Cool Aid Needed

HECTOR’S DIARY

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Titbits from his diet of worms

 

Ubud, Bali

Saturday, Apr. 7, 2018

 

 

IT should surprise, though of course it doesn’t, that Indonesia’s pique Islamist bother boots brotherhood, the FPI, has taken issue with a poem written nearly two decades ago and recently recited by Sukmawati Sukarnoputri. It laments the way Middle Eastern inspired (and funded) perceptions of Islamic religious probity are taking root in Indonesia and displacing archipelagic ways. Sukarnoputri is a high-profile collateral target – being the daughter of founding president Bung Sukarno – in the political war the FPI is waging against modernising Indonesia. They want her jailed for blasphemy, like the Christian former Jakarta governor Ahok, who foolishly made a political point and paid for it with two years in the pokey. Sukarnoputri has apologised and the moderate Islamic organisation the MUI suggests that this should be enough. It would be, for anyone but a hot head with a political agenda to prosecute.

Matters of dogma within faiths – all faiths, not just irredentist Islam – should be left to their adherents to adjudicate. They are no one else’s business. But many religions – Islam and Christianity are to the fore in this – are also very active social and political forces, and there, what they say and do is legitimately a matter of public interest. The FPI seeks to fully veil Indonesia in the cultural attire and social precepts of the Middle East. It is entitled to propose and promote such a policy. And it is for Indonesians as a whole to decide their response to this. It wants a more strongly Islamist president in the Istana Negara. That is also a political objective. Its street demonstrations fuelled by modest emoluments and nasi bungkus should be understood in that context. There is a presidential election in 2019.

Time may not be on the side of Indonesia’s hard-line Islamists, however. The modest reforms commenced in Saudi Arabia, where women have been given the green light to drive motor vehicles and cinemas have reopened, have already subtly changed the shape of the religious wave the FPI hoped would assist them in swamping the archipelago. The petrol dollars are also running out. Sharply curtailed largesse from Arabia and its littoral will surely follow. Indonesia rightly wants to be Indonesia – the leading power in South-east Asia. That is a nationalistic aim, which the Chinese will probably choose to support, though they will do so to advance China’s profit, not the Prophet. In that secular scenario, matters of religion are for the mosque, not the cabinet table.

In a Paddy

WE’RE enjoying a long weekend at Petulu, near Ubud, where the famous white herons live and wisely try to evade touristic cameras. One was in the rice field next to our lovely friend’s villa this morning, a lone forager by choice perhaps, or maybe it had argued with its mates and flocked off in a huff. It made a pretty picture in reflection in the recently planted water-field. Such images, prosaic though they may be, are good for the soul.

They help alleviate the irritation of hearing about events such as that which befell Ubud resident Darsih Gede this morning. Her two much-loved Bali dogs disappeared from her home, stolen by a person or persons unknown.

On the island of the Gods, there are a lot of devils.

Crocodile Rock

WE won’t be going along, sadly. There’s a probably an upper age limit for croc hunters and we’re sure we’re well past it. And anyway, they snap at you. But there’s a crocodile catching opportunity tomorrow night, which you can join for a fee, and which we heard about from Rex Sumner. The trip is out and back from Serangan, in Benoa Bay.

Among the many things you’re always told by those with cosy touristic stories to tell is that Bali doesn’t have Crocodylus porosus, the estuarine or saltwater crocodile. Magically, they are said to have created a special zone around Bali, which is otherwise right in the middle of their habitat range from Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean to the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific, and all points in between. They are reportedly no longer present in the city-state of Singapore (they don’t like crowds) and Thailand claims their absence too, though you wouldn’t want to bank on that. But of course, we know they’re here. People keep catching them in the riverine and tidewater mangrove environment that fringes Benoa Bay.  Apparently the biggest caught has been two metres long. That’s not so big, in salty terms. They’re the world’s largest reptilian predator, if left alone to live out their allotted lifespans without accident or human intervention, and have been recorded at more than five metres, as well as far out to sea.

It is also said, by some of those who say they know, that the Benoa mangrove croc community comprises former zoo inmates which escaped or were let out when their unpleasant prison became yet another victim of the White Elephant Syndrome that so afflicts business here. Perhaps. Or perhaps these poor dispossessed animals simply augmented an already existing population. South Bali is fairly densely populated, something that would have reduced endemic numbers over the years.

The capture program is designed to relocate the animals to natural habitats far away, where it is thought they will be happier and possibly better fed, and won’t worry the tourists and lead to further travel advisories from foreign governments. They are far from uncommon in Flores and West Timor, not to mention Raja Ampat and the Indonesian half of New Guinea. In Darwin, Australia, if you go sunbaking at the beach you’re likely to do so behind a croc-proof fence. Apparently that trumps them, but then, of course, they’re not Mexicans.

180407 HECTOR ILLUSTRATION

These are alligators, and elsewhere, but the message might be apt. It came to us from a keen spotter of idiocies.

Cake With All The Extras

LUHUT Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for home affairs in the Jokowi cabinet, was in Bali recently, on a trip that was loosely connected with the proposed North Bali Airport, that on again, off again project that so excites the Bupati of Buleleng and others.

The northern airport is on, according to Minister Luhut, rather than off, which had been the preceding announcement from some other office at chaos central. Furthermore, the network of toll roads to connect the south with the north and the northwest would also proceed, along with expansion of Ngurah Rai International Airport in the south.

This box of expensive tricks was flourished, we’re sure, because there are provincial and districts elections this year, and the presidential election next year already referred to above, and naturally everyone wants to have their piece of the cake. Having got it, they’ll then eat it, or their friend will, and then they’ll want more.

It must be a very rich fruitcake indeed.

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Chin-chin!

 

They’re a Scream

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali

Aug. 17, 2016

 

If the acquisitive cartel of private interests and public officials that really runs Bali wants to turn the island into Disneyland, it must be conceded (through gritted teeth) that they can. The electoral check on such excess is even more notional here than in other more functional democracies.

We’ve seen in the proposal to bury Benoa Bay under masses of defective concrete and frightful architectural kitsch and turn it into Port Excrescence (a project of PT I’m Gonna Make a Motza) that the environment runs a poor second to the heady thrill of grubbing out another zillion rupiahs. We’ve seen too that the considered consensus views of the villages and banjars that are protesting mean absolutely nothing; at least so far.

Ditto with the despoliation of the reef and surf line in the vicinity of the new Kempinski and Ritz-Carlton hotels under construction on the southern Bukit. There, some curious alchemy conjured up a very dodgy bit of paper featuring a magic official signature.

We now hear, via the Bali Post newspaper, a particularly vacuous thought bubble from the head of the Buleleng chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), a gentleman by the name of Dewa Suardipa. He would like to see dolphin cages built in the sea off Lovina so as to “optimise” (as Jack Daniels’ Bali Update reports from the Post on Aug. 8) the attractiveness of dolphin tours promoted to tourists visiting North Bali.

Perhaps these disgraceful prisons for highly intelligent sea creatures could be built near that other future-planner’s delight, the proposed offshore North Bali airport. (We do wonder whether they’ve thought about tsunami barriers, not to mention whether they’d work, but that’s another topic.) That way the hordes of gawkers they would like to attract to see the pernicious results of extraordinary rendition in yet another guise wouldn’t ever actually have to set foot in the real Bali.

They wouldn’t have to interact either with the local boatmen who at present make a modest income from taking small parties of tourists out to see the dolphins in their natural habitat. Maybe these dispossessed persons could be armed with gaff hooks and employed to whistle at the captive dolphins and wave fish at them; by this means, according to Pak Dewa of the Buleleng PHRI, the poor creatures (the dolphins, we mean) could be trained to perform on demand and would soon learn not to be distressed or depressed.

Hey, they could co-opt the deprived dolphins from that sick excuse for an attraction at Keremas to give them lessons. Oh no, that wouldn’t work. They’re still depressed, poor things. How can that be? They get fed fish and can see the sea if they breast the edge of their swimming pool for a wistful look at their home.

It’s so often an Edvard Munche Day in Bali. You know, when you just have to let out a manic scream.

Saurian Point

While we’re on the topic of potty ideas, something from Kupang in Indonesian Timor blipped the radar recently. Crocodiles have presented themselves as a problem for the capital of East Nusa Tenggara. They’ve apparently been doing so since 2011, but it takes a little time for officialdom to notice these things.

Saltwater crocs are endemic to the area, though they seem to have stayed decorously out of sight until five years ago, when suddenly they started eating people. I say, chaps, that’s poor form!

In the Australian city of Darwin, 800 kilometres away to the southeast, the city authorities have built fences behind the popular beach area so that sunbathers and other playful types can lie around in peace, or play ball or whatever, without the statistical risk of being grabbed by a leg and dragged away for an unwanted death roll. In Kupang, the solution is not infrastructure. It’s a croc-capturing competition. The current score-line is Crocs 19 People 0 and the city fathers would like to even things up.

This we learned from a story by Jewel Topsfield, the Fairfax group correspondent in Jakarta, and Amilia Rosa, that appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald and other Fairfax papers in Australia. We silently thanked them when we read the yarn. It’s so nice to get a chortle with your morning cuppa.

The competition, with prize money of Rp5 million per capture, was set to start after Independence Day. We’ll watch that score-line carefully.

Direct Aid

Elizabeth Henzell, who is among the nicest people we know, had a lovely story to tell the other day. She’s not exactly flush with funds. Who is these days, except a Jakarta tycoon? But she does recognise, as many do, that even the poorest expatriate lives better and has more than most Balinese. So she helps beggars, those people (the ones from Karangasem are in the Governor’s sights at the moment as unwanted elements of his preferred touristic streetscape) who wander the streets of Ubud in search of money so they can eat.

On her way through to Villa Kitty at Lodtunduh – which is where her money goes, the NGO being as short of funds as most in the animal welfare area – she made a stop as she often does at the Pertamina petrol station on Jl. Raya Pengosetan. Instead of just handing out money to the little “family” she helps, a “mother” and several children, this time she asked what they’d like to eat. It was something very modest from the food stall just across the street. She took them there and bought them a meal. It would have cost more to have coffee at Starbucks.

Hunger is a pervasive distemper. It saps energy and in the end intellect too. A full tummy is a wonderful tonic. Henzell said of the evening in question: “This was at 9.30pm last night. They were so hungry. I left four children and a very tired mother all sitting in a little circle eating their Bakso. All for Rp 68,000, but who will feed them tomorrow?”

Hopefully someone will have done so. For the moment, we just say this: Elizabeth, we love you.

Truck Off

We hear that at long last the authorities in Bangli regency have cracked down on the profitable extraction of lava gravel in the Lake Batur basin and told the trucks that make a menace of themselves on the narrow roads up and down the mountain to cease and desist. They haven’t, quite, we understand. No surprises there. But the traffic has reduced.

Apparently this late accession to something notionally resembling sound principles of environmental protection followed a word from the UN to the effect that the prized Batur Geo Park would not be goer without an end to extractive vandalism.

One day, perhaps, the island’s authorities will work out that Bali’s environment actually is precious and not just a PR pitch. And that returning it to something resembling nature and – where this is no longer possible – a state of cleanliness means doing something more than just proclaiming the aim of being Clean and Green.

It’s green at the moment, because the dry season is being damp, courtesy of La Niña, and at first glance it’s clean – in parts – because the leafy glades hide all the garbage that at this time of year would normally lie revealed in all its noisome horror.

Sad Departure

Our paths never crossed – we walked a different beat – but Joe Kennedy was a Name, a master of his craft of photography, and that he is now no longer with us is a tragedy. He’d had a motorcycle accident on Jul. 29 and had suffered mild concussion and broken ribs, but was recovering well and was expecting to be discharged from Sanglah General Hospital in Denpasar when a sudden and quite unexpected heart attack carried him off on Aug. 4. This was three days short of his 57th birthday. That’s far too young.

Kennedy was born in Northern Ireland and worked in the oil industry for nearly a quarter of a century before starting a new career as a professional photographer in 2004. He set up Joe Kennedy Photography in 2006 and quickly established himself as a snapper of choice.

His funeral was at the Yasa Setra Mandala Crematorium at Taman Mumbul on Aug. 9. Friends held a wake for him afterwards at Villa Ramadewa in Seminyak.

Flag This

It’s Independence Day (Aug. 7) and we should mark this. A nation’s birthday is always important. Indonesia’s is especially so to the Diary, because it is a wonderful country and because we are almost of an age. (Indonesia Raya is slightly younger.)

The Merah Putih flies at The Cage once a year, for two weeks: the week prior and the week after the big day. It does this from a bamboo pole stuck into a bit of PVC piping nailed precariously to the outside wall of our balé. It is mirrored prettily in our little swimming pool and looks lovely when it’s fluttering in the Bukit breeze.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser.