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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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