May 23, 2018

Bali put on highest security alert following bombing of churches in East Java

Following the terrorist bombing of three churches in Surabaya on Sunday, May 13, 2018, Police in Bali and related security agencies have tightened security precautions island-wide. reports that the Bali Police Command has placed the island on a “Siaga Satu” alert level – the highest alert level since Friday, May 11, 2018, following violent rioting and a hostage situation at the Brimob Detention Center in Jakarta. Following the Surabaya church bombings, security at church services, particularly in the southern region of the Bali was tightened. Police were also deployed in force at major tourist attractions. Police attending at the doors of churches in Bali are fully armed and wearing body armor. The official spokesperson for the Bali Police, Hengky Widjaja, recommends that the people of Bali remain both calm and alert. For the time being, he also urged the public to reduce activities in public areas. Police are also calling on the public to contact the police immediately whenever they confront suspicious situations or people. Police have increased patrols across the Island.


Travel Warnings

The Jakarta Post reports that while foreign governments have expressed condolences to the victims of the latest terror attacks no country has yet to issue an outright travel band to Indonesia. The European Union is warning its citizens to remain cautious and avoid traveling to certain areas of Indonesia. The Australian Smartraveler website is advising its nationals to “exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, including in Bali, Surabaya and Jakarta, because of the high threat of terrorist attack”. The United Kingdom has noted that while most visits to Indonesia remain trouble free is urging UK citizens remain mindful of possible security threats.


Bali Air and Seaports Buttoned Down

Separately, NusaBali reports that the three main gateways to the Island – Ngurah Rai Airport, the Port of Gilimanuk, and the Port of Padang Bai – are now under tight security protocols to prevent the movement of terrorist elements into Bali. 100 additional security personnel drawn from the police, armed forces and intelligence agencies are now deployed at Ngurah Rai Airport.  Gilimanuk, Bali’s western seaport, went into a high state of alert with a large number of additional police on duty since last week following the takeover of the Brimob Detention Center in South Jakarta. With the report of the bombings in Surabaya, an additional 120 police personnel from the Jembrana Police Precinct were immediately dispatched to the Port of Gilimanuk where thorough searches of arriving passengers and vehicles are now taking place. A police spokesperson from Jembrana said police staffing at the port is now operating at a factor of 12 times normal levels. Police are also on patrol at local fishing ports on Bali’s west coast to prevent surreptitious infiltration of terrorist elements. Meanwhile, Bali’s eastern approach at the Port of Padang Bai is also now under intense security measures implemented by police and mobile brigade members. Police are verifying the personal identities, vehicle registrations, and goods moving in both directions between Bali and Lombok. [ May 13, 2018]


Report blames coal-fired plant in Bali for pollution, loss of livelihoods

Away from the frenetic tourism development that has taken over the beaches of southern Bali, the Indonesian resort island’s northern coast remains largely rural and agrarian. Per capita income here is lower than in the south, and authorities hoped for an economic revival with the construction of a coal-fired power plant, underwritten by Chinese loans. But the Celukan Bawang plant, completed in 2015, has instead been blamed by environmental advocacy group Greenpeace for polluting the local environment and depriving residents of their livelihoods. This is in addition to long-running disputes over the 40 hectares (99 acres) of land on which it sits. In a report published in April, Greenpeace quoted a number of residents and local officials it had interviewed in May 2017 and who were opposed to the power plant. It concluded that the plant was “destroying local livelihoods and threatening the health of nearby communities,” and that the interviews “revealed problems over land and compensation, the impact on the local economy, environmental degradation and health impacts caused by the power plant.”

The 426-megawatt plant was built by a Chinese-Indonesian consortium that included China Huadian Engineering Co. Ltd, Merryline International Plt. and PT General Energy Bali, and received funding of $700 million in the form of loans from state-owned China Development Bank. It reportedly burns through 5,200 tons of coal a day, and can meet two-fifths of Bali’s power demand, according to Jian Fang Shuai, a director at Huadian. From the outset, however, the project has been opposed by residents concerned about pollution, waste, their livelihoods, and unresolved land compensation deals. A third of the plant’s site remains under dispute, according to Greenpeace. Ketut Mangku Wijana, a 56-year-old resident, was one of those interviewed who told Greenpeace he would not give up his land. He told the group that he did not sell his land to the plant operator because they could not agree on a fair price. “They have not been transparent since the very beginning and they also used a middle man to buy my land on the cheap,” he said. If the community had known the land would be used for a power plant, he added, “most of them would probably not have sold their land.”

Karimun, 63, lives just 50 meters (164 feet) from where the plant’s smoke stacks stand today, with nine other family members. She complained of dust, fumes and liquid waste that she said she saw being dumped near her home. “I’m worried about my health,” she said in the report. “I’ve gotten sick, so have my grandchildren, usually from respiratory issues and fevers. But what can I say. The price is not right, so I don’t want to move.” The villagers interviewed by Greenpeace also said the power plant affected the local economy for the worse. Fishing is one of the main sources of livelihood in the area, but local fishermen are having to go further out to sea because catches closer to shore have declined. Eko, a member of a fishing cooperative in Celukan Bawang village, blamed coal freighters for damaging the coral reefs and driving fish away. The power plant has also necessitated the building of a dock for the ships, which Mulyadi, a district councilman, said had destroyed the coastal ecosystem.

Also at issue is the plant operator’s promise to hire local residents. Agus Adnan, the Celukan Bawang village council head, said the number of positions being offered was too low. “The number of local residents hired to work at the plant does not compare with the level of grief they endured,” he said in the report. Nearly everyone quoted in the report complained of health problems. Emissions         from coal-fired power plants can expose people living within the vicinity of such facilities to dangerous levels of microscopic particles known as PM2.5. Long-term exposure to such particulates can cause acute respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease. Other noxious emissions produced by coal-fired power plants include nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, and heavy metals like mercury. “Governments at all levels continue to ignore these impacts. The surrounding community is left alone to deal with the problems,” Greenpeace said in a statement on April 16. It has called on the district, provincial and national governments to monitor air quality and conduct periodic medical checks on the community living around the power plant; to monitor the environmental degradation caused by the plant and scrap a planned expansion; and to develop a national energy plan based on sustainable, renewable energy.

Local officials, however, are skeptical. The environmental agency in Buleleng district, where the plant is located, told Mongabay- Indonesia that its own tests showed that water and air quality near the power plant were at acceptable levels. It said the pH of the seawater near the plant was 8.37, below the upper limit of 8.5. Meanwhile, six samples of seawater gave an average water temperature of 30.9 degrees Celsius (87.6 degrees Fahrenheit), lower than the limit of 35 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit). The agency also said it had examined the plant’s waste facility and concluded it was in line with official requirements. It has ordered the plant operator to submit an environmental report to the agency every six months, according to environmental agency chief I Made Gelgel. “It’s not about whether or not we believe [the Greenpeace report],” Gelgel said. “But we have to look at the report in detail: Who’s being poisoned? Where’s the proof?” [Mongabay May 14, 2018]


Australians warned about Bali travel after Indonesian terror attacks

Australians travelling to Bali and other parts of Indonesia have been warned to exercise caution after recent bombing attacks in the country. At least 14 people have died since Sunday in separate bomb attacks on churches and a police station in Surababya, Indonesia’s second largest city. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued a travel warning urging Australians to “exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, including in Bali, Surabaya and Jakarta, because of the high threat of terrorist attack.”

The holy month of Ramadan begins on Tuesday and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Australians to take the threat of terror very seriously. “ISIS is still a very, very real threat and I want to say how much we condemn the shocking terrorist attacks in Surabaya,” he told reporters on Tuesday. However, many travellers remain defiant. Seven News spoke to several tourists at Perth Airport before they boarded a flight to Bali, who said they would not let terrorists change their holiday plans.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the use of children in the deadly blast at the police station was a horrifying new level of terrorism. “What was particularly horrific about the attacks over the weekend was the use of children in the terrorist organisation. We have not seen that in Indonesian attacks before and this takes it to a whole new horrifying level,” Ms Bishop told Sunrise on Tuesday. [The West Australian May 15, 2018]


Indonesia volcano erupts causing airport closure and flight cancellations

Thousands of travellers to and from Bali, Jakarta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have had their flights cancelled, delayed or diverted due to the eruption of Mount Merapi in central Java. The 9,610ft volcano, the most active in Indonesia, erupted at 7.32am on the morning of Friday 11 May. Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB) said “ash rain” had fallen, “especially in the south to southwest of the peak crater of Mount Merapi”. The organisation urged people in the vicinity of the eruption to remain calm, but to “use a mask when performing activities outside the home”.

The airport at Yogyakarta, a city of nearly half-a-million people, was temporarily closed. Air Asia cancelled services from Bali, Jakarta and Singapore, while its departure from Kuala Lumpur to Yogyakarta was instructed to return to the Malaysian capital. Garuda, the Indonesian national airline, grounded 14 flights. In a statement, the carrier said: “The cancellation of flights to and from Yogyakarta is in line with the company’s commitment to prioritise the safety aspects of aviation operations, particularly considering the distribution of volcanic ash which is very risky to aviation safety. Garuda Indonesia will continue to monitor the situation and developments related to the activity of Mount Merapi.” In 2010, an eruption of the same volcano killed 347 people. There was widespread disruption to domestic and international flights. [Independent May 11, 2018]


103 alleged Chinese cyber fraud criminals arrested

Bali Police made one sizable bust on Tuesday, arresting 103 alleged Chinese fraudsters at a house in Mengwi. The suspects, accused of cyber fraud, are now being examined at Bali Police headquarters over their involvement in buying data on the black market, police say.

“They got their victims data by buying it on the black market,” Bali Police spokesman Anom Wibowo told Detik on Tuesday. According to Wibowo, the perpetrators would cheat their victims by impersonating officers from various government agencies.

They knew how to change their phone numbers to resemble the numbers of different agencies in their home country, Wibowo said. While this work is similar to that of other groups busted in other Bali raids, Wibowo says this is a new case. “There is no connection with previous networks. This is separate,” Wibowo said. This bust was even bigger than one in January, where police secured over 50 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals in Denpasar, Nusa Dua, and Pecatu, says Wibowo. [Coconuts Bali May 2, 2018]