Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Dutch finally recognised Indonesia's independence in 1949, but Indonesians
celebrate 17 August 1945 as Independence Day.
At first, Bali, Lombok and the rest of Indonesia's eastern islands were
grouped together in the unwieldy province of Nusa Tenggara. In 1958 the
central government recognised this folly and created three new governmental
regions from the one, with Bali getting its own and Lombok becoming part
of Nusa Tenggara Barat.
A verdant tropical island so picturesquely and immaculately presented it could easily be a painted
Kuta Beach At latest count there were over a 100 (over one hundred!) places to stay. One item you won't find
on the menus are the 'special' omelettes and pizzas. About 400Rp for a large one - the special ingredients are the
mushrooms. There's quite a rush on them at mid afternoon to ensure a good high by sunset.
Legian With Kuta getting bigger and more resort-like daily, a lot of people are moving 2km down the road to
Legian, the mushroom village… They even has electricity now.
Tony Wheeler in South-East Asia on a Shoestring , first edition (1975)
Bali and the Tourist
Industry by David Shavit
is a highly entertaining
look at how tourism
developed in Bali
between the wars with
the help of a menagerie
of local and Western
Independence was not an easy path for Indonesia to follow. A European-style
parliamentary assembly was mired in internecine squabbles, with Soekarno
as the beloved figurehead president. When Soekarno assumed more direct
control in 1959 after several violent rebellions, he proved to be as inept a
peacetime administrator as he was inspirational as a revolutionary leader.
In the early 1960s, as Soekarno faltered, the army, communists, and other
groups struggled for supremacy. On 30 September 1965, an attempted coup -
blamed on the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI, or Communist Party) -
led to Soekarno's downfall. General Soeharto (he didn't get the Muhammad
moniker until the late '80s) emerged as the leading figure in the armed forces,
displaying great military and political skill in suppressing the coup. The
PKI was outlawed and a wave of anticommunist reprisals followed, which
escalated into a wholesale massacre of suspected communists throughout
the Indonesian archipelago.
In Bali, the events had an added local significance as the main national
political organisations, the Partai Nasional Indonesia (PNI, Nationalist
Party) and PKI, crystallised existing differences between traditionalists,
who wanted to maintain the old caste system, and radicals, who saw the
caste system as repressive and who were urging land reform. After the
failed coup, religious traditionalists in Bali led the witch-hunt for the 'godless
communists'. Eventually the military stepped in to control the anticom-
munist purge, but no-one on Bali was untouched by the killings, estimated
at between 50,000 and 100,000 out of a population of about two million, a
percentage many times higher than on Java. Many tens of thousands more
died on Lombok.
Following the failed coup in 1965 and its aftermath, Soeharto established
himself as president and took control of the government, while Soekarno was
shoved aside, spending his final days under house arrest in the hills above
Jakarta. Under Soeharto's 'New Order' government, Indonesia looked to the
West in foreign policy, and Western-educated economists set about balancing
budgets, controlling inflation and attracting foreign investment.
Politically, Soeharto ensured that Golkar (officially not a political party),
with strong support from the army, became the dominant political force.
Other political parties were banned or crippled by the disqualification of
candidates and the disenfranchisement of voters. Regular elections main-
tained the appearance of a national democracy, but until 1999, Golkar won
every election hands down. This period was also marked by great economic
development in Bali and later in Lombok as social stability and maintenance
of a favourable investment climate took precedence over democracy.
In early 1997 Southeast Asia began to suffer a severe economic crisis, and
within the year the Indonesian currency (the rupiah) had all but collapsed and
the economy was on the brink of bankruptcy. To help deal with the continu-
ing economic crisis, Soeharto agreed to the International Monetary Fund's
(IMF) demand to increase the government-subsidised price of electricity
and petrol, resulting in immediate increases in the cost of public transport,
rice and other food staples. Riots broke out across Indonesia and although
Bali and Lombok were spared most of the violence, their tourism-dependent
economies were battered.
Unable to cope with the escalating crisis, Soeharto resigned in 1998, after
32 years in power. His protégé, Dr Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, became
president. Though initially dismissed as a Soeharto crony, he made the first
notable steps in opening the door to real democracy, such as freeing the press
from government supervision. However he failed to tackle most of the critical
issues dogging Indonesia such as corruption, and his cavalier handling of East
Timor's independence helped to precipitate the 1999 massacres.
In 1999, Indonesia's parliament met to elect a new president. The frontrun-
ner was Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose party received the largest number
of votes at the election. Megawati was enormously popular in Bali, partly
because of family connections (her paternal grandmother was Balinese) and
partly because her party was essentially secular (the mostly Hindu Balinese
are very concerned about any growth in Muslim fundamentalism). However,
the newly empowered Islamist parties helped to shift the balance of power. By
astutely playing both the Islam card and using his long-standing relationship
with Golkar leaders, Abdurrahman Wahid, the moderate, intellectual head
of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation, emerged as president.
Outraged supporters of Megawati took to the streets of Java and Bali. In
Bali, the demonstrations were typically more disruptive than violent - trees
were felled to block the main Nusa Dua road, and government buildings
were damaged in Denpasar and Singaraja. The election of Megawati as vice-
president quickly defused the situation.
On Lombok, however, religious and political tensions spilled over in early
2000 when a sudden wave of attacks starting in Mataram burned Chinese-
Christian businesses and homes across the island. The impact on tourism
was immediate and severe, and the island is still trying to put this shameful
episode behind it.
Bali's airport is named for
I Ngurah Rai, the national
hero who died leading
the resistance against the
Dutch at Marga in 1946.
Bali Blues by Jeremy Allan
tells of the struggle by
locals to survive in Kuta
during the year following
the 2002 terrorist attacks.
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