Keystone Kops

Hector’s Bali Diary, May 11, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Exactly what went wrong on May 2, when the police arrived in strength at a location to arrest a French citizen, a man publicly known to be seriously mentally disturbed, needs to be fully explained. It hadn’t been explained in any satisfactory form, let alone fully, when this edition of the Diary hit deadline (update: or since).

The police were armed, as such posses generally are, and properly so in the circumstances. It was later stated that they had been issued with rubber bullets. This is a misnomer. A “rubber bullet” is a disabling round, not an eraser-soft object. They can certainly kill, though this is not the object of their use. A policeman was fatally stabbed. Live (lethal) rounds were then fired. The offender was then slain in circumstances that were both desolate and unnecessary. He was said to have been shot 14 times, including according to reports with final bullet through the head as he lay on the ground – by that time more than likely mortally wounded, but certainly immobilised – surrounded by his executioners.

It was a sickening spectacle, a videoed object lesson in precisely how not to set about enforcing the law. The Indonesian authorities should be thoroughly ashamed of these events. They wish their country to be respected. Bombast and bullets won’t earn respect. A foreign citizen is dead in shocking circumstances. Any element of legitimate self-defence fled the field when an ill-disciplined and panicky squad of uniformed killers opened fire. Leadership, fire control and every principle of policing was absent.

The man concerned was a mentally disturbed menace. This was very widely known. He could and certainly should have been detained, put in a straitjacket, and been taken away by the men in the white coats long before the incident in which he killed a policeman and then met his own death. His whereabouts were hardly secret. A little work by the police would have found him; and a little planning would have produced an arrest operation that did not immediately descend into fatal farce.

The French authorities deserve full explanations of all the circumstances that led to these events, and not just those that immediately came to public notice via social media. The police and the national authorities must provide these explanations. It’s in Bali’s interest that they do so too. Public executions are not what tourists come here to see.

Aussie Break

We’ve just spent a week on Australia’s eastern seaboard, the Diary’s home territory and somewhere that resonates deep in our psyche. It was an unscheduled trip. An old friend, a former politician, had a Big 60 birthday and we were invited to join around 300 of his nearest and dearest for the party. So who could resist? The trip also provided an opportunity to attend to some urgent business that had suddenly arisen and which needed to be placed on the agenda swiftly.

Time was tight and some of the things we’d normally have on our to-do list had to be forgone, but we’ll certainly be back in fairly short order. It’s less than six hours to and from Brisbane, where the sun rises gently from an ocean horizon, which we find is a better, less glary way to run your day than that fiery sunset plunge into the briny that you get in Bali’s southern suburb, Perth.

But it’s great to be home again on our favourite smaller island.

We flew with Jetstar. We do not record this so that critics such as those who like to pretend that they don’t bother to read the Diary, but who plainly do, can bleat again about the ethics of providing free publicity in return for special benefits. We’ve never done that. We pay our own way.

We mention Jetstar only in order to remark that the Boeing 787 is a great aircraft. If you pay for “forward” seating in economy you get to turn left when you board the plane, which reminds you of earlier, plusher, days on other (full service) airlines, for example such as Qantas, Jetstar’s big bwother (or is that thister?) when you were headed for Business Class.

It also reduces the quota of squalling infants and badly behaved toddlers travelling under the notional control of their uncaring, incompetent, or exhausted parents (poor devils) who blight other parts of the cabin.

Bovine Manure

Some things make you laugh. Others give you instant nausea. Sometimes, in a rare confluence of the risible and the reprehensible, you get a sick laugh. So it is with the recent comment of the religious affairs minister that corruption cannot be blamed on the corruptors but on their wives.

Lukman Hakim Saifuddin says that the sins of avarice and greed by which, he concedes, self-important males enrich themselves, flow not from their own grasping malfeasance but from a desire to compensate their wives and families for the long hours and absences that their high service to the nation demand.

There’s a word for that: Bullshit.

Top Marx

We were browsing recently and reminded ourselves of an 1844 quotation from Karl Marx that sums up his philosophy rather well. It seemed apt in the light of the item above, even though it was not directly relevant. Here it is:

“What Is Human Becomes Animal: It is true that labour produces for the rich wonderful things — but for the worker it produces privation. It produces palaces — but for the worker, hovels. It produces beauty — but for the worker, deformity. It replaces labour by machines — but some of the workers it throws back to a barbarous type of labour, and the other workers it turns into machines. It produces intelligence — but for the worker idiocy, cretinism.

The direct relationship of labour to its produce is the relationship of the worker to the objects of his production. The relationship of the man of means to the objects of production and to production itself is only a consequence of this first relationship — and confirms it.

When we ask, then, what is the essential relationship of labour, we are asking about the relationship of the worker to production. As a result, therefore, man (the worker) no longer feels himself to be freely active in any but his animal functions — eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc. And in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.”

Um, yes. Top Marx. Wonder if anyone thought about that on May Day?

Big Day Out

Bali charity Solemen (the link here is to a film by Adithio Noviello, who has also made visual media for the Bali Animal Welfare Association) was the brainchild of philanthropist Robert Epstone and does a great job helping those who cannot help themselves. And so it is with their regular monthly Fun Days for children. In March, for example, Solemen visited Waterbom in Kuta, which is rightly regarded as a fantasyland for children, as well as for adults who are kids at heart.

Solebuddies of all ages visited Waterbom from Denpasar, Klungkung, Sanur and Ubud. Every child came with their unique situation and conditions, from cerebral palsy to Down Syndrome, but such things were pushed into the background on the day and the focus was on fun and frivolity.

Solemen’s Fun Days are made possible by the help and support of generous businesses and individuals. The March Fun Day was sponsored by Waterbom; Zappaz, which provided a delicious lunch; the Bali Dynasty, which supplied towels; and Paradise Property, which supplied transport.

Trying Hard

You do try, really, to put a positive note into your Bali commentaries. No, really. It’s a great place with many more positives than negatives, if you look for them. You must just remember to discount bureaucracy as any sort of starter for the tick list.

So it is with the new system for screening incoming checked baggage at Ngurah Rai’s international terminal. That’s now done before it appears on the carousel for collection. And that’s fine. It’s a better way of doing things than the melee-making x-ray screening point that used to create chaos at the exit from the baggage hall.

Except that it isn’t. They’ve simply shifted the focus of the chaos. It now takes place out of sight while passengers work on their hypertension waiting at carousels that go round and round bereft of baggage for far too long and carries only a forlorn makeshift sign on a piece of red board that says delays are for baggage inspection and customs reasons. The sign apologises for the delays. Are these delays permanent? If so, it would be better to put up a permanent sign.

It can certainly be said, as a general defence against criticism, that airports worldwide are significantly challenged when it comes to producing customer interface congeniality. Brisbane Airport’s massive clearance queues for arriving passengers were a disgrace early on Apr. 27, for example. Though that’s not an airport management issue. It’s another Border Farce. The Aussies are good at those.

But if Bali’s airport wishes to retain its apparent position as one of the best around (we’d love to analyse the questionnaires on which that rating was delivered, but never mind) then someone at Angkasa Pura I should forget about gazing at the gold stars for a moment and trot out to look at the shemozzle.

They might also look at the contract performance on the resurfacing of the runway. This essential work has been interfering with flight schedules in exactly the way it was promised it wouldn’t.

Hector’s Diary is published edited for newspaper production in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser.

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, March 7, 2012

Dolts Rule

It’s always fun visiting the Odd Zone; it’s the very best of your diarist’s former domiciles, for all sorts of reasons, most of them a cause for wry smiles or irritated grimaces. There’s the traffic, for one thing. It largely obeys the road rules and even stays in lane; what’s more, at traffic lights if there are, say, three lanes of traffic marked, none of the vehicles present attempts to create eight lanes. It’s very confusing for drivers accustomed to Bali’s road system (sic) and driver behaviour.

But the very worst of the Australian experience, for those citizens of the Odd Zone who have exchanged You’re Being Watched resident status for the significantly better benefits of Frequent Visitor, is the bureaucracy in general and the customs and quarantine and airport security you encounter in particular.

On our way back to Bali from Perth the weekend before last, for example, the Diary and Distaff lost some valuable soft cheeses – the finest products of Western Australia no less – on the risible grounds that they were “gels” and thus suspected of being potentially explosive.

We all value airport security and agree that mad shoe bombers and others of incomprehensibly suicidal intent should be detected and diverted from their proposed criminal acts. But a little common sense wouldn’t go astray among those whose daily duties arm them with bureaucratic instructions that an imbecile would instantly recognise as stupid.

If the two Aussie border control heroes who fished around in our cooler bag had exercised common sense when they detected brie and haloumi (we had to insist they dropped it down the disposal chute while we watched – we’re not in the business of providing free gourmet foods to anyone) they’d also have confiscated the prime soft Tasmanian blue with which we were also armed.

But they didn’t.  For that oversight they and their over-prescriptive masters should be shoe-ins for a Dumbo award.

There’s a serious side to this.  Frequent visitors have plenty of other places they can choose to go instead, where you’re much less likely to get cheesed off by doltish buffoons on food patrol.

Bit of a Stumble

It’s not always as much fun as it should be returning to Bali. This time The Diary stepped on a hidden road-level metal guardrail on alighting from the bus from the plane to the terminal and overstretched a hamstring.  Perhaps it is there to deter bus drivers from motoring up the terminal steps. But the embarrassing limp that resulted has not been a Favourite Moment.

In the terminal, we ran into some nattily dressed customs and excise officers who, while presumably present to clamp down on the informal system of paying under the counter for extra alcohol above the one-litre limit attempted to extort even more. Unfortunately for them they had to deal with the Distaff, who was not in the best of moods. We paid, but not on the basis of their aberrant and singularly profitable mathematical concept.

Flagging

By happenstance, the day after our return from the Odd Zone (Western Division) the Perth online newspaper WA Today ran an article headlined “Where the bloody hell are all the tourists?” Coarse language (along with bad grammar) is only one irritating element of life as it is lived in the continent of kangaroos.

We tweeted that, suggesting that perhaps all the tourists were in Bali. They’re not, of course – for some strange reason Aussies are also travelling elsewhere overseas on cheap holidays – but one of the reasons they’re not packing Western Australia’s many attractions is the cost of doing so. We sympathise with WA’s tourism marketers and agree there are a great many reasons to be a tourist on their patch, among them the beaches and the wineries. And beaches might be a mass market chance, except that most Australians already live within reach of perfectly adequate alternatives to flying 3000 kilometres to sit on one in WA.

Other tourism options are largely for niche markets. It’s a tough business, as Bali itself is finding out.  Pursuing quantum figures in tourism is fine if you’re only looking – in the Australian context and here – for the Yeh ‘n’ Neh crowd and big sales of “I Drink Beer and Have the Belly to Prove It” vests.

The Diary looks forward to regular trips to WA where, in the south-west particularly, there are many establishments offering prime potable products. On our recent visit to home territory we dined and drank at both Voyager (whose Girt by Sea pinot noir is fabulous and not only for its name, which comes from a memorably ridiculous line in the Australian national anthem) and Wise, a personal favourite because it looks over an expanse of generally calm north-facing ocean and has a Provencal air. Voyager affects a Cape Dutch architectural style (quite well) and has lovely roses – and perhaps the biggest flag in Australia apart from the double-decker bus-sized flutterer atop Parliament House in Canberra.

Quality Counts

On the question of looking for quality rather than quantity (and the higher per visitor spend that results) it’s cheering to hear that Bali proposes to shift its focus that way. We’re under siege here, after all, though not solely from foreign tourists: all those chaps who bring their cars with them on holiday from Jakarta and Bandung and Surabaya, and their road manners and driving skills too, are a nuisance.

It’s long overdue, even if we’re pitching for three million foreign tourists to write another record. Bali’s infrastructure – not just the roads and the pathetic power system – is literally cracking under the strain of the tourist load. Provincial second assistant secretary Ketut Wija recently pronounced upon this at a planning meeting on economic development held appropriately enough in Lombok (which should be taking a larger portion of the tourist load, except that Bali keeps putting rocks in the road of that endeavour) when he said: “We no longer will prioritise the quantity of tourist arrivals, but will now place the emphasis on quality of those visitors.”

Wija said Bali – an island of only 5632 square kilometres, 0.2 percent of Indonesian national territory – has between five and six million visitors annually. It is also a magnet for Indonesians from other islands seeking work, with about 400,000 arriving to settle each year.

Skippy’s a Winner

The Diary’s side trip on the Australian tour – mentioned in the Diary last issue – was by Qantas flying Perth-Canberra-Perth.  We’re now a mere bronze QFlyer (the halcyon days of pointy-end platinum status are long gone) but a happy confluence of an accommodating friend at head office and unoccupied seats in business class resulted in upgrades both ways. It was delightful to have space to stretch the legs, food to match the ambiance and actual metal cutlery to eat it with, and an unobstructed view out of the window.

Both flights were into the gloaming and then the night, affording the Diary an opportunity also long forgone to feast the eyes on the amazing light-hues off to the south in the stratospheric distance and to imagine all that ice-waste far away beyond the Southern Ocean. It stirs the Muse, that sort of thing.

Another stirring element of the flight was a dangerous confection, the work not of the Devil but of Maggie Beer, who may be one of his culinary agents but is certainly an Australian icon. Her burnt fig and honey ice cream is to die for, though one naturally hopes not immediately.

The Purser on the flight agreed, when we beckoned him over and said: “Maggie Beer is a bad, bad woman.” A big smile lit up his face and he replied: “Oh I know, I know. But I’m lucky. I live only 30 minutes up the road from her shop.”

It’s a Riot

It is the lot of the unlucky diarist to be elsewhere when something happens. We had to watch the unfolding drama of the Kerobokan prison riot through the imperfect prism of Australian television.  Matt Brown was measured – and by far the best – on ABC. The commercial stations were their usual breathlessly uniformed selves.  And that’s such a shame because most Australians get what passes for their news from tabloid TV.

The Kerobokan insurrection was hardly unexpected. It beggars belief that the custodial authorities are not provided with sufficient funds to properly house all those that their companions in crime, the police and the judicial system, insist on jailing.

A solution is more prison space so that at least the basics of human existence can be practised in clink. There are some useful human rights rules the government could read up on, in that regard, too.

Oh All Right Then

Last issue’s guarded reference to Titian and ladders – it was in the context of the Renaissance exhibition at the Australian National Gallery – brought a rash of requests to expand upon it. So OK, we were wrong to attempt to be decorous. Here’s the limerick in question:

While Titian was mixing Rose Madder

His model reclined on a ladder.

The position to Titian

Suggested coition,

So he ran up the ladder an’ ‘ad ‘er.

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