Messing About in Boats

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other non-religious fare

Bali, Jan. 4, 2017

 

WE have a lovely friend, a former media colleague who goes by the pen name of The Global Goddess. She has a tough life, poor thing. She’s forever flitting off from Brisbane, her home city, to go to distant places and write about them. Well, someone has to do it, we suppose.

Her most recent gambol was a cruise to Komodo aboard the Al-Iikai, a 37-metre Bugis pinisi fitted out for maximum comfort and operated from Serangan in Benoa Bay. It was, she tells us, a program that gave her plenty of stories about messing about in boats.

The goddess, real name Christine Retschlag, apparently didn’t read Kenneth Grahame’s marvellous fantasy tale Wind in the Willows as a child. But we’re sure that Ratty will forgive her, given her later experiences. Hector, who is one of Ratty’s firmest friends, will pay close attention to her trip reports on her blog and in the travel media.

We’re sure that Ratty – whose ancestral lineage, we remember, traced back to a seafaring rat who had sailed to England from Constantinople long before (though possibly not as early as the Black Death fleets of 1348-49) – will fully understand that the Bali Sea and beyond is a different kettle of fish to the somewhat placid Thames in the golden age of Edwardian England more than a century ago.

The goddess finished her archipelagic sojourn with some lovely down-days at Palms Ceningan, where we hear she adopted surfer-chick hair because she had lost her comb. She’ll have found it eventually in the designer Black Void handbag that she, like all the girls, simply has to tote around.

Before Indonesia, she had been in Canada chatting up polar bears. As a result of this earlier adventure, and when we caught up with her aboard the Al-Iikai at Benoa before she sailed away to joust with dragons, courtesy of Indonesia Island Sail’s Amanda Zsebik, we dubbed her Nanook of the Near North.

That’s no igloo, just the smile.

What a Blast

It’s over now, for another year, thank goodness. But Christmas is worth discussion. It marks the requisitioned and wholly notional birthdate of Jesus the Nazarene, who in the Christian rite is the Messiah, the prince of peace, Son of God, prophet and prince of life, among other things. Nothing in his story seems to mandate explosive exclamation, except perhaps the feeding of the five thousand, which must have been a blast.

So it is curious that in Indonesia it’s apparently an occasion for letting off fireworks. From the noise these infernal objects generate, they must be rather bigger than the two inches (five centimetres) maximum allowed by official order. Never mind, no one here takes any notice of official orders.

There’s a serious point in this. Christmas is a Christian religious feast. For Muslims, it is the birthday of the Messiah (Mahdi), Isa – Jesus – who ranks behind only Muhammad as a prophet of Allah.

It is the secular West that has turned Christmas into an occasion for consumer excess. But even there, and in the little pockets of bad behaviour its acolytes occupy around the globe, pyrotechnics don’t figure in the events of the season.

A Sari Tale

The other day we came across a delightful Jakarta-based blog (www.eatlivetravel.com) that had somehow previously escaped our notice. We really should get out more. It comes with an emailed newsletter, to which we have now subscribed. Interesting takes on current events are always good value, whether they are serious or of the ROFL class. Hereabouts they’re often of the ROFLMAO variant.

What caught our eye particularly in the newsletter we saw on Dec. 17 was a spin-off from the awful Ahok saga. It involved Sari Roti, a bread maker, whose products were seen in apparently invidious proximity to the governor of Jakarta in the context of his legal difficulties with the FMP (the Fanatical Muslim Push). Sari Roti’s stock value had fallen as a result (no, we’re not kidding).

No one can have missed the fact that Governor Ahok is on trial for blasphemy on the grounds that he misquoted the Qur’an and is therefore a kafir of the worst order. He’s a Christian, of course, and an Indonesian of Chinese ethnicity. Neither of these qualities is favoured as a political option by the chaps with the placards and the turban fetish.

It’s a sorry tale all round, and not one to laugh about. Except that sometimes if you don’t laugh, you cry.

It Just Piles Up

Photos that surfaced on Facebook just before Christmas, of the disgraceful piles of garbage washed up on Double Six beach at Legian, after seasonal rains flushed out the poisonous detritus that clogs every watercourse you can think of, are an object lesson in the poverty of public policy in Bali.

They show how fiddling around at the edges, or hoping someone else will front up with the money and the means to do something for you while funding your latest vehicle fetish, is a cop-out, a disease risk and a PR disaster all rolled into one.

They were taken by surfing identity Tim Hain on Dec. 24. He noted that he was feeling a little delicate as a result of the ASC Tour awards party held at Canggu the previous evening, but what really made him feel sick was the sight that greeted him on Double Six beach on his morning walk.

It’s true that there are some good waste management initiatives in an increasing number of localities in Bali, organised at local community level. Craig Glenister of the Alasari resort in Tabanan mentioned the one that’s up and running in his area. Fair enough.

But it’s not enough. Just for example, in the Bukit area that houses The Cage (from whence Hector scribbles) a local contractor is paid by some residents to properly dispose of their rubbish. Others couldn’t care less – it’s not the money – and continue with the sorry custom of just tossing garbage away. Sometimes they set fire to it and the noxious plastic it contains. But mostly they just forget about it. Everywhere you go there’s a smelly bag of diseased rubbish lying in the scrub or by the road.

The local free-range dogs, a pariah class created by public apathy and indolence, the rats and the dengue mosquitoes, are guaranteed a continuous feast as a result.

A Sound Point

Helen Mirren is a great actor. And anyone who has seen the long-ago guest spot she did as a much younger one on a British TV talk show – when interviewer Michael Parkinson asked her with a particularly gauche grin if her “attributes” got in the way of her winning offers of serious roles – will understand also that she is a highly intelligent woman with whom one should not trifle.

So when she observed that by general agreement 2016 was a shit of a year, as she did recently, it was very hard to argue. You don’t even have to have read the library-load of end-of-year reviews to work that out. She wasn’t making a partisan political point. That’s a tiresome practice of some actors, who seem to believe that a good publicist, a photogenic presence and an ability to take direction on a film set invests them with special knowledge, but it’s not hers.

Neither was she speaking in personal terms. She has a broader mind than that. She can see that things happen that aren’t good, even if they don’t directly affect you; and she is not so consumed with Self in the modern fashion that nothing else seems to matter. In short, she’s a breath of fresh air

See below for Hector’s view on The Year It Would Be Nice to Rewind.

Monkey of a Year

The Monkey is most likely exhausted, or near as, since his year is nearly over. The Diary, a Monkey of the class of 1944, certainly is. In the Chinese Zodiac, everyone’s once-in-a-dozen years mazurka is not a treat but a challenge. And 2016 was not a good year for anyone.

The year of the Fire Rooster starts on Jan. 28. We look forward to it. The next Monkey year is in 2028. Perhaps we’ll see you for that party.

President-elect Donald Trump’s next celestial challenge is in 2018, by the way. He’s a Fire Dog. But he gets his box of matches a year early, on Jan. 20, when he is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. He’ll probably tweet about that.

This column appears in the Bali Advertiser, out Jan. 4. The newspaper publishes Hector’s Diary in every second edition. It is a fortnightly print and on line publication.

 

 

Best in Bali

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Wine country, Western Australia

Nov. 23, 2016

 

CHRISTINA Iskandar, who is busy expanding the Diva Empire in Australia from her Sydney hometown base, tells us of a lovely little charity revenue stream she’s putting in place. It’s at the invitation of a major greetings card company.

The idea is they’ll put a selection of Best in Bali images on cards and other gift products and 5 per cent of the proceeds of sales will go to nominated Bali charities.

Iskandar has chosen as the first beneficiary of this scheme the Suryani Institute for Mental Health, a non-profit institute established in 2005. It and its sister organisations the Committee Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) and the Bali Elderly Welfare Foundation (Yayasan Wreda Sejahtera) work to create a healthy and happy community in Bali. Through academic, medical, psychiatric, educational and social work, the institute seeks to help the Balinese people become more intelligent, independent, creative, as well as physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually healthy.

The institute is headed by Professor Luh Ketut Suryani, MD, PhD. Its holistic approach to problem solving and positive advance – which it terms biopsycho-spirit-sociocultural – combines Western mainstream psychiatric/psychological practice with Eastern and Balinese cultural and spiritual knowledge and beliefs.

The Bali Divas themselves have been busy getting ready for a White Christmas ahead of their Divas and Dudes Christmas Charity Lunch on Nov. 25. It’s been a little chill on the island lately, courtesy of the annual wet season, though not that cold! Still, it’s a lovely old song. Thanks, Bing Crosby.

The “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” event is at Merah Putih in Kerobokan, where the fun starts at 12 Noon on Friday. We’ll be getting reports of frivolity and other action, so play up, folks. It’s for a good cause. Proceeds from the charity lunch will go to the Bali Children Foundation and The Refugee Learning Nest.

Bali Children Foundation is a non-profit organisation that provides education opportunities to more than 2300 children from disadvantaged families across Bali. The Refugee Learning Nest is a community-based project in Java that helps refugees through informal educational programs including women’s literacy, tailoring classes, and sporting activities.

The lunch, sponsored by Chandon, will feature a performance by the Bali-based singer Eva Scolaro, who we hear has added footwear designs to her list of skills. She looks good in shoes. There will be the usual raffles and auction items.

Don’t be a Dork

There was a flurry of fevered interest in Australia in the misbehaviour of women at this year’s Melbourne Cup, run on Nov. 1 and won, as usual, by a horse. Apparently media focus on idiot women should not overemphasise their looks, as this perpetuates sexist myths. It’s an interesting point of discussion in Bali, where the loudly drunk and selfishly inclined tourist cohort regularly makes a mess of itself and whichever locality it is that they’ve chosen to disgrace with their presence.

Fine. If you’re drunk as a skunk and passed out in a wheelie bin in a short skirt and with your legs up, because you’re blotto and the remains of your mind thought the bin was a good place to be, you’re not going to look good.

There’s a lot of talk about the glass ceiling these days, and how while some women have managed to crack it, many have yet to do so. This is held to be a sin, and not only against the sisterhood. We agree. Merit and a capacity to commit are the keys to advance.

It’s a shame that efforts to crack the glass ceiling are seen in some quarters as licence to wreck the joint once you’re in there. Not in the business sense: the women we know who have gained access to the glass cage at the top of the corporate bureaucratic ladders are all sensible, thinking people. Some among them might like a drink, and even to misbehave, in all sorts of ways, but they do so in private, where in a free society such things are legitimately enjoyed.

It’s on the party circuit, broadly defined, where bad behaviour occurs publically. It’s true that in many societies, especially the Anglo ones, the bad behaviour of men is apparently expected, still largely accepted, often cheered on (crassly) and frequently overlooked. The stupid boys will be boys rule. Read that line any way you like. This dispensation is not extended to women who drink too much and behave like dorks. Women are supposed to be savvy and sexy and all of that, in whatever body shape they naturally possess, and not to compete with men in the idiot stakes.

Fundamentally this is phooey, despite grandma’s sensible advice to always keep yourself nice. People are people. They come in all shapes and sizes and an infinite range of personalities. These days, however, good manners have largely been thrown out of the window in the western world, along with common sense. They have been replaced by the glottal-stop baby talk and short attention span of the Me generation. That’s what people need to think about and correct. It’s not really a gender thing at all, except among men with a fixed and prehistoric belief in their own sex’s supremacy.

Chump Time

That a man whose adult life has been spent losing other people’s money, stiffing business partners, failing to pay creditors, creating a lengthy list of corporate failures, avoiding tax, being a loud-mouth reality TV front-man (“You’re Fired!), running the Miss Universe pageant while ogling the talent, pushing forward the boundaries of shocking kitsch and publicly avowing the delights of pussy-grabbing, can be elected the 45th president of the United States is something that takes American democracy into new territory.

There are good reasons for American voters to disavow the political practices of establishment candidates and the two-party system (never mind the quality, feel the width) and to choose something that promises to break that matrix. On Nov. 8 they wanted, in sufficient numbers, to belt the Beltway (the popular synonym for Washington’s inner circle).

It’s a bold political experiment. We can only hope the test-tube doesn’t blow up and destroy the joint. It will be an interesting spectacle whatever results. An Australian friend whose considered opinions we greatly value, remarked when we asked him what he thought of the events that it was a bit like jelly wrestling: you know it’s wrong but you watch anyway. The life of a voyeur can be very rewarding.

There were the expected reactions to Donald Trump’s win on Nov. 8. Locally, the rupiah weakened, though this was expected to be only a temporary effect. Global bond markets were spooked. The Brexit Brits were re-enthused, since like them Trump wants to overturn all sorts of apple carts. The British see a fortune to be made in bilateral trade deals. (They’ve managed, oddly, to get the Australian government politically on side in that respect. Perhaps Canberra needs to glance briefly at a world map.)

Trump for his part wants to reinvent American rustbelt industry, which according to him shouldn’t have disappeared to China and other places where cost-effective manufacturing is practised. He’s a bit like Don Quixote, albeit with rather less moral fibre. Though tilting at windmills can be fun, for the spectators at least.

Another friend, this time in America itself, reports an unexpected side effect of Trumpism’s triumph. She’s looking for a new hairdresser in her gentle, liberal New England domain. Her long established snipper, who’s very good and very, very gay, has taken to loudly singing the praises of the White House Apprentice. She said she had not yet allowed this to disturb her coiffeur but that it had seriously ruffled her feathers.

Karma on the Rocks

The sports bar at Echo Beach over which long-term American resident of Bali Mara Wolford raised a stink earlier this year with allegations that her drink was spiked, has closed. That’s good news.

When it found itself criticised after the events Wolford wrote about on her Facebook, it adopted the usual tactic of miscreant businesses in Bali: First, anguished hurt that anyone could possibly think they were to blame; second, inventive and wholly inadequate answers; and third, threats of retribution.

The bar ceased trading this month. We love karma.

Chilling Out

The Diary is in Australia this week, on an SEB: a short essential break. So chilling out is the order of the day. That’s not difficult at all, when you’re in the bit of the Special Biosphere that has cool nights and often none-to-warm days even when late spring is said to have finally arrived.

We’ll be back shortly. The woollies will need washing.

HectorR

Hector writes a blog at 8degreesoflatitude.

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 5, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Poison Chalice

Three people died from methanol poisoning in Bali recently. They had all been drinking at a bar in Legian. The name of the establishment is fairly well known and cautions against going there have been privately issued by many people to their friends. Naming it publicly is fraught with risk. One of the more curious elements of Indonesian law is that people who should be in jail hanging their heads in shame can make you the criminal for talking about them.

So we’ll just say this: People who adulterate alcoholic drinks with methanol for profit (that’s why they do it; it’s certainly not for mistakenly philanthropic reasons) should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Those whose actions or negligence lead to catastrophic poisoning – methanol can leave you brain damaged and blind if it doesn’t kill you – should be arrested, charged, tried and if found guilty, jailed. It’s just another thing that Bali needs to get really serious about.

Gaining a reputation as cowboy territory does not help the island’s tourism profile. If we become known as a place where nut-heads serve you methanol in bars – and of hotels whose balconies collapse and severely injure people and whose managements then decline to accept any responsibility, apparently even moral responsibility – it’s rather likely to be seen as a demerit rather than a merit. Even in non-effete, non-western tourism markets.

Wake Up

It was good to see the response from the fisheries and forests minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, to the international petition raised in the interest of the captive dolphins confined to a small, chlorinated swimming pool at the Wake resort at Keramas. It beggars belief that anyone would subject dolphins to such treatment, especially in the pursuit of profit. So if violations are found (beyond the unbelievable confinement of intelligent, salt-water living mammals in poisonous, potentially blinding chlorinated water) then it would be good if the central government applied its animal protection powers. Such action might resolve the situation speedily, whoever is the enchanted being, a member of a protected species perhaps, who is behind this particular “tourist attraction”.

The resort, we hear, is favoured by Russian tourists, primarily for its off-road macho-man facilities. The dolphins are a side-show. That says something itself, of course, especially in an environment where roubles and vroom go together like a shirtless president and a chesty photo opportunity, but we should not be surprised.

A deeper discussion on Indonesia’s laws as they apply to the apparently hitherto elective matter of animal protection is sorely needed, and not only in the context of the newly announced quest for nature tourism. We look forward to Minister Siti’s direct input. Reform of those inadequate laws, many of which date from the Dutch era and are no longer relevant, is something for which animal welfare organizations have been pressing for ages.

It’s Those Westerners

Speaking of animal welfare advocates, those among them who have been most vocal about how to reduce and eventually eliminate rabies in Bali are back in the provincial government’s sights. Governor Pastika says handling rabies in Bali is not like doing so in western societies where people vaccinate their pets and look after them properly, and where strays are rare. In Bali, he says, we have to kill stray animals because it’s easier to do so and more appropriate in our environment.

He overlooks, as of course he must unless he wants to immediately destroy his whole argument, the experience of India, South Africa and a number of Latin American countries where approved world standard responses have been used to great effect. These are vaccination, humane numbers reduction by sterilization, and effective community education. Last time we looked, most of the places where culling has been rejected as both pointless and a risk of further spreading rabies were hardly examples of well-moneyed leafy suburbs in prosperous European and American cities.

The Governor told a meeting of Bali legislators that animal welfare organizations here should not just shout (he means shout things that he views as unhelpful or irritating) but should help the government by capturing strays, vaccinating and sterilizing them, and caring for them. If that is his view, perhaps he should tell all the little panjandrums further down the line that it is. They might then cease their boneheaded practice of obstructing NGOs doing this good, productive, public spirited work.

Governor Pastika’s line on vaccination is just as skewed, not to say crass. There’s not enough human vaccine in Bali, he says, because the suppliers – the private company BioFarma – have insufficient stock. It’s not that the government won’t buy it; it’s just that it isn’t there to be bought. Anyone who buys that line is unfamiliar with an eight-letter word that is more politely rendered as two words: bovine manure. In fact the government agreed to a contract last year at a unit price it now finds the suppliers have discounted for online buyers and they want it cheaper too. Caveat emptor is a nice old Latin term that fits.

There was another rabies death last week (Jul. 27) in Bangli, the island’s 12th this year. It takes the official human toll from rabies to 160 since the disease broke out in 2008. It is now on the rise again, because the government, its animal husbandry agency, and some district administrations, have dropped the ball. That’s the bottom line. It’s a shocking one.

Takes the Cake

We can report that not only is Tim Hannigan’s latest book on Indonesia first class – it’s A Short History of Indonesia: Sultans, Spices and Tsunamis, and has just been published by Tuttle Singapore – but that the Biku high tea that accompanied his chat about it on Jul. 25 was too. We expected nothing less, of course, of Asri Kerthyasa’s fine establishment; and we were certainly not disappointed, though we did leave afterwards feeling quite full.

Tim is a good speaker. He has a knack of sitting gnome-like on a tall chair and looking entirely comfortable. This is a remarkable skill. He took the sell-out crowd through the introduction to his book, the only bit of it, he says, that is entirely imagined. It centres on the Hobbits of Flores in pre-history and their lengthy interaction with the fuller-sized humans who colonized the archipelago towards the end of the Hobbit era. The rest of the book can rely on written and narrative record, and does, rather well.

The official book tour included an appearance at Bar Luna literary club in Ubud and a signing assignment at Periplus at the airport. Unofficially, it featured a rare opportunity to catch up with the author over dinner, which was good fun and informative as always. This special meeting of the Raconteurs’ Club took place at Gorgonzola, which is a fixture on our Bukit List.

Direct Action

Those who follow the detail of the Indonesian-Australian relationship know very well that it chugs along much as ever, beyond the headlines and the scare stories, even in the face of the assertion (lately) by the Indonesian attorney-general that shooting convicted criminals is no longer a pressing priority. Apparently only the first few rounds were prioritized. It is now crystal clear that this exercise in judicial murder was for political purposes. We’ll pause briefly to vomit in disgust and then get on with business.

The business in this instance is the Direct Assistance Program administered by the Australian consulate-general in Bali. The 2014-2015 program funding was doubled to Rp 1, 683,000,000 in the Australian budget for that financial year (Australia’s FY runs Jul. 1-Jun. 30). It funded 16 projects, two of them in neighbouring Nusa Tenggara Barat for which the consulate-general also has responsibility. Australia slashed its future foreign aid funding in the 2015-2016 budget in May, but most of the impact is in outlays for future years and the DAP program in Bali-NTB for this financial year remained at its previously doubled level.

Projects funded in 2014-2015 included: Funding sight-restoring cataract surgeries in NTB; buying support tools for patients with disability in Lombok; providing piping to access clean water for a village in Tabanan; supporting a sustainable agriculture project in Buleleng that researched and promoted dry land farming techniques; purchasing toilets to supply to a remote village in East Bali; funding a pop-up co-working space in Gianyar to develop entrepreneurship among young Balinese; working with an Australian volunteer to provide advanced nurse training at Sanglah Hospital; and providing updated IT equipment to a women’s college in Ubud to train young female students in multi-media skills.

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

Clumsy Confections on all Sides

Nick Feik, editor of the online newspaper PoliticsOz, wrote this in his editorial note today (Feb. 17):

TERRITORIAL TENSIONS

The Indonesian government had only just finished protesting to Australian ambassador Greg Moriarty over the Abbott government’s border protection policies when its foreign minister Marty Natalegawa was again fronting the media to object to Australian conduct.

On Friday it was revealed that Indonesian armed forces believe the Australian navy breached its maritime borders knowingly and intentionally, on several occasions.

But yesterday Natalegawa was referring to the latest spying allegations reported in theNew York Times, that the Australian Signals Directorate had listened in and passed on to the US the communications of an American law firm which was representing Indonesia in trade discussions with America. The Australian and US governments have also been sharing mass telecommunications intercepts, according to the new Snowden leaks.

Indonesia’s patience with the Australian government is now threadbare.

In news that may or may not be related, a fleet of Chinese naval vessels has passed through Indonesian territorial waters close to Christmas Island, in what was describedby the Jakarta Post as an unprecedented exercise. American secretary of state John Kerry, visiting Indonesia this week, will doubtless urge Indonesia not to accommodate China’s increasingly aggressive territorial manoeuvres. For its part, Indonesia plans to raise Australia’s naval incursions into its waters with Kerry, as well as the raft of spying allegations.

But as these discussions will be conducted behind closed doors, we can only guess at the real state of affairs, and try to read the coded language of international diplomacy.

“It is the responsibility of (US & Australia) … to salvage their bilateral relations with Indonesia,” said Natalegawa.

Whereas Julie Bishop maintains that relations with the Indonesian government are “very positive”.

This is all fine, so far as it goes. Unfortunately it doesn’t go far enough. It takes no notice of the other side of the coin.

It is, granted, foolish to rattle the cage with the Indonesians in the lead-up to the legislative and presidential elections this year. Some of the official comment from the Australian side has been unhelpful. Some might say gauche.

But this confection of peril, for that is what all this is, essentially, gives Indonesian politicians an opportunity to focus on foreign impertinence rather than the substantial policy failures at home for which they are responsible. It risks inflaming public feelings by banging the nationalist drum when no such response is justified.

So yes, in regard to the spying allegations, both Australia and the U.S. have broken the first rule of intelligence-gathering, which is “Don’t get caught.” But even there, there’s a rider. They got caught because of the malfeasance of Edward Snowden, another of the bothersome clowns who – armed with mega-data – declare that they are setting out to save the world.

The spying row aside, Australia’s deep problem with Indonesia over the so-called boat people is also not entirely of Canberra’s commission. Indonesia says it doesn’t want asylum seekers in the country, yet until very recently it has done little or nothing to stop them.

The problem is that people are rightly free to travel and are entitled, with the required visas, to travel anywhere they want. In the case of asylum seekers arriving in Indonesia, it’s what happens then that matters. They disappear and become the clients (they are not the victims) of people smugglers.

In the Indonesian fashion, where sluggish and inattentive bureaucracy slumbers at its desk and corruption is virtually an official pastime, nothing much is done to stop the people smugglers. Until someone complains – for example Canberra – and someone in Indonesia stirs themselves into action. Generally, this energy is temporary. That’s what Indonesia is like.

Add to this the fact that from the Indonesian perspective the best policy option is to ignore the presence of people intending to commit a crime (leaving an Indonesian port without notice) because this will remove them from Indonesia. It passes the problem, such as it is and since it is politically defined as a problem in Australia, onto Canberra. Let them deal with it, is the view.

The international political problem has been worsened by the Abbott Government’s even harder line on boats approaching Australian waters. It has taken this approach for domestic political reasons. There is no security threat present. The people on board the boats (excepting the remote chance that some fanatic might be posing as a refugee) are fixed on one aim: securing a better life for themselves and their families.

This needs to be seen in context too. So-called economic refugees are now a fact of global life. They are part of the new international political architecture. Sometime soon, Australia will have to find the moral fortitude to deal with the real problem and not its minuscule side-effect. Better to work for proper global management of elective population movement than buy lifeboats so you can get the navy to send the few unfortunates you find breaching your maritime zone back to Indonesia.

It’s not in Australia’s interest to have a row with Indonesia. Especially on something as no-win as the boat people.

It bears mentioning that the unconscionable policy of the Australian government appears to have staunched the flow of boats. From that pernicious and narrow policy perspective, it would have to be judged a success.

But that doesn’t mean Australians – or their government – should forget that the real feet of clay on the difficult issue of asylum seekers transiting Indonesia are under big desks in Jakarta, not Canberra.

That’s something someone should tell Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who apparently believes it is up to Australia (and the U.S.) to work to maintain relations with Indonesia.

Cooperation and neighbourliness is a two-way street.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 27, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Get Smart! Get Agent 99

It may all have blown over by the time this edition of the Diary appears. (Well, no it won’t, even though it certainly should have.) The piquant sauce de jour these days is the spy scandal that has embroiled Indonesia and Australia. A quick point: It was Kevin wot dun it, the Nambour Kid, saviour of the universe and serial winner of the motor-mouth prize.

This is not to be unkind to the former Australian prime minister. It’s just that, well, he is the former Australian prime minister. He’s not even in parliament any longer. He decided since being re-elected on Sept. 7 as the member for Griffith – disclosure: the seat, in Brisbane, was once the Diary’s domicile for the purpose of scribbling gratuitous advice on ballot papers – that since the Australian people had belled him out it was all too much and he’d be better off saving the world from someplace else.

Nor is this to say that the present incumbent, Tony Abbott, wouldn’t have signed off on the same scam if he’d been in the big office at the time. But let’s not forget that 2009 was a particularly complex phrase in the long narrative of the world. The Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005, the Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta in 2004, the Marriott attack in 2003 and the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton bombings in 2009, created difficult circumstances. Indonesia was facing down – very creditably, it should be noted – a significant domestic terrorism threat.

Traditionally, governments don’t comment on intelligence matters. This isn’t because they haven’t got any – it just looks like that sometimes. It wasn’t very smart to eavesdrop on President SBY – heck, it wasn’t even Maxwell Smart (lady Agent 99 was so much smarter) – but, well, that’s why democracies nurture journalists: to keep the bastards honest. Though journalists don’t always write everything they know either, for all sorts of reasons; legal, chiefly, or corporate or political, or sometimes for self-preservation.

It would be invidious to speculate on the real reasons the Australians and Americans bugged the presidential hand phone. Suffice to say it probably wasn’t to find out what SBY says when the chauffeur turns up late; or that it was even about the president himself at all.

The real villain in this piece is Edward Snowden, the latest “heroic” leaker, a man who like so many others these days is without honour. Without his imbecilic cyber incontinence this silly situation would not have arisen. If he didn’t like what he was doing he should have resigned and gone away. The world only needs one Julian Assange. And even that’s debatable.

 

Watch Out

An incident in Seminyak the other day serves as a timely reminder that the crowded tourism-oriented parts of South Bali are not necessarily crime-free safe areas, despite claims to that effect by various figures in authority who would obviously like it to be thought that everything here on the Island of the Dogs is just hunky-dory. It’s not a bit like Dodge City, really it isn’t. No, really.

We hear that a knife-wielding bandit assaulted an expat man in broad daylight outside a convenience store in Jl Oberoi, plainly intent on robbery. His intended target did the sensible thing and ran away. What’s more, he ran straight to the local banjar and told them the story. Apparently they caught the miscreant.

We hope he was simply handed over to the police. There was a dreadful case reported in another area – not all that far away – some months ago when a man stole Rp800K from a local warung and ran. A mob caught him, stripped him naked to humiliate him, and then beat him to death. They threw his body into a ditch. It was said at the time that the police did not regard it as an incident worth investigating since the robber had been caught and the crime had therefore been solved.

Murder is apparently not murder in a wide range of circumstances.

 

Grub Alert

A Canadian woman who lives in Ubud reported on Facebook recently that an Indonesian man had molested her in the street as she was going home after dinner in the evening. He groped one of her breasts and then left the scene, doubtless to boast of his triumph to any of his friends who, similarly mentally defective, would utter the Balinese or Indonesian equivalents of “Phwaar!” and think him a good chap rather than the mental midget he plainly is.

There are, of course, badly behaved idiots and low-life grubs in every society. An overly large proportion of those who come to public attention are men. This is distinctly displeasing to many of us who are represented by the little arrow on the gender signs you see around nowadays, instead of that friendly plus. It is especially irritating to the majority of men who are tired of being implicated in what is apparently seen as a global rape collective.

This is not to downplay the serious nature of assault and especially that by random men on passing women. We often wish we had not disposed of our lovely riding crop, once used as a friendly guide to various mounts upon which we have cantered. In circumstances such as that just reported in Ubud it would have been good to have been in the area and to have had it to hand. Pak Groper would still be in a very sorry state if that had been the case.

But that said, it’s a pity that what is primarily a male sickness from elsewhere – lack of respect for the persons of women (as opposed to their social and economic status, which remains a burdensome problem in many places) and of their absolute right not to be molested – is gaining a foothold in other cultures that really should know better. Perhaps the man involved in this incident has some sensible friends or family who have pointed out the demerits of being a grub. We can but hope.

It would be a shame if incidents like this – to say nothing of the one reported in the first item – caused further damage to Bali’s reputation as a place to have a holiday. Such things can no longer be safely ignored because they can be made to disappear.

Nowadays there is nowhere to hide. Everywhere is in the international spotlight, even Bali.

 

Where There’s a Will…

Now on to happier things: This gave us a lovely giggle when we saw it on the Ubud Community page on Facebook – a conversation between a man and a land buyer. Thank you to Ani Somia for posting it and her Dad for, well, sending at least one acquisitive land-grabber off with a flea in his ear.  

Ani’s post put it this way (it’s verbatim here for the full flavour): 

Some conversation between my father n the broker who requested our land to be rented due to a huge hotel is being building nearby our house in Ubud.

Buyer: Excusme bapak we are interested to rent out or buy your land. We hv some cash for you n we giving good price.

My dad: Oh ampura. Aka excusme sir. The land is not belong to me but it’s inherited. Could u please ask my father first?

Buyer: Yes bapak for sure we will. Where is your father now?

 My dad: He is in the grave yard died 50 years ago!

Me go inside my room n giggling then I cant help laughing hahahahaha proud of you dad!!

Way to go!

 

Wheel of Fortune

Rotary clubs are always a hive of action and Rotary Club of Bali Seminyak is no exception. Coffee drinker Barb Mackenzie tells us – via the RCBS Facebook page – of one seasonally worthy cause that surely deserves support. Rotarian John Glass told the club’s Nov. 13 meeting (held as always at Warisan, a fine watering place) that the Seeds of Hope Children’s Home in Dalung, between Denpasar and Canggu, is looking for Christmas presents for the live-in orphans at the home.

Sixty-seven children aged from 10 months to 18 years live at the home, which has a special Christmas party planned for Dec. 22. It’s suggested that appropriate gifts valued at around Rp200K (US$20) could be given to a specific child on the day. The kids like music, board games, CDs, arts and crafts, sports equipment and toiletries.

The home is also looking for a volunteer Santa on Dec. 22 if anyone fancies wearing a hot white beard. We’d do it ourselves except that our frequently preferred stubble – a Jimmy Barnes-style three-day growth – is probably not quite what Santa’s helpers are looking for. It’s the right colour, but perhaps that’s not enough.

Guest speaker at the RCBS meeting on Nov.13 was India’s consul-general in Bali, Amarejeet Singh Takhi. He’s India’s first consul-general here and took up his post in January 2012. He reminded his many listeners – the lunch was well attended – that Indonesia and India have trade and cultural links that go back two millennia.

Hector tweets @scratchings

Rough waters and rocky boats, but we’ll get there

This side of the stretch of water over which Australian tourists fly in droves to exotic holiday destinations and considerably smaller numbers of asylum seekers travel in rickety boats in the opposite direction, frequently drowning in the process, it was never clear how the new Abbott government was going to get the Indonesians to stamp out people smuggling.

There was little reason for optimism that the Indonesians would suddenly grasp the point of ethics or convert en masse to international political morality; and far less that the supine government in Jakarta would energize itself sufficiently to stamp out official corruption and local criminality in the boat trade.

Presumably these points were made in Department of Foreign Affairs and other departmental briefings presented to the incoming government. But Abbott and crew had let their rhetoric trap them between the flames on the burning deck and any escape route over the side. They couldn’t listen to that advice since they had spent so long decrying it as profoundly inadvisable.

The result, short term, is the sort of embarrassment now being suffered by Abbott and his minister for beating off the boaters, Scott Morrison. Mr Morrison’s complaint on November 11 will fall on very deaf ears in Jakarta. He said of the Indonesians’ refusal to accept back a boat that had left Java but was still in Indonesian waters when it got into trouble (in other words an Indonesian responsibility) and had therefore to be taken to Christmas Island that “there’s no real rhyme or reason to it”.

Actually there is. The significant problem for Australia and its new government – which seeks to look tough and actually to be tough on unauthorized boats – is that from the Indonesian perspective it’s a problem for Canberra, not Jakarta. They reason that since the people on the boats want to get to Australia and Indonesia doesn’t want them in Indonesia, both their national interest (moving them on) and the asylum seekers’ interest (trying to get a better life) are best met by ignoring the problem.

It fits the standard matrix of Indonesian policy: do nothing unless someone else pays for it: Indonesia does not have police or customs vessels capable of effectively operating in the Indian Ocean south of Java and its navy has other priorities. Some materiel support would not go amiss.

But even if such equipment were suddenly to be gifted to the Indonesians there is very little hope that their approach – immoral, unethical and supine though it may be – will change any time soon.

The row over “spying” from the Australian embassy in Jakarta (spying is a pejorative term that guarantees a headline but is frequently misplaced) hasn’t helped. The Indonesians know as well as anyone else that everyone does what it is alleged the Australians have done, or would if they could. Embassies have always collected information that might, once sifted, analyzed and triple-checked, then become formal intelligence or, possibly, administrative action.

The dense, confusing multifaceted interfaces between what the media imagines is some cyber-capable James Bond doing what he (or she) does and later assessment that the information has actual value, are not the stuff of breathless media reporting. The whole affair is better illustrative of Australia’s record of becoming collateral damage in American imbroglios – in this case of the debris flying around from Edward Snowden’s national security leaks – than of what really matters, which is managing the Australia-Indonesia relationship.

Nonetheless, the allegations have further muddied the water in the Indonesian-Australian relationship. It is immaterial – certainly to the Indonesians, who are playing the harp and fiddle on this with remarkably energetic verve – that the activities chiefly complained about happened on Labor’s chaotic watch between 2007 and 2013. Abbott’s government is newly in power (parliament sat for the first time only this week) and the Indonesians are testing the water, in a manner of speaking.

There is no constituency in Indonesia for a truly humane response to asylum seekers. And there is merely a rump constituency in Australia that favours recasting policy in that direction. The election on Sept. 7 settled that. The coalition was elected with a thumping majority on a policy platform that included – stripping it to its offensive basics – keeping the bastards out. That’s the uncomfortable reality; it’s as uncomfortable for many coalition voters as for those who believe Abbott is the reincarnation of something truly terrible, or is possibly himself the creature from the black lagoon.

Both Australia and Indonesia face a pressing dilemma. It is not in either country’s interest to have a fractious argument over refugees (or anything else). But it is more difficult for Australia in the context of asylum seekers, because not only does a western liberal condition exist that properly insists that people shouldn’t be left to drown, but its government operates in conditions which make it actually as opposed to notionally subject to  parliamentary control. Someone might want to mention that to Mr Morrison some time.

Indonesia, in contrast, despite its significant democratic advance since the Suharto dictatorship ended in 1998, has a different system of government. Its system facilitates the president ignoring the assembly and the assembly ignoring the president. Further, it has values that – while perfectly genuine, culturally validated and actually remarkably responsive – are not those of a Westminster-derived parliamentary democracy.

There are many sides to the Australia-Indonesian relationship. They go far beyond the irritant of asylum seekers and the criminals who prey on them in Indonesia and elsewhere. For the most part they are positive: Queensland’s revitalized trade and investment profile and presence in Jakarta is just one example.

The Abbott government is still newly in office. It’s a fairly safe bet that it will work out a way to keep every element of Australia’s relationship with Indonesia on an even keel, consistent with its need for a differently nuanced political narrative.

A stream of Australian ministers have been in Indonesia since the change of government, including Prime Minister Abbott and (multiple times) Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Defence Minister David Johnson has also been here.

The really interesting time will be next year, when Indonesians elect their next president and national assembly. Several bets could be off then.

This commentary originally appeared on the Australian online journal On Line Opinion http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/.

Raffles Revealed, in a Javanese context

Indonesians are apt to say they wish their former colonisers had been the British instead of the Dutch. It is a comment anyone who lives in the country, and who talks to ordinary people, hears at least once, if not repeatedly.

The argument goes that if the British had run what later became Indonesia there would be larger quantities of workable infrastructure, better education, less corruption, and a parliamentary system that at least holds out some hope for the future of enabling legislation.

Indonesians point to the success of India, Malaysia and Singapore which, since long before the post-imperialists in faraway London gave up the game, have gone ahead well. It’s an attractive argument, but it’s completely superficial one in the Indonesian political context.

It does not withstand scrutiny. India is a contiguous whole with (for the most part) geography and a landscape that accommodates things like roads and railways. In much of India, right up to independence in 1947 British rule was indirect through local rulers heading minor dynasties of very great longevity. There was a sense of collective “Indianness” that predated British (and other European) colonialism and which thrived throughout lengthy imperial times. Malaysia is a multiethnic nation comprising Malays, Indians and Chinese. It has far fewer people than Indonesia and different problems that are home-grown and in no way analogous to those of Indonesia. Singapore is an artificial construct, a Chinese city, best seen as a highly successful, but fundamentally anachronistic city-state on the Venetian model.

Indonesia, by contrast, has no significant archipelago-wide national history beyond the liturgy of its independence struggle. It is still developing that narrative and the mythology to go with it. Dutch settlement – except in Java and parts of Sumatra – was not extensive and grew from little trading posts into a late-start imperial administration. Indonesia is a nation of thousands of islands and hugely diverse populations. It might suit the governing class (primarily from Java) to propose the concept of Indonesia as some sort of modern day reincarnation of Majapahit but Indonesians from elsewhere than Java – where most Indonesians live – see that as a problem, not as a solution.

All of which is a long and circuitous route into a discussion of a new book about Stamford Raffles, memorialised (ad nauseam) as the founder of Singapore. Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, by British writer Tim Hannigan brings Raffles to life in an engaging – though hardly attractive – way by focusing on another of his adventures.

There is a large body of literature on the British Empire. The imperial song is sung in many diverse ways and is heavily scored by paeanists, who like to hammer away at their keyboards, now fortissimo, now andante, occasionally adagio (the Imperial British were strong but gentle, you see) . Hannigan is not among those who believe the British Empire deserves a paean of praise. He prefers a different narrative, a more reflective – and reflexive – nuance.

This came to light in his eminently readable first book Murder in the Hindu Kush: George Hayward and the Great Game. Hayward was a casualty of the long-running standoff between Britain and Russia in Central Asia in the 19th century – known then and now as the Great Game, for thus it was.

Hannigan’s book captures something of the spirit of the novels by John Masters – notably in The Lotus and the Wind, a work of fiction that would bring a tear to the eye of the most resolute anti-imperialist – as to the almost cosmic appeal of the wild lands between the Indus and the Oxus. Afghanistan is in there, right in the middle. So is Kashmir. And for that matter, so is Ladakh, the Himalayan focus of intense Indian-Chinese rivalry.

In his new book about Raffles, Hannigan develops a narrative markedly sharper than that preferred by many imperial hagiographers. Raffles, he finds, was not a Nice Chap. Arguably too, excusing Singapore’s interest in him as a sort of transnational hero, he was not even a success.  His invasion of Java was performed while he was working for John Company, the British East India Company. The territory on which he landed, near Batavia (now Jakarta) was nominally Dutch but was controlled by the Netherlands East Indies Company, confusingly also known as John Company.

Both commercial companies – in Britain and Holland – had grown into quasi-corporate state administrations, proving the political theory that the most applicable natural law in any endeavour is that of unintended consequences. The British company was by far the greater success, but it was well on the road to eventual ruin by the time Raffles landed troops in Java in 1811.

(Its final denouement was to come 46 years later, with the so-called Indian Mutiny of 1857, when the Bengal Presidency erupted in an orgy of violence finally suppressed by the British months later with the assistance of Company troops from the Madras and Bombay presidencies. The Mutiny ushered in 90 years of imperial British rule.)

As Hannigan notes in his book, Raffles had his own plans for Java that were not those of either his commercial employers in Calcutta or of the British government in London. He was a maverick, then; less a man of vision than one of impetuous disorder.

The Java landing was a by-product of the Napoleonic Wars. The French had subsumed the Netherlands and Java was thus notionally enemy territory. British policy – such as it was, and filtered via the East India Company to boot – did not envisage occupation of Java. The idea was to seize the centres of indigenous government and hand the island over to the natives. Raffles had other ideas. He apparently wished primarily to become famous. He achieved this objective in part by becoming his own plagiaristic hagiographer.

Hannigan’s book provides a perspective on Raffles that is magnificently different from that served up by other popular writers on the theme, such as Victoria Glendinning, who is surely the Hyacinth Bouquet of the genre. She seems to prefer riparian delights to dealing with real life.

Glendinning has also just produced a book about Raffles. It’s called Raffles and The Golden Opportunity. It misses one: Raffles’ politicking with the sultan of Palembang (in Sumatra) who he wished to have murder the Dutch community there. There was a lovely stand-off at the Singapore Writers Festival in November over that omission and other missing links. Hannigan’s book was the best seller at the festival. Enough said.

Hannigan has been criticised – most notably in an unfavourable review by New Zealand journalist Duncan Graham published in the Jakarta Post newspaper – for some lapses. He wasn’t writing a formal history and did not intend therefore to fully footnote the book, but he had planned “notes on chapters” giving explanations and suggested further reading and this did not eventuate.

Graham, an old Asia hand, writes of Raffles’ failure in Java:

     “There have to be explanations beyond ability, leadership, foresight and intellect — so said the curmudgeons trampled or ignored by this high achiever — and Hannigan has helped give these belittlers the chance to hack away at the image in the provocatively titled Raffles and the British Invasion of Java.

     “However, the man, like his imposing statue in Singapore, is not easily toppled. Not because some evidence against Raffles lacks substance, but because the author strains to hate when he should have let the facts do their work.”

Yet that analysis is itself self-serving and flawed. Graham characterises Hannigan as an ex-Cornish chef and one-time Surabaya chalkie and says dismissively of him that felling tall timbers requires more than a blunt blade. He questions whether Hannigan actually did the research he says he did on the Raffles papers in the archives of the India Office in London. He would like people to think, apparently, that he (Hannigan) is some sort of untutored ring-in amateur whose assumptions cannot be trusted.

This is unworthy. Hannigan is not a history scholar and makes no pretence that he is. But he writes a good yarn and he reads William Dalrymple (everyone should). He understands that while some Brits now living in reduced circumstances may find comfort in the warm glow of recovered memories (miss-memories) of their imperial past, that’s no reason to gild any lilies.

Raffles was probably not a scoundrel. But he is not an idol, either… unless one with feet of clay.

Raffles and the British Invasion of Java is published by Monsoon Books, Singapore – www.monsoonbooks.com.sg. ISBN (paperback) 978-981-4358-85-9 (ebook) 978-981-4358-86-6.

SOME NECESSARY INFORMATION

28 February 2012
 
Statement
 
Australia supports Indonesia’s territorial integrity
 
Australia is fully committed to Indonesia’s territorial integrity and national unity, including its sovereignty over the Papua provinces. This is a fundamental obligation of the Lombok Treaty between Australia and Indonesia.
 
The meeting being held by the International Parliamentarians for West Papua on Tuesday in Canberra does not represent the views of the Australian Government.
 
In Australia’s system of government, foreign policy is determined by the Government. And in relation to Indonesia, the Lombok Treaty has the support of the largest parties in the Australian parliament.
 
Australia and Indonesia are strategic partners and our relations today are healthy and strong. As Indonesia continues its remarkable transformation, Australia is working to contribute towards the nation’s progress.
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