HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 25, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


A Christmas Sale Bargain

BIMC has been a fixture at the high end of the medical and hospital sector in Bali for 15 years, the benchmark place for services available to everyone but predominantly accessed by foreign tourists, long-term foreign residents and well-heeled Indonesians.

So the slightly skewed pre-Christmas reports that it had been bought by Siloam, the Indonesian hospital chain that is a more recent arrival in Bali, might have rippled a few affogatos. Bali is Gossip Central, after all, where those who spend their time counting white elephants assume that everyone else is in the same game-park. This is an island where unfounded rumour immediately becomes long-established fact. Indeed this often happens before the rumour has even been voiced.

In fact (don’t you love that expression?) the news is rather more positive. We had another affogato on the strength of it and far from being shaken, it was not even stirred. Lippo Group, which owns Siloam, bought BIMC in a plan to create synergies in the hospital and health care sector. BIMC and Siloam will retain their own branding and continue to pursue their present market focus. BIMC Nusa Dua is focused on medical tourism, a growing element in global travel.

BIMC chief Craig Beveridge will be executive chairman in Bali. He tells us Lippo chairman James Riady is excited by the deal and passionate in his vision to broaden the reach of international standard hospital and medical services here and in the rest of Indonesia, with new medical facilities already in the pipeline in Bali.

There will be more to report in the New Year, when Beveridge gets back from Christmas down under. That LinkedIn post we saw earlier in December urgently seeking new executives for BIMC cannot have been what it might have seemed to those in the rumour mill.


Gone to the Dogs

The dexterity demonstrated in the consummate skill with which people here can shoot themselves in the foot while poking themselves in the eye with sharp sticks and cutting off their noses to spite their faces is legendary. It’s so good that the authorities should probably promote bribe-watching as a tourist attraction. You could even do it on rainy days.

We refer chiefly to the bureaucracy – at any level from the lowest village gouger to those in the plush comforts of life at the tip of the pile – since it does this with alarming frequency when it or some luminary within it is after money, preferably untraceable.

It is also practised in the wider community, Indonesia-wide, especially when a mobile ATM (aka foreigner) is in play. Occasionally, since contagion is, well, contagious, cases of this affliction present in the foreign community too.

For instance the fractious business of animal welfare in Bali, which is overwhelmingly a matter of foreign interest since local attitudes are determinedly of the Rhett Butler variety (“I don’t give a damn”) where they are not agnostic. There are some wonderful exceptions to this rule. Let that be well noted.

This is to the point also because as is well known the Bali Animal Welfare Association’s veterinary clinic was shut down in September on a range of trumped-up and self-serving charges that anywhere else would have a hard time making it into the script of a popular stage farce.

It never does to immediately ascribe malicious intent to reactions. Experience shows it’s far more likely to be idiocy or failure to establish the facts before mouthing off. That said, it is astonishing that the Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre, commonly known as BARC, immediately leapt out of its cage to proclaim that since BAWA had been closed everyone should give their money to them instead. And that on Dec. 18 (Diary deadline) it was still doing so.

Moreover, it appears that it has been promoting this disinformation with the assistance of photographs that bear a remarkable resemblance to images owned by BAWA. There may be some personal history behind some of this angst, but that doesn’t matter to the dogs. There are enough sick, abandoned, malnourished canines in Bali to warrant the fulltime attentions of any number of refuges.

A further point: It is BAWA that has runs on the board over Bali’s response to the rabies outbreak that commenced in 2008; on educational programs in the villages aimed at improved living conditions for dogs and the lives of villagers too; on combating the vile dog meat trade and illegal gambling centred around organized dog fights; and much else. So it’s time for a reality check, everyone. Perhaps that might spark a little cooperation for the greater good. Now there’s a thought.


Quite a Meowful

Good news is to hand from Elizabeth Henzell at Villa Kitty in Ubud, who reported on Dec. 17 that donations@villakittybali.com, Villa Kitty’s suspended PayPal account, had been restored, verified, and had its funds-in-hand limit lifted. Apparently the powers that be at PayPal had originally said they would close the account. Perhaps the good folk in Omahahahaha, USA, don’t know what a Yayasan is. Here’s a clue: It’s neither a spam/scam computer program nor a Mafia-style crime syndicate.

Elizabeth says: “Thank you again to everyone who offered donations that got us through that week of worry.”

Villa Kitty is a great operation. It’s so good that it is now up to its limit with cats and kittens. That’s consistent with another of Bali’s grand traditions. Anything that actually works is instantly overrun by people fleeing from things that don’t and anyone who offers to help is bowled over in the rush.

The cat refuge needs people to adopt little vaccinated and neutered friends and to give them a good home so there’s room for others who are awaiting their chance for a better life. They do help keep the rats away, too.

There was a benefit evening on Dec. 19 at Mingle in Ubud. It was called Le Chat Noel, which made it irresistible.


Aussie Dodgers

Fewer Australians are coming here. That may be good news to the few among us who are incapable of declaring a personal exclusion zone around Jl Padma in Legian on lurch-around-half-naked-night. But it’s not good news overall. Australia is our closest large market. The West Australian capital, Perth, is virtually Bali’s dormitory suburb. For all sorts of reasons we should want to keep it that way. Some of these were outlined in the Diary on Dec. 11.

Foreign tourist arrivals for October 2013 were 266,502 (up 4.3 percent over October 2012’s total of 255,709) and arrivals for the 10 months of the year totalled 2,675,836, up 12.34 percent on the same period in 2012. But the number of Australian visitors in that period (668,902) was 2.11 percent down on Jan-Oct 2012.

They’re still in first place, outnumbering the second-placed Chinese two to one. There are several reasons for the decline. Among them is the fact that Australians – who like to think the English are the whingers – widely believe from in front of their 90cm flat-screen TVs with 50 cables channels pumping out pap at them and fast-fat food at the front door, that their country is up Ordure Creek. It isn’t. Another reason, much more valid, is that places other than Bali are now presenting holiday “experiences” that match or better Bali’s on price.

On the bright side, the long comatose Japanese market is reviving.


Ivan Ivanobitch

We hear, anecdotally, of an incident at a popular Bukit area Thai restaurant recently that involved a party of Russians who claimed they had been poisoned by the plate of the day and told the staff to call the police, pending which they wrecked the joint.

If you are a very Volga boatman indeed, one with permafrost for brains and a suddenly blotchy fair-skinned squeeze possessed of DNA that might not be an exact fit with spicy Asian cuisine, it may be easy to become enraged. Cossacks probably swept angrily across the steppes for eons on far lesser excuse. On the other hand, if you think you have been poisoned, it’s possibly better to go to the clinic down the road than to demand that the plods be summoned.

It must have been a potent poison. They returned some days later seeking further compensatory funds – their meal bill had already been waived – and threatened to wreck the place again.

Such people really are more Rouble than they’re worth (boom-tish).


The First Noel

This year, for the first time, the annual rite of Carols on Christmas Eve in Nusa Dua was held in Church and combined with Holy Communion. Previously the function has been held in a hotel but this year it was at Bukit Doa International Church, the Protestant Church in the unique complex of five religions at Puja Mandala, popularly known as Temple Hill.

It was a great chance to experience true Christian Christmas fellowship in the Protestant tradition, including Midnight Mass.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and see you all in 2014.


Hector is on Twitter. He tweets @scratchings



And let’s just note this: No one’s rights have been infringed. The person concerned remains an Australian citizen. with all the benefits that status confers. 


ASIO acting to prevent Australians fighting in Syrian war is not racist

Gerard Henderson, The Sydney Morning Herald 10 December 2013

So now it has come to this. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, headed by David Irvine, has been depicted as ”racist”. Why? Well, because ASIO has acted to prevent young Australian Muslims from travelling to Syria to fight in a civil war against other Muslims. That’s why, apparently.

On the weekend, it was reported that ASIO cancelled the passports of about 20 men from western Sydney. Australian intelligence officials believe that they are possessed of a ”jihadi mentality” and are intent on travelling to Syria ”to engage in politically motivated violence”.

Monday’s Herald carried a story that Abu Bakr, a 19-year-old Bankstown labourer, has been identified as one of the Australian citizens against whom ASIO has acted. He accused ASIO of racism.Bakr was subsequently interviewed on ABC radio 702 by Linda Mottram.

It was not Mottram’s best interview and she gave the impression that she was avoiding the tough questions. Bakr denied that he wanted to fight in Syria. But he railed against ”killing innocent people, killing babies, killing the children [and] raping our women”. Bakr then declared: ”This is what the Americans and Israelis and the Alawites agree with – but I do not agree with this.”

In Syria, there is overwhelming evidence that children, women and men are being bombed and women raped. Neither the US nor Israel are militarily involved in Syria, which has become essentially a battleground between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

Syria’s ruler, Bashar al-Assad, presides over an Alawite regime. The Alawite religion is asect of Shiite Islam. In the appalling civil war, Assad has the support of the Shiites – primarily the government of Iran and Hezbollah. The opponents of the Assad regime are primarily Sunni Muslims, including many foreign fighters.

In its 2012-13 report to Parliament, ASIO comments that ”the Syrian conflict has resonated strongly in Australia, partly because of deep familial ties to Lebanon that exist here”. According to ASIO, ”as at 30 June, 2013, four Australians were known to have been killed in Syria”.

ASIO has also commented that a ”by product of the Syrian conflict has been sporadic incidents of small-scale communal violence along the line of the Middle East’s Sunni-Shi’a divide”.

Bakr may, or may not, want to travel to Syria. But some Australian Muslims have done so. One, from Queensland, became the first known Australian to have taken part in a car bomb murder/suicide attack. He was a Sunni and died while fighting with theal-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organisation.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims killed or injured over the past two decades have been the victims of other Muslims. The avoidance of this issue makes it possible for the likes of Bakr to present themselves as fighting against Americans or Israelis.

The number of radical Islamists in Australia appears to be relatively small. However, it is not in Australia’s national interest that its citizens, however few, become radicalised and skilled with weapons while engaging in civil wars.

Last weekend, police arrested and charged a Sydney disability pensioner with running a complicated scheme to enlist young Australian Muslims to fight with such Islamist terrorist movements as Jabhat al-Nusra against the Assad regime. Such recruitment is common in Europe and North America.

Australians have good reason to appreciate the work of intelligence agencies and Commonwealth, state and territory police to prevent terrorist attacks within Australia. When launching the national security strategy in January, then prime minister Julia Gillard addressed the issue of domestic terrorism. She said ”here, at home, numerous terrorist plots have been thwarted and 23 convictions have resulted from the prosecution of those who planned such attacks”
In all cases, the accused Islamists were found guilty by juries. All received substantial prison sentences, despite the fact that some came before left-liberal judges. All the major convictions have prevailed when appeals were made. In short, what Gillard referred to were serious unsuccessful plans to kill and injure Australian children, women and men going about their everyday activities.

There is no suggestion that Australian Muslims intent on fighting in Syria want to harm Australia. However, it is believed that about a 10th of Islamists who fight overseas return radicalised to their home country.

In the November issue of Standpoint magazine, Douglas Murray documents how ”moderate movements in Islam have repeatedly lost to the hardliners”. Preventing radicals from fighting overseas is in the interest of the overwhelming majority of moderate Australian Muslims. It’s not racist. 


Gerard Henderson is Executive Director of The Sydney Institute. This was his last commentary for The Sydney Morning Herald. His commentaries will now appear in The Australian.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, December 11, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Our Changing Face

New figures that show the rapid growth of domestic investment in Bali’s tourism sector and the skyrocketing numbers of domestic tourists here are very interesting for future-watchers. They show without a shadow of doubt that the characters of Bali’s leading industries – tourism and the related commercial and residential property sector – are changing in ways that ultimately might not suit Australian and European residents or holidaymakers.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nothing in human history has ever been set in stone forever: Just ask Ozymandias, the real-life Barney Rubble of antiquity. Communities that readily adjust to change thrive. Those that fail to do so find at first that they are losing influence, then impetus; they become curiosities; and then they become extinct.

Bali’s exposure to tourism in meaningful mass-market formats is of relatively recent date.  The island has managed this impact remarkably well, at the human interface level, by parlaying a natural friendliness into an international reputation for being a nice place. It has done this in fact with consummate skill since the Balinese have no real interest in anyone else’s culture (see next item). It’s the money that matters – and that’s fair enough.

Statistics reported in the Jakarta Post’s Bali Daily wraparound on Nov. 29 show that 80 percent of commercial or high-value residential and resort property transactions in Bali are now by Indonesians and that foreign tourists make up only 30 percent of the total visitor footprint. Cheap airfares and low-cost accommodation heftily boost growth in the tourism sector but have also brought substantial change to it.

There will always be a navel-gazing niche market in Bali – centred on Ubud, where people organize ecstatic dances and other shamanistic things for the find-yourself set – but the bulk of tourism in Bali is the sort of stuff you can find anywhere. Booze and pick-up parties (for either gender) and pay-by-the-hour sex for those (ditto) who can’t score even at a party cater for a broad market. The family holiday is still the major sector but increasingly mum arrives wearing a jilbab and stays in it for the duration. And that too is fair enough.

Off the Wall

Made Wijaya, whose public invective has been of only a whispered or rumoured nature lately for those not numbered among his favoured courtiers, offered a rare public utterance the other day that had a bit more value than usual. He popped up on the Sanur Group page on Facebook to tell us this: “If you don’t know [scatological expletive deleted] because your Bali runs from the Arena to the Golden Snail, better to shut up and talk about the price of beer. I mean that in a caring way.”

Many expats know a lot about Bali well beyond those limits. True, none of them are world famous for jumping ship and swimming ashore through the phosphorescent surf decades ago to find that their shining presence has been eagerly awaited for eons by locals keen to see them set up shop as a landscape gardener.

The more modest among them do not regard themselves as legends even in their own lunchtimes. But be that as it may, many do actually agree with Wijaya on a lot of things. This shouldn’t surprise him, though apparently it does.

His advice in this particular instance is chiefly sound: He proffered it in this form:

“Last night at a popular beachside pizzaria (sic) I listened to a nice affable expat telling his Balinese girlfriend how ‘Australia has become like America and Bali has become like Australia’.  Now, while agreeing that certain corners of South Bali/Nusa Lembongan have become Boganville, there is a lesson to be learned here by those wishing to ‘integrate into Balinese society’. Advice: Do be warned that the radical Kuta Rightwing Nationalist movement has today launched a new logo ‘Love Indonesia or Leave it’ and soon will be hunting down sexpat bores on horseback. And note: Balinese only fake interest in our worldviews.”

Now that is a considered worldview. Bogans, bar owners, predatory business types and terminologically inexact real estate promoters should take special care to note it. But there are two other points that should also be noted, which Wijaya as usual ignores as irrelevant to the gospel according to Made.

One is that strong-arm “rightwing nationalist” movements anywhere, including in Kuta, are in fact the Bogans of their own communities. The second is that while the Balinese may not give a deleted scatological expletive about Australians or any other foreigners, they’re in the process of finding out that the Wegotalldamoney tribe from Java cares even less about them or their island home.

So Sad

It was very sad to hear that Kerry Prendergast, the Australian-born artist and singer who was a fixture in the Bali firmament, had died suddenly at a Sanur hotel on Nov. 25. She had been giving a singing performance. This was shortly after she returned with her husband Pranoto from two months in Western Australia, her home.

They had been showing their art in Perth – including in King’s Park, a favourite spot of the Diary’s – and were due to go back to WA in January for another show.

It is often said that only the good die young. No, that’s not Billy Joel (though his 1977 anthem to lust is very good). It’s the Greek historian Herodotus, writing in 445 BCE. Kerry Prendergast was only in her middle 50s. That’s far too young.

On Dec. 1 there was a gathering at Pranato’s Gallery at Teges Goa Gajah, Ubud, in her memory. Her art stays with us all as a mark of a life lived fully and well. It’s often said that you are not truly gone until everyone who knew you, or of you, has also departed. So she’ll be with her family and the rest of us in a very tangible sense for a long time yet.

Go, Socrates!

This is not about Socrate Georgiades of the delightful monthly Francophone journal La Gazette de Bali that is required reading at The Cage. It’s about the other one, the very ancient Greek. Specifically it is about his reported views, unquestionably soundly based, on the children of his day in Athens. This was that “children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannise their teachers”.

A tweet about this fundamental truth on Twitter recently – it came from the U.S., where children are even more badly behaved – brought a riposte from Susi Johnston, who muses from Mengwi on many matters. Susi, who was once an American child herself though we’re sure a very well behaved one, said that was exactly what many Balinese parents were saying these days.

Those who read the adduced views of Socrates learn much. Plato’s Republic has many benefits. There was no fast food in ancient Greece, for starters.

Takes the Cake

We dropped by Biku tea lounge in Seminyak the other day – well virtually, via its Facebook page; it’s quicker than driving there from the windswept southern extremities where we live – and found a nice little message posted by fan Heidi Parkie.

Clearly Heidi is not one for controversy even though she’s from Lancashire in England, where they love an argument. She made this simple point: Marble cake makes everything better. Absolutely no one could disagree.

Biku, which recently celebrated its fifth birthday, is a Diary destination of choice. Asri Kerthyasa’s eclectic establishment began life virtually marooned in the rice fields. Today it is slap-bang in the middle of the ever-expanding urban sprawl.

But like its marble cake, it cannot be missed. Next time we trek up that way we’ll leave the packed lunch behind and starve ourselves for Biku instead.

Sting in the Tail

Every year ABC TV’s Insiders program, the essential weekly political centrefold show hosted by veteran scribe Barrie Cassidy and seen here on Australia Network, names its Matt Price Moment. The final Insiders show of 2013 – the silly season is now in full swing Down Under – went to air on Dec. 1.

And this year’s Moment is a classic. Tony Abbott (now prime minister but at the time opposition leader in the 2013 election campaign) at a press conference: “No one, no matter how smart, no matter how well educated, no matter however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom.”

At least that’s one Abbott statement with which no one could possibly argue.

The Moment is in memory of journalist Matt Price, a lovely character from Western Australia who had a fine grasp of the completely ridiculous and hideously risible. This served him well because he worked in the press gallery at Parliament House in Canberra. Legislatures everywhere are places where you need to overdose on humour just to get by. He would have loved that one. Price died of a brain tumour in 2007, aged 46.

Hector tweets @scratchings

Nelson Mandela: ‘N Stem vir al Suid-Afrika*

I didn’t spend very long in South Africa and never lived there. At the time, now more than 40 years ago, I was resident on the other side of the Limpopo River in the then rebel colony of Rhodesia, another ratty faux-jewel in the tatty imperial crown.

Neither did I meet Nelson Mandela. When I was in South Africa in 1969 he had been in jail for seven years. That had become eight years when I was again there in late 1970. He was really only just beginning the long stretch that would eventually see him incarcerated for 27 of his 95 years of life.

It was an abomination then. It remains so to this day. And while it is true that setting bombs is irretrievably a terrorist act, and that it is not possible to have any truck with terrorists, it is also sensible to examine the circumstances that created that terrorism.

It is wrong to kill people, especially innocent people by means of cowardly terrorism. But it is equally wrong to create, or acquiesce in the creation of, conditions that considered appraisal, to say nothing of common sense, would show might spark a desperate terroristic response.

This was always the view of Helen Suzman, the courageous Progressive Party MP for Hillbrow in Johannesburg that was arguably the most liberal constituency in the then effectively whites-only South African parliament. Suzman was also an inspiration to many. And she was right. Unless you have a racist cast to your mind, you cannot deny rights to others that you demand for yourself, and you cannot argue with demography.

This was the view too of many liberal Afrikaners I met (and was impressed by) over that time. The words liberal and Afrikaner are not mutually exclusive. It is sad, though perhaps it was politically and socially unavoidable, that in the fractious years to follow, liberal Afrikaner voices were not heard to full effect beyond the Republic’s borders.

No doubt had I instead been party to conversations on farms deeply remote in the veldt of middle South Africa, or attended a brai (barbecue) in Bloemfontein, I would have heard a different nuance. The urban Afrikaners I met – and with whom I most certainly connected – would perhaps have felt as misplaced as I in Eugene Terre’Blanche territory.

It is irredeemably sad that the 20 years between my leaving southern Africa and the long overdue delight of Nelson Mandela’s eventual release from prison in 1990, were years in which the situation sharply polarized. It certainly got worse before it got better.

Yet what Mandela was able to do by moral force – first from his cell on bleak Robben Island and later from the summit of power as South Africa’s first black president – was an inspiration. It inspired not only me (someone who was in no way an active part of South Africa’s internal debate) but those, some of them still known to me, who stayed in their country and argued for justice and human rights.

Among them were many who if they saw you in the morning would say “goeie dag” and if at the end of the day “goeie nag” and not “good day” and “good night”. Unlike many English-speaking South Africans who had British passports or access to one in a funk, they had nowhere else to go. They had to take it on trust. They had to listen to their instincts and their conscience.

They are not heroes in the Mandela sense. No one is. But they were courageous and far-seeing people, willing to make essential life-changing compromises and who, like Mandela, no one should ever forget. Ek salueer julle!

*A Voice for All South Africa

Save the last dance for me

This is a great read. It’s about a great performer.

No Place For Sheep

When a performer has reached the age of  seventy-nine one can be forgiven for fearing every appearance might be his last, and it was clear at Leonard Cohen’s concert in Brisbane last night that thought has also crossed his mind.

Though he is enviably fit (he drops to his knees with strength of feeling, and there’s not a catch in his voice when he rises again without even putting his hands on the floor) and his voice has thrillingly deepened since I saw him last some three years ago, he is an old man and I have prepared myself for last night to be the final time I see him.

Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey 
I ache in the places where I used to play 
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on 
I’m just paying my rent every day 
Oh in the Tower…

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