HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 20, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

Parodi or Parody: You Choose

Anyone expecting considered application of justice – as in court decisions based on fair assessments and police arresting people on the basis of tip-offs rather than because of tips – would be well advised to forgo the dubious delights of attempting resolution in Indonesia.

Spiritual guru Anand Krishna was arrested in 2010 and charged with sexual harassment on the basis of a complaint from one of his former students. He was first convicted in the South Jakarta Supreme Court and was then, after one of the original trial judges was removed for inappropriate contact with the prosecution, exonerated and freed by a bench headed by another judge. She subsequently found herself transferred to Bangka Island, by the way.

The prosecutors then contrived to get Krishna retried via one of the convenient cart-and-horse-size loopholes that pepper Indonesia’s criminal code for the benefit of prosecutors whose premier skills lie in own-goals. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ jail.  He was arrested at his Ubud ashram amid a near riot on February 13.

Krishna’s Hindu-based teachings are very liberal about the essential freedoms of life.

Another curious incident that relates to the law and its stewardship has recently come to notice. It involves Susi Johnston, an American who has lived here for years, is a true friend of the Balinese people, is a lovely person, and is relatively recently widowed. She is also in trouble, and prima facie this seems to be for highly questionable reasons.

Eighteen months ago she lost her Italian husband, Bruno Piazza, to cancer. She believed that on his death continued occupancy of their villa at Mengwi would pass to her in his will and that it would remain her home as he would have wished and under the nominee he had assigned. Unfortunately it seems the nominee – as the legal title holder – had other ideas. Equally unfortunately for Johnston she appears to have what might euphemistically be called very powerful connections. That’s the way things work here.

We do not know the full facts of the property issue. But we do know that the nominee system, farce though it may be, is not directly designed to facilitate avaricious property acquisition by a nominee who has been paid to lend his name to a legal fiction, or to facilitate its profitable transfer to others of his acquaintance.

The full circumstances of Johnston’s situation are not clear either. It does appear she was advised to reach some compromise in regard to her villa but chose not to do so. As a result she has been monstered – there’s really no other word for it – by hired thugs and others.

Earlier this month Johnston posted her version of the story of three home invasions she suffered in February. It appeared on a Facebook group page engagingly called Mugged in Bali. It quickly disappeared, though not before The Diary took the precaution of cutting and pasting a copy. A few days later she was arrested when police found drugs in her car.  It is remarkably easy to find drugs in someone’s possession if they’ve been planted. We know this happens. Everyone knows this happens. Fortunately, she was released after only a few days of detention for investigation – and we heard shortly afterwards that the police were now interested in talking to the perpetrators of the plot to incarcerate her. Some clouds do have silver linings, then.

But the essential lesson remains: In both the Krishna and Johnston cases the word “travesty” comes to mind. In Bahasa Indonesia travesty is “parodi”. How apt!

Something smells. And it’s not the roses.

Ah, rack off

Hector’s helper had a robust exchange with an Ubud bien-pensant the other day over the little matter of adulteration of drinks (including arak) for sale in bars in Bali and Lombok. It arose because said helper had posted a comment about criminality. In response, Nyoman Wen scribbled to the effect that Hector’s helper was unread and ignorant.

The Good Wen is another former Sydney personage who has transmigrated, apparently in almost every sense. He acquired the essence of guruhood on Mangrove Mt, New South Wales, and these days dispenses advice and does not take kindly to the bleeding obvious disturbing his personal karma.

So for the record: Whatever foolish village youths do in the matter of adulterating the arak they get drunk on, people who sell drinks over the counter anywhere are engaged in commercial practices that are – or would be if anyone bothered – licensed, regulated and subject to excise and tax laws. Bar owners who doctor drinks know what they’re doing and that what they’re doing is wrong: Especially when it kills people, which far too often it does.


8 Million’s a Crowd

According to figures recently released by the government, 8,044,462 tourists visited Indonesia last year, around 5 percent more than in 2011. And according to Retno Sulistyaningsih, director of tourism development at the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, the increase is due to the better quality and variety of tourism products offered in Indonesia.

He cited in particular one of the ministry’s flagship programmes, the Destination Management Organization (DMO), which manages sustainable tourism destinations in 15 locations around Indonesia, including “regional Bali”.

We don’t know whether to be happy or sad about this news. We thought there were more tourists about, possibly even 8 million of them. But it seemed to us that they’d all come to Bali and hired cars so they could relax in paradise by crawling up and down the Ngurah Rai Bypass.

English as she is Broke

The English language is under pressure everywhere: Even the dullest amongst us would have realised this by now. Its functional demise is being hastened by the internet and the illiterate clowns who inhabit it. (We saw something recently in which some cyber-world lunatic wrote that emails would be better restricted to 50 words or less. Unfortunately it didn’t say these should be correctly spelt and rendered in something resembling a grammatical structure.)

One would not, of course, expect Tolstoy to produce War and Peace for Twitter. Though it is amusing to speculate on what he might suggest as an alternative use for his quill to anyone who put such a proposal to him. Nowadays we are not believed likely to read much beyond a beer coaster, either in word count or cerebral content. Instead we are considered to have the attention spans of dead ants.

All sorts of people want to blog nowadays. One popped up the other day saying he (or possibly she) would really like to get into travel blogging and adding: “Been blogging about life and travel in SE Asia fir a few years now but really don’t know anything about blogging per say.”

Sadly this indicates that the writer actually knows very little about anything much at all, per se.

It’s a Breeze

How nice it was to see The Samaya Seminyak coming in at No. 3 on the Trip Advisor top 10 list of the most luxurious hotels in Asia, released recently. We’ve always had a soft spot for the property, and especially for its lovely beachside bar and restaurant (Breeze, named for its prevailing ambience). We go there occasionally to remember when we were to be counted among the spending classes.

It really is a great spot, the more so for having Ray Clark as general manager; and for being the place of favourite resort of some lovely Sydney friends.

The property has recently been remodelled and is now even better than ever. No. 1 next year, guys!

Two other Bali properties made it into the top 10: The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah at Ubud came in at No. 4 and The Samaya Ubud was in seventh spot. A third Ubud property, Komaneka at Monkey Forest, was 13th.

Full House

Australian wellness person Hayley Lawrence, who operates the Radiant Being centre at Albany on the bracing southernmost coast of Western Australia is – understandably, given that our breezes are generally balmy – something of a Bali fan. She reports almost a full house for her next “follow your bliss retreat” involving yoga and other delights at Batu Karang Resort and Spa on Nusa Lembongan on April 15-20. One held last year attracted very favourable comment from participants. There’s a second retreat planned for October this year.

There is still (just, be quick) space to get on the programme if you’re interested. Full details are at www.radiantbeing.com.au or you can email info@radiantbeing.com.au.  And Lawrence says you can have 10 percent off if you read about it here and mention that fact when you book.

It’s good to see the deepening development of mutually profitable West Australian-Bali business relations. And a bit of pampering never goes astray.

Hector’s Diary is published in the Bali Advertiser, out fortnightly in print, and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky)

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 23, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences


In the Swim

We hear that Celia Gregory, the underwater sculptress, will soon be back among us. She’s coming up for air after a longish sojourn in Britain. Gregory’s interest lies in the crisis of coral – everywhere but chiefly in our own interest in Bali and Lombok – and she has a novel way of applying a remedy for this destruction.

     She gave an interesting talk to Canggu Rotary last year on her underwater sculpture project, which is designed to give the little polyps something artistic to grow on. She’s done this in cooperation with the BioRock project in Lombok’s Gilis and plans to do more of the same in Bali: at Pemuteran, where she’s already done sterling work and where “The Underwater Goddess” now has a home; and at Amed, with Reef Check Indonesia and an international organisation, Coral. At Amed, in a depressingly common story, precious coral was destroyed in the 1980s when it was used for building material in place of cement.

     Gregory tells us that while in the UK she won funding from the far-seeing Roddick Foundation for development work on her project. She gave them this pitch, which it is impossible to gainsay:

     “It is clear that marine habitat around the world is in mass decline and a radical new creative approach is needed to halt the destruction. I believe using the lucrative economy of art mixed with the vital economy of tourism we can help re-inject a sense of value and awe of our oceans back into society, helping the world to once again revere the wonderful hidden underwater world that is so desperately in need of protecting.”

      The money will enable The Marine Foundation – which Gregory founded – to develop its website and profile so it is more accessible to both a wider audience and to greater funding support.  She tells us: “It is vital we place this within the context of tourism and contemporary art as a powerful way to support marine eco-system restoration and sustainable management.”

      Indeed. Apart from anything else, Indonesia’s (and Bali’s and Lombok’s) marine tourism sector needs to protect and nurture the living environment that gives it a commercial edge in the world market.

My Hatten! A Nice Drop

The lovely little MinYak’s regular Question Time column is always a must-read at The Cage, so when the latest edition cantered into our in-box the week before last, we grabbed it with glee. And with good reason, it turned out, because the subject was James Kalleske, Hatten Wines’ new blender extraordinaire.

     We’re into wine here at The Cage. And mostly Hatten, since the art of surviving a period of genteel decline undefined by any pre-disclosed end date to assist budgeting precludes the practices of former years, when such recurrent costs were not really a factor. It’s still outrageously expensive to drink wine in Indonesia, but if you’re prepared to quaff Chateau Cardboard and know the lie of the land well enough to find an emporium with the nous to understand that people will buy more if it’s cheaper, then Hatten’s products fit the bill. Forget Pepito.

     We drink Aga Red. So well do we do this that the people at the local store we buy ours from now get a box out of their locked display cabinet whenever they see us pulling up outside. For some months, Aga Red has even tasted like wine. Lolly water it no longer is. An Aussie gripe – yes that’s a pun, love ’em, not a mistype – seems to have got into the mix in significant quantity.

     Kalleske is a Barossa boy from a South Australian winemaking family. So we’re really glad he’s here and is putting his mark on a new range of locally produced wine blends. But he got here from Western Australia, proving yet again that WA is Bali’s leading source of expatriate settlers.

     He tells a lovely story about his most memorable wine occasion. This from the MinYak:

    “What’s the funniest situation you’ve had to navigate so far as a wine-blender?

    “Not so much funny as embarrassing. During an interview for a position with a very exclusive winery in Margaret River, one of the questions the GM asked me was ‘What is your most memorable bottle of wine?’ 

   “I told him it was a bottle of ‘X’. I said: ‘The wine was absolute rubbish, really hideous! But it was the first bottle of wine I drank with the girl who turned out being the love of my life, and that is why the wine was so memorable.’ The GM replied: ‘I made that wine! Under a label I created…’ Needless to say I didn’t get the job.”

    In vino veritas, as they say. But Kalleske has a good mind for difficulties – that should help him through his developing Bali experience – and also told the MinYak he believes “it’s always better to have a wine than a whinge.”

     Vintage, James. And puns help too.

A Special Day

Anand Krishna, the spiritual spruiker, scarcely needs introduction. He’s so well known that several people are still trying to put him in jail under the Trumped-Up Charges Act. You don’t have to try very hard here to get up someone’s nose.

     So it was nice to see that on Jan. 14, to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Anand Ashram Foundation in Ubud, the inauguration took place of Aadi Paraashakti Devi Mandir (The Mother Goddess Chapel). The proceedings were conducted in Bahasa Indonesia.

A Fine Legacy

This year’s winners of the Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award – it’s in honour of the public affairs counsellor at Australia’s embassy in Jakarta who was among 21 people tragically killed in the 2007 Garuda crash at Yogyakarta – are ABC journalist Amy Bainbridge and Indonesian online news editor Renne Kawilarang. 

     Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, who made the announcement on Jan. 15, said both winners were worthy recipients of the award with a strong commitment and interest in the relationship between Australia and Indonesia. The annual award goes to one journalist from Australia and one from Indonesia to visit each other’s country for up to three weeks on a fully-funded programme.

     Carr said in announcing this year’s winners: “The relationship between our two nations is fundamental and the Elizabeth O’Neill Award fosters greater understanding, leading to better informed media coverage of issues affecting both countries.”

     Bainbridge has worked on many of Australia’s flagship current affairs programmes including Lateline, PM and The World Today. While in Indonesia, she will focus on the representation of women in local politics and business, the Australian expatriate community and the role of Islam in modern Indonesian society.

     Kawilarang, a news editor with VIVAnews.com, has extensive international relations experience and has previously won the British Council’s Chevening Scholarship. He will use his time to research Indonesian links with Australia by interviewing Indonesians now living there and speaking to young Australians who have lived in Indonesia.

He’s got the Sheets

Steve Palmer, man about Bali, recently issued a plaintive plea on one of the Facebook groups he can be found on: “Does anyone know where to find the finest quality hand, bath, and face towels in Indonesia? Finest cotton… Super soft, super absorbent, nice colours [he spelt that without the “u” of course, but we forgive him – Hec]; even dye lots across all articles, not looking for a bargain, looking for the best… Two months ago I tried to get good sheets here and ended up getting Frette from New York as everything local available was too much of a compromise. Hope I don’t have to suffer the same for towels.”

    There’s a lesson there for Bali suppliers of all sorts of products. It is that quality does count and that it has to be real rather than imaginary.

Poison Alley

Methanol, the poison of choice of criminally-minded liquor-adulterers in Indonesia whose consciences are apparently even more defective than their mental capacities, this month claimed the life of an Australian teenager who became ill after unwittingly consuming an adulterated drink on Gili Trawangan, Lombok.

    The young man, whose name was Liam Davies and who was 19, became sick after a New Year celebration with friends. He was flown home to Perth, on the advice of doctors, but died in hospital there.

     Methanol is a deadly killer. There have been numerous incidents in which people have drunk adulterated liquor – methanol is used to create larger quantities of alcohol (often arak) that they then sell to the unwitting – here in Bali, as well as Lombok, and of course elsewhere in Indonesia.

     Last year a well-known Perth rugby player, Michael Denton, died in Bali of methanol poisoning. In 2009 a total of 25 people died here – four of them foreign tourists –after drinking methanol-laced arak. An arak factory operator in Denpasar subsequently faced court and was convicted of breaching regulations regarding alcohol production.

    Kim Patra, who writes the Paradise in Sickness & in Health column in the Bali Advertiser, devoted an entire column before Christmas to the dangers of being unaware of risks to your health here.

Buzzing Off

Jennifer Bee, who markets Komodo and its diving and dragon attractions for Grand Komodo Tours at Sanur, is changing tack in February: she plans to set up her own home-based business that will offer an eclectic mix: business services, relocation assistance, a travel agency, house and villa maintenance and a window into the world of art.

     Bee (not her real name but she gets a buzz out of it) says she’s had enough of working for other people and wants to go it alone using the internet as her office. It’s the coming thing and we wish her good luck and good fortune.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky)