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The Balinese People

Foreign visitors go on and on about how much they love Bali, but really what they love are the Balinese people and what the Balinese give them. Try thinking of Bali without the charming, smiling everyday people of the island and their wonderful culture. You would be left with an island riddled with fraud and corruption, an easy terrorist target, a health risk nightmare, terrible food (don't forget, we are talking about non-Balinese here, the mass produced stuff that mostly gets offered to visitors), mass pollution (just take a look at the water channels alongside the bypass road to get a clear picture) and pretty awful beaches (either been washed away because the coral reefs have been used for cement, or are polluted, or are dangerous, or are frequented by aggressive hawkers and child prostitutes), and an assortment of other islanders and foreign expat residents who must be the world's nastiest business community, too often cheating the very Balinese you go to see.

So make no bones about it, Bali is the paradise you seek solely because of the everyday people. And what a hard life they have.

Child molestation and worse is unfortunately common; both hetro and homosexual. Ex judicial murders conducted at the hands of vigilantes appointed by lazy, ineffective, corrupt police officers who care nothing about the people they are paid to protect, just finding more poor victims to extort money from. Incredible crime rates which go unreported because the victims know the police will likely want to steal yet more from them (hence the Indonesian expression "Report a stolen chicken, lose your cow"). A legal system, the most corrupt in the world where defense lawyers, police, prosecution and judges all collude together in order to extort money from victims. Land basically stolen from the Balinese under the Suharto regime and by unlawful settlements of Javanese and other islanders who just turn up, cut down trees, build shacks and claim the land theirs; If and when you next book into a hotel in Nusa Dua you may want to research how their land was obtained and who are the real owners of the hotels (try thinking along the line of the Suharto family and friends) through anonymous Jakarta corporations.

A hard life which begins early on at the hands of corrupt government officials and fraudulent business people. For example school teachers who routinely steal from their pupils, demanding food from them and that the children buy their text books and pencils at inflated rates from them. Pedophiles and molesters, including teachers, who commit sexual acts against youngsters. Child brides from Java forced into prostitution in Bali by their pimp husbands. Businesses that desecrate the Balinese's religious and preservation sites with unlawfully obtained building permits. Businesses, often those run by other islanders and foreign expats (permanent residents of Indonesia) that cheat the Balinese out of their wages by either taking all or part of the service charge money they are legally entitled to. When times get tough, Balinese workers are sent home without pay. Balinese Hindu religious holidays unlawfully ruined by an increasingly hostile Javanese Muslim community whose mosques often break the island's silence laws.

If that was not bad enough, the Balinese have to contend with spiraling fuel and living costs knowing corruption by government ministers and officers is to blame. Seeing millions and millions of dollars come into their island only for it to disappear; revenues which should allow the Balinese and also Indonesians generally to enjoy a far more prosperous life. Having badly funded and terribly equipped schools and hospitals. Seeing roads meant to be built to the highest standards crumble after a few short months because of corruption. Having too many a foreign visitor, resident or Indonesian business person look down upon and even abuse them. Is there any wonder the Balinese are so devout and their cultural performances such as the Ramayana so prominently about good conquering evil?

Of course the corruption that comes from the very top down, the fraud the Balinese experience running their own businesses (everything from people not paying you and warning you that they have police friends if you complain to meat suppliers who knowingly sell infected meat), and the cheating that Balinese workers experience at the hands of their bosses, etc. takes it toll. The Balinese despite their smiles and graceful ways will increasingly rob and cheat others, including visitors, because they often have little choice and incentive. Young men sent home without pay by hotels with fewer guests / lower profits (although they likely still make good profits) resort to stealing their neighbours' chickens in order to buy high nicotine (exceptionally addictive) Balinese cigarettes and fuel for their motorbikes. Even when they are not so badly off, scamming / taking foreigners to poor villages, claiming them to be their own in order to get sympathy money for themselves, not the poor villagers they also abuse. Have no doubt, due to the lack of role models and a just public law and order system, many of these people with sweet smiles find little cause to lead honest lives themselves.

The Balinese are people like everyone else, they want to be better people and have a better life for themselves and their children. It is an illustrative nonsensical fact that many Balinese try to get jobs on cruise ships around the world because they can earn around 9 million rupiah (around US$900) a month doing menial tasks like cleaning on these floating hotels. But to get such a job they first have to bribe the agent 10 million rupiah, then pay for an air ticket which costs up to twice what it does in Thailand, and then pay another 1 million rupiah exit tax just to leave the island! What a joke! Just look at the high room rates of the major hotels in Bali and ask yourself why is the basic salary of a cleaner at these is just 475,000 rp (US$47.5) per month? Why do they have to work away from their home and family to get a decent wage, and go through fraud, etc. to even get that?

The Balinese get abused and short changed from the cradle to the grave. Imagine how you would be if you had to endure the same treatment; would you be as graceful and charming as the Balinese, even if their appearance may actually be hiding the fact they may not think twice about robbing if the opportunity arose? No, you would likely be very angry and very sad and show it. So even allowing for Bali's understandably high actual crime rate, the Balinese are to be greatly admired, thanked and supported in their dreams and efforts for a better life. And what better way than having the holiday of a lifetime by only dealing with ethical pro-Balinese businesses (hotels, etc.) and reporting any police, etc. corruption you witness in the hope that if enough foreign visitors do this the system and the way business is done in Bali will have to change?

You will learn throughout the BLTF's information pages how to spot, deal with and report bad ethics, fraud, corruption and other unlawful acts. Our next page details some facts about fraud and corruption in Bali / Indonesia, why foreign governments do not warn their citizens about it and what these acts actually mean to real people through the resultant civil and human rights abuse: Indonesian Corruption & Fraud. If you want to help the Balinese, please visit BLTF's Helping Bali page.