8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Category: Capital Punishment

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 13, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

The Full Farce of the Law

Sometimes a diarist in the Pancasila Archipelago finds himself wishing he were Archie Clark-Kerr, the British ambassador in wartime Moscow famous for finding himself grateful for any little shafts of light that came his way from heaven. He memorialized one such rarity in 1943 in a rather outré note he typed himself. It reported to the Foreign Office in London the arrival in the beleaguered Soviet capital of a new Turkish envoy called Mustapha Kunt.

There are precious few shafts of light from heaven or anywhere else around here at the moment. Instead, clouds of judicial and political imprudence (readers may wish to regard the ‘r’ as silent) darken the scene.

Susi Johnston, the long-time American resident of Bali whose home was serially invaded by thugs plainly connected with a bid by a woman who was not the nominee to acquire the property at Johnston’s expense, has had many days in court. None of them have been productive of anything except unintelligible bumf and rulings more suited to fictional Ruritania than to factional Indonesia, which aspires to leadership in South-East Asia.

The nominee system is of course outside the law. Lots of lawyers are driving expensively shiny black motor cars on the back of this winked-at illegality. The new Minister of Land Law (who is also director-general of the department) is conducting an audit of foreign-owned residential property to ensure that none continues to be held under this acquisitive fiction, on pain of confiscation to the financial detriment of any foreigners who haven’t regularized their titles prior to seizure. Possibly a lot more lawyers are planning to acquire expensively shiny black motor cars given this latest opportunity to charge outrageous fees to achieve nil result.

That aside, Johnston’s experience with home invasions and ex-nominees is highly instructive. A panel of judges in Denpasar District Court recently heard a criminal case brought by the police against three miscreants alleged to have thrice smashed up Johnston’s home at Mengwi, removed its contents to a handily waiting truck, and terrorized her for two years in the home she and her late husband built.

The judges – two of whom then immediately departed Denpasar for judicial posts elsewhere in Indonesia – found all three not guilty of any crime. They are, therefore, innocent, at least in the judicial meaning of that word. Most of us would be happy, granted, if we were in fact innocent of the charges on which we had been arraigned in court. Some of us might even celebrate that fact, judiciously, a little later, outside the precincts of the court in question.

Not these three however, who attended on the day the judges’ decision was to be handed down and sentences (if any) were to be meted out. They were supported by a group of male persons whom some have described as thugs. We were not in court and can make no assessment ourselves of their thuggish nature. They did however engage in scenes of fist-pumping and shouted approbation when their three friends were cleared, took group selfies, and threatened a female journalist covering the case.  Anywhere else this disgraceful display would have been seen as contempt of court worthy of reprimand if not penalty.

If all this leaves a foul taste in your mouth, then while it may not take the taste away, be assured it is a sensation that is fully shared by your diarist – and by anyone else, anywhere, who would prefer not to have to regard the law as a complete farce.

Bright Ideas Department

Perhaps President Joko Widodo is under even more pressure to perform to someone else’s prescription than has been evident thus far. He has now appeared publicly in populist mode promoting a threat to revoke the licences of private hospitals that refuse to treat people on their government issued health cards.

He’s missing the point. No hospital worthy of licensing would turn away an emergency case, but private hospitals are not bits of the health infrastructure that government doesn’t have to bother funding. “Socialisme” is, well, rather passé. Just ask China.

A more reasonable view is that private hospitals should participate in and support government programs to provide health care for the poor. The President would most likely find the private hospital sector keen to play a role in raising the standard of health of the population.

This would necessarily come at a price. The government could (and arguably it should) support private hospital programs for health card holders by allowing them to access the affordable medication, consumables and other incentives that are afforded to public hospitals.

Shot in the Dark

A lot of people have said quite a lot about the executions of six convicted drug traffickers at Nusa Kambangan Island in Central Java on Apr. 29. More will be said in coming months as the law of unintended consequences catches up with President Widodo. The executions – and those which preceded them as well as any that may follow – will not stop trafficking.

The drug problem that the President says he will stop by ignoring his commitment to human rights and instead having people routinely shot dead just after midnight is a modern phenomenon of cities and tourist centres found around the globe. And while international trafficking is a serious problem, the real problem and the real criminal organizers of it are home-grown.

It will not be countered by risible circuses demonstrating state power, such as the deployment of Sukhoi fighters to Bali to fly cover for the chartered aircraft transporting Bali Nine prisoners Myuran Sukumaran, who became an artist in jail, and Andrew Chan, who took holy orders while incarcerated, to their place of death. Or by the contingents of armed police that were also, astonishingly, deemed necessary.

Transporting two convicts can be done, with the assistance of handcuffs if necessary, by police and prison officers. Barnum & Bailey three-ring circuses are superfluous. Both men had become model prisoners who had contributed to rehabilitation programs at Kerobokan that are a tribute both to them and to the prison authorities.

We’re aware of certain darker elements in Sukumaran’s post-conviction behaviour that are not to his credit, but that’s rather beside the point now and in any case predated his obvious rehabilitation. Neither he nor Chan was going to attempt to escape. The Australian SAS was not going to swoop from the sky and snatch them away.

The President’s predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and members of the new government from the vice-president down seem to have understood this very well. They offered advice that it was possible to look at things on a case by case basis – and at the execution orders when these were slipped across the presidential desk for signature. They advised that Indonesia’s real interests would be better served by pulling back from the “kill everyone” formula. Even Prabowo Subianto, Jokowi’s strongman rival last year when the President was running on a human rights ticket, said so.

There is now a revitalized push among Indonesians to abolish capital punishment. It’s unlikely to go anywhere fast; but things are moving – and that’s forward, not backwards.

Ah, Daylight!

And now for some light relief: the Bali program of the 2015 Europe on Screen festival in Indonesia. This was at Pan Pacific Nirwana at Tanah Lot on May 2-3. It’s a great location to watch a movie. The waves rolling into the beach almost seem part of the film set.

The film on May 3 was Daglicht (Daylight) made by Eyeworks in the Netherlands in 2013 and directed by Diederik van Rooijen. It was adapted from the 2008 book by Marion Pauw that won the Golden Noose Dutch Crime award. The film stars Angela Schijf and is a little noir (it also has a different ending). But it deals in a compelling way with autism and the plot keeps you on your toes. The English subtitling was very good. Perhaps for Indonesian screenings subtitling should also be in Bahasa.

We had a chat with producer Judith Hees about films in the works. That was another highlight of the evening. Eyeworks, whose main work is in TV, made the series What Really Happens in Bali. We didn’t chat about that.

The film on May 2 was the British production Rush (2013) portraying the merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The Europe on Screen Bali program was supported by the charity SoleMen, whose best foot forward Robert Epstone was present. He was shoeless but in fine form as always.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 18, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Gone to the Dogs

The resurgence of rabies in Bali is yet another of those avoidable things that the chaps in charge of the asylum could have avoided if they could have been bothered, or if they hadn’t blown the budget on lots of other things. Yet it’s in an emergency such as this – brought about by seven years of feeble official failure to address a dire public health risk in a consistent, planned, properly administered way – that leadership is required.

Instead, in the time-honoured fashion, our leaders are being proper little dukes of Plaza-Toro about rabies. They’re leading from the back. Governor Pastika, who has no trouble ignoring the weight of popular opinion when it comes to things like filling in Benoa Bay because the environment is far less important than plutocrats making even more money, has called on people to kill stray dogs because, he says, that’s what the people tell him they’d like to do.

No matter, then, that all the literature – and global experience – shows very plainly that suppressing rabies is achieved through vaccination programs that create herd immunity in the canine population (70 per cent is the benchmark figure) and humane reduction of numbers by sterilization. No matter that the scientific record shows indiscriminate killing of dogs helps to spread the disease, because dogs in the vaccinated screen population are eliminated. No matter that it is the government’s job to educate people about effective rabies control and eliminate it as a threat to the broad community. (That 70 per cent screen again.)

Pogroms such as that recently visited upon the small band of dogs that customarily inhabited Kuta beach are certainly not unusual. The Kuta killing spree was noticed only because of where it took place and because it followed an Australian tourist child being bitten, though not by a rabid dog. It horrified tourists (some of whom were not effete, do-gooder westerners, by the way) and painted a picture of Bali that certainly does not conform to the requirements of Tumpek Kandang, a Hindu rite observed every 210 days (the latest was on Mar. 7) that is a symbolic offering for all animals living in the world. The non-symbolic pre-Tumpek Kandang offering to the dogs of Kuta beach consisted of bashings and then, in the dead of night, some other inhuman final solution.

The issue will not go away, however much Bali’s administrators would like it to and in spite of the impenetrable thickets of incomplete (or completely erroneous) data that hide the facts. It recently got an airing in the Asia edition of The International New York Times, in a piece by its Jakarta-based correspondent Joe Cochrane. It might be true that Bali has run out of money for vaccine, as the Governor says. The immediate questions then should be: Why? And what are you doing to get more money for vaccine? These questions are unlikely to be asked by anyone who would be listened to; and, if they were, the truthful answers (if forthcoming, which would require a miracle) would be Don’t Know and Nothing.

A man died of rabies in Bangli recently. Last year, according to official figures, either one or several people died of the disease elsewhere in Bali. Anecdotally, the real 2014 figure would seem to be rather higher.

Do It! Do It!

Among the many voluntary organizations here doing great fundraising work to assist the social advance of the Balinese people is one that regularly does lunch. Its members are the Divas, which must be an acronym for some obscure phrasal noun relating to Ladies Who Dress Up. Because dress up they do and we’re glad that this is so. It is tedious to gaze forever at designer-torn denim, long or short (often very short) and with incautious little garments above that would surely flutter away in a half-decent breeze and which are of a size that would completely fail to shame a doily into thinking that it was the runt of the litter.

But we digress. The Divas’ next do, at Slippery Stone in Jl. Batu Belig, Kerobokan, on Mar. 27, is an event at which, so chief Diva Christina Iskandar and the tickets tell us, we are promised that they will do it Greek style. If we can lasso a loose Diva – that is, ahem, for clarity and decorum, one not already spoken for in terms of a lunchtime handbag, if indeed they allow handbags – we might even go along ourselves. It would be worth spending Rp350K (in a good cause and in pursuit of fine comestibles) to see the show.

From memory, doing it Greek style involves throwing lots of plates and breaking them. Staging such an affray might not please Slippery Stone. It’s an up-market establishment, but it possibly has a prudential budget for crockery. And anyway, now we think of it, plate-breaking seems to be a wedding ritual, like that other dangerous pursuit, this one Italian, of pinning money to the bride while taking great care not to eyeball – or worse, inadvertently brush against – anything remotely adjacent to an erogenous zone.

The March event, aside from collecting lots of money as per their standard practice, will reward the Divas with an appearance by songstress Eva Scolaro, from Perth, who also emcees and hosts and does photographic modelling. She’s no stranger to Bali and has also performed in Jakarta.

Junk It!

It’s good to see that Bali’s provincial government will be working with the villages to manage and hopefully reduce the mountain of waste that threatens to overwhelm the island (and that’s not only in the tourist areas; plastic is a problem everywhere). Some might say they’re a bit late off the starting block, but never mind. There’s evidence of a spring in the step and that’s really pleasing.

The principal message at the start of this program might usefully be: If you throw it away, it’s still your responsibility. That recognition is something best instilled in children, so that by the time they’re adults they will know instinctively that dumping evil-smelling waste containing material that won’t disappear for up to a quarter of a million years and will poison the planet in the meantime is a really stupid thing to do.

The charity organization ROLE Foundation has a great Eco Kids Program, which kicked off for 2015 this month with an awareness visit to the Sanur Independent School and a hosted visit by 40 students from a private school in Bogor, West Java.

ROLE asks a very good question. Will our children inherit a world of grey skies, brown oceans full of junk with no marine life left, and land with no trees or wildlife? It has a very good answer: Not if our Eco Kids Program has anything to do with it.

On Not Giving a Toss, Etc

Elizabeth Pisani, whose lengthy time and travels in Indonesia produced both the readable travelogue Indonesia Etc and a book promoting safe sex that caused a frisson when it was released because it was called The Wisdom of Whores – a commodity, incidentally, that should never be ignored – has popped her cork again, this time in an Australian online magazine, The Starfish.

In relation to Australia’s immediate interest in the apparent presidential policy of preferring to shoot convicted drug criminals now because later the law might change to prevent this obscenity, she said:

“Jokowi really doesn’t give a toss about Australia. He does care about restoring his badly-bruised image as a decisive leader in the eyes of the Indonesian electorate. And it turns out that killing foreign drug dealers is quite a good way of doing that, at least among the 97 per cent of Indonesians who live outside Bali and profit very little from their southern neighbour.”

In the matter of bruising politics, British Indonesia-watcher and author Tim Hannigan (his book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java is a fine antidote to the obsequious tomes of some post-imperial hagiographers) presciently wrote in a piece for Asia House, the London think-tank, just before the presidential election in July 2014:

“Ultimately, Indonesia’s chronic tendency towards coalitions and political marriages of convenience, first manifested way back in 1955 and repeated the moment the country was allowed full electoral freedom in 1999, means that its democracy, in a strange way, guides itself – away from either destructive extremes or from meaningful progress, depending on your perspective and level of cynicism. This is why neither worst fears nor greatest hopes ever seem really to come to pass, and in the end it may not really make much difference who wins.”

Hannigan has a new book due out later this year, titled A Brief History of Indonesia (Tuttle). He promises to visit Bali thereafter, which will be fun.

Lights Out

Nyepi, Bali’s annual Silent Day, is on Saturday (Mar. 21). Mark it as you will. With a discreetly small torch is one way.

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