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Pork Barrell Politics – Bali Style

In an incident that will leave those unfamiliar with existing religious sensitivity in Indonesia befuddled, a controversy has erupted involving a traditional meatball (bakso) shop at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport, a media influencer, and a local legislator in Bali.

Jovi Adhiguna Dipping Pork Rinds in His Bowl of Bakso

The Bakso Restaurant – “Baso A Fung'” is located at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport. The escalating controversy began when an Internet influencer, Jovi Adhiguna,” posted a video of himself enjoying fried pork rinds (kerupuk babi) dipped into his hot bakso soup.

The incident has escalated into a religious-cultural imbroglio where opposing religious and cultural views have become a tinder box threatening to cause the “Baso A Fung” to close its doors.

Like many food product producers and restaurants in Indonesia, “Baso A Fuung” had met the strict rules and regulations required to obtain “Halal certification,” assuring the public that all food ingredients and preparation techniques conform to the tenets of the Islamic faith. Chief among these canons, of course, is the absolute prohibition of pork products as an ingredient.

In response to a considerable outcry, Adhiguna quickly acknowledged the error of his actions and apologized on social media and the national news media for offending the religious sensibilities of Indonesia’s majority religion. Adhiguna later explained that the pork rinds had been purchased separately and brought into “Baso A Fung.”

In apologizing, Jovi Adhiguna claimed he never imagined his consumption of pork rinds in the Restaurant would negatively impact “Baso A Fung” and spark angry reactions from several quarters. On Instagram, Adhiguna said the Restaurant had graciously accepted his apology.

The Restaurant, fearing that the resulting publicity would damage its business with its Muslim customer base, Baso A Fung, also took to social media with an online destruction of its entire stick of branded bakso bowls to assure future Islamic customers they were at no risk of ever using a plate that had comingled with pork product and that their establishment remained steadfast and true to its 100% Halal Certification.

Jovi Adhiguna’s provocative post showing him consuming pork rinds after dipping them in a bowl of A Fung Bakso broth precipitated strong responses from several quarters.

In what may have been an overreaction, the Restaurant posted an online video showing the Restaurant’s management showing the destruction of banded Afung soup bowls with a hammer and their replacement with new bowls. Moch Arlan Nabillah, Operations Manager of “Baso A Fung,”  told the press that many people had contacted him to congratulate the Restaurant for destroying and replacing its bakso bowls. He defended the actions by insisting it was done to safeguard the establishment’s “Halal Certification” issued by the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI-Indonesia).

Also joining the heated debate were local Balinese who saw the spirited assault on pork as offensive to the majority Hindu population. On an island where the Balinese are generally content to allow “Halal” restaurants to promote pork-free operations, the spirited “bowl bashing” could be seen as denigrating to many Balinese who heartedly enjoy consuming pork.

For reasons not explicitly spelled out, the landlord of the shop space used by Baso A Fung elected to quickly leave the debate by refusing to extend the current rental contract, which will compel the business to close.

Moch Arlan Nabillah – Ops Manager of Baso A Fung Baso & Arya Wedakarna Suyasa of DPD Bali

Joining the debate, Arya Wedakarna Suyasa, an outspoken Balinese member of the Regional Reprehensive Council (DPD-Daerah), visited the Restaurant’s locations. Following that visit, Arya posted to his Instagram Account @aryawedakarna, where he joined other local Hindu leaders in strongly condemning the Restaurant’s management’s provocative demolition of bakso bowls.

Those postings included abject apologies by the management of Baso Afung to Balinese Hindus who may have been aggrieved or insulted by the plate-smashing demonstration. The Balinese legislator, in what could be seen as a “1-2 Punch” to the Restaurant, Arya, posted on Friday, 28 July 2023, a statement to his Instagram Account that the Restaurant had failed to update its operating license with the Regional Government of Bandung since 2021. 

 As a follow-up, Arya said he would correspond with the Badung Regency Administration to reprimand and implement administrative sanctions against the owners of Baso A Fung. He is also writing the management of Bali’s Airport for allowing an illegal operation to continue to occupy a commercial space. Arya also urged Aiport Management to take a more significant role in the online presence of its tenants by requiring prior approval from Angkasa Pura before posting online content.

Arya added that he is also considering recommendations from Bali Hindu elements of the island’s community who were offended by the plate-breaking demonstration urging the termination of the Restaurant’s space rental contract. The Balinese Senator, Arya, said he was confident that there would be little problem finding a new tenant for a new restaurant at the bustling airport.

Arya has asked the Ngurah Rai Airport Police Precinct to examine the video that went viral on social media to determine if any law had been violated.

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