Interesting and thoughtful piece here by Tom Benner, on Sngapore’s population white paper.

Tom Benner Reports

Op-ed published in Today, Feb. 27, 2013

By Tom Benner

It would not be like forward-looking Singapore to ignore the factors that will determine its future. Nor would Singaporeans, however upset some may be over the White Paper on Population, want a Government that isn’t thinking for the long term.

The 76-page paper is a thoughtful document with good underlying research and some important recommendations about how to tackle the problems of a rapidly ageing population with one of the lowest populations in the world. It seeks to engage Singaporeans in an adult conversation. Easing work-life issues, infrastructure needs such as housing and mass transit, and balancing future immigration levels against the Singaporean identity all have a place in the discussion.
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A Couple of Talking Points

Jennifer Wilson, who blogs (very nicely) at No Place for Sheep, posted a piece today about women’s breasts and their right to exposure. Her post is here:

It prompted comment, including from me. Here’s what I wrote:

Surely the “phwaar!” factor encompasses more than just the base sexual titillation of exposure? My Primary Question (asked of myself, not the possible object of  my desire) has always been “What shall we be able to talk about afterwards?” And anyway, I’m more of a leg man, myself.

So, risibility aside, what is the issue here? There is nothing wrong with being naked, or partly so. But we have to concede that our intellects give us rules to apply to normal everyday life, and one would hope some measure of common sense as well. As always, our actions should be guided by our assessment of what impact those actions might have on other people. It is not all about Me Me Me.

It’s a fact that women’s breasts are subjectively sexualised in much – if not all – of human society. Whether this is fair, or logical, is surely rather beside the point. It’s also a fact that the overwhelming bulk of sexual presentation in the media and beyond is orchestrated by men for the interest of men. Sadly, it’s also true that a lot of men behave like infantile tits where sightings – by chance or design – of women’s bodies are concerned.

I don’t object to exposure and most certainly not to the natural and nurturing practice of breastfeeding (in public or otherwise). But as a general rule I wouldn’t want to hang out in all the wrong places just to make a point, or because it’s logically my right to do so.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 20, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Snow Job

Kathryn Bonella, who knows a lot more about Bali’s drug scene than most people, including the police, dropped us a little line from Sydney after the last Diary, two weeks back, which took a view about the fate of convicted British drug-runner Lindsay Sandiford. Well, it’s nice to know we’re read so far afield. And in fact, Bonella’s thoughts were really no distance from our own, except that as the author of Snowing in Bali, the new book she’s written about the problem that just won’t go away, she knows far more about Sandiford than we do.

Bonella tells us she’s sure Sandiford is no innocent (abroad or otherwise) and that she’d done it all before. She makes the entirely reasonable point that drug bosses don’t have to coerce 56-year-old grannies or anyone else into doing a mule trip, since there are foolish people everywhere willing to take the risk in return for $10,000 and a tropical holiday. Sandiford’s story was, she says, just that: a compendium of terminological inexactitudes such as you would customarily find presented in court by some clod that finally got caught. Fair enough. We hold no brief for Sandiford other than to say she shouldn’t be executed since the death penalty is an abomination.

Bonella, who also gave us the Chronicles of Nah-Nah-Nahnihyah (better known as Schapelle Corby: Her Story) and Hotel Kerobokan – both eminently readable, excellently researched and important books – shares a view with the Diary that Sandiford was the patsy, the one player in the sick game who couldn’t pay and thus took the big rap. That’s interesting because, after the last item, we got some carefully anonymous correspondence from people suggesting that those who got six years, four years and one year in jail, respectively, had absolutely nothing to do with Sandiford. She just knew Julian Ponder, Paul Beales and Rachel Douglas (though in the circumstances now revealed, we might ask why) and named them as part of her deal with the cops.

That’s good then. We can cease to speculate about why two cars had to go all the way to Candi Dasa to pick up a kid’s birthday present.

Snowing in Bali should be translated into Bahasa Indonesia and published here, so those in a position to actually do something about the drug scene can fully inform themselves.

Hot Dish

The former I Hill, a bar-restaurant near the back entrance to Temple Hill at the top of the really bendy bit of Jl Raya Uluwatu at Bukit Jimbaran, closed its doors a little while ago. It probably did so since it couldn’t close its windows. There weren’t any.  And this meant that it was impossible to have a quiet drink because of the cacophonous struggles of defective and overloaded trucks to get up the hill, the amazingly noisy efforts of others, similarly challenged, desperately trying not to tumble down it, and the continuous scream and whine of motorbikes ridden by madmen.

It has been replaced by Made in China (perhaps the Jakarta owners got the name from the bottom of a plate) and has been remodelled. It now has windows at the front, as well as an air-conditioned dining room, and is a very pleasant spot. The cuisine is – somewhat naturally – predominantly Chinese. The food is good. The view – now you can gaze upon it without getting your eardrums burst – is magnificent. And even better still, its prices are on the reasonable side of quite low.

At the rear there’s a bar area. The evening we were there recently, with a friend scouting for somewhere suitably oriental to take his co-workers for lunch for Chinese New Year, the blackboard menu behind the bar suggested in big capital letters that patrons might want to “Pork It!” We were quietly pondering the engaging possibilities of this indelicate recommendation when we spotted an item that piqued immediate interest.

Chick in black soy sauce sounded just the trick for a hot night out.

Cold Comfort

An Aussie long-stay visitor who’s probably best staying nameless in the Diary asked an astonishing question on the Bali Community Facebook page recently: “Does anyone know of any nudie beaches or sunning spots? Either a drive from Ubud or Seminyak?”

She certainly did her cultural and social research well before alighting here determined to strip off in public.  There are plenty of places around the world where complete dishabille is fine on beaches; and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Bali isn’t one of them.

Monsoon Weeding

Rakesh Kapoor, general manager of a plush establishment at Tampak Siring and formerly of the much munched-at Mozaic at nearby Ubud, has given himself an unlikely 45th birthday present (a belated happy birthday for the 15th, mate) – he’s decided to swap the fresh air and flooded-to-schedule  rice fields of Bali for Kota Banjir, aka Jakarta.

It’s sad to see him go. We’ll miss him. And the small but perfectly formed Indian expatriate community here will be the poorer for his departure. But he’s been a Bali resident for 10 years – goodness, the Diary’s only up to nearly eight so far – and apparently the opportunity for change came knocking at his door. His new digs will be at Kemang in South Jakarta, well away from the flood-prone bit of the Big Durian. It’s certainly better to keep your shoes dry.

Kapoor has a nice little Daihatsu – a 4X4 diesel Taft, not a standard petrol-fuelled conveyance like Franny Feroza, the Diary’s venerable workhorse – and he’d like to sell it before he leaves Pandawas Villas Resort, which will be before Feb. 25. But he says he’ll only sell at his price.  It’s fully reconditioned inside and out and is a snip at Rp 70 million. We’d snap it up, but Franny would have a hissy fit if we did.

Dumb and…

A plaintive little post from a Bali-resident Facebook friend caught our eye the other day. It reported: “Can’t believe that my house cleaner stole a t-shirt out of my house and then wore it to work… it doesn’t get dumber, just when I thought I’d seen it all…”  Ah yes! The joys of living in a “What’s Yours is Mine” culture. We sympathise, really we do. And we’d dearly like to think, like the plaintive poster, that it couldn’t get dumber. But it doesn’t pay to be overly optimistic about that, here.

Great Group, Great Projects

It is cheering indeed to see that Muriel Ydo is 2013 President of BIWA, the Bali International Women’s Association. BIWA, which links foreign and Indonesian women in a service club environment and does sterling work in many areas, has been a fixture in the Bali landscape since 1974. As it says in its mission statement, it is a non-profit charity organisation devoted to the welfare of women and children in Bali. It is a forum for exchanging ideas and making friends while fundraising and carrying out social welfare projects.

BIWA focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness and combating its spread, on a mobile dental clinic, and on breast cancer programs, an important interest it shares with Bali Pink Ribbon. It is also involved in other projects, all of them aimed at improving the lives of Balinese people.

Ydo has a strong record in such work, having for a long time been deeply engaged in projects to help lift the poor villagers of Sawangan near Nusa Dua, and the unfortunate seaweed farmers of neighbouring Geger Beach, out of their hopeless poverty and educational and social disadvantage.

She told members at her first meeting as president: “Since its inception by seven fearless women in 1974, BIWA has brought light and joy into the lives of many families and succeeded in making a difference by doing simple things effectively.” Quite so – keep it up, ladies.

Blooming Lovely

We’re a gardening family, apparently, that strand of consanguineous DNA from which springs the McSquawky clan (name changed to protect the innocent). Some of the more important bits – like knowing what’s a weed and what isn’t – seem to have washed out of our own genes, but we have a cousin in Sydney (she’s a dinkum Aussie; the Diary is a mere migrant) who runs a great website called GardenDrum that highlights the beauty of nature in a home garden setting. It’s a delight, frequently venturing out of the garden and into the wild, and even to other continents.

Another cousin, in Scotland and also with a lovely garden, recently posted a photo of the first snowdrops to appear in her North Sea cliff-top sward ahead of spring. This reminded us – and it was apposite since it is three years since he left us to go and smell the flowers elsewhere – that Dad was an inveterate reporter of such things.

We children are widely dispersed, having formed our own little Diaspora. One is in Australia (there used to be two but guess where the other one is nowadays), one’s in the U.S., and one remained in the U.K. But every year, around this time, we could count on Dad letting us know the first snowdrop had appeared. Only in the later years did this advice arrive by email; it used to be fax or a phone call. And invariably, every year, the report was soon followed by another that stated “winter has returned”.

We lit an incense stick for him on Feb. 10. It offered its ash to the little pebble we brought home to Bali from his favourite Scottish beach and which resides in our Buddha bowl along with one (in fetching pink tones) that is Mum’s.


Someone told us a lovely little Indian joke the other day (no, it wasn’t Rakesh Kapoor). It goes like this: Two junkies accidentally snorted curry powder instead of cocaine. Both were taken to hospital. One was in a korma and the other had a dodgy tikka.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper’s website Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

It’s shocking that women so often aren’t safe – and worse, perhaps, that even when and where they are, they probably don’t FEEL safe.

British Asian Woman

Have you ever felt afraid to walk alone at night? I know I have. If I’m in a cab late at night coming home, I talk to my husband on my mobile so the cab driver knows there’s someone expecting me at home. I once even faked a conversation with him when I couldn’t get reception.

Why am I telling you this? Well yesterday it emerged that the late Ravi Shankar‘s daughter Anoushka Shankar was abused as a child by ‘a man (her) parents trusted implicitly’. In a heartfelt video that she posted on the One Billion Rising website  she talks about the abuse she suffered for years at the hands of this man. Interestingly, she also talks about feeling afraid to walk alone at night, worry over dressing in a way that will attract the ‘wrong type’ of attention and even anxiety when a strange man stops her in…

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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 6, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


Shooting Party

The fate of British drug smuggler Lindsay Sandiford is far from settled, despite Governor Pastika’s apparent belief that we should all be relaxed and comfortable with the decision of the judges at her trial in Denpasar in January to ignore the prosecution, and the evidence it presented, and sentence the poor woman to death. Sandiford, a 56-year-old grandmother, is unquestionably gullible and stupid. You would have to be both to agree – in whatever circumstances – to attempt to smuggle nearly five kilograms of cocaine into Bali. But even if you accept that the death penalty is a justified legal sanction (it is not) it is clearly unwarranted in this case. The reason for this is not Indonesian law, which permits the State to kill people by firing squad for a number of offences. It lies, rather, in the judges’ reasons for imposing the death sentence on Sandiford. Among these is the astonishing one that Sandiford harmed the image of Bali by her actions. Hey, everyone! Better not dump rubbish! That definitely harms the image of Bali and apparently, on the Sandiford bench’s model, could attract the death penalty.

The judges heard (or possibly didn’t hear) the prosecution call for a 15-year sentence for Sandiford for being a drug mule. The prosecution did not present any evidence to suggest Sandiford was the ring-leader of the gang. Three other people have been jailed as a result of the failed plan to smuggle cocaine into Bali. Brit expat Rachel Douglas got one year for possession of a small quantity of drugs. Her partner, Julian Ponder, has been sentenced to six years (but could have faced the death penalty). A property developer, Paul Beales, has been jailed for four years. Quite possibly very few people care much about the fate of Sandiford, who committed a stupidly criminal act that, had it evaded detection, would possibly have put a lot of cocaine into street circulation in Bali. Her post-sentence ploy, to sue the British foreign office because it didn’t put enough effort into helping her, is unfortunately commonplace. Ask the Aussies; they’re forever dealing with people who think it’s the government’s job to get them out of trouble.

But shooting a 56-year-old granny would do far more damage to Bali’s image than anything else. As for the Governor, he of all people should understand that the final legal processes are not yet complete. There is no reason to respect the court’s decision, other than as a step in a lengthy process. There will be an appeal. There are further options beyond an appeal. No executions have been carried out in Indonesia since 2008. It is devoutly to be hoped that the judicial killings five years ago turn out to have been the country’s last.

Muddy Waters

Something even nastier than piles of festering rubbish seems to be lurking in the precious Benoa Harbour mangroves that Bali’s provincial government and others are being so cavalier about. It beggars belief that anyone would think a political answer to mangrove destruction in pursuit of (otherwise reasonable) road improvements is to licence a commercial operator to build something euphemistically called an eco resort in the remaining mangrove area. It’s something so far out in left field that it brings to mind the Vietnam War era assertion by a US officer that American forces had to destroy a town in order to save it. To put the Benoa Harbour mangrove situation in the kindest possible light, we might simply say that a crucial element of perspective has been lost. Welcome to Wally World. Mangroves are critically important breeding areas for marine life – fish and crustaceans, which people later eat – and essential to coastal protection from storms, tidal surges and even (though we hope this never happens) tsunamis. Apparently destruction of the marine littoral can be overlooked, as the Mulia’s unauthorised wave-break wall at Geger Beach at Nusa Dua was until someone made a noise about it.

The local Friends of the Earth – known here as WAHLI – have been vocal about the Benoa Harbour mangroves. WAHLI’s activist but otherwise inoffensive leader Wayan Suardana, more widely known by his familiar name Gendo, was beaten up at his Denpasar office last November by hired thugs, none of whom (and don’t wait up) have actually been apprehended. WAHLI is suing Governor Pastika over his authorisation of the mangrove eco-resort project.    

So Good to be Bad

Alliance Française does great work in promoting French language and culture. This is to be encouraged, especially nowadays when we are all under threat from global Americanisation. So it’s a shame the Diary couldn’t make the showing of a lovely film in Denpasar  – it was part of the Alliance Française Ciné Club programme – which tells the story of a kind person’s transformation from nice to bad. You might say French humour is parfait.  No, that’s not a dessert, perfect or otherwise. In this case the humour was in one of a number of films screened in a “transformation” series. The movie Ugly Melanie tells the story of a girl who is too nice to be true: so kind and helpful that everyone knows it, even the neighbour’s dog.

But because she is so nice, people take advantage of her. Eventually, she gets fed up with this. Well, merde, wouldn’t anyone? So one day Melanie decides to change, following yet another humiliation at the hands of her cousin Aurore. From now on she will take revenge on those who have made her life hell. Of such things are dreams made.

Gives You the Brits

Hot on the heels of news that more Chinese than ever are likely to be landing en masse at Ngurah Rai International this year, courtesy of new charter flights direct from the Middle Kingdom, we hear hints that a few more Brits than usual might be planning Bali breaks too. It’s their weather, apparently. Though it’s something of a mystery why this should suddenly be an issue in 2013 when sensible ex-Brits (such as your diarist) decamped as far back as 1969 because of exactly the same inclement conjunction of drizzle and chill. It does take some people a little while to catch on, of course.

Last year the UK had its second wettest year on record. New travel industry research indicates many Brits have decided 2013 might be just as bad, if not worse, and – like Cliff Richard in that song half a century ago – they’re all going on a summer holiday. Most will be going to the Costa Lotta, the Costa Blotto and sundry other customary nearby haunts of the cloth-cap brigade – who can’t get by without their cuppas and fish and chips – but we suppose a few might look further afield.  Stand by for the Glums.

Dog-Whistle Days

Deborah Cassrels, the well-connected Aussie scribbler-about-Bali, had a piece in The Weekend Australian recently about how expats in plush Canggu villas are being targeted by terrible thieves. We’re sure it’s a problem for them. If you stand out in the crowd – and it’s easy to do that if you live in a pad that would accommodate several Indonesian extended families and still have room to spare – you make yourself a target. That’s not to defend low-life types (from anywhere) who break into houses and rob people with violence. The police should deter such activity, or at least try to catch the miscreants after the event. But it is to say that people who live in Expatostan are probably their own worst enemies. If instead you live in a local community, establish reliably mutual neighbourly relationships and don’t flaunt your wealth – even if it is only relative wealth – you’re following sensible rules. And memo Deb (and others in the Australia media): “Rich” Balinese and other Indonesians get robbed too.

On a Lighter Note

Well, all that’s been a bit of a downer, so here’s something cheerier. Someone, perhaps a chap with nothing better to do, has compiled a list of strange questions asked at job interviews. One caught our eye: What songs best describe your work ethic? It was asked at a Google job interview, which figures. We came up with three that suit our style: Manic Monday by The Bangles and two Billy Joel classics – Ain’t No Crime (“Nine o’clock coming without any warning and you gotta get your ass out the door“) and Big Shot (“But now you just don’t remember all the things you said and you’re not sure that you want to know”).

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published on Wednesdays, and on the newspaper’s website Hector tweets (@scratchings) and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky)

This is a nicely evocative piece about a Jakarta gem.

Lottie Nevin - The Red House Diaries

Those of you who regularly read my posts will know that I’m a sucker for markets. Clean, A/C’d malls have their place from time to time, but for the most part I’m never happier than when I’m getting down and dirty and bitten to death in the various markets that I’ve come to know and love here in Jakarta. I’d be lost without them; they add the colour, excitement and smells that are distinctly lacking in the high-end malls.





The antiques market in Jalan Surabaya is no exception. This 500m strip of tiny shops and stalls is situated in the ‘Beverley Hills’ area of Jakarta known as Menteng. What I especially love about this place are the stallholders. They are a jolly bunch of souls, and despite the fact that this time I went with an almost empty wallet, they were still happy for me to take photographs and idle…

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