Seeking Happier Holidays

Peak mid-year season is in full swing and the numbers are solid: foreign tourist arrivals are up and hotel occupancy rates are accordingly at a healthy circa 70 percent, at many properties even higher.

It is an abundantly rosy picture, one in which everyone is benefiting: the government, businesses, Indonesian families and, of course, the tourists themselves.

In this happy vista, however, there are some direct and dangerous issues that must be properly addressed but alarmingly are not being.

The first is the running battle that has broken out in the tourist-thronged Legian area of Kuta, where in recent weeks people have been killed and maimed as thugs pitch their wars at rival premises in the midst of the partying crowd.  Not one suspect has been apprehended – a poor police investigation that former Police Chief Sutisna was probably happy to leave behind when he retired, having turned 58, two weeks ago.

It is to be hoped that the new man in the job, Hadiatmoko, will not tolerate lacklustre probes that yield no concrete results. These crimes must be solved, and swiftly. Bali is unlike other parts of the country in that it has around two million tourists visiting each year and any incident involving foreigners hits the international headlines, as we know only too well. Such instances are economically disadvantageous to our island.

We have written repeatedly on this page about the rabies emergency, and have drawn criticism here at home and from abroad over our stance. We will not waver, however, in our view that the enormous – upwards of a million – stray dog population must be largely culled before we begin to see a decline in the numbers of people being bitten by them and sometimes dying.

We are fortified in our approach by the correspondence we receive from Bali residents every day. One reader even went as far as to suggest that the army be deployed to wipe out the stray dog population. This is a radical idea. But it reflects people’s fears of rabies and their frustration that our streets and roads are still full of stray dogs that can pose a deadly threat.

By contrast, there has been little correspondence in support of the animal welfare groups’ policy of vaccination only and wait for the viral reservoir to extinguish itself. That is because people have concluded that this approach is unlikely to be workable given the severity of the problem in Bali – nearly 80 people have died from dog-vectored rabies in almost two years – and the sheer size and uncontrolled nature of the dog population.

Our readers are rightly angry that such groups are keener, by their own admission, to place the life of dogs ahead of people. That is not acceptable in any situation.

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