8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 26, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Singapore Sling-off

It’s been a while since we were in Singapore so we had been quite looking forward to getting back there this month. We had been amusing ourselves with thoughts about minding the platform gap again, but the MRT was full of very pushy people on our two train rides and the whole experience was one of rather less than unalloyed delight.

Traffic also seemed to be much less well behaved than hitherto. The unnecessary and noisy practice of sounding your car horn – for any reason, or none – is gaining a growing toehold in the previously well-mannered and equable city state. Worse, “big car” syndrome is more and more obvious. It is familiar to anyone in Indonesia and many other places where capitalism, bureaucracy and fat-wallet-lawyer are synonyms for bad-mannered. The bumptious practice of the cashed-up mob in such environments is to assume droit de seigneur and to believe it is immutable fact that if you’re in a BMW or a Mercedes and are therefore visibly rich and powerful, lesser mortals have only two options: to swoon at your feet or get run over.

Of course, democracy has never had much of a place in Singapore, what with Raffles being an English provincial imperialist, his successors being chiefly British and (briefly) Japanese officer bureaucrats, and their successors being Lee Kwan Yew, etc. We should not be surprised. Singapore seems, in so many ways not discounting the Gilbert & Sullivan, to be the very model of a modern Venetian republic. The Serenissima was the most successful city state of its thousand-year era, after the nabobs of the day demoted democracy to historical theory, until its last supine grandees capitulated to that well-born Corsican brigand Napoleone Buonaparte in 1797.

Great Australian Bite

We had dinner one evening with an old chum, Ian Mackie of Lasalle Investment Management. He’s a 20-year veteran of Singapore whose interests are many and among which is a chain of coffee-culture shops named Dimbulah. We were at the one at Raffles Place, the first to offer an evening dining experience as well. It has just added a burger that is out of this world. The menu is complemented by a nice range of Australian and New Zealand wines. The NZ pinot noir we had was first rate. It came from Central Otago. The burger came from the kitchen and was better than the best.

The coffee comes from Dimbulah Mountain Estate in North Queensland. Dimbulah is a little place on the Atherton Tableland behind Cairns where the altitude knocks a point or two off the tropical temperatures and Arabica coffee trees thrive. It is not to be confused with Dimboola in Victoria, in Australia’s far chillier south. Dimboola grows wheat and its chief claim to fame is the play of the same name written by Jack Hibberd.

Incorrigible Indeed

The Singapore trip – an occasion forced upon us by reason of the visa run you have to do if your KITAS expires while you’ve been away in Australia trying not to – did create one other opportunity. We’ve been trying to get a start on reading an English translation of Jean-Michel Guenassia’s 2011 debut novel The Incorrigible Optimists Club. It is at last available in paperback (Atlantic Books) and the translation by Euan Cameron is very good.

It’s certainly best in many circumstances to be an incorrigible optimist. For example, we are optimistic that we won’t have to miss the 2015 Yak Awards. This year’s otherwise not-to-be-missed and exotically eclectic bash was held on Nov. 14, the very day the bureaucrats had set for our temporary exile from the Island of the Bumf Shufflers.

It was such a shame. Not to be counted among 600 partygoers is bad enough. But to miss yet another chance to see the sibilantly sassy Sydney songbird Edwina Blush in action is surely a sin.

And So to Lombok

We’re not gluttons for punishment, really. But we did have some things to do in Lombok after the visa trip (and Visa trip) to Singapore, so we went straight there. Well, we tried to. We’d booked AirAsia Singapore-Bali with enough time if things had run to schedule to make a change to the domestic terminal at Ngurah Rai and get on a Garuda flight to Praya.

Things didn’t run to schedule. You can never afford to discount the intervention of Murphy’s (or Sodd’s) Laws. We missed our connection and had to get a later flight and pay an additional fee for doing so.

Never mind. It was good to see Lombok again; and some old friends and a patch of weeds we once thought seriously about turning into our Des Res. This trip we stayed at Kebun Villas – just across the road from the Sheraton in Senggigi – which we eventually reached after an interminable taxi ride from the airport.

Still, the glacially-paced taxi ride was a pointed example of the benefits of different styles. The cabbie who took us from the Copthorne King’s in Singapore to Changi Airport that morning had obviously been taught at taxi-driver school that whatever Gweilo passengers might say (“Slow down you idiot!” “Hey! That was a red light!”) if they’re going to the airport they’re always running late.

Resolve to Devolve, Properly

It’s interesting to hear reports – as the Jokowi presidency gets into gear and begins its promised shift towards more meaningful consultation than has been the case before – that Balinese delegates to the Regional Representative Council (DPD) are seeking greater autonomy for the island.

Real provincial powers are no bad thing, in a country of many ethnicities and significant, difficult differences and distances. That is, if they are managed properly; if they codified so that there is a clear division between central government and provincial powers; if they are understood by all parties as subordinate to national policy and judicial check; and if local-level governments understand their own place is at the bottom of the structure rather than the top and that the Great Panjandrum, if he exists at all, resides somewhere other than in a district council office.

Provincial autonomy until now has been a response to separatist pressures, notably in Aceh and Papua. It should instead be a political arrangement, a compact, designed to enhance the national entity. It would among other things do away with the need for a Regional Representative Council, which in Bali’s case is an invidious arrangement since it administratively groups Bali and both West and East Nusa Tenggara. Achieving this would require courage, open minds, and a true commitment to democracy.

Methanol Methodology

There’s a very useful initiative under way in Bali, the Methanol Poisoning Awareness (MPA) campaign. It’s being run by the British Consulate and was launched in October by Governor Made Mangku Pastika and the acting British Ambassador, Rebecca Razavi.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the danger of methanol in counterfeit alcoholic drinks, and reduce the number of deaths and injuries suffered by foreign and domestic tourists in Indonesia, as a result.

Razavi said at the launch that the campaign underlines the importance of British tourists being aware of the health risks of counterfeit alcohol. In 2013 counterfeit alcohol caused more than 51 deaths and 52 hospital admissions in Indonesia.

The campaign materials are being distributed throughout Bali.

UK visitor arrivals to Indonesia have risen sharply in recent years. In the first quarter of 2014 a total of 48,871 British tourists travelled to Indonesia. In April alone, 19,809 British nationals visited, up 18.2 percent on April 2013. British authorities expect numbers to continue to increase now Garuda is flying to London.

It’s pleasing to report some British-sourced news. Though in this case there is also an Australian connection, albeit at one remove. Razavi was born in Tasmania.

Home Is Where the Art Is

It may pass almost unnoticed by many, but the growing collaboration between the national galleries of Indonesia and Australia is paying huge dividends in terms of sharing artistic expression and exposing art lovers in both countries to new experiences.

The Masters of Modern Indonesian Portraiture exhibition, which has recently had a month-long season at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, was a major National Gallery of Indonesia initiative. It was one of three art expositions this year that have demonstrated how diversity can foster unity.

The exhibition showed 35 significant Indonesian art works and offered insight into the rich portrait practice of Indonesia, showcasing key modernist works (1930-1980s) drawn from the National Gallery of Indonesia’s collection along with a selection of works by leading contemporary artists.

It was the first time works from the National Gallery of Indonesia had been shown in Australia. There are plans to ensure it is not the last. It was certainly a rare opportunity for Australian audiences to view the work of eminent modern artists from Indonesia, including masters S. Sudjojono, Hendra Gunawan and Affandi.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the Bali Advertiser

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 12, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

She’s Off Her Face (Book)

Susi Johnston, the long-term American expatriate whose situation in regard to the property she lives in at Mengwi is as disgraceful as it is well known, has dropped off the social medium preferred by gazillions of virtual chatterers. She has deactivated her Facebook. She told us, when we inquired, that she was fed up with her situation (who could blame her?) and was upset by what she sees as abandonment by former friends. It is all very sad.

Her legal argument over title to her villa, which she shared with her late Italian husband, Bruno Piazza, remains unresolved. Some local grub, name known to police, decided that she should have it instead. Johnston’s house has been invaded. She has been threatened with violent harm. Her personal space has been violated. She has been the target of people who have planted illegal products in her home so she would be charged with a crime. But she is the victim and because of this has been a virtual prisoner in her villa for three years. She can’t even find a pembantu willing in the circumstances to be paid (very well) to keep house.

The police have done little except camp at her place 24/7 to “protect” her. In the process they have destroyed her life. The courts have done nothing except shuffle bumf. That’s no surprise but excuse us if we duck around a corner to vomit in disgust. The American consular system apparently cannot help her (or perhaps it will not).

In Johnston’s view the invidious situation of “nominee ownership” of property here means no one is safe unless everyone stands together. Foreigners cannot own freehold residential property in Indonesia. There is apparently still the quaint belief – though this is not a peculiarly Indonesian thing – that if filthy foreigners own land they might dig it up and steal away with it in the night. In fact it is Jakarta and Surabaya money – some of it black – that is the chief agency of land theft and the egregious despoliation that inevitably follows. But the unofficial and legally unsound nominee system which stands in the stead of outright foreign freehold ownership can work quite well if there is goodwill on each side.

Of course, it also enriches a lot of lawyers in Bali, among them practitioners whose acquisitive origins lie elsewhere, via the labyrinthine nature of Indonesian law and the fat brown envelope culture that underpins it.

Haunting Echoes

It would have been lovely to be at the Makassar Jazz Festival on the first weekend in November. Australian singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was performing there, for the first time. He sings in the Gumatj dialect of Yolngu Matha, as did the Aboriginal rock group Yothu Yindi. Greg Moriarty, the Australian ambassador to Indonesia, had the good fortune to be in the audience.

Gurrumul’s music often enlivens The Cage and offers a spiritual lift. Particularly the haunting tracks Wiyathul and Bapa from his debut 2008 album Gurrumul, both of which on a hot, still night, remain capable of dampening an eye even after years of listening to them. He has done a lot of work since 2008, including last year’s collaboration with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He has immensely strengthened cross-cultural links with the Balanda (the Australian settler community) through his music.

It’s entirely appropriate that Gurrumul should perform in Makassar. His traditional country on northern Australia’s littoral has links with Makassar that stretch back four hundred years, from the time in the 17th century when traders from Sulawesi first made contact. His own language contains modified words from Makassar now used in Bahasa Indonesia.

Moriarty was in South Sulawesi at the start of a visit to eastern Indonesia. Among other things on his schedule was a visit to an Australian-funded water project at Bantimurung that will increase the number of low-income households with access to piped water and sewerage.

He then went on to visit Papua province as part of Australia’s long-term support for economic development in eastern Indonesia.

In Aid of a Better Life

Among the lesser known things that Australian diplomatic and consular missions do is fund low-level self-help projects generally at community level to help local people have a better life. It’s not the sort of thing that often gets noticed. Actually that’s a good thing, because otherwise some whingeing so-and-sos in the Special Biosphere would inevitably assert that “their” government was wasting their money.

The consulate-general in Bali – which also looks after Australian interests in West Nusa Tenggara (Lombok and Sumbawa) – has an active annual program in which development grants go to local not-for-profit organizations to support projects and ideas that would not be possible without that assistance. Grants range from $2,500 to $15,000 (Australian).

It’s a lengthy list (which really deserves wide publicity, despite the caution noted in the first paragraph) but there are three that caught our eye as brightly illuminating both the principle and the practice of local assistance.

One is Dria-Raba, a government school for the blind in Denpasar. The Australians provided musical instruments and the fit-out for a music room. Like most government schools in Indonesia Dria-Raba needs to find the bulk of its funding from elsewhere than the public purse. Because of its special needs it is heavily reliant on volunteers.

In East Bali the Direct Aid Program funded the building of three early childhood learning centres. This enabled women employed at the new East Bali Cashews factory to continue to work as their children could be looked after during the day.

In Ubud, where several organizations are trying to get on top of the growing pile of garbage created by tourism and development, the Australians funded building of an environmental waste management facility (it’s a Rotary Club Ubud project) at the Monkey Forest whose product also feeds the monkeys, eliminating the expensive need to purchase feed.

 

Salam, Shalom

There’s an interesting book launch at Bar Luna, Ubud, on Sunday (Nov. 16): Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues that Divide and Unite Muslims and Jews by Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali.

Rabbi Schneier, president of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, is the eighteenth generation of a distinguished rabbinical dynasty. He grew up deeply suspicious of Muslims, believing them all to be anti-Semitic (though that would be difficult for many Muslims who, being Arab, are Semites themselves). Imam Shamsi Ali, Imam of the Jamaica Muslim Center in New York, spent his childhood in a small Indonesian village, studied in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and believed that all Jews wanted to destroy Muslims. Coming from positions of mutual mistrust, it seemed unthinkable that these orthodox religious leaders would ever see eye to eye.

But in Sons of Abraham (Random House) – and the Bahasa Indonesia version Anak-Anak Ibrahim (Noura Book Publishing) – Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali tell the story of how they became friends. They offer a candid look at the contentious theological and political issues that so often divide Muslims and Jews and clarify erroneous ideas that extremists in each religion use to justify harmful behaviour.

Ah, Souls

Another warning about overdevelopment has surfaced, this time in Bali Discovery and the online Surf Life journal. It reports that the Bali chapter of the Association of Tourism Intellectuals (this is not necessarily an oxymoron) is alarmed that accommodation development in Bali is following an unclear path. As a deflective  euphemism, that’s almost up there with the Japanese Emperor advising his people in a national radio broadcast in August 1945 that he was surrendering because the war had developed in ways not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.

Association chairman Putu Anom said that while new starred hotels were once confined to a specific area, these days inexpensive city hotels stood side-by-side with them, resulting in unhealthy price competition. Well, there’s always a protectionist argument that can be advanced, even if it should be ignored. It’s certainly true that Bali’s greed-first policy is creating an ever-spreading rash of significantly sub-iconic blots on the landscape.

The Surf Life piece had a photo captioned to indicate the particular blot on the landscape depicted was another hotel. It isn’t. It’s actually worse. Someone with a ready supply of facilitation funds is wrecking the cliff just east of the Banyan Tree on the southern Bukit to create a jet-ski centre where Generation Vroom can disturb the peace, frighten the local fish, and damage the coral.

Killer at Large

A nine-year-old girl from Kubu in Karangasem, East Bali, has died of rabies. This is a shocking and unnecessary tragedy. It is also a bleak indictment of the Bali authorities’ condign failure, now of six years’ duration, to act effectively to control the outbreak to prevent the disease becoming endemic. It’s not that they’ve been short of advice, expert assistance, or funds, after all.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the Bali Advertiser newspaper and online at baliadvertiser.biz

He’ll Always be a Winner

WAYNE GOSS 1951-2014

Queensland Premier 1989-1996

The time: Early 1990s. Place: Sanctuary Cove, Queensland, developed by the entrepreneurial Mike Gore as Australia’s first “integrated resort property” under its own, unique state act of parliament. Occasion: An outdoor concert by John Farnham in his Age of Reason years.

Among the guests, pressed in among the throng, were Premier Wayne Goss and his wife Roisin. They were standing just in front of me. Queensland’s First Foot-tapper was discreetly rattling out the beat as Farnham performed. The Premier was enjoying himself.

He knew – because we were well acquainted and had already exchanged the customary smile-and-nod greetings we reserved for public occasions – that immediately behind him stood the chief leader writer of The Courier-Mail, also foot-tapping. Possibly he was pleased that it was not the chief gossip columnist. But – the delicious moment has stayed with me for more than  20 years – he did seem to memo himself that for once The Courier-Mail was keeping perfect time.

He was there in his official capacity. I was there unofficially, as I so often was, as chief handbag to the then chief spruiker for Sanctuary Cove. Doubtless The Courier-Mail’s chief gossip columnist was somewhere in the crowd.

It is one among many personal Wayne Goss anecdotes in my memory bank.

So it was very sad to hear today that Goss, 34th Premier of Queensland and the first Labor premier in 32 years had died of a brain tumour at only 63. That’s far too young for anyone to go, and it’s especially sad when it is someone who not only led the third most populous state in Australia but was also a very nice man.

Goss came to power when the atrophy and moral turpitude of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era finally proved too much even for Queensland’s astonishingly conservative electorate. By 1989 Bjelke-Petersen had gone (he left office in 1987) and most of his corrupt cronies had gone with him, but his successors Mike Ahern and Russell Cooper had failed to wipe away the stain.

But he didn’t win in 1989 because – to borrow an aphorism from a little earlier in Labor history – even the drover’s dog would have tossed the incumbents out. He won as well as he did because he had a program the voters accepted as correct, because he had demonstrated that he knew what he was doing, and because he was a nice man.

Goss probably never knew this (I didn’t tell him) but he was the second of the only two Labor leaders I’ve ever voted for. My natural political homeland is on the other side of the light on the hill, a now sparsely populated country where the anti-busybody constituency rejects the concept of government being big brother, big sister, or big anything.

The other was Gough Whitlam. He got my vote in 1972 because no one in their right mind could possibly have voted for poor, ineffectual, Billy McMahon or his dysfunctional coalition (I’d have voted for Gorton) and Labor presented a vision. It really was time. Goss got my vote in 1989 because the Nationals, frankly, had disgraced themselves and wouldn’t face reality, and Queensland would benefit from a change in its political colour.

This is not an obituary. Others have written very ably about the Goss legacy and his time in office. But I think I owe him a personal farewell. His most attractive feature – apart from his withering anger when appropriate – was his modesty. Nowadays we tend to use the word humility. It sounds rather Uriah Heep-ish. Modesty is a better term.

Goss had this quality in (modest) spades. He never pretended to know things he didn’t, or bang on about them. There’s a lesson there for others, including one other in particular who once ran Goss’ office.

One other anecdote comes to mind to illustrate the point. After one of the Goss Government budgets – it was late in term I think – and at the end of the arcane media “lock up” that accompanied this annual function, the assembled media had a final question.

Treasurer Keith De Lacy and his media advisor – my friend Ron Watson – had long departed, as had the Treasury boffins. It was a technical question, actually of no great impact, but Goss was plainly stumped for an answer.

He looked, poor chap, rather as one imagines a rabbit might look when confronted with a sudden, unexpected spotlight. Then he spotted me (I’d been in the lock-up too, writing the next morning’s editorial) and he evinced immediate relief.

“Richard, can you explain it?” he said brightly, or possibly hopefully.

Fortunately, I could. I did. The chooks shuffled off satisfied.

Vale Wayne Goss. You’ll always be a winner.

Wayne Goss died today, Nov. 10, 2014, of a brain tumour. He was first diagnosed with brain cancer 17 years ago.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 29, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Three Hearty Woofs

It was interesting to read that when the Bali Street Dog Fund and other friends and supporters of BAWA gathered for the 10th annual Bali Nights fundraiser in Melbourne on Oct. 10, they raised record funds to save and protect Bali’s animals.

It seems an electrifying bidding war broke out when Garuda Indonesia upgraded its donated return air tickets to Bali from Economy to Business class. There was excitement of a different kind – we might call it a Marie-Antoinette Moment – when an amazing Bali dog cake created by Christopher at Let Them Eat Cake in South Melbourne was woofed up for $400.

Hosts Pete Smith and Nicky Buckley, who are Nine Network television identities, did their usual wowing of the crowd (300 this year) and auctioneer Mark Fletcher kept bids rolling in. Nicky added to the glitter by wearing Janice Girardi silver jewellery creations.

The venue, as always, was the Intercontinental Rialto Melbourne. The team promises 2015’s Bali Nights will be even better. It’s long past time that the Diary dropped in again on Latitude 38S for a remedial soak in Melbourne’s eclectic magic. So perhaps Bali Nights 2015 might be the go.

Paula Hodgson of Bali Street Dogs tells us this year’s Bali Nights raised $54,350 (Australian), funds that are vital to the effort the Bali Animal Welfare Association puts into helping the island’s deprived animals. BAWA has been doing sterling work with schools and local banjars with an education program designed to empower Balinese to care for their family pets and other animals.

Perhaps that’s something fellow pundit Made Wijaya should ponder. On the evidence of his recent, strange Facebook outburst about BAWA, banjars and banners, Ubud Writers and Readers Festival founder Janet DeNeefe would have been better advised to dub him Truman Capote with a miss-aimed machete.

A Triumph of Idiocy

It was a joy to return home to Bali after a planned six-week Australian visit turned into four months owing to the intervention of Cruel Fate in the shape of a medical problem. (The joy was unalloyed despite the fact that in the interests of economy we flew up from Perth with a plane-load of people who apparently belonged to the Riffraff Club. Once the seat-belt signs were turned off they spent their time milling around in the aisle exchanging monosyllabic epithets with their mates and demonstrating that indeed they could not walk and chew gum at the same time.)

The Diary’s little difficulty, which also gave us full and uncalled for exposure to the rather inclement qualities of south-western Australia’s chilly winter, was of course a useful reminder that one’s misspent youth cannot go on forever, unless it is boringly mediated. This was not welcome news but, well, you have to go with the flow, however sluggish it eventually becomes.

Anyway, enough of that, except to say that a modified misspent youth will certainly continue, albeit with more con than brio. What was less of a joy on our return was to drive on the “upgraded” Jl Raya Uluwatu, the Yellow Truck Highway. It’s that little defile that struggles up from Jimbaran to the lofty heights of the Bukit’s limestone plateau.

Eventually, if the police bribe-collectors further along allow, or are on a day off, trekkers on this insubstantial bit of bitumen arrive at the temple at Uluwatu. This is where an informal cooperative of miscreant monkeys which steal tourists’ handbags and sunglasses and entrepreneurial locals who offer for a fee to arrange a miraculous return of the contraband, have a nice little scam going.

For starters, the road “upgrade” is still a work in progress. It had been going on for months before our departure. This is no surprise. Road works anywhere always take longer than advertised. In other places, it’s true, “upgrades” generally manage to produce some visible sign of improvement and evidence of better traffic flow.

There is no sign of this happening on Jl. Raya Uluwatu. The thoroughfare may have been widened. The question is moot. A visual inspection indicates you would need a micrometer to measure this. It has also been equipped with the high kerbs they like here, so that you can easily sprain an ankle stepping off or onto one. These also close off any escape route for vehicles trying to avoid a careering truck, yellow or otherwise. And to cap it all some clown has decided the “new” road would look lovely with trees actually planted in it, outbound of the kerbside.

Assuming these arboreal decorations survive drought, lethal vehicular fumes and encounters with badly-steered or runaway trucks, enormous buses loaded with tourists by then possibly despondent over their chances of actually seeing a bit of Bali culture, and insane motorcyclists, they will eventually grow into big, spreading foliage-carriers. Their branches will reduce the headroom available for big vehicles and their trunks could quite possibly be fatal to incautious or unlucky road users.

There is a disconnect somewhere. Trees planted in the road might be passable iconography in a quiet residential street or a buffed up and gentrified heritage area. But on a narrow arterial road they are completely stupid, as are the people who sign off on such ridiculous ideas.

A Shot in the Arm

BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua has just opened a new wing, with 10 rooms overlooking the golf course – this might be therapeutic, as they suggest, though possibly only for patients who do not play golf – in yet another demonstration of its determination to lead the field in medical matters. It’s offering promotional rates for the first cohorts of patients.

Earlier this month the hospital had a ceremony in recognition of its accreditation in July by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI). The achievement, which we mentioned in the Diary of Sep. 17, really is a job well done by all concerned and it’s good to see the management making sure everyone who works for BIMC Nusa Dua knows they have been recognized.

The Nusa Dua health campus, which opened in May 2012 as BIMC’s second hospital-level operation – the other is at Simpang Siur in Kuta – is the first in Indonesia to gain ACHSI status. It is only the second in South-East Asia. Sunway Medical Centre in Malaysia was accredited in May this year.

BIMC (the initials now stand for Bali Indonesia Medika Citra rather than Bali International Medical Centre) joined forces with the Lippo Group’s Siloam hospitals early this year, with BIMC chief Craig Beveridge becoming Bali executive chairman of the new, bigger operation. The Nusa Dua campus is seen as a natural centre for medical tourism.

BIMC Siloam Hospitals Group Bali CEO Dr Donna Moniaga says the accreditation is a necessary step towards fully developing this market sector. “The ACHS’s stamp of approval strengthens BIMC’s position as a leading health service provider in Bali, for residents and medical tourists,” she says.

Perfect Balance

Ganesha Gallery at the Four Seasons Jimbaran has an especially interesting exhibition coming up – works by I Made Wiradana, whose style is eye-catching and his intricate technique mind-blowing. The solo exhibition is on from Nov. 20 until Dec. 18.

He was chairman of the Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) in 2000-2002 and has exhibited solo in Bali, Yogyakarta and Jakarta as well as overseas in Belgium and India. His first solo exhibition was in 1999 and was titled “Imajinasi Purba” (Ancient Imagination)

Wiradana has a unique style that features primitive forms. For him, the past cannot possibly be removed from the human subconscious and will always influence culture. This is a point of view historians as well as artists embrace with verve.

La Niña Returns

The delightfully talkative and deliciously enigmatic Jade Richardson, who once was or possibly still is the Passionfruit Cowgirl and who owes us an hour or so with a bottle or three, or so she once said, is home in Bali again. Richardson, who when she was a niña (girl child) enlivened the community of Bundeena in New South Wales, decamped from our iconic island ages ago to South America, where everyone except a Spaniard believes they speak Spanish.

Ecuador was her stamping ground (it sounded chiefly delightful by the way, except for waves of American retirees with more money than taste and one or two less than meritorious events that could happen anywhere and so often do) and, frankly, we were beginning to think we’d lost her to the spiritual charms of the Andes forever, along with the tipple. She popped up at several removes earlier this year, as these days one can, with the internet, promoting the benefits of the Bali Spirit Festival. (These are many.)

Now, she tells us, she’s seeking a Balinese ambience to clear her mind and put some more virtual ink on virtual paper to chronicle her adventures, cerebral and otherwise, in the bosque nublado and at lower altitudes. That will be between drinks, if we have our way.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 15, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Probability Prabowo

People seem to be somewhat exercised over the coalition that failed presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has fashioned in the national legislature. Why this should be so is an interesting question. Indonesia is far from alone in being a democratic entity in which rival political constituencies vie for supremacy between the executive head of state and the popular assembly, sometimes with questionable people at one or the other helm. It has been a function of republican governance from ancient Rome to modern Washington.

Prabowo seeks to undermine and effectively sideline the power of the incoming president, who to his apparently still extant surprise is not himself. It’s certain that Joko Widodo will have his work cut out to lead from the Istana Negara while the Prabowo faction holds sway in the legislature.

This is not entirely novel anywhere, including in Indonesia. What makes the situation unique here is that party politics is fluid, and fully dysfunctional, rather than fully formed and in working order. Political parties have labels and compete for attention in the public space, but on the basis of their leading members’ personalities and personal desires rather than hard-worked policy. They all sing the same song, but it is a discordant one, sung in a thousand self absorbed voices. Everyone’s heard it countless times, the useless anthem Saya Pertama.

In this fractious melange, bit players come to the fore. Such as the Islamic Defenders Front, or PKI; it’s an outfit that specializes in being beside itself with rage and which literally gets away with murder. The PKI isn’t lawfully registered but no one will confront it. It doesn’t represent mainstream Indonesian opinion, but all it has to do – figuratively speaking – is drop its pants in public and everyone swoons. It parades its goon squads wherever it wants and thumbs its nose at the constitution, the law, public order and common sense, and has never heard of human rights. In this it has been aided and abetted by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (who leaves office on Oct. 20), who can only be a closet sympathizer or else feel compelled to push the funk button every time a thick-headed fundamentalist mouths his way into view.

Its latest campaign is to unseat the Indonesian Chinese Christian governor-designate of Jakarta – Jokowi’s former deputy, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known by his diminutive, Pak Ahok – because it says Muslims shouldn’t be governed by an infidel. Never mind Pancasila, then. Forget about the plurality that was the foundation stone of Indonesia’s independence and the recognized religions enshrined in the constitution. Overlook the fact that people need services, good governance and incorruptibility rather more than episodic repertory performances by Rent-a-Mob. The FPI seems to want to shift Indonesia two or three time zones to the west, where its mind-set, preferred dress codes, misogyny and bully-boy tactics are all the rage. It doesn’t matter to them that Indonesians, overwhelmingly and very sensibly, have no such desire.

At the formal political level, however, Indonesians should not yet be too alarmed by Prabowo’s indistinct grasp of democratic principle or the astonishing luminosity that he seems to believe attaches to his self-proclaimed stellar position. All politics are compromise. The precipitate decision to de-legislate direct elections at local level, a bill SBY supinely signed into law on Oct. 7, is a foolish step too far. Even generals have to keep the troops happy.

A Fine Send-Off

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has come and gone – the first in seven years that the Diary has had to miss – and it was sent on its way in fine style on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 4 and 5, by some great Australian music.

The Oct. 5 closing extravaganza featured musicians ALPHAMAMA (Anita Meiruntu) and Ben Walsh. We’re really sad to have missed that. Meiruntu’s original music and passion constantly pushes the boundaries of creative expression. She’s popular in Indonesia, where she has recently toured.

Walsh is one of Australia’s most accomplished percussionists, performers and composers. He has been touring professionally since he was 18 and has made music for dance performances, the circus and film. At the UWRF closing show he performed with a number of local percussionists. By all accounts it was an explosion of creativity.

The Saturday and Sunday performances at Ubud’s ARMA Museum were supported by the Australian Embassy Jakarta as part of its Arts and Cultural Program 2014. Ambassador Greg Moriarty said of Sunday’s finale: “The talent and musical depths of both artists showcase the best of what contemporary Australia can offer and I hope the musical collaborations created during this festival will further strengthen the cultural understanding and creative connections between our two countries.”

On the Saturday there was a performance of Ontosoroh by Australian dancer and choreographer Ade Suharto and Indonesian vocalist and composer Peni Candra Rini. Suharto and Rini have been working closely over the past two years to create Ontosoroh, which tells the story of the heroic female lead Nyai Ontosoroh in the Indonesian literary classic, This Earth of Mankind, by Pramoedyah Ananta Toer.

This Australian-Indonesian collaboration explores feminine strength and the struggle for freedom.

The embassy’s Arts and Cultural Program 2014, which began in March and ends next month, includes music, visual art exhibitions, dance, literature, textiles, sport and a science and innovation seminar series. The program also includes arts residencies and exchanges involving artists from both countries.

Cliff-Top Fantasia

The lovely people at AYANA and RIMBA, whose fireworks displays so often entertain us gratis at The Cage where they light up our horizon and shortly thereafter set the local dogs barking when the sound waves hit, have introduced a new cliff-top venue, SKY.

It opened on Oct. 10 with the sort of swell party we’ve come to expect from those in charge of the plush acres on the Jimbaran end of the Bukit. Opening night was themed Kahyangan, White Beauty at Sky. The venue caters for up to 80 people on the cliff-edge deck, up to 2,000 on the lawn, offers an amphitheatre seating up to 80, and was designed by St. Legere International. It is being marketed as a great spot for weddings and special events – and comes complete with a special panoramic seat on which you can get yourself photographed with the cliff-top vista in the background.

The opening featured the full repertoire of son et lumiere – yes, including fireworks – for which the property is renowned and was MC’d by Denada, the well-known former rapper and Dangdut singer.

Sinking Fund

Celia Gregory, the British underwater sculptor and the Diary’s favourite mermaid, tells us of an interesting crowd-funding scheme for her Marine Foundation’s living sculptures in the sea program. They’re chasing GBP 4,000 (that’s around Rp 78.5 million) to pay for a film being made on Aspara, their most recent sculpture.

Apsara will be sunk into her underwater home in Jemaluk Bay at Amed, East Bali, on Oct. 22 where three village communities with the help of Reef Check Indonesia and CORAL are working to establish effective marine management and become guardians to their coral garden and fish nursery preserving its well-being for future generations.

Gregory says the art work is inspired by the Apsaras, ancient Hindu spirits who are very beautiful and wonderful dancers that in many ways have qualities similar to the Greek fables of the sirens and mermaids. The sculpture has been designed to provide a hiding place for fish and a solid surface for corals and sea creatures to settle. The Sinking of the Apsara into the underwater coral and fish garden is seen as a unique creative opportunity to make an inspirational and uplifting short film.

It would also help promote Amed and Bali, which is a worthwhile project in itself.

When we checked on Oct. 7, our deadline day, the funding site was saying they’d raised GBP1,128, which is 28 per cent of their target. The campaign closes on Oct. 30.

Go here if you’d like to help: indiegogo.com/projects/apsara-spirits-of-the-sea

Get Walking

Just a reminder that this year’s Bali Pink Ribbon Walk against breast cancer is on Oct. 25. It’s in the walk-friendly environment of the Nusa Dua tourism precinct, the manicured bit behind the security gates. It’s a great cause and the Diary’s one day of the year for wearing pink. Full details are on the web at balipinkribbon.com. The Bali Advertiser is a sponsor.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 1, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Zesty Little Soup, Again

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival kicks off today without the assistance of V.S. Naipaul, the Tolstoy of Trinidad, who withdrew from the program last month apparently dissatisfied with the quantum of perquisites set to come his way. Never mind. There are plenty of other entertainingly literary minds involved in the festival, the eleventh. Most of them aren’t gold pass members of the Figjam Club.

This year’s theme, Saraswati: Wisdom & Knowledge, is an exploration of the wisdom to be gained by creative expression. The festival is fielding more than 150 writers from 25-plus countries, including a great line-up of Indonesian talent. Goenawan Mohamad, intellectual Azyumardi Azra, art patron Agung Rai and Festival favourites Debra Yatim, Ahmad Fuadi and Ketut Yuliarsa are on the list, as well as Sacha Stevenson, the How to act Indonesian YouTube hit sensation.

Made Wijaya will make an appearance. It’s good to see the Seer of Sanur out and about. He’s no stranger to paradise, after all, and he’s always good for a giggle. The festival organizers declare him to be Truman Capote with a machete. Such a shame then that we shan’t actually be present: People tell us we do a great Stephen Fry with a sharp s-s-stick.

Prizewinning Hassan Blasim (Independent Foreign Fiction Prize); Eimear McBride (Baileys Women’s Prize) and Cyrus Mistry (2014 DSC Prize) and the Scottish queen of crime writing and creator of the TV series Wire in the Blood Val McDermid will be sampling the mists of Ubud. Novelist Amitav Ghosh and Pulitzer Prize-finalist Deborah Baker are on the program and will also lead an exclusive post-Festival Komodo Islands cruise.

Also on board are avant-garde Asian fiction writers Can Xue from China and Minae Mizumura from Japan. Former UN Representative in Sudan Mukesh Kapila; frontline journalist Pallavi Aiyar; author of The Wisdom of Whores and Indonesia etc Elizabeth Pisani; and Polish editor and journalist Adam Michnik are providing the human rights and social comment diet. And on the environmental front there’s Keibo Oiwa, Nadya Hutagalung and Willie Smits, among others. It will be a good show.

One of the book launches is especially timely. Darwin, by Tess Lea, captures the essence of Australia’s northern capital. Her Darwin is a hybrid creation: part social history, part anthropological study, part personal memoir. Lea captures the city’s violent beginnings, its battles with the elements, the press of the heat and humidity, its wondrous multiculturalism, its beauty and its policy foibles.

The book launch is free and is at The Elephant, Hotel Taman Indrakila, Jl Raya Sanggingan, from 4.30-6pm tomorrow (Oct. 2). This year is the 40th anniversary of Cyclone Tracy, which all but obliterated Darwin on Christmas Day, 1974.

 

Resource KA-boom

Meanwhile, a few hundred post-iconic rice field views away to the east from Ubud where foreign navel-gazers have taken over the place to commune with themselves, ruminate over their macrobiotic diets, wicker about saving the world, and imagine they’re experiencing the real Bali, lies Bangli, where suspension of belief takes on another form.

Anthropologist-journalist and long-term Indonesia-watcher Graeme MacRae had a disturbing piece from his blog in the online Indonesia Weekly in mid-September, about the Wild West-style despoliation of Bali. He wrote this:

A few weeks ago, I drove up the Sidemen road, famous since the 1930s as one of the most beautiful in Bali. I would have taken it slowly anyway, to enjoy the views, but I had no choice. Around 200 trucks were coming the other way, down from the mountains, overloaded with sand, gravel and rock.

Where were they coming from? Where were they going to?

They come from quarries on the slopes of the sacred mountain Agung. They are headed where everything else is headed: into the hundreds of hotel, villa and other construction projects. Most are in Bali’s coastal resorts, but some are on rice fields around the sprawling urban area of Denpasar/Kuta.

A few days later, I meet a similar procession coming down the other sacred mountain, Batur. This time I learn a bit more. Every day, from before dawn till after dusk, at least 1500 overloaded trucks grind their way painfully up out of the crater, stopping on the way to offload excess weight.

Down in the caldera, amid what is left of a rich but delicate ecosystem of wild grasses and orchids which feed off volcanic ash among spectacular fields of black lava, lies one of the far outposts of the global resource economy.

Piles of black gravel line the narrow road around the caldera floor. Alongside it are makeshift shelters under which men and women shovel gravel through large sieves into piles of finer sand. When the sieving is done, they flag down a truck and load it by hand. Signs invite trucks into a hinterland of even narrower dirt tracks where more piles are waiting. Each hamlet the trucks pass through shares in the boom by levying its own little toll.

There’s a lot more to MacRae’s piece than that, of course. But it exactly describes the dilemma that faces Bali, one that is rooted in over-development, incapable administration, local lawlessness and unmet (and impossible) expectations.

Never mind that Agung and Batur are sacred. Forget that Batur is UN heritage listed. Overlook the fact that the scene of its despoliation is slap bang in the middle of a brand new Geopark.

Batur is in the Panjandrumistan of Bangli (we know it more formally as Kabupaten Bangli and more familiarly as the regency of the same name). Like so many other little district council areas in Indonesia, it runs at its own pace – with regal distain and glacial slowness unless acquisition of money has piqued interest – and operates by its own set of impenetrably circular rules.

MacRae’s “Wild West” description is colourful. But it’s inaccurate. The Sioux, the Cheyenne, the Crow, the Ute, the Apache, the Navaho and all the other nations that made up the indigenous humanity of the American West didn’t despoil their country themselves. Outsiders came in and did it for them.

Here in Bali, the indigenous population is busily wrecking the joint do-it-yourself-style.

 

Oh Yes, We Know it Well

A smile briefly creased the lips the other day when Jack Daniels’ inestimable Bali Update told us this, in relation to the proposed pedestrian underpass at the airport traffic circle to enable people to visit the park wherein one of the many monumental remembrances of local hero I Gusti Ngurah Rai stands, Ozymandias-style, surveying its domain:

“The statue and the surrounding park area are deemed suitable for public recreation but are made inaccessible to the public by four lanes of heavy traffic that continually circle the area.”

We’ve often thought that the chaotic traffic there is caused precisely by vehicles that continually circle the area. They might perhaps be trying to change lanes, though that’s unlikely. In Bali you just barge in. They’re probably just trapped, poor things.

The plan to build the Rp 3.7 billion underpass is in doubt because the Ministry of Public Works in Jakarta, the formal owner of the non-monumental infrastructure involved, has yet to say it’s OK.

 

Homeward Bound

For two decades long ago Britain’s longest-published weekly journal of affairs and politics, The Spectator, had a wonderful columnist whose name was Jeffrey Bernard. He was among the last of the Soho Set, a roué in the full sense of the term. He was a dreadful sot and as a result was frequently absent in the latter part of his 21 years with the magazine. “Jeffrey Bernard is unwell” became a line one looked for whenever one bought a copy of the magazine and searched for his column. Quite understandably it was called Low Life. He liked a rant and did it well. He ceased ranting in 1997, aged only 55.

Nominated in one newspaper obituary as his own Boswell, he ranted so well that Keith Waterhouse wrote a play about him and Peter O’Toole starred in a made-for-TV movie filmed at the Old Vic in London.

There have been times over the past four months when Hector has entertained the passing fancy that he too could be unwell. It does carry a certain cachet, after all, being vicariously included in such errantly distinguished company as Bernard’s. But we resisted the temptation. There are many we would have disappointed by non-appearance, we reasoned, the legions of Advertiser readers who turn to Hector’s Diary and utter their fortnightly imprecation: “What on earth is he on about this time?”

We’re due to be home in Bali by the time the next Advertiser hits the streets. It’s been a very long time between drinks.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 17, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

In the Picture

Myuran Sukumaran, the British-born Australian who has been on death row in Kerobokan Jail for eight years awaiting a firing squad for his leading part in the infamous 2005 Bali Nine drug smuggling case, has been on show in Melbourne. Well, his art has, at an exhibition at the Matthew Sleeth Studio in inner suburban Brunswick on Sept. 6.

Sukumaran, who says his art has helped give him a sense of self-control in prison, has worked hard to rehabilitate himself while his various appeals against his death sentence have worked their way through the Indonesian court system. His final plea for clemency now rests unanswered in the presidential office, where in the near-dead-duck closing stages of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s term not even the paperwork can be bothered to shuffle. The famous last words of the 19th century Australian criminal Ned Kelly, “Such is life”, come to mind. They are both a parable of Sukumaran’s own sorry record and an allegorical reference for SBY’s presidency.

Some people say criminals such as Sukumaran and the leading lights of the Bali Nine gang deserve no sympathy. But an eye for eye is neither a moral precept nor a sensible social response. Further, judicial killing is still killing. Two wrongs will never make a right. Policymakers everywhere should remember that.

One of the aims of a corrective prison system is to rehabilitate inmates. Sukumaran established the prisoner art scheme in Kerobokan. He has talent, as his work shows, and has plainly responded well to mentoring by Australian artists Ben Quilty – whose portrait of the painter Margaret Olley won the Archibald Prize in 2011 and who was the official Australian war artist in Afghanistan – and visual artist Sleeth. Both have been working with the Kerobokan art group for two years.

The 20 Sukumaran works shown in Melbourne were all for sale, at prices several floors above bargain basement. They are eye-catching – and conscience-gripping – works which among other things feature portraits of SBY and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop. Funds raised from sales of his paintings went to support the Kerobokan art project.

That project is ongoing with the support of local interests – and the indomitable Lizzie Love. Good show!

Seal of Approval

BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua has won Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) accreditation, the first hospital in Indonesia to receive recognition that its standards meet those set within Australia by the country’s leading independent authority on health care. The award was made in July after three assessors form Australia and Hong Kong spent three days reviewing the care and standards at BIMC Nusa Dua and commended the team on the quality of care and service.

This year BIMC linked with the Lippo Group and its Siloam hospitals in a major move to bring western standard health and hospital care within reach of more and more Indonesians. BIMC Nusa Dua is targeting the broadening market in medical tourism with a suite of specialties. These include cosmetic medicine, state of the art orthopaedic treatments and a dialysis centre that can cater for tourists who require regular sessions.

Executive chairman of BIMC Siloam, Craig Beveridge, said of ACHS accreditation that “[It] sends a clear message to the community that BIMC Nusa Dua, its management and staff, are committed to excellence in health care with a strong and continuous focus on safety, quality and performance. I would like to commend all involved.”

Beveridge is justifiably proud of his establishment’s achievement. He says this: “We believe our patients deserve the best. Going through the process challenged us to find better ways to serve our patients, and it is a constant reminder that our responsibility is to strive to continuously improve the quality of care we provide.”

As the leading independent authority on the measurement and implementation of quality improvement systems for Australian health care facilities, the ACHS provides assessment of the development of health care standards through consultation with industry by which quality of care may be assessed and a survey of health care organizations on a voluntary basis using these standards. This is done by peer review.

It also has an Australian national education program to help in preparing for accreditation; offers advice and consultation on health care programs; has information services on quality in health care; and offers electronic assessment tools to assist in recording data.

There is a rigorous process of external peer review to meet world class standards for patient care; performance outcomes that provide data for benchmarking throughout the health care system; and measures to improve outcomes of care and respect for the individual.

It also puts BIMC prominently on the marketing map. That’s no bad thing.

Throwing Petrol on the Fire

It’s surprisingly difficult to get arrested in Indonesia for crimes such as corruption or bare-faced incitement to murder. But try “defaming” someone with clout, real or imagined, and you can swiftly end up in the pokey. That’s what happened to an unfortunate young woman student at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University after she ran into an intemperate queue at a petrol station – a queue formed in the crucible of the government’s unsustainable subsidy scheme – and bleated about it in a social media post.

She said that Yogyakarta was poor, stupid and uncultured and suggested friends in Jakarta and Bandung should avoid the place. Her post on Path went viral, in the patois of the text message age, and numbers of self-elected luminaries decided to be really, really pissed off about it. She was first subjected to online bullying (we get some ourselves from time to time: we find that a virtual knee in the goolies deters further assault) and then a precious group – oops, sorry, pressure group – called Jati Sura reported her to police for defamation. Astonishingly, defamation is a criminal offence in Indonesia. Pricking balloons and puncturing egos is a threat to the state, it seems.

The young woman apologized in the grovelling way one has to do that here and the little storm blew itself out without upsetting too many teacups. But it’s such a shame that there appears to be no provision for someone with rank in the police to stamp on such silly overreactions before yet another seriously embarrassing comedic opportunity is generated.

Silly Question

Speaking of social media, Ubud fixture Annie Canham had this to say on Facebook the other day: “Just a question … why are there now so many dog rescue people, shelters, beach feeders, sterilisation groups and more…but from my personal observations they don’t seem to be connected at all … seems crazy … why can’t they be one united group, sharing facilities, drugs, equipment food and most of all donations…”

She got an answer (of sorts) from someone called Nyoman Sugirawan, who said Canham surely knew the answer and why was she asking it again.

There are of course many reasons for separate efforts, including differences of emphasis (and intellectual value). But the general point is a good one. As we’ve noted before several times, there are more than enough needy dogs around to occupy any number of animal welfare groups. It would make sense to work together in a planned and organized way, in a spirit of mutual recognition. Turf wars are tedious.

Back Home to a Curate’s Egg

Blogger extraordinaire Vyt Karazija returned to Bali earlier this month – and to a more regular diet of social media posts – with two bits of intelligence to hand. In the manner of the apocryphal curate’s egg, some of this was bad and some of it good. On the demerit side of the oeuf, he found that after a spell in Melbourne using an Australian SIM card in his Telkomsel phone his Indonesian SIM wouldn’t work and that several other cyber difficulties also apparent.

On the merit side, he tells us the much valued and essential Multiple Exit Re-entry Permit is now valid for the full 12 months of your KITAS instead of the bureaucratic nightmare 11 months that has been the unbelievable practice until now.

You win some, you lose some.

Lit., Glit and Otherwise

Next edition’s Diary will appear on the opening day of Janet DeNeefe’s annual lit-glit festival in Ubud. This year, unfortunately, a date with another event in Australia and some further time necessarily to be spent in the Special Biosphere afterwards will deprive us of an opportunity to be present to ooh and aah with the in-crowd.

We got a little note from DeNeefe in our mailbox on Sep. 10, telling us that at three weeks out there was plenty of excitement building in Ubud for the Oct. 1-5 Festival. All the details of the 200 events at 54 venues were on line and the program book was making its way from Jakarta to Bali. Hopefully this was not by camel train.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 3, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

  

Welcome to Bali, Far Queue

We keep hearing about the new model management at Ngurah Rai International Airport. About this beneficence we can only say that it will be good if the promissory notes it is issuing and that denote improved service have actual as opposed to notional value. It’s not clear that anyone should risk turning blue in the face while holding their breath awaiting these developments, however.

There are so many things. The rude entrapment of departing passengers in a maze of duty free shops is but one. You can’t get from passport control to anywhere you’d want to be without running the gauntlet of shop girls desperate to separate you from your money. Far more important and even more irritating is the security check shemozzle before you even get into the airport building. It’s a circus.

That’s when you’re trying to leave the Bali. It’s worse when you’re trying to arrive, especially if you’re a visa-on-arrival passenger. It’s an insult that anyone should have to stand in a horrendous queue to buy a visa and then join the tail end of another melee to get a passport officer to stamp it. It can sometimes take four hours. Welcome to Bali – Not.

It should be noted that staffing of passport control desks is a function not of the airport authority but of the government, but surely someone must have noticed that if there are 2000 incoming passengers from planes that all seem to have managed to land at once, four passport officers at the desks is hardly enough. Rosters, anyone? Perhaps the airport authority might mention this to someone, somewhere (possibly even in the Istana Negara) if it would like to encourage passengers to continue to arrive in line with their revenue forecasts. Perhaps it has. If so, this would be nice to know.

If you survive this tedious circuit of paper-shuffling, Indonesian style (why give one person a simple job when you can give it to four and complicate it beyond measure?) and the next queue for the baggage scanning, and make it to the exit, the rapacious taxi monopoly is then waiting for you. Or not. If it’s after midnight because you’ve been held up in the queue to get in, that particular piratical crew might well have gone home.

 

Give ’Em a Wave

ROLE Foundation Bali put on a Waterman’s’ Benefit Night on Aug. 30. We’d have been there but for the displacement factor: we’re still in Australia at the moment. The Grand Prize was indeed grand. Padang Padang 8″2′ Doris Gun Surf Board + 13 Night Surf Boat Trip on Doris’ Ship ‘The Raja Elang’, Mentawai, Sumatra Organizer Sean Cosgrove billed it thus: Padang Padang 8″2′ Doris Gun Surf Board + 13 Night Surf Boat Trip on Doris’ Ship ‘The Raja Elang’, Mentawai, Sumatra.

Doris is of course Tony Eltherington, a good bloke indeed and a man you can rely on to lend a hand in any circumstances, however difficult. He is memorialized in many places, including at InSalt, the little surfers’ warung on the Balangan road at Ungasan, where a burger has been named after him. InSalt is the nearest local eatery to The Cage. The Doris Day burger is OK. The mie goreng is too. And the music is cool.

The raffle prizes at the Aug. 30 show – the Doris special included – were all top-notch. The money raised was to benefit the Soul Surf Project, a non-profit organisation that helps underprivileged orphans in Bali experience the thrill of surfing by providing lessons as a means to grow awareness of the environment to keep the sea and beaches clean. Party-goers performed a public service as well as enjoying themselves.

It was at Old Man’s, Batu Bolong. Along with awards, great prizes and an auction, there were live sets by Hydrant and the Mangrooves. 

 

Hanging with an Old Friend

Made Kaek is an artist of exceptional talent, something that was happily revealed to The Diary and Distaff nearly a decade and a half ago on an early holiday trip to Bali. This discovery resulted in the purchase of two of his 2001 works which then travelled to Queensland, Australia, where they hung, much loved by ourselves and frequently admired by friends, in our house in Brisbane.

When four years later we subjected our lives to a sea change and shifted domicile to share Western Australia and Bali on a sort of extended and largely informal fly-in fly-out basis, the Made Kaek paintings went into storage along with the rest of our art. Nomads don’t generally travel with a collection in their baggage.

Now, however, with the retirement of some other works at the premises, they have found another wall to hang on, at the place in Busselton (it’s conveniently close to many fine wineries) that functions as our Australian home. Among the works now adorning the walls are the two Made Kaek pieces.

Since 2001 Made Kaek’s work has developed in style and presentation, and in some ways genre. This has taken it beyond his earlier form. He regularly produces work that one would covet were it not a sin to do so, in all three religions of the Book and most others. And buy, if one’s wallet were as flush as it was in former times.

There’s a school of thought – it seems to owe some of its genesis to the irritating post-colonial counter-cringe that gets underfoot in Bali and the rest of Indonesia, as it does in so many places – that suggests contemporary Balinese artists face a challenge in defining the relationship between their traditional cultural heritages and being a modern artist. According to the Balinese anthropologist Degung Santika (surely writing tongue in cheek) this is probably part of the “burden” of being Balinese.

It’s true that outsiders often expect the Balinese to conform to stereotypes that don’t fit their individual characters. It’s true too that in the West most of the exhibitions of non-Western artists are in ethnological museums rather than museums of modern art. But these are Western problems, “outsider” problems, not Balinese ones.

Made Kaek and other modern Balinese artists rise above their cultural roots but continue to acknowledge their heritage. Made Kaek’s art might owe as much to New York City’s graffiti artists as it does to Balinese ritual and religion, but modern art is trans-cultural, globalized, and increasingly anarchic. He does his very well indeed.

 

Heading for a Crunch

Speaking of the art of anarchy, the continuing expansion of condotels in Bali provides a prime example (unfortunately not pretty) of the wilful way in which developers and governments – at all levels – ignore both reality and their own future fiscal security. Planning laws are a joke, where they aren’t just a mess. Regents, doubtless citing the panjandrum clause that apparently makes them and their local districts functionally independent of the province within which their little bailiwick is located, approve hotels and other accommodation houses with gay abandon.

Governors, whose spatial planning regulations are routinely ignored, climb on the bandwagon and back mad schemes such as the filling in of more bits of Benoa Harbour to build more tourist-attracting facilities. At central government level, environmental laws are more notional than national.

In Bali, focus of most of Indonesia’s high-throughput tourism trade, the inability of existing or “planned future” infrastructure to match demand is plain to see, even by Blind Freddy. Oversupply of visitor accommodation is foolish. It is a way to lose money and markets. Not in the immediate future, of course; though that is exactly where planning falls apart in Bali. No one thinks beyond the current calendar or visualizes over the horizon.

Recent reports indicate that there are 5000 Condotel units already operating in Bali with another 8000 entering the market over the next few years.  A study by Cushman & Wakefield Indonesia points to coming pressures on value of properties. It’s true that everything has its price. The problem is an oversupplied market sets prices below return levels for investors.

A timely warning on another aspect of Bali’s one-egg-in-one-basket dollar economy – tourism – again makes the point that the push for more and more tourists is counterproductive since it will devalue the product.

The chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Association (GIPI), Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, said recently that Bali’s past success was no guarantee of continued performance. He fears that Bali’s reputation may be on the downturn because of the emphasis over the past three to four years on becoming a bargain destination.

He has a point. Premium and bargain are generally terms that are mutually exclusive.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 20, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Trash Can be Beautiful

A month or so back we dropped in on a Green Drinks meeting in Ubud organized by organic food guru and long-time Ubud luminary Darsih Gede. It was an interesting and inspiring occasion. The presentation was on the then forthcoming Bali Creative Reuse Centre and its plans to engage children, their parents and their communities in finding innovative ways to recycle trash.

The centre opened in late July (it’s at Jl Bisma 53). Its goal is to collect waste from local businesses, schools and families and package these in activity kits or sold in bulk to teachers and families. The message is that trash is a valuable resource to reuse for art and as learning materials.

That message is being delivered by Eka, a local teacher who is running the centre, and American volunteer Renee. The centre supports local Indonesian artists and organizations with workshops on the artistic and practical value of recycled trash and acts as a resource centre. It supports local schools and community programs offering arts programs reusing their trash and helping them find resources to support environmentally safer ways to dispose of their waste.

A website is being developed. They have also just finished their first teacher workshop at Dyatmika and are designing a recycled materials space for them.  The aim is for this to become a model to replicate in other schools and villages to promote creativity and inspiration to use trash as a medium to produce useful products and eye-catching art.

Eka has augmented her teacher qualifications by training at the Bali Environmental Training Centre (PPLH) in Denpasar and is teaching children in villages to use plastic for weaving and crocheting to make bags and other functional products they can sell.  She has also met Bali Recycling to inform local villagers about ways they can recycle and get money for their trash.

An open day is planned for Sep. 7. This would be a great opportunity for all segments of the community to have a look at the innovative programs the centre offers. Trash is everyone’s business, after all.

It would be good to see other not-for-profit organizations in Ubud getting aboard this great civic and educational initiative. There’s nothing to beat cooperative engagement.

 

In General, Not a Good Idea

Former General Prabowo Subianto has made a bit of a mess of losing the presidential election. It seems that everyone other than himself is to blame for the fact that he failed to win the support of more Indonesians than his opponent, president-elect Joko Widodo.

Perhaps on Aug. 17, Independence Day, he might have found time to reflect on reality. In a democratic election the candidate who wins most votes is elected. Prabowo either can’t add up or doesn’t want to. It’s not as if he was beaten narrowly. The margin was wide enough to make a declaration of a result beyond the reach of anything other than a most inventive challenge.

Independence Day celebrates Indonesia’s nationhood and the 69 years of history that now stands on the record. Prabowo played a small part in some of that history, as a military man. He’s entitled to run for civil office. He’s not entitled to claim he was robbed of a victory that he plainly didn’t win. Civil society and democratic elections do not run on a military command basis.

He can try again next time, if he wants. A sensible appreciation of Indonesian politics and the voting figures this time shows clearly that Joko Widodo will have to accommodate a spectrum of views and policy positions, including those espoused by Prabowo’s party, which says it seeks a greater Indonesia.

That’s practical democracy. It is also the Indonesian way. It’s just not a good idea to ignore facts, even if (actually, especially if) you’re a retired general who was drummed out of the army under a cloud.

 

We Are Not Amused

American Bali muse Susi Johnston, who lives at Mengwi in a villa someone else has been trying to seize for their own enrichment, is in more trouble. This time someone has poisoned her pet dog and beloved cat in – on the evidence she presents – a carefully planned and deliberate manner. It might just be a case of VBS – Vindictive Bastard Syndrome, which like dengue and a lot of other avoidable endemic disorders is widespread in Bali – but given the history of her case that seems unlikely.

There are several aspects of her situation that are profoundly disturbing. They are worrisome for other long-term expatriate residents who contribute to the wider life of the island and whose presence directly benefits the Balinese and other Indonesians they pay or otherwise support.

Johnston has endured a lengthy campaign to remove her from the villa she shared with her Italian husband Bruno Piazza, who died in 2011 and whose name was on the nominee agreement. It has involved threats, break-ins and raids by thugs on the premises; detention by police pending “investigations”; a court process that has been stymied at every turn; and sundry other molestations that only the truly mean-spirited or graspingly acquisitive would visit on a widow. She assumes, with what seems to be good reason, that the pet poisoning is the latest incident in this lengthy round of bastardry.

In such circumstances the fainter of heart might simply mutter “this is not to be borne” and move someplace else where the rule of law, the principles of basic justice and common sense apply. But Johnston’s not a quitter. Bali is where she has made her life. The “system”, such as it is, should recognize that.

 

Revealing Fatwa

The roving eye was caught the other day by news that the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued a fatwa against women teaming the jilbab with “tight” clothing below the neck. Apparently its fatwa proscribing pornography (as defined by Islamic leaders) also means Muslim women should not show the shape of the body.

It’s true – as we’ve noted before – that some of the more excessive revelations made possible by modern western fashions are over the top. It’s not quite clear how or why painted-on jeans and bust-enhancing tops are pornographic, though we concede they must be dreadfully uncomfortable to wear.

Modern Islamic fashion for women is in its own way highly decorative, and that’s good. Seeing women primarily as sexual objects is a male disease, a genetic disposition that should have dropped off the scope very shortly after Urk, Gurk and the crew vacated their cave dwellings and got a bit civilized. It’s a shame that it hasn’t.

We agree with the vice-chairman of the MUI, Ma’ruf Amin, that women already choosing to wear the jilbab should not do so in a vulgar way. Vulgarity of any kind is offensive, after all; including the vulgarity of presuming rights to proscribe the elective and legal behaviour of others.

 

Blush Highlights

Sydney jazz singer and Villa Kitty ambassador Edwina Blush is back in Bali for her annual season of swingalongs. Through to September she’s playing the Three Monkeys Restaurant at Sanur between 6pm and 9pm every Tuesday and Sunday with her cool Blush Sextet (Yuri Mahatma on guitar,  Astrid Sulaiman on keys, Helmi Augustrian on bass, Pramono Abdi and sax and newcomer Wisnu Priambodo on drums; and Thursdays at Il Giardino in Ubud with the trio (7.30pm to 10pm).

Blush arrived in July with a program including four different combos and three different variations on a Jazz theme Classic Jazz, 20’s Swing and SkaJazz. Good stuff!

In her Villa Kitty hat she’ll have been pleased to see that Elizabeth Henzell’s Ubud establishment featured on the Australian TV series What Really Happens in Bali.

 

New Deal, Old System

The new management at Ngurah Rai International Airport has put a stop to the “VIP arrival services” that permit those unwilling to mix with the masses in the Visa on Arrival melee to pay to be fast-tracked around the bottleneck. Experience and an understanding of how things really work here suggest that normal service will be resumed shortly, if it hasn’t already.

If the new management is really interested in improving customer service at the airport it might like to look at a system that rosters porters (and provides luggage trolleys) when they’re needed and not simply at the porters’ convenience. We’re told by a traveller that mid-afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 9, neither porters nor trolleys were available in the arrivals hall.

Then there’s the piratical taxi monopoly. That warrants managerial examination too.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 6, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

 

Let’s Hear More from Her

Nafsiah Mboi is a very impressive person. This is immediately obvious to anyone who hears her speak, reads what she says, or takes an interest in the febrile nature of global health challenges. As Indonesia’s health minister, she is the shining star of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet, unarguably from the Diary’s perspective his best ministerial appointment.

She was the star panellist too on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship Q&A program on Monday, Aug. 21, on the topic of HIV/AIDS and held at the same time as the International AIDS Congress in Melbourne. Tweets to the show’s Twitter hashtag included this memorable one: “Can we have a health minister like that too?”

Someone else suggested that incoming president Joko Widodo should reappoint her as health minister. Now that is a great idea. Indonesia’s congressional system makes it possible to appoint technocrats and academics to cabinet from outside the formal elective system.

Nafsiah Mboi is an academic, health researcher and Harvard graduate. She should indeed be continued in her appointment.

Another stand-out performer on the Q&A panel was the eminent Australian jurist Michael Kirby, whose finessed judicial mind and personal preferences made him ideal for the occasion.

Kirby is a darling of the intellectual left in Australia. There’s nothing wrong with that, except for what’s wrong with the intellectual left in Australia, which these days has cornered the market in received wisdom and adopted the position that anyone who argues with it is mad or bad or both.

Kirby is certainly an activist jurist. He has not only said that judges make law, but he has also done the really hard yards in reinterpreting the Constitution to the embarrassment of various governments of the day.

But he’s not for turning on a point of judicial value. Q&A is moderated by the oppressively self-assertive Tony Jones. On the program he expressed – with the trademark arched eyebrow, surprised look and dismissive wave of the hand favoured by those who know they know what everyone else should think – his view that it was somewhat strange that Kirby should have given a speech the day before praising Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for increasing AIDS funding to Papua New Guinea when every other bit of the budget is being pared to the bone.

Followers of Australian politics will know that Abbott has been declared beyond the Pale by those of the left. Kirby skewered Jones, in less than 50 words, and showed with stark clarity why he (Kirby) is a judge and Jones is just an up-market shock-jock. It was delicious.

It’s sad that Australia Network, which screens the must-watch Q&A among many other quality Australian programs to Indonesia and the region, will be going off the air in September because of another decision, a foolish one, of the Abbott government.

 

Apologies

The last edition of The Diary didn’t appear. Those who might have felt disposed to cheer this outcome should cease their chatter now. It was an administrative error on the part of your diarist, who had as usual been belting along full-pelt, as he has always done, oblivious to the natural processes of aging (including acquisition of common sense) and in complete ignorance of the great big wall he was about to hit.

The Eagles’ Life in the Fast Lane has always been the Diary’s addiction, especially this little stanza:

She said, “Listen, baby. You can hear the engine ring.

We’ve been up and down this highway; 

haven’t seen a goddam thing.”

He said, “Call the doctor. I think I’m gonna crash.”

On a West Australian sabbatical, a visit back to the other home, we crashed. That is, in the metaphorical sense. But fortunately the splendid intervention of the West Australian hospital system got us (and a bitterly twisted gut) out of the wreck and reconnected the circuitry.

A painful lesson has been learned. All life forms are finite. At some point, you have to slow down.

 

Jazz and All That

John Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours and Bali Update sent us a cheery get-well note when he heard of our circumstances. It’s always nice to get a note from Jack. And nice in this instance to note in turn a recent item in his Update that refers to Ubud, which we love for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we even love it for its traffic, though its range of cuisines generally wins the vote, when we finally make it to the restaurant.

It’s good for jazz too, as Jack notes. This will be demonstrated again at the 2014 Ubud Jazz Festival on Aug. 8-9. This year’s theme is “Awakening Indonesia” and headline national and international performers will take the stage.

Scheduled to appear are Gilad Hekselman Trio (USA), Dian Pratiwi and Uwe Plath (Germany), Astrid Sulaiman and Yuri Mahatma Trio (Bali), Balawan BID Trio, Rio Sidik, The GAPPProject Feat Dave Barlow (Australia- Indonesia), Dwiki Dharmawan (Indonesia), Erica Tucceri (Australia (Bali), Ben van den Dungen Quartet (Holland), Deborah Carter (Holland), Endo Seiji (Japan) and Chika Asamoto (Japan-Bali).

There’s also an educational element, presented in cooperation with The Dutch Jazz Summer School form South Korea. The six-day “Jazz Camp” running Aug.3-8 offers six study courses including guitar, drum, piano, double bass, vocal and wind instruments with special focus sessions on music theory and jam session performance.

 

So Long

The West Australian trip had been timed to meet some family needs which need not concern us here. But there was one feasible element, not expected in the timeframe but judged a possibility, that required suit, black shoes and army tie to make the trip too.

We’d been friendly acquaintances for the long time with a chap for no reason other than the fact that life’s little pathways, rivulets and occasional landslides carry you where they will. We had nothing in common, fundamentally. He was from country WA, which is about as far as you can get from the Diary’s bricks and mortar and pleasant parklands. He’d long ago given up trying to get us to go on fishing trips or home-brew expeditions, or down to the pool hall every Tuesday afternoon.

We had settled into a pleasant communion of ruminative breakfasts on our infrequent co-locations. He made a good cuppa. He could never understand why a round of toast and marmalade could possibly be better than a plate piled with the dead remains of former beasts removed with great energy and enthusiasm from one or other of the many freezers.

But we chatted amiably in the earlier portions of the mornings, now and then, in the calm before the daily ceremony of the Risings of the Distaffs (and the chores that inevitably followed) and we muddled along.

He had one thing in common with my father, though the code of football was different. If my dad had been on the field every time the Scottish rugby side ran on, they’d have won every game.

My chum’s fun was found in Australian football. The West Coast Eagles would have found similar game success if he’d been on the oval rucking, marking, kicking six-pointers, spoiling tackles and taking miraculous long marks right in front of the goal posts.

He was 80 and had been a national serviceman. He deserved a salute at his last parade.

Fate dictated that he leave the field while I was indisposed and unable to be present. I’m sad about that.

So long, Mal. Catch you for a cuppa sometime.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

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