To Bali or not to Bali....

Ed Colijn edcolijn at
Mon Sep 20 19:21:19 EDT 1999

Dear Coral-list,

Not working in any Indonesian institution nor knowing the previous pro
Bali speakers on this list personally, I like to throw in my unbiased
two cents. I'm based in The Netherlands and the editor of a weekly
nature conservation related news letter for Indonesia which is not
funded and as such, except for my own limited (?) bias, objective.

Not emotionally speaking, the question here simply seems to be who do
you like to hurt and what do you like to achieve. 

As Dr. Erdmann already pointed out (and knowing the political arena in
Indonesia I agree with him) "the Indonesian military and current
transitional government couldn't give a wrasse's tail about the ICRS"
nor the opinion of international (which includes Indonesian) coral
reseachers. My conclusion is thus that if you like to hurt those
responsible for the East Timor crisis, a boycot of the ICRS is simply
NOT the way to go because you're hurting and, by doing so, blaming the
wrong people! Moreover, all international actions that are not aimed at
those responsible and that are based on generalizations and
simplifications will feed Indonesian nationalism and, as such, you will
be playing the military's cards! The Indonesian military arena has
enough intriguers and certainly doesn't need help from outside.

I understand the genuine feelings of the people on this list who want to
make some sort of political statement and I like to offer a more
difficult, while political and not scientific, but EFFECTIVE

The only way to hurt those responsible, i.e. the militia and Indonesian
military, is taking away the support from western governments while
simultaneously strengthening ties with the many courageous people in
Indonesia who like to see their country change. I say courageous because
a lot of these people find themselves fighting similar powers as the
ones that are responsible for the East Timor crisis which makes this
whole discussion more painful. Taking away western support from the
militairy already proved to be the way to go: there has been a major
breakthrough in the East Timor crisis after the US declared a halt in
their military co-operation. In my opinion this has been THE
international initiative that led to the acception of an international
peacekeeping force since cutting financial aid, trading boycots or
whatever other action taken won't hurt them, at least not on short

Dr. Erdmann didn't elaborate on the political background but I think
some background is needed here to be able to pass a sound judgement.
Most major western powers have been involved in supporting the
Indonesian military for the past 34 years and as such are at least
partly responsible for the current East Timor crisis. It's my believe
that international politicans were very well able to foresee the
violence as since the invasion of East Timor in 1975, supported by the
same players, an estimated 200,000 East Timorese have lost their lives.
Moreover, the same politicians have been warned by local UN informants
that a major uprising was very likely to occur. In this respect I hope
that the international coral research community will not make the same
mistake by not listening to the arguments of the people who work in
Indonesia and know the country and its political arena. Their comments
on this list are not based on emotions but on facts.

The alternative

If you really like to see something change in Indonesia point your
arrows at your governments and tell them you don't accept any renewed
support of the military or lucrative arms deals from your national
military industries as long as human rights are not respected and the
military's involvement in the environmental destruction in Indonesia is
not stopped.

As for strengthen ties, I think that this note speaks for itself. Coral
researchers with a heart for the world's coral reefs should attend the
ICRS in Bali and share their experience, knowledge and enthousiasm with
Indonesian students, scientists, NGO's and aspiring young policy-makers
who are trying to change and achieve something in Indonesia.

One final remark

Please don't generalize but try to shade emotional issues: support the
good, fight the bad and try to persuade the majority; think twice before
stating your opinion. Too much damage has already been done by emotional
and hasty calls for action.

Asalam'alaikum (may peace be with you),

Ed Colijn
edcolijn at

The Indonesian Nature Conservation Database

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