HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 9, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


So Nearly the Big Chill

This edition of the diary comes to you from the chilly depths of wintertime southern Western Australia, for reasons that really don’t matter. What does matter is that The Diary inadvertently left its wallet in seat 9C on AirAsia flight QZ536 from Bali to Perth on June 23.

It is pleasing to be able to report that The Diary and the wallet were then miraculously reunited through the intercession of a couple of AirAsia ground staff angels at Perth International Airport.

It was one of those horrible “Oh No” moments. We had breezed through passport control – an e-entry without even sighting an official with a stamp, oh joy! – as well as baggage collection and customs. We were in the car park loading the suitcase into a friend’s car when the alarming lightness of the back pocket came to notice.

Aside from cash, credit card and all sorts of other essential plastic impedimenta without which modern life is impossible, there was the question: What Does One Tell The Distaff? This is a very important issue, since it has been apparent for several millennia that The Distaff doesn’t think The Diary should ever be let out alone. An unsupervised drive to the shops is about the length of the leash, and then only with the right money.

So there was nothing for it but to break just about every security rule in the book and bowl right back into the customs area – through the exit door by which one had recently legitimately exited – and find a friendly soul to help. Going to the airport arrivals hall desk wasn’t an option. It would be far too complicated and would take too long.

It was interesting to see that the old rule still applies. If you look as if you know what you’re doing, official people will rarely challenge you. We found a nice customs officer (a woman: they’re nearly always a better bet because of their female capacity for lateral thinking).

She got on her phone to someone while The Diary rang the number displayed at the service desk for use if the desk was unattended and spoke to one of the angels, who said she had already got the wallet.

Very soon the two angels appeared. They had been on the aircraft when they received The Diary’s call. Thank you again, ladies.


Fit to be Tied

Merritt Clifton, the American animal activist who takes an interest in Bali matters from faraway Washington State, USA, posed a very interesting rhetorical question in an article on the Animals24-7 website on June 28.

It followed the Governor’s incomprehensible announcement that any dogs found running loose in Bali villages would be killed as part of the provincial government’s dysfunctional anti-rabies campaign.

Clifton wrote: “If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, each time expecting a different result, Bali governor Made Mangku Pastika on June 26, 2014 fitted himself for a strait jacket.”

He went on to write: “Disregarding four years of steady progress toward quelling a canine rabies outbreak that began in mid-2008, Pastika repeated the same general invitation to cull dogs that sent the rabies outbreak into overdrive in the first place – this time ordering the massacre of about 300,000 healthy vaccinated and mostly docile neighbourhood dogs, allowing unvaccinated and largely nocturnal feral dogs to reoccupy the habitat and breed up to the carrying capacity.”

Disregarding in turn Clifton’s assumption that unvaccinated and largely nocturnal dogs in Bali are feral (that is, wild) which overwhelmingly they are not, in the formal sense, he’s right on the mark. It’s true that the island’s rabies control program has gone haywire. Or perhaps that should be “missing”.

Why else, apart from madness, would you revive a killing spree that failed to work when you tried it before and which in any case all the literature on rabies control and eradication shows won’t work? Negligently shredding the basis of herd immunity that has been built up by the vaccination program by killing anything that moves outside someone’s notional property boundary is complete madness.

The Bali authorities apparently choose to define madness in terms that wouldn’t be readily recognized anywhere else. But that’s no surprise. After six years of toil and trouble, all we’re left with is a muddle. There are no surprises there either. Since reasonable excuses cannot be found, a scapegoat or two are essential political tools.

In the rabies imbroglio, there are two scapegoats. One is the dogs, which despite being savagely culled by government diktat and significantly reduced by rabies, are claimed nevertheless to have repopulated the island to a level equal to or in excess of the pre-rabies 2008 estimate. The gallant lads at animal husbandry plainly deserve fulsome praise for that egregious triumph.

The other scapegoat is the animal welfare lobby in general, which strangely persists with its view that in order to achieve something you have to do the work required, and particularly the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), which led the anti-rabies battle. The Gianyar district authorities closed the BAWA clinic last year on grounds that would not survive administrative appeal in any jurisdiction with fixed rules. BAWA remains in operation, but with some of its previously valuable services curtailed by out-of-sorts, or out of pocket, officials.

There are only two fixed rules in Indonesia, of course. Neither is visible on the statute book. One is, don’t even look as if you’re telling us what to do. The other is, don’t step on toes, especially the precious little toes of the local panjandrum. Unfortunately the immediate human and animal health requirements in 2008-2010, to step on rabies quickly, required both these rules to be broken.


A Short Fuse

Plans to turn part of Benoa Harbour into Port Excrescence by shooing away the ocean and building artificial land on which to erect explicitly non-Bali infrastructure (including a motor-racing circuit) have angered a lot of people, mainly Balinese. The widely held view is that if Governor Pastika proceeds as planned and creates the proposed monstrosity for the profit of its promoters and developers, all of Bali is lost.

That may be gilding the lily (not to mention mixing a metaphor) but it can certainly be argued that there’s already enough around in the tourist-attraction field to fulfil the legal desires of most visitors, and most of the illegal ones too. Bali is a special place. That’s its marketing edge. We shouldn’t blunt it further.

There have been a number of demonstrations that have made these points with some force. Let’s hope someone was listening.


Who Gives a Toss?

It’s not really a question, and we’re not being rude. Pizza-tossing is the topic, and Ayana Resort and Spa at Jimbaran was the venue, because the Pizza Acrobatics world champion 2001 and 2002, Pasqualino Barbasso, was there from July 2-6 to demonstrate his skills, which are no doubt essential in Sicily.

Well no, to answer Ayana spruiker Marian Carroll’s query, we didn’t know there was a World Champion of Pizza Acrobatics. So many aspects of our education were neglected while we were being schooled in algebra, calculus, physics, logic, Latin, Greek, Eng Lit, history and comparative religion all those years ago.

Barbasso was at Ayana to flip the dough and perform thrice daily, free, for diners at the resort’s Sami Sami restaurant during his five-day extravaganza. Since the restaurant is on the cliff-top overlooking the precipitous drop to the Rock Bar and beyond, the pizza champ was doubtless on the alert for sudden orographic up-draughts and the attendant risk of unauthorized flying pizza.

Sadly, geographic displacement meant we could not be present to attempt to order that modern challenge to both cuisine and poor spellers, Pizza Hawaiian, and thereby cause a Greco-Roman incident.


Marginal Note

Indonesians vote today (July 9) in the presidential election, which as expected has come down to a race between Jakarta mayor Joko Widodo and former army general Prabowo Subianto, the latter formally endorsed on July 1 by outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as his pick for Supreme Leader. It’s moot whether the opinion of a lame duck with a 10-year record of under-achievement counts for anything beyond a querulous quack.

But that’s not what concerns us here. What does is further entrenchment of the Indonesia-Australia relationship through a new agreement between the National Archives of Australia and the Indonesian national archives on archives cooperation.

Under a new five-year Memorandum of Understanding, Indonesia and Australia will continue to collaborate on developing staff skills, sharing professional resources and participating in scholarly and cultural exchanges.

Indonesia’s and Australia’s relationship and shared interests extend back into the end of the Dutch colonial era. Indonesians with a sense of history understand the role Australia played in persuading the world to accept the beneficial fact of Indonesian independence, unilaterally declared on August 17, 1945, and its practical and material help towards that goal too.


Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

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