Friday, July 23, 2010

HECTOR'S BALI TIMES DIARY [for Jul. 23, 2010]

Night Life
in Legian
Needs to be
(Yes, Really)

Last week a man died in yet another armed gang invasion of a Legian nightspot. Police said it was a security guard. The Bali Times was later approached by someone who said he was in the know and we were wrong (he suggested almost criminally so) in reporting half truths and – in the half-light, evasive way that such propositions tend to be advanced – wanted to tell us it wasn’t a security guard, it was a cook.
So what? The fact is Legian’s “nightspot war” has now claimed a fatal victim. There are those – our informant among them apparently – who would prefer such things were not reported and that media focus should remain on the entertainments available to the floods of tourists who keep coming and giving them money. But that’s the role (apparently) of the glitter-rags and advertising sheets that litter Bali. It’s no part of a newspaper’s job to run someone’s PR campaign, or to ignore news.
Police Chief Sutisna said after the latest incident that he wanted it stopped. That’s a sound policy. Not only would it correct a potentially negative public relations problem emerging in our tourist markets. It would also prevent security guards (or cooks) being killed by hooded criminals who burst into their workplaces and lay about the people therein with swords and other weapons.
It’s by no means clear who or what is behind the spate of dangerous (and now fatal) assaults on a variety of nightspots in the Legian area. What is abundantly clear, however, is that nightspot owners and operators – foreign and well as local – need to clean up their act. Or have it cleaned up for them. It’s Policing 101, really.

And Other Follies

The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival last weekend released a list of 96 invited writers for this year’s bout of navel gazing and reading of entrails. Australians make up the largest contingent by far – a fair proportion of them supported by public funds, which is fair enough – but what piqued the interest of The Bali Times was the presence on the list of Etgar Keret, the Israeli author of short stories and entertaining movies. Indonesia does not recognise Israeli passports.
It would be an act of cultural vandalism to deny him entry, of course, but governments everywhere commit such acts willy-nilly, when it suits them, for all sorts of reasons. It’s hard to see Jakarta being overly enamoured of the (reasonable) argument that Keret, a writer, is more a citizen of the world than of Israel – even if Israelis and his Palestinian friends already think that about him - given recent events in and about Gaza where Israel (shockingly) and Hamas between them have created and enforced a deprived ghetto. Then there’s the little matter of the formal ban to overcome.
We raised this with the UWRF folk. Oh, um. Could you not make an issue of that? It’s at a delicate stage. Well, we’d like to see Keret here – he and William Dalrymple, the British novelist-historian, would be The Diary’s pick of the crop for this year’s Gabblers – but, well, you know, it’s news. And it’s hardly our fault if it’s almost always amateur hour up there on Wudbee Hill.
It would have been better if UWRF had put out a list of 95 invited writers and – if they got their prized 96th through the Jakarta maze – announced the Israeli presence then.
Interestingly UWRF 2010 now has Bali “media partners” not only on its website but, in an innovation, highlighted by a special post on its website. That appeared last weekend. It doesn’t include The Bali Times. Our sponsorship proposal, put forward immediately after last year’s festival, died of neglect in Janet de Neefe’s in-tray.

We’ll Have That

It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bloke (well, forgetting the platoons of other candidates Indonesia’s rapacious plutocracy throws up and who are still on the run). There would have been many smiles upon many dials last week (including, if he could have summoned the energy, on the emaciated face of the poor boy who is so starkly not to be numbered among the well fed and watered in Indonesia and who was featured in last Saturday’s Jakarta Globe) when the Supreme Court decided to overturn its own decision and take back Tommy Suharto’s multi-millions.
We’re not averse to business. It is necessary for businesses – and their proprietors – to make money so that everyone else does. That’s a fundamental law of economics at which only an unreconstructed Marxist would cavil.
Acquisitive natures are similarly beneficial, but given human nature and issues of public benefit, they too have to be regulated. And since we cannot count on individuals to do the right thing, they must be formally regulated, by taxation and if necessary the courts.

Sit and Fume

It’s jalan macet time again in Bali’s south, where by some sinister magic all 10 motorbikes owned by every single one of the three-million-plus riders who evidently inhabit this island all seem to get on the bypass at once to create mischief with the seasonal increase in tourist traffic.
It’s such fun in July and August. The other day it took someone we know quite well an hour and 10 minutes to travel from the McDonald’s lights at Jimbaran to Simpang Siur, aka Mayhem Central, at Kuta.
We all know the roads are crowded and chronically inadequate. But it would be great if someone could make the driving population understand that creating chaotic eight-lane queues at the lights at the airport turnoff just buggers it up for everyone, themselves included.
And at those McDonald’s lights, why aren’t the police – they’re always there, blowing their whistles and gesticulating – stepping on drivers who block half the through lane because they want to turn right? They must have spotted the fact that these selfish people, in their idiocy and rudeness, prevent more than one or two of the vehicles in the actual turn lane getting through on each change.

Here’s an Idea

A friend just back from Western Australia, where most drivers know the rules and largely obey them, reminds us that the police there have handy little highway signs placed at regular intervals, telling passing drivers what they’re targeting this week. Often it’s drink-driving (have our police even heard of that?). Sometimes it’s speeding (yes, speed limits are both signed and enforced). It can be seat belts, which, there, are actually rather than notionally compulsory.
It’s an idea our local constabulary might usefully copy. Here’s one suggestion. “This Week Police are Targeting: Foreigners.”

Oh, Yes

Readers may remember a lovely little news report carried in the print edition of the paper a month ago, about the brow-furrowing problem facing Klungkung Satpol over the big pile of sand dumped behind the regency offices in Semarapura.
The report said they didn’t know what to do with it, despite, apparently, having dumped it where it lay. They were waiting for a precise regulation they could apply. It’s contraband sand, you see, rescued by Klungkung’s finest from the teeth of thievery and turned instead into evidence.
Except it can’t be evidence unless someone is charged with lifting it illegally from the beach; and oddly enough, no one has come forward to claim that prize. But reader James Dell-Robb, who lives in Jembrana (another place where knavery with beach sand is a popular pursuit), has been doing some lateral thinking, and tells us:
“Surely it would be normal practice to restore stolen goods to the owner; in this case we might assume the rightful owner is the beach. Maybe this is a logical thought, and it is difficult to find either logic or thinking in the reglomaniacal mindsets in this part of the world. It is strange that Satpol needs a precise local regulation to advise it on its action in this matter.”

Must Try, Sometime

A little billet-doux popped into The Diary’s inbox this week - and not just another of the many that drop in from the increasingly intrusive electronic pigeons that seem to flock around the social media these days, and splatter unwanted deposits upon one’s statuary – promoting the delectable delights of the Alila Soori at Kerambitan on Tabanan’s surf coast.
It was spruiking the efforts of the establishment’s Executive Chef, Ashton Hall, in the property’s three restaurants. They do sound divine, in a secular and culinary sense. The Diary, reduced in the genteel poverty that eventually strikes a retiree who didn’t spend his former years robbing people to dining chiefly with mie, particularly likes the thought of the Ikan bakar dabu-dabu, grilled fish with tomatoes and chillies.
News of this sensation de jour came from Alila’s most delectable item, Devina Hindom, the plush property’s marketing and communications manager.

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