HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 16, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

A Serious Disagreement

In the 1992 movie The Last of the Mohicans there’s a lovely standoff between Hawkeye the frontiersman and the rather regimentally doltish British Major Duncan Heyward in which Hawkeye says, “One day, Major, you and I will have a serious disagreement.” It’s a cameo that stays fixed in the mind, that, and perhaps it has usefully done so, because in recent times – sadly – the pleasantly paced but fixed intent of its delivery has seemed appropriate to life in Bali.

James Fennimore Cooper’s 1832 book – it’s set in the French and Indian War in colonial North America in the 1750s – is the better narrative, naturally, but the movie reflects the original story really rather well and with the required sense of doom. The problem that has brought it to mind is not of course that of rival empires fighting over someone else’s country. It is at once more prosaic and yet more pointed than that. It is a battle between vicious narrow-mindedness and socially aware common sense. It relates to the unconscionable war on dogs that the provincial government is waging, the random acts of maniacal stupidity this has helped spark in people who go around poisoning other people’s pets, and growing Balinese resistance to the idea that their dogs should now be targets because their government is dysfunctional.

The rabies that arrived in Bali in 2008 and then rapidly spread – its vector was not so much the poor infected animal that was smuggled in and then bit other dogs which in turn bit people who died, as that constant factor in administration here, lack of due care and attention – was eventually countered. This was after much advocacy by local and international animal welfare and health agencies, and Indonesian and international human health organizations.

An internationally supported disease eradication campaign created a vaccinated screen of immune dogs. That’s the international benchmark process. It works everywhere else. It is said, by Bali’s governor and others in the hierarchy, that it doesn’t work.

Sadly, given the resurgence of rabies this year (14 deaths to the end of August and counting, versus only one in 2013 and two last year) the only counter to that insane claim is that it has indeed not worked here. It hasn’t, because the government has been negligent or it has lost the plot – or both of these things – and has panicked and gone back to mass-culling dogs. So much then for the vaccinated screen of animals that forms the vital barrier between rabies and people who might otherwise get bitten by a rabid dog and die. The death squads don’t discriminate. They just sweep in and collar everything in sight: whether the unfortunate animals are wearing collars or not.

Tabanan regency is now arming its squads with air rifles – heavier compressed-air-powered weapons than your regular little popgun – because netting and then poisoning dogs with strychnine has proved problematical. According to the Tabanan animal husbandry agency, the dogs are smart and run away when they see men with nets approaching them. Using poison darts is apparently also a difficulty; the catchers and killers keep injuring themselves, with their poison darts among other things. Presumably it has been decided that shooting yourself in the foot with a high-velocity pellet is less likely to be deadly than injecting yourself with strychnine.

One day, perhaps, someone in the hierarchy will read the literature, examine the evidence, study the case reports from other places where common sense prevails, and mutter, “Uh-oh.” What might happen then, of course, is still a big question.

Screening Soon 

While we have movies on the mind, it’s good to note that the ninth Bali International Film Festival (the BALINALE) is on from Sep. 24-30. This year’s festival features 100 films from 26 countries, up from 60 last year, and includes a lively outdoor screening program showing a great collection of short films by Indonesian and foreign directors. Workshop and seminar programs will run alongside the screening schedule.

The festival was established in 2007 by American Bali fixture Deborah Gabinetti, the year she also set up the Bali Taksu Indonesia Foundation to support education, community and arts programs. This year’s event is at the Lippo Centre in Jl Kartika, Kuta, which should make the Jakarta contingent feel comfortably at home. Films showing this year were chosen by a selection committee headed by anthropologist, author and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Lawrence Blair.

BALINALE is recognized internationally for the quality and diversity of its programming. It has been affiliated with the Motion Picture Association, Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Brisbane, Australia), ASEAN International Film Festival & Awards (Kuching, Malaysia), Asian Film Commissions Network (20 member countries) and in supporting American Film Showcase and Sundance Institute’s Film Forward Tour in Indonesia.

Full details are available on the festival website.

Hail to the Chief

It was cheering to hear from Bali’s new chief of police General Sugeng Priyanto that police programs already put in place by his predecessor, General Ronny Sompie, would continue. This is in many ways a profound departure from past practice, where the new man sweeps in and moves all the deckchairs before he’s got his feet under the big desk. A little continuity can go a long way.

General Sugeng was sworn in to his new post at a ceremony at national police headquarters in Jakarta on Sep. 7. He was previously head of the international relations division. General Ronny Sompie left Bali on Aug. 10. He is now director-general of immigration.

Putting on the Ritz

You might be forgiven for thinking that Bali will soon have as many hotels as it has motor cars, given the rate at which they are springing up everywhere, in every class from mini through compact and family up to limousine, under the strictly non-enforced rules of the moratorium on new ones that was long ago announced and then instantly forgotten.

New hotels are not necessarily bad, on an island that depends for its modern economy on holidaymakers. There’s that pesky infrastructure issue, of course, best illustrated by water shortages, inadequate power, tailgated traffic from Anywhere to Everywhere Else, and the comedy routine of hugely oversized package tour buses impaled on sharp corners in narrow little streets. A proper public development plan would assist, but you can’t have everything, especially if no one takes any notice anyway and just hands over the next bulging brown envelope instead.

So it’s good news that the Ritz Carlton stable – one hesitates to call so plush a collective a chain – has opened a Ritz Carlton Reserve property at Ubud called the Mandapa. It’s on the Ayung River, has 35 suites and 25 private pools, overlooks the jungle in the river valley, blends traditional architecture and modern luxury, and offers four restaurants and the sort of spiritual, wellness, health and detox programs for which today’s well-heeled tourists yearn and which are the signature products of the crowded little town that has declared itself Bali’s spiritual capital.

E is for Environment

Yes, we know. It’s another of our repeated themes. It’s just that the natural environment, in this instance the marine littoral one, is quite important and should wherever possible be protected. So it was interesting to see that Tangerang regency in Banten (on the western boundary of the Big Durian, aka Ibu Kota Negara) is turning a prime asset, a 20-hectare mangrove forest at Tanjung Pasir, into a marine and culinary tourism destination.

This is so much better than digging up the protective and life-giving mangroves. They provide habitats for all manner of marine creatures and also protect against erosion and – unless it’s a catastrophically big wave, which is fortunately quite rare – can mitigate the inundation risk from tsunamis. Drawing people to the area is a good idea, since this will increase the village economy and give visitors something better to do than hang around shopping malls all weekend. A breath of fresh air is a wonderful tonic.

Our chaps here are not really into listening, or particularly good at learning lessons if by any chance they do tune in. But there is a lesson to be learned from Tangerang in how a natural asset like Benoa Bay, for example, could benefit many instead of just a few.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

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