HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 16, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Keep them at Bay

Made Wijaya, the go-to Bule for behind-the-friezes analysis of Bali society and what really makes it tick, has some very sensible things to say, in his latest Stranger in Paradise column, about the excrescence Governor Made Mangku Pastika and Jakarta business tycoon Tomy Winata wish to visit upon the precious marine environment of Benoa Bay.

Among them was this, a quote he gave The Sydney Morning Herald, whose Indonesian correspondent Jewel Topsfield has been following the story of the proposed vandalism of the bay:

“The Balinese are fed up and they are finally unifying to express protest against rampant development. Imagine filling in Sydney Harbour — it’s pretty radical. It’s going to become like, heaven forbid, South Florida, with fake waterways and cheesy houses. And the last thing we need is more traffic in South Bali. It’s mindless, environmental vandalism.”

He also noted this, of the massive local demonstrations on Feb. 28, including those authorized by the Benoa village authorities and its constituent banjars, with one of which we have a close personal connection:

“As a guest in this country, I can’t go out marching, as I would like to. As an environmentalist — and as a lover of real, not real estate Balinese culture — I feel obliged to write about these threats to the environment. Some Balinese have suggested that taking on Jakarta developers is like taking on the mafia. The Balinese used to believe that it is better to roll with the punches and just get on with the show, their ceremonial show, rather than wetting their pants over things that can’t be changed. But not any more.”

Like Wijaya, Hector is a guest and can’t go out protest marching. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to.

Hats Off to Them

We enjoyed a nice night out on Mar. 4, at the Fairmont Sanur where the ROLE Foundation and Bali WISE had a hat party to celebrate International Women’s Day. The traffic was horrendous – six changes at the traffic lights at the end of the tollway to get onto Bypass Ngurah Rai to Sanur, for all the usual incomprehensible reasons – but eventually we got there, parked (in the wrong place) and walked along the beach path to the Fairmont.

It was easy to spot ROLE founder Mike O’Leary in the crowd. His hat had big bananas on it. He looked nonplused when we greeted him thus: “Mr. Cavendish, I presume”. But when you’re the big banana on the night, you’ve naturally enough got a lot of things on your mind, so we forgave him.

We did not wear a hat. We look shocking in headgear of any sort. Neither did we win the raffle, but that too is the standard script. The Distaff took a hat with her but decided to leave it in the car. Fellow guests at our table were Amanda Csebik, of Indonesian Island Sail, who was hatless, and Muriel Ydo, formerly of ROLE, who had brought along a severe but really rather fetching 20-year veteran of her hatbox and put it on now and then. Deborah Cassrels, a fellow scribe we’ve known for more than two decades, joined us from her table after dessert and we all had a lovely chat.

O’Leary says the night, which featured a silent auction with some lovely options, was a great success. The dance displays were interesting, especially the samba, though it really wasn’t clear exactly what that had to do with empowering women. The feathers looked ticklish, which prompted a hastily erased thought. Many in the 100-strong crowd got out there and boogied. We stayed at our table and tried to make ourselves heard above the racket.

The Fairmont is a lovely property. We’ll have to go back in a quieter time.

Oh Buoy!

When that shallow magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the seabed south of Sumatra on Mar. 2, both the Indonesian and Australian authorities issued tsunami warnings. A wave did not eventuate and the warnings were later cancelled.

But none of the tsunami detection buoys expensively arrayed in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra after the 2004 Aceh disaster were working. Apparently their solar panels and other useful bits had been stolen by enterprising thieves who if apprehended – fat chance – would probably only concede, and that grudgingly, that they might just possibly be public nuisances.

Foreigners are frequently advised, sometimes forcefully, to remember that cultural differences exist between Indonesia and places where law enforcement agencies are properly resourced, their performance is regularly monitored, their reporting is timely and accurate within agreed tolerances, and their actual enforcement of laws is generally speaking OK. That’s always been a very thin argument, worthy of a hollow laugh, in a country whose ringmasters insist on its, and their, dignity being beyond dispute, but never mind.

In situations where petty thievery and supine enforcement endangers lives, however, no laughter is appropriate, hollow or otherwise. There is a point at which rampant venality becomes more dangerous joke than cultural proclivity.

The latest ferry sinking is another case in point. This one capsized on Mar. 4 in the narrow strait separating Java from Bali, fortunately with only low loss of life (there were five fatalities). Inquiries were made as a result of the accident. Doubtless some primary cause will eventually surface and may even be disclosed.

But no one would be surprised if the boat was overloaded when it left Gilimanuk for Banyuwangi, a 30-minute trip excusing the hours then spent floating around waiting to dock.

Please Explain 1

One of Klungkung Regency’s minor panjandrums got an unwelcome hurry-up the other day. Governor Pastika dropped in to ask awkward questions about, shall we say, some unauthorised fundraising for phantom projects. Perhaps it came as a surprise to the fellow that private enterprise wallet-stuffing on government time is frowned upon at the Governor’s office in Renon.

If so, that’s a very welcome little shaft of light from the heavens. Klungkung isn’t the only place on the island where nefarious is understood to spell opportunity, as an unrelated corruption probe in Badung sourly demonstrates, but it’s a start. The Balinese who exist lower down the food chain than wallet-stuffing panjandrums (that’s most of them) will possibly be pleased that the Governor has actually required something to be done about it.

Klungkung is Bali’s smallest mainland regency, though its regent’s realms include Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan across the Badung Strait. Its bureaucracy likes to do nothing much about a lot. A case in point is rabies, which is of course not really a problem at all as long as anyone who could actually help eradicate it, or at least reduce it by world recognized vaccination and humane sterilization based dog population controls, is kept out of Klungkung.

Please Explain 2

Badung Regency has declared South Kuta – the area that encompasses Tuban, Jimbaran and the Bukit peninsula – a red zone for rabies. They’ve done this, they say, on the basis of the many dogs in the area, not necessarily because of cases of canine rabies.

Why this should still be necessary eight years after the rabies outbreak began (on the Bukit where the authorities failed dismally to contain it) is problematic, or would perhaps seem so to people unversed in how things are done here. The thing being, of course, that things are only rarely done here. The subtext to the announcement, early in this month, is an excuse to kill more dogs in the arcane belief that this will reduce the rabies threat.

The issue is education, so that people learn and are helped to take care of their animals – including village dogs which have always been informally, collectively owned – and effective vaccination and sterilisation programs. Killing dogs is cruel and unnecessary. It is also profoundly counterproductive when they have been immunised against rabies and are thus an essential part of the defence against the invariably fatal disease. All this takes money and effort, and a clear sense of purpose.

It’s something you might think the local veterinarian association would be active in advocating, even if only because vets are supposed to be bound by a version of the Hippocratic oath that applies to human medicine. Do no harm.

We noted this, in relation to the ongoing rabies emergency, in the Diary of Dec. 9, 2015:

“Where is the provincial government in all of this? What is it doing to educate people about their responsibility for animals in their care? Nothing. It’s off finding further excuses for indolence. Where is the Association of Veterinarians Indonesia (PDHI) of Bali? Perhaps its chairman, veterinary doctor Made Restiani, would like to tell us when the PDHI will be back from being out to lunch.”

Apparently, it’s an astonishingly long lunch.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 4, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

A Bit of a Blow

As spectacle or entertainment, Hector’s latest World Tour of Australia was very far from being the big draw Billy Connolly achieved with his fabulous World Tour of Scotland. We rarely attracted more than a couple of gawkers with nothing better to do or a censorious frown from some local anti-smoker if we were spotted communing with that dreadful drug tobacco. It was quite a relief to get home to Bali so we could light up with the rest of them as and where we pleased.

The Aussie break was fun however and it took in the east coast this time as well as the west. It was a treat (no, really) to be back in Queensland, even if only for a week. The other two weeks were spent in the west as usual. It is pleasing too that our proud record as travellers remains intact. Invariably some disaster, climatic or climactic, coincides with or closely follows a visit by us to just about anywhere.

We skipped out of Queensland just ahead of cyclone Marcia, a category five storm that put the world’s best cyclone-proof buildings to the test on landfall and then gifted absolute torrents of rain to river systems over a wide swath of the state. It was the sort of rain that by quantity and intensity would sweep Denpasar into the sea and which is fortunately never seen in these parts.

That’s the thing, you see. When it rains, water falls from the sky, sometimes in quite substantial quantities. When it’s windy, leaves and twigs, then branches, move around. These natural phenomena and others – such as the counter to the wet suit, drought – are collectively called weather, and it happens all the time, everywhere on earth. The weather is capricious and climate no less so.

But there are identifiable seasons, upon which it is possibly to make some plans. It should therefore surprise no one – especially the meteorological service – when the rainy season produces rain or serious low pressure areas in the seasonal monsoon trough that throw brisk winds at the islands for a little while.

It’s simpler in equatorial latitudes (10 degrees south to 10 degrees north) since the seasonal variation is chiefly whether it is wet or dry or night or day. We don’t generally have to worry about bothersome things like four seasonal changes a year, or the natural vagaries that these cycles bring with them.

Except, that is, now and then when – as in this case – a big monsoonal low over the ocean between here and northern Australia brings us very bad weather. So it was not altogether unusual that Bali, Lombok and the Gilis got a bit of a blow (and sheeting rain) in our absence at the height of the wet season.

Roofs in bad repair and walls without decent footings can fly away in a half-decent breeze. Trees topple when suddenly confronted by saturated ground and breezes that reach above zephyr level. Roads flood when Mother Nature demonstrates (by their absence) the benefits of storm drainage, cambered pavements and sufficient bitumen to avoid masses of potholes. Watercourses filled with mountains of rubbish dumped willy-nilly in the ubiquitous practice of this island first pond (causing local flooding) and then burst through the detritus and carry it to the sea, which then deposits it on the beaches.

Is anyone ever going to do anything about that? It is the top concern of tourists, after all. Not to mention, one would have thought, a serious matter of national pride.

Raw Deal

Lion Air, which has grown like Topsy on the basis of some inventive business planning and the world’s largest ever single order for aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus, achieved another corporate triumph this month when it suddenly cancelled all flights from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport on the evening of Feb. 18.

It blamed technical repair issues affecting three of its 93 aircraft for the resulting chaos, which left passengers stranded throughout its network and caused a riot at Soekarno-Hatta. As usual, no information was available to stranded passengers.

Two days later it said it didn’t have enough cash on hand to pay passenger refunds. Airport operator Angkasa Pura had to front up with the money. Lion is politically well connected. Its political connections will probably want to know why it appears to be so inefficient that running a chook raffle would probably be beyond it.

At least, they should want to know. Indonesia doesn’t like to be embarrassed, as a number of people have found cause to note in recent days.

Quality Troupe

Russia’s honorary consul in Bali, Chairul Nuku Hamka, believes his honorary country’s citizens are the highest “quality” tourists that holiday here. He bases this assessment on the fact that unlike tourists from other countries, Russians have a tendency to consume more premium goods and services. He quotes a recent statistic that suggests two Russian tourists spend as much as 10 Germans. “They stay at five-star hotels for high prices,” he says.

There’s some dislocated logic on the loose there. Spending a lot of money isn’t a true mark of quality. In some circumstances it may indicate stupidity, for example, or unfamiliarity with local conditions. In the case of many Russian tourists (not only in Bali) it’s also plainly a situation in which black money is being offloaded, often with the assistance of comely and willing younger ladies who have, in a manner of speaking, come along for the ride.

Hamka does note that while the potential for Russian tourism to Bali is huge (it’s certainly a principal feature of the changing dynamics of tourism here) several sizeable rocks lie on the path of progress. One is direct flights from Russian cities to Bali. Garuda has had flights to four cities in Russia on the books since 2011 but has still to win licenses to operate them. The other is the distaste with which much of the world views the Vladimir Putin regime’s conduct in what Russians historically have called the Near Abroad. Ukraine, which Tsar Vlad is menacing, is among those places.

Trade and other embargoes on Russia as a result have led to the collapse of the rouble. Russian tourist numbers to Bali have declined as a result, from 93,622 in 2013 to 88,777 in 2014. Russia is on Indonesia’s new “free visa” list but that’s all still in the works.

A Run Up the Ladder

Ngurah Rai International Airport has been ranked as the 60th best airport worldwide in the Montreal, Canada, based Airports Council International’s 2014 Airport Service Quality Awards. It jumped 152 places from its 2012 ranking of 212, jumping nearly 152 spots from its previous ranking of 212 in 2012.

The awards determine which airports offer the best passenger service. To obtain its results the ACI surveyed 550,000 airport users (including airlines and their ground staff, flight and cabin crews) and asked them to rate their satisfaction with 34 key service indicators including airport access, check-in, security, airport facilities, food and beverage, and retail.

The responses to each annual survey are used to issue a score out of five to the airport and subsequently determine the top worldwide performing airports as well as areas of improvement for each of the 365 airports that are ranked. Ngurah Rai airport received a score of 4.2 out of 5, a significant leap from its previous score of 2.9 in 2012.

Each year ACI gives recommendations to participating airports based on the results of that year’s survey. From the 2014 survey it recommended Ngurah Rai add extra luggage trolleys, increase the number of seats in the waiting rooms, improve the quality and cleanliness of waiting rooms, and increase the number of toilets. Ngurah Rai general manager Herry AY Sikado says: “We will use the current success achieved by the airport as further encouragement to make continuous improvements.”

Well, we shall watch with interest, then. And count the trolleys and the chairs.

Masks and Salsa

ROLE Foundation, which does sterling work to promote women’s issues in Bali and to help disadvantaged women create sustainable, income-earning businesses, also offers people fun-fun-fun. And so it should. The world’s a sorry little galactic rock much of the time, so any excuse to have a good time is worth serious consideration, in a serious cause. ROLE works for a sustainable future for islands, oceans, and communities through skills education and healthy environmental practices.

On Friday (Mar. 6), to mark 2015 International Women’s Day, the fun guys at ROLE are putting on a Masquerade Party. It’s at the Sanur Paradise Plaza from 7pm. The line-up includes live music from Tabasco Jam, a Salsa dancing competition and participation with great prizes, and a mask competition. Local women artisans will be there too.

There’s still time to get tickets (they’re RP500K each) in cash from events@baliwise.org (or call 0812-8285-2057) or online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2015-international-womens-day-tickets-15567176845.

International Women’s Day is on Sunday (Mar. 8).

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