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Tommy Soeharto Scores Ten Stories: What’s With That, Really?

by Susi, 15 December 2009


This image comes from the website of the Pecatu Indah development which has engulfed Dreamland beach and everything around it in the Bukit Jimbaran area of south Bali. The endearing little erection here depicted, called modestly “The Terrace,” will reach to ten stories. Count ’em. Plus those “Rapunzel-Does-Denpasar” appendages on top, which ostensibly give this generic tenement block its Balinese character. The whole Pecatu Indah mega-development of which this is a part, has been captained since the beginning by none other than Tommy the Wild Child of Indonesia’s late, long-reigning despot, Soeharto.

Oh, just incidentally and not worth mentioning at all, Tommy was actually convicted of the gang-style murder of a high court judge in broad daylight a few years back, and managed to mitigate his sentence to nearly nothing, if he ever served a minute of it. Pundits proclaim that he paid a “stunt double” lookalike to sit in his posh executive cell while he gallivanted around the world, and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it were true. OK, nevermind, so here we have Tommy erecting edifices on a grand scale in Bali, an island already starved of electricity, water and necessary space to revv all its motorbikes, not to mention the Range Rovers, Hummers and Ferrari Testarossas. So Tommy scores ten stories plus.

Meanwhile, all over Bali, other buildings that stretch a smidgen over four or five stories are being unceremoniously sledge-hammered down to size. Case in point, the Sunset on Six (SOS) lounge on top of the Anantara in Seminyak. Less than a year ago it was forcibly smashed to smithereens, as it contravened the ambiguous and capriciously enforced Bali building code which prohibits structures taller than a coconut palm tree (about four to six stories). Meanwhile Tommy goes for ten. So what’s with that, really?

I for one, know that developers other than those associated with this scion of the Soeharto dynasty would give their first born sons to be able to build even six or seven stories. Meanwhile, here we have a thoughtless pox on the long-suffering landscape of Pecatu, which will tower at ten stories plus. Could it be that Tommy has given even more than a first-born son in order to manifest this grand gesture of compensation for size lacking elsewhere? Enquiring minds want to know.

Really, what is with that? Has Tommy been allowed to calculate the height of a coconut palm by planting a prize-winning one on the summit of Jimbaran hill far above Pecatu, and then declaring that altitude (as recorded by GPS) the ceiling of his building envelope? If so, then why can’t we all do the same? And gosh, why shouldn’t we, come to think of it? Let’s build all of Bali to the altitude of a Guiness Book of Records palm tree planted on the summit of Mt. Agung! That gives a beach-side building a maximum height of 3,160 meters from the ground up. That’s about four times as tall as the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building. Gosh golly, the sky really IS the limit!

Here’s a scintillating side story. Very amusing Facebook posts have popped up lately about a Tommy Soeharto-related scandalette. It seems that some typographer or printer’s dogsbody somewhere in Indonesia had the nerve to add an unauthorized footnote to a Garuda Airlines inflight magazine advertorial bought to flog some of the other architectural-mega-melanomas within the Pecatu development.

The advertorial, paid by the developers, was wholly laudatory of course, although in painfully unidiomatic English. All that advertorial glory, bought with developer dollars was poisoned, however, by one fabulously illicit footnote. It read: “Note: Tommy Soeharto, the owner of this complex, is a convicted murderer.”  And yes, it was actually printed, and distributed. I saw it.

I don’t know if truth is a defense in libel cases in Indonesia, as it is in the USA (since the 18th century). If it is (which I doubt), then that irrepressible imp somewhere in the line of production of Garuda inflight will get off scot-free. If not, heaven help the merry prankster who made this mischief (a feat worthy of Abbie Hoffman). Word has it that shortly after distribution all copies of the latest issue of Garuda inflight were either recalled or reappeared in seat-back pockets with page 29/30 sliced out. Here is the biggest online image of the page I could find.

P.S. If Tommy had any smarts (which he evidently does not), he would know that if he were to become a “nice guy,” with his looks and charisma and bankroll, he could be very, very popular, in a big international way. If he went over to The Force, and joined Bono and Brangelina and booked a seat on Branson’s interstellar starship instead of caving in to the Evil Empire, his redemption would be certain. I mean, really, if a TGV wreck like Britney can redeem herself then Tommy can, easily. My advice to him, next time I see him, is this. Don’t become Darth Vader, it’s just sad and ugly, and those helmets are not suited for a tropical climate, you’ll get heat rash and acne. Repent, be nice, forget about ten stories. No matter what shortcomings you may have down south, if you’re nice we’ll like you even without big buildings and karaoke mega-brothels. Really. May the Force be with you. Make Pecatu a gargantuan organic garden, you’re rich enough, just let it all slide and grow some flowers already and invite all the Space Tribe to cultivate herbs and fungi there and your life will be a neverending tale of bliss and love and fabulous parties. Remember what the man said. To say “yes” to one instant is to say “yes” to all of existence. Plus, those rave babes are way more bodacious than your Jakarta tarts, any day of the week.


      • Susi
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      • December 17, 2009

      A friend says, "The footnote on page 30 was the best inflight entertainment ever offered on a Garuda airplane."

      • Novieta Tourisia
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      • May 18, 2010

      Simply agree. This is honest and insightful.

        • Susi
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        • May 18, 2010

        Thanks, Novi. The development situation in Bali is very troubling. And the system for regulating land use and building is "broken". This does not bode well. I expect that the quality of life here will get far worse before it can ever get better. It's happening fast. The worst culprit is corruption. It appears absolutely urgent and critical for us all to attack corruption in every way we can. Speak out, write, join, participate, criticize, resist . . . it is truly a matter of life and death. Nothing is more urgent. Corruption severely damages everything I care about most: the environment, health, education, freedom, justice, the arts, families, communities, lives, minds, and souls. It can stop. It has to stop. We must be very courageous in our struggle against it, and willing to make personal sacrifices and take risks. If we really try, I think we can do it. And we can be heroes. Forever and ever.

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