July 24-30, 2009


AIRPORT SECURITY IMPROVED: We spotted these ancient cannons guarding the air approaches to Ngurah Rai Airport the other day.

How to Deal With Rabid Dogs: Shoot Them on Sight

WHATEVER motives drove the Jakarta bombers – and aside from an insane desire to kill themselves and other people, it is hard to fathom what these could possibly be – one fact is clear: their deadly work will have been in vain.
If they were dissatisfied with the outcome of the July 8 presidential election (one possibility), then they failed completely to understand the basic democratic principles that underpin Indonesian life. If this was the motivation, then they are also sore losers – although, come to think of it, there was actually no one they could vote for: none of the parties contesting any of the elections this year (or ever) advocated anarchy and terrorism as a way of life.
If their desire was to destabilise the economy by sparking a flight of foreign capital and overseas interest from Indonesia, they will also fail. They fail to understand the basics of economy: people will go where they can do business.
If they wished to help introduce a radically politicised, murderous and perverted version of Islam to Indonesia, they failed to understand that Indonesians, while devout Muslims, desire to be part of the modern world and are at root among the most humane of the peoples of the earth. You might think the West sucks, but that doesn’t mean you are compelled to murder people.
There will of course be damage from this latest outrage, aside from the human tragedy of deaths and injuries brought about by poisoned minds. Tourism – vital to Bali – may be adversely affected, and our island’s economy depressed, and the economies of our neighbouring islands too. More broadly, investment could be depressed, however temporarily, a sorry result (if it eventuates) at a time of global financial turmoil. There is some tough work ahead for Indonesia now in clawing back a clement foreign assessment of security risks here.
However, to use an analogy, we need to note that if you live near the forest where the wolves are, sooner or later one of them is going to come by and try to kill your chickens. That’s why farmers in such places build fences to protect their livestock and have a shoot-to-kill policy as an essential backup: it’s a lot better to be prepared than to spend your time crying wolf.
Terrorists, however, are not wolves; they are not instinctively behaving as they do because it is their place in the universe to do so. They are sick – dangerously sick – individuals who for our own collective safety we must treat as beyond mercy, whatever the shape of their argument. They are deaf to reason and bereft of humanity. They are the equivalent of a rabid dog.
Indonesia has received immediate promises of support and assistance from the US and Australia in the pursuit of the people who organised the Jakarta murders. Not just Indonesians but everyone, everywhere, will cheer when (and it must be when) they are eliminated as a further risk.
One final note: the Australian travel advisory for Indonesia – a topic of considerable comment over a lengthy period, because of its repeated advice to “reconsider” travel here, a qualification that has not been “upgraded” since the Jakarta attacks as some have mistakenly assumed – has been vindicated by events. We are in that sense back to square one.

On To Brighter Things

THE Diary’s firm policy in times of trouble is to whistle a happy tune (OK, you also make sure you have the brown cords and a change of undies handy) and get on with life. Thus we are happy to bring you the latest dispatch from our bling and bolly correspondent, Stella Kloster.
Stella was undercover – well, nearly; party wear these days is more of your barely cover variety – at this year’s Pushmipulyu Awards, the annual fiesta of self-congratulation organised for the locally luminous by The Yak magazine.
Sadly, she reports that few of the stellar clusters present had followed orders and dressed themselves in psychedelic chic as their invitations required. Perhaps they were psyched out.

No Surprises

BALI has won the title of World’s Best Island yet again. This should surprise no one. But it is good to know that Travel + Leisure Magazine’s 2009 list returned our island to premier position as a result of its annual survey.
Readers are asked to name their favourite cities, islands, hotels, resorts, airlines, cruise ships and even car rental companies. Gosh, that’s such a long list of boxes to tick that it Hertz.
Incidentally, only one Bali hotel got a gong from Travel + Leisure’s lovely readership this year: the Ayana Resort and Spa (the former Ritz Carlton at Jimbaran), which ranked 13th out of 100.
Bali has consistently ranked as world’s best island in the Travel + Leisure Magazine survey. It was demoted to number two spot in 2008, for reasons that should be seriously investigated because clearly they have nothing to do with evolution.
The 2008 winner was the Galapagos, where the mysteries of genetic modification so intrigued Charles Darwin. It was the swimming and diving iguanas that did it for Chaz. How they got to thinking they were actually otters was at first beyond his comprehension.

Write On … Read On

THIS year’s Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival is getting ever closer. It’s on from October 7-11. So it is good to hear – though we did so via the excellent Indonesian news agency Antara – that it will be attended by several of Indonesia’s most celebrated authors, including the award-winning short story writer and essayist Seno Gumira Ajidarma.
According to Wayan Juniartha, the festival’s Indonesian programme coordinator, Ajidarma will help workshop deliberations on the nature of violence and compassion.
Other authors down to put in an appearance this year are JM Coetzee, Kate Grenville and Hari Kunzu.
The festival website – it’s at www.ubudwritersfestival.com – has a news page. When we checked this week there was none. Still, as they say, sometimes no news is good news.

My Part in the Moon Landing, By Hec

THE past week has been full of people remembering what they were doing when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface on July 21, 1969, and said his famous words.
Hec recalls his own moment. As a then young scribbler, his job was to sit riveted in front of the little black-and-white TV set in the newsroom at the Press Association news agency in London and record – in his very best Pitman’s, yet another skill sadly given the finger in the digital age – the first words man uttered on the moon.
Being an anarchist at heart – Hec has had a lifelong fight with this condition – he was bitterly disappointed that Armstrong did not stumble on the lunar lander’s silly little stepladder and say something posterity would really remember.

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