Feature Article: Trouble in paradise

(Reading time: 10 mins)

By Greg Marat

Paradises are usually places where you get killed. – Rick Riordan, author.

Shabbir Noor, 26, has been planning a trip to Indonesia, one of a few countries he longed to visit.

‘My best friend is Indonesian, and all our conversations end with him asking me to come to Indonesia to visit him. Since he is getting married soon, my bags are half packed. I finally have an excuse to go there!’ he said.

Shabir Noor, says he is excited but at the same time he is going through some feeling of guilt. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)
Shabir Noor, says he is excited but at the same time he is going through some feeling of guilt. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)

But now he’s not so sure.

‘The Bali nine, I do sympathise with the families of the executed’ he said. After months of planning a visit to paradise, Mr Noor admits he now has doubts.

‘To go or not to go?’ His ‘half packed bags’ could even be seen in a metaphoric sense on his divisiveness within himself.

In recent years, Indonesia has become a playground for young Australians seeking adventure, peace and happiness.

Up to 11,000 Australian tourists visit this paradise on Earth every year – and one in three are young people (aged 24 to 36).

But as Tourism Australia warns, trouble is brewing in paradise.

The industry body launched a campaign last month in a bid to tackle falling numbers of young tourists to Indonesia.

A spokesperson for the Tourism Australia says ‘it is very hard for us to compete with Asian countries, we are one of the most expensive countries to live and to travel’.

Young tourists are saying that the deaths of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan would be a added to the list of reasons why we dislike Indonesia, along with the live cattle exports, police brutality and corruption.

It’s a stark contrast to recent years.

There is little wonder so many young Australians have – until recently – made a beeline for Indonesia.

Twenty-eight year old traveller Aleta Catania, for example, says she had spent many years travelling the world – but Indonesia was some place special.

She recalls standing on a beach, with her feet below the crystal clear water, looking back she sees the light of dusk touching the large palm trees that waved to the onlookers.

The restaurants were serving fresh seafood and colourful surfboards were parked next to them on a golden sandy beach.

‘Just beyond the surfboards was the bar. The staff was wearing their button downed Hawaiian shirts and khaki pants while their hair couldn’t be jelled up any straighter’ she said.

The girls were wearing a towel wrap over their Roxy two piece while the guys were wearing their oversized Ray-bans to absorb the last moments of sunlight to end a perfect day.

‘If I could summarise everything in a word, it was, paradise’ she said. If paradise is another way to verbalise a feeling of utopia, then the definition of utopia would be a place of peace, happiness and contentment.

She said she did find peace, happiness and contentment at a beach in Indonesia.

Aleta Catania in her paradise beach in Bali. Photo: Aleta Catania (2013)
Aleta Catania in her paradise beach in Bali. Photo: Aleta Catania (2013)

It is the young Australian Dream.

Indonesia is a paradise on earth.

No wonder 11,000 Australian tourists visit Indonesia every year.

But among the exotic beaches and excitement and the entertainment, danger lurks.

During the last decade, fifteen Australian tourists were arrested for drug related incidents.

Furthermore, most of Indonesia’s death row inmates are foreign nationals.

The election of Joko Widodo saw Indonesia become a more conservative country.

In his first four months as president, he had been very tough on narcotic prisoners in Indonesia.

His government aims to clear its death row of narcotics prisoners as soon as possible.

This will see another forty more foreign citizens ending their life in an Indonesian prison.

Executions in Indonesia started four decades ago in 1973.

Since then, sixteen crimes have been added to the capital punishment list in Indonesia. The most targeted crimes are related to narcotics, murder and terrorism.

But, since the election of Joko Widodo, all fifteen executions have been narcotics related.

Diane Zhang’s article ‘By the numbers: Indonesia’s executions of foreigners’ states that more foreigners have been executed or are slated for execution in 2015 than the total for the previous 16 years.

‘Prior to Widodo’s administration, only seven of the 27 people executed were foreigners.
By contrast, five of the first six people Widodo has executed have been foreigners and nine of the next 10 slated executions also involve foreigners’ says Ms. Zhand.

One could begin to wonder if these executions are to target narcotics or to target foreigners instead?

The Widodo government claims these executions are necessary to combat Indonesia’s reputation as a dangerous destination.

Aditya Maulana, and Indonesian national, residing in Melbourne says that ‘as far as I know, one of Joko Widodo’s priorities is war against the drugs and not foreigners’.

'The war is against Drugs, not foreigners' says Aditya Maulana. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)
‘The war is against Drugs, not foreigners’ says Aditya Maulana. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)

‘In several speeches he mentioned, this country is already sinking from the young generation by the use of drugs as a life style. He is concerned about the next generation of
Indonesia’ says Mr Maulana.

After the recent executions of two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan,

Australians were disappointed and angry at the Widodo government.

But, the distaste wasn’t contained to the Widodo government, sooner it escalated into a resentment of the country, Indonesia.

Australians took to social media to vent their frustrations.

In awake of the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the hashtags #boycottBalifortheboys #boycorrIndonesia #boycottBali began to surface. In a recent study done by the public relations firm Edelman, it states that they found 16,944 total mentions of #boycottbali and #boycottindonesia from 29 April 29-30, 2015.

The “Boycott Bali for The Boys” Facebook page currently has almost 10,000 likes.

'I don't think I can ever forgive Indonesia' says Stephanie Scorbell. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)
‘I don’t think I can ever forgive Indonesia’ says Stephanie Scorbell. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)

Stephanie Scobell a member of the ‘Boycott Bali for The Boys’ Facebook page says that before the executions, it was a destination that she would have considered going.

“I would have definitely gone there because  everyone says Bali is great, it’s close to  Australia and it’s cheap. Food is cheap; flights are  accommodations are also very cheap.”

“But I don’t think I would ever go to Indonesia now. I won’t go to Indonesia because I felt strongly about the executions’ says Ms Scobell.

Daphne Wanniarachchi, who has visited Indonesia in the past, says that she will not go there again.

‘It is not just because of the Bali executions, it is because of the live exports, and it is the Bali bombings that targeted innocent Australians. They have a double standard when it comes to terrorism and narcotics and it’s mainly due to the corruption of the government.
It’s all of those factors together that I came to my decision’ says Ms. Wanniarachchi.

Mr Maulana says that ‘it is a fair reaction. If your neighbours are being unpleasant to you, your patriotic side comes out naturally. It can lead to anything, boycotting Indonesian products and boycotting Indonesian tourism etc.’

Some Australians do feel the same way as Ms Scobell and Ms Wanniarachchi did, but some do not.

'There is more to a country that it's laws' says Natalia-Eva Trezciak. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)
‘There is more to a country than it’s laws’ says Natalia-Eva Trezciak. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)

Natalia-Eva Trzeciak, who opposes boycotting Indonesia, says that the recent political developments would not affect her traveling to Indonesia.

‘#BoycottIndonesia? Wow! There is more to a
country than how they handle their laws’ she said.

‘I think it is a rich country in terms of culture and tradition.

There is a lot more to the country than the illegal drug trade!’ says Ms Trzeciak.

Ms Scobell says that ‘BoycottIndonesia will blow over with time, people will forget it over time, unfortunately’.

‘A lot of people didn’t care that these two got executed’ says Ms. Scobell.

A spokesman from Flight Centre, Haydn Long said so far the executions haven’t impacted travel patterns.

“The people who have existing bookings were obviously aware of what was going on in Indonesia when they made those bookings and have typically travelled as planned, rather than cancelling their holidays,” Mr Long told news.com.au.

Mr Maulana says that the ‘Bali executions would not have a significant impact on Australians traveling to Indonesia’.

He says it should be seen as a good thing.

‘The way you can make a strong relationship with a neighbouring country is not only through government to government but it also needs to be people to people. The Bali executions wouldn’t have any impact on Indonesians traveling to Australia either’.

‘The people who travel to Australia are the middle and upper-class of Indonesia, they are not really concerned about these political issues. They don’t over think it’ says Mr Maulana.

Sam Fairweather, an Australian living in Indonesia says “Seriously people, I will not join your anti-Indonesia bandwagon. The demonisation/boycott of a nation due to the administration of the death penalty is only valid if you’re consistent about it. But, you aren’t. People couldn’t give two sh*ts about Indonesians who are being executed by their own government for similar crimes. So, why not boycott the death penalty – and not a nation?”

'My mind says to go, but my heart says should I?' says Shabir Noor. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)
‘My mind says to go, but my heart says should I?’ says Shabir Noor. Photo: Greg Marat (2015)

Shabbir Noor who is waiting on his consciousness to prevail says ‘The Bali nine, I do sympathise with the families of the executed’.

‘But, one of my friends is getting married in Indonesia. He is one of my closest friends, and I have to be there. I know him; I don’t know anyone who got executed or families of the people who got executed. So I do feel somewhat of a detachment with the Bali executions’ says Mr Noor.

‘With the question, to go or not to go? At the moment, I’m leaning more towards going – the cost benefit of missing my friend’s wedding over a political implication is far greater to me, personally’ he said.

Webjet chief executive John Guscic told News.com.au that ‘there has been no boycott to Bali’.

He stated that the four weeks continuing the executions, flight bookings to Bali have actually increased.

Based on empirical data, Australians are not boycotting Indonesia. In fact, the situation is the polar opposite.

More Australians are going to Indonesia after the executions. If these trends continue, Indonesia will be Australia’s favourite holiday destination by 2020.

The lives of Myuran Sukumaran, Andrew Chan, the live cattle exports, police brutality and corruption can never make up how much we Australians love cheap food, accommodation and flights.

Aleta Catania described Bali as ‘paradise.

A beautiful backdrop with palm trees, pristine beaches and colourful surfboards and crystal clear oceans would define it.

What she forgot to mention was laws, politics and diplomacy would have very little to play in the structuralism of a paradise in a young Australian dream.

Feature Article: Trouble in paradise

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