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Lombok Attacks: Much Ado About Nothing

Frantic Calls from World Press Asking Bali Update for Details of German Tourists 'Attacked' in Lombok. Well, Here's the Story: There is No Story!

Bali News:
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The story of two German tourists, thought to be American, being beaten in Lombok was carried last week in a number of local and international media causing members of the region's tourism industry to shake there heads in disbelief. They asked: "How could such an incident occur when only days before West Nusa Tenggara's Chief of Tourism, Drs. Machfud Ahmad and the Region's Governor, Mr. H. Harun Al Rasyid, had just given their personal assurances that tourist were guaranteed safe in visiting their chain of islands just west of Bali?"

How could such a terrible thing happen?

You might well ask. For apparently nothing did happen.

The source of this sensational news, according to the Lombok Sumbawa Tourism Promotion Board, was Mr. Putu Aria Tusan, the Lombok Branch Manager of Santa Bali Tours who related "the attack incident" in a public forum between the government and tourism professionals that was subsequently picked up by the press.

Later, when challenged for details of the attack, Mr. Tusan, recanted his story indicating that he had "only heard" of the attack from two of his counter staff and had no further details such as the names of the victims or the location of the attack. Were the two tourists his Company's clients? No. Were they Germans? No one's sure. Did the mystery victims actually say they were beaten and that the incident was connected to the conflict in Afghanistan? No, on both counts. In fact, seemingly, no one else in Lombok had heard of the attack except via the story sourced to the Santa manager.

The Police Chief for East Lombok, Drs. Wiguna was vehement in denying that such an incident had occurred, pointing out that the areas under his supervision loved peace and respected foreign visitors. Apparently, there is also no report on file of such attack with the German Embassy in Jakarta or even the German Consul in Bali.

Are there Indonesian's Opposed to the Conflict in Afghanistan? Like many people around the world, many Indonesian's feel a kindred affiliation with the common people of Afghanistan suffering in the current war. Does this mean they attack foreigners? Despite the aggressive image put forth in the international press regarding protests in Jakarta and elsewhere against the war, foreigners in Indonesia remain unscathed and are exceedingly likely to remain so, with local politcal and religious leaders now even asking that the anti-war rhetoric be toned down to avoid frightening visitors or inflaming public opinion.

Underlining the safe security situation in Lombok was a meeting convened last week by 100 Muslim religious leaders who declared that their affirmative action against the war would be only in the form of prayer meetings at mosques, abstaining completely from unruly demonstrations against any group in local society.

Are tourists safe in Lombok? That appears to be very much the case. Unfortunately, a less amiable fate potentially awaits the hapless Mr. Tusan who, according to reports in Bali Post is being threatened with formal criminal charges by the Chief of Tourism for West Nusa Tenggara and the Lombok-Sumbawa Promotion Board for his role in spreading the insidious rumor.

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