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

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