June 20, 2018

Isn’t it time Indonesia blew its fuse over bomb hoaxes?

On May 17, two female passengers boarded their flight in Makassar in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, bound for Manado, North Sulawesi. Soon after, they told flight attendants they had bombs in their checked luggage. They didn’t. On the same day, on a flight carrying 147 passengers out of Ternate, North Maluku, to Jakarta, a man told flight attendants that he, too, had a bomb in his checked bag. He didn’t. A few days later, on a flight out of Banyuwangi in East Java, two of the city’s councilors were questioned by police after they told their Garuda flight attendants that perfume in their carry-on was actually an explosive device. It wasn’t.

After a series of suicide attacks in Indonesia last month, the bomb hoaxes have added a new headache for travellers just as the airline industry enjoys something of a renaissance. Safety and on-time departures now rival foreign carriers. A suite of shiny new terminals, including one opening this week in Semarang that is nine times bigger than the one it is replacing, make travel bearable. For aviation specialist Gerry Soejatman, who counted 10 bomb hoaxes on aircraft last month, the false alarms are something of an own-goal for an industry that has battled back from the brink. “This just reminds people of the bad old days when, really, the industry has moved on,” Soejatman said.

Unlike other jurisdictions where authorities can come down hard on bomb threats, Indonesia takes a light touch, usually letting perpetrators off with a warning. Patience in Indonesia, though, may finally be running short. Late last month, university students aboard a Lion Air flight from Pontianak, West Kalimantan, triggered panic when before take-off they told a flight attendant their laptop computers contained bombs. Hysterical passengers overpowered the flight crew, ripped open emergency exits and poured onto the wings, even as the engines were still running. Distressing images of passengers sliding down the engine casings onto the tarmac several metres below were beamed onto television news programmes and social media. This time the students were taken into custody.

“We hope that this legal action will be a deterrent,” Indonesia’s transport minister Budi Karya Sumadi, told local media. “This needs to be a lesson for all of us that we can no longer joke about bombs.” Soejatman says Indonesian culture has struggled to adjust to the rigid protocols of air travel, and travellers are not always that savvy.

By law, bomb threats that result in injuries or property loss can carry an eight-year sentence. But other than the pair in West Kalimantan, it’s unclear whether any other pranksters will face legal action. National police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment. “We think hoaxers should be charged seriously to teach them a lesson,” says Yado Yarismano, spokesman at state-owned Angkasa Pura II, which manages western airports including Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta. Yarismano declined to say whether he felt the police response was adequate. “These incidents are very disruptive. They hurt passengers and they hurt the airlines.”[South China Morning Post June 10, 2018]


Evidence of gecko killing poisonous green viper in west Bali home

Often decried and too seldom appreciated are the Gekkos, Geckos, or also known as Tokeks – that are a  common sight in the gardens, hotels, homes and villas across the island where they tenaciously hang on to walls, tree trunks, or seemingly defy gravity by hanging upside down from a ceiling. Coming in range of camouflage colors, but locally dominated by a livery of an amalgam of gray-pink-green, Geckos are in fact members of the lizard family found in warm climates around the globe. Equipped with over-sized eyes for nocturnal hunting, Geckos, in fact, have no eyelids, but their long tongues come in handy for keeping their large eyeball moist and clean.

The Gecko’s most often found in Bali range in size from perhaps 12 – 17 centimeters. They have large voices that are onomatopoetic with their names with Indonesia ears detecting repeated echoes of “Tokek-Tokek” and European ears denoting “Gecko-Gecko.” The remarkable webbed feet and toe pads of the Gecko are objects of widespread scientific study to determine how their semi-porous construction allows these reptiles to walk upside down across ceilings “suctioned” to the surfaces in a relentless search for insects and other prey. Somewhat at odds with the loud and familiar mating call of the Gecko is that some species of this reptile are parthenogenetic which means females can reproduce without ever having contact with a male of the species. Think: Virgin birth.

Gecko’s are unjustly feared for the ferocity of their bite. Although in reality they almost never bite any animal or insects they have no intention of eating. Geckos can have as many as 100 teeth that are fused to the jaw bone and can be replaced and re-grown every 3 or 4 months. Gecko bites of humans beings are extremely rare and almost always result from efforts to handle the lizards. Which, at last, brings us to the point of this somewhat long treatise on the ubiquitous Gecko’s living in Bali. Detik.com reports from the Regency of Karangasem in Bali that a poisonous green python was killed by a fearless Gecko. Reported on Instagram (@Pinsianart) on Friday, May 25, 2018, by I Putu Pingki Sinanta who shared details and pictures of the duel to the death that took place between the green viper and the Gecko at his residence.

That a Gecko is capable of killing and devouring a poisonous snake was confirmed as a scientific possibility by snake herpetologist at the National Research Center (LIPI) due to the fact that the Gecko first devoured and immobilized the head of the snake. Had the Gecko with its large head and sharp teeth attacked the snake from any other angle, the battle might have ended with the snake ruling the day. Sinatna said the snake struggled unsuccessfully for hours to free itself from the Gecko’s jaws before eventually giving up the ghost. Gulp.

Many people living in Bali unintelligently try to banish Gecko’s from their living areas, complaining that the reptiles are frightening and leave copious quantities of excrement in their wake. But, given the Gecko’s efficiency of destroying insects and snakes, perhaps it’s time to seek a rapprochement with these reptilian friends who share our living space? [www.balidiscovery.com June 12, 2018]


Russian expat arrested in Bali over Kuta coke dealing

A Russian national was arrested in Bali’s tourist hub of Kuta in April for allegedly dealing cocaine. The Russian, identified by Merdeka as Vladimir Rybnokov Aleksandrovich, 24, was apprehended by Kuta Police in front of the Miranda Star Shop on Jl. Majapahit on April 27 with three packets of cocaine in his pant pocket, police announced at a press conference on Wednesday. From there, police searched the Russian man’s accommodation at Bali View Apartment on Jl. Nakula, Legian, where they found a book with two more plastic packets containing cocaine inside.

Kuta Police Comr. I Nyoman Wirajaya said that the cocaine confiscated from Aleksandrovich ended up being five packets: four grams in total. The Russian had been living in Bali for a number of years and had overstayed his visa, police said. “He appears to be a dealer. He has been in Bali for almost six years and has overstayed. His work is unclear. He confessed to buying from local people here, but he does not want to honestly say where exactly he got the goods,” Wirajaya said. Police estimate the value of the drugs taken from Aleksandrovich to equal around IDR2.5 million (US$180).

The Russian will be charged with violating Law no. 35 year 2009, which carries a minimum sentence of four years prison and a maximum of 12 years, according to Wirajaya. The commissioner said police are still investigating the Russian though, trying to deepen their understanding of the supply network that Aleksandrovich had been connected to. [Coconuts Bali June 7, 2018]


Indonesia fuel price fiasco may put $1.7 bln dent in Pertamina’s finances

Indonesia’s state-run Pertamina is paying the price for the government’s reluctance to raise domestic fuel prices in line with surging global crude prices, at least until next year’s presidential elections are held. Consequently, national oil company Pertamina is estimated to incur losses totaling Indonesian Rupiah 24 trillion ($1.73 billion) through 2018 if fuel prices remain unchanged, an official who declined to be named said. Indonesia’s move contradicts its policy of fuel reforms in the aftermath of the 2014 oil price crash, when President Joko Widodo had fully scrapped gasoline subsidies and retained a nominal Rupiah 500/liter subsidy for diesel.

It also mirrors populist moves in countries like Malaysia where the government has lifted consumer taxes to win public support, and underscores the dilemma of Asian governments in a high oil price environment. When Jokowi scrapped gasoline subsidies in 2014, crude was under $50/b. However on Tuesday, August Brent crude futures on ICE settled at $75.94/b. The government has effectively shifted the burden of higher oil prices to Pertamina, which distributes gasoline at retail prices lower than market levels, unlike private retailers who can adjust fuel prices more freely.

Pertamina currently sells 88 RON gasoline at Rupiah 6,450/liter (46 cents), while the market price is around Rupiah 8,600/liter. It sells gasoil at Rupiah 5,150/liter compared with a market price of about Rupiah 8,350/liter, according to the energy ministry. Meanwhile, the Jokowi administration says it is protecting Indonesian wallets. “The President is also aware that the public’s purchasing power has to be maintained at the current stage, so fuel prices will not be increased until 2019,” energy and mines minister Ignasius Jonan told reporters. [Platts June 10, 2018]


Selfie-taking Chinese tourist dies after falling from Indonesia cliff

A Chinese tourist fell from a cliff to his death after attempting to take a selfie on the edge of a cliff in Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, an islet off the coast of Bali. Liang Wanchang, 46, was reportedly enjoying the scenery at Devil Tears, located at the top of the cliff with a view of the ocean in Nusa Lembongan, with friends at 2:30 p.m. local time on Sunday. A strong wave hit him as he was taking a selfie with the ocean in the background.

“The victim lost his balance, slipped and fell into the sea,” Nusa Penida Police chief Comr. Ketut Suastika told The Jakarta Post on Sunday. “People in the area strived to help him, but strong waves hampered their efforts,” Suastika said. The victim’s body was later found in the sea, but rough conditions initially hampered efforts to retrieve it. The body was later sent to Nusa Penida 1 community health center (Puskesmas). “A doctor at the Puskesmas declared him dead,” Suastika said. The body has been sent to the morgue at Sanglah Hospital for an autopsy.[Asia One June 11, 2018]


Bali based airlines Garuda Indonesia and Batik Air earn highest safety rating after audit

Two of the key airlines flying holiday makers to Bali have had their safety rating upgraded to the highest level after Indonesia passed a major international audit. Garuda Indonesia and Batik Air, as well as Lion Air have all been upgraded to top the top tier-seven stars – for safety by global ratings agency AirlineRatings.com. The upgrade is the result of a new audit of Indonesia’s compliance with the eight categories in the International Civil Aviation Organization Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP).

These include Operations, Airworthiness, Accident Investigation, Aerodromes, Organization, Legislation, Air Navigation Services and Licensing. ICAO is the governing body of commercial aviation. All three airlines have also completed the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) which is conducted every two years. Airlineratings.com safety rating system, however, does not audit pilot training as this is covered to an extent under the IOSA audit. In 2017, the accident rate for airlines on that have completed IOSA was nearly four times better than that of non-IOSA airlines. Garuda Indonesia completed the IOSA audit in 2008 and has not had an accident or serious incident since. After completing its audit, the European Union lifted its ban on Garuda Indonesia flying to Europe. The audit is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline. Many countries have now adopted the audit as the guiding principle for its aviation system. [Perth Now June 9, 2018]


Body of Bali Nine member Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen brought home

The body of Bali Nine drug smuggling ring member Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen has been brought home to Australia to be buried, an Indonesian official has confirmed. Ade Kusmanto, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Directorate General of Corrections, said Nguyen died on May 19 at Siloam Hospital in Jakarta from stomach cancer. He was 34. Mr Kusmanto said Nguyen’s body was taken to Brisbane on May 22. Travel arrangements were made by his adoptive mother, Jolita Zonneveld, a Dutch-Indonesian living in Denpasar, Bali. Ms Zonneveld had been caring for Nguyen since he was transferred to a Jakarta prison in October to get better treatment for his cancer. Nguyen had at least two chemotherapy sessions between February and April at the same hospital. His condition started to deteriorate on May 13, Mr Kusmanto said. He was hospitalised for several days before succumbing to his illness. [The Australian June 7, 2018]