I Gede Ardika has just completed 30 years of distinguished service to the Nation, capped off by a final 3 years, 2 months and 10 days serving as Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism.
Some men are destined to live in interesting times. Pak Ardika's tenure as the Country's tourism boss was anything but tranquil; in a world seemingly turned upside down, he faced crisis after crisis trying to lead an industry traditionally based on fun and relaxation but now sudenly characterized by fear and trepidation. Shortly after assuming his Ministerial post the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center sent world-wide travel into a tail-spin. Then, 13 months later the vicious attack on two Bali night spots claimed 202 lives and left the Country's top tourism destination reeling from a lack of visitors. Let's also not forget bird flu, a SARS epidemic, several bomb attacks in Jakarta, and inexplicable changes in visa regulations - all serving to further flatten an already depressed local tourism industry and make the job of promoting Indonesian national tourism an almost insurmountable task.
Against this dismal backdrop, Pak Ardika's consistently positive outlook and unwavering commitment to reviving national tourism becomes all the more remarkable. Suffering criticism from almost every quarter clamoring that more attention and more funds be allocated to tourism promotion, his efforts made to answer these demands were frustrated from the git-go by being a member of a government that, if not guilty of attaching a low priority to tourism issues, at least felt larger, more pressing issues of national policy more worthy of their attention.
Ironically, had those most critical of the Minister bothered to listen closely to his public pronouncements, they would have discovered they shared with him a desire for more funds for tourism promotion, enhanced security for attracting tourism activities, and a shared disdain for a wrong-minded visa policy. Caught between a rock and a hard place as a member of a national administration noted for its political in-fighting and cross party political rivalries, we believe Pak Ardika always did his level best in difficult circumstances to pursue the best interests of tourism. Later, if all else failed, he accepted the difficult duty of trying to socialize unpopular policies and problematical political decisions to his colleagues in the travel industry.
Could the Minister have done things differently or better during his tenure in office? Hindsight is always 20:20 and criticism is a field of human endeavor requiring little effort and even less expertise.
However, we believe history and the more knowledgeable members of the tourism industry will judge Pak Ardika as a dedicated and professional statesman who managed to persevere and win a number of victories for tourism even when faced with daunting circumstances.
Pak Ardika's admirers – and there are many – applaud his many contributions to the Nation achieved over three decades of faithful service.
What's next for one of Bali's finest sons? Pak Ardika has told the local press that now he is freed of the busy schedule of a Cabinet member, he's looking forward to an extended period of rest and relaxation back home in his North Bali ancestral village.
But, before taking his well-earned rest, our newly-retired Minister has declared his intent to undertake sacred piodalan prayers at a lcoal pura, seeking the special harmony and balance between man and man, man and God, and, man and the environment that is the spiritual refuge of every Balinese Hindu.
Welcome home and well done, Pak Ardika.
Rest well in the certain knowledge that Bali and Indonesia are better places because of your many efforts. We're delighted to have you back on the island you love.
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