Dec. 19, 2008-Jan. 2, 2009

It’s That Girl Again

SCHAPELLE Corby, who basks in the glory of being Bali’s celebrity convict and prime tenant at Kerobokan Jail, is back in the news again. She is a subject of a music video featuring what is touted as Tara Hack’s “highly acclaimed” song about the poor little Aussie girl’s predicament, titled Saya Tidak Bersalah (I’m Not Guilty).

Perhaps the second line of the ditty should go: “Maaf Sekali, Saya Lupa Narkotika di Dalam Bagasi Saya” (“So Sorry, I Forgot About the Drugs in My Baggage”).

The video features people in various places around the world “demonstrating their opposition to her continued incarceration.” The promoters say it illustrates how concern for Corby is now truly international as it includes representation from the United States, Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Europe and Canada, among other places.

The music bit was provided by Artists for Schapelle. A spokeswoman for this eclectic group of people without better causes to spruik, Rachel James, says: “The world is watching the Australian government doing nothing to help, with their media covering their tracks. The world is watching the appalling injustice and cruelty of this case. When the world hears her cries for help and learns of her story, national boundaries become absolutely irrelevant.”

If these guys really believe all of that nonsense, they must be smoking the same stuff Corby flew into Bali in her boogie-board bag. If they weren’t off with the fairies, they would be championing the causes of other less high-profile prisoners who actually do have something to gripe about and don’t benefit from the sort of wall-to-wall, entry-at-will care (and care packages) Corby does. But if you’re interested, you can check for yourself at (we kid you not). Go straight to jail at

And that’s not all. We hear Corby’s sister, the far from publicity shy Mercedes, has posed nude for one of those Aussie rags that cater to the lower end of the food chain. Mercedes lives in Bali too, but not – as far as we know – at public expense. The Diary can think of all sorts of reasons to own a topless Mercedes. But that would be one with wheels.

‘Tis the Season for Much Folly

AS we head into Christmas and New Year, as always we head as well into what is commonly called the Silly Season. Originally this meant that the media – bereft of real stories because all their usual rich sources of copy, usually politicians, were off having a knees-up somewhere – found all sorts of non-stories to print instead. How fortunate we are in Indonesia that the silly season apparently affects politicians too.

First we have President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signing into law the anti-pornography legislation that has Bali (and numerous other provinces fearing cultural oppression) up in arms. Mr President: What about unity in diversity? Then we have Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik calling for everyone just to accept the new laws. Minister, it is abundantly clear that everyone is not just going to accept them. And then we have Trade Minister Mari Pangestu – normally a welcome voice of common sense – saying the tough new import laws that have cleared shelves of all sorts of products tourists like to buy and eat will be delayed. They “took effect” on Dec. 15, but shelves have been empty for weeks.

On the anti-pornography law, as The Diary has noted before, the way to proceed (if we must; and if the Constitutional Court rules in favor of the new law) is to make its implementation a matter for individual provinces. Blanket enforcement – which Minister Wacik apparently thinks everyone should just accept – would be a step towards an Islamic state, if not a Javanese empire. That’s the real political problem the president and others should be worrying about. On the imports law, again as The Diary has noted before, if the government wants to apply new national standards on imported foods, it should first work out what those standards should be, and then set up a checking system that can actually work.

A New Year resolution would seem to be in order: When having bright ideas, think about them first.

Lombok Gets its Aussie Connection

WE hear that IndoJet, the arm of Australian boutique airline OzJet that flies from Perth to Bali, is adding Lombok to its destinations, with a weekly service to Mataram from Perth on Sundays. Lombok has long sought direct input from Australia, and while the new service only connects it with Perth – on the opposite side of the country from the really big travelling populations – it’s a great start. It is good news for Lombok and something we here in Bali should applaud. Our neighboring island is a great place for a holiday and it deserves more exposure – and more tourists – than it currently gets.

Until now only Silk Air – the Singapore Airlines subsidiary – has provided Lombok with direct (non-stop) international connections, with three flights a week between Singapore and Mataram. Other tourists arriving by air have to transit Bali and deliver themselves to the uncertain scheduling of the three airlines that operate the Denpasar-Mataram shuttle. Resorts on Lombok have never felt confident enough with these schedules to recommend guests feel safe about checking out on the day of their international flight home from Bali.

Lombok is getting a new airport – Mataram’s Selaparang runway is too short for big jets – in the south of the island. The Dubai-based Emar developers are preparing the ground in the south (it’s a fantastic ocean coast there with spectacular scenery) for a “tourism precinct” development. Hopes are high that Gulf-oriented tourism will eventually give the island a much-needed boost.

That Gulf May Be Widening

THE world financial crisis may be having an effect on the global reach of the Gulf economies that could have an unfortunate flow-on effect here in Indonesia. Money is apparently getting a lot scarcer than it was. Anecdotal evidence from the Australian construction firm Leighton indicates the development bubble in Dubai – home of Emirate Airlines and of Emar, the development corporation heavily engaged in Lombok’s southern tourism project – has rather suddenly deflated.

We hear that about 50 hotel projects have been cancelled, that estimates of apartment construction for the next three years have been halved from 50,000 to 25,000, and that investors who bought apartments in Dubai off the plan have suddenly realized that the music has stopped.

The basic problem appears to be that with falling oil prices and the flood of red ink all over national and corporate balance sheets around the globe, surpluses in the hitherto golden Gulf States may soon turn to deficits of around 30 percent of local GDPs. The word is that Dubai is the most vulnerable because it does not have much oil, its banks are heavily exposed to property and its economy is reliant on tourism, financial services and trade.

Let’s hope the suggestion that the global recession will be short (and as un-sharp as possible) and that those who suggest the worst will be over by the time 2010 rolls around are on the money.

Meanwhile, Eagles Don’t Fly (Again)

IT SEEMS Garuda, which a little while ago announced it was resuming its lapsed Bali-Brisbane service, won’t in fact be starting any time soon.  Apparently it has failed to attract sufficient bookings for its start-up services and is now saying it hopes to get off the ground to Brisbane some time in 2009. No doubt the presence of both Pacific Blue and Jetstar on that route has had an impact on Garuda’s prospects. It was last into the race for business from Brisbane – Australia’s third-largest city – playing tail-end Charlie to the new Aussie entrants.

Garuda stopped flying to Brisbane (and Auckland in New Zealand) in 2005. It had a useful monopoly on that route then, an advantage it rather foolishly lost. The ball game is now totally different.

All Set to Kill the Golden Goose?

THESE are difficult times for tourism, and likely to get more difficult in the near term, as the world slides into deeper economic difficulties. So it is interesting to look at new figures that show starkly the additional cost international hotels are putting on their accommodation at a time when most tourists have less money to spend.

Many in Bali have increased tariffs for 2009 by up to 25 percent following strong occupancy levels for much of 2008. That might be sensible market pricing in normal times – if more people want access to a finite resource, prices should reflect that demand – but it takes on a different complexion when tariff rises are looked at in combination with shifts in foreign exchange rates. This is compounded in Bali, where international hotels universally price in American dollars.

On this basis, in 2009 South Koreans will pay 88 percent extra for their hotel accommodation, Britons 71 percent, Australians 68 percent, Indians 55 percent, Euro-spending Europeans 41 percent and Malaysians 35 percent extra. The Japanese, in contrast, are paying only 3.5 percent extra.

At a time when employment uncertainty is the unwelcome guest at the family table, putting a wildly unreasonable premium on a Bali holiday is a good way to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Or persuade even more potential hotel customers to choose villa accommodation instead.

What? No Haloumi!

VISITING Candi Dasa – which we see is being billed as “the jewel of the east” in local promotions – is always a pleasure. There’s all that inexpensive beachfront accommodation (without the actual beach of course, since they sold all that coral all those years ago). There are those great sea breezes. And then there’s Vincent’s, a restaurant that The Diary favors for its outré ambience – though it is sadly far less outré now the proprietors have removed much of the explicit art that used to adorn the walls and create conversation – and its menu.

But a recent visit proved, alas, that the “they shall not have their foreign foods” brigade has struck again. A highlight of the menu at Vincent’s is grilled Haloumi (a cheese from Cyprus that aficionados kill for). A request for this fine dish elicited the now boringly standard response diners get at eating establishments all over the island: “So sorry. No have.” They do a great Mie Goreng, though … and Rocket Salad with Blue Cheese is a must.

Great Boots!

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, surely in the running for this year’s award for most trips to Bali by an Aussie, was here for the Bali Democracy Forum earlier this month. Perhaps he would have found time to ponder the perfection of democratic intent implicit in the new anti-pornography law. Naturally, that’s nothing to do with Australia – it is a purely domestic problem – but, well, you know, Kev’s a worrier.

On a brighter note, he did give President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – who was also at the forum and hopefully also pondering democratic niceties – a very nice pair of RM Williams boots. RMs are Aussie iconography at its best. The Diary happily owns a pair, slightly older than the set now in the possession of SBY.

Other footwear is available this season too. It might come in handy if you’re prone to slips – Freudian or otherwise – or if you have a clumsy friend on your Christmas list. Try these for size:

A Lombok Mystery

WE happened upon a copy of the Lombok Times the other day, a rare enough event in any case but rarer still for its recycling in the December edition of a calumny perpetrated earlier this year by the International Herald Tribune, which alleged that local luminary Howard Singleton, proprietor of The Office at Senggigi, a fine watering hole, was an Aussie.

He wasn’t when The Diary was a regular at The Office, and as we reported at the time of his Unfortunate Mention, he seemed a little miffed at being fingered as a colonial. He’s a Brit; and not one of the obnoxious ones, either, though there are a few of those about both sides of the Wallace Line.

Either Howard has come out of the closet with some hitherto darkly kept secret, and is a secret Toegripper from Down Under, or the Lombok Times got it wrong. Inquiries will be made.

Have a Good Break

SINCE there’s no paper next week, The Diary is taking a break too. Season’s greetings to all readers and we’ll see you again when the little counter has clicked over to 2009.

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One Response to “Dec. 19, 2008-Jan. 2, 2009”

  1. James Harper Says:

    Your comments on Schapelle Corby simply illustrate to the world what you are. Human rights clearly mean nothing to you. A corrupt show trial means nothing to you, unless YOU were the victim of course. A political/racist sentence means nothing to you.

    The fact that more and more people around the world are becoming aware of this abuse, and are disgusted, is news to be reported. You prefer to ignore the actual issues and pretend that somehow Americans, Brits, Canadians and so on are deluded, when simply they have examined the ugly facts and uncovered the human rights abuses which you try to hide.

    Too late. The truth is getting out. Tara Hack and others are telling the world, and the world can see for itself.

    Have you looked in a mirror lately? Who knows, one day you may see yourself as those of us in the free world do.