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HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, Apr. 15, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

A Line in Their Sand

Developer tycoon Tomy Winata, who rose from street ice-pop seller to become one of Indonesia’s richest men and whose substantial and rightly recognized philanthropic ventures include helping the poor and saving Sumatran tigers (and protecting mangroves; we kid you not) is having a rough trot with his plans to destroy more than 700 hectares of mangroves in Benoa Bay to build hotels, a convention centre and an entertainment complex.

The plan has the approval and support of Governor Made Mangku Pastika, though why this should be so has long been something of a mystery. Perhaps it is connected with Pastika’s wish to see millions of Chinese tourists in Bali. They travel in corralled but otherwise unmanageable packs, so Winata’s proposed seaside attraction might at least provide space for all their buses to park.

Digging up the mangroves and destroying a precious marine habitat requires 23 million cubic metres of sand to be dumped in their place. Winata’s company Tirta Wahana Bali International would like to dredge that sand from East Lombok.

Governor Zainul Majdi of West Nusa Tenggara doesn’t like this idea at all. The Apr. 5 issue of the useful publication Lombok Guide reported his view as being that the plans were the reverse of beneficial as “the disadvantages outweighed the advantages”. Doubtless the crabs and fish of the Benoa mangroves would agree. So would the Benoa fishermen whose livelihoods are to be expropriated so that Winata and others can get even richer at the expense of Bali’s unique natural environment and traditional human society.

Governor Zainul has formally filed a letter rejecting the plan with the Forest and Environment Ministry’s Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis. The Lombok Guide reported what he said when advising of his action. His words are worth thinking about:

“Lombok Island has a small island ecosystem and must be maintained, both on land and at sea. We want to guard this area so we can pass it on to the next generation. Therefore, we won’t permit anything that can destroy the environmental quality in West Nusa Tenggara.”

Karmic Payback

Still with the Lombok Guide – it is essential reading at The Cage: We had a giggle when we read that Governor Zainul Majdi was a little shirty about PLN (in its West Nusa Tenggara incarnation) because of the continual blackouts it was visiting upon his province.

He was particularly miffed about them not even bothering to reply to his correspondence, reminded them publicly of their corporate charter (it involves supplying power, which may surprise them) and threatened to report them for doing dodgy business. We sympathize. Monopolies everywhere are as uncommunicative as possible.

But we shouldn’t have giggled. It was incautious in the Karmic sense. The day after we did, PLN (in its defective Bali incarnation) turned the power off at The Cage for several hours. Since on the previous evening, after Easter libations had been taken to excess, we had not been bothered to recharge our laptop or our mobile phone, the morning in question was rather flat and unproductive.

Our Favourite Dish

A Moroccan ambience has always attracted The Diary. It’s nothing to do with kif, really, or Orwell’s diaries, or even Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. It’s much more to do with Moroccan food and coffee, especially when these are evocatively teamed with the warm Berber colours and tones of the western Maghreb.

So we were pleased to hear from our favourite dish, Diana Shearin, that Café Cous Cous is the place to go for same, if you can find your way through the traffic to reach the new establishment in Jl Bumbak, Gg Pulau, at Umalas. We’ve promised to try.

Still Barking Mad

Rabies is re-emerging as a threat to Bali, with another death from the preventable disease in Bangli regency and clear indications that the required 70 per cent vaccination screen in the canine community is nowhere near reality and that rabies must be assumed to be both present and a deadly threat everywhere throughout the island.

This situation is made even grimmer by a silly (and dangerous) dispute between Bali’s health department and the suppliers of the Indonesian-made human anti-rabies vaccine used in the public system here, the Bandung-based BioFarma. The health authorities said in early April that vaccine supply was sufficient for only two weeks at prevailing levels of demand.

Provincial health director Dr Ketut Suarjaya told local media (on Apr. 5): “There are only 9,000 vials left of the VAR, this could last from two to three weeks. The average number of dog bites a day is roughly 120; one person requires four vials of the vaccine.”

The shortage is not one of supply, but of argument over the price of the vaccine. Last year’s agreed price was Rp. 155,000 a vial (that’s around US$13). This year, so the health department says, BioFarma is advertising a price per vial of Rp. 78,000 (US$6.50) but is refusing to supply it at that price.

The terms of the contractual agreement between the Bali health department and BioFarma are of course invisible in the thickets of dysfunction that pass for public administration here. It would be unreasonable to compel a private company to supply material at sub-economic cost, but it is also criminally stupid to risk running out of essential protection against an invariably fatal disease because of a commercial dispute.

Preventing internationally notifiable diseases is – or it should be – a function of the central government. Measures such as ensuring there is sufficient vaccine available in areas where it is needed are too important to be left to take their chances in a confusing mishmash of sight-impaired bureaucracies.

Someone needs to take responsibility. What’s that? Do we hear a rush for the doors?

Show it Off

The Bali Animal Welfare Association has an interesting opportunity for designers who would like to showcase their work in a contest to choose designs to feature in BAWA’s 2015 line of T-shirts and ecologically responsible bags.

BAWA wants designs with international appeal that represent what the animals of Bali mean to the artist and how the artist has been positively affected by the association’s work to nourish and protect Bali’s dogs and other animals.

Participants can enter up to three original designs and up to five designs will be chosen to be featured on merchandise sold to raise funds at BAWA shops and events, including overseas. Submissions close on Apr. 23. See BAWA’s website for details.

Resourceful Crowd

Marine and fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti turned out at a function in Jakarta on Mar. 31 to help launch a very worthwhile initiative – the Indonesian chapter of Women in Global Business. The actual launch was performed by the new Australian ambassador, Paul Grigson, who replaced Greg Moriarty in December 2014 but remained officially in purdah (as is the form) until he presented his credentials to President Joko Widodo on Mar. 19.

Businesses owned and operated by women are one of the fastest growing economic sectors. The international program launched on Mar. 31 supports businesswomen who want to take their products and services to the world by offering a central source of information and resources, support and connection.

Minister Susi, formerly an entrepreneur and head of charter airline Susi Air, and Grigson spoke at the gathering along with Indonesian and Australian women entrepreneurs and role models. The global resource centre is sponsored by ANZ, an Australian bank.

It’s good to diarize Ambassador Grigson now he can be seen publicly. Readers may remember that when the new British ambassador, the engaging tweeter Moazzam Malik, presented his credentials to President Widodo late last year, he forgot his letter from the Queen and had to leap from his limo and run back to get it. We do hope Grigson remembered his billet-doux from the Queen’s Australian viceroy and didn’t have to do the same.

Way to Go

Back in the day, when Sex and the City was all the rage with the distaff class, the on-screen antics of Kim Cattrall (Samantha in the series) were matters of very deep personal disinterest. But a little reference in the British newspaper The Guardian recently revealed the real Kim, and she is to our taste.

She said this: “The men I’ve been with have all been pleasant-enough looking. But for me, sex starts in the brain. What’s going on lower down doesn’t make me want to possess someone; it’s usually a little twinkle about them or a sense of humour.”

Got it! A good giggle is just the ticket.

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

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Animal Welfare Art Australia Bali Indonesia Lombok Tourism

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

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Tale of Two Statues

The new style of Bali’s fixation with monumental ornamentation, as seen in the grossly huge and garishly illuminated nightly by circus-style flashing lights “monkey mountain” that has been erected at the junction of Prof Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass and I Gusti Ngurah Rai Bypass just south of Tohpati, is certainly a distraction to drivers. That’s about the kindest thing you could say about it.

It’s true that after a while it fails to totally shock – the brain is adept at repressing all manners of vast unpleasantness – but we can personally attest that for the first several times this visionary excrescence comes suddenly into view one is auto-prompted to utter loudly a crudely pejorative four-letter word before asking (audibly or otherwise, and rhetorically of course) “What on earth is that?”

Fortunately the future of world-class Balinese stone craftsmanship is in safe hands in other areas. Gianyar regency sculptor Ongky Wijana, for instance, has recently completed a work that will honour the mining heritage of the little town of Laxey in the Isle of Man, one among the Queen’s possessions that has never been incorporated into the United Kingdom.

Wijana’s wife Hannah Black, an art editor and designer, is from the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Sea roughly equidistant from the Irish and Scottish coasts and a little further from the nearest bits of England and Wales. That’s the connection. He has spent quite a lot of time there (he tells us he loves the weather; but he is a very polite gentleman) and got the commission after he was spotted practising his art amid the chill gales of winter as a good way of keeping warm.

It was a nearly year-long task – thankfully this was performed warmly in Bali – to create the statue from a 5000kg block of stone from Ireland and four pieces of Welsh slate. The finished work left Bali in early January and is due to be unveiled at Laxey on May 23.

A Hundred Shades of Grey

We’re not sure of the actual numbers (we were having far too much fun to count heads) but it’s in the nature of seventieth birthday parties to produce fields of grey wherever the eye might fall. And this was the case at The Santosa in Senggigi, Lombok, on Jan. 17, when former leading South Australian and federal Labor politician Peter Duncan had his big bash.

We flew over for the occasion and caught up with some old friends, including Barbara Cahyadi of the Lombok Guide who, because she’s a she, can legitimately crawl away and dye. She didn’t look grey at all. But then she’s nowhere near seventy either. Septuagenarian status in this context is a privilege shared only by itinerant scribblers and former politicians.

Duncan says it was not his idea, and we believe him, but The Santosa had erected a very visible backdrop behind the music stage that loudly (in the visual sense) congratulated “Mr Peter Owner of Taman Restaurant” on his birthday, which was on Jan. 1. It displayed a photographic representation of the present Mr Peter and another of the former political artist as a young man. Well, a very much younger man. This is why we keep our family album under virtual lock and key.

Duncan wore white for the night. His lovely wife Wiwik Pusparini had given him the outfit for his birthday. It was the evening’s one disappointment. Duncan had hinted earlier that he might, in his opening remarks, say that this was a great moment to appear in his birthday suit. Sadly, he flaked on that.

He did make an excellent point in his little address, however. He noted that if he’d held his big bash in Queensland, Australia, all his guests would have risked arrest. Among them were two members of bikie gangs. The Queensland government has outlawed any gathering at which more than one bikie is present. They like their paranoia by the shovelful in Bananaland.

Hang on a Tic!

The endemic political Tourette’s syndrome and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that afflict Indonesia can be entertaining. Or they would be if they weren’t simply revealing ubiquitous dysfunction and the fact that those creating it would rather play silly games than do any serious work.

The real Tourette’s, a debilitating and limiting neurological condition, and OCB, an anxiety disorder, are involuntary medical conditions. The non-medical and characteristically self-inflicted political variants of these sad conditions are not. They are elective and risible.

It needs to be noted that while Indonesia has pervasive exposure to these syndromes – most lately demonstrated in the Keystone Kops tit-for-tat farce involving the national police and the anti-corruption commission which would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous – they are not unique to the archipelago. They are prevalent in many places, globally, including within the Australian political class.

Last year the government announced that five countries would get visa-free entry for short-term visitors. These countries were Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In 2014 Australian arrivals to Bali, totalled 991,024, which was 26.3 percent of all visitors. Among the countries awarded free visa status from 2015, China last year sent us 586,197 tourists, a more than 50 percent increase; South Korea 106,774 (to Sep.), making it our sixth largest market; Japan, once our biggest market, fell to fourth place with not much hope of any marked improvement in the short term; and Russian arrivals fell 10 percent (to Sep.) due to unfortunate circumstances at home and the collapse of the rouble. Malaysia, which is on the ASEAN free visa list, was our third-largest market in 2014 with 224,962 arrivals.

Now Australia has been dumped from the list of those countries whose travelling citizenry is to be excused the tedious business of being tickled for US$35 on arrival. Officially this is because the free visa arrangements require reciprocity (and that would certainly be sensible on the basis of a short-stay holiday and a return ticket, should anyone in Canberra feel interested enough to notice). But since Australia was on the original list and now isn’t, it seems safe to assume that the move is political.

In the words of Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Indroyono Soesilo: “For Australians, the visa on arrival is enough.” Perhaps he means that US$34,685,840 is nice pocket-money.

But what Indonesia has just said to its potential one-million-plus-a-year Australian tourists, its largest market, is, “Welcome to Bali. Sod off.”  What needs to be understood in Jakarta and Denpasar is that there are now many other places in the region which offer Australian tourists holiday experiences with free visas, less expense, less inconvenience, and better facilities. As blogger of note Vyt Karazija observed, it’s that shoot first, shout later thing: Ready! Fire! Aim!

Move Along Now…

No doubt Bali will give its famous blank stare response to the recent decision of the Supreme Court of India to uphold a ban on cock-fighting in the Hindu state of Andhra Pradesh. An action to overturn the ban on cultural grounds was opposed by Humane Society International, which told the court: “These cruel practices are against the law and should not be conducted under the garb of tradition. These events are nothing but gambling events.”

In Bali, cock-fighting is ubiquitous. Only the blind or the beneficially suborned would suggest gambling is not. Blood sacrifice is integral to both Balinese and Indian Hindu rites but the question is whether a religious validation of cruelty extends to death sports for gain. Animal activists are working (in the case of the Bali Animal Welfare Association, with IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare) to educate communities in animal welfare and animal rights.

Interesting Thought

Waiting for a delayed flight can have benefits, not the least of them the chance to drink even more coffee. So it was when we flew back from Lombok to Bali on Jan. 18 after a weekend visit for a party (see above) and two lovely nights at Sudamala Suites and Villas on the beach at Mangsit north of Senggigi.

The benefit in this case came at our second coffee stop, after we discovered by the sort of osmosis required to obtain accurate information from anyone in Indonesia, that our Wings Air flight would be leaving 90 minutes late.

We were at the Dante’s outlet in the departure area and had switched off the smart phone to conserve its pathetic battery capacity. In an effort to delay terminal boredom, the eye wandered around the establishment’s many promotional billboards and found a reward.

One of these colourful eye-catchers was offering Brazilian Lemon. We wondered, briefly and indelicately, if that was a lemon with the zest shaved off.

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