January 1-7, 2010

The Law Moves In a Mysterious Way

A NUMBER of things irritate those who do business here, or try to. Among them is the risk of running into a bent lawyer or one of those business advisers whose business, it turns out, is to enrich themselves at their clients’ expense. Esti Yuliani, better known as Julie Edmond to those she famously ill-advised while passing herself off as a lawyer, is serving a two-year sentence imposed by judge Nyoman Sutama (less time served while awaiting trial) for omitting to mention that the Kantor Kita escrow account she got a business client to drop a lazy US$2.5 million into was in fact an open account to which she had access; and then lifting the loot.

(It’s interesting, for contextual comparison, that just before Christmas the same judge Nyoman Sutama at the Denpasar District Court sentenced Billabong Indonesia sales and marketing manager I Wayan Suanda to two and a half years in prison, less time already served (he was detained last May) for embezzling company materials. Suanda, with an absent co-defendant – Christopher James, who unsurprisingly is in Australia – had removed pictures and other promotional materials from 34 stores without the permission of another company, CV Bali Balance, with which Billabong is in a commercial dispute after terminating a long-standing business arrangement. It was alleged by CV Bali Balance that Suanda’s actions cost it $115,000.)

The Bali Times reported on page one of the December 18 edition that one of the bar associations that looks after lawyers here – that grammatical construction is deliberate, by the way, lest anyone miss the point – struck off one of its Bali members for taking $250,000 from a British client and not doing the paperwork for which the money had been provided. Why such embezzlement is not automatically a police matter – and why the gentleman concerned, Rizaldi Watruti (who is either acquisitive or indolent; it’s not entirely clear which), got only a year off instead of being tarred and feathered and told never to darken the doorway of a lawyer’s practice ever again – can only be described as an Indonesian mystery.

Caveat emptor remains the only sensible advice in circumstances where astonishing malfeasance appears to be a regular occurrence rather than an unpleasant exception; the preference is to wink at such instances unless someone makes a lot of noise or sufficient (further) money changes hands to oil the legal and judicial wheels. It’s not only stupid bules who are the victims. Indonesians do it to themselves regularly. And the perpetrators are not only Indonesians, either. Too many of the expatriates who have set up in business here seem to have done so because they’d be in jail if they tried it in their own countries, or anywhere with an effective criminal investigation and prosecution service, a rock-solid legal system and a judiciary that sees judgment as a jurisprudential outcome and not as an income stream.

It’s true, of course, that in land matters particularly Indonesian law makes a messy porridge of any transaction. Land title is often unclear and can be subject to rival claims years later, and the situation is complicated by the fanciful notion that if foreigners owned freehold title they would dig up the land and take it home. Selling land to foreigners is not specifically an Indonesian problem. It is only relatively recently, for example, that the silly burghers of The Great South Land managed to convince themselves that allowing non-citizens to buy freehold title would not mean they’d wake up one morning to find large parts of their very special biosphere had disappeared.

Author! Author!

ONE of the benefits of a week off (from diary writing among other things) is that you can do things you otherwise put aside for lack of time. So it is that a lengthy book review in the British journal The Spectator – like most things, read online in Bali – caught The Diary’s eye. It was written by Ferdinand Mount, who was reviewing a book by Frank Kermode (he’s 90 not out, good on him) on E.M. Forster, the English Edwardian author.

Forster wrote A Passage to India and Howard’s End, most notably; though in a long career he penned a lot more than that. Kermode has made a life’s work of dissecting Forster. He has done this so exhaustively that he must be the only person not exhausted by his effort. Mount writes that as he read Kermode’s latest causerie, he came to the conclusion that he liked Forster a lot. So does The Diary.

It’s true that Forster is a curiously enervating writer, but read deeply he is very far from bland and in fact is a much more penetrating inquisitor and prompter of questions than most. Besides, he must be all right. Anyone cauterised for literary demerit by Virginia Woolf – whether or not played for hours by the annoying Nicole Kidman in a false nose – is surely to be praised.

That he was a moneyed homosexual with fantasies about being roughed up by lower class lads is beside the point. Sadly, these days he is read much less widely than he should be. This is because he presents arguments that require effort to fully appreciate and leaves the functional side of sexual congress where it should be left, unless you’re writing pornography: to the reader’s imagination.

Sponsored Fun

READERS will have noticed that our pre-Christmas edition was sponsored by Oceans 27, the beachside entertainment venue in Kuta. The Diary got an invitation – well, vicariously by Facebook, at least – but did not attend the Russian Bikini Pool Party put on by our sponsors for the young and disgracefully undressed on December 19. Superannuated cockatoos look very scary in pink bikinis.

We hear it was a good bash, as all such parties should be. Thoroughly tasteless, gauche, loud, ill-mannered … all the things that your diarist remembers (well vaguely; read on) from the flush of youth.

Young people always think that theirs is the time of innovation; that no one (especially their parents) can ever have had this much fun. It is part of the insouciant insolence and ignorance of youth. But this is not the case and never has been. Eventually most of us grow out of it; it can be a shock, that process. It is not confined to party-animal misbehaviour. Winston Churchill, an indifferent scholar but a powerful intellect, once said that when he was 16 he had been embarrassed by his parents’ ignorance, but at 21 had been amazed at how much they had learned in the past five years.

The Diary had one youthful episode of exceptional note (in the party context). It was in London, where you have to play hard just to keep warm. The details are understandably vague, though it must have been an excellent affray. There’s a whole week missing from the record.

Too Precious

JOURNALISTS – among whom your diarist publicly counts himself, having long ago given up his quest for greater respectability by telling people he plays piano in a brothel – should not be too precious. They dish it out (or they should) so they must be able to take it, too.

The case of Jakarta woman Luna Maya’s Twitter outbursts – if you can get past the deliciously whacky inference to be drawn from the lady’s first name – is one instance of this rule. One of Indonesia’s journalists’ associations has reported her to police. Journalists prattle on forever about defending free speech. How, then, can they possibly use a repressive, ridiculous and offensive law – the defamation provisions of the Electronic Transaction and Information Law – to attempt to punish someone who expresses a view of journalists that is not something you’d want to put on your name card?

Luna’s opinion may be loony (well, it is). Albeit she appeared to be targeting “infotainment” journalists – that natural oxymoron – about whose utility we might all profitably ponder. Perhaps prostitutes and murderers will now also complain that they have been profoundly and (thanks to ridiculous legislation) criminally insulted.

Journalism is not for the faint-hearted, or for those who cannot see the hypocrisy of protesting on the one hand against repressive laws and seeking to use them, on the other, when their pompous little egos have been dented. Freedom of speech means having to put up with the ravings of all manner of twits.

Christmas Ritual

A LITTLE while ago The Diary attended – and came sixth in – a Bloody Mary-making competition at the St. Regis Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua. It was an evening arranged by Geetha Warrier, the property’s comely communicator. The reward (apart from dinner afterwards and the fame of finishing far higher up the list than usual where demonstrations requiring practical application are concerned) was two vouchers for a Bloody Mary-Inspired Ritual at Remède Spa.

The vouchers were redeemed on Christmas Day. The Diary and Mrs Diary enjoyed 180 minutes of the finest pampering, in a wonderful ambience. It involved various preparations including tomato, pineapple, wasabi and parsley, administered firmly by superbly qualified therapists who understood that “strong” means strong and whose skills were unquestionable.

It was a far cry from the usual – very pleasant and more than adequate – Bali-style pampering places generally patronised by the less than obscenely over-moneyed, and a very nice Christmas present.

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One Response to “January 1-7, 2010”

  1. jd webb Says:

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