BT Editorials

Playing with Fire

More than a dozen people in Bali were spending the early hours of 2011 in hospital due to injuries caused by fireworks on New Year’s Eve. This is what happens when policing fails. Fireworks are illegal in Indonesia yet are openly on sale in the run-up to New Year celebrations. The entertaining explosives are not only a severe noise pollutant; they also, as we have seen, wound.

It is easy to say that members of the force are oftentimes more concerned with their personal welfare than carrying out the tasks they are paid to do, however poorly. This sad fact is observed on the streets every day. Easy prey such as motorbike-riding foreign tourists frequently capture officers’ attention when their job should be to ensure safety for all and protect the public from harm.

Thus comes an understanding why casual sellers without any trading licences are able to set up shop at the sides of Denpasar’s streets in mid-December and display an array of dangerous firecrackers and rockets that are smuggled into the country from places like China where there is little if any manufacturing oversight or standards.

Such torpor on the part of the authorities regrettably continues to extend into almost every sphere of life, inevitably with fatal consequences. As more than a hundred Balinese lie dead, the island is being internationally derided for its failure over two years to adequately deal with rabies when systematic and rapid culling of the unacceptable number of stray dogs would end the crisis within weeks. There is no sign at all that this will happen, only that deaths will rise as the feral population – the main viral reservoir – grows. No amount of dog-lobby wishful thinking, or their frenetic pointing to case studies by international groups, will unfortunately prevent this.

Elsewhere there remains uncertainly in the bureaucracy and courts because there is always an agenda, one that thwarts foreign investment in this island and the wider country, similarly affected by the unnerving malaise. Some days it is an official battle just to make it through the day.

These ills will not be cured overnight – certainly not within the short timescale of the coming 12 months; that much is clear. But if rules and regulations are not soon properly enforced for all and at all times, we may one day witness an island that will detonate like a warehouse of dodgy fireworks.

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A Sick Joke

Gayus Tambunan is a joke: a sick joke. The man who found his remand cell so onerous that he bribed his way out to attend the Commonwealth Bank tennis classic in Bali in November has now been fingered for two little overseas trips he took from Jakarta in September on a false passport. He is a disgrace. He may believe he is innocent of the US$6 million graft charges he faces from his time as an acquisitive tax officer, but he has been charged, will go on trial, is detained in the meantime and if he has even a vague grasp of his own obligations to the society of which he is a member, should accept that he is under arrest and on remand.

He is not the only sick joke in play here, however. If our government and bureaucracy wish to avoid becoming a complete laughing stock internationally – not to mention an object of even greater anger among the people of this country – they must get to grips with the necessity for them to do at least the basics of their job. Graft and corruption here is often excused as resulting from appallingly low pay levels. Everyone knows that to get anything done at all, you need to grease a few palms.

But this pervasive corruption of the rules – and of morality – must cease. This is especially urgent in the area of law enforcement. It is unbelievable that Gayus – however deluded he plainly is – is able to play horses and wide-open stable doors whenever he pleases. It is, if this is possible, even more unbelievable that those responsible for keeping remand prisoners in detention don’t.

It is said by many observers that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must this year recapture the agenda on which he was elected. So he must. He could start by making absolutely sure that people like Gayus (and so many others) are not able to come and go from their places of detention as they wish.

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2 Responses to “BT Editorials”

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  2. Sam Says:

    Great no-nonsense article. Totally agree with the argument that a law is only as good as its enforcement and in Bali many laws are not enforced.

    The fireworks around News can be for for a short while, but obviously dangerous, particularly the multi-shot type where after lighting the thing continues to fire.

    Here’s a video I took on my cell phone from a street side bar in Seminyak.

    http://www.balivillascafe.com/images/new_years_in_bali.mp4

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