Red Sales in the Sunset

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

HectorR

The Cage, Bali

Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017

 

WE had a little giggle this week when we read that the Minister for National Development Planning, Professor Bambang Brodjonegoro, had wondered why more Australian investment was directed to Mexico than to Indonesia. Mexico, as he pointed out on an invest-with-us road show in Australia, was a long way away. It is. They wear sombreros there too, at least in cartoons, but that’s also totally beside the point.

An interesting article in the Fairfax press reported the issue, and included some commentary from Australian superannuation funds, from which Indonesia would apparently like a hand with projects. We note of course that such investments are indeed part and parcel of the global money round. The key to such investments is their legal security and actuarially based rates of return (ROI). Indonesia is making progress towards some measure of transparency and certainty in these matters, but a cautious superannuation investment fund manager would probably wait a little while. It’s different with company-level investments. They only depend on directors’ confidence levels. Or Chinese investments, which despite the official outbreak of pretend capitalism that the mandarins in Beijing have permitted, are still effectively State (and therefore Party) subscriptions, and hence political. They are all about building the next Chinese empire.

Minister Bambang made a direct pitch for Australian investment in a “new Nusa Dua” in the “eastern islands”. To decode that for the uninitiated, the Nusa Dua development in Bali is the manicured tourism precinct at the southern tip of the island full of international hotels that these days struggle to compete against the low-cost appeal, to the new market, of cheaper products elsewhere; and “eastern islands” means Labuan Bajo in Flores. We’ll return to Flores in a moment.

He also suggested that Australians might consider investing in tourism-related developments in the “new Nusa Dua” and instanced water sports and related fun things as examples of where they might choose to do so. How this might be done effectively and profitably is a conundrum. Indonesia’s restrictions on foreign workers, the country’s prevailing low productivity and skills levels, and the promiscuous practice of local and national regulators in deciding that their noses are out of joint and that they will therefore without notice inspect the paperwork and deport anyone found holding a spanner, is one among many other unresolved questions.

In the early booster stages of economic promotions directed at specific targets, in this case Labuan Bajo in western Flores, near where the real komodos roam on their eponymous island, the chief effect is to raise land values and pour cash into the pockets of title-holders. Often this is a relative thing, which can benefit siblings and more distant relations of those doing the boosting. As someone with whom we spoke recently on these matters noted, perhaps such people are looking to family connections for an opportunity to upgrade from a canoe to a cruiser.

We’ll All be Rooned (Well, No We Won’t)

ROONED is what that eternal Jeremiah, Hanrahan, said would happen, in the lovely poem published in 1921 and written by the Australian bush poet John O’Brien, the pen name of a Roman Catholic priest, Patrick Joseph Hartigan.  “We’ll all be rooned, said Hanrahan” – Hanrahan was a pessimistic man of Irish descent – now has an honoured place in the Australian English lexicon.

Pessimists and their jeremiads are fixed elements in any society, of course, though here in Bali, they are mostly of the imported variety. Foreigners who have lived here for a long time, or who have frequently visited for what to them probably feels like eons, fondly remember times past when the island was a pristine paradise. That is, except for the natives, who were poor and deprived of most of the benefits of modern life, and who, it is said by some, preferred it that way.

According to that primarily self-serving confected legend, Bali’s unique culture is now facing deadly risk. There’s an alternative view of this. This is that Bali’s culture and its unique religion is just as capable as any other of changing with the times. The island is not a Petrie dish and its culture is not an arcane scientific experiment managed by others. The archipelago survived the introduction of the chilli after all – by the Portuguese, who got them from someone else, naturally, centuries ago – and has made it its own. That’s just a small example of how change is welcomed and quietly managed by human societies.

There’s another aphorism that seems apt: The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

The British writer Tim Hannigan – who describes himself as a pop historian, just by the way – would probably share this view. He writes from a post-colonial perspective. This is sensible, since except for references to that sometimes beneficial but predominantly pernicious plague by politicians everywhere in former empires who want to display their nationalist credentials, the age of European empire has long gone.

Hannigan is in Indonesia at present on a book tour, which will now take him to Jakarta. He was in Bali this week and we caught up with him twice, once at the Periplus bookstore at Samasta in Jimbaran and again over one of Asri Kerthyasa’s fine high teas at Biku in Seminyak.

He wrote some finely tuned polemic in his brilliantly researched book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, and a very readable A Brief History of Indonesia, among others. He has also edited A Brief History of Bali which is now on the bookstore shelves and is a must read, a revision with additional chapters version of the American Willard Hanna’s original. Hanna’s ended in the 1970s, ancient history now; Hannigan’s mediates Hanna’s Cold War perspective and takes the story on to current time. 

Telephone Cheek

THE leaked transcript of the telephone call between American President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shortly after Trump assumed office early this year is interesting. It confirms Trump as a president who doesn’t read his briefs, or perhaps doesn’t even ask for them, and underlines the worrying fact that he’s a real estate shyster whom American voters have elected to an office that is far beyond his moral, ethical and administrative capacities. It shows that a phone conversation with him, leader to leader, isn’t necessarily one that will produce an effective outcome or indeed connect with rational thought.

The call, which was terminated early, by Trump, turned on the Obama era plan proposed by the Australians that the U.S. take as many of Australia’s detainees on offshore foreign islands as its vetting processes would permit. There are (or were at the time) around 1,200 of these poor souls, held in limbo because they had attempted to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia. The call confirmed the depravity (in the correct sense of the word) of Australian policy towards foreign people who have committed no crime. There is no morality in denying human rights to others – whoever they are – and detaining them indefinitely in camps on islands in other countries.

It cannot be justified on the basis that it has “stopped the boats” and people drowning at sea. It is simply a profane political process whose effectiveness (undeniable in the short term) is determined by refusing to recognise the real problem: an unstoppable global population movement. It screams “Australia’s for Australians” and wins votes for doing so. That’s an Australian problem. It mirrors Trump America’s mad Mexican Wall idea.

Turnbull deserves some credit for talking to Trump in a mannered and diplomatic way: for not interjecting “WTF, Donald?” That’s the only creditable element in the event – well, that and the fact that someone had the moral fortitude to leak the transcripts (there were others) to the media. These are sorry days.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next will appear on Aug. 16.

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Blots on the Landscape

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali, Jul. 20, 2016

 

Where to start? We’ll leave aside (for the moment) certain segments of the bar scene where duty of care, which shouldn’t be an entirely foreign concept, is spelt WTF, and winks and nods at malfeasant bad behaviour, if not actual complicity, are commonplace. They’re blots on the social landscape. The ones at issue in this instance are actual, physical, blots. The latest to come to attention is the groyne built out over the coral reef in front of the new Kempinski hotel at Sawangan on the southern Bukit. The hotel wants to make a playground for its guests.

That this has altered the natural wave break pattern – with possibly incalculable future impacts – and destroyed the reef habitat is of no consequence to people whose interest lies solely in chasing money. Surfers who have been deprived of The Nikko, a great surf break, and the shooed-away local seaweed growers don’t count. They’re not in the 5-plus-star demographic. There’s a petition out on Change.org. We’ve signed it. It’s unlikely to move the rocks, but at least they’ll know we don’t like them, and why.

Just round the bend – how appropriate – and up around the Jakarta-by-Sea that developers have created with what locally luminous landscaper Made Wijaya dismissively (and quite properly) writes off as New Asian Architecture along the Ngurah Rai Bypass, the row continues over the plan to turn Benoa Bay into Port Excrescence. There was another huge Tolak Reklamsi demonstration on Jul. 10, organized by the local villages and banjars. We’re sure Governor Pastika heard about it. We do wonder what he said about it, though.

In a related move, there’s popular action in Lombok to stop massive sand extraction contracts there from going ahead. Apart from anything else, they seem to be illegal, created under the brown envelope rules that blight Indonesia. Tomy Winata needs all that silicon to fill in the Benoa mangroves and kill a natural, traditional community so he can construct an artificial one.

Shoot! There’s an idea

Apparently it’s not illegal to import unlicensed weaponry into Indonesia if you can get your new killing toys stuffed in the diplomatic bag. This is what members of the presidential security squad did in the USA. A man who assisted with their acquisition has been before the American courts since (perhaps astonishingly, although thankfully) it is unlawful to export guns from the Land of the Second Amendment unless you have a permit.

You can buy them there willy-nilly, as mass shootings by homicidal madmen demonstrate with tedious regularity, because Congress and the National Rifle Association seem to believe it’s still 1791 and that the right to bear arms has more validity than the nakedly bare truth.

But because the Indonesian presidential security squad was able to organize to get their new guns into diplomatic protected baggage, no crime that legal process can adjudicate has been committed at either end of the deal. Here at home, according to reports, administrative measures are under consideration (or at least they were when we wrote this). We don’t think we should wait up for a meaningful result.

Dr. Hannigan, We Presume?

British writer and skilled Indonesia hand Tim Hannigan, whose archival skill at demythologizing Raffles and other Names of Empah will always have a laudable capacity to sabotage the keyboards upon which post-imperial paeanists like to tinkle, wasn’t at last year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. He had a prior engagement in Mongolia, though not among the marmots of the Gobi or indeed the yurts of same, since yurts do not exist, though marmots do, and carry plague. The large tents of the local nomads are called Gers. This is pronounced grrrr in the way one might voice imprecations against massed idiot bike riders who turn right from the left lanes at the numerous traffic lights on Sunset Road and heedlessly cause karmageddon.

Sadly, Hannigan won’t be at this year’s festival either. He will be at Leicester University in England, doing a PhD on the ethical issues of travel literature that’s being funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the M3C (Midlands 3 Cities) doctoral program.

Hannigan recently revised Willard Hanna’s Bali Chronicles, which are due to appear around festival time (UWRF 2016 is Oct. 26-30) as A Brief History of Bali, with a foreword by Adrian Vickers. Never mind, the Diary will have a beer for him on opening night.

His lovely light history, Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, deliciously upset the Hyacinth Bucket-style riparian delights favoured by certain imperial historiographers when it was published in 2012. Come to think of it, we owe him at least a beer for that, if not a G&T. He also wrote A Brief History of Indonesia (2015) and says he hopes to be back in archipelago during the northern summer of 2017. He’s a dab hand at fishing out historical and other anecdotes and Indonesia has a rich lode of those.

A View With a Room

Lunch at Sundara, Four Seasons Jimbaran’s eclectic beachside swan-around place for the locally well placed, is not to be missed. There’s plenty of outdoors for outdoor types and it’s airy inside with a lovely view of the bay beyond, especially at high tide. We recently ruminated there, on a very pleasantly passable Caesar salad and other delights, in the fine company of chief 4S Bali spruiker Marian Carroll. We made a couple of notes, as you do on such occasions, though the divine mini lemon meringue pie we had for dessert rather got in the way of concentrated effort.

Of primary interest was that the Ganesha art gallery has been reinvented as a multimode arts and cultural space. That’s great news. Of this, GM of Four Seasons Resorts Bali, Uday Rao, says: “We believe it is our responsibility – as well as our honour – to give guests the opportunity to personally meet and learn from Bali’s talented artists, who are hand-picked and invited to share their knowledge and skills. Guests can take a lesson in woodcarving, painting, dancing, making offerings for ceremonies, or weaving fine songket (cloth).”

Officially it’s the Ganesha Cultural Centre. It opens on Jul. 29. We’ll get along there soon enough.

Sundara is also spreading its wings. It is introducing a long brunch. We’ll have a word with Sophie Digby of The Yak about that. She’s a brunch and bubbles girl from way back, and the launch date (Aug. 14) might already be in her diary. It does seem to be a pretty good way to spend a lazy Sunday.

Animal Welfare? What’s That?

News that Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea have moved to seriously tighten up and enforce animal welfare laws may furrow the odd brow here. Isn’t that sort of thing best left to karma? A dog’s life is – well, a dog’s life.

It shouldn’t be. In the Australian state of New South Wales the government has announced greyhound racing will be abolished from July next year, because of rampant cruelty and mistreatment of dogs. There’s a chorus line of unrepentant recidivists now in pursuit of the premier, Mike Baird. He apparently will not be budged; neither should he.

Here in Bali, animal welfare outfits often have a hard time when they try to help animals. It’s not only dogs. Monkeys – intelligently sentient beings – are locked up in cages and made to perform perversely infantile tricks so their “owners” can make money. We won’t even touch on civets forced to shit for a living so people can drink Luwak coffee (ugh!) or the poor dolphins of Keremas, whose unhealthy and woefully inadequate “pool” affords them nothing but pain and – if they look wistfully over the edge – a view of the nearby ocean that is their natural home.

When clear evidence of gross abuse of dogs comes to light, as it has recently in a case where patient and horrendously expensive negotiation that went on for weeks thankfully resulted in a large number of animals being rescued from hell, no one in authority was prepared to do a thing.

Animal welfare laws in Indonesia are antiquated – they date from the Dutch era – and are shockingly inadequate. They are rarely enforced. The example set for Jakarta by Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea cannot be dismissed as yet another instance of western policies that have no relevance to Indonesia Raya.

Make Vroom

It was pleasing to see recently that Rakesh Kapoor, who is equally adept on two wheels or four, has returned to Bali from Jakarta, though not to his former domicile, Tampak Siring in the green rice terraces of Gianyar. He’s popped up as general manager of Seminyak Village Mall

HectorR

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 6, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Prime Appointment

Helena Studdert, the new Australian consul-general in Bali, comes to the job by an unusual route. She has already held an ambassadorial post – she was Australia’s envoy to Serbia from 2010-2013 – and has some background in the sometimes fractious field of civil-military affairs, having served most recently as international adviser to the Australian Civil-Military Centre.

These are not often the qualifications one finds in consular appointments, where the job is to look after people rather than foster the often separate interests of diplomatic relations. They aren’t quite mutually exclusive, though, especially in a post such as Bali. Studdert’s appointment, announced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Dec. 22, gives additional oomph to Australia’s interests here, where the consulate-general is the country’s third busiest consular mission. This can only be a good thing. It might get a little busier yet, too, with the third and we hope lasting announcement in December that Australia is now on Indonesia’s free visa on arrival list.

Studdert, who has a PhD, takes up her new post this month. She replaces outgoing consul-general Majell Hind, who leaves with the good wishes of everyone who came to know her during her time here.

Australia will open a new consulate-general in Makassar this year.

He’s No Bule!

Tim Hannigan, who gets a regular outing in this column because he’s a good fellow who has lots of interesting things to say, tells us he found a lovely little scribble in his own First Exposure diary of Indonesian travels, from a decade ago. He’d been prompted to delve into the origins of his Indonesian writings by the death in December, in Malang, of the American chronicler Benedict Anderson, whose passing we noted in the Diary of Dec. 23.

Hannigan was in remote eastern Indonesia on his first traveller’s journey here and on one island came across the story of a white man who had lived thereon for 20 years, married a local woman, spoke the local language, and followed the basically animist religious rites of the community. His journalistic interest piqued, he inquired of the locals what was the man’s name. These worthies then looked at each other and said um and ah in their own lingo and after a while reached a collegiate conclusion that his name had been Turis.

Bule, the not altogether offensive word for Europeans more commonly used in Bahasa Indonesia, is less favoured in the archipelagic east. There, such people are tourists and apparently remain so even when fully salted, over two decades, into the local community.

Amen to That

Pope Francis, chief counsellor to the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and the first Jesuit Pope, had a great message about Jesus’ birth for his global flock on Christmas Day. He said this: “In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this child calls us to act soberly … in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential.”

Common sense and fine judicial and spiritual judgment is the hallmark of the Jesuits. Even those not of the faith – or indeed not of any faith – can relate to the Pope’s words on this occasion and on this topic. It’s a message the consumerist West should listen to especially carefully. There is really no reason for empathy overload, one of the new psychiatric ailments that is said to be afflicting those who can afford to spend their time and money on elective counseling and through this find justification in not caring quite as much as they might that others are less fortunate than themselves.

Red Litter Day

How lovely it was to see – on Facebook on Dec. 26 – that Coco supermarkets had rushed in to clean up the mess when photos emerged of one of their trucks stopped in Ubud near a watercourse, dumping trash. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for all the defaulters who, for reasons of ennui or avarice, can’t be bothered disposing of rubbish in the required manner. That includes managements as well as workers, just to make that point.

If this practice spreads, Bali’s little rivers might one day be relatively free of the disgusting debris that defiles them and which then, when it rains properly, is expelled into the sea. In the fiction of the island, it used to be said (though no one ever believed that particular fable) that all the awful beach rubbish came from Java. They do such a lovely line in terminological inexactitude here.

Coco’s deserves credit for acting swiftly when the littering habits of that particular delivery truck’s crew were publicized on social media. These days, nowhere is immune from observation and recording by people whose cell phones take photos and videos. That’s a lesson that should be swiftly absorbed, as apparently it has been by Coco’s management.

It would be nice if the provincial government made more of an effort to return Bali to something approximating its natural beauty than just making up pretty slogans and hoping someone else will pick up the slack. Bali Clean and Green should be a planned objective, not just a PR pitch on a wish list.

Tim Tam Time

The Diary, courtesy of its Australian sojourn, has been enjoying original Tim Tams. And not just the occasional one: just the day before Christmas, for example, we enjoyed three of them, one after the other, no breaks, except of the delicious choc-covered biscuit between our teeth. Out of their packet, cool and crisp from the fridge and well before their use-by date is even a twinkle in Old Father Time’s eye.

An original Tim Tam in mint condition has been a rare treat for more than a decade now. They’re unobtainable in Indonesia, unless you’re prepared to list as mint condition a fused mess caused by faulty refrigeration and the Lucifer-like temperatures you tend to find in local stores, even the ones with the premium prices. In Indonesia, too, Arnott’s seem to experiment almost weekly with some new sticky confection they call Tim Tams, but which are as related to the original as, say, the urban gangs of modern Metro America are to the robber barons who forced King John’s hand with that Magna Carta deal back in 1215.

The Tim Tams we’ve been eating remind us of the Stress Diet a very lovely friend alerted us to in Brisbane years ago, when we were permanently on each other’s tryst list. Perhaps memory has played cruelly with a few details, but it went something like this:

Breakfast: Cup of coffee, one Tim Tam. Elevenses: Cup of coffee, two Tim Tams. Lunch: Cup of coffee, three Tim Tams. Afternoon tea: Forget the coffee and eat the rest of the Tim Tams.

It’s always worked for us. Of course, you have to find the Tim Tams first.

Early Monkey

As Georgie is reported to have advised, in the Rod Stewart song that records his untimely passing on a New York boulevard at the hands of a New Jersey gang with just one aim, you’ve got to get in fast or it’s too late. Georgie was of course speaking of that elusive faculty, youth; most of the sentient among us remember it as that golden time we enjoyed in the brief interlude between childhood and growing up. But getting in fast, or at least first, is sound advice nonetheless.

It was fun therefore to see a little promo doing the rounds recently from the Aman chain, which has three plush establishments in Bali at which the well heeled can kick up a little decorous dust. In this case the dust – suitably mediated, we’re sure – relates to 2016 being the Year of the Monkey. As we noted in the diary of Dec. 23, this is good year for us, since we are of the simian persuasion in the Chinese Zodiac.

Aman advises its potential guests that the island of Bali presents the opportunity to experience cultural adventure, a vibrant natural landscape and three unique Aman destinations. The principal monkey business is set for the lush terraces of its Ubud property, where Amandari will be welcoming guests to usher in the Year of the Monkey with a celebratory dining experience, traditional music and dance performances.

This Monkey year – it commences on Feb. 4 – is the Year of the Red Monkey, which might pique the interest of any genuine communists still extant in China.

Splashing Out

San Diego zoo in California gave its polar bears a great present on Christmas Days – 26 tons of real snow provided for them to play in. And what fun they had. It made us wonder if the execrable dolphin jailers at WAKE at Keramas had thought to give their poor wild captives some real seawater as a treat. They might have liked that.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 23, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

A Christmas Story

This week we observe the official birthday – though of course its date is wholly notional – of one of Islam’s leading saints, the nabi Isa al-Mahdi, whom Muslims also honour as the Messiah. In the Christian rite, it is Christmas, the nativity of Jesus, born of a virgin mother. To Christians, Jesus is the Son of God. To Muslims that very notion is anathema. To those of the Jewish faith, Jesus was a rebellious and schismatic rabbi with whom their religious leaders dealt expediently by getting someone else to do away with him. That is a practice that is still with us. Defenestration, actual or metaphorical, has an unrivaled place in political tradition.

Thanks to Mammon and his right-hand man Capital over the last century and a half, fuelled by the rise of rampant consumerism, Christmas has become an occasion for Bacchanalian excess. This secular Christmas has nothing to do with religion, or with faith except for the widespread belief that it’s the one time of the year when you might get something for nothing. Santa and his elves, like the timing of the feast itself, are borrowed at one remove from Old Europe’s pagan rites of midwinter. In the same way, Easter, which marks the death and resurrection of Christ, coopted the pagan spring festival of its original Greek and Roman times.

Neither of these occasions was religious in the terms most people of faith would accept today. Not to put too fine a point on it, they were occasions for a good deal of romping and a whole lot of rumpy-pumpy. And jolly good fun all that must have been. You could say then that the wheel has just about turned full circle, especially, as an instance, in tourist areas of Thailand where to suggest that the elves are merely outré would be to unduly favour understatement as a conversational artifice.

The same invitation to overlay a patina of sexuality on everything – perhaps this is the single most significant success, if such it be, of capital-fuelled consumerism – is seen well beyond the pagoda-strewn landscapes of Old Siam. Elves whose moral influence probably wouldn’t stand scrutiny are a commonplace in Bali’s overeat, overdrink and badly misbehave tourist precincts. They have even been known to appear in certain parts of Lombok, the island of a thousand mosques.

The birthday of the Prophet is a much more important Islamic date. This year, on the lunar Sunni calendar, it’s on Christmas Eve.

All-abuzzZZZZ

We’re spending Christmas in Australia this year, not because we want to but because there are some family matters with which we and other people must deal. It is the first time in ages that we’ve been in the Odd Zone when the customary somnolence of the place, which is hard enough to bear anyway, gives way to six weeks or more of summer holidays and to something that closely approximates catalepsy. To be fair, many continental Europeans do the same sort of thing in August – try getting pain au chocolat of any decent quality in Paris then (it’s difficult: everyone is août, and not just to lunch) – but the Aussies take leisure even more seriously over their own big sleep. Unless it’s cricket or tennis, or they’re murdering prawns on a BBQ or getting zapped by stingers at the beach, forget it. The confluence of Christmas and New Year with the southern summer makes this possible, and it’s no bad thing, unless you want something done.

There are some things we need to get done. But we’ll do these ourselves. Our aim is to get home as quickly as possible. We have to see where the roof has decided to leak this year. Since it has now been raining properly, El Niño notwithstanding, our return might be quite revealing.

Merry Christmas!

Hannigan’s Wake

Well, no, not raconteur and history writer Tim Hannigan’s. He surely has time for a goodly number of books yet, though we did hear from him of the sad event: the death in Malang on Dec. 13 of Benedict Anderson, the Cornell University scholar who became one of the most influential voices in the fields of nationalism and Southeast Asian studies. He was 79.

Anderson is best known for his 1983 book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Its much-debated thesis is that nationalism is largely a modern concept rooted in language and literacy. Its publisher, Verso, says the book has been translated into more than two-dozen languages.

His early specialization in Indonesia gave us a near-forensic analysis of the 1965 coup – he wrote it with fellow scholar Ruth McVey – and led to him being banned from the country until 1999. The Cornell Paper, as it came to be known, suggested that the coup was not the consequence of an abortive communist uprising but of premeditated action by the army. Such assessments were not encouraged in post-coup Indonesia, and still aren’t. Perhaps Karma played a part in Anderson’s outlasting both General Suharto and his New Order regime.

Hannigan also writes on Indonesia, with a light style and a strong sense of narrative as the essential ingredient in popular reading. His latest is A Brief History of Indonesia (Tuttle, 2015) and it’s very good. His 2012 book on British bureaucrat-imperialist Stamford Raffles – Raffles and the British Invasion of Java (Monsoon Books) – should have earned him that year’s Really Stinky Rafflesia Prize from the British Society of Wholesome Hagiographers. That’s if such an outfit existed, which it probably should. Tiffin ladies?

The Great Game

While we’re in the mood for long shadows and long drinks, we should mention a little Facebook post we saw recently. It had been posted by Patricia Morley Brown on the Ubud Community page and told us this: “
Croquet time again on Monday at Dewangga Bungalows from 9.30. Snack n Chat about 11.00 and there’s talk that there will be birthday cake this week for someone who turns 71. This week’s pics of magazine covers from 1918 and 1920s.”

We played croquet once. In about 1954 from memory, when we were just short of 10 and lodging temporarily, en famille, with an uncle in the Misty Isles who was the vicar of a lovely, leafy rural parish.

One Step Back … and One Forward

It’s sad to hear that the excellent organic garden at Sawangan near Nusa Dua and operated by Mike O’Leary’s ROLE Foundation has fallen victim to a land dispute, one of the more pernicious of the many social distempers endemic to Bali. ROLE is also seeking funding for new premises in Siligita. We’ll keep an eye on that. See them at http://www.rolefoundation.org.

On a much happier note, we hear that the non-profit charity Yayasan Solemen and a local company, Indosole LLC, along with the Bali Dynasty Resort, were busy in November giving a helping hand to the villagers of Waribang in Sanur. Indosole handed out rice and 50 pairs of adult footwear made from recycled tyres. Solemen distributed 111 towels and 50 bed sheets donated by the Bali Dynasty and transported to the village by Mark Tuck, founder and principal of Paradise Property Group.

The villagers of Waribang make their living by collecting plastic bottles to trade in for cash, which earns them Rp 3000 (about 21 US cents) per kilo. That’s something to think about while you’re enjoying your Christmas feast.

Solemen, whose leading hot-foot is the entrepreneurial Robert Epstone, regularly distributes food and clothing to needy villages around Bali and organize medical aid, physiotherapy and nutrition assistance.

If you’d like to help, visit www.solemen.org.

Write Stuff

Another Bali connection, the enigmatically alluring Jade Richardson who blogs with zest as the Passionfruit Cowgirl, has a gig going in the New Year that might interest any formative scribblers who are in Western Australia during the Long Sleep. It’s the latest in her Write of Passage workshops and the first one in Perth (though it’s actually in the port city of Fremantle, a good place to be in January when the searing heat of the Australian summer might otherwise be upon one).

Gentle Jade asks this question: Could this be the journey that changes everything? She tells us that this is her favourite workshop for aspiring writers and is designed for those seeking profound insight to their work in stories, a powerful shift in writing, and an understanding of creative energy.

The workshop is on Jan. 5, 6 and 8. Details are at www.heartbookwriting.com or you can email her at jade.gently@gmail.com.

Cheers to the Monkey

When the clock ticks over to 2016 the Diary will be in a very good mood. For shortly after that it will be the Year of the Monkey. We have plans for plenty of simian pursuits, a treat we award ourselves every 12 years.

See you next year!

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

 

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jul. 22, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Hannigan’s Islands

The delightful Tim Hannigan, former Surabaya English language teacher and scribbler of note around the archipelago, has written another book: A Brief History of Indonesia. Published by Tuttle in Singapore, it will shortly be on the bookshelves everywhere. His earlier effort, Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, caused unseemly ripples on the otherwise imperturbable ponds of British historiography of Empire rendered in the paean style.

It upset the teacups at the Hyacinth Bucket-style riparian delights in which some indulge while still imagining themselves suffused with the sacred afterglow of the British imperium. Though a serious work (written in a lively, readable, style) Hannigan’s Raffles book was a giggle for those others among us who tend to the view that the man memorialized as the far-seeing founder of Singapore was rather more an insubordinate pirate than a self-effacing, objective servant of the Crown.

Since pirates are somewhat in vogue in this context, it was good to hear that Hannigan introduced his new book to the audience at the Penzance Literary Festival at an illustrated talk on Jul. 11 called (from the book’s extended title) Sultans, Spices and Tsunamis. The Cornish port town has piratical connections extending far further back than Gilbert & Sullivan’s pop opera The Pirates of Penzance.

He tells us he can’t make this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which is a pity. He has an engagement in Mongolia. Well, no. It’s actually a wedding, though not his own. When we heard this we asked if the happy couple had yet chosen a suitable yurt. They live in an apartment in Ulan Bataar, as any sensible people would. The winters can be nippy. But we learned from Hannigan, who told us he had only relatively recently discovered this for himself, that a yurt is not a yurt at all. It is a ger, pronounced grrrr, surely an appropriate locution for Mongolians who find the foreign fixation with fictitious yurts tedious.

Hannigan is in Bali for book chats at Biku in Seminyak (Jul. 25) and Bar Luna Ubud (Jul.28) and a book signing at Periplus at the airport on Jul. 30. We’ll catch up with him at Biku – where we’ll also catch up with Asri Kerthayasa’s lovely cakes – and if we can, at Bar Luna. We’ll pick up a copy of his latest tome too. And it would be nice to see him at UWRF 2016, if that can be arranged.

Smoke and Mirrors

The dreadful Mail Online, doyen of the virtual tabloids in both its British and Australian versions, proved again with the eruption of Mt Raung in East Java that in some sections of the media fact is spelled “fict”, professionalism and the brain quality that goes with this are superfluous to corporate requirements, and that common sense flew out of the window long ago. Not to be coy about it, its operators are fuckwits.

When atmospheric volcanic dust from the eruption caused a hazard to aviation, Ngurah Rai International Airport was closed. This was not only a sensible precaution but was also required under international civil aviation regulations. It caused dreadful inconvenience to many, including a number of Australians who in the tried and true and thoroughly infantile traditions of portions of that sheltered community, claimed that their singular problems demanded immediate special attention.

The Mail Online, in both its vacuous versions, Brit and antipodean, got out its eggbeaters and presented a fanciful feast of fevered imagination that crossed the boundary into parody. Alongside breathless quotes from the suitably aggrieved (those who plainly had no thought for the technical and safety reasons behind their inconvenience) it ran vision and still photographs from the eruption of Mt Merapi last year, which did indeed blanket Surabaya airport in East Java with a layer of volcanic ash. It passed these off by inference and directly as current images from Bali. It was a disgraceful and depressing display of juvenility.

Volcanic eruptions are commonplace in Indonesia. Disruptions of all kinds naturally follow. We have to live with those. Fortunately we can afford to ignore the Mail Online.

Blokes Only

In the normal course of events we wouldn’t be overjoyed at the thought of a blokes-only evening. You know, footy (in all its forms) and other blokey, sporty things, are agenda items with which it is possible to go only so far. But there are exceptions, and if it’s at Slippery Stone at Kerobokan and has been organized by Chief Diva Christina Iskandar, it is plainly a do that has more going for it than most.

Thus an evening soirée of Greek delights and selected beverages presented by George, Sam and Paul at Slippery Stone’s new Venus Lounge seemed to be invitation we should not refuse. We didn’t make it to the show after all, though. Sadly some god or other – it may have been Hephaestus, the Greek original from whom the Romans conjured Vulcan – had other ideas and something intervened to prevent our attendance. That was a pity, because George, Sam and Paul – and no doubt Christina – wanted us to help bless their new lounge. We’ll drop in sometime. Venus might be in attendance. Old Hep is her hubby, after all, and he may be around these parts for a while.

Barking Again

It’s really not clear why any celebratory noises should be made over the claim by Bali’s animal husbandry authority that more than 5000 dogs have been eliminated. Given the methodology, which is to send death squads into villages and communities and kill any dogs found in the open, vaccinated and sterilized dogs will have been eliminated too, in a further assault – most likely fatal – on vital herd immunity to rabies and reduction in numbers through humane methods.

The head of animal husbandry, Putu Sumantra, says these measures to control and reduce rabies are necessary because the disease is a threat not only to Balinese communities but also to tourist areas. It certainly is, of course, but infection rates vary and are highest in places distant from the south where most of the tourists are. He has a point when he notes that tourists travel within Bali, but frankly that’s not the issue. The Bali government needs to reduce rabies as a threat to the Balinese. They are the people most at risk of being bitten by a suspect dog and then finding there’s little or no supply of essential post-exposure anti-rabies vaccine. It’s not going to achieve this objective in the environment it has created, by failing to maintain the staged rabies reduction program it signed up to in 2010, or blindly ignoring all the data that shows a vaccinated screen of immune dogs prevents human infections and with sterilization programs helps humanely reduce numbers.

An incident at Padang Bai recently shows how badly off-message the government has been. A dog there became suddenly enraged and ran around and bit four people and tried to bite others. Hello, you might think: here is a dog showing classic signs of rabies infection. We had better catch it (and kill it if necessary) so that it can be taken to the authorities for laboratory testing. This is not what occurred. Instead an informal posse formed that chased down the dog, beat it to death, and threw its carcass into the sea. Among the posse were police (a policeman had been bitten by the dog) who you would think might think they should deliver the carcass to the authorities. Rabies is hardly a new phenomenon in Bali after all. It’s been here and spread widely since 2008. Human deaths from the disease are sharply up this year.

The death squads may also be running into trouble. The authorities say they are killing dogs in response to community pressure. There is evidence of growing resistance among Balinese to this policy, along with increased interest in looking after dogs they own or care for in the informal way that is done here.

What sometimes seems to be overlooked by the authorities, who are clearly concerned about Bali’s image as a safe place, is that everyone – even the government’s critics on this issue – is seeking the same solution: a Bali that is free of rabies.

A Reminder

The 2015 Waterman’s Awards will be presented on Aug. 14 at the Padma Resort in Legian. This year the awards have been consolidated and broadened in scope. It will be a great night in a good cause – a cleaner and healthier marine and aquatic environment. See you there.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 18, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Gone to the Dogs

The resurgence of rabies in Bali is yet another of those avoidable things that the chaps in charge of the asylum could have avoided if they could have been bothered, or if they hadn’t blown the budget on lots of other things. Yet it’s in an emergency such as this – brought about by seven years of feeble official failure to address a dire public health risk in a consistent, planned, properly administered way – that leadership is required.

Instead, in the time-honoured fashion, our leaders are being proper little dukes of Plaza-Toro about rabies. They’re leading from the back. Governor Pastika, who has no trouble ignoring the weight of popular opinion when it comes to things like filling in Benoa Bay because the environment is far less important than plutocrats making even more money, has called on people to kill stray dogs because, he says, that’s what the people tell him they’d like to do.

No matter, then, that all the literature – and global experience – shows very plainly that suppressing rabies is achieved through vaccination programs that create herd immunity in the canine population (70 per cent is the benchmark figure) and humane reduction of numbers by sterilization. No matter that the scientific record shows indiscriminate killing of dogs helps to spread the disease, because dogs in the vaccinated screen population are eliminated. No matter that it is the government’s job to educate people about effective rabies control and eliminate it as a threat to the broad community. (That 70 per cent screen again.)

Pogroms such as that recently visited upon the small band of dogs that customarily inhabited Kuta beach are certainly not unusual. The Kuta killing spree was noticed only because of where it took place and because it followed an Australian tourist child being bitten, though not by a rabid dog. It horrified tourists (some of whom were not effete, do-gooder westerners, by the way) and painted a picture of Bali that certainly does not conform to the requirements of Tumpek Kandang, a Hindu rite observed every 210 days (the latest was on Mar. 7) that is a symbolic offering for all animals living in the world. The non-symbolic pre-Tumpek Kandang offering to the dogs of Kuta beach consisted of bashings and then, in the dead of night, some other inhuman final solution.

The issue will not go away, however much Bali’s administrators would like it to and in spite of the impenetrable thickets of incomplete (or completely erroneous) data that hide the facts. It recently got an airing in the Asia edition of The International New York Times, in a piece by its Jakarta-based correspondent Joe Cochrane. It might be true that Bali has run out of money for vaccine, as the Governor says. The immediate questions then should be: Why? And what are you doing to get more money for vaccine? These questions are unlikely to be asked by anyone who would be listened to; and, if they were, the truthful answers (if forthcoming, which would require a miracle) would be Don’t Know and Nothing.

A man died of rabies in Bangli recently. Last year, according to official figures, either one or several people died of the disease elsewhere in Bali. Anecdotally, the real 2014 figure would seem to be rather higher.

Do It! Do It!

Among the many voluntary organizations here doing great fundraising work to assist the social advance of the Balinese people is one that regularly does lunch. Its members are the Divas, which must be an acronym for some obscure phrasal noun relating to Ladies Who Dress Up. Because dress up they do and we’re glad that this is so. It is tedious to gaze forever at designer-torn denim, long or short (often very short) and with incautious little garments above that would surely flutter away in a half-decent breeze and which are of a size that would completely fail to shame a doily into thinking that it was the runt of the litter.

But we digress. The Divas’ next do, at Slippery Stone in Jl. Batu Belig, Kerobokan, on Mar. 27, is an event at which, so chief Diva Christina Iskandar and the tickets tell us, we are promised that they will do it Greek style. If we can lasso a loose Diva – that is, ahem, for clarity and decorum, one not already spoken for in terms of a lunchtime handbag, if indeed they allow handbags – we might even go along ourselves. It would be worth spending Rp350K (in a good cause and in pursuit of fine comestibles) to see the show.

From memory, doing it Greek style involves throwing lots of plates and breaking them. Staging such an affray might not please Slippery Stone. It’s an up-market establishment, but it possibly has a prudential budget for crockery. And anyway, now we think of it, plate-breaking seems to be a wedding ritual, like that other dangerous pursuit, this one Italian, of pinning money to the bride while taking great care not to eyeball – or worse, inadvertently brush against – anything remotely adjacent to an erogenous zone.

The March event, aside from collecting lots of money as per their standard practice, will reward the Divas with an appearance by songstress Eva Scolaro, from Perth, who also emcees and hosts and does photographic modelling. She’s no stranger to Bali and has also performed in Jakarta.

Junk It!

It’s good to see that Bali’s provincial government will be working with the villages to manage and hopefully reduce the mountain of waste that threatens to overwhelm the island (and that’s not only in the tourist areas; plastic is a problem everywhere). Some might say they’re a bit late off the starting block, but never mind. There’s evidence of a spring in the step and that’s really pleasing.

The principal message at the start of this program might usefully be: If you throw it away, it’s still your responsibility. That recognition is something best instilled in children, so that by the time they’re adults they will know instinctively that dumping evil-smelling waste containing material that won’t disappear for up to a quarter of a million years and will poison the planet in the meantime is a really stupid thing to do.

The charity organization ROLE Foundation has a great Eco Kids Program, which kicked off for 2015 this month with an awareness visit to the Sanur Independent School and a hosted visit by 40 students from a private school in Bogor, West Java.

ROLE asks a very good question. Will our children inherit a world of grey skies, brown oceans full of junk with no marine life left, and land with no trees or wildlife? It has a very good answer: Not if our Eco Kids Program has anything to do with it.

On Not Giving a Toss, Etc

Elizabeth Pisani, whose lengthy time and travels in Indonesia produced both the readable travelogue Indonesia Etc and a book promoting safe sex that caused a frisson when it was released because it was called The Wisdom of Whores – a commodity, incidentally, that should never be ignored – has popped her cork again, this time in an Australian online magazine, The Starfish.

In relation to Australia’s immediate interest in the apparent presidential policy of preferring to shoot convicted drug criminals now because later the law might change to prevent this obscenity, she said:

“Jokowi really doesn’t give a toss about Australia. He does care about restoring his badly-bruised image as a decisive leader in the eyes of the Indonesian electorate. And it turns out that killing foreign drug dealers is quite a good way of doing that, at least among the 97 per cent of Indonesians who live outside Bali and profit very little from their southern neighbour.”

In the matter of bruising politics, British Indonesia-watcher and author Tim Hannigan (his book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java is a fine antidote to the obsequious tomes of some post-imperial hagiographers) presciently wrote in a piece for Asia House, the London think-tank, just before the presidential election in July 2014:

“Ultimately, Indonesia’s chronic tendency towards coalitions and political marriages of convenience, first manifested way back in 1955 and repeated the moment the country was allowed full electoral freedom in 1999, means that its democracy, in a strange way, guides itself – away from either destructive extremes or from meaningful progress, depending on your perspective and level of cynicism. This is why neither worst fears nor greatest hopes ever seem really to come to pass, and in the end it may not really make much difference who wins.”

Hannigan has a new book due out later this year, titled A Brief History of Indonesia (Tuttle). He promises to visit Bali thereafter, which will be fun.

Lights Out

Nyepi, Bali’s annual Silent Day, is on Saturday (Mar. 21). Mark it as you will. With a discreetly small torch is one way.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 13, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Skulduggery and Other Local Habits

The benefits that accompany living in Bali – or anywhere in Indonesia – far outweigh the demerits of doing so. The culture is inclusive, at least on a superficial level that satisfies most tastes; the people readily return a smile to anyone who doesn’t look as if they’re about to get up them for the rent; and unless you’re a real bonehead it’s generally difficult to spark outright anger.

That’s in the sub-stratospheric zone where most foreigners live. Anyone will be your friend if you put money in their pocket; a little money, and your own. That’s how the system works and it can work for anyone.

But – and as usual it’s a big but – there are one-way rules that apply to foreigner-local interaction. Bule is the colloquial word for foreigners. It is analogous with foreigners calling the natives “natives”, which is not done these days and of course should never have been done. No matter. Only a foolishly thick-headed Bule would cavil. It’s what the natives do and because it’s their country they can do as they choose. Foreigners who object to being objectified in this way can always go home.

It is in this general ambience that one considers several matters of current interest. The irritation over media reports that Australia (and the USA) “spy” on Indonesia is one instance. It’s a pejorative term, spy, and conjures up all sorts of cloak-and-dagger scenarios. The reality in this instance is rather more prosaic. It is alleged that electronic eavesdropping has yielded secure telephone numbers and other information that might be useful in an emergency. In retaliation for this, it is further reported, Indonesia may reconsider its cooperation with Australia regarding efforts to stamp out criminal people-smuggling that Jakarta has winked at for years and in which it is now showing an interest only because of significant inducements, political and otherwise, to do so.

Everyone “spies” in the overblown context in which that term is being bandied about. Indonesia certainly does, though to what effect one wouldn’t know. The ersatz confrontation that has been fuelled by headlines and sound bites is an embarrassment. It is a chance for the media and others to disinter several shibboleths that have long since passed their use-by date. It’s a pity that it emerged just ahead of the annual democracy forum, this year held in Nusa Dua on Nov. 7 and 8 and attended by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop among others.

Here in Bali, at the provincial and district level, other departures from common sense are observed. Rampant overdevelopment and threats to precious natural environments continue, in the process lining lots of official pockets. The new southern Bukit road linking the Uluwatu area with Nusa Dua – a prime tourism asset if it is used with appropriate regulation – is complete except for a short section of “jalan liar” (liar means wild but some may prefer to read the word in English) that unaccountably curbs transiting traffic. A pocket or two, quite possibly official, remain to be lined, it seems.

At Ubud, BAWA, the expat-funded animal welfare organization that fired up and then ran the island’s vital initial response to the rabies outbreak in 2008 that is ongoing and has killed at least 150 people, has had its veterinary clinic closed and its other operations severely curtailed by government diktat. That it is carrying on business – and that its professional services are well regarded and sought elsewhere in the neighbourhood – testifies to its public spirited determination.

It’s not yet clear what brought about this particularly egregious example of why Bali really shouldn’t bite off its nose to spite its face. Except that we can say without fear of contradiction that bull-headed self-interest and latent avarice undoubtedly played a part.

A Handy Volume

It was nice to see Tim Hannigan’s book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java win critical notice in the Bali Advertiser’s Toko Buku column (Oct. 30). The Hannigan tome is nicely revisionist – as all history should be when reassessed with the benefit of analysis, research and other cerebral effort rather than just a nostalgic after-glow – and places Raffles in what seems to be the proper context now that the British Empire has joined the dodo, and Monty Python’s parrot, in the shades of past existence and is no more.

The book is especially valuable for its colonic effect on the rump residual of imperial hagiographers, who seem to believe the sun should never have been allowed to set upon the global realms of the Queen Empress and her brief successors. Well, history is a narrative and so is much fiction, so perhaps we should not be overly churlish. The problem always is that, like Hyacinth Bucket’s riparian delights, imperial adventures are nearly always Not Quite as Planned.

Lottie Nevin, who recently relocated from Indonesia to Spain – to Andalucía no less, where even after half a millennium a movingly Moorish ambience hangs heavily over the landscape – tells us of an incident in which a copy of a rival Raffles volume nearly ended up in her Jakarta living room. It remained in the carrier’s bag, it seems, when upon the question of whether she had yet obtained a copy of The Fine Tome she said that she had read Hannigan’s book and it was good.

Diarists love to hear such titbits of gossip, particularly when they present the bonus of an opportunity to chuckle. Nevin, who is no stranger to Bali, has a delightfully readable blog at http://lottienevin.com/.

Quick Fix

One of those car park exchanges that might excite a police stakeout team on Willie Ra’re alert recently took place at Dijon, the Simpang Siur emporium-complex that is the resort of many who seek the finer victuals of life, or a decent iced tea or chummy latte, or who perhaps are simply transiting the area on their way to the offices behind.

These days, if you wander down the lane past the café and the shop, you’ll find The Yak and its stable-mates in close proximity to the premises from which publicity diva Sarah-Jane Scrase and the mega-laundry man, Kian Liung, are now producing another glossy, The Source Quarterly. We see from Facebook that it is among the latest products to grace the shelves at Gramedia. It’s always good to see publications in print, especially new ones, even if most of us these days read things on line.

The car park exchange of which we speak was perfectly legit. If bringing in coffee capsules otherwise unobtainable here in Fun Central is legit, that is. We think it is. Well arguably. But then we use a similar product that owing to inexplicable local absence requires regular courier resupply, the better to ingest our overdoses of caffeine.

On this occasion Hector was meeting someone, a lovely lady, to hand over a supply of capsules newly arrived from Australia that would temporarily at least make it possible for her friends to avoid saying disturbing things such as, “you’ve only got five left”.

Don’t you hate that! Here at The Cage we attempt a regime of at least triple redundancy. Running out of essentials like wine, whisky, cigarettes or coffee in the dead of night is truly brow-furrowing. It can quite take the shine off life.

Our exchange this time went unnoticed. We had a yak and a giggle, a tea and a coffee, and then did the car-boot to car-boot bag switch without difficulties intervening.

Free Flow

Janet DeNeefe’s Indus restaurant at Jl Raya Sanggingan in Ubud was 15 years old on Nov. 3. While this is not a cosmic event on the scale of, say, Earth colliding with Mars next July, nonetheless it is worth noting in the local firmament.

Indus is a popular restaurant name. There is any number of eponymous dining opportunities around the globe. It is also a major and still predominantly free-flowing river that is checked only by over-use of its resources and the Mandala dam, an impoundment with whose design and construction your diarist had a passing technical connection far too many years ago.

In the old days of the Raj (see above) it marked the boundary between the incomprehensible cultures of the Indian sub-continent and the frankly murderous ones of Central Asia. In his evocative 1953 novel The Lotus and the Wind – it has been on the Diary’s five-year re-read list for half a century – John Masters illuminates that divide in a way that, once read, is never forgotten. It is a geopolitical and cultural rift the western world still fails to comprehend.

All of which is by the by. Happy Birthday, Indus.

Hector tweets @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, May 1, 2013

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

You’ve Got to Have Sole

We gate-crashed a good meeting recently at the immensely comfortable – for superannuated diarists it is also immensely unaffordable – Semara Luxury Villa Resort on the Ungasan cliffs. Well gate-crashed is perhaps too strong a term: Robert Epstone of SoleMen, the man who smiles so much you can’t say no, asked us along. And it’s fair to say, we think, that GM Mandy McDermid didn’t mind.

     Epstone and Bali-resident British nurse Sarah Chapman – she of Little Ani fame – were there to brief McDermid on funding programmes to help alleviate poverty in Bali. They were just back from the Bukit Walk, the annual tramp around the limestone blob – some people do it barefoot – that is also part of the fundraising process.

     There’s a really worthwhile programme in place through which guests at participating properties may opt to donate to aid schemes. Some places do it on a (voluntary) dollar a day basis; others leave it up to guests to decide. It holds huge promise for becoming a greatly growing revenue stream.

     Semara like many establishments is fully into the business of supporting the local community and spending money further afield. These things are not widely publicised. They come from the heart, not the PR budget. And along with many other things, they make you glad to you live in Bali and know so many nice people.

     This year’s SoleMen walk tied in with the ROLE foundation and with Earth Day (April 20). There was a lovely party at ROLE’s Island Sustainability Education Centre in Nusa Dua involving about 450 children from around the Bukit.

 

Back to the Warmth

Adelaide Worcester, who is well remembered here as Australian Vice Consul on her last overseas posting, tells us she’s set for another tropical adventure, this time in Vanuatu. She’s going to Port Vila as Consul and Senior Administrative Officer at the Australian High Commission there and is taking up her post on August 1. It will be a touch of warmth for her and husband Inoeg after a series of bleak winters in the Australian capital. Not quite as warm as Bali is, of course. We remember it being a tad cool on August evenings on Efate’s beautiful lagoons, when feeble vespers of winter far to the south can make a brief visitation and knock the temperature down to, oh, say 17C. But that still beats a frosty -3C Canberra winter morning any day.

     Vanuatu – like Australia a Commonwealth country (hence the delicious British imperial echo in the “high commission” rather than “embassy”) – has an eclectic history. It was once the New Hebrides and enjoyed, though perhaps that’s not quite the word, the uncertain status of being jointly ruled by the British and the French. It was officially a condominium. It was popularly known as the pandemonium. And this was not simply because while it drove on the right in Gallic fashion (in all senses) it applied drive-on-the-left British traffic rules.

     Worcester, Inoeg and Sebastian, now a sturdy toddler, are back in Bali briefly at the moment, with Inoeg’s mum who is visiting from Surabaya. Then it will be back to Canberra for more Bislama lessons and yet another winter chill-thrill until that welcome plane trip to Port Vila in three months’ time.

     The Diary was last in Vanuatu in 2004. It was a nearby place of favoured resort over many years living in Brisbane. We’ve threatened to stage a return during the Worcester years.

 

Off to the Chill

Speaking of tripping, Diary and Distaff are off to Scotland shortly – Hector needs to renew his genetic vows – for a week, followed by a month in Marseille in Provencal France. The city is this year’s EU’s “capital of culture”. There should be plenty to keep us occupied, beyond running on the spot to ward off the unspeakable chills of a Scottish spring and the less than tropical heat of the northern Mediterranean in May and June.

     A side trip to Venice is planned just ahead of the Biennale, to see some friends who live in the former Serenissima. And in Marseille, of course, there’s real bouillabaisse. It should be fun. Hector’s taking his trusty laptop computer along, so expect reports.

 

Scoop de Jour

 Tim Hannigan, whose new book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java is eminently readable for all sorts of reasons – not least in that it thoroughly upsets Victoria Glendinning, the doyenne of Rafflesian hagiography – tells us he had a lovely time at the West Country Writers’ Association’s awards held recently in Torquay (home of the famous but fortunately fictional Basil Fawlty). He won the inaugural biennial John Brooks award, named after a West Country chap who died and left a bequest for same to the WCWA.

     Hannigan, who is 32 and hails from Penzance, though not quite in pirate fashion, was in Nepal on a travel writing assignment when we last chatted with him. He was in Bali briefly earlier this year on his book launch tour. He used to live in Surabaya where he taught English and is no stranger to our island. It really would be nice to see him back. Around October would be good, when Janet DeNeefe is doing literary things with her writers’ festival in Ubud.

     He’s a great laugh. He gave us several in a private report on the awards lunch; sadly, discretion suggests we should not repeat them here. We can say this, however. It seems customary English provincial hotel cuisine may not have improved by any measurable value in the four decades since we threw up (our hands) in horror and left the country.

    The WCWA was founded in 1951 to foster the love of literature in England’s West Country. Eminent members have included Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, E.V. Thompson, Henry Williamson, Christopher Fry and Victor Bonham-Carter.

    Raffles and the British Invasion of Java was published last year by Singapore’s Monsoon Books. Hannigan’s previous book, Murder in the Hindu Kush: George Hayward and the Great Game, about the life and foreshortened times of the 19th century British explorer, was published by The History Press.

 

Good Returns

Garuda Indonesia will make its long-awaited return to the prospectively lucrative Bali-Brisbane route from August, flying daily with 162-passenger Boeing 737-800NG aircraft. It dropped Australia’s third-largest city from its network in 2008 when its innovative scheme not to make lease payments on its aircraft unaccountably led to the planes’ owners taking their aircraft back.

     Still, that was then and this is now. The new service will fly Jakarta-Bali-Brisbane, neatly corralling both tourist and business traffic. The latter is by no means insubstantial, as Queensland’s state treasurer Tim Nicholls noted recently. “Last financial year, Indonesia was Queensland’s ninth largest merchandise export destination worth almost A$1.2 billion to the state’s economy. This figure has more than doubled in the past 10 years,” he said.

     Since Garuda’s 2008 pull-out Bali-Brisbane has only been possible non-stop on Virgin Australia. Qantas low-cost operator Jetstar flies via Darwin. There was a short-lived additional input from the now defunct Strategic/Air Australia airline.

     Speaking of Darwin, the closest Australian city to Indonesia and a place of growing importance to Bali, it’s good to see that Indonesia AirAsia is returning there soon. It took over the route after Garuda dropped its 18-year-old service during one of its notional airline hissy-fits, but then also pulled the pin. Thankfully the hiatus has proved short-lived.

 

It’s their Mantra

Michael Burchett and Alicia Budihardja – respectively former genial general manager and decorative chief spruiker at Conrad Bali – have both moved on. It seems to be the thing to do nowadays and may indeed possess benefits, provided you don’t fall into the trap of affecting complete amnesia about the past. We’ve never bought that Francis Fukuyama line about the end of history.

     The two Bs chose the relevancy option. Burchett, who moved into consultancy after clearing out his desk at Tanjung Benoa, got the job of managing the launch of The Mantra Nusa Dua, the first South-East Asian venture by the Queensland-based Mantra chain. And Budihardja got the gig of running its corporate and media promotion.

     It’s a welcome addition to the Geger Beach end of Nusa Dua for all sorts of reasons – affordable accommodation for the less than filthy rich being one – and is also a great example of how you can do things properly if you want to.

     Its official opening is on June 1.

     Elsewhere on the Bukit, the new Rima resort being built by the owners of AYANA is coming along. Expect an opening this year. Rima means forest, not that much actual forest exists on the Bukit given that the climate favours more your savannah-style vegetation and that people keep chopping it down anyway, to build more stuff. Still, if stuff’s got to be built – and we suppose it has – then rather AYANA’s environmentally aware operators than some others we could name.

 

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser newspaper,published fortnightly, and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky)

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.