Friday, April 22, 2011

HECTOR'S BALI times DIARY, Apr. 22, 2011

How to Stop
Being Bugged
by a Catastrophe
of Caterpillars

We can all relax, apparently. Researchers in Bali believe they have found a nice, non-chemical way to combat the caterpillar outbreak. Doubtless this will interest those who run the island’s weekly English-language newspaper from Ireland and Singapore; last week’s edition led with a story on the catastrophe, but perhaps that’s what happens when you bugged out long ago.
    According to Putu Sudirta of Udayana University’s faculty of agriculture, the idea is to use the caterpillars themselves to kill other caterpillars. He told Viva News this week they can be made to host parasitoids, a parasite that either sterilises or kills the host. The parasites are injected into captured caterpillars which are then released to spread the breeding-stopper to other caterpillars.
    The science of this is well known and widely practised in pest and disease vector control and in that regard is unremarkable. But we got a giggle out of the view, expressed by Sudirta, that Udayana expects Bali’s department of agriculture, crops and food to “instruct” residents to go out and capture as many of the little beasties as possible and taken them along to the university.  Given that Bali’s population won’t be instructed about anything much at all – for example about looking after their dogs so that they’re well fed and healthy, not to mention neutered and fully protected against rabies and other animal diseases about which there is astonishing continued ignorance – all we can say is good luck.
    Another Udayana academic, Wayan Supartha, head of the university’s integrated pest management laboratory, makes a good point though:  These efforts are in line with maintaining the ecological balance in Bali by avoiding the use of chemical pesticides.

Another Tragedy

Bali’s latest rabies death – that of a 12-year-old schoolboy from Buleleng in the north of the island who was bitten five months ago as he walked home after classes and told no one about it – prompted recall of a sad (and sadly unremarkable) story we heard the other week from a doctor. He told us his hospital – and apparently others – do not offer pre-exposure prophylactic rabies vaccinations because the Indonesian product they use is not safe. He related the case of one man who had had the pre-exposure course who went on to develop rabies symptoms, though not apparently fatally. It was more than just the statistical probability of a very bad reaction, we gathered.
    It’s not clear what Bali’s rabies toll is, other than that it’s around 130 or possibly more, since an isolated outbreak at Ungasan on the southern Bukit in mid-2008 was allowed to spread island-wide by Bali’s shambolic and shamefully inept bureaucracy. Perhaps someone knows; maybe some clerk is keeping a tally. But our guess would be that the true number is known only unto God.
    The conversation arose because here at The Cage we’ve had the pre-exposure vaccine, the imported French one from an international clinic, as a necessary precaution since we daily walk among the sick and the lame in these parts, aka the local dog population.
    Rabies is untreatable once symptoms appear. If you die of the disease in an Indonesian hospital you do so disgustingly, roped to a bed (if you’re lucky) to restrain the maddened paroxysms that precede a short coma and merciful death.

Wink, Wink

We saw an item in The Beat Daily this week – the electronic news update put out by the friendly crew at The Beat magazine, a journal dedicated to publicising good times – spruiking the delights of the Blue Eyes disco on the bypass at Sanur.
    That’s the place, co-located with one of the many nonconforming and improperly licensed hotels here, where if you hire a VVIP room for your private karaoke party you can also pay for private dancers who’ll show you a lot more than they’re allowed to in the public areas of the establishment.
    Some months back there was a lovely story in the local press that related how police charged with putting a stop to unseemliness within the raucous environment of Blue Eyes felt it their duty to keep gathering evidence until the comely little gaggle of “dancers” had rather fully revealed the totality of their attributes before blowing the whistle.
    Bet the team drew lots for the inside jobs on that operation.

Stuffed Goose

Indonesia earned $US7.6 billion in foreign exchange from tourism alone last year according to the Department of Tourism and Culture. And this year, according to a report in the Indonesian language newspaper Bisnis Bali, tourism minister Jero Wacik is targeting even more, $US8.5 billion.
    He bases this arithmetic on an average daily arrival figure of 4,500 foreign tourists and up to 7,000 a day at peak holiday times. Around 40 percent of all foreign tourists to Indonesia come to Bali, which is acknowledged as the country’s biggest tourism draw. The government wants to persuade visitors to see more than Bali, however, especially Lombok and Java which are easily reached from our island.
    That’s fair enough. It’s even a good plan, if there is actually a plan. Lombok is making a big pitch for tourists as part of West Nusa Tenggara province’s target of a million visitors in 2012.  But it and other places need to get their tourists direct, not via Bali, if they want to build a sustainable tourism presence whose growth does not depend ultimately on Bali’s capacity to cope.
    AirAsia is adding a fourth daily Perth-Bali service to meet demand. There are reports the airline is planning to fly Kuala Lumpur-Mataram direct and hopes that a Perth service might join the list soon. It can’t be soon enough, paradoxically, for Bali. If current growth rates keep up we’ll have a population of more than five million in 2015. Badung, the most populous regency – it stretches from Mengwi between Denpasar and Tabanan in the north to the Bukit in the south and includes the KLS conurbation (Kuta-Legian-Seminyak) – grew by 4.63 percent in 2010, versus the national population growth rate of 1.49 percent.
    We see the result in overloaded – and woefully inadequate – infrastructure. The outlook, for anyone other than a realtor or a foolish optimist, is less than happy.

Drug House

Bali may soon have its own drug rehabilitation facility, only the second such institution in Indonesia, under plans announced this week by the national narcotics agency (BNN). Ketut Budiarta, head of BNN in Bali, said it would be built next door to the island’s only psychiatric hospital, at Bangli, where limited numbers of drug users are already treated.
    Plans call for a start on building the 144-room rehab centre in 2012. If it eventuates it will be a significant enhancement in the battle against addictive drugs. At present most drug offence prisoners are sent to Kerobokan, the island’s main jail, where they make up more than 40 percent of inmates. The prison holds three times more than its design capacity of prisoners.
    The project has the support of Governor Made Mangku Pastika, who once headed the BNN, who said this week:  “We don’t have adequate facilities to rehabilitate or treat drug users. It is inhumane to send them to Kerobokan Penitentiary. When they enter the prison they are drug addicts, but when they leave they will be drug users and traffickers.”
    He’s on the button there.

Oh, That Island

Someone seems to have woken up to the fact that Nusa Lembongan, the laidback surfing and relaxation island off Nusa Penida, is cracking under the strain of tourist numbers. The island has a population of 4,000 but tourists – both domestic and foreign – number 10,000 a month.
    Klungkung Regency, which administers Lembongan and Penida, has been alerted to the problem by legislators in the regency assembly who have pointed out the blindingly obvious: that the island’s infrastructure cannot cope.
    They want the regency to spend more of its budget on the tourism icon and to clamp down on unlicensed – and therefore unregulated – accommodation places.

Novel  Idea

The busy beavers at the Bali Peace Park Association in Perth, who only like to tell you good news (and therefore tell you basically nothing) and resolutely refuse to be accountable, announced this month that international terrorism and security expert Anne Aly has joined them as “Western Australian ambassador.”
    Aly, who was born in Egypt but migrated to Australia with her family at the age of two, is an author – she focuses on countering radicalism – and is a member of the Council for Australian-Arab Relations.  She has an arts degree from the American University in Cairo.
    We’re sure she’ll be an asset to the team. But the main focus of efforts should surely be to raise the money required to settle the association’s land dispute with the man who holds the lease on the former Sari Club site in Legian, where it says its peace park will be built by October this year.
    This chap, who drives a Jaguar as well as a hard bargain, apparently has other ideas. That’s Kadek Wiranatha, whose empire encompasses several eateries, some “under renovation,” places of entertainment, and the fortnightly Bali Advertiser publication. It was he who launched (and then presided over the collapse of) the former island airline, Air Paradise.
Tweet with Hector @scratchings and be friends with him on Facebook (Hector McSquawky) 

Friday, April 15, 2011

HECTOR'S BALI times DIARY, Apr. 15, 2011

Great Move
To Put New
In the

Things are moving on the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival front that promise to significantly broaden its impact and appeal. One of UWRF’s key missions is to promote emerging Indonesian writers, an effort that since 2008 has involved various programmes, including the sponsoring of participation by selected Indonesian writers in the festival, publishing bilingual anthologies of the works of those emerging writers, and organising fringe and satellite events in other parts of the country.
   This year UWRF is organising the First Bali Emerging Writers Festival (in this land of acronyms it is shorthanded as BEWF) as “an initial effort to build a replicable, sustainable and feasible model for similar festivals in the future.” Sounds like a really great idea.
    The two-day festival next month will, to use its organisers' words, bring together Bali’s promising young talents to engage in a lively dialogue with several established Indonesian writers on various aspects of literary writing, from the often elusive creative process to the more mundane but no less important aspect of publishing.
    As well as panel sessions, BEWF will feature performances from the island’s young talents in spoken words, theatre and music. The organizing committee will invite up to 30 emerging writers from across the island to participate in BEWF as well as up to 10 established writers.
    BEWF will be held in Denpasar from May 27-28. The UWRF itself is from October 5-9 this year.
    Facebook users can find more on the BEWF at

Shocking, Really

Apparently 25 members of the national House of Representatives paid an unannounced visit to Kerobokan prison this week to check the state of the inmates. Led by Fahri Hamzah, vice chairman of the national legislature’s commission III, they were taken around the premises by prison governor Siswanto and Taswem Tarib, the local representative of the justice and human rights ministry.
    So, leaving aside the fact that it was a carefully organised “unannounced visit” as most such events are, we can be pleased that the legislators were surprised at the poor conditions of Kerobokan and of the inmates therein. They recorded cramped and stuffy sleeping quarters and a terrible smell of garbage throughout.
   “Many of the prisoners are sleeping on the floor with too many people in one room,” said Fahri. “From our findings, the penitentiary failed to make people come back as better people. The penitentiary conditions are not helping to rehabilitate, inmates want revenge instead. The penitentiary system in Indonesia is over capacity.”
    All of that is true, across Indonesia. It’s not just at Kerobokan, which gets the bad press it does largely because of its oversupply of foreign miscreants.
    Prison governor Siswanto says the jail’s capacity is 323 prisoners but that it is accommodating about 1,000 at present, and adds that in such conditions rehabilitation is a practical impossibility.
    Fahri said: “We will ask the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights again. We’ve allocated trillions of rupiah for prisons. In addition, we have also asked that domestic violence and customary cases be classed separately so the prison does not become even more crowded.”
   Taswem also complained about the inhumane conditions in Kerobokan. “We want the House to know that Kerobokan is improper, and violates human rights. We want parliament to allocate the budget for us to build a new prison, or make Kerobokan into a two-floor building.”
    Urgent action is certainly required. The national legislature could find the money easily. It could take it off the grossly inflated budget for its over-serviced members’ new Taj Mahal in Jakarta.
    More than 40 percent of Kerobokan inmates are serving sentences for drug offences.

So Sad

Byron Bay on Australia’s eastern seaboard is a magic spot, for surfers and seekers of alternative truths. It is totemic too in that it is the most easterly point on the Australian mainland. We used to visit it often – it isn’t too long a drive from where we used to live in Brisbane and a pleasant trip for the subtle changes in landscape and climate that kick in once you’re south of the Queensland/New South Wales border – but nowadays we do so virtually.
     One of the places for virtual drop-ins has been Byron Bay Live, a media agency website run by Tasmanian exile and long-term Byron resident Jonno Howell. His photographs capture the essence of Byron, its beaches, its magic surf and its colourful inhabitants, temporary and permanent.
     It was therefore doubly distressing to hear of Howell’s sudden death in Bali last week, apparently the victim of anaphylactic shock, in layman’s terms an acute allergic reaction. He was only 28. He’d been here on business and had eaten out – in Kuta – the previous evening. RIP Jonno.
     It was a reminder too that life is a fragile thing and that oblivion may claim you at any time.

Beat That

The Beat Magazine, which keeps Bali and Jakarta readers up to speed with what’s going down on the entertainment scene, has for some time been publishing a daily online news brief called, unsurprisingly, The Beat Daily.
    It’s a useful and timely service which breaks new ground in English-language news reporting in Bali. It cites its local, Indonesian language, media sources.
    In some people’s books that’s called honesty.   

We go on

As a rule, you let things go. And so we would have, if not for the strange little note in The Bali Times the week before last. We saw it last Sunday week when, spotting a fortuitous parking opportunity at our local Circle K, the thought occurred that we might after all bother to buy a copy. It said, on page 2, “The Bali Times Diary has ended.” This must be Irish for:  “Hector’s Blog, which has been provided free to The Bali Times as The Diary since October 2008, no longer appears in the newspaper.”
    Of course, it continues where it has always been, on this blog. But it was good to see Rio Helmi’s nice post on the other side of paradise in the page; Helmi’s very good value. And the Dalai Lama’s a good bloke too, if on reflection you find you’re a bit short of local copy.
    What was less pleasant was the grossly prominent page one report on the C151 property at Seminyak having won the government-sponsored International Business & Company Awards 2011 for “service excellence.” It ran with a very big photograph of one of the company’s principals receiving the ornament from someone or other. Oddly, the article failed to mention that C151 founder Hanno Soth, who provided readers with an effusively promotional and entirely misleading quote in the report, is the newspaper’s proprietor.
    Neither did the story seek to balance its astonishing breadth and length, or even augment it, by mentioning that successful local businessman Chris Wilaras, who pays for his regular advertisements, won Best Developer of the Year award at the same little Kuta love-in. He had to advertise it specially, poor chap. His cheerio also appeared on page one, right beside the not necessarily desirable but entirely unsurprising information that Singapore-resident Soth is still trying to acquire profile, influence, position, and your money in these parts.
    Oddly enough, that week’s front page never made it to the newspaper’s website. The previous week’s remained there until replaced last weekend by the next but one.  Perhaps someone was embarrassed. But nonetheless that below-masthead line on the front page of the paper should be revised. “Revealing the Real Bali Times” seems apt.
    BY THE WAY: Hector’s helper reports he has been unfriended on Facebook by William J. Furney, late of Canggu. Furney joins an exclusive group: 0.8 percent of the carefully selected address book. The others are long-time luminary Michael Made White Wijaya (we know him as MW2), who got his knickers (and his udeng) in a twist many moons ago over something or other, and bow-wow-BAWA stalwart Elizabeth Henzell (now Suttie, we see), Janet de Neefe’s executive assistant, who had squawked furiously about dogs and the inadmissibility of views other than her own about how to stop them giving rabies to poor Balinese people who don’t deserve to die in that particularly horrible and unnecessary way.
   That was a pity. Liz is a great bird and MW2, while OTT, is an engaging fellow who, like Hector, enjoys a rant.

Hector is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky) and Tweets @Scratchings.

Friday, April 08, 2011

HECTOR'S BALI times DIARY, Apr. 8, 2011

Hey, Chaps,
There May
Be a Riot
(Or There
May Not)

It’s difficult not to empathise with the Indonesian government’s criticism of the latest revision of the official Australian travel advisory for Indonesia (including Bali). (The bracketed bit is always there because some Aussies, being Aussies, apparently still don’t know Bali is in Indonesia.) It related to the beneficence of the capture of Umar Patek, one of the suspected masterminds of the 2002 Bali bombings, in Pakistan, and advised that similar high-profile apprehensions in the past had led to outbreaks of violence.
    It’s true that you can never safely forecast the actions of nutters or the response to them by mindless mobs or pepped-up packs of protesters, and that to err on the side of caution is sensible policy. At the same time, there’s little evidence that anyone in Indonesia – beyond a benighted few – gives a toss about Patek and even less that they view his arrest as likely to bring a riot to their doorstep. Foreign ministry spokesman Michael Tene was on the mark when he said:  “The warning should reflect the actual situation.”
    Australia’s advisory said Patek’s arrest “may increase the risk of violent responses in the short term.”  This is possibly true: but it is a statement so qualified – by that “may” – as to be of very dubious utility. You’re probably more likely to run into some riotously angry neighbours debagging (and de-bra-ing) a poor sad man masquerading as a woman, as happened recently in Java, than a pugilistic push by the Patek Promotion Party.
    The real purpose of travel advisories, whether from Australia or anywhere else, is twofold. First, they do genuinely offer advice – most of it entirely sensible, such as don’t let a rabid dog bite you, don’t drink the water, avoid street touts and fatal diseases, do not allow a transvestite to spike your drink (or marry you, see above); that sort of thing – and second, they serve to deflect criticism from the issuing government if something inconvenient should in fact occur. The government can then say, “Well don’t blame us, we told you not to go there.”
    The duty of care nowadays, like so much else, turns on the risk of litigation.

Good Moves

We hear some very good news from Janet de Neefe’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (Oct 5-9 this year). Jane Fuller and Melissa Delaney came on board last month as executive producer and programme producer respectively, a cheering sign for a great week in October.
    Fuller comes to the UWRF with 15 years of producing performance in a variety of theatre and festival settings in Australia – including three Adelaide Fringe Festivals – and a residency at the Hong Kong Fringe Club.
    Delaney joins Bali’s own LitCrit festival from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology where she had been senior arts coordinator since April 2008, responsible for the management, design, implementation and evaluation of RMIT Link Arts & Culture programmes, including Arts Council funding and the performing arts and other programmes.
    Here at The Cage, we’re looking forward to Ubud. We’ll be fresh from enjoying a selection of the eclectic range of delights at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival.
    Sarah Tooth, who had a two-year turn as Janet’s UWRF helper, is back in Adelaide, by the way.

Getting Crowded

New figures show that Denpasar – uncontrolled-growth cities everywhere are like black holes, really, sucking everything in to destruction – is growing like Topsy and won’t be stopped. Especially here, where planning is at best notional and in fact a sick joke. Bali’s capital had a population of 788,445 at the end of 2010 (it’ll be more now) comprising 403,026 males and 385,419 females. No wonder those red lights wink so brightly at Padang Galak and other places where wanita-wares and HIV are available at a discount.
    Census figures just released by BPS, the central statistics agency, and other data show that Denpasar is growing at 4 percent a year, that remaining agricultural land (aka open space) is fast being swallowed up by development and what our tourism promoters might want to call “informal housing,” and that traffic conditions are daily becoming more chaotic.
    The most crowded area is South Denpasar, with 244,957 inhabitants and a density of 6,846 people per square kilometre. In South Denpasar the settler population (people not native to that location) forms half the total.
    Demographics are changing South Bali in ways we can only begin to imagine.


We don’t like waste here in Bali, apparently. In fact, according to the latest intelligence from Renon, we have no time for it at all. This startling news follows an embarrassing article in TIME Magazine, which along to way to describing a holiday in Bali as hell, said the amount of rubbish around the place was disgusting.
    First knee-jerk, from the Governor’s spokesman, was to the effect that Bali wasn’t hell (no arguments there) and nothing much was a problem anyway (plenty of arguments there). Then, 24 hours later, Governor Made Pastika himself weighed in and said well, yes, actually there was a problem and it needed to be fixed. No arguments there.
    Then, of course, it descended again into the sort of sorry farce you hear whenever someone that honoured potential foreign guests might listen to says something not necessarily to our advantage. In this instance what got us ROFLing was the Governor’s lovely line about how Kuta Beach was covered with rubbish because the wind blew it there.
    Yes, well, um ... that’s true. But in order to be blown onto Tourist Icon One it needs first to have been created.  So if you were having a sensible conversation about it you might say it’s a cause and effect thing. But Bali isn’t having a sensible conversation about it at all, so far. We don’t do things like that here. We have a series of farcical no, can’t be, no, oh well, all right then, yes, interludes and then someone says they’re looking into it (there are a lot of mirrors in Bali).
    Now that the rubbish has been officially noticed by the world (the story was getting an outing in Australia this week, a place where they fine you $200 for dropping a cigarette butt in the street – and $400 for ignoring the health warnings soon, we expect), though, action will need to be taken. Or a facsimile of same will need to take place.
    So let’s start with a few basics: 1 – If you don’t have proper waste management systems in place (i.e., if you just toss the stuff over the fence or in the nearest drain or watercourse) then sooner or later it’s going to end up ruining some tourist’s happy snap. 2 – There is rather more to waste management than keeping Kuta Beach free of litter. 3 – You have to actually organise waste management.  4 – This requires more effort than declaring Bali Clean and Green and (ineffectually) spraying the Suwung dump to control the vermin and keep the smell down. 5 – Give the grassroots job (the education and initial collection and control) to the banjars, fund and resource them to do it, and make sure they do.
    With education, there might soon enough be fewer plastic bags floating around the place. And with health education, there might be a lot of angry mums banging on the banjar door about  dangerous and smelly rubbish, consequential disease risks, large numbers of enormous rats and an excess of mangy, scavenging dogs.


Apparently the 500-kilometre-long round-island railway promised by Governor Made Pastika is even closer than ever. Word this week from the gubernatorial press podium was that it would be up and running in 2013. So in between having the brainwave and recruiting some “Who? What? Oh...” help, the governor’s slow train has already advanced two years. Guess they’ll be starting on the preliminary concept planning sometime soon, then.

Well, Hello

The lovely little MinYak cantered into our in-box again this week, bearing the good oil. It’s a regular treat from Sophie and Nigel and the girls and guys at Yak Central, aka the Canggu Tennis Club, where the big Yak and the newly resurgent Bud are produced in super-glossy print and which the MinYak augments electronically and helps promote.
    Among the many treats, in house and other, publicised in the latest MinYak is the 2011 Yak Canggu Tennis Classic open tournament, playing from April 30-May 7. They’re looking for good hitters, but we’re guessing they’d like some well-mannered spectators too, so it’s in our diary.

Hector tweets @Scratchings
Find him on Facebook at Hector McSquawky