Is Not a Good
the Aim is
We hold no brief for drug runners or the low-life scum who organise them; or for terrorists who avoid being blown away and are thus forced into a system of jurisprudence that really should have nothing to do with them. And we concede that the death penalty argument is a particularly fractious one in a society such as Indonesia’s, where religious figures apparently find it perfectly acceptable to assert that some classes of God’s human creation should be denied prayers for their souls after they die.
But Indonesia is a signatory to a United Nations treaty that specifically outlaws judicial murder. National policy is thus at variance with the nation’s international undertaking. This does not make Indonesia unique. It simply makes it as impervious to obligation as many other states. The government may be happy with this position; but that doesn’t make it right.
The issue is pertinent because three of the so-called Bali Nine drug criminals are appealing their death sentences in hearings now before the courts in Denpasar. Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and – separately, since he was but a stupid dupe of a mule and not a ringleader – Scott Rush, have future but as yet undetermined dates with Indonesian firing squads. They wish to avoid this (and quite reasonably) for their own purposes. But the argument goes beyond that. It goes to the crucial question of whether – having accepted international law as the benchmark via accession to the UN treaty – it is lawful for Indonesia to execute people.
The rejoinder (which we may expect) that it is in fact lawful, because death is prescribed in national law for criminals who commit specified offences, begs the question. There is – morally, legally, ethically – an unfathomable gulf between taking life in a military or police operation, or in self-defence, and cold-bloodedly ordering the extinction of it by judicial fiat months or even years later.
This weekend The Diary is in Lombok. A trip eastwards across the Wallace Line has been long delayed – by all sort of things, including the fact that if you’re in Bali, you’ve already arrived at the best possible destination – but was made necessary by business, as well as a touch of nostalgia. It is a beautiful island and – on the west coast – one of the best places from which to see Bali. Gunung Agung, 70 kilometres away across the Lombok Strait, is a constant presence.
It is an opportunity too to see old friends, though not all of them. One set has decamped for Ramadhan on a circular tour to the Philippines, Singapore-Malaysia and then Western Australia that will bring them back to Lombok long after the fast is finally over for another year.
And it will be nice to say hello to the eucalypts that are a natural part of the ecology on our neighbouring island, though The Diary will while doing so also be missing the chirpy little squirrels that daily put on a floor show and trapeze act in the teak trees across the road from The Cage. We left them a note saying we’d be back soon.
The Diary and Distaff chose to fly Garuda. We had to keep our infrequent flyer points alive. And anyway, it’s a much quicker flight. Garuda flies Boeing 737s on the route. They make the crossing in 15 minutes. The turboprops used by other airlines take 17.
Nice Train Wreck
It’s not very often Australian politics gets interesting; even to Australians, far less to the rest of the world. But the election outcome (what outcome?) in Australia last weekend delivered drama by the spade-full.
It produced the first “hung parliament” (where no single party has enough seats to guarantee a majority vote) since 1940. It proved that the Labor Party – now in power nationally only in caretaker mode pending negotiations between all parties on who can actually form a government – cannot take the electors for granted. It brought forth a surge in support for the Greens. This must surely silence the Greens’ continual bleating that the electoral system denies them lower house seats (they won the seat of Melbourne: all they have to do now is what the other parties do - persuade more voters, in other seats, to vote for them).
Saturday’s election may have forever altered the face of Australian politics. It definitely produced a spectacular train wreck.
Harry’s a Crock
Well so much for saurian prescience. Harry the Croc, resident of a Darwin attraction that seeks to capitalise on the fascinated horror with which both Australians and international tourists view the salt-water crocodiles native to the country’s tropical north, picked Julia Gillard to win last Saturday’s national elections.
She didn’t. The result (see above) was exactly what most observers who are not hungry crocodiles had been predicting for weeks. Gillard’s Liberal opponent Tony Abbott can take some comfort in the fact that his own chicken-on-a-string was passed over by Harry on Thursday last week in favour of the feast attached to a photo of Gillard.
It was certainly made clear last Saturday that Australians do not like the concept of the midnight knock on the door, such as that in late June when Gillard deposed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the behest of faceless Labor Party factional leaders who thought Rudd was going to cost them unfettered access to the gravy train.
But we have a theory. It is that, being an adventurous type of a certain age (he’s an Over-40) Harry simply prefers redheads. Did anyone actually ask him why he picked the Ranga (Aussie slang for redhead) in his snap poll?
Go Away World
A curious little advisory note is nowadays popping up on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website, for people outside Australia who might want to watch one of its programmes on line. Say something like The 7.30 Report, hosted by Kerry O’Brien, which is essential material for anyone interested in keeping fully abreast of Australian affairs, especially at times of high political drama.
The note reads: “Due to copyright reasons this video programme is available for download by people located in Australia only. If you are not located in Australia, you are not authorised to view this video.”
Ah well, Aunty (like other once genuinely, now notionally, public broadcasters around the world) is a very commercial old girl these days.
But perhaps in the interests of the accuracy and objectivity it asserts is its constant aim, it should cease promoting itself quite so assiduously as a vehicle for carrying the voice of Australia around the globe; at least for the rapidly increasing audience out here beyond the migration exclusion zone who want – or need – their viewing on demand rather than on the not necessarily convenient schedule offered by Australia Network, Aunty’s cash-strapped overseas arm.
The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival – from October 6-10 this year – has a great deal for aspiring writers. The Kilat! Flash Fiction Challenge offers such scribblers an opportunity to post stories. People vote for them. It’s an engaging idea and thoroughly commendable. A delve into the site this week showed that entries thus far are eclectic – as they should be – and coming in a fast trot. That’s also good news. Visit http://flashfiction.ubudwritersfestival.com/ if you’d like to read them, vote for them, or try your hand at writing one.
Most of the material is in Indonesian. The festival has added Google Translate to the site so that “everyone can enjoy entries in English or Bahasa.” Good luck with that. Google Translate produces something called Googlish. Or Bahasa Buruk.
The Merah Putih has just returned to storage at The Cage, after its annual weeklong-plus flutter in honour of Independence Day. This year it remained aloft for the full period without the need for adjustment because the bamboo pole to which it is affixed as required is now housed in a length of PVC piping attached to the outside wall of the Bale by the handyman who looks after the pool and other things.
It nearly didn’t. The gent, who has a day job elsewhere and is a very cheery and helpful fellow, was asked last year, straight after Independence Day, to add this essential piece of infrastructure to the domestic inventory, and hadn’t done so for 12 months. A gentle reminder three days before flag-raising – the last in a lengthy and regular series of such prompts – got the pole-holder in place in the nick of time.
The Cage is also celebrating because this year its flag went up first in the neighbourhood, beating the patriotic local family compound across the gully by a clear two days and everyone else in the area by a country mile.
Hector's Blog is published as The Bali Times Diary in the print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays. www.thebalitimes.com. The newspaper is available worldwide via NewspaperDirect.