October 25, 2017

Passengers criticize AirAsia crew reaction during rapid descent

Passengers aboard an AirAsia flight from Perth, Australia, to Bali, Indonesia, were angry at the flight crew for showing fear when the plane rapidly descended nearly 24,000 feet Monday. About an hour after the plane left Perth, the Australian Transit Safety Bureau said the plane depressurized at about 34,000 feet and the “crew conducted an emergency descent to 10,000 feet,” which is a standard practice, CNN reported.

But passengers said they were more startled by the reaction of the flight crew than the sudden plunge. “The panic was escalated, because of the behavior of staff, who were screaming and looked tearful,” passenger Clare Askew told reporters, according to USA Today. “We look to them for reassurance and we didn’t get any.” Video of the incident shows oxygen masks being deployed and a member of the flight crew telling passengers to “buckle your seatbelts” in English and other commands in another language. But passengers said the English commands weren’t clear and they didn’t understand the non-English orders, adding to the confusion.

Passenger Mark Bailey said the only English instruction he heard was to “brace” for impact. “They started screaming ‘Emergency, emergency!’” Bailey said. “They just went hysterical, there was no real panic before that, but everyone panicked after that.” After the rapid descent, the plane returned to Perth and passengers were given new flights. Malaysia-based AirAsia Group blamed the incident on a technical failure and apologized for the inconvenience. “We commend our pilots for landing the aircraft safely and complying with standard operating procedure,” said Ling Liong Tien, the head of safety for AirAsia. “We are fully committed to the safety of our guests and crew and we will continue to ensure that we adhere to the highest safety standards.” [UPI October 16, 2017]


Middle school boy poses disrespectfully on top of Hindu shrine

There’s nothing like an angry storm of comments from thousands of netizens to get someone to remove offensive content. A middle-school-aged boy in Indonesia has apologized over some photos of himself that went viral on Sunday, in which he disrespectfully posed with his feet up on a Hindu temple. “To those of the Hindu faith… I am deeply sorry… I did not mean to offend you guys… please forgive me,” the boy wrote on his Facebook page, after removing the offensive photos.

The post had been captioned “OTW Pura Bali” (on the way to a Balinese temple), but it’s believed that the pictures were actually taken at a Hindu shrine on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, reports Tribun Bali. Before the post was removed from the boy’s account, it had been shared as many as 5,989 times and had over 4,000 comments, many of them from Balinese Facebook users cursing the boy out for “blasphemy.” While blasphemy is an offense punishable by time behind bars in Indonesia, it does not appear any charges will be pressed over the photos because of the boy’s age.

The Chairman of the Indonesian Hindu Youth Association, Sures Kumar, condemned the photos but said that because of the boy’s “young age”, it could be that he did not understand what he was doing. So, a “forgive him, for he know not what he do” sort of situation. “It’s certain that the young kid did not understand,” Kumar said on Monday, as quoted by Detik. “It must have been ignorance for the kid to have behaved that way. If he knew what he was doing, I’m sure he would not be able to do that.” Only Balinese priests are able to go up to plinggih padmasana, the type of Hindu shrine pictured in the boy’s photos, says Kumar. The shrines are shaped as thrones, left empty for Balinese Hindu deities. [Coconuts Bali October 16, 2017]


Australian arrested in Bali faces years in prison for drug offences

An Australian who was nabbed with drugs in his luggage in Bali and briefly escaped custody by climbing through a toilet air vent has been charged with narcotics possession, a police spokesman said Saturday. That charge carries a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison, meaning the Aussie faces more than a decade behind bars overseas. The minimum sentence would be five years. Thirty-two-year-old Joshua James Baker, from Mount Isa in Queensland, was detained after arriving at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport from Bangkok on October 8 when Indonesian police found drugs in his luggage. “He had 28 grammes of marijuana and 37 diazepam pills,” Bali police spokesman Hengky Widjaja said.

But Baker slipped away when he was led to a toilet for a urine test on Monday, climbing through a ventilation shaft to make his getaway. Police soon became suspicious of his long bathroom break and launched a manhunt when they realised he had escaped. They found him around 10 hours later in the beach village of Canggu. Baker’s lawyer, Pande Putu Maya Arsanti, has told Fairfax Media her client is mentally ill and therefore not accountable for his actions. Baker has told police he brought the drugs from Australia to Bali with him and that he did not believe he was guilty because it is legal to use marijuana in Australia. And police allege he has told them he often consumed marijuana in Bali during previous trips, generally buying it on the holiday island. This was the first time he had bought his own supply. Police have said they will include details of his great escape in the dossier of evidence against him so it could be used by judges.

Baker was taken into custody on Monday morning. After he was interrogated, he was taken to the police hospital for a routine medical examination and doctors suggested he be kept there overnight. The deputy director of the narcotics directorate at Bali police, Sudjarwoko, said that about 2.40am he asked the two police officers guarding him for permission to use the toilet. “Our police personnel were too excited watching television while waiting,” Sudjarwoko said. After 15 minutes they knocked on the door and when there was no answer, broke the door down to find that Baker had escaped through a ventilation window.

Baker ran to a nearby minimarket and borrowed a staff member’s mobile phone to get a motorbike taxi to take him to a British friend’s home in Canggu. Baker asked his friend for money but made no mention of his earlier arrest and escape. From Canggu he took a taxi to Nusa Dua, telling the driver to stop in front of a house where he pretended to be opening the gate. But when the taxi left he doubled back to Canggu, a distance of 28km. When he arrived in Nusa Dua, apparently Baker is smart. He told the taxi to stop in front of a house, which he said was his house. He pretended it was his house, like trying to open the gate, but apparently he went away once the taxi was gone,” Sudjarwoko said.

“I spread his picture to cafes, hotels, restaurants and other public areas to find him. At around 2.20pm we got a phone call from a hotel who said there was someone there like the photo of the man searched by police. “I told the hotel staff to have chit chat with him, to make him stay there longer, as we needed time to go from Nusa Dua to Canggu. We arrested him at the hotel. “Maybe he was hungry, that’s why he came out to get lunch.” [NewsCom.Au October 15, 2017]


The show goes on: Ubud writers’ festival to bring big names to Bali as Mount Agung rumbles

As Mount Agung started rumbling in Bali last month, Janet DeNeefe, the director of Ubud writers festival, convened a series of crisis meetings. About 160 writers from Indonesia and around the world, including Ian Rankin, Tim Flannery, Jane Harper and Jung Chang, had been booked to gather in Ubud from 25 October for the 14th iteration of the festival – and a decision had to be made about whether to postpone it. “When the volcano became active, we went into red alert,” DeNeefe told Guardian Australia. “We had meeting upon meeting to work out what to do. We had a three-structure plan from cutting back on the festival to postponing … so examining every option. It was very stressful. “This is the guy that runs the show,” DeNeefe said of the volcano. “It’s not just any old volcano. Bali just can’t help but feel cosmic.”

The eruption is feared to be the worst in Bali in decades and it’s fair to say a destabilised writers festival is among the least of the locals’ concerns: an estimated 140,000 people in surrounding areas have been evacuated and moved into makeshift shelters and formerly bustling travel hotspots have been left virtually empty. In Australia, holiday makers put plans on hold or cancelled their trips, fearing not so much the eruption but transport chaos; airlines would be unable to fly should there be ash clouds in the air and huge consequences loomed over the island’s tourism-centric economy. But now, weeks after the original rumblings, things are relatively less volatile at Mount Agung and the team at thewriters festival has decided to carry on.

The Ubud writers festival was born from tragedy. In 2002, after the Bali bombings, DeNeefe started the festival to encourage visitors back to the region. It is now regarded as one of the best writers’ festivals in the world, highlighting and promoting Indonesian authors and attracting some of the biggest names in the international literary scene. Writers speaking this year also include Simon Armitage, Simon Winchester, this year’s Miles Franklin winner, Josephine Wilson, the French-Indonesian animator Pierre Coffin and the Man Booker Prize finalist Madeleine Thien. The keynote will be delivered by Malaysian activist Marina Mahathir: a former UN person of the year, a leader at the Malaysian Aids Foundation and an expert on minority rights in Malaysia.

Ubud won’t be directly affected by the volcano and none of the writers has panicked or threatened to pull out, DeNeefe says. “The Balinese are kind of chilled, like, ‘Ehh – this could take months’,” she says. “But there’s lots of frantic expats out there.” [The Guardian October 6, 2017]


Operator blames ‘unwarranted’ volcano fears for Bali booking slump

An “unwarranted fear factor” over travel to Bali has been sparked by irresponsible reporting and comments on social media concerning an active volcano on the Indonesian holiday island. Khiri Travel Indonesia reported an overall 20% slump bookings since Mount Agung started to show increased signs of activity in the third week of September. The company’s general manager Herman Hoven said: “There has been no explosion. There may never be. And the vast majority of Bali’s tourism activities take place between 30 and 60 kms [18 and 37 miles] from Mt Agung, at a safe distance.

“Irresponsible reporting and comments on social media have created an unwarranted fear factor while the situation on the ground in Bali remains calm and tourism operators remain fully open for business.” No major travel advisories have been issued recommending tourists to cancel. Instead, overseas governments advise tourists to monitor reliable media reports and follow advice from Balinese provincial authorities. However, travel advisories admit that volcanic ash clouds may cause aviation disruption if Mount Agung erupts.

“That remains a distant and hypothetical scenario,” said Hoven. “At the moment it is safe here, so tourists should contact their tour operator to confirm travel plans – and stick to their intention to visit Bali.” He added: “We would not tell our clients to visit if we thought it was not safe.” Tourism accounts for around 40% of the local economy on Bali, although reliable statistics are hard to find.

A social media campaign has been started to support Balinese tourism and show tourists in Bali having a great time, despite speculation about Mount Agung. The #iaminBaliNOW campaign, launched by Bali-based Alex Tusk, the founder of bookgreener.com and RefillMyBottle.com, is modelled on the crowd-sourced social media campaign that Nepal used in 2015 following the major earthquake there.

Tusk said: “Persistent misinformation is threatening the livelihood of many entrepreneurs, their staff and families who rely on tourism income in Bali – not only those directly in the tourism sector but also, for example, farmers, who supply restaurants and hotels.”

#IaminBaliNOW aims to address the issue head on with the facts. “#IaminBaliNow is a crowd-sourced, social media campaign to showcase Bali as it is now, with reliable, up-to-the date information, facts, photos and stories,” said Tusk. [Travel Weekly October 16, 2017]


Major traffic detours during construction of underpass at entrance to Bali’s airport

The construction of the new underpass at the entrance to Bali’s Airport is scheduled to commence on October 17, 2017, with completion targeted for August 2018. Beritabali.com warns that the accelerated construction project is expected to become a major source of traffic congestion across a wide area of Kuta. The underpass project sits at the crossroads on the way to Bali’s airport, Nusa Dua, Uluwatu and the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Monument.

A survey conducted by Bali’s traffic and police authorities has resulted in a plan to close the airport access road and divert traffic using the Jalan Sunset Road, Jalan Dewi Sri, Jalan Raya Kuta and Jalan Raya Tuban. Police have been preparing the alternative routes in the lead up to the commencement of construction by discouraging on street parking on the affected roadways. Parking will also be controlled in front of the traditional Desa Adat Kuta public market, the Agung                    Asasutagwa Mosque, and Al-Azhar Mosque. [ October 15, 2017]


Aussies to mark Bali bombings 15 years on

It turned paradise into a scene of devastation, focused the world’s attention on Indonesia’s terrorist cells and left many Australians with scars – both physical and psychological – that will never heal. This week, Australians are expected to join other survivors and families of victims of the 2002 Bali  bombings at the site of the blasts in a bond that remains strong despite the passing of the years. Around 200 family, friends, religious leaders and government officials are expected to gather at the site in Kuta from 4pm local time on Thursday.

It will be fifteen years since the night of October 12, 2002, when bombs ripped through the Sari Club in Kuta and nearby Paddy’s Bar, killing 202 people including 88 Australians. The attacks, carried out by terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah, represent the single largest loss of Australian life in an act of terror. “Bali was seen as our little paradise … As the raw emotion came up, people were obviously very angry, a lot of that was directed towards Indonesia,” President of the Indonesia Institute, Ross Taylor recalls. It defined the bilateral relationship “for years”, as Indonesia faced intense pressure to crack down on militant groups.

One good thing to emerge was the increasing relationship between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and its Indonesian counterpart, which created the highly successful anti-terrorism unit called Detachment 88 or Densus 88, Mr Taylor said. Nick Way, a former Channel 10 journalist who covered the bombings, says the attack was Australia’s September 11. Now chairman of the Australian-run Bali Peace Park Association, Mr Way hopes a new proposal to turn the space into a tourism centre, with a museum and employment opportunities – rather than just a memorial site – will provide a way forward. “It’s about looking to the future without fear,” he says. [NewsCom.Au October 10, 2017]