Fish! Fowl! Pussycats! Rats! And murder most foul! Read on . . .
Last year I promised to give occasional reports on the contents of the local Indonesian language newspaper, the Bali Post, which I read every morning. I certainly don’t read it for its quality journalism. I read it to keep tabs on what local people are thinking about and how they are thinking about it, and to access information which is sometimes kept out of the English language press, for fear it would have a negative effect on tourism.
It’s time for one of those occasional reports. Here’s a rundown of the items I read today in the Bali Post, skipping over most national and international news, which I generally get elsewhere. This is a typical day, a randomly chosen day, one on which the Bali Post contains neither more nor less disturbing news than on any other day. Just another perfect day in paradise. Synopses of selected stories appear below. The headlines are mine.
Finger pointing festival
The whole front page is devoted to a slew of messy national corruption cases that drag on an on, and will never reach a state of clarity or resolution, as usual. Too many important people are involved, and too many fingers are being pointed in too many different directions. Heads will roll like bowling balls, and they will take down some king pins before they rumble into the darkness and disappear from sight. Folks in Jakarta are busy fighting over who gets to be a ball, who a pin, and who a bowler. The outcome is unlikely to resemble anything like justice. More like a bowling tournament. The People are bored to bits by all this. Duller than pro bowling on TV. No news there.
Brutal brother of Bali official takes the rap
A journalist was brutally murdered in Bali last year. Dead men tell no tales. The Bali Post reports that the prime suspect was just sentenced to death, amid complaints about the others who got off, and the multitude of facts and evidence that were manipulated or swept under the rug during the lengthy legal process. Smells fishy. No news there.
APEC 2013: Bali braced for embarassment
The President reminds the Governor of Bali that he’s got to clean house before 2013 when Bali hosts an APEC summit. The headline? “Traffic and Environment Disorganised.” Most of the article bemoans the horrific traffic jams that plague Bali, and will embarass the island. The debate about whether building flyovers to resolve the jams is an offense to Balinese folk beliefs continues, with no apparent progress. Stalemate. There is no mention in the article about garbage, water shortages, electrical supply, communicable diseases, or (most worrisome of all), security. I predict no house cleaning until a month before the summit, when selective pillow-fluffing and flower-arranging will take place, followed by road closures along traffic routes to be used by summit attendees. Plus blackouts in areas far from the meetings, to ensure enough power can be fed to the summit so the lights stay on.
Rampant rat packs send tourists packing
Horrified tourists are abandoning Candidasa, a troubled beach town in east Bali because swarms of rats seethe unchecked through the hotels. A $3 million beach reclamation project is to blame. The cement and boulders installed to approximate a natural beach have been colonised by itinerant food carts and snack sellers, resulting in piles of garbage which rats just love. Time to pay the piper. And pick up your trash. Footnote: Candidasa was once an idyllic beach resort, but the coral reefs were mined away to use as building materials for hotels, so the beach eroded to nothing and the economy collapsed. Seems they are not doing much better now, despite all these big money grants to promote recovery. Kill the goose that lays golden eggs. Repeat. Repeat again. No news there.
Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
A 16-year-old Balinese girl is dead. Motorbike accident. Speeding. 9:30pm. Loses control of bike. Slams into curb. Goes flying. Head smashed in. DOA at hospital. It doesn’t say if she was wearing a helmet. Probably not. Based on my observations of young people on motorbikes in Bali, the norm is “helmet optional”. And also “brain optional”. I hope she was carrying an organ donor card. She may have had no brain, but she surely had a full complement of other valuable young organs to share. I note that two or three fatal traffic accidents are reported daily in the Bali Post. No news there. Be careful on the roads in Bali.
Lights out everyone!
As always, the Bali Post publishes the electric utility’s long list of districts which will suffer six-hour scheduled blackouts the following day. There is currently not enough supply to meet the island’s power demand. This has been going on for months now, and there is still no end in sight. Generator sales are booming. No news there. I don’t curse the darkness, myself, but having no internet, air conditioning or water (electric pump here) is bothersome.
Traffic lights out, hooray!
It rained a bit harder than usual two nights ago. Three traffic lights at three important intersections shorted out. Rain happens. This is the tropics. Traffic often flows better when the lights are dead anyway, as they are set wrong and don’t reflect traffic patterns in different directions at different times of day. No one knows how to work the expensive computer governors that control the signal intervals. No news there.
Bag grabbing downtown
Four guys on a motorbike sped past and snatched the bag of a Balinese woman in downtown Denpasar in broad daylight, and caused her to fall from her motorbike and be injured. It happens. That’s why man invented pockets. (What? Four guys on a motorbike? That’s what the article says. Bikes are considered family vehicles here in Indonesia.)
Bag grabbing in Kuta club
A Japanese tourist was dancing at the Bounty Disco in Kuta when an Indonesian fellow hanging out there tried to make off with her handbag and was caught by club security. What the article emphasizes as unusual in this case: the suspect wasn’t beaten to death or near, on the spot, as often happens, but turned over to the police unbeaten. The handbag contained US$950 and about US$500 worth of Indonesian rupiah, and two gold bracelets. One can only assume that the victim hadn’t checked into her hotel yet, or that the hotel she did check into did not have a room safe. Who goes out to funky nightclubs with such a loaded bag? What was she thinking? And why didn’t she just dance around her handbag like working class English girls do when they go out?
True Crime: Gratuitously grisly murder reportage
Late last year a Japanese tourist was brutally murdered and dumped in an empty lot near Seminyak. Today’s headline on the case: “After Being Spit On, Suspect Stabbed Victim”. It’s a lurid story of the police reenactment of the crime, with the suspect. Too many details of very specific physical actions during the molestation and murder are reported. It sells papers, but it spoils my breakfast, and robs the victim and her family of their dignity. Shame.
Oh wow. More hotel rooms.
A groundbreaking was celebrated in Sanur the other day, for a new Regent resort, bringing 110 more five star rooms and 25 luxury residences to Bali. It’s slated to open next year. With traffic, power and other infrastructure issues already at crisis point in Bali (read the rest of this blog post), this is a cause for celebration? (Also see my previously posted reports entitled “So Much Development in Bali“.)
Don’t pick your nose in ATM kiosks
The ongoing tale of high-tech robbery focusing on ATM kiosks in Bali continues. The paper says perpetrators used spycams installed in ATM kiosks to watch PINs being input. Be careful what you do in there. You’re on candid camera.
Fortune favours the fuzz
Police busted a gambling den (dominos, mah jong) in Denpasar, eight arrested, names mentioned in article are Chinese. In another story, an illegal lottery operator is busted in Karangasem, where it is acknowledged that such lottery rackets are commonplace. Yet another story reports a roadside blackjack gathering was busted in west Bali. Too many motorbikes parked in one place at 11:30 pm. Dead giveaway.
Why did the chicken cross the road? It was being carried.
Police nabbed a chicken thief in north Bali. He’d made off with 22 birds that weren’t his. Chicken thieves in Indonesia often get harsher sentences than Tommy Soeharto got for the gang-style murder of a supreme court judge. Moral of the story? It’s better to whack a dude than to pilfer poultry. Horsefeathers!
Two-ton mystery fish found (and flayed)
A two-ton fish washed up in west Bali. Locals hacked away the meat and took it home. They even sold the bones. Fisherman and officials still have not been able to identify the species of this fish. Now they never will as it’s been scavenged. Don’t sit still too long on the beach in west Bali. You might vanish.
Which is more sacrilegious, sexy dancing or golf?
The clever folks of Tabanan regency are holding a joged bumbung festival at Tanah Lot next week. Joged bumbung is a sometimes-pornographic folk dance which has raised eyebrows and protests of indecency and tackiness in the past. Tanah Lot is a temple turned tourist attraction, which was at the centre of a massive row years ago about development encroaching on the sacred surrounding zones of Bali’s Hindu temples. Everyone was up in arms about a golf resort built on the bluffs nearby. So, a sexy dancing festival sounds just great. BTW, sexy dancing is against the law in Indonesia now, since the passing of the Anti-Pornography Bill over a year ago. Golf is still legal as far as we know, except presumably when players put to much hip in the swing in short skirts. Does any of this make sense? No, it doesn’t. No news there.
And so much more! Shovel fights! SUVs for authors! Lavish sacrifices!
Ford Indonesia gave an SUV to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Vroom. But parking is problematic in Ubud, so someone should also give them a garage. Office burgled in Tabanan, $3000 loss. Labourer beaten over the head with shovel by co-workers, smashed skull, it was a “misunderstanding”, he survives. Forest protection zone violated constantly by tree thieves, no news there. Illegal sand quarry operates with heavy machinery in east Bali, no news there. Brick factory worker steals cellphone to fund his wedding. Public safety messages on pricey super-sized LCD screen at Kuta roundabout considered inadequate. Massive animal sacrifice ceremony held in Lebih, Gianyar funded with US$140,000 in donations from members of the community. Maybe with less lavish sacrifices, there would be more money leftover for public health, sanitation, education and traffic-light programming staff. 80-year-old man killed by falling tree in his own yard, failed to heed the “stand back” warnings of tree-fellers he hired. Villages in Bangli stricken by hailstorms and small tornadoes, people frightened and roofs damaged.
As you can see, with news like this on a daily basis, Bali may not be “paradise” but it is certainly never boring!