger in Paradise columns – is an Edinburgh laddie. Such is the draw of the kilt in Scottish culture that even mercantile east coast Lowlanders – the only true Sassenachs by the way; forget the English – have bought the idea that even though they have the money to buy trousers they should instead swaddle themselves in wraparound plaid.

Speirs suggests that anyone interested should follow the sound of the pipers (this year from the Perth Highland Pipe Band) to the annual St Andrew’s ball on Nov. 28. It’s organized by the Java St. Andrews Society and will take place at the Sahid Hotel, at a cost of Rp 1.6M a head. He notes: “As is custom with Scottish events, there will be food and drinks aplenty, lots of kilted men, and much Ceilidh dancing (interspersed by the odd yelp of “whhheeeoooshh!!”). The Scots know how to throw a party so don’t miss this one! There will be a lot of fantastic packages for auction – Are you a rugby fan? Do you like Hong Kong? What about a business-class travel and luxury accommodation? You get the idea. At the same time, bid to help some very worthy causes too.”

There’s no word on whether Made Wijaya will be present, though his former name, Michael White, could suggest Scottish roots. The availability of kilts might pique the interest of The Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, who is otherwise an eminently sensible lassie (see below).

International Event

The Diary was privileged recently to attend a wedding celebrated at a lovely winery in the Margaret River district of southwest Western Australia. It was a warm day – which was good for refugees from Bali – and the occasion went along with plenty of zing. The celebrant noted that under current Australian law marriage was between a man and a woman and that this might soon be changed to accommodate couples whose sexual orientation rules out opposite gender status as a determining factor. Cheers to that.

The couple that was being married on this occasion was of the opposite sex. Their families and friends were from around the globe, which was nice. A variety of accents enlivened the event, from the United States and Canada (they’re not the same places, something about which some people apparently need continual reminders), South Africa, Scotland (yes, a kilt was present) and other spots as well as various bits of Australia. It was hot, though the cooling ocean breeze – in WA’s lovely southwest it comes all the way from South Africa incidentally – was a treat. The dancing was spectacular. Seeing a kilt swirling to the difficult demands of a rap beat was something else.

Hoarse Before the Cartel

Regulating maritime traffic to and from and within environmentally sensitive areas is good sense. These arrangements require sensible and fair rules that take account of all factors. In the case of Gili Trawangan, the “party island” off Lombok’s northwest coast, these factors include the fact that a lot of people want to go there. A lot of them want to go there direct from Bali. Whatever the charms of alternative first-arrival points on Lombok’s mainland – Senggigi has obvious attractions; those of tout-cartel capital Bangsal and of Teluk Nara, where dive and accommodation operators have corporate facilities are harder to define – the chief destination of choice is Trawangan. Why irritate people who want to go there by insisting that they first go somewhere else? As a marketing strategy this practice would seem to have several demerits.

So it was somewhat strange to read recently that the West Nusa Tenggara tourism and culture department, the naval base in Lombok and Mataram Water Police are reportedly working together to limit the access to Trawangan of fast boats from Padang Bai and Benoa. Local navy commander Colonel Rachmat Djunaidy is said to believe that these boats cause environmental damage and coral reef erosion. It’s in the interests of the tourism industry and the Trawangan community to protect vital natural assets, of course, and if there is a particular problem then rules need to be set – or applied if they already exist – to minimize damage.

The colonel, though, apparently has a better idea. A bit of heavy-footed stomping. He will work with the bureaucrats and the water police to “curb these fast boats and redirect them to the three local ports of Bangsal, Teluk Nara and Senggigi.” Perhaps he has boat turn-back strategy in mind. Or perhaps he just doesn’t want to get hoarse in a shouting match with a cartel that would like to get a bit of the action (or possibly all of it).

Time for Another Good Yak

This year’s Yak Awards could be a frightful scene if The Diary gets along to them in the gear Sophie Digby, Chief Yakker, seems to suggest should be dusted off for the occasion. We look shocking in lamé and leopard print.

The event is on Dec. 4 at Il Lido, Kerobokan, and celebrates among other things the fact that Studio 54 is coming to town as well as Santa Claus.

It may just have been a glitch – many virtual calendars don’t seem to do UTC+08 if an event is in Indonesia, and this one is listed to start at 6pm UTC+07, which is Jakarta time. Sophie will sort it out, we expect.

Voting for the awards is under way as well as ticket sales – they’re Rp 650K at various outlets or Rp 850K at the door. Dress code for the evening is Studio 54 – Elton, Cher, Jackson, Warhol, Jagger, Minnelli, or Shirley Mclaine. We could do Warhol, possibly. That would suit 15 minutes of infamy.

All A-Buzz

These things don’t usually spark Hector’s interest, but the otherwise unremarkable visit of Charles and Camilla to New Zealand and Australia earlier this month brought this little Sydney incident to attention, as reported by Rick Morton in The Australian:

“Hundreds of community organization members, politicians and other dignitaries were invited to a garden party at Government House where [NSW] Governor David Hurley declared himself ‘Bee-One, the chief beekeeper’ and insisted the royal couple try the first harvest of honey from the grounds. ‘We thank you for giving your time and visiting Australia,’ he said. ‘Post the rugby World Cup, we understand you had to visit New Zealand first.’”

We had another little line from Philly Frisson about that. She suggested the Royal Taster had then stepped up manfully (oops, person-fully).

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary is published in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser.


HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 11, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Eastbourne Option

There is a fine line between farce and tragedy in both the thespian tradition and in real life. This is a worldwide phenomenon, granted, but it does seem especially prevalent in Bali and indeed more broadly throughout Indonesia. Witness the recent travels of President Joko Widodo, who had to go all the way to Washington before he discovered that much of his country was criminally ablaze and making such a nuisance of itself that he had to cut short his trip and dash home to deal with the crisis. He got the dashing home bit done. The rest is a work in progress; or perhaps it isn’t.

The Eastbourne Option is a handy practice for those who don’t have the opportunity to fly to distant places so that they can allow reality to hit home and find that things suddenly seem too much. It comes from that lovely episode in the John Cleese television series Fawlty Towers. When a guest at his terrible Torquay hotel tells Cleese (as owner manager Basil Fawlty) that it is the worst such establishment in Britain, the Major, a permanent paying guest, rounds on the critic and forcefully asserts that this is not true. “No! No! I won’t have that!” he exclaims. He pauses, thinking. Then he adds: “There’s a place at Eastbourne.”

Given the latest rounds of farce that have emanated from the Bali authorities, choosing the Eastbourne option is a way to escape the heightened risk of conniption or terminal tedium over the indecently close relationship between incredible farce and terrible tragedy visited upon their island by those who run Bali.

If you screw your eyes up and concentrate really hard you can momentarily ignore the otherwise inevitable assessment that inexcusable inattention and monumental hubris go together like … well, like rotten peaches and rancid cream.

Sense and Censor Ability

Literature requires dissent. In the absence of this important ingredient you end up with a library of promotional pamphlets that, like most of these glossy paeans to self-delusion, are of no practical use at all. Of course criticism must be objective in whatever genre it is offered. Fiction is often a better way to inform and spark debate than direct, unalloyed history. Sometimes it’s good to change the names to protect the innocent, the guilty, or indeed the author.

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (Oct. 28-Nov. 1) was royally interfered with because – Shock! Horror! – its long published program contained elements that would discuss the events of 1965 and the mass murders that were its disgraceful central feature. When the chief of police of Gianyar made the shocking discovery that people at literary festivals might be talking about these things, he decided such rumination might encourage the communist tendency.

Where he has been since misapplied Marxism collapsed on a global scale, and even in China, is an interesting question. So too is why he failed to reference the fact that Indonesia’s expensive guest appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year focused on the very same horrors. Though it should be noted that after the event some legislators in Jakarta have also spotted the fact that they hadn’t been paying attention either. They do the “horse bolted, shut stable door” routine so well here.

Another casualty of the newly reprised practice of suppressing dissent was a discussion of the plutocratic proposal to vandalise Benoa Bay for commercial interests. The Gianyar police chief said this decision was nothing to do with him.

Cursors! They’re on to Us

The useful Bali Crime Reports page on Facebook notes that Bali Police HQ is getting edgy about social media. Given rising street crime about which the police do nothing and the appearance in the media of reports on really important police activity like nabbing people who aren’t married to each other because having unmarried sex is illegal, or arresting the odd mangku for suggesting someone’s practising black magic, that’s perhaps not surprising.

As a note on the page suggests, the police probably didn’t expect their own social media bulletins to be translated into English and posted elsewhere where foreigners might read them. Bad scene! Bad for Bali’s image! They’ve apparently reduced their own social media posting in response and set up a supervisory system.

A bulletin from POLRI (police central) explains (and we quote verbatim):

“This supervision is meant to find out how prepared Bali police at all levels are, to enact the Development of Opinions to Facilitate Public Safety Which Are Conducive In Relation To Negative Effects On Opinions in Social (media) Society.”

In shorthand: Here’s a broom. Sweep that embarrassing stuff under the carpet.

Get on a ROLE

OK, now for some positive thoughts. Do you enjoy fine dining and great entertainment? Are you a supporter of women’s empowerment? Would you like to build links with like-minded individuals? If that’s a yes to any or all of these questions, then the ROLE Models Charity Dinner on Nov. 21 may be just the thing for you.

The ROLE Foundation’s work with disadvantaged women is a great example of the productive value of voluntary charity efforts in Bali and beyond. It’s not work that gets much exposure – certainly not as much as it deserves – but it’s practical benefits are priceless. ROLE educates and finds work for women from Bali and other islands who would otherwise miss out on life’s most basic opportunities. It’s all about breaking the poverty cycle.

The event is at RIMBA in the scenic AYANA Resort complex at Jimbaran. Service at the four-course dinner is by ROLE RIMBA trainees; there is a reception before dinner from 6pm, entertainment throughout, and a rooftop after party. Tickets are Rp1.3M and they’re selling fast, we hear. Bookings can be made at RIMBA, AYANA or through ROLE. Unique auction prizes can be seen here.

See you there! We’re not going to miss the occasion.

Vulcan Redux

We shan’t miss the ROLE Models Dinner if Vulcan permits, at least. We’re currently in Australia and due back home in Bali in a day or so. So it’s been a bit disturbing to watch the resurgence of volcanic activity in the region, this time from Vulcan’s otherwise minor franchise outlet at Mt Baru Jari in the crater of Lombok’s lofty Rinjani.

The Mt Raung eruption in East Java – we can see that culprit from The Cage on the Bukit – caused significant chaos in Bali’s airborne arrivals and departures system earlier this year. To coin a phrase, it wasn’t fun while it lasted. Let’s hope Mt Baru Jari’s little effluence is short-lived, both for air traffic purposes and for the health and wellbeing of Lombok’s people.

Visa Follies

For those who might still be wondering why Australia (which last year sent 1,128,533 paying guests to Indonesia, overwhelmingly to Bali) is one of only four countries now left off the list for free 30-day tourist visas, here’s a handy brief. Officially, only countries that reciprocate are entitled to free visa status, but of the 90 nations that are now graced with that favour, only 18 return the compliment. The three other countries on the frown list are Andorra (it’s a little patch of ground in the Pyrenees surrounded by France and Spain), Brazil and Libya.

Leaving aside ASEAN states, for which reciprocal free visa entry naturally applies, most of the favoured nations have presumably said something comfortable like “we’ll think about it” or cited the universal mirror response (“we’re looking into it”) when they’ve been asked about reciprocal rights for Indonesian tourists. Australia’s strict entry requirements are well known – from many perspectives they are highly arguable, but that’s beside the point – and Indonesian tourists are probably less likely to choose Australia over other destinations anyway, even if they could.

The free visa denial is plainly political. It flows from a desire to make a point of astonishing banality. It’s a bit like having Sukhoi fighter-bombers fly cover for chartered aircraft transporting Australian prisoners. It’s overkill. They do that so well here too. Just for the record.

One Horse Race

Australia’s iconic Melbourne Cup horse race, held every year on the first Tuesday in November, really was the race that stops a nation this year. A 100-1 outsider was first past the post. Its jockey became the first woman to ride a Melbourne Cup winner. And the horse’s strapper – carer, basically – is the jockey’s brother. He has Down syndrome and demonstrates that people with that condition are fully functional individuals (and often great fun). It’s a story that has it all. It would make a fabulous movie.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 28, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


Peace Off

There is a debate under way over Bali’s branding as a destination. It’s probably less tiring to whicker about that than to act firmly to curb the growing list of demerits that stand in the way of Bali being any sort of destination: rampant and uncontrolled development in the crowded south; official and corporate corruption (“Brown Envelope Island” might be a suitable slogan there); public administration that is a sick joke where it’s not simply absent; environmental degradation and woefully inadequate infrastructure; the disastrous failure to apply common sense (not to mention internationally proven remedies) to the business of suppressing rabies. The list is practically endless.

In that regard, a suggestion from former provincial politician Wayan Puspa Negara reported in the local newspaper Bisnis Bali that “Bali: Endless of Unique” would be an apposite slogan seems worthy of critical examination. As Jack Daniels noted in a recent edition of his Bali Update, the syntax is questionable. We might suggest a modest rewording to correct both the grammar and its accuracy. “Bali: End of Unique” would certainly sum up both the current situation and the banal, continuing march towards despoliation that is a feature of today’s “tourist Bali”. There is nothing unique in cheek-by-jowl hotel developments, the proliferation of trinket megastores designed to relieve low-cost package tourists of the last of their money, the winked-at sex trade, or the shockingly inadequate infrastructure through which we expect tourists to struggle and still have a good time.

Bali’s longstanding slogan is Shanti Shanti Shanti (shanti is a Sanskrit word meaning peace). This properly reflects the island’s unique Hindu culture and the uniqueness of Bali within Indonesia and in the world. But that’s the very thing – the vitally important thing – that is now directly under threat from the tsunami of mismanaged, greed-driven, hubris-laden drives for more and more tourists. It’s not the raw numbers that are necessarily the problem, provided the facilities are there to handle a mass-market approach. It’s the vacuous pursuit of more and more paying guests in the absence of infrastructure to support them that is the poison chalice. Kuta-Legian-Seminyak (and now beyond) is unmanageable. It should never take two hours to travel the 15 kilometres from Canggu to Kuta by road. That it regularly does so is testament to the stupidity of putting the cart before the horse and expecting anything to work.

Slogans are only one part of the equation, of course. They are a double-edged sword and open to abuse. One such slogan, a delightful double entendre that thankfully failed to see the light of day is said to have been once offered (by an Englishman, in distempered jest) to the Scottish tourism authorities. It said “Scotland: You’re Welcome to It”. Bali might need some better marketing, but what it needs even more is better, more sensitive (and sensible) Balinese management. Stay unique is good advice.


Speaking of Scotland, your diarist recently had the benefit of watching a rugby match in which whoever was the victor he had a rare opportunity to come out a winner. The Australia-Scotland quarterfinal in the 2015 World Rugby Cup was a nail-biter from start to finish, perhaps the best edge-of-the-seat game in years. The margin (to the Scots) at half time was one point. The margin at the final whistle was one point (to the Australians). The Wallabies – on recent form more pointedly known colloquially as the Wobblies – got through to the semi-finals and created a situation in which the semis and the final would be completely a southern hemisphere affair, Argentina’s feisty Pumas having just seen off the Irish.

The circumstances of the Australian win were regrettable however. Two minutes before fulltime Scotland were ahead by two points. There was a Scottish infringement in the scrimmage taking place just out from their try-line. It was penalized, as it should have been, by South African referee Craig Joubert. Except that he awarded a penalty kick to the Australians where a scrum would plainly have been more appropriate. The Australians kicked the goal (worth three points) and won the match.

From a scrum, if Joubert had pondered for a second or two more and decided on that course instead of a penalty, the Australians would have been ideally placed to throw the ball well back, to their best backline kicker, for a field goal attempt. If successful that would have earned them three points and won them the match.

Joubert’s hesitation before awarding the penalty kick was telling – he was clearly very undecided about the level of infringement by the Scots – and he left the field at rather more than a brisk canter when he blew the final whistle as the Australian ball from the place kick flew straight and true through the unmissable uprights. It was a sorry end to a great match.

But hey, rant over. One of the Diary’s sides on the field won.

Heads in the Sand

It’s hard to be an optimist, sometimes. Icarus has always served as an exemplar in that regard. It never does to soar to such lofty heights, even on terrific flights of fancy, that your carefully constructed wings of wax are melted by the sun. Cautious optimism has always seemed a better bet even though this policy should be underpinned by the certainty that neither does it pay to be a pessimist, since that would never work.

We did allow ourselves one little flight of fancy recently, however, when we heard that Governor Zainul Majdi of West Nusa Tenggara had come out against a plan to acquire sand from Lombok to fill in Benoa Bay for private profit. His assertion that he and his generation held the environment of Lombok and Sumbawa in trust for future generations sounded really good. We penciled him in as worthy of note among an exclusive – read: very small – group of Indonesian leaders whose visionary capacity stretched beyond immediate benefit.

Sadly, we have now had to use the eraser. We were mistaken in our assessment. The private profiteer in question, Tomy Winata, tried another tactic when he found himself and his blandishments banished from the Governor’s Palace in Mataram. He took his plans for the exploitative acquisition of massive quantities of West Nusa Tenggara’s environment-in-trust offshore, into the aptly named Alas Strait, where what he wants lies out of sight under water and is protected – if that’s the word – by the much more malleable provisions of national mining regulations. Governor Zainul apparently supports this environmental rape and as a result has lost a large portion of his local hero status. Those who care about the environment and the livelihoods of local fishermen have told him this. They can be counted on to repeat that message at every opportunity.

That’s good news. Ruining one environment so that another one somewhere else may also be ruined might typify the developmental impulse to build undesirable and unnecessary private infrastructure complete with extra kitsch, but that doesn’t make it right. The marine environment of the Alas Strait is worth protecting from all manner of threats. Among these must now be numbered Tomy Winata and Zainul Majdi.

Fragrant Rise

The 2015 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival gets under way today (Oct. 28) with the panache, eclecticism and variety of writers, pundits and performers we have come to expect from Janet DeNeefe’s literary baby, which began life in 2003 as a response to the 2002 Bali bombings and has grown with every annual edition. The UWRF now has a baby sibling, the Ubud Food Festival, which has just announced its dates for 2016. Mark your diaries for May 27-29.

DeNeefe, who operates two restaurants, a bakery and a cooking school in Ubud and who writes about food (her famous foray is a little tome called Fragrant Rice) was recently at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, where Indonesia was a special guest and at which she was one of the chefs invited to represent Indonesian cuisine.

This year’s inaugural food festival attracted 6,500 palates seeking temptation. Now that the word has got around, we can be sure there will be more next year. The festival is looking for a fulltime manager whose role would be to coordinate festival staff, look after programming, and handle stakeholders (and of course founders). Applications are open until Nov. 11.

If the job comes with a daily chocolate ration, we might even be tempted to apply.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 14, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


Mynah Triumph

Like the reports relating to the death of Mark Twain – which the gentleman concerned noted were greatly exaggerated – claims that the endangered Bali Starling is again on the verge of extinction in its natural habitat may lack several crucial grades of veracity. It has been claimed that the program to rebuild the bird population in the West Bali National Park has been seriously compromised by poachers. That of course would be no surprise if it were true, Bali and indeed the whole of Indonesia being a place where many social precepts are promiscuously ignored and laws are broken ubiquitously if there’s money in it. In these areas of malfeasance it is very far from being alone, that is true. It is in its attempts to reduce malfeasance, and its real official interest in doing so, that its performance is noticeably risible.

But in this instance, happily, it appears not to be the case. The reported reduction in breeding numbers is based on observation and it has been pointed out that the introduced pairs may simply be in parts of the park where they are not observed by human eyes. Apparently the Bali Starling is as smart as the Bali Dog, which to the chagrin of officials who wish to kill it sensibly runs away when it sees men with nets approaching.

The Bali Starling is indeed a unique bird, not least because it is not a starling at all, but a mynah: Leucopsar rothschildi, locally known as Jalak Bali. It is found in captivity in zoos around the world (there is an introduced population on Nusa Penida too) but of course it should be encouraged to repopulate its natural West Bali environment. The Yokohama Zoo in Japan is working with Bali’s wildlife authorities to re-establish a viable breeding population in the national park.

Dropping the Ball

The 2015 Rugby World Cup competition has turned up a number of surprises. Japan beat South Africa for one thing, in an early group match. It was a fluke, though very instructive of the fact that you must never drop the ball until the final whistle blows. The South Africans were mortified (their coach felt it necessary to apologize to his nation) but they were beaten fairly, in the closing minutes, by some very inventive play and by Japanese determination, a factor that should never be discounted.

The best surprise, however, was that the host nation, England, was eliminated from the Cup before it got out of its group round of matches. Two disastrous losses at Twickenham, its home ground in London, to Wales and Australia, sent it home – or would have done so if it hadn’t already been home – early and shamefully. For the rest of us, of course, it was rather less than an event of such stunning calamity that it required a period of national mourning. It was much more a belly laugh occasion. The words of Sergeant Major Williams in the British TV sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum sprang to mind: Oh dear. How sad. Never mind. It also produced a collector’s item range of memes on social media.

The Diary is a rugby fan, a legacy of an undistinguished school-years experience in which, beneficially for other reasons related to acquiring life skills, we learned while playing in the No. 10 spot – fly-half – the importance of being able to dodge the nuggety bits, the built-of-bricks blokes in the scrum. Off the field these fellows are often very nice chaps, and we are friendly with two of these – they missed out on mauling us on the field by a small matter of geography and two decades – with whom in recent weeks we have shared a few laughs.

One is a very fortunate fellow indeed, whose life circumstances have given him the opportunity to be in England for the Cup. We’d have given our eye teeth to be there too – it’s easy and cheap to get them made and implanted in Bali, after all – except that our own life circumstances required our presence elsewhere. He sent us a very nice photo of the England team bus. The caption with it pointed out to any prospective buyers of this conveyance that it was a bargain because it had only been used twice.

Takes its Toll

Among the many delights of living in Bali is that development policy (yes, it does sound like an oxymoron when you put it like that) seems to consist of flights of fancy. The Governor’s famous round-island slow train delighted us some years ago, and still gets an outing now and then. The latest project to bring a smile to the dial is the toll road proposal that would provide a fast traffic link from the crowded south to the unserviced north and which would wind through the mountains from Tabanan regency to Buleleng.

It’s true that this would be a boon to the north, if it wishes to be overwhelmed by tourists like the south. It’s odds on that it does, since the ubiquitous rule here is to acquire in haste (if someone else pays for it) and forget about repenting at leisure because the future does not yet exist and is therefore something for other people to worry about.

The Rp 35 trillion 125-km toll road would have the additional benefit (apparently) of being the longest in Indonesia, beating the Cipali toll road in West Java by nine crucial kilometres. It would be interesting to see the figures on which the proposed developer, Waskita Toll Road, is basing its commercial return and due diligence.

Behave Yourselves

Seriously, that’s sound advice. Or so it seems. In Aceh, where the Wahhabi shadows hang especially heavily in the air, police have apprehended women who were seen hugging, for reasons that according to some reports include suspected lesbianism. In Jakarta, “world city”, the authorities have placed a midnight curfew on entertainment places. In Bali, police have said they plan to charge a wedding coordinator with blasphemy after a same-sex ceremony was performed at the local focus of valuable pink dollar tourism, the Four Seasons at Sayan, just up the hill from Ubud, where in the name of self-awareness and mental freedom all sorts of Tantric and other sensual experiences may be had. That olfactory unpleasantness in the air is hypocrisy. They do it so well here. Amazingly, this odour is often suppressed temporarily by the aerosol application of magical pocket money.

As we so often find it necessary to state, lest we be accused of western uppity-ness or colonial recidivism, it is for Indonesia to govern itself and administer its society as it wishes. That’s not the issue (we have to say that fairly often too). But the government needs to work out with the Botherers, who are legion and are found everywhere in various forms, whether it wants to maintain the national objective to keep Indonesia as a practising part of the 21st century. If they don’t want to do this, they should say so.

Sands of Time

We read in the very useful Lombok Guide that Tomy Winata’s search for galactic quantities of sand to fill in Benoa Bay for his Excrescence-sur-Mer project has resurfaced, though in a sub-surface way. Having been knocked back by West Nusa Tenggara Governor Zainul Majdi on his plan to strip an East Lombok beach of its natural mineral covering, on very sensible environmental and social grounds, Mr Winata is now proposing to dredge what he wants up from the sea floor in the same general area. This application is under the mining regulations and (at last report) had the support of the Governor whose remit in that area of administration is minimal.

It’s still a very bad idea, both for Lombok – whose environment as Governor Zainul has previously said is held in trust for future generations – and for Bali, which needs more dreadful kitsch and loudly selfish rich like a hole in the head. Benoa Bay is also an environment that, as with every other one (Sumatran and Kalimantan forests for example) should be treated with respect. It’s true that Benoa long ago ceased to be the pristine, mangrove fringed tidal inlet that nature intended. It is now part of the built environment. Like a garden, however, it can be beautiful and retain its natural usefulness to the wider environment.

Protecting the mangroves instead of digging them up and dumping huge quantities of sand in their place would be a good way to do this. Commercial reasons are rarely sufficient argument to destroy something of irreplaceable, inestimable value.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DAIRY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 30, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Rabid Response

An eight-year-old boy from Batur Tengah in Bangli died of rabies in mid-September, and a woman has died in Buleleng from the disease, the latest victims of the seven-year outbreak of the disease in Bali. Their deaths are yet another tragic reminder that the authorities here long ago dropped the ball over rabies, an entirely preventable disease, after making a good start on combating it in 2009-2010.

Sadder still is that the methodology of their anti-rabies campaign is now focused on killing dogs, including vaccinated ones and family pets, instead of on vaccination, humane reduction of numbers through sterilisation, and firm, well resourced community education. Most sadly of all, rabies has become a bureaucratic battleground, a venue for fractious argument, and the latest environment in which the local bureaucratic view that foreigners should just shut up about problems since these problems (which are sometimes presented as not being problems at all) are nothing to do with them.

The sensitive nature of advocacy is well understood among the foreign cohort here that does that sort of thing. They’re not doing it for money, except in the sense of spending it, since there’s very little money to be made in lending a hand. That applies in animal welfare just as much as it does in education, rural and remote health and village infrastructure, and a lot else.

The particular problems of animal welfare groups are well known. They have national licences that govern their establishment and permit them to work in the field. But the provincial and district administrations are responsible for a range of subsidiary permits and permissions, and these of course can be held up at will or withdrawn at a moment’s notice. As was the case with a sterilization and vaccination day held recently in Gianyar regency and funded by the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA). Public order police shut down the event even though the village concerned had sought that assistance and advised the authorities of this. The nose of the relevant regency factotum was out of joint, apparently.

There’s a rare outbreak of rabies in Penang, an island off the western coast of Malaysia. It is an isolated event involving only a few dogs, and is exactly analogous with Bali’s situation in 2008 since the disease was imported. The authorities there are mass-killing dogs as a result, in the face of protest and advice that this is not the way to go, and yet again in clear breach of effective disease control measures that everyone else knows work very well. Sadly, unless they see sense and work with organisations – including NGOs with runs on the board in terms of animal welfare and health – the result in Penang will be same as in Bali. The disease will spread and people will die.

The bottom line in public health (we’ll keep saying this until someone wakes up) is that rabies is a controllable disease with proper countermeasures and is not a threat in Bali to people who are fully vaccinated against it and who if they are bitten by a suspect animal have the money to obtain the necessary post-exposure booster shots. That excludes the bulk of the Balinese population, for whom such protection is a sick joke. Government clinics often do not have rabies vaccine in stock. Immunoglobulin, the expensive additional necessity in preventing rabies in people who do not have pre-exposure protection, is unobtainable.

It would be wrong to keep silent while the national government looks the other way and the local authorities kill people’s pets and destroy whatever vestiges still exist of the vaccinated dog screen so painstakingly and expensively put in place in 2009-2010. We must again conclude and publicly note that the inmates have escaped and are running the asylum.

A Fond Farewell

Family business has taken The Diary yet again to Western Australia, Bali’s southern suburb. This time it was to farewell the feisty lady whom we long ago dubbed World’s Best Mother-in-Law. It was a sad occasion, of course, as such things always are, but there were lots of laughs as well. The MiL was more dear friend than in-law; moreover, one with a wicked wit which she sometimes allowed herself to let loose on the unsuspecting crowd.

We managed to have a little conversation, she and The Diary, before nature took its inevitable final step. And it was instructive of times past and lovely memories. The MiL, aside from being a gentle jokester when the feeling was upon her, was an inveterate traveller and shopper including in Bali, where she has Balinese friends. She was also responsible for the marriage that has sustained The Diary through three decades. She arrived in Port Moresby in 1982 – The Diary and the would-be Distaff were living there at the time – with a wedding cake and a bridesmaid and it would have been such a shame to waste the cake.

There was one outstanding question to which The Diary had always sought an answer. Not about the wedding (the cake was fabulous) but about an incident in Vanuatu a decade later. We were holidaying there, The Diary, the Distaff and the MiL, and one day hired a little sailboat, a catamaran, for a breezy self-sail tour of the Erakor lagoon. The breeze faded to nothing shortly afterwards, leaving us becalmed mid-lagoon. The Diary knew that sooner or later a boat would motor out and retrieve us, but as time passed the feeling grew strongly that the MiL would really like The Diary to get out of the boat into the chest-deep water and push the boat back to base. The Diary did not do this, for Erakor lagoon is where barracuda breed and toes seemed more important than timeliness.

In our last little chat, the day she died, The Diary made a final attempt to secure an answer as to the MiL’s wishes on that long-gone day, helped along by a warmly firm squeeze of the hand. The hint of a wicked smile appeared. So now we know. Farewell, feisty lady. You’re a trouper.

No Sax Please, We’re Closed

We’ve been going to The Jazz Café Ubud since, well, forever, so it was very sad to hear that it closed its doors for the last time on Sep. 19. The last night was quite a party, it seems, and that’s fitting indeed for an Ubud institution and a place where fine musical fare was available in a great jazz atmosphere.

It won’t have been making money, since it was a place where regulars were apt to drop in and sit on a single drink all evening – they were there for the music of course, but such is the focused self interest of many that the commercial viability of the establishments they frequent is at most secondary matter to them. There are other places in Ubud to listen to jazz, but none we know of that comes even close to The Jazz Café.

Musical Chairs

It used to be said, not least by Australians themselves, that Australian politics were both parochial and boring. It has lost the boring part of things – for those who enjoy such shenanigans anyway – in recent years with the development of mid-term party room coups that unseat prime ministers and install in their place a rival contender.

The Labor Party started this curious art form, when it saw off Kevin Rudd and installed Julia Gillard before then uninstalling Gillard and screwing Rudd back into the socket as its preferred light on the hill. It has now spread to the Liberal Party, the larger part of the conservative coalition that has run Australia since the national elections in 2013. Tony Abbott, who was a good opposition leader but for most observers a poor and uncommunicative prime minister, had his Julius Caesar moment on Sep. 14. He was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, a lawyer and merchant banker, whose social views are less restrictive and far less prescriptive and whose economic advocacy may turn out to be both more palatable and of better effect than that of his predecessor. Time will tell.

It was good to see that Julie Bishop remained foreign minister and Andrew Robb trade minister in the cabinet changes. Political diplomacy requires a mannered and quiet approach.

Feeling Bookish

The 2015 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival kicks off today (Sep. 30). It is a firm fixture in Bali’s festival calendar, puts our island firmly in the international spotlight, and promotes Indonesian writing to a very wide audience indeed. It is an annual event that is not to be missed.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliiadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 16, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

A Serious Disagreement

In the 1992 movie The Last of the Mohicans there’s a lovely standoff between Hawkeye the frontiersman and the rather regimentally doltish British Major Duncan Heyward in which Hawkeye says, “One day, Major, you and I will have a serious disagreement.” It’s a cameo that stays fixed in the mind, that, and perhaps it has usefully done so, because in recent times – sadly – the pleasantly paced but fixed intent of its delivery has seemed appropriate to life in Bali.

James Fennimore Cooper’s 1832 book – it’s set in the French and Indian War in colonial North America in the 1750s – is the better narrative, naturally, but the movie reflects the original story really rather well and with the required sense of doom. The problem that has brought it to mind is not of course that of rival empires fighting over someone else’s country. It is at once more prosaic and yet more pointed than that. It is a battle between vicious narrow-mindedness and socially aware common sense. It relates to the unconscionable war on dogs that the provincial government is waging, the random acts of maniacal stupidity this has helped spark in people who go around poisoning other people’s pets, and growing Balinese resistance to the idea that their dogs should now be targets because their government is dysfunctional.

The rabies that arrived in Bali in 2008 and then rapidly spread – its vector was not so much the poor infected animal that was smuggled in and then bit other dogs which in turn bit people who died, as that constant factor in administration here, lack of due care and attention – was eventually countered. This was after much advocacy by local and international animal welfare and health agencies, and Indonesian and international human health organizations.

An internationally supported disease eradication campaign created a vaccinated screen of immune dogs. That’s the international benchmark process. It works everywhere else. It is said, by Bali’s governor and others in the hierarchy, that it doesn’t work.

Sadly, given the resurgence of rabies this year (14 deaths to the end of August and counting, versus only one in 2013 and two last year) the only counter to that insane claim is that it has indeed not worked here. It hasn’t, because the government has been negligent or it has lost the plot – or both of these things – and has panicked and gone back to mass-culling dogs. So much then for the vaccinated screen of animals that forms the vital barrier between rabies and people who might otherwise get bitten by a rabid dog and die. The death squads don’t discriminate. They just sweep in and collar everything in sight: whether the unfortunate animals are wearing collars or not.

Tabanan regency is now arming its squads with air rifles – heavier compressed-air-powered weapons than your regular little popgun – because netting and then poisoning dogs with strychnine has proved problematical. According to the Tabanan animal husbandry agency, the dogs are smart and run away when they see men with nets approaching them. Using poison darts is apparently also a difficulty; the catchers and killers keep injuring themselves, with their poison darts among other things. Presumably it has been decided that shooting yourself in the foot with a high-velocity pellet is less likely to be deadly than injecting yourself with strychnine.

One day, perhaps, someone in the hierarchy will read the literature, examine the evidence, study the case reports from other places where common sense prevails, and mutter, “Uh-oh.” What might happen then, of course, is still a big question.

Screening Soon 

While we have movies on the mind, it’s good to note that the ninth Bali International Film Festival (the BALINALE) is on from Sep. 24-30. This year’s festival features 100 films from 26 countries, up from 60 last year, and includes a lively outdoor screening program showing a great collection of short films by Indonesian and foreign directors. Workshop and seminar programs will run alongside the screening schedule.

The festival was established in 2007 by American Bali fixture Deborah Gabinetti, the year she also set up the Bali Taksu Indonesia Foundation to support education, community and arts programs. This year’s event is at the Lippo Centre in Jl Kartika, Kuta, which should make the Jakarta contingent feel comfortably at home. Films showing this year were chosen by a selection committee headed by anthropologist, author and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Lawrence Blair.

BALINALE is recognized internationally for the quality and diversity of its programming. It has been affiliated with the Motion Picture Association, Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Brisbane, Australia), ASEAN International Film Festival & Awards (Kuching, Malaysia), Asian Film Commissions Network (20 member countries) and in supporting American Film Showcase and Sundance Institute’s Film Forward Tour in Indonesia.

Full details are available on the festival website.

Hail to the Chief

It was cheering to hear from Bali’s new chief of police General Sugeng Priyanto that police programs already put in place by his predecessor, General Ronny Sompie, would continue. This is in many ways a profound departure from past practice, where the new man sweeps in and moves all the deckchairs before he’s got his feet under the big desk. A little continuity can go a long way.

General Sugeng was sworn in to his new post at a ceremony at national police headquarters in Jakarta on Sep. 7. He was previously head of the international relations division. General Ronny Sompie left Bali on Aug. 10. He is now director-general of immigration.

Putting on the Ritz

You might be forgiven for thinking that Bali will soon have as many hotels as it has motor cars, given the rate at which they are springing up everywhere, in every class from mini through compact and family up to limousine, under the strictly non-enforced rules of the moratorium on new ones that was long ago announced and then instantly forgotten.

New hotels are not necessarily bad, on an island that depends for its modern economy on holidaymakers. There’s that pesky infrastructure issue, of course, best illustrated by water shortages, inadequate power, tailgated traffic from Anywhere to Everywhere Else, and the comedy routine of hugely oversized package tour buses impaled on sharp corners in narrow little streets. A proper public development plan would assist, but you can’t have everything, especially if no one takes any notice anyway and just hands over the next bulging brown envelope instead.

So it’s good news that the Ritz Carlton stable – one hesitates to call so plush a collective a chain – has opened a Ritz Carlton Reserve property at Ubud called the Mandapa. It’s on the Ayung River, has 35 suites and 25 private pools, overlooks the jungle in the river valley, blends traditional architecture and modern luxury, and offers four restaurants and the sort of spiritual, wellness, health and detox programs for which today’s well-heeled tourists yearn and which are the signature products of the crowded little town that has declared itself Bali’s spiritual capital.

E is for Environment

Yes, we know. It’s another of our repeated themes. It’s just that the natural environment, in this instance the marine littoral one, is quite important and should wherever possible be protected. So it was interesting to see that Tangerang regency in Banten (on the western boundary of the Big Durian, aka Ibu Kota Negara) is turning a prime asset, a 20-hectare mangrove forest at Tanjung Pasir, into a marine and culinary tourism destination.

This is so much better than digging up the protective and life-giving mangroves. They provide habitats for all manner of marine creatures and also protect against erosion and – unless it’s a catastrophically big wave, which is fortunately quite rare – can mitigate the inundation risk from tsunamis. Drawing people to the area is a good idea, since this will increase the village economy and give visitors something better to do than hang around shopping malls all weekend. A breath of fresh air is a wonderful tonic.

Our chaps here are not really into listening, or particularly good at learning lessons if by any chance they do tune in. But there is a lesson to be learned from Tangerang in how a natural asset like Benoa Bay, for example, could benefit many instead of just a few.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 2, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Heading for the Hills

Last year an unavoidable detention in Australia – its cause was medical, not custodial, in case any among the Diary’s more liverish readers might snigger and wonder – meant we were not among the 126, 000-plus attendees reported to have crowded Bali’s cultural capital for the eleventh Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. There might have been a bit of creative mathematics in that figure (people attending multiple events and so forth) but never mind. A good number’s a good number. Nothing shall stand in the way of our getting to the twelfth (acts of the deity excepted) to be held from Oct. 28-Nov. 1. The line-up for UWRF 2015 is very fine indeed.

This intelligence reached us in the customary way, in a virtual billet-doux from festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe. There are 160 names, including leading authors from around the world, thinkers, artists, advocates and social commentators from more than 26 countries. All of this makes for a very big word fest. More than 200 separate events are on the schedule.

The headline act is American Michael Chabon, whose book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay won the Pulitzer Prize; award-winning British foreign correspondent Christina Lamb; Tony and Maureen Wheeler who founded the Lonely Planet series; and Moshin Hamid, the celebrated Pakistani author of How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.

Also in the line-up are Nigerian-born Chigozie Obioma, whose debut novel The Fishermen was recently long-listed for the Man Booker Prize; 2015 Miles Franklin Award winner Sofie Laguna; and Emily Bitto, winner of the 2015 Stella Prize for her debut novel The Strays. Other names worth noting are philanthropist Mpho Tutu, daughter of South African anti-apartheid churchman and activist Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Indonesian campaigner for Papuan social justice Andreas Harsono. Not to forget Australian academic Adrian Vickers, whose masterly contribution to and editing of the recent Lempad of Bali book flowed directly from his longstanding interest and expertise in Indonesian cultural history.

The theme of the festival this year is “17,000 Islands of Imagination”. Full details are on the UWRF website.

Murder Aforethought

One crucial element of Chaos Theory is that if something isn’t going to work, however hard you beat your head against a brick wall and however much advice you reject out of hand, you just keep at it. This murderously farcical nonsense is in full play in Bali over rabies and how (not) to deal with it. The provincial and local governments know best. Just don’t ask how. And if by any chance you hold the view that in fact they are talking out of an aperture remote from and somewhat south of their mouth, they’ll bash your ears forever until you run away to hide from the noise.

Never mind that Jakarta has given up on trying to get them to understand, or that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is wringing its hands in despair, or that animal welfare groups – overseas as well as in Bali – are roundly criticised for actually caring. Execution teams are fanning out across the island armed with strychnine darts to bring painful, sometimes cruelly lingering and completely unnecessary deaths to thousands of Bali dogs. Quite where karma fits into this dystopian picture is something for others far more qualified to say than the Diary. We’ve only read the world literature and standard practice on eradicating rabies, after all. It’s not as if we’ve wasted all the money on other things and have convinced ourselves, by applying the vacuous calculus of the Great Panjandrum equation, that up is down, black is white, and that anyway, we’re in charge so everyone else can just shut up.

In the city of Denpasar and in the regencies of Gianyar, Bangli and Tabanan, as well as in other parts of the island, teams from animal husbandry – that’s the outfit that’s supposedly responsible for animal management and welfare – are darting dogs willy-nilly as part of the government’s counterproductive anti-rabies campaign. Alongside this there’s a growing record of dogs being stolen – the disgusting dog-meat trade and rampant pet theft are clearly factors in this – and of associated beatings to death of dogs in public places. It’s a great tourism image, that.

Pets are being slain in front of weeping little children. Village communities that the government has failed to bother to educate about rabies or anything much else are signing up to culling programs they clearly do not understand will increase their exposure to rabies, not reduce it. We hear suggestions that the provincial authorities would like to coopt non-profit animal welfare agencies into their strategy. In the upside-down world of Bali administration, that would make them part of the problem rather than the solution. That’s the way things are done here. It might work, as a concept at least, if the Governor and other luminaries could work out that the smoggy blue bit up there is the sky and the litter-strewn vistas below are the land. But don’t wait up for that to happen.

There is a problem. There’s no doubt that rabies is on the rise again. But there’s another problem too. It is the provincial government and its blindness.

Splash Out

We had a fun evening at the 2016 Waterman’s Awards night, held at the Padma Resort in Legian on Aug. 14. This was despite not bidding high enough in the silent auction to score a plush holiday break in Goa and some glitches in the presentation and continuity (“run-sheet problems,” we said to ourselves sotto voce at several points). Those demerits aside it was a good show. It was particularly pleasing to see longstanding local benefactor and Surfer Girl proprietor Steve Palmer pick up the major award of the evening, the lifetime inspiration award. A good friend of the Diary, Delphine Robbe of Gili Eco Trust, picked up Water Lady of the Year.

Events like these are always works in progress. The Waterman’s is the brainchild of ROLE Foundation chief Mike O’Leary, who deserves credit for the initiative. We look forward to the 2016 awards.

That Sinking Feeling

News that Dubai’s grandiose interference with the hydrography of its bit of the Arabian Gulf has come to grief in the shape of artificial islands that are sinking into the sandy base of that chiefly enclosed but fiercely tidal waterway may or may not have caused a sinking feeling in the corporate court of Tomy Winata, self-made billionaire tycoon and friend of Sumatra’s tigers.

We’re betting “may not” since the practice here is to ignore the actuarial risk of what might happen tomorrow in favour of dollars (or any convenient convertible currency) today. Come on! Benoa Bay is nothing like the Arabian Gulf. It’s just a little, formerly beautiful, mangrove-swathed inlet. The Shatt al-Arab doesn’t empty the remains of Mesopotamia into it. It is the sludge pond only for a few of Bali’s little rivers and the filthy rubbish that clogs and despoils them. But artificial islands and shifting sands do not as a rule go together like peaches and cream, or for that matter like enormous horseless carriages and the mega-vroom that makes them go in a suitably rich boy-toy fashion.

Moreover, it’s a place that might make a mint for someone if it is eventually turned into an artificial eyesore. This outcome is the central objective of Pak Winata’s plan to build Excresence-sur-Mer. He will be long gone from the scene of that environmental crime before it turns into Excresence-sous-Mer.

It’s That Girl Again

Schapelle Corby, whose criminal notoriety was glibly turned into victim-celebrity by her family and the tabloid and lowbrow-glossy western media, is reported to be planning a baby. The reportage is third hand and gossipy, as much of that sort of dross tends to be. She did look rather wan in the photo of her that we saw. It was taken at the beach where the putative father of her apparently conceivable future baby has a business. She is not expectant, it seems, so her listless pallor cannot have been morning sickness. Perhaps it was ennui or irritation.

Nothing about this has anything to do with anyone other than Corby, high-profile Australian parolee, and the person who might one day impregnate her. It certainly has nothing to do with her sister Mercedes, one-time Ralph Magazine boob-barer and motor mouth for hire. In the report we saw she seemed to be attempting to reinvent herself in some sort of mother-superior role.

Give. Us. A. Break.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 19, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Make a Mess of It

We do try very hard – really we do – to find little political or bureaucratic triumphs to lighten the load of otherwise observing serial dysfunction and give us something positive to write about that has emerged from government. But it’s hard. Since Australian beef imports were slashed – someone had heard the stirring beat of that nationalist drum again and had convinced himself that Indonesia Raya was self-sufficient in that variety of essential protein – local prices have shot up by 180 percent because (and we won’t even bother pausing for effect) supplies were now short. The government has said it will import 50,000 tons of Australian beef to meet the shortfall, or perhaps to fill in the gap in its mind.

We’ll move along to the next little upset apple cart. This is the invidious effect of steep rises in tariff charges on imported wine and spirits, which (to no one’s surprise except the sentient) have caused a conniption in the drinks industry – it’s worth rather more than a snip at US$300 million (Rp Something plus far too many zeroes) – especially coming on top of this year’s ban on beer sales through mini markets. From Jul. 23, importers have been paying 90 percent of import consignment value on wine and 150 percent on spirits. The industry says this will lead to retail price rises of between 15-100 percent. It fears, somewhat naturally, that this may have a negative impact on sales.

It is true of course that observant Muslims are forbidden alcohol – it is haram – and that premium wines and spirits are only ever so rarely found in your average Indonesian household whose occupants, if they have jobs, earn derisory wages that are flat out putting nasi bungkus on the meja. Cheap hooch is widely available and – as we have just seen again in Bali in a separate criminally stupid or criminal profiteering case – is highly likely to have been adulterated with methanol or other dangerous substances. Most Indonesians are unlikely to be affected by prohibition-style, speakeasy-level prices for imported drinks they will never consume.

But there is another aspect to the alcohol issue that should worry a great many people. It is that the drive to suppress consumption is coming from the hardline Islamist push in the legislature and the government. Consuming alcohol is not prohibited for many people who profess Indonesia’s other religious faiths. It is a commodity that the tourism sector must provide to meet the expectations of their markets. There are plenty of other places for tourists – or rich Indonesian elites – to go if they want a drink at a reasonable price with their holiday dinners, after all. This factor is critical to Bali, where tourism is the single most important economic driver. It’s quite clear that Islamic legislators in Jakarta – a world city in which alcohol fuels the metropolitan entertainment sector – have given little thought for the deeper ramifications of their campaign.

Drinking is not compulsory. It is elective behaviour of the sort that sensible, secular states permit (properly regulated) on the basis that people should be free to choose to indulge in lawful, pleasurable activities and ought to be facilitated in these pursuits. Too often when fanatics get into the act all sorts of things are proscribed because it is suspected that somewhere, someone might be having a good time.

Island Faces

There’s a lovely photographic exhibition at Lestari Art Space in J. Drupadi, Seminyak, called The Island’s Faces and featuring an eclectic range of local dials. The photographs are the work of Ayu Swarie. They have been acclaimed by many as emblematic of our island and won deserved applause from the crowd at the opening on Aug. 7.

The Diary could not be present on opening night because of a prior engagement (see below). But the exhibition runs through to mid-September and we’re not going to miss it. The works are for sale.

Beach Style

A good friend, filmmaker and photographer Adithio Noviello, and his bride Adita Dwi Putrianti chose a sunset beach setting for their wedding on Aug. 7. It was a lovely occasion, especially because it was a celebrated with Muslim rites in front of a gathering whose own religious beliefs encompassed Islam, Balinese Hindu, Buddhist, Judaism, Christianity of various sects, and a goodly component of those whose religious practice exists only as an entry on their ID cards. It seemed a delightful allegory of the real world, the one that exists away from Those Who Like to Bother You.

It’s always a pleasure to hear Arabic spoken or sung at religious occasions and, in the old days before loudspeakers took over from the solitary muezzin who intoned from the minaret, the call to prayer was a mellifluous affair. It’s also rather nice to hear Qur’anic Arabic that’s not being spoken or sung by a native speaker of the language. In that respect, it shares qualities with the Latin one used to hear in Christian churches: unintelligible to most and quaintly pronounced.

We said this, at the party at the Holiday Inn Baruna Bali at Tuban, to a fellow guest whose provenance is Jewish, and added that when such occasions bless the ear it is for us very much like listening to Hebrew. Shalom Aliechem.

Noviello recently produced a short film on the under-threat Bali Dog – it was launched at a function at the Mercure Bali in Sanur the week before his wedding – and auctioned the centerpiece work from his brilliant exhibition of still photographs in aid of BAWA, the Bali Animal Welfare Association. One of his other photographs now resides at The Cage, courtesy of the charge-card facility at the show.

From Vulcan’s Lair

Our favourite local blogger, Vyt Karazija, had a lovely take on Mt Raung’s lengthy effluence in nearby East Java that has lately caused distress to airports, airlines, and especially airline passengers who have no idea of the dangerous properties of volcanic dust except that it must be someone else’s fault. That episode had abated at the time of writing – though one should never wholly trust Vulcan not to return to bother us again shortly – but it gave all sorts of people an opportunity to fulminate.

Karazija fulminates quietly, in his own erudite way. He noted on his Facebook one day that his newly cleaned motorbike had acquired a dull sheen of dust – debu in the local parlance – and he became quite lyrical about this. He wrote that it was wondrous that minute particles of Inner Earth had been expelled by pyrotechnic flux and had floated free for the first time in four billion years, seeing the Sun and all the other wonders available above the crust. It was pleasing, he noted, that some of these microscopic and newly free entities had chosen to grace his motorbike.

This is sort of poetic prose that can bring a tear to eye of an old diarist, someone from the dark side who has seen the English language mangled by many for whom it is their native tongue and who unaccountably have been paid to write in that language. We did have a briefly lachrymose moment. But Karazija, while he is light with the virtual equivalent of a pen, is also a practical man. The rare dust that had blessed his bike, he finally decided, might actually be debu from the rampant construction and deconstruction, licensed or otherwise, that takes place round the clock in South Bali.

Then again, we ourselves mused, it could merely have been particulate-laden smog, that other constant in the atmosphere above the murdered landscape of Denpasar, Badung and parts of Gianyar and Tababan. We daily see that dreadful pall – beneficially, this is from a distance – from The Cage in our still mainly wooded and freshly aired bit of the Bukit.

See You in Sanur

The tenth Sanur Festival will be held from Aug. 26-30. Its theme is “Decade”, which is accurate at least, if not a natural crowd-puller of a slogan. Along with the usual mix of such events, including kite flying, a food festival, fun runs (on Aug.23), beach cleanups, turtle hatchling releases, a photographic competition and other entertainments, this year’s festival includes nightly showings of films from the 2015 Bali International Film Festival, which itself takes place from Sep. 24-30. For those more actively inclined there are Village cycling tours; and the Sanur Open golf tournament will be held at Bali Beach golf course on Aug. 29-30.

Sanur Festival chairman Ida Bagus Gede Sidharta Putra makes a good point. “If we do not have a flagship tourism activity, Bali tourism will stagnate and slowly it could be abandoned by tourists.”

Festival details are on the festival website.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 5, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Poison Chalice

Three people died from methanol poisoning in Bali recently. They had all been drinking at a bar in Legian. The name of the establishment is fairly well known and cautions against going there have been privately issued by many people to their friends. Naming it publicly is fraught with risk. One of the more curious elements of Indonesian law is that people who should be in jail hanging their heads in shame can make you the criminal for talking about them.

So we’ll just say this: People who adulterate alcoholic drinks with methanol for profit (that’s why they do it; it’s certainly not for mistakenly philanthropic reasons) should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Those whose actions or negligence lead to catastrophic poisoning – methanol can leave you brain damaged and blind if it doesn’t kill you – should be arrested, charged, tried and if found guilty, jailed. It’s just another thing that Bali needs to get really serious about.

Gaining a reputation as cowboy territory does not help the island’s tourism profile. If we become known as a place where nut-heads serve you methanol in bars – and of hotels whose balconies collapse and severely injure people and whose managements then decline to accept any responsibility, apparently even moral responsibility – it’s rather likely to be seen as a demerit rather than a merit. Even in non-effete, non-western tourism markets.

Wake Up

It was good to see the response from the fisheries and forests minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, to the international petition raised in the interest of the captive dolphins confined to a small, chlorinated swimming pool at the Wake resort at Keramas. It beggars belief that anyone would subject dolphins to such treatment, especially in the pursuit of profit. So if violations are found (beyond the unbelievable confinement of intelligent, salt-water living mammals in poisonous, potentially blinding chlorinated water) then it would be good if the central government applied its animal protection powers. Such action might resolve the situation speedily, whoever is the enchanted being, a member of a protected species perhaps, who is behind this particular “tourist attraction”.

The resort, we hear, is favoured by Russian tourists, primarily for its off-road macho-man facilities. The dolphins are a side-show. That says something itself, of course, especially in an environment where roubles and vroom go together like a shirtless president and a chesty photo opportunity, but we should not be surprised.

A deeper discussion on Indonesia’s laws as they apply to the apparently hitherto elective matter of animal protection is sorely needed, and not only in the context of the newly announced quest for nature tourism. We look forward to Minister Siti’s direct input. Reform of those inadequate laws, many of which date from the Dutch era and are no longer relevant, is something for which animal welfare organizations have been pressing for ages.

It’s Those Westerners

Speaking of animal welfare advocates, those among them who have been most vocal about how to reduce and eventually eliminate rabies in Bali are back in the provincial government’s sights. Governor Pastika says handling rabies in Bali is not like doing so in western societies where people vaccinate their pets and look after them properly, and where strays are rare. In Bali, he says, we have to kill stray animals because it’s easier to do so and more appropriate in our environment.

He overlooks, as of course he must unless he wants to immediately destroy his whole argument, the experience of India, South Africa and a number of Latin American countries where approved world standard responses have been used to great effect. These are vaccination, humane numbers reduction by sterilization, and effective community education. Last time we looked, most of the places where culling has been rejected as both pointless and a risk of further spreading rabies were hardly examples of well-moneyed leafy suburbs in prosperous European and American cities.

The Governor told a meeting of Bali legislators that animal welfare organizations here should not just shout (he means shout things that he views as unhelpful or irritating) but should help the government by capturing strays, vaccinating and sterilizing them, and caring for them. If that is his view, perhaps he should tell all the little panjandrums further down the line that it is. They might then cease their boneheaded practice of obstructing NGOs doing this good, productive, public spirited work.

Governor Pastika’s line on vaccination is just as skewed, not to say crass. There’s not enough human vaccine in Bali, he says, because the suppliers – the private company BioFarma – have insufficient stock. It’s not that the government won’t buy it; it’s just that it isn’t there to be bought. Anyone who buys that line is unfamiliar with an eight-letter word that is more politely rendered as two words: bovine manure. In fact the government agreed to a contract last year at a unit price it now finds the suppliers have discounted for online buyers and they want it cheaper too. Caveat emptor is a nice old Latin term that fits.

There was another rabies death last week (Jul. 27) in Bangli, the island’s 12th this year. It takes the official human toll from rabies to 160 since the disease broke out in 2008. It is now on the rise again, because the government, its animal husbandry agency, and some district administrations, have dropped the ball. That’s the bottom line. It’s a shocking one.

Takes the Cake

We can report that not only is Tim Hannigan’s latest book on Indonesia first class – it’s A Short History of Indonesia: Sultans, Spices and Tsunamis, and has just been published by Tuttle Singapore – but that the Biku high tea that accompanied his chat about it on Jul. 25 was too. We expected nothing less, of course, of Asri Kerthyasa’s fine establishment; and we were certainly not disappointed, though we did leave afterwards feeling quite full.

Tim is a good speaker. He has a knack of sitting gnome-like on a tall chair and looking entirely comfortable. This is a remarkable skill. He took the sell-out crowd through the introduction to his book, the only bit of it, he says, that is entirely imagined. It centres on the Hobbits of Flores in pre-history and their lengthy interaction with the fuller-sized humans who colonized the archipelago towards the end of the Hobbit era. The rest of the book can rely on written and narrative record, and does, rather well.

The official book tour included an appearance at Bar Luna literary club in Ubud and a signing assignment at Periplus at the airport. Unofficially, it featured a rare opportunity to catch up with the author over dinner, which was good fun and informative as always. This special meeting of the Raconteurs’ Club took place at Gorgonzola, which is a fixture on our Bukit List.

Direct Action

Those who follow the detail of the Indonesian-Australian relationship know very well that it chugs along much as ever, beyond the headlines and the scare stories, even in the face of the assertion (lately) by the Indonesian attorney-general that shooting convicted criminals is no longer a pressing priority. Apparently only the first few rounds were prioritized. It is now crystal clear that this exercise in judicial murder was for political purposes. We’ll pause briefly to vomit in disgust and then get on with business.

The business in this instance is the Direct Assistance Program administered by the Australian consulate-general in Bali. The 2014-2015 program funding was doubled to Rp 1, 683,000,000 in the Australian budget for that financial year (Australia’s FY runs Jul. 1-Jun. 30). It funded 16 projects, two of them in neighbouring Nusa Tenggara Barat for which the consulate-general also has responsibility. Australia slashed its future foreign aid funding in the 2015-2016 budget in May, but most of the impact is in outlays for future years and the DAP program in Bali-NTB for this financial year remained at its previously doubled level.

Projects funded in 2014-2015 included: Funding sight-restoring cataract surgeries in NTB; buying support tools for patients with disability in Lombok; providing piping to access clean water for a village in Tabanan; supporting a sustainable agriculture project in Buleleng that researched and promoted dry land farming techniques; purchasing toilets to supply to a remote village in East Bali; funding a pop-up co-working space in Gianyar to develop entrepreneurship among young Balinese; working with an Australian volunteer to provide advanced nurse training at Sanglah Hospital; and providing updated IT equipment to a women’s college in Ubud to train young female students in multi-media skills.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jul. 22, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Hannigan’s Islands

The delightful Tim Hannigan, former Surabaya English language teacher and scribbler of note around the archipelago, has written another book: A Brief History of Indonesia. Published by Tuttle in Singapore, it will shortly be on the bookshelves everywhere. His earlier effort, Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, caused unseemly ripples on the otherwise imperturbable ponds of British historiography of Empire rendered in the paean style.

It upset the teacups at the Hyacinth Bucket-style riparian delights in which some indulge while still imagining themselves suffused with the sacred afterglow of the British imperium. Though a serious work (written in a lively, readable, style) Hannigan’s Raffles book was a giggle for those others among us who tend to the view that the man memorialized as the far-seeing founder of Singapore was rather more an insubordinate pirate than a self-effacing, objective servant of the Crown.

Since pirates are somewhat in vogue in this context, it was good to hear that Hannigan introduced his new book to the audience at the Penzance Literary Festival at an illustrated talk on Jul. 11 called (from the book’s extended title) Sultans, Spices and Tsunamis. The Cornish port town has piratical connections extending far further back than Gilbert & Sullivan’s pop opera The Pirates of Penzance.

He tells us he can’t make this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which is a pity. He has an engagement in Mongolia. Well, no. It’s actually a wedding, though not his own. When we heard this we asked if the happy couple had yet chosen a suitable yurt. They live in an apartment in Ulan Bataar, as any sensible people would. The winters can be nippy. But we learned from Hannigan, who told us he had only relatively recently discovered this for himself, that a yurt is not a yurt at all. It is a ger, pronounced grrrr, surely an appropriate locution for Mongolians who find the foreign fixation with fictitious yurts tedious.

Hannigan is in Bali for book chats at Biku in Seminyak (Jul. 25) and Bar Luna Ubud (Jul.28) and a book signing at Periplus at the airport on Jul. 30. We’ll catch up with him at Biku – where we’ll also catch up with Asri Kerthayasa’s lovely cakes – and if we can, at Bar Luna. We’ll pick up a copy of his latest tome too. And it would be nice to see him at UWRF 2016, if that can be arranged.

Smoke and Mirrors

The dreadful Mail Online, doyen of the virtual tabloids in both its British and Australian versions, proved again with the eruption of Mt Raung in East Java that in some sections of the media fact is spelled “fict”, professionalism and the brain quality that goes with this are superfluous to corporate requirements, and that common sense flew out of the window long ago. Not to be coy about it, its operators are fuckwits.

When atmospheric volcanic dust from the eruption caused a hazard to aviation, Ngurah Rai International Airport was closed. This was not only a sensible precaution but was also required under international civil aviation regulations. It caused dreadful inconvenience to many, including a number of Australians who in the tried and true and thoroughly infantile traditions of portions of that sheltered community, claimed that their singular problems demanded immediate special attention.

The Mail Online, in both its vacuous versions, Brit and antipodean, got out its eggbeaters and presented a fanciful feast of fevered imagination that crossed the boundary into parody. Alongside breathless quotes from the suitably aggrieved (those who plainly had no thought for the technical and safety reasons behind their inconvenience) it ran vision and still photographs from the eruption of Mt Merapi last year, which did indeed blanket Surabaya airport in East Java with a layer of volcanic ash. It passed these off by inference and directly as current images from Bali. It was a disgraceful and depressing display of juvenility.

Volcanic eruptions are commonplace in Indonesia. Disruptions of all kinds naturally follow. We have to live with those. Fortunately we can afford to ignore the Mail Online.

Blokes Only

In the normal course of events we wouldn’t be overjoyed at the thought of a blokes-only evening. You know, footy (in all its forms) and other blokey, sporty things, are agenda items with which it is possible to go only so far. But there are exceptions, and if it’s at Slippery Stone at Kerobokan and has been organized by Chief Diva Christina Iskandar, it is plainly a do that has more going for it than most.

Thus an evening soirée of Greek delights and selected beverages presented by George, Sam and Paul at Slippery Stone’s new Venus Lounge seemed to be invitation we should not refuse. We didn’t make it to the show after all, though. Sadly some god or other – it may have been Hephaestus, the Greek original from whom the Romans conjured Vulcan – had other ideas and something intervened to prevent our attendance. That was a pity, because George, Sam and Paul – and no doubt Christina – wanted us to help bless their new lounge. We’ll drop in sometime. Venus might be in attendance. Old Hep is her hubby, after all, and he may be around these parts for a while.

Barking Again

It’s really not clear why any celebratory noises should be made over the claim by Bali’s animal husbandry authority that more than 5000 dogs have been eliminated. Given the methodology, which is to send death squads into villages and communities and kill any dogs found in the open, vaccinated and sterilized dogs will have been eliminated too, in a further assault – most likely fatal – on vital herd immunity to rabies and reduction in numbers through humane methods.

The head of animal husbandry, Putu Sumantra, says these measures to control and reduce rabies are necessary because the disease is a threat not only to Balinese communities but also to tourist areas. It certainly is, of course, but infection rates vary and are highest in places distant from the south where most of the tourists are. He has a point when he notes that tourists travel within Bali, but frankly that’s not the issue. The Bali government needs to reduce rabies as a threat to the Balinese. They are the people most at risk of being bitten by a suspect dog and then finding there’s little or no supply of essential post-exposure anti-rabies vaccine. It’s not going to achieve this objective in the environment it has created, by failing to maintain the staged rabies reduction program it signed up to in 2010, or blindly ignoring all the data that shows a vaccinated screen of immune dogs prevents human infections and with sterilization programs helps humanely reduce numbers.

An incident at Padang Bai recently shows how badly off-message the government has been. A dog there became suddenly enraged and ran around and bit four people and tried to bite others. Hello, you might think: here is a dog showing classic signs of rabies infection. We had better catch it (and kill it if necessary) so that it can be taken to the authorities for laboratory testing. This is not what occurred. Instead an informal posse formed that chased down the dog, beat it to death, and threw its carcass into the sea. Among the posse were police (a policeman had been bitten by the dog) who you would think might think they should deliver the carcass to the authorities. Rabies is hardly a new phenomenon in Bali after all. It’s been here and spread widely since 2008. Human deaths from the disease are sharply up this year.

The death squads may also be running into trouble. The authorities say they are killing dogs in response to community pressure. There is evidence of growing resistance among Balinese to this policy, along with increased interest in looking after dogs they own or care for in the informal way that is done here.

What sometimes seems to be overlooked by the authorities, who are clearly concerned about Bali’s image as a safe place, is that everyone – even the government’s critics on this issue – is seeking the same solution: a Bali that is free of rabies.

A Reminder

The 2015 Waterman’s Awards will be presented on Aug. 14 at the Padma Resort in Legian. This year the awards have been consolidated and broadened in scope. It will be a great night in a good cause – a cleaner and healthier marine and aquatic environment. See you there.

Hector is on Twitter and tweets @ scratchings. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz


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