March 13-19, 2009

Dear Sir

First of all I must let you know that I am a lover of Indonesia. For 30 years I have been travelling, especially to Indonesia. For many years I brought tourists to Indonesia, and this year I just finished writing my last book, number 13. Of the 13 books 11 of them are about Indonesia.

I especially love Bali, and I have a lot of very good friends on your island. For a lot of years I have been in contact with my friends there.

But your country should be very, very ashamed because of your mail services. It is shameful that many people working in the mail (service) are not able to read addresses of letters and deliver a letter. My friends have had to wait for four, five or six weeks to get a letter delivered to them, and sometimes they never get them at all.

It is only possible to get in contact by telephone or by email. The mail problem is not only in one place in Bali, but all over your island – in fact all over Indonesia.

I would like it to be a good New Year’s promise, to be able to trust your mail service. It should no more be the worst mail service in the world.


Svend Aage Laursen

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Dear Sir

It’s two o’clock in the morning. A young man and his wife and baby are asleep on the floor of their small room. Without warning, there is a terrific banging on the wall outside, followed by shouts to wake up and open the door.

These commands are followed by blows to the door itself — a flimsy barrier at best, the latch already buckling under the pressure of repeated kicks. The family awakes in terror, baby hysterical, mother panicked and the disoriented young husband peering out the window desperately trying to determine what is amiss.

In the dim light, he sees a group of men in uniform who are demanding immediate access to his home. Trembling with fear, he lets them in — to be threatened, abused and occasionally beaten.

Where does this scene take place? In Nazi Germany? In Stalinist Russia? In Taliban Afghanistan? No. It repeats itself nightly right here in “peace-loving Bali” as the banjar mafia make their rounds.

Unknown to all tourists and most expats, these thugs terrorize the group of people least able to defend themselves against intimidation, physical assault and extortion.

In the name of security, banjar goons demand and receive money from any Indonesian resident not “native” to the neighborhood — specifically, less-skilled and low-salaried workers from other islands.

The banjars’ “fundraising” activities are tolerated by the police, accepted by the island’s government and ignored by Indonesian human rights groups.

Supposedly the banjar are keeping track of transients in the neighborhood. In fact, banjar offices share no data with either the government or the police.

Their activities have but one single purpose: to bleed money from a large group of people who are virtually defenseless because here they have no constituency and no protection. Never mind that they take the most menial, underpaid and dangerous jobs. Not a single organization, government or NGO is looking out for them. Moreover, most Balinese could not care less.

Why are only bules (foreigners) outraged? Why doesn’t every patriot object? The banjars’ victims are Indonesian citizens, not undocumented workers from some foreign nation. Without a valid national identity card (KTP) they cannot enter Bali, so country of origin is not an issue.

What is at issue remains the ability of a Gestapo to intimidate, terrorize and extort an underclass — while more privileged neighbors are either determined not to notice or look the other way.

For shame.


Montague Ball

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