Desi Anwar, Michael White, Jack Daniels

By Hector

Here’s a Thought: We Don’t Need Super-Brains; We Need Ethics and Morals

DESI Anwar, who writes a weekend column in the Jakarta Globe, is always worth reading. She’s to the point; she challenges the mind; she writes concisely; and – allowing for small arguments about some of her conclusions – she’s generally on the money. That’s a comparative rarity these days, in the print media anywhere, and especially in the navel-gazing, post-modern macramé set that spends its time looking deeply into the gilded but distorted mirror of Bali’s glossy advertorial media, the bit that says let’s not bother with news, it’s all so vulgar.

Anwar’s column last weekend is therefore a talking point. She wrote, in the context of Indonesia losing the services of finance minister Sri Mulyani (folks, chill; it’s not a Shakespearian tragedy, really it isn’t) that politics in a democracy is somewhat difficult to manage. Well, it is. It’s a very bad system. It’s just that it’s better than any visible alternative. It’s not clear at all how the people would benefit, in Indonesia or anywhere else, by being governed by a lot of super-qualified boffins who don’t have to compete for a popular vote.

There’s no evidence, either, that astronomical IQs or strings of highfalutin degrees do any good. If you’ve got a crooked mind, or define ethics and morals as things that are only the concern of others and are best ignored when considering your own advantage, high qualifications could arguably make you a worse public enemy than otherwise. The key is not to have a crooked or corrupt mind in the first place. That doesn’t – per se – require higher education. It requires an unimpeachable character.

So arguments that candidates for elected office should be subject to some kind of qualification test must be rejected. The voters in a democracy are the arbiters of who gets into office. The voters are not dumb. They might be ill-educated, terminally lazy, or all sorts of things. But “qualifying” voters – even if only by implying they’re a bunch of mugs – is even worse than suggesting legislators should have paper qualifications.

Indonesia certainly needs a corruption-free civil service. It needs political parties that have platforms rather than wish-lists. It needs politicians who seek to serve the people before they help themselves. It needs a state enterprise and private business sector that does likewise – and foreign investors, large or small, who also have a natural and unshakeable commitment to ethical behaviour.

It also needs media commentators who – like Anwar and others – will call it as they see it.

Hear, Hear

MADE Wijaya (Michael White), the long-term ex-expatriate landscape gardener, makes an interesting point in his online blog – The Diary reads it assiduously for signs of insurrection in the community of good thinkers; of mutterings among the chatterers, and vice versa, that sort of thing – about landscaping Bali gardens. He remarked that he viewed with extreme prejudice the Dutch suburban style of garden favoured in crowded parts of Indonesian metropolises, including by inference the more populated parts of South Bali, and instead favoured Balinese gardens along with Balinese-influenced architecture.

We agree. Dutch suburbia is bad enough in Dutch suburbs, and last time we looked, there were none of those hereabouts. Thank goodness. There is a lot that is magic about Bali and the local variants of architecture and landscaping are two essential elements of this special alchemy.

It is not necessary, of course, to join wholly with the chatterers and mutterers in mewling about how latecomers are doing to Bali what many of their predecessors, among them the mutterers and chatterers, have been doing for years to their significant advantage, and that this is now a bad thing.

Architecture changes; influences extend. It’s far more important to ensure that there are proper planning laws – and that these are enforced – than to hold funerary rites for imagined cultural bereavements.

Nonetheless, Wijaya is right. Bali needs to be Bali.


STRANGE things are happening at – or at least emerging from – Bali Update, the online heads-up produced by another of the high-volume expatriates among us, Jack Daniels, who we believe was in Singapore on a What If trip this week. He said that fingerprinting and photographing of arriving passengers at Ngurah Rai International Airport had been scrapped. It hasn’t. It has only been suspended. It’s been suspended because, like so many things here, it was introduced by the department of bright ideas before any visible thought had gone into it. But this additional security measure is national policy and is being introduced nationally, so it will be back. Hopefully this will be in a workable form.

Daniels retailed another strange pronouncement too: about a proposal, un-sourced except to an unnamed Japanese tourist group, that Japanese tourists should have access to three-year tourist visas instead of the 30-day, extendable once, visas now offered.

It wasn’t explained why they should be afforded the privilege. Perhaps they think it will take that long for JAL to realise the silly mistake it’s made in dropping Bali from its schedules. Bali Tourism Board chairman Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya somehow got drawn into the act, though he had a sensible response: If any such thing did eventuate, it would have to be clear it was for tourists only and not for people to work.

The Diary’s own assessment: Eggbeaters ran amok.

Now Hear This

IF you’re anywhere near Discovery Mall at Kuta between 8pm on Friday, May 28, and 5am the following morning, you probably won’t be able to avoid hearing it. The Beat magazine is celebrating its 10th birthday. It’s a full moon on the 27th, which seems appropriate in the western culture that The Beat tirelessly imposes upon us all. In the west, at full moon, traditionally you look warily for signs of mad hair growing out of your palms. (If you find any, you’ve probably been reading The Beat.)

It will be a grand bash, in the way such public entertainments are defined these days. We expect a sizeable crowd will turn out for the event. There were four confirmed guests when last we looked. But these things tend to be turn-up-on-the-night affrays.

Put a Sock in It

THE pathetic saga of Robert Paul Mcjannett (yes, with the “little j”) is nearly over, it seems. His five-month sentence for using drugs – which he didn’t use, because customs officers at Ngurah Rai International Airport found and removed them from their hiding place inside a pair of Bonds socks in his baggage – will see him out of here by month’s end.

He has been in police detention or in Kerobokan Jail ever since his arrest on December 28. So on the basis of time served, the end of May should see him back on the bus.

Good riddance. We’re sick of sad little nutcases turning up in Bali, getting clocked with drugs they didn’t know they had (hah), and then going through their sorry little list of lies before (some of them) finally confessing, before the Beak, “Yes, M’lud, I done it.”

Queensland-born West Australian resident Mcjannett has – well, had is perhaps more accurate – pretensions to leadership at the fractious heavy-arm end of the dinosaur Australian trade union movement. He is a bother-boy from way back. He fancied himself a player. Perhaps now he’ll find enough common sense to blow the whistle on himself.

There was, by the way, a delightfully apposite misspelling in one Australian report we saw of his conviction and sentencing hearing in Denpasar District Court (it was last Thursday). It said Mcjannett was “a crane operator and leading trade unionist who once challenged heavyweight Joe McDonald for the assistant state (West Australian) secretary position of the Constriction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.”

No argument there. It is undeniable that the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union is constricting.

Search Over

IN the decade or so that has passed since your diarist first came to Bali and began compiling a hit list of the top 100 songs most murdered by Bali minstrels, the Eagles’ iconic Hotel California has been a constant No 1. It used to be closely pursued by Take Me Home (Country Road), but some little while ago John Denver took a plunge.

However, recently at Waroeng Ungasan, The Diary’s favourite local eat, greet and groove place, two gentlemen appeared at the regular Thursday session and played magic guitar. And sang the best rendition of Hotel California The Diary has so far heard on Bali. Only the churlish would say that since it is universally slain in a most horrible way, not committing this crime should be easy enough for anyone with a modicum of singing talent. This excludes The Diary, whose rendition of song has forever been a vicarious acquisition. So here’s a heartfelt round of applause to Prast and Erick.

They also sing Tracy Chapman tracks, by the way. We’ve yet to try them on Chapman’s seminal Talking About a Revolution, though. Here in kneejerk land, talking about that might be considered a downside risk.

Think Pink

DON’T forget the Pink Ribbon Walk to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer – it’s on tomorrow (Saturday, May 15) at Nusa Dua. Tickets are Rp250,000 (US$27.50) or Rp100,000 ($11) if you’re aged 12 or under.

Start and finish is at the island at Nusa Dua (the temple promontory near Bali Collection and the Convention Centre). Registration is from 2pm; the 5km walk starts at 4pm. If you’ve still to sign up, contact organiser Gaye Warren: mobile 0816 966 251 or email See you there.

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