It is not unique to Indonesian politics that they can often degenerate into a self-serving affair, benefiting the officeholder far more than the people he or she was elected to serve. Rare are the few — worldwide — whose ego and lust for power does not overtake them so that they come to view the electorate as an inconvenience to be pandered to only at poll time.
The trappings of high office can be many and dazzling, and in this country the rewards, official or otherwise, can be equally bountiful.
And so we can count ourselves fortunate indeed to have as the governor of this island I Made Mangku Pastika, a man who — peculiar these days — puts the welfare of the people of Bali above that of himself.
Offered a luxury official car last week to replace his aged vehicle that has trouble getting up to speed, the governor said no, that the 13-year-old car he has now still runs well enough and that the budgeted Rp1 billion (US$110,650) for a car for him and another for his deputy would be better spent on welfare programmes and health and education.
This sober stand of the governor should be a lesson to provincial leaders around the country, and those in Jakarta. It is commendable that Pastika should turn down a new official vehicle and insist on using one that has seen better days; but it is practical and the right thing to do.
Since his election in 2008, Bali’s former police chief has been rational and realistic. Straight away, for instance, he banned all the tiresome formality and pricey food and drinks at events he would be attending, commendably opting to get straight down to business. Governor Pastika works to ensure the safety and welfare of all those who are here: the Balinese, foreign residents and the millions of tourists, whether from outlying islands or countries around the world. Earlier this year, he launched a free island-wide healthcare scheme for holders of Bali ID who cannot afford treatment.
Our governor is a man for our austere and sensible times, and he is a man who is improving our island like no one before him. At the top of his war-list is the deadly scourge of rabies that has taken hold all over Bali and led to the deaths of around 80 people since it broke out two years ago.
Now, with no let-up in dog-bites or deaths in sight, Governor Pastika has reiterated that all stray dogs — unbelievably, over half a million of them — must be culled before the rabies virus is brought under control. And it’s not only because of rabies; there are simply extraordinarily too many stray dogs in Bali. They are a menace not only because of this cruel (and, in late-stage, incurable) disease: They attack passers-by; they chase after motorbikes, often leading to fatal consequences; and they are the cause of severe night-time noise pollution that ruins the sleep of many.
They need to go: the lot of them. The governor agrees.