Disasters rock Indonesia’s ‘10 New Balis’ tourism push

This aerial picture taken on December 24, 2018 shows a damaged resort hotel in Tanjung Lesung, Banten province, two days after a tsunami hit the west coast of Indonesia’s Java island. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019
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Disasters rock Indonesia’s ‘10 New Balis’ tourism push

  • About 42 percent of Indonesia’s 14 million foreign tourists headed to the popular resort island of Bali last year, giving a $17 billion boost to Southeast Asia’s biggest economy
  • Lombok, next to Bali, was rocked by earthquakes in the summer that killed more than 500 and sparked a mass exodus of foreigners from the tropical paradise

TANJUNG LESUNG, Indonesia: Picture-postcard Tanjung Lesung was a cornerstone of Indonesia’s bid to supercharge its tourism industry, boasting palm-fringed beaches, a towering volcano in the middle of turquoise waters and a rainforest sanctuary for endangered Javan rhinos.
But the beachside town now lies in ruins, pummelled by a deadly tsunami that has raised fresh questions about disaster preparedness and the future of a multi-billion-dollar push to replicate Bali’s success across the Southeast Asian archipelago.
The shattered community was hosting a pop concert when the waves crashed ashore last month, at night and without warning.
Several members of the Indonesian band Seventeen and more than 100 others at the Tanjung Lesung Beach Hotel were killed — about a quarter of those who died in the volcano-triggered tsunami.
A clutch of other area hotels was also devastated, with beachside cottages flattened and debris — chairs, tables and the band’s audio equipment — scattered everywhere.
Tourism minister Arief Yahya, who ordered that the town be rebuilt in six months, brushed aside concerns sparked by the tsunami — which was triggered by a sudden eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano.
“Disasters can happen anywhere in Indonesia,” he told AFP during a recent visit there.
“We need to have (tsunami) early warning systems, especially in tourist destinations. We’re going to make that happen.”
But some are less convinced, especially since disaster monitors became aware of the killer waves after they had already smashed into the coastline along western Java and southern Sumatra.
“It’s going to be even more difficult to promote (the area), especially now that buildings are destroyed and the volcano is more active,” said Tedjo Iskandar, a Jakarta-based travel analyst.
About 42 percent of Indonesia’s 14 million foreign tourists headed to the popular resort island of Bali last year, giving a $17 billion boost to Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
The government picked Tanjung Lesung and nine other locations as part of its “10 New Balis” strategy, a plan unveiled in 2016 with an eye to courting Chinese, Singaporean and other investors as its pushes to hit 20 million tourists annually.
The list includes ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples, tropical islands near Jakarta, the Mount Bromo volcano in eastern Java, and a national park that is home to Komodo dragons — the world’s biggest lizard.
But the killer tsunami has dealt a blow to plans to pump some $4 billion into Tanjung Lesung.
And it is not the only spot in the government’s tourism plan to suffer a disaster — natural or man-made — that could scare away tourists.
Lombok, next to Bali, was rocked by earthquakes in the summer that killed more than 500 and sparked a mass exodus of foreigners from the tropical paradise.
That was weeks after Lake Toba on Sumatra island — also on the “New Bali” list — was the scene of a ferry accident that left almost 200 people missing or dead.
In May, Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya was hit by suicide bombings carried about by Islamist extremists, while Bali was rocked as the Mount Agung blew its top at the end of 2017.
The volcano is 75 kilometers (45 miles) away from tourist areas and the eruption posed little danger to visitors, but it still left hundreds of thousands stranded as flights were canceled.
Indonesia’s upbeat tourism numbers plunged in the second half of 2018 after the Lombok quakes, a quake-tsunami disaster on Sulawesi island that killed thousands, and a Lion Air plane crash in October which killed all 189 people on board.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth, straddling the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.
And the frequent disasters it has suffered recently have highlighted the country’s woeful state of preparedness.
Early warning systems in the city of Palu on Sulawesi — and elsewhere — had not been working since 2012 because of budget shortfalls and bureaucratic bungling.
In the latest disaster in the Sunda Strait, Indonesian monitors initially said there was no tsunami threat at all. They were later forced to issue a correction and an apology, pointing to a lack of early warning systems for the high death toll.
Jakarta’s tourism push may still have a chance, but only if it gets serious about safety, said I Ketut Ardana, head of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies’ Bali office.
“The (government) needs to better inform locals and tourists so they’re prepared when a disaster strikes,” he said.


Trump aims new blasts at McCain, claims credit for funeral

Updated 21 March 2019
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Trump aims new blasts at McCain, claims credit for funeral

  • Trump ranted without citing evidence that McCain had pushed for a war and failed America’s veterans
  • Not only the McCain family but the nation “deserves better” than Trump’s disparagement — Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia

WASHINGTON: Casting aside rare censure from Republican lawmakers, President Donald Trump aimed new blasts of invective at the late John McCain Wednesday, even claiming credit for the senator’s moving Washington funeral and complaining he was never properly thanked.
By the time the president began his anti-McCain tirade in Ohio, several leading Republicans had signaled a new willingness to defy Trump by defending the Vietnam War veteran as a hero seven months after he died of brain cancer. One GOP senator called Trump’s remarks “deplorable.”
Trump then launched a lengthy rant in which he claimed without citing evidence that McCain had pushed for a war and failed America’s veterans.
“I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted,” Trump told reporters at a campaign-style rally in Lima, Ohio. “I didn’t get (a) thank you but that’s OK.”
In fact, McCain’s family made clear that Trump was not welcome during the week-long, cross-country ceremonies that the senator had planned himself. Instead, McCain invited former Presidents George W. Bush, who defeated McCain during the 2000 GOP nomination fight, and Barack Obama, who defeated him in 2008, to deliver eulogies on the value of pursuing goals greater than oneself. Trump signed off on the military transport of McCain’s body, went golfing and was uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter during the Washington events.
Trump’s publicly nursed grudge against McCain has not appeared to alienate core supporters, some of whom had soured on the senator by the time of his death. Aware of this, GOP lawmakers until now have stayed subdued or silent though Trump sometimes infuriated them with his comments on their late colleague.
McCain’s allies suggested it was time for that to change.
“I hope (Trump’s) indecency to John’s memory and to the McCain family will convince more officeholders that they can’t ignore the damage Trump is doing to politics and to the country’s well-being or remain silent despite their concerns,” said Mark Salter, McCain’s biographer. “They must speak up.”
Trump has said for years that he doesn’t think McCain is a hero because the senator was captured in Vietnam. McCain was tortured and held prisoner for more than five years.
The president has never served in the military and obtained a series of deferments to avoid going to Vietnam, including one attained with a physician’s letter stating that he suffered from bone spurs in his feet.
One McCain Senate vote in particular is the thumbs-down Trump can’t seem to forget. The Arizona senator in 2017 sank the GOP effort to repeal Obama’s health care law. Trump was furious, and it showed even in the days after McCain’s death last August. The administration lowered the American flag over the White House to half-staff when McCain died on a Saturday, but then raised it by Monday. After public outcry, the White House flags were again lowered.
This week, Trump unloaded a new series of anti-McCain tweets in which he said he never had been “a fan” and never would be.
His relentless new targeting of the deceased senator seemed to cross a boundary for several Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called McCain “a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.” McConnell tweeted, “His memory continues to remind me every day that our nation is sustained by the sacrifices of heroes.”
The Kentucky Republican, who is up for re-election next year, never mentioned Trump, but others weren’t so shy.
Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said not only the McCain family but the nation “deserves better” than Trump’s disparagement.
“I don’t care if he’s president of the United States, owns all the real estate in New York, or is building the greatest immigration system in the world,” Isakson told The Bulwark, a conservative news and opinion website. Later, Isakson called Trump’s remarks “deplorable.”
“It will (be) deplorable seven months from now if he says it again,” Isakson continued in remarks on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Political Rewind radio show, “and I will continue to speak out.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee whom Trump briefly considered nominating as secretary of state, tweeted praise for McCain on Tuesday — and criticism of Trump.
“I can’t understand why the President would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain: heroic, courageous, patriotic, honorable, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, empathetic, and driven by duty to family, country, and God,” Romney wrote.
Pushback also came from Sen. Martha McSally, a Republican Air Force veteran appointed to McCain’s seat from Arizona.
“John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona,” she tweeted Wednesday. “Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve.”
That McSally declined to criticize Trump directly reflected the broader wariness among Republicans to cross a president famous for mobilizing his followers against GOP lawmakers he deems disloyal. But this week, Trump seemed to inspire a new determination among some to draw a line, however delicately.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who wept openly on the Senate floor after McCain died but has allied himself strongly with Trump, said, “I think the president’s comments about Sen. McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Sen. McCain.”
“A lot of people are coming to John’s defense now. ... I don’t like it when he says things about my friend John McCain.”
Democratic leaders, meanwhile, were eager to jump into the uproar.
“I look forward to soon re-introducing my legislation re-naming the Senate Russell Building after American hero, Senator John McCain,” tweeted Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer of New York.