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 http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets (@scratchings) and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky)

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