Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tongue-Tied over Speaking in Tongues

By Vyt Karazija

So I’m chatting in my execrable Bahasa to the staff at a little establishment I frequent, when the guy at the next table leans across and says in a conspiratorial voice: “You really should speak English to them, you know.” He actually says “Ya rooly should spoik Nglsh tooem ya know,” but as I modestly consider myself to be a UN-standard interpretatar of Strine, I understand him perfectly.

I pause momentarily, thinking that perhaps if I agree with him, he will just disappear. But of course, given my unerring tendency always to test the depth of the water with both feet, I walk willingly into the verbal snare and ask: “Why is that?”

“Well,” he says, lowering his voice still further, “they all speak a foreign language here, you know.” “But it’s not foreign to them,” I reply, bemused. He is taken aback. “Of course it’s foreign; it’s not English!” he declares vehemently.

He notes my look of puzzlement at this logical circularity, and continues patiently: “They’re not real good at English, ya know? They can’t remember what stuff is called; that crazy accent is weird; and – geez – they can’t even pronunciate words properly!” He actually says “pronunciate.” I bring my glass to my face to hide my mouth. Please, lips – don’t unpurse; don’t even think about smiling.

“So ya gotta speak English to them instead of their own lingo, see?” he continues, “so they can learn stuff … like, well, English…” He trails off, shaking his head at my inability to follow his reasoning, or perhaps just losing his train of thought. “Look,” he says, dropping his voice to a whisper. “They’re pretty dumb with languages, right? So you hafta give them more practice. You speak that Indo stuff to ‘em, they’ll never learn, see?” At this point, I can either walk away and cut my losses or try to guide this slightly deluded character gently back to reality. Never being one for making wise choices, I soldier on.

“See that guy over there?” I ask him, indicating one of the wait staff, “he speaks English, German, Indonesian, Balinese…” My new companion cuts me off: “Whoa, whoa! Come on! Don’t double up here! Indonesian, Balinese – it’s the same thing!”

So I try to explain that people from Bali speak Balinese, their first language, and they also speak Indonesian, which is the official language of the entire nation. I can see him trying to absorb this. “I don’t get it,” he says. “Why have two different languages for Bali?” So I explain that throughout the entire archipelago, there are more than 700 regional languages spoken, and that everybody speaks Indonesian as well as their first language so that they can all communicate with each other. He looks at me closely. “You some kind of perfessor or something?” he asks suspiciously. I don’t recall perfessing anything recently, so I suppose that makes me a “something” – but I let it pass.

He looks a little bit uncertain now, so I press on, waving towards one of the restaurant staff: “As I was saying, that guy over there speaks Indonesian, Balinese, German and English. The girl next to him can carry on a conversation in Japanese as well. Some of the people at the place next door can even speak enough Mandarin to get by with their Chinese customers. And almost all people here speak English, too.”

Then, because I have a cruel streak, I ask innocently: “By the way, how many languages do you speak?” ”Uh,” he says, “Well, English of course, and, uh … Australian,” he finishes gamely. I am humbled; I didn’t realise I was in the presence of a true polyglot. But wanting to wrap up the debate quickly, I tell him that I feel that he is being just a little unfair in his judgement that the locals are, in his words: “pretty dumb with languages.” Thinking about my own pathetic efforts to learn Indonesian (a supposedly “simple” language), I tell him that the linguistic ability of the people here is, in fact, quite extraordinary.

He turns to me triumphantly. “See? That’s what I mean! Why confuse ‘em all with 700 languages? All they have to do is learn English properly and they’re all sweet!” Faking genuine admiration in my voice, I admit to him that he has come up with an absolute pearler of an argument, and that he’s certainly got me there. I’m such a gutless wonder.

He leaves the restaurant a happy man. The staff who overheard our exchange look at me and roll their eyes as only Balinese can do. I leave thinking that some people will never, ever get it.

Filed under: Vyt's Line

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

World Needs a Green, Clean Environment

In the past, the major need of people in this world was arable land. Man did not have to think about animate things. However, now the adverse effects on forests through over-population and the development of various chemical elements in the atmosphere have led to irregular rainfall and global warming.

This global warming has brought changes in climate, including making perennial snow-mountains melt, thereby adversely affecting not only human beings but also other living species.

This dangerous situation is being taken very seriously by the world. In the past the perennial snow mountains of Tibet had very thick snow. Older people say that these mountains were covered with thick snow when they were young and that the snows are getting sparser, which may be an indication of the end of the world.

It is a fact that climate change is a slow process taking thousands of years to realise its effect.

Living beings and plant life on this planet also undergo change accordingly. Man’s physical structure, too, changes from generation to generation along with the change in climatic conditions.

Because of the growth in the population, a large number of trees are cut for fuel, and to reclaim land for agricultural cultivation. In the case of Tibet, too, the Chinese have now destroyed its ancient trees in a similar way to shaving a man’s hair off. This is not simply the destruction of trees but it also means harming what belongs to the Tibetans.

Similarly, the continuing decline in forests in many parts of the world, including America, is adversely affecting the already changing global climate, thus upsetting the lives, not only of mankind, but also of all living beings.

And the harmful effect on the atmosphere brought about by chemical emissions in industrialized countries is a very dangerous sign. Although this is a new thing for us Tibetans, the world is paying a lot of attention to this problem. It is the responsibility of us, who speak of the welfare of all sentient beings, to contribute towards this.

Since I also have a responsibility in this matter – to work for the protection of the environment and to see that the present and future generations of mankind can make use of refreshing shade and fruits of trees – I bought seeds of fruit-bearing trees with part of my Nobel Peace Prize money to be distributed now, to people representing different regions – all the continents of the world are represented here – during this Kalachakra gathering.

These seeds have been kept near the Kalachakra mandala for purification and blessings. Since these include seeds of apricot, walnut, papaya, guava, etc., suitable for planting under varying geographical conditions, experts in respective places should be consulted on their planting and care and, thus, you all should see my sincere aspiration is fulfilled.

Filed under: The Dalai Lama

Terror Threat Among Us

While the country’s terror-threat focus has largely been on areas of Central Java where militants are churned out from hardline Islamic boarding schools, elsewhere in the country, to the east of Bali, similar ills have been growing.

The death on Monday of a suspected terrorist at an Islamic school in Bima on the arid island of Sumbawa, when a homemade bomb detonated, and the ensuing three-day armed standoff between police and students, is a stark reminder of the horror of militancy that exists all around us.

It is inexplicable that teachers and students prevented police from entering the school for three days, to investigate what happened on Monday. Quite how they deemed themselves above the law is unknown. At the very least, they should be arrested for obstructing justice.

But there are suspicions that the institution was a bomb-making factory, a notion reinforced by the deadly blast on Monday.

Death and destruction, based on anything but in this case religion, have no place in the classroom. What were these students being indoctrinated in?

It is obvious that the school had something to hide; hence the teachers’ and students’ blocking of police. When police officers finally managed to gain entry on Wednesday it was not surprising that they discovered bombs. None of those preventing their entry were apprehended, however: they had all fled, even though the premises had been surrounded by 200 police and troops, which in itself is disturbing. Eight people have been arrested over the incident, however.

The radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, jailed over the first Bali bombings and then released but imprisoned again, in June, for funding terrorist activities, had links to this remote school, police said.

There is no doubt of the ongoing Islamic militancy in this country; and there is no questioning the fact that some institutions that are supposed to provide academic learning are in fact teaching malleable youngsters how to make bombs and in some cases strap them to their bodies and blow themselves up in attacks against Western targets.

The government must act to stop this rot now. Any place suspected of radical behaviour must be investigated and shut down and its leaders investigated. The laws to deal with this treat have been in place since the Bali bombings of 2002. Failure to act now will see the brainwashing assembly line continue.

Indonesia, including Bali, has suffered enough.

Filed under: Editorial

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

US Confirms Obama Will Attend Bali Summit


US President Barack Obama will participate in talks by the 18-nation East Asia Summit in Bali later this year, the State Department confirmed this week.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was travelling to Indonesia later this month partly to prepare for “President Obama’s participation for the first time in the EAS in November,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

An official in Bali said in May that the island was preparing to welcome Obama on November 19.

Bali government spokesman Ketut Teneng said US Ambassador Scot Marciel had informed the regional authorities of Obama’s intention to attend the regional strategic dialogue, which also includes China and Russia.

It will be Obama’s second official visit to Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood in the late 1960s.

During his first official trip in November last year, Obama celebrated Indonesia’s evolution from the rule of the “iron fist” to democracy and lauded his boyhood home’s spirit of tolerance as a model for Islam and the West.

Obama said Indonesia’s transformation had been mirrored in his own life, in the 40 years since he left Indonesia, as a youth who was destined to become the president of the United States.

“Indonesia is a part of me,” Obama said, recalling how his late mother had married an Indonesian man and brought her son to then-sleepy Jakarta, where he would fly kites, run in ricefields and catch dragonflies.

Indonesia is hosting November’s regional dialogue in its capacity as chair of ASEAN, the 10-nation grouping which forms the core of the broader EAS.

The United States and Russia were admitted to the 18-nation EAS last year, but Obama did not attend the leaders’ meeting in Hanoi in October, sending Clinton in his place.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is also expected to attend the summit, which closely follows meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Group of 20 rich and developing countries.

Officials in Bali, hit by deadly terror bombings in 2002 and 2005 targeting Western tourists, hope Obama’s visit will prove a tourism windfall reassuring potential travellers.

“Having world leaders meet here will show that Bali is safe. And that has an impact because some countries still have a travel warning, like Australia and America,” Indonesian Travel Association chairman Aloysius Purwa said last month.

“If Obama comes to Bali, it will change Americans’ perceptions.”

Filed under: Headlines

The Blurred Lines of Bali

By Richard Boughton

Recently an Englishman arrived in my neighbourhood in Biaung. He moved into a house just a couple doors away from my good friend Vick’s house. Vick is also an Englishman, and so there are two of them now. This makes for far too many Englishmen in the neighbourhood, if you ask me.

But in any case, this Englishman’s first questions, naturally enough, centred on matters of general etiquette and law here in Bali. What exactly, he wanted to know, was the speed limit on the roadways? Curiously (in his mind anyway), he had observed no posted signs.

“Speed limit, you say?” Vick answered. “Well … how fast does your car go? It really depends on that, and on how many cars are in your way.”

“Ah, I see. Well, what about drinking? I had a couple beers the other night, and I just wondered – how many beers do you reckon one could get away with?”

“How many beers can you drink?” was Vick’s reply.

The man, you see, was still swimming on the falling crest of the strange warp between West and East, and just about to hit the sand with a resounding thump. One may know well enough that he is not in Kansas anymore, but just exactly where in the world has he landed? That is the question.

And so I thought I’d do my part by offering a few tips to help orient the newcomer

The white lines, for instance, which in the West serve to divide traffic lanes or designate pedestrian crosswalks, mean nothing in Bali. For all practical purposes, it was a waste of white paint, which might otherwise have been used for graffiti, and more meaningfully so at that.

“You want woman?” is not an offer of a housemaid. Similarly, “You want very young woman, maybe 17?” is also not an offer of a housemaid.

It will take approximately three weeks and seven phone calls to get your Indovision hooked up and working. An Indovision crew (two guys on a motorbike) will come to your house within two weeks, but on this initial visit they will bring no tools or cables, or dish. They have either forgotten these common tools of the trade, or it is “simply not done.”

You will find that every other day is a Hindu ceremony of some sort, and that the days in between are Muslim holidays. These are of varying size and commotion and you will need to anticipate unusually snarled traffic, or even becoming, unintentionally yet inextricably, a part of the procession.

Expect to be stopped by the police on a regular basis. It’s nothing you did. It’s simply your skin colour. Don’t take it personally. Ignore the whistle and the pointing finger. Everyone else does, and so it will make you seem more of a “local.” If you go out of your way to pull over to the side of the road, you have merely shown yourself to be as callow as they were hoping you would be. Once stopped, in any case, don’t bother asking what you did wrong. It doesn’t matter. Just cut to the chase and give the man Rp50,000.

When the woman on the beach says, “Come look my shop; just looking-looking; very cheap,” she does not really want you to just look at the shop, and the things in the shop are not really very cheap at all.

If you paid Rp200,000 for your ubiquitous Bintang t-shirt, you paid too much. If you paid Rp100,000, or Rp70,000, or even Rp50,000, it was also too much. But in some sense this is okay, for you have made your contribution to that which keeps the island of Bali in business – to whit, the Bintang t-shirt along with the Bintang itself, at its own exorbitant price.

Lastly I will mention the honking of horns. In the Western world the horn is a shout, an explicative. Here, the horn says: “Hi! I’m Ketut, and I’m coming through on your left. Hati-hati, ya!”

Filed under: Practical Paradise

Monday, July 18, 2011

Resisting Revenge: a Bali Terrorism Victim Stops the Cycle of Violence

By Helen Thompson

On the day of the Bali bombing in 2002, Hayati Eka Laksmi received a call from a representative of a car-rental firm. The car her husband rented with some friends had been caught in traffic in the nearby tourist district of Kuta and a bomb had exploded just three vehicles away.

Eka had already heard about the bombing, but it never crossed her mind that her husband could have been affected. Her initial horror that a group could perpetrate such an attack in the name of Islam gave way to personal grief. She began a frantic search for information, trying to find out if her husband was still alive.

It took seven days before Eka found her husband’s body lying in a mortuary. “I had to identify his body based on marks pointed out by the forensic team and through DNA testing,” said Eka. “I was deeply shocked when it was confirmed that ‘Mr X’ in Bag Number 145 was the body of my husband.”

The loss of her husband left Eka to bring up her two young sons on her own. “I relied on my husband’s income. My two boys were very young at the time, two and three years old. We were all deeply affected. I became traumatised and depressed.”

Eka noticed that her children were also becoming angry, sad and sometimes aggressive. On the first anniversary of the bombing, she felt that she must do something to move her family out of the grief into which they had sunk.

For six months, Eka received counselling from at a non-governmental organisation that actively helps survivors and victims’ families. Once she completed therapy, the organisation asked her to start working for them, which allowed her to earn some money. Like many women affected by terrorism, she had lost the household’s main breadwinner, and struggled to keep the family going economically. With the help of her mother, she opened a small shop selling domestic goods like sugar, coffee and gas.

Once she had resolved the most pressing needs of everyday life, Eka turned to the emotional needs of her children, taking them to counselling. She recognised that many families were going through the same trauma, and decided to bring friends who had also lost relatives in the bombings to counselling as well.

Gradually, Eka helped create a network of victims called Isana Dewata (Wives Husbands Children of Victims of the Bali Bombings). Through discussion and mutual support, victims were able to find the strength and spirit to overcome their hardships and turn their grief into positive action. The group now consists of 22 families, including 47 children.

The Bali bombings killed people from 22 countries around the world and from several different religions.

Eka recently travelled to Vienna for the Mothers MOVE conference, organised by SAVE-Sisters Against Violent Extremism, the world’s first female counter-terrorism platform. SAVE aims to break through barriers of nationalism, religion and ethnicity to create a global network of women dedicated to ending violent extremism, and to highlight the voices of victims to expose the human cost of terrorism.

In Vienna, Eka joined women from Nigeria, Yemen, Egypt, Pakistan, Palestine, Israel and Northern Ireland, all of whom have lost relatives to terrorism or who are working actively to counter violent extremism. Eka shared her own story and learnt from the experiences of others. Over the three days, the women built up an intimate trust. They gained inspiration from each other’s stories and recognised that even across cultures, the pain a mother feels on losing a husband or child is the same.

Eka recognises that a mother’s influence is very important: “Mothers are the basis of the family. [A mother] can give her children direction. Those children who were affected by the Bali bombing might have anger in their hearts. Mothers can explain to them that it is no good to seek revenge. Through cooperation with other mothers, women can better support their children.”

“My children’s lives were changed because of cowards who acted in the name of religion, but these bombings are not about religion,” Eka adds. “Islam does not teach us to kill each other. Religion is a basic need, and it is my foundation for life. I have learnt to appreciate the blessings that God has given to us and accept all of this with a sincere heart and without a grudge against anyone, not even against the terrorists who killed my husband.”

Helen Thompson is the Information Officer for SAVE-Sisters Against Violent Extremism, the world’s first female anti-terrorism platform.

Filed under: Opinion

Comics Invade Indonesian Religious Schools

By Dewi Wijayanti

Watch out, students! This summer, 60,000 comic books will arrive at various reading clubs and libraries in pesantrens (Islamic boarding schools) and public schools across Indonesia. The dissemination of these comic books, along with the establishment of reading clubs, is part of a new nationwide effort to improve inter- and intra-religious understanding in Indonesia.

Pesantrens have long been considered one of the possible breeding grounds for extremism in Indonesia. Although there is an incredible diversity in the style and methods of teaching in pesantrens, some already have infamous graduates who have become known terrorists.

So why use comic books to improve religious understanding?

Comic books are beloved by students in Indonesia, and therefore can be a compelling medium to encourage youth to reflect on religion in Indonesia without feeling lectured at, preached to or, worse yet, bored.

Already, comic books have been used internationally to introduce Islamic values to youth in the Middle East and North Africa. Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, almost all Muslims featured in mainstream – mainly Western – comic books were antagonists. Only recently have Muslims started to qualify as protagonists.

The 99, for example, is a comic book series published by Teshkeel Comics that features a team of superheroes whose backgrounds are varied and whose powers are based on Islamic values. Created and co-written by a Kuwaiti psychologist and entrepreneur, the comic has gained global fame and acceptance since it was first launched in 2006, and is praised as an important effort to counter anti-Islam media bias.

In Indonesia, comic books are hugely popular. Many Indonesian youth read a diverse range of comic books – Japanese comics, European (especially Franco-Belgian and British) comics, American mainstream comics (the DC and Marvel titles) and local Indonesian underground varieties (rip-offs of Western superheroes, Hindu mythology comics and others). Events such as comic conventions are regularly organised across Indonesian cities as platforms for comic lovers to meet with each other.

The popular comic book format allows the presentation of important issues in an informal manner. Bringing these issues closer to readers’ daily lives, they feel that these issues are not foreign, but instead are relevant to them. Both mainstream and underground comic books have explored real life political, socio-cultural and economic issues in their pages, and some of them have received awards recognising their contribution to raising public awareness of important issues.

For these reasons, the international conflict transformation organisation Search for Common Ground, in consultation with pesantren leaders and educators, is using comic books to encourage young Indonesians to consider the role of religion in their daily lives.

There are currently two series, each of which has produced six comic episodes to date.

The first series, The Genjrings, tells a story about a rock ‘n roll band in a pesantren, promoting the theme “different is not bad.” The main plot in each comic revolves around the band members who agree to put aside their differences to face various problems that result from intolerance, including of the religious kind, in Indonesia. These problems exist in daily life because of misunderstandings, existing stereotypes and misinformation between people of different backgrounds.

The other series, Pesantren Terakhir (The Last Pesantren), tells the story of three teenagers on a journey to a pesantren. On this journey, they are faced with challenges relating to issues of religious tolerance. Both comic series use the pesantren as a familiar setting to which students can relate.

To provide a platform to learn and discuss religious tolerance issues, participating pesantrens will establish reading clubs which will discuss episodes of the comic books regularly. Teachers will be equipped with facilitators’ manuals that highlight the key messages of discussion. These reading groups play a similar function as comic conventions, except that the reading groups focus on exploring intolerance in Indonesian society.

The preliminary feedback from students in participating schools was generally positive. Interestingly, these comic books were described as “unique as they specifically introduce daily life in Indonesian pesantrens” and as “present[ing] a different view of pesantrens, for example, that pesantrens students love music as well.”

These young pesantren students have hopes that these comic books will help humanise their institutions in the eyes of the world. The dream of peaceful co-existence based on mutual understanding just became a little less far-fetched.

Dewi Wijayanti is a programme officer with Search for Common Ground’s Indonesia programme.

Filed under: Opinion

Neighbours from Hell – Swearing Prompts Strangulation


Buleleng Police are investigating an incident in Cempaga village in the Banjar district in which a man attempted to strangle his neighbour.

Buleleng Police spokesman I Nyoman Widastra said the altercation took place on Sunday morning.

According to witnesses the incident began while 48-year-old Ketut Jiket was feeding his pigs. Believing someone had thrown a stone at him from the neighbouring compound, Jiket allegedly swore loudly, and then returned to his house and went into the bathroom to wash.

His 38-year-old neighbour, Ketut Bagiastawan, who witnesses said was enraged by the bad language which he believed was directed at him, then came to Jiket’s house, kicked the bathroom door down, and attempted to strangle him.

When Jiket’s wife, 46-year-old Luh Sadiasih, attempted to intervene it is alleged that Bagiastawan hit her in the head and knocked her unconscious.

“In the act of hitting the second victim originated while the first victim, Ketut Jiket, was giving food to his pigs. Someone threw a stone; the victim swore; the victim’s swearing was heard by Bagiastawan; and he immediately went to look for the victim in his home,” Widastra said.

“Hearing the commotion the second victim attempted to intervene, but she too became a victim of the perpetrator’s emotions.”

Widastra said Bagiastrawan had been identified as a suspect and would probably be arrested after initial witness statements were collected.

Filed under: Headlines

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Irrigation Organisation Demands Share of Tourism Revenue


Members of a traditional irrigation organisation in Tabanan claim that they reap none of the benefits from tourism created by the panorama of rice terraces that they maintain.

Representatives of the Jatiluwih subuk (irrigation organisation) in Penebel district say that an entry fee charged to tourists wanting to view their fields raises around Rp25 million (US$2,938) a month, but say that none of it reaches the organisation responsible for maintaining the photogenic landscape.

Speaking on Sunday, Krishna, a member of the Jatiluwih subuk, said that 20 percent of the monthly takings were used to pay ticket salesmen, and to maintain their ticket booth. The remainder was split equally between the Tabanan government and village organisations.

“The government gets around Rp10 million, and the village gets Rp10 million,” Krishna said, but he added that none of that went to the subuk.

According to Krishna 35 percent of the village share went to the elected village government to fund infrastructure work and development while 39 percent went to Jatiluwih customary leaders and 26 percent to their counterparts in the neighbouring Gunung Sari hamlet.

“Meanwhile, the Jatiwulih subuk maintains around 303 hectares and yet we’re not getting any of the levy,” he said, adding that without the local agricultural landscape there would be no tourism revenue at all.

“Tourists come here to see the wide expanse of tiered ricefields. Those ricefields are managed by the subuk,” he said.

According to Krishna any cut which the subuk received from the revenues would be used to maintain and repair the extensive network of irrigation ditches that waters the ricefields.

Foreign tourists visiting Jatiwulih are charged Rp10,000 (US$1.18) each to see the ricefields, and are issued with tickets printed by the regency government.

Filed under: Headlines