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.

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