The Balinese People – Forgotten Again

On Saturday evening 1 October, terrorist bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali killed more than 20 people and injured hundreds. The attacks come three years after bombings in Bali in 2002 killed more than 200 people. We publish here a translation of an opinion piece on the effect of the bombing written by Odie Hudyanto, General Secretary of the IUF-affiliated Independent Federation of Workers’ Unions in Hotels, Restaurants, Catering, Apartments, Plazas, Retail and Tourism (FSPM). FSPM represents hotel workers throughout Java and Bali, with more than 2,500 members in Bali.

FSPM members in Bali, October 2002, in a condolence walk for the victims of the first terrorist attack.
I was on my way home, after a union meeting at the Hotel Dharmawangsa Bimasena Jakarta Independent Workers’ Union (SPM) office.
We had been discussing what steps we should take regarding the recent extraordinary fuel price hikes, which are truly terrifying: the government has announced price rises between 80% and 180%.

The Federation of Independent Workers’ Unions, or FSPM, which covers hotels, restaurants, catering, apartments, plazas, retail, and tourism, is currently formulating proposals to be put to the government and the Indonesian Employers’ Association, APINDO, about the impact of the prices rises and how to find a way out of this very difficult situation for the tourism industry.

Suddenly, at 7:15 pm, I received an SMS from my colleague Godi Utama: “Watch Metro TV, there’s breaking news about bomb explosions at Kuta and Jimbaran.” My heart began to beat very fast.
Five minutes later, the Chairperson of the FSPM Bali Regional Branch, I Ketut Layar Priyatna, who works as a technician in the Grand Hyatt Bali Hotel, phoned me:

“Brother Odie, in Jimbaran and Kuta, there have been more bombs… In Bali, we are at a loss for words. We are all shocked. Please – our colleagues in Jakarta must take action quickly. The government must be urged to secure tourism in Bali,” said Layar in a choked voice.

(from left) I Wayan Sudarsa, FSPM Bali Region Secretary and Odie Hudiyanto, FSPM General Secretary.I dropped to my knees, bowed my head, and prayed. Fury, sadness, disappoint and anger all mixed together to become one.
Our brothers and sisters from Bali, when they attended our 26 September coordination meeting to discuss plans for celebrating World Tourism Day on 27 September 2005, happily reported to us that 2005 was a golden year for tourism in Bali, since the bombs exploded in Paddy’s Café and the Sari Club on 12 October 2002.

Occupancy levels had reached 81% again – in fact for the peak season of August-October occupancies had reached 95% and there were even a few hotels in the Nusa Dua area which were overbooked.
“What is certain, is that we in Bali are very happy because the increase in the number of guests automatically means an increase in income for workers through the service charge, which is between Rp. 1,800,000 (US$177) and Rp.2,500,000 (US$246) [per month per worker],” explained Pande Ketut Budiasa from the Independent Workers’ Union (SPM) of the Sofitel Seminyak Bali Hotel.

Now, these bombings will be a bitter gift for the whole Balinese community when they celebrate Galungan [the most important Balinese Hindu holiday of the year, which fell on 5th October, four days after the bombings].

Tourists will immediately leave Bali, the hotels will be bare and empty again, and the tourist attractions will once again be deserted. Thousands of workers will again lose their jobs, and tourism in Bali will once again be ruined.

We are reminded of the moment when dusk begins to fall upon the coast which stretches from Jimbaran, Kuta, Nusa Dua, Sanur to Seminyak. Tourists run, swim, surf and take photos on the clean, sloping beaches.

The tourist’s enchantment is with the particular hospitality of the Balinese, the culture unequaled and found nowhere else.

Not only that, it’s not uncommon to hear Balinese speaking German, French, Japanese or Mandarin, as well as English, which has become an ‘official language’ of Bali.

The Balinese continue to be forgotten. Foreigners know Bali better than they know Indonesia. But the government continues to overlook the Balinese. There has never been any serious attention paid to the Balinese community.

The Visa On Arrival (VoA), which is levied on guests arriving in Bali, is all whisked away by the central government. The Provincial Minimum Wage (UMP) in Bali, at Rp. 447,500 (US$45) a month, is roughly 60% of that of Jakarta, although costs of living in Bali are comparable and often higher than those in Jakarta. Yet this has never been considered [since the introduction of the VoA]. The irony!

Imagine Indonesia without Bali. The majority of foreign tourists visit Indonesia because they want to enjoy the natural enchantment of Bali and the hospitality of its people. 688,975 foreign tourist arrivals between January and June 2005 are proof that Balinese tourism was beginning to recover. In 2005, Bali was named the best tourist island in the world by Travel Leisure magazine of the USA. This is the second time that Bali has received such an accolade.

There are several obvious fears before us.

The government must not be allowed to remain quiet, or only to condemn and denounce. They must be just, and honest.

We must push for such improvements together. The VoA income from tourists visiting Bali in 2004 alone was US$29 million, and this must be returned to the Balinese people.

The Balinese have recently lamented the fact that fewer traditional ceremonies are being performed. The Balinese are no longer capable of maintaining their traditional ceremonies and customs, by giving ritual offerings of young coconut leaves and flowers, because of their income, at the minimum wage, is only Rp.447,500 (US$45).

Don’t let Balinese culture be lost!

The VoA funds must be returned to the Balinese, as compensation, for the victims’ recovery and the rebuilding of tourist attractions, for education, for cultural purposes, and for social welfare.

Tighten and improve security in Bali so that such an event does not happen again.

Don’t let Bali be deserted by tourists because the security was not tight enough and their culture was lost.

Tourism in Bali must be secured, in the midst of the community’s shock at the fuel price rises.

The Island of the Gods must continue to throb with life. Enough blood has been shed and lives lost, and for nothing.

Save Indonesian Tourism!

Odie Hudiyanto
General Secretary
Federation of Independent Workers’ Unions in Hotels, Restaurants, Catering, Apartments, Plazas, Retail and Tourism

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