To Bali or not to Bali....

Bob Buddemeier buddrw at
Mon Sep 20 20:45:01 EDT 1999

Mr. Colijn's 'objective' sentiments are noble but unrealistic.
International meetings cannot be undertaken, and certainly not reliably
funded, without government approval at the ministerial level.  It is my
understanding that in the negotiations for the ICRS, the Indonesian
government (which is now a previous government and will be either one or
two governments further back by late next year) agreed to issue visas to
all legitimate reef scientists -- 'as long as they aren't involved in
politics.'  It is a matter of experience that at least one prominent
reef scientist has been denied entry to the country in far more peacable
and stable times.  Just what do we think the odds are that the
Indonesian government will issue visas to all of those reef scientists
who have been calling on their own governments not to support the
Indonesian government?  Politics, indeed.  Indonesia has treated visas
as it has elections --a privilege to be granted as a tool of the
government rather than a right.  There is, in my opinion, no practical
way for taking action to support Indonesian scentists and people from
within the country that would not be blocked or co-opted by an
increasingly desparate and unstable regime.  Those who want to go on a
people-to-people excursion or a children's crusade should start their
own, and not expect the ISRS and the reef science community to conduct
one for them.

Bob Buddemeier

Ed Colijn wrote:
> 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
> alternative.
> 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
> notice.
> 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


Dr. Robert W. Buddemeier
Senior Scientist, Geohydrology
Kansas Geological Survey
University of Kansas
1930 Constant Ave.
Lawrence, KS 66047

ph (785) 864-3965 
fax (785) 864-5317
buddrw at 

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