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No Injuries Reported in Morning Fire that Demolishes 5 Bali Businesses.
An early morning blaze on Thursday, April 22, 2010, caused significant damage to at least five stores at the Kuta Square Complex in Bali. The fire, which was discovered at 8:00 a.m., virtually destroyed Body and Soul, Quicksilver and Oakley while causing damage to the upper levels of Fuji Film and Puravida.
According to Radar Bali, the fire started on the third floor of the Quicksilver clothing company and spread to the adjoining Oakley shop. 15 units from the local fire brigade responded, managing to bring the fire under control by 10:15 am. Forensic investigators are still investigating to try to determine the origin of the fire with preliminary suspicion placed on a possible short circuit at the Quicksilver outlet.
Holidaymakers enjoying their breakfast in the Kuta area on the day of the fire saw a large black cloud of smoke created by the fire rising above Kuta's skyline.
No injuries resulted from the early morning fire.
Violent Rumblings in Bali's Nightlife Mecca
Brief Outbreak of Street Violence in Bali Sullies Bali's Reputation for Safety and Security.
Kuta's reputation as the "wild, wild west" of Bali was further augmented by the most recent outbreak of street violence on the evening of Friday, April 16, 2010. The violent incident that occurred at the Sky Garden Disco saw several people injured and, at its height, had police firing warning shots to disperse the rowdies. The incident, however, is being downplayed by police authorities and the spokesman for the discotheque as little more than a "simple misunderstanding."
Quoted in BeritaBali.com, Mohamad Rifan, legal counsel to the Sky Garden, said there was no need to spotlight the event due to the fact that no one was killed in the altercation. Claiming that the incident was not the result of gang warfare, Rifan said the problem traced to a misunderstanding between one of the Sky Garden employees and a person trying to gain free admittance to the nightspot.
Rifan explained: "Kuta is a tourism center and we must create a feeling of safety and security. If guests decide not to come, we have problems and the economy of Bali can come to a standstill."
The violent incident appeared on social networking sites, including twitter and facebook, where it became topical in real time as the situation unfolded with various reports incorrectly stating that three had died in Kuta street violence. Added Rifan: "All this is not correct. Nobody died. The police only fired the guns to disperse the crowds."
In a separate report in detik.com, the Head of Denpasar's Metropolitan Police, I Gde Alit Widana, denied that the Sky Garden incident was an outbreak of violence between competing gangs, saying what took place was a "routine" fight between street thugs who feel they have a right to "rule over" Kuta. Widana added: "It is a big mistake to say anyone died. This was a simple fight. A fight between individuals. One of the arms of the participants was injured after being hit with a piece of wood."
The violent outbreak reportedly began when security guards at the Sky Garden refused admittance to visitors who tried to gain free admittance to the bar by using the name of one of the employees. The visitors were asked to wait while a check was made with the named employee. The two visitors, feeling they were being unfairly detained, used their hand phones to seek assistance from a large group of friends who quickly arrived at the Sky Garden. The growing crowd began to throw bottles at the bar, prompting a troop of mobile brigade police to arrive on seen where, shortly thereafter, they fired warning shots to disperse the street mob.
Cry Me a River in Paradise
Bad Weather in Bali Blamed for Landslide, Floods and One Death.
The national news agency Antara reports that one person was killed and two injured near Karangasem in East Bali by landslides that occurred on Sunday evening, April 18, 2010. The landslide was precipitated by heavy rains over the preceding days in Karangasem, an area 85 kilometers from Bali's capital city of Denpasar.
The casualties in the Karangasem landslide were bathing in a local river when an adjoining hillside subsided killing a man identified as I Nyoman Rai (35), and injuring two women Ni Nyoman Munir (40) and Ni Nyoman Sari (35).
Heavy rains in Bali also brought flooding to large areas of Kuta on Monday and Tuesday, April 19-20, 2010. Rising waters submerged many main roads including Jalan Kediri in Kuta and parts of the Ngurah Rai Bypass near Nusa Dua. Some of the worst flooding took place near Bali's penitentiary where Jalan Tangkuban Perahu in Kerobokan was submerged beneath 1.5 meters of flood water.
The severe flooding in Kerobokan was occasioned by roads that are actually lower than drainage ditches along the sides of Jalan Tangkuban Perahu. Local government has promised that they will commence a rebuilding of drains in this area within the coming months.
Best Western, No More
Best Western Cuts All Connections with the New Kuta Condotel in Bali.
Best Western has immediately severed all connection with the New Kuta Condotel which was formerly branded as the Best Western Condotel.
In announcing the brand removal on the hotel in the Kedonganan area of Bali, Winston Haines, the Business Development Consultant in charge of operations for Best Western in Indonesia said, "It is with regret Best Western International has ended its association with New Kuta Condotel. Best Western, meanwhile, is continuing with its expansion plans in Indonesia."
Best Western has an aggressive expansion program in Indonesia with properties in Bali, Solo and Jakarta. Hotels are under development in Jakarta, Padang, Banjarmasin, Surabaya, Seminyak Bali, Makassar and Semarang.
No details are available explaining the reason for "brand-separation" form the Bali property which has been plagued in the past with accusations of violating zoning and building rules.
Bali Police Continue Crackdown on Stashes of Illegal Booze.
Bali police have raided another warehouse containing illegal imported alcohol products. 30 cases of imported liquor without the mandatory custom's stamps were confiscated by policed on Friday, April 16, 2010, from a warehouse on Jalan Raya Padonan No 6, Desa Tububeneng, North Kuta.
In the latest raid on illegal caches of liquor, police descended on the warehouse at 9:00 p.m. where they seized 360 bottles of illegal beverages owned by I Made Widnyana.
Both the cases of illegal alcohol and the owner have been detained by police while investigation continue.
European Air Traffic Shutdown Due to Iceland's Volcano Felt Also in Bali.
While airlines are struggling worldwide to recover from the shutdown of many European flights occasioned by the volcanic explosion of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, the "fallout" from this global event was also felt in Bali.
• KLM flights to Bali were cancelled for several days during the height of European flight cancellations.
• Bali's airport authorities estimated that around 3,000 European tourists were stranded in Bali due to flight cancellations. That number is declining rapidly as airlines resume normal schedules and address the backlog of passengers.
• The Bali Hotel Association (BHA) issued an expression of empathy for those stranded in Bali, calling on hotels to extend their best available rates to those compelled to linger in Bali waiting for a flight home.
• The BHA has also urged hotel members to defer cancellation charges for passengers who rebook their holidays before the end of 2010.
• Indonesian immigration authorities announced a "visa amnesty" assuring people overstaying the limit of their visa due to flight interruptions caused by Iceland's volcano that leniency would be extended. Visitors able to show a ticket cancelled due to the European flight interruptions will be exempt from overstay fines as they wait for an available flight back home.
Pardon Me, Sir, is this the Bali Island Choo Choo?
Governor Pastika Ponders a Round Bali Rail System.
Bali's governor Made Mangku Pastika is studying the feasibility of creating a slow rail system that will circle Bali, providing inexpensive access to many of the less-visited areas of the island.
As reported by beritabali.com, the Governor views the proposed rail system as a solution to the imbalances in tourism development between north and south Bali.
Speaking to the press after attending a meeting in Tampaksiring chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Pastika said: "The ideas of building a rail system with stops at nature spots (around Bali) has often been presented to me by leaders. Not only a rail system, but also the establishment of an airport in North Bali and an expressway connecting the North to Bali's South have also often been promoted. But before I agree to anything, a feasibility study must be undertaken."
The Governor continued, emphasizing that steps must be taken to maintain the quality of Bali tourism with more done to "sell" the natural beauty of the island's nature and culture. To do this, he said, the environment must be repaired so Bali can continue to be sold as a premium product in the future.
Power has its Price
Bali Chamber of Commerce Rejects Plans to Increase Electrical Costs.
Bisnis Bali reports that the Bali Chamber of Commerce (KADIN) is rejecting planned increases in the cost of electricity soon to be imposed across Indonesia. KADIN claims the increased cost of electricity will prove a real burden to the lower economic classes and local industry, warning that the competitiveness of local manufacturers will also be adversely affected by the hike in power costs.
"We reject the plan to increase electrical costs for households and industry, except for houses with power supplies exceeding 10,000 watts," said the chairman of KADIN-Bali, Gede Sumarjaya Linggih on Sunday, April 18, 2010.
According to Linggih, there is no need for the government to increase electrical costs for the lower economic classes and industry. Adding: "Households with more than 10,000 watts are clearly upper class households. These people do not need government subsidies. Please, go ahead and increase electrical charges for this rich class."
Linggih told the press that plans to increase electrical charges has caused widespread concern among Bali's poor and the manufacturing sector.
The proposed price hike comes at a time when Bali and the rest of Indonesia is seeking ways to deal with the added pressure of CAFTA measures creating free trade between ASEAN countries and China. Even in the absence of the increase in electrical charges, many Balinese businesses fear they will be unable to remain competitive with products produced in China.
In order to meet this increased level of competition Linggih argues the government should consider more and not less subsidies for energy cost. Saying present subsidies cost the government Rp. 16 trillion (US$1.7 billion), he argues that subsidized electricity would increase production and manufacturing adding substantially to the nation's tax coffers.
Bali Gets Ready for a Week-long Party
Returning to Bali - 8th Kuta Karnival September 29 – October 3, 2010.
Kuta Karnival - proclaiming itself "A Celebration of Life" - is back for the 8th year set to take place September 29 – October 3, 2010.
A major event on Bali's calendar, this year’s Karnival is certain to continue to attract thousands of visitors.
As in past years, the Kuta Karnival adds attractions and gains momentum as the event approaches. But among the activities already fixed for the week-long of fun in Kuta include: Turtle Release and Paddle for Peace, Kite Festival, Mepantigan Balinese Martial Art demonstration, Bali Hotels Association’s Bartender Competition, Graffiti Cartoon Expose, T-Shirt Cartoon Competition, Sunset Dances, Mini Cartoon Exhibition, Youth Race, Movie Screening, Barong Reptile Show, Street Art & Sand Sculpture Competition, Kuta Young Architects exhibition, Youth Info Centre, Raremotion Artist Series, Environment Day, Cardinal Music Awards, Bali Food Festival and a gala Street Parade.
Organized by the Kuta Small Business Association (KSBA) the event is officially endorsed by the Government of Bali, Bali Chamber of Commerce (KADIN), and Bali Tourism Board (BTB).
Arrest of Two Men Who Abducted and Raped School Girls in Bali May Still Leave Four Cases Unsolved.
Bali Police have made two arrests in connection with a series of sexual assaults on young school girls in Bali's capital of Denpasar. The rape of six girls over the past two months prompted a massive manhunt by police officers and members of local volunteer civilian forces armed with sketches of the alleged assailant based on descriptions provided by the young victims.
A 28-year-old university student, Salvador da Costa Soares, has reportedly admitted raping one of the victims, a 9-year-old girl. Police state that forensic tests have confirmed the man's DNA in fluid tests taken from the young victim
Prior to his arrest, Soares worked as a motorcycle taxi driver, carrying young children between their homes and schools.
The second man arrested by police, I Made Sumarjaya, was employed as a security guard and is believed by police to have abducted a 13-year-old girl from the school grounds before bringing her to a local motel where he raped the child.
Police continue to investigate believing that as many as four of the recent rape cases remain unsolved.
The 2003 Indonesian Child Protection Law provides for 15 years in prison for the men if convicted of child rape.
Consider the Alternatives
Bali Tourism Companies to Be Compelled to Use Alternative Energy.
Beritabali.com reports that the provincial government of Bali will soon require tourism enterprises to draw at least 10% of their energy requirements from alternative sources. Included among alternative energy sources are solar power, wind power and water power.
The new rules requiring tourism companies to source alternative power supplies will form part of a forthcoming decree by Bali's governor.
The head of Bali's Environmental Agency, Anak Agung Sastrawan, said the new ruling would initially only apply to new tourism companies.
New tourism companies not prepared to commit to using alternative energy sources will see the government refuse to process all their required operating licenses.
Explained Sastrawan, "it may be that we won't process all of the license applications as part of the government's commitment to enlarge the use of alternative energy source."
The new regulations are expected to be introduced in 2011 as part of Bali's commitment to create a "green island" that preserves and protects the environment.
When Less is More
Bali Government Freezes the Issuance of New Travel Agency Licenses. Licenses Held by Non-Operating Agencies to be Cancelled.
The provincial government of Bali has decided to stop issuing new licenses for travel agents in Bali. According to Beritabali.com and Kompas.com, the decision was prompted by the excessive number of licensed agents, now approaching 800 companies of which only around 300 are operationally active.
Governor Made Mangku Pastika, speaking at his monthly "open forum" on Saturday, April 24, 2010, said the temporary freeze on new travel agency licenses was due to the large number of non-functioning travel companies. The governor is also considering revoking licenses of dormant companies in order to avert precipitating the buying and selling of licenses.
'Those (travel companies) that are inactive, just revoke them. Why bother to make new licenses that are not being used," explained Pastika.
The governor also warned that he would revoke the licenses of companies discovered to be involved in the "buying and selling of heads." This is a practice in which visitors, usually from the Chinese market, are sold to the highest bidder who recoups their costs by compelling guests to only eat and shop at establishments paying high commissions. Such practices, warns Pastika, threaten to destroy the image of Bali tourism.
Concluding his comments, the governor said, "travel agents must be responsible for providing maximum levels of service in order that tourists are satisfied and wish to return to Bali in the future."
Road Hogs, the Clock is Ticking Down
Bali Legislators Join Call for Crackdown and Seizure of Smuggled Luxury Cars and Motorcycles.
News surrounding the ongoing controversy surrounding unregistered and illegal motor cycles has now spread to also encompass luxury sports cars. An article in Radar Bali said the Bali House of Representatives (DPRD-Bali) is seriously concerned about the loss in tax revenues occasioned by the large number of vehicles who have not paid the required import duties and yearly road tax, calling on Bali's chief of police, General Sutisna, to clarify the presence of several Ferraris now on the island that have been imported illegally and have paid no road taxes. A Bali official charged with overseeing tax revenues, Ketut Sudira, told the press that there were many unregistered luxury vehicles in Bali, including Ferraris with police plates DK 18 and DK 6.
Explained Sudira, "as regards the Ferraris, I can confirm that they are not registered in Bali. If they (the Ferraris) have a ‘DK' plates with any number, be it DK 18 or DK 6, I assure you they are illegal and unregistered. When challenged by the press as to how many luxury cars there are in Bali with a value exceeding Rp. 1 billion (US$108,000), Sudira said he could not recall the exact number, claiming he would first need to make an inventory of all the luxury cars in every regency of Bali. "What's clear," he added, " the Ferraris running around the island have not paid the required taxes. As for other (luxury) cars, I would need to count them one by one before giving you a specific number."
Illegal Big Bikes
Sudira also said that it was interesting to note that there are currently around 800 big motorcycles operating in Bali. Ironically, the majority of these vehicles lack formal registrations making it difficult to charge them the appropriate road tax. He said his office is working closely with the police to clean up the administration surrounding big bikes and luxury cars. "Through this cooperation the police have already managed to seize more than ten big bikes lacking any registration paperwork," he said.
According to Radar Bali, there are currently some 8 Ferraris operating in Bali distributed by one car dealer on Jalan Teuku Umar. If Sudira's comments are correct, all these vehicles have escaped paying both import duties and road taxes resulting in billions of rupiahs in lost revenues to the government.
Bali is President Yudhoyono's Home Away from Home as Chief Executive Visits Island Twice in as Many Weeks.
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spent most of the third week April in Bali holding meetings with provincial governor at Bali's hillside presidential palace of Tampaksiring. Returning to the capital Jakarta on the weekend he was back in Bali on April 26, 2010, to officially open a major geothermal conference at Nusa Dua.
While in Bali last week the Indonesian president spent time on Sunday, April 18, 2010, to check on proposed venues and arrangements for the 2011 ASEAN Summit and the APEC Summit set for the island in 2013.
According to Tempo Interaktif, the President inspected both the Westin and its adjoining Bali International Conference Center (BICC), and the Ayana Resort in Jimbaran.
Particularly impressed with the Ayana Resort, Bali's governor Made Mangku Pastika, who escorted the President on in hotel inspection, heaped praise on the Jimbaran property saying, "This hotel is one of the best in the world."
Pastika said that both he and the Minister of Home Affairs had earlier inspected a number of hotels and determined that the Ayana Resort was most appropriate for the coming summit meetings, adding "other place are not ready and do not meet the criteria."
Chinese Tourist Dies in Rafting Accident
Woman Drowns on Ayung River in Bali When Raft Capsizes.
On Saturday, April 24, 2010, a 26-year-old Chinese woman, believed to be from Shanghai, lost her life while rafting on the Ayung River near the village of Bongkasa, Abiansemal.
The woman, identified as Ding, but carrying a Chinese passport in the name of Lang Mei Chuan, was riding in a raft operated by Bahama Rafting together with her husband, an in-law and two friends when her raft capsized while traveling down a series of rapids. Reportedly unable to swim, the woman was trapped beneath the overturned rubber raft where her body was discovered a short itme later by rescuers.
The woman, her friends and family were staying at the Vila Aya on Jalan Oberoi in Kuta.
When recovered the tourist's body was bruised after hitting several rocks in the river. Police say their preliminary investigations suggest she perished due to drowning in the river.
The remaining 4 members of the rafting party were not injured in the tragic incident.
In Bali, the Best Laid Plans May be Ignored
Bali Legislators Call for Pasha Kondotel to be Closed for Building Code Violations.
NusaBali reports that a Condotel project currently being built in Kuta is in violation of a number of building and zoning codes.
During a visit by members of Commission B of the Bali House of Representatives (DPRD-Bali) on April 16, 2010, to the Pasha Kondotel on Jalan Oberoi in Seminyak, the legislators were unable to meet with the owner of the project, having to content themselves with talking to a member of the Condotel's staff.
Following the inspection, the chairman of Commission B, I Putu Parwata, said the project was in violation of the 15-meter height restriction with the current structure standing 15.4 meters. Moreover, on the roof of the 5-storey building the owners have incorporated a swimming pool and restaurant.
I Wayan Puspa Negara, a member of the commission said : "Clearly there is a violation. After we inspected the location the height of the building exceeds current regulations, and that doesn't include the roof. The roof is also not in compliance with the issued building permit. Balinese ornaments and architectural styles are also required."
The legislators also said there were indications that the building violate 2.5 meter "set back" rules from the road.
During the inspection an argument ensued between the commission members and the construction project team with the legislators claiming the actual building did not comply with the plans approved in the building permit.
After the inspection the lawmakers called on the Community Police (Pamong Praja) to check on the project and halt its construction pending a review by the developers and zoning board.
If the perceived shortcomings are confirmed the legislators are in no mood for compromise, insisting the building be brought into compliance with its approved building plans.
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