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Returning Aussies drive Bali tourism to record
July 29th, 2008

Bali is enjoying a resurgence in tourism, thanks partly to an increasing number of Australians rediscovering the Island of the Gods.

Australians are flocking to the resort island in droves, despite the Australian government maintaining its travel advisory warning tourists against visiting Indonesia.

The US government recently lifted its travel warning for Indonesia, saying the security climate in the country no longer warrants such a warning.

Balinese tourism operators say the time has come for Australia to follow suit.

“I think it’s well overdue for Australia to drop its travel warning,” says Australian Nigel Mason, the owner and operator of tour operations company Bali Adventure Tours.

“…It could almost be seen as political rather than anything else I think.”

The number of Australians visiting Bali has continued to grow this year, after a big jump in 2007, prompting Garuda Indonesia to add extra flights from Darwin, Melbourne and Sydney.

The airline also expects to boost capacity from Perth.

It says the number of Australians travelling to Bali rose by more than 57 per cent in the first quarter of 2008 compared to last year.

The growth was even larger from Perth and Darwin, at 75 and 71 per cent respectively, while numbers from Victoria/Tasmania grew by 44 per cent and by 49 per cent from NSW/ACT.

It builds on strong growth in 2007, with Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing a 63 per cent increase in the number of Australians holidaying in Bali last year.

During the calendar year, 206,427 Australian residents travelled to Indonesia on holiday, up from 126,595 in 2006.

But tourism to Indonesia has declined since the late 1990s.

The 2002 and 2005 terror bombings, which killed more than 230 people, including 92 Australians, had a huge impact on Bali’s tourism industry.

Tourism operators such as Mason believe the industry has finally recovered.

“The tourism market to Bali has recovered but the Australian market is still recovering,” Mason says. “It’s almost back to what it was but not quite.”

Between January and April this year, foreign tourist arrivals in Bali increased by 25.8 per cent to 594,068, compared to a year earlier.

Australia is Bali’s second biggest source of tourists, with the 78,500 Aussie visitors making up more than 13 per cent of the island’s foreign tourists in that period, slightly closing the gap on Japan on close to 20 per cent.

 

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Ex-Bali top cop wins vote for governor
July 17th, 2008

Bali’s former police chief Made Mangku Pastika has won his bid to become the Indonesian resort island’s next governor.

Pastika – who led the force that tracked down the 2002 Bali bombers and was head of police when the Bali Nine heroin ring was smashed – has become the island’s first directly-elected governor.

The Bali Election Commission (KPU) on Wednesday said Pastika, of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), won 55.04 per cent of the vote in the elections a week ago.

His nearest rival, Cokorda Budi Suryawan, of the Golkar Party, received 26.71 per cent, while the Democrat Party’s Gede Winasa had 18.25 per cent, Detik.com reported.

Pastika, who enjoys a high international and domestic profile, campaigned on a platform of anti-terrorism, law and order, and sustainable development.

He was awarded an Order of Australia for his work to track down the Bali terrorists responsible for the 2002 blasts, which killed 202 people including 88 Australians.

KPU said almost two million people voted in the poll.

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Thousands to attend cremation
July 13th, 2008

Irawaty Wardany, The Jakarta Post, Ubud

Tens of thousands of locals and tourists are expected to flock to the tiny resort village of Ubud, Bali, on Tuesday to witness the Palebon (cremation ceremony) of three members of the Ubud royal family.

Among the royals to be cremated is Tjokorda Gde Agung Suyasa, who formerly headed the Ubud royal family and was Bendesa (chief) of Desa Pekraman (a traditional customary village) for more than three decades.

A stoic aristocrat, Suyasa was also one of the most influential figures behind the revival of Balinese Hinduism in several parts of the country. He donated generous contributions to several major Hindu temples in Java, including the majestic Mandhara Giri Semeru Agung temple in East Java, and others in Kalimantan and Lombok.

Suyasa passed away last March after suffering from a prolonged illness. His body has since been preserved in one of the Ubud royal palace’s pavilions.

After his death, thousands paid their respects to the man formerly known to the people of Ubud as Tjokorda Lingsir (The Elder Tjokorda), a title reserved for the ruling member of the Ksatriya family.

“We estimate that more people will come to Ubud to pay homage to him on the day of the cremation,” Suyasa’s younger brother and current guardian of the royal family, Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa, said in a press conference Saturday.

All main access ways to Ubud will be closed off Tuesday to ensure the smooth progression of the ceremony, which will feature a gigantic 28-meter-tall Bade (a tower with a multi-tier roof).

“We will divert some routes leading to Ubud from July 13 to July 14 to prevent disruption to the series of preparatory rituals,” he said.

“On July 15, all roads around the palace and the cemetery will be closed, too.”

He said the Ubud community had prepared a parking area on the city’s central main soccer field to accommodate visitors. Visitors are advised to leave their vehicles at the parking area and walk the remaining 300 meters to the palace.

“Considering the huge number of people expected to witness the ceremony, we ask all people to cooperate in safeguarding the event,” he said.

Kerthyasa said the Bade, which will house Tjokorda Suyasa’s body, was 28-meters-tall and weighed eleven tons. It will be carried to the cemetery from the palace on the shoulders of more than 250 men.

“Due to the overwhelming weight of the Bade we will substitute the men with a fresh group of men every time the Bade moves 150 meters or so. It will also provide people from different villages the opportunity to participate in the cremation ceremony of their former leader,” he added.

In total, an estimated 8,000 people will participate in carrying various ritual paraphernalia from the palace to the Dalem Puri cemetery, which lies two kilometers to the east of Ubud.

“More than 67 Desa Pekraman from all over Bali have actively taken part in assisting the royal family’s preparation of the grand ceremony,” he said.

The royal family of Ubud is one of the most powerful and influential royal families in contemporary Bali.

The family’s generosity in assisting traditional communities across the island on religious and cultural matters and the humble demeanors of its key figures have created a sphere of influence that goes beyond the traditional geographical boundaries of Ubud, the tiny village known as the cultural heart of Bali.

More Story | 2 | 3

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Globo to use Bali for novela shoot
July 10th, 2008

Brazil’s TV Globo will shoot its upcoming primetime telenovela Três Irmàs on location in Indonesia.

The series, a romantic comedy, is set at the fictitious seaside resort of Caramirim and required a location that includes a beautiful surfing beach as well as an historical city centre.

General directors Dennis Carvalho and José Luis Villamarim spent four days in Indonesia prior to the shoot and eventually settled on Bali’s Ulumwatu Beach for the coastal scenes and Balinese capital Denpasar for the city scenes.

“We consulted with surfing specialists who said that during this time of year Bali was the ideal place, with good waves guaranteed,” said Carvalho.

Villamarim added: “Indonesia is a fascinating country. When we arrived in Ulumwatu, one of the loveliest places in Bali for surfing, I was impressed by the scenery. The light is wonderful.”

Três Irmàs will premiere in Brazil in September.

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Pastika grabs 56 percent votes in Bali gubernatorial election
July 10th, 2008

Denpasar (ANTARA News) – Indonesia`s leading pollster LSI (Indonesian Survey Institute) announced that until Wednesday afternoon the I Made Mangku Pastika-AA Puspayoga pair was leading in the direct gubernatorial election in Bali province by grabbing 56.40 percent of the votes.

The LSI made the provisional tally of the votes cast on Wednesday after the gubernatorial election took place throughout the the paradise island earlier in the day.

The LSI which conducted the survey at 300 polling stations said that Cokorda Budi Suryawan – Nyoman Suweta (CBS-Suweta) pair obtained 25.09 percent and the Gede Winasa-Alit Putra pair only got 18.51 percent of the votes.

Denny JA, the LSI chief, said the LSI`s quick count results would be one percent different from those of the provincial general election commission (KPUD)`s final tally but the ranking would remain unchanged.

In addition, the number of non-voters was predicted not to exceed 25 percent of the registered participants in the gubernatorial election.

“Based on the survey results, we predict that the participation level of voters in the election reaches 77.44 percent,” Denny said, adding that the number of non-voters would be the lowest among several gubernatorial elections in the country.

A total of 2.631.754 people out of about 3.6 million of the island`s population have been registered to cast votes at 5,683 polling stations on election day.

The I Made Mangku Pastika-AA Puspayoga pair was nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) led by Megawati Soekarnoputri.

The Cok Budi Suryawan-Nyoman Suweta (CBS-Suweta) pair was supported by several parties, including the Golkar Party while the Prof Dr Gede Winasa-Alit Putra pair was supported by a number of parties grouped in the Bali Awakening Coalition.

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Royal cremation draws visitors to Ubud
July 2nd, 2008

About 500 visitors, primarily from Japan, Singapore, the Netherlands and Australia are expected to arrive in Ubud, Bali, to observe the Royal Cremation Ceremony, called Pelebon, according to Maria Mayabubun, deputy director of Promotion for Asia Region, Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Indonesia. The ceremony will take place on July 15.

The tourism ministry said that while the ceremony is very much a public one, visitors are welcome but everyone is reminded to dress appropriately, with legs and arms covered, and to abide by any instructions and announcements.

The press centre, set-up by the ministry, opens today

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Troubleshooter aims to make Bali a paradise
June 28th, 2008

FISTS raised and fingers extended in heavy metal salutes, the crowd roars as the red and silver chariot performs “doughnut” circles, its white stallion trotting sideways. “Pastika! Pastikan! (Pastika! Make sure!)” they yell as Bali’s former police chief, General Made Mangku Pastika, spins before them.

The man who resurrected Bali after the 2002 bombing – spearheading the investigation and forging unprecedented co-operation with the Australian Federal Police – has returned home, hoping to remake the “island of the gods” as Australia’s and the world’s paradise.

Last week campaigning began for Bali’s first directly elected governor, a powerful post under a newly decentralised Indonesian political system.

General Pastika believes he can provide the leadership the island needs. He pulls few punches. Terrorists still target Bali and its security is inadequate, he says. Overdevelopment is damaging Bali’s environment and too few benefit from the fruits of tourism.

A devout Hindu, his tough talking is tempered by references to spirituality and serenity, suggesting Bali can lead the world towards peace and tolerance with “spiritual vibrations”.

The three-fingered salute of his supporters – with the two middle fingers folded and thumb extended – has been adopted because he is No. 3 on the ballot. But all signs point to his taking the top spot in next month’s election.

It is a remarkable rise from humble beginnings in caste-conscious Bali. The son of a village schoolteacher, General Pastika paid his way through school after his family was forced to move to rural Sumatra.

Alone in the nearest big town, without food or accommodation, the 12-year-old fainted outside a small store owned by a Chinese family. They took him in as a servant, and he later gained a spot in Indonesia’s police academy.

General Pastika was the one police cadet sent to Australia in 1974, beginning a relationship pivotal to his professional life.

Rising through the ranks, General Pastika was awarded the hardest jobs. He served in the strife-torn province of Papua and was chief police liaison officer in East Timor during the bloody months of 1999.

He became Papua’s police chief, taking charge of the investigation into the controversial murder of two American teachers at the Freeport mine. “All easy jobs,” he laughs. “That’s why they call me ‘the troubleshooter’.”

Then came the toughest job – dealing with the aftermath of the blasts that rocked Kuta and took 202 lives, including those of 88 Australians. The forensic skills of Indonesian police were poor, many were corrupt, but with Australian assistance General Pastika’s team quickly zeroed in on the Jemaah Islamiah network.

The Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, has nothing but praise for the “charismatic” General Pastika. “He’s been a leader in the Indonesian national police’s capability to deal with a terrorist investigation but he’s also been very much a calming influence in turning round the community of Bali to trust in the ability of police to suppress terrorism.”

“He is also very religious,” Mr Keelty said. “During the investigation he would always sneak off to the temple, and his staff would always attribute any major breakthrough to his prayers. People would follow him anywhere.”

General Pastika’s appointment was vital, says Mr Keelty: “To put someone in charge who the people of Bali trusted and also Australian investigators were familiar with – we also met him during the East Timor crisis – it was a real vote of confidence all round about tackling terrorism in Indonesia.”

General Pastika says: “We brought almost all of the people responsible for the bombing to court to get their justice”.

He cherishes the Order of Australia he was awarded for his efforts. “The relationship is very, very important – that’s why I call Australians brother and sister, we are very close to each other. “I think Australians need Bali and also Bali needs Australia. I want more Australians to come to Bali, to make Bali their second home.”

After the bombing inquiry, General Pastika became Bali’s police chief, and then head of the National Narcotics Board.

Despite his fondness for Australians, General Pastika offers little hope for Schapelle Corby or the three members of the Bali nine heroin syndicate languishing on death row.

“I don’t think those things are problems. Those actions are going to protect not only Indonesia but also Australia.”

Security against drugs, crime and terrorism was vital for those who would come to Bali, he said.

“Tourism needs security and safety in all facilities,” he said. “Terrorists still consider Bali is the best place to do their activity and send a message to the world.

“We are facing threats, crime is also very high and economics are not very good because it drives people to do crime – a hungry man is an angry man.”

At the launch of his campaigning on Sunday, General Pastika stole the show, combining showmanship with an air of serenity.

At the program’s end, while the other two candidates were jammed inside traditional donkey carts to be paraded around Denpasar, General Pastika’s flashy winged chariot and white steed were unveiled.

As they spun faster and faster, General Pastika appeared set to take flight on a journey towards his “obsession to make Bali become the paradise of the world”.

“He is also very religious,” Mr Keelty said. “During the investigation he would always sneak off to the temple, and his staff would always attribute any major breakthrough to his prayers. People would follow him anywhere.”

General Pastika’s appointment was vital, says Mr Keelty: “To put someone in charge who the people of Bali trusted and also Australian investigators were familiar with – we also met him during the East Timor crisis – it was a real vote of confidence all round about tackling terrorism in Indonesia.”

General Pastika says: “We brought almost all of the people responsible for the bombing to court to get their justice”.

He cherishes the Order of Australia he was awarded for his efforts. “The relationship is very, very important – that’s why I call Australians brother and sister, we are very close to each other. “I think Australians need Bali and also Bali needs Australia. I want more Australians to come to Bali, to make Bali their second home.”

After the bombing inquiry, General Pastika became Bali’s police chief, and then head of the National Narcotics Board.

Despite his fondness for Australians, General Pastika offers little hope for Schapelle Corby or the three members of the Bali nine heroin syndicate languishing on death row.

“I don’t think those things are problems. Those actions are going to protect not only Indonesia but also Australia.”

Security against drugs, crime and terrorism was vital for those who would come to Bali, he said.

“Tourism needs security and safety in all facilities,” he said. “Terrorists still consider Bali is the best place to do their activity and send a message to the world.

“We are facing threats, crime is also very high and economics are not very good because it drives people to do crime – a hungry man is an angry man.”

At the launch of his campaigning on Sunday, General Pastika stole the show, combining showmanship with an air of serenity.

At the program’s end, while the other two candidates were jammed inside traditional donkey carts to be paraded around Denpasar, General Pastika’s flashy winged chariot and white steed were unveiled.

As they spun faster and faster, General Pastika appeared set to take flight on a journey towards his “obsession to make Bali become the paradise of the world”.

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