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NEWS

ISSUE 43

LOMBOK IS AMAZING, TOP TO TAIL!

MOUNTAIN OF MIST AND FIRE

A VOLCANIC FONDUE FEAST!

WHAT'S HOT

LOMBOK STEPS UP SECURITY AFTER BOMBINGS

INDONESIA INTRODUCES NEW RP 2,000 BANKNOTE

THE MAGICAL SOUTHWEST GILIS

SWINE FLU CONTINUES TO GROW

LOCAL SCENE

KUTA AND THE MAGNIFICENT SOUTH COAST

IMPORTED FOODS DESTROYED IN BALI CRACKDOWN

LOMBOK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT RUNWAY INCREASED

CORRUPTION SCANDAL AT BALI AIRPORT

GILI BYTES

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LOMBOK IS AMAZING, TOP TO TAIL!

Welcome to The Lombok Guide – Lombok's complete tourism paper and your guide to the best that the island has to offer. The Lombok Guide is published on Lombok every two weeks and contains valuable information for all visitors to our magical island.

Over the past two weeks, The Lombok Guide has been travelling over the island checking out the latest news and exploring little-known areas of Lombok. First we went to the highlands of Sembalun, perched in the mountains at the base of Mt Rinjani, Lombok's awesome volcano. Plenty of news, with our famous volcano continuing to erupt, although the activity has died down since the eruptions first started in May this year.

For those interested in trekking on Mt Rinjani, fear not! Although the lake area and the summit of the mountain are still closed for trekking, the views from the crater rim of the red hot lava flowing down the side of Mt Baru Jari and the fireworks at night make the trek more than worthwhile. Read out special report on page 10 for details.

The following week saw us at the other end of the island, this time cruising around the magnificent islands off the southwest coast. Where in the world is it possible to snorkel five different and spell-binding reefs in less than four hours? In the Southwest Gilis!

And there are plenty more wonderful snorkel and dive locations still to be discovered in these pristine and picturesque islands. The first of our Southwest Gilis articles appears on page 22 of this issue.

To find out more, pick up a copy of The Lombok Guide from the locations listed on page 40 or visit www.thelombokguide.com and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself… like thousands of others, you'll be enchanted!

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MOUNTAIN OF MIST AND FIRE

When Mt Rinjani, Lombok's famous volcano, started erupting in late May this year, many feared for the island's trekking industry. The “high season” of July and August is traditionally the trekking season in Lombok, when thousands of mountain climbers and trekkers visit the island to take on the challenge of climbing Mt Rinjani. Recently we visited the peaceful mountain village of Sembulan to see what impact the eruptions are having on the trekking community in the mountains.

Sembalun sits at the base of the volcano, surrounded by ancient mountain ranges and overlooking verdant valleys filled with lush plantations of vegetables which suit the cold, high altitude climate. We rise early to watch the sun rise over the mountains, our breaths fogging in the freezing air as mists wreath the lower mountains and valleys. At 7.30am we are having breakfast and it is a cool 7° Celsius. It is an extraordinary feeling to be wearing jumpers and socks on a tropical island, but that is the beauty of Lombok, which offers sun-drenched islands and beaches, as well as chilly mountain hideaways to visitors.

There is no sign of the volcanic eruption from our cottage at Lembah Rinjani, a quaint home-stay nestled at the base of the mountain. No clouds of smoke rise from the jagged peak above us, much to our disappointment. Although the volcanic activity was intense during the first few weeks, it is now necessary to trek up the mountain to view the action. However, those making the pilgrimage report that a trip up the mountain is a rare opportunity not to be missed if you are visiting Lombok.

While we say that Rinjani is erupting, it is in fact the smaller volcano inside the crater rim, called Mt Baru Jari, which is erupting. Baru Jari sits at 2112 metres above sea level and is surrounded by the Crater Lake, Lake Segara Anak, inside the caldera of Mt Rinjani. Trekking on the mountain is restricted to the “shoulders” of the volcano, from which the lava flow and occasional dramatic explosions can be seen taking place in the caldera below. Trekking to the lake itself, or to the treacherous summit, is presently closed.

We visited the Volcanology Centre at Sembalun Lawang, where scientists are monitoring both volcanic activity and tectonic movement (movement of the tectonic plates within the earth) around the mountain. Although there has been a decrease in activity over the past few weeks, small eruptions are continuing as well as minor earth tremors, some of which can be felt as far away as Senggigi and the cities. However, volcanologists at the Centre say that the decrease is substantial and, if the activity continues to stabilise, they will recommend that the mountain be declared safe for all trekking in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, now is a unique chance to witness the rare sight of a volcanic eruption. For those arriving in the evening, trekkers are reporting an awesome sight as the red-hot lava flows from Mt Baru Jari into the lake, where the cold water causes the hot lava to solidify, sending sprays of rock and plumes of smoke high into the air. Infrequent eruptions create dramatic fireworks over the crater; much better than any man-made light show.
Trekking can be organised from both Senaru and Sembalun. For the latest information on the volcano's status, or to organise treks to witness this amazing phenomenon, phone Lembah Rinjani directly on 0818 0365 2511 or 0852 3954 3279, or email lembahrinjani@gmail.com.

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A VOLCANIC FONDUE FEAST!

What to do when you have a hankering for a real, traditional fondue party? The taste of heavenly morsels dipped in soft, stringy melted French cheese, laced with kirsch, and washed down with lots of delicious red wines goes so well with the cooler climates in Europe, but just isn't the same on a warm evening in the tropics.

Solution: climb Mt Rinjani with some friends and indulge in a hot fondue feast on the chilly slopes of an erupting volcano. Divine madness… we've got to love these innovative party-goers!

Photo: Scott (Qunci Villas), Agnes (Galeri Nao), Astrid (Dream Divers), Dani and visiting relatives from America, Stephen and Kelsi, enjoy their volcanic fondue feast!

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Good news for people wanting to learn Bahasa Indonesia. Oxford Course Indonesia is a language school with branches throughout Indonesia and a school right here in Mataram. Affiliated with Oxford University, certificates are recognized internationally and the school can also train TOEFL up to examination level, for those interested in a career in international teaching. The school specializes in English courses for Indonesians and also offers Bahasa Indonesia tuition for westerners. Join in classes at the school two nights a week, or call them to discuss private classes where you can choose the time and day and learn at your own pace. A great idea for couples, or individuals wanting one-on-one tuition, or even get some friends together to learn Indonesian as a group! Phone 636 592 for details.

If you have ever dreamed of a heavenly massage in a beautifully decorated bale located at the edge of the beach set against the magnificent view of Mount Agung in Bali, then look no further....you are not in Bali....You are in fact at Verve Villa, located on Mangsit Beach in Lombok, just next to Qunci Villas. Striking tropical colours of fuchsia pink and hot orange greet the eye on arrival, with two beautifully constructed bamboo bales resplendent with cushions and white organza curtains set on the pristine white sand in front of Verve.
Specially sourced essential oils are used throughout the blissful aromatherapy massage, accompanied by the gentle lapping of waves and the soft sea breeze....oh so relaxing and a perfect antidote for jetlag. After the massage, enjoy an invigorating cup of specially prepared ginger and spice tea. Soon to open at Verve is a very smart looking Bar and Grill set right on the beachfront. Mmm… a massage followed by a strawberry margarita watching the sunset over Mt Agung on gorgeous Mangsit Beach… you must come and see for yourself! www.vervevilla.com

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LOMBOK STEPS UP SECURITY AFTER BOMBINGS

In the wake of the bombings in Jakarta on Friday, 17 July 2009, local police, army and security personnel have stepped up security patrols throughout Lombok. Lombok Water Police are patrolling territorial waters around the island not only during the day but also at night, to prevent any threats locally.

Water Police are paying particular attention to the island’s main port, Lembar Harbour, on the southwest coast in the unlikely event that fugitives involved in the bombings try to run to the eastern islands. Lembar Port Security Police are also coordinating with their Balinese counterparts at Padangbai Harbour in Bali.

Police have also stepped up patrols in all tourism areas in Lombok in the wake of the bombing of the JW Marriot Hotel and Ritz Carlton Hotel in Jakarta. Major Lombok hotels, which normally carry out routine security checks at all hotel entrances have been told to tighten up security screening of vehicles and people entering hotels.

NTB (Lombok and Sumbawa) Governor, Muhammad Zainul Majdi, has condemned the attacks, thought to be the work of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network. 55 people were injured and nine people, seven of them foreign nationals, died in the blasts. Two of those who died are assumed to be suicide bombers who may have operated from an 18th floor guest room, serving as a terrorism command post.

Lombok is at least 2 hours away from Jakarta by plane, but local police have joined with security forces throughout the country, which are united in their determination to catch those responsible for the bombings as quickly as possible.

In neighbouring Bali, Chief of Police, Inspector General T. Ashikin Husein, has put around 12,000 security personal on duty and at the highest state of readiness. Water and Port police are also monitoring Bali’s ports.
Despite the shock of the presumed terrorist attacks, so far there have been no reports of a mass exodus of tourists from either Lombok or Bali. The region is just starting its annual “high season” during the months of July and August, which coincides with European summer holidays, and both islands report heavy tourism arrivals for the 2009 season.

Both the Australian and New Zealand governments, who lost citizens in the bombings, have upgraded their official travel advisory warnings for Indonesia in the wake of the attacks.

Most tourists seem to be aware that Bali and Lombok are a long distance from the nation’s capital of Jakarta. However, both islands take the threat to security very seriously and travellers are asked to work with security personnel if required and to remain vigilant during their holidays.

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INDONESIA INTRODUCES NEW RP 2,000 BANKNOTE

Bank Indonesia placed a new Rp 2,000 (approx US $0.20) bank note into effect on Friday, 10 July 2009. The note is destined to eventually supersede the Rp 1,000 note and to become the smallest denomination of paper currency.

The new bank notes carry a portrait of a South Kalimantan hero, Pangeran Antasari, on the face of the bills with traditionally dressed Dayak dancers displayed on the back of the bill.

Bank authorities point to the rising cost of living and cost of producing banknotes as prompting the decision to opt for a higher-valued bank note.

Printing presses are running at the national treasury with 500,000 new Rp 2,000 notes scheduled to be in circulation by the end of August. By the end of the year 1.2 million of the notes will be on the streets with a value of Rp 2.4 billion (US $2 million).

With the introduction of the new banknotes the government plans to reduce production of the Rp 1,000 notes now in circulation, replacing them over time with Rp 1,000 coins.

Indonesia currently has six different denominations of banknotes: Rp1,000; Rp 2,000; Rp 5,000; Rp 10,000; Rp 20,000; Rp 50,000; and Rp 100,000.

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THE MAGICAL SOUTHWEST GILIS

Floating in the sparkling blue waters just off the southwest coast are thirteen small islands called the Southwest Gilis. Some argue there are more than thirteen and some say slightly less; as there are a number of coral atolls and islands-still-in-the-making, but thirteen are large enough to qualify as islands. Unlike the famous Gili islands in the northwest of Lombok, the Southwest Gilis are largely uninhabited and have yet to be discovered by most travellers, thus they are often called “The Secret Islands”.

Last week we spent several days exploring these delightful coral islands, staying at Secret Island Resort on the island of Gili Gede. Gili Gede (the name means “Big Island” in local Bahasa Sasak) is aptly named: it is a huge island located just offshore from Tembowong, around five minutes drive south of the Sundancer Resort in Sekotong. It only takes a few minutes to reach the island by boat, and transfers and accommodation can be arranged by Secret Island Resort.

The Resort itself is spread over a small hill looking back toward the mainland and, on the other side, across to the islands sprinkled in the water further south. Rooms are basic but comfortable, and prices for cottages and the family villa are very reasonable. Secret Island is the dream come true for owners, Peter and Titin, who run the Resort and provide information and hospitality to visitors to the Southwest Gilis. Titien is an amazing cook, turning out delicious meals for guests; her fresh fish with Balinese sauce prompted The Lonely Planet to describe the seafood here as “Dynamite!”

Meanwhile, Peter is most happy dispensing information and ferrying visitors around in his pride and joy: a 9m purpose-built fishing and diving boat named “Scorpio”. He regularly arranges transfers onboard Scorpio between Bali and Lombok, or between Senggigi and the Southwest Gilis, as well as escorting tours to the best snorkelling and fishing areas in the southwest. And so it was that we found ourselves in the company of two lucky tourists, one French and one Canadian, being taken on a very special island hopping and snorkelling tour of some of Peter’s favourite Southwest Gilis.

The entire area is a feast for the eyes, with myriad islands surrounded by swaying coconut palms, white sand beaches, coral reefs and clear turquoise waters. Very few are inhabited, with only Gili Gede and Gili Nanggu (near Taun) having accommodation for travellers at present. Small villages of friendly fishing communities are the norm and, most of the time, you will have the entire beach or even the island, to yourself!

But it is the snorkelling and diving opportunities that make this area so special and ripe for tourism development. The coral is in pristine condition, with numerous reefs located just off shore at most islands, and filled with colourful hard and soft coral species. Countless schools of tropical fish, rays and turtles swim in the unpolluted waters, where visibility often extends to 20 metres or more in good weather.

For the most part, the waters are fairly calm, being protected by the contours of the mainland and with currents broken by the many islands in close proximity, making the area ideal for swimming, snorkelling, diving and island hopping. At present, Dive Zone is the only dive company that operates in the area, with professional dive instruction and dive trips available from their office at Sundancer Resort in Sekotong. We met a boat load of happy tourists on Gili Ringgit, out for the day with Dive Zone, who described the diving as some of the best they’ve ever experienced. Most couldn’t stop gushing about the huge school of turtles they had just swum with near Gili Layar!
It’s easy to imagine hotels and resorts on all these islands, in the future, as well as yachts, fishing boats, windsurfers, dive boats and the like. But for now, the Southwest Gilis remain the secret islands… stunningly beautiful, pristine and unique; and known to the lucky few…

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SWINE FLU CONTINUES TO GROW

As predicted by the World Health Organisation, H1N1, or Swine Flu, continues to spread rapidly throughout the world and Indonesia now reports a large number of cases of the disease, including several deaths. Among those infected with H1N1 in Indonesia, there have been 15 cases involving foreigners, all treated at the government's expense.

Overseas, the government counts 42 Indonesian citizens affected with the virus, including 14 members of an Indonesian youth choirs participating in an international competition in South Korea.

Lombok now has several suspected cases of Swine Flu, with a 37 year-old French woman in isolation at RSU, the public hospital. The tourist had recently arrived from Thailand and spent five days in Bali before travelling to Lombok. A local labourer, recently returned from working in Malaysia, as well as the wife of a foreign mine worker in Sumbawa are also being monitored for Swine Flu symptoms.

A recent editorial by Bali Discovery tourism boss, John (Jack) Daniels, highlights some of the problems now facing Bali and the tourism industry in Indonesia as a result of the growing numbers of people infected with the Flu. Below is an extract from that editorial:

“In Bali, those initially infected by the H1N1 virus were limited to foreign visitors. This, however, changed with the admission of five Balinese at Bali's General Hospital, suspected of being infected with the H1N1 virus.

Bali's transparency and aggressive steps to thwart the spread of Swine Flu are worthy of praise. From the earliest days of the outbreak in Mexico, Bali, together with the rest of Indonesia, has tried to stem the spread of the disease by establishing screening procedures at international airports and providing free-of-charge medical care at special isolation wards in leading hospitals.

Masks are also being issued and special medical containment teams deployed to help fight the plague. At the same time, money and talent are being expended to educate the public about the disease in an effort to prevent widespread panic and maintain normality in the lives of people living in Indonesia.

The changing face and character of the H1N1 epidemic, however, may dictate the need for a new response to this global health threat. The decision last week by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to no longer publish or minutely track new cases H1N1 cases and the abrupt change from a trickle to a flood of new patients coming to Bali's Sanglah General Hospital every day for treatment, reflects the sad fact that the disease is spreading at an increasingly rapid pace. The Bali hospital's isolation ward is nearly filled to capacity, causing doctors to rightly wonder what they will do when, and no longer if, the number of new cases escalates further.

It now seems inevitable that Bali will be compelled to adopt a medical response resembling that taken by its near neighbor, Australia. In Australia, where confirmed cases of H1N1 now number in the thousands, people suffering from Swine Flu are not hospitalised but, instead, told to go home, rest, avoid human contact and take Tamiflu. Australian isolation wards are reserved for treating only those H1N1 cases in which life-threatening complications are also present.

Bali, as a leading world tourism destination, will also have to determine how to deal with a tourist confirmed with H1N1. Will hotels in cooperation with the government offer free accommodation during the infectious period? Will each hotel need to set aside a separate wing to house these visitors? Will staff undergo special training and learn to use special equipment to protect themselves and others from contamination while serving ill guests? How will hotels and police deal with infected visitors who stubbornly refuse quarantine?”

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LOCAL SCENE

Achi Acha Grand Opening

A happy crowd gathered in Senggigi Plaza to help Rina and Wart to celebrate the
opening of Achi Acha Boutique

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KUTA AND THE MAGNIFICENT SOUTH COAST

In a nation that boasts some of the most sublime scenery in the world, the south coast of Lombok surely rates as being up there with the best. South Lombok has beaches that inspire photographers from around the world and draw crowds to bake on the blindingly white sands, swim in the crystal clear oceans and challenge some of the best surf breaks in Indonesia.

Kuta is the main town and centre of tourism development on the south coast of Lombok, and is the hub for exploring the fantastic southern beaches and the many points of interest in the region. Located around 60 km south of Mataram and about one and a half hour's drive from Senggigi, Kuta (sometimes spelt Kute) makes for a wonderful day trip from other points in Lombok, or an alternative holiday destination for travellers exploring Lombok. Kuta is an unprepossessing town – a small haven of hotels, home-stays and backpacker's hostels that cater mainly to the thousands of surfers from around the world who are drawn to the area every year.

Kuta and the surrounding beaches have gained an international reputation for some of the best surfing destinations in Southeast Asia. It is here that the gentle waters surrounding Lombok meet the currents of the Indian Ocean, forming great swells and surf breaks. Kuta attracts thousands of visitors every year for the great surf locations nearby and it's easy to hire a board and a surf guide from here to learn surfing or, for experienced surfers, to access the more challenging surf breaks in the area.

The drive down to the south coast is an interesting rural tour of small villages and farming communities. Fields of tobacco, corn and peanuts line the roadsides and farmers till the fields using antiquated ploughs pulled by large water buffalo. Just before arriving in Kuta, the road passes two traditional Sasak villages Sade and Rambitan. On the east side of the road is Rambitan, a village that caters to tourists and has authentic clusters of thatched lumbung, or traditional rice barns. On the west side of the road is Sade, an authentic hilltop village with one of the oldest mosques in Lombok, Mesjid Kuno. Both villages are interesting examples of traditional Sasak architecture and communal living within the compounds, where life continues as it has for centuries. Residents, who act as guides for a small fee, encourage walks through either of these villages and are happy to share a glimpse of their lifestyles with visitors.

The south coast itself provides plenty of opportunities for exploring beaches and coastal scenery of such breath-taking beauty it is hard to describe. Around 4 km east of Kuta is Tanjung A'an, with white sand beaches and good waves for surfers. Further east is Gerupuk, well known as a top surf location and situated on a peninsula of land that juts out into the ocean, with stunning views of the sea, and the surrounding islands and bays.

To the west of Kuta are a series of beautiful beaches and bays hidden behind headlands and rolling hills, providing peaceful and secluded spots for picnics and swimming. Mawun Beach is around 30 minutes drive to the west and is a picturesque bay with a nice white sand beach and calm waves, perfect for swimming. Mawi, just west, has good right- and left-hand barrels for surfing when the swell is large enough. Further west are picturesque Selong Blanak and many more scenic bays and beaches, largely deserted, although the road deteriorates rapidly and the going can be rough at times. Be sure to use an experienced local guide with a good vehicle.

There is a good variety of hotels and restaurants for all budgets in Kuta to make a stay enjoyable, including the up-market Novotel Lombok Resort with its stunning beachfront location and traditional Sasak architecture. Situated just to the east of the main Kuta area, this beach is sometimes referred to as Mandalika, named after the legendary Princess Mandalika. It is near here that thousands of people gather every year to celebrate the colourful ritual of Bau Nyale, when masses of sea worms spawn in the waters offshore.

Steeped in history and legend, the south coast is a fascinating area to visit, whether your interests are historical, cultural or just the opportunity to see and explore some of the most beautiful and pristine coastal scenery in Indonesia.

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IMPORTED FOODS DESTROYED IN BALI CRACKDOWN

The Bali branch of the Agency for the Supervision of Food and Drugs (BPOM) has conducted on-site destruction of imported food items at several locations around Bali.

On Friday, 10 July 2009, a total of 277 different products were crushed and burned in the parking lot of the Bali Deli. The items, not included on the BPOM’s list of approved imports, included products from Portugal, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, South Korea, USA and China. These products covered a wide range of food products such as sardines, chocolate, syrups, biscuits and canned tuna fish. According to Bali Post, merchandise destroyed at Bali Deli totaled 277 items representing 53 different products.

BPOM conducted a similar operation at the nearby Carrefour Supermarket on Jalan Sunset, following an earlier raid at the Carrefour branch on Jalan Iman Bonjol.

The parking lot destruction of illegal food products at Carrefour included 70 kilograms of candies and marshmallows.

A spokesman for the Bali BPOM told the press that if local retail operations continue to sell food items that have not passed the rigorous and detailed inspection and registration process required under Indonesian law they could face criminal prosecution with fines as high as Rp 600 million (US $58,800).

Recent changes in the law now require that all imported food items sold in Indonesia must undergo a protracted testing and registration process. Because of the costs involved and the problems local distributors face in providing information on production processes, imported items are becoming harder to find on the shelves of local supermarkets.

Meanwhile, hoteliers and restaurants fear the new rules will make it nearly impossible to secure small quantities of special ingredients needed in the preparations of some cuisines. The cost and complexity of new registration and testing rules make the importation of such small quantities of specialty food items economically non-viable.

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LOMBOK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT RUNWAY INCREASED

Construction of the runway at Lombok’s new international airport is already completed but now the developers, PT Angkasa Pura have decided to add another 250 m length to the runway. 2500 m are already complete and the additional 250 m will be completed within the coming month.

PT Angkasa Pura decided to extend the runway immediately, as by doing so a larger range of aircraft will be able to land at the new airport. Whereas previously the runway would be suitable for Boeing 737-400 aircraft, by adding the extra 250 m, the runway will be able to accommodate Boeing 767 series, Airbus 320, MD 11 and Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

The extra runway length is expected to increase construction costs from Rp 665 billion to Rp 802 billion.
Deputy Director of Construction, I Marsidi, explained that the decision to increase the runway length came after meetings with representatives from Emaar Properties who plan to develop an extensive tourism resort in the Mandalika area in south Lombok. “This extension is according to requirement predictions," Marsidi said.
Lombok International Airport in central Lombok will supersede the existing Selaparang Airport near Mataram, with facilities to handle international arrivals and larger, wide-bodied aircraft. Selaparang Airport is currently capable of handling up to 1.1 million travellers, while the new international airport is expected to handle around 2 million people in its first year (2010) and up to 2.4 million people by 2015.

The airport is being constructed as a joint venture between PT Angkasa Pura who will contribute funding of Rp 652 billion, the NTB Government (Rp110 billion) and Central Lombok Government (Rp 40 billion).

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CORRUPTION SCANDAL AT BALI AIRPORT

DenpPost reports that 44 immigration officials are now being examined by the Anti-Corruption Board (BPK) in connection with the suspected embezzlement of Rp 3 billion (US $294,000) by immigration officials at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport. The alleged corruption reportedly occurred between the months of October 2008 and May 2009 in the under-reporting of funds received from visa on arrival sales.
Visitors from a number of countries are allowed, upon arrival in Bali, to purchase a non-extendable 7-day visa for US $10 or a 30-day visa for US $25.

The head of the Airport Immigration office, Budhi Harmanto, confirmed to the Bali Post that 44 members of his office have been undergoing interrogation by the BPK since June. Harmanto said the investigation commenced after inspectors from the central headquarters of Immigration found irregularities in visa-on-arrival accounts, thought to have occurred when immigration officials deposited the value of a 7-day visa when, in fact, the more expensive 30-day visa had been paid for and issued to an incoming tourist.

According to Beritabali.com, the corrupt practices investigative unit of the Bali police force have also joined the case. Meanwhile, Bali's Governor, Made Mangku Pastika, has called for the urgent investigation and disposition of the cases. Speaking to the press on 7 July, after a telephone conference with President Yudhoyono, Pastika said, “Clearly, we hope definite legal action will be taken on this suspected case of corruption.”

Tourism leaders in Bali have called on the Bali airport's immigration office to undertake introspection not only concerning the most recent suspected case of corruption, but also on the general level of service they provide to Bali's foreign visitors, bearing in mind that immigration officials work on the front line in presenting a positive image of Bali.

Quoted in the Bali Post, the Vice-chairman of the Bali chapter of the Association of Indonesian Travel Agents (ASITA), Ketut Ardana, said that his membership had complained “tens of times” regarding the poor service of immigration officials; in each instance ASITA's complaints fell on deaf ears.
While emphasising that he leaves the final disposition of the current case to the legal process, Ardana called for firm action to be taken against any officials eventually proven guilty.

Commenting separately, the Vice-Chairman of the Bali Tourism Board (BTB), Nyoman Suwidjana, said he was not surprised with the case of suspected corruption involving Rp 3 billion. The BTB official, who is also a leading university academic, said: “This is an old song. From the unprofessional way in which the officials work, in addition to their poor mental attitude, sooner or later, malfeasance is certain to occur. Frankly, we are tired of trying to shine the spotlight on such (corrupt) practices.”

Suwidjana told the press that if immigration is unable to do their job correctly, the government should seriously consider contracting the visa-on-arrivals services to the private sector. Suwidjana added: “The government would only play a supervisory role. Let the private sector, acting professionally, provide this service. This would be better than allowing the image of Bali to be sacrificed. This is nonsense to allow ourselves to be seen as corrupt.”
Bank Indonesia calculates that US $8.5 million was collected in visa-on-arrivals fees for the four-month period January-April 2009.

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GILI BYTES

The Gili Eco Trust on Gili Trawangan has been working closely with SATGAS (local Gilis community group), the KSDA (the Ocean and Forest Conservation Authority) and students from Mataram University (UNRAM) on different conservation projects over the past two months and have many plans for the coming months, including setting up a juvenile Grouper structure to put in the ocean off Gili Air. The trust hopes to set up the new fish breeding programme and, in the future, to give control to the local fishermen so that they can take the specially-bred fish rather than fishing on the reefs.

Students have also been busy repairing and maintaining some of the boat moorings set up by the Trust this year. Unfortunately, some of the moorings were stolen so repairs had to be carried out, using new ropes or chains. They have also been working on setting up some more moorings between the islands and close to shore to stop anchoring which is damaging the shallow reefs.

At the beginning of July, the Trust also organised a cat sterilisation programme with the help of some visiting English vets who were on holiday on the Gilis. The vets worked with local vets, teaching them fast and humane sterilisation techniques, and the team managed to sterilise around sixty of the cats that roam around the islands.
The Eco Trust and friends have also been collecting some of the corals which have been falling off nearby reefs because of the waves and currents, or damage caused by divers' fins and re-attaching these corals to existing Biorock structures. The trust is happy to teach people to do “reef gardening” when diving, to “replant” broken or overturned coral on the reefs or to attach live corals onto the Biorock structures so that they can continue to grow.

The Trust has also just bought an open cidomo (horse cart) to help clean Gili Trawangan of all the plastic and rubbish. Rubble and building materials are being used for landfill and suitable materials are being used for wave breakers in the ocean. Plastics and non-recyclable materials are shipped to the mainland for disposal. If you are interested in Gili Eco Trust activities, or can help out with donations to support the many programmes, contact Delphine at Big Bubble Dive or 0813 3960 0553 or the local SATGAS Organisation: Rais on 0812 376 3491 or Usman on 0856 4696 4612.

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