LOCAL RULE BALI STYLE
Within Bali's government, the most important body is also the most local. More 3500 neighbour-
hood organisations called banjars wield enormous power. Comprising the married men of a given
area (somewhere between 50 and 500), a banjar controls most community activities, whether it's
planning for a temple ceremony or making important land use decisions. Decisions are reached
by consensus and woe to a member who shirks his duties. The penalty can be fines or worse:
banishment from the banjar .
Although women and even children can belong to the banjar, only men attend the meetings
where important decisions are taken. Women, who often own the businesses in tourist areas,
have to communicate through their husband to exert their influence. One thing that outsiders in
a neighbourhood quickly learn is that one does not cross the banjar . Entire streets of restaurants
and bars have been closed by order of the banjar after it was determined that neighbourhood
concerns over matters such as noise were not being addressed.
As with his predecessor Soekarno, Wahid's moral stature and vast intel-
lect did not translate into administrative competence. His open contempt
towards squabbling parliamentarians did little to garner him much-needed
support. After 21 months of growing ethnic, religious and regional conflicts,
parliament had enough ammunition to recall Wahid's mandate and hand
the presidency to Megawati.
Indonesia's cultural wars continued and certainly played a role in the
October 2002 bombings in Kuta. More than 200 tourists and Balinese were
killed and hundreds more were injured. Besides the obvious enormous mon-
etary loss (tourism immediately fell by more than half ), the blasts fuelled the
ever-present suspicions the Hindu Balinese hold regarding Muslims (that the
Muslim Javanese are trying to muscle in on the profitable Bali scene, and the
Muslims from Indonesia are, in general, looking to show prejudice against
non-Muslim Balinese) and shattered the myth of isolation enjoyed by many
locals. See the boxed text, p102 for more on this and subsequent bombings
which have dramatically changed life on the island.
Blessedly the elections of 2004 managed to dispel fears and were remark-
ably peaceful. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (popularly known as 'SBY')
beat incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri. A former general and government
minister, SBY promised strong and enlightened leadership. He has been put
to the test numerous times since, with the tsunami that devastated Aceh in
2004, the spread of bird flu and the volcano eruption and tsunami which hit
Java in 2006. So far there has been little to show that he'll enjoy more success
than Soeharto, Wahid et al.
Meanwhile Bali continued to be affected by global politics. Its relationship
with Australia became fractious over several high-profile arrests of Austral-
ians on drug charges and a perception that Indonesia had been lenient with
many of those accused of the 2002 bombings which killed 88 Australians.
Still, tourism numbers had almost recovered by October 2005 when three
suicide bombers killed 20 people - including five tourists - in Kuta and Jim-
baran. Evidence collected in the following months showed that the attacks
had been masterminded by a British- and Australian-educated engineer on
behalf of a fundamentalist Islamic group based in Indonesia. Again tourism
numbers suffered and the entire island's economy took a hit.
For a different take
on Bali, read Geoffrey
revisionist history Bali,
The Dark Side of Paradise .