The Provincial Government of Bali, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, and the Central Government in Jakarta, is working tirelessly to maintain established protocols on cleanliness, health, safety, and environmental sustainability (CHSE). In doing so, Bali’s leaders are wisely preparing for the eventual reopening of Bali to International tourism by taking every step possible now to assure travelers that Bali is safe to visit in the “new normal” of the continuing pandemic.
The Ministry of Tourism and the World Travel Organization (WTO) both see earning public trust that everything is being done to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as central to rebuilding Bali’s wounded tourism industry. The Jakarta Post recently underlined this fact when it quoted a Tourism Ministry spokesperson who said any plan to reopen Bali to international tourism “hinges” on how the Island manages the COVID-19 situation.
Accordingly, provincial and neighborhood regulations are in place across Bali, demanding everyone wear face masks, that hands be washed, and gatherings of people in potentially infectious clusters are forbidden. Moreover, anyone arriving or departing Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport is required to undergo COVID-19 screening.
To the credit of Bali residents and their leaders, compliance with the spirit and the letter of these laws and regulations is very high. Overwhelmingly, most people follow these rules enforced by roadside inspection checkpoints where uniformed officers hand out masks, collect Rp. 100,000 fines, or impose ten push-ups as a punishment on youthful offenders unable to pay the fine.
The Problem of Canggu
However, one glaring exception to the generally high compliance with these rules is Canggu’s tourist enclave, north of Kuta in Bali. This area has become a mecca for digital warriors, new-age advocates, surfers, and global backpackers “frozen in place” due to international travel restrictions. A recent brief photo session in Canggu managed to quickly capture a significant number of passing motorcyclists not wearing masks, helmets, and sometimes not even shirts. It is as though those following the conventions on safety and decorum are set up for scorn and ridicule as some sort of sub-class of gutless conformists.
We maintain that anyone, particularly a foreign visitor to Bali, who blatantly disregards the efforts of Bali’s leaders to protect its citizen and rebuild its tourism industry by riding down public streets in Bali without a helmet or a face mask is well-deserving of the “boot” – an order of deportation applied by Balinese law enforcement and immigration authorities.
While Balinese officials are fairly diligent in enforcing CHSE Protocols against their own citizens, there is a pronounced reluctance by officials to take stern action against foreigners who show contempt to the wishes and the directives of their Balinese hosts. This reluctance to “lay the law down” to foreigners comes from many officials’ mistaken belief that investors and visitors must be extended “special consideration” or Bali risks chasing the foreigners and their much-needed cash away.
The truth of the matter is, however, just the opposite.
How Bali Can Really Attract Foreign Visitors
There is perhaps no single act that would do more to reassure global travelers and investors that Bali is safe to visit than to see Bali authorities deported en masse those unprepared to get on board with the Provincial rules to wear helmets and masks posted on almost every street corner in Bali. Knowing what the rules for public health and safety are rigorously enforced would encourage international travelers searching for a safe travel destination to place Bali near the top of their list.
Procedures and mechanisms already exist that allow strict enforcement of Provincial and National rules. Immigration officials have the legal authority to deport foreign nationals who violate Indonesian law caught undertaking any activities that puts the Nation or its citizens at risk. Moreover, the Indonesian Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is empowered to establish special Tipiring Courts that can immediately and expeditiously bring to trial and sentence those suspected of “Light Criminal Infractions” (Tindak Pidana Ringin – Tipiring). This legal device is used to quickly dispose of cases ranging from littering to more severe matters, such as immigration violations.
In Canggu and surrounding areas, law enforcement could photograph and detains foreigners failing to wear helmets or masks, and bring them directly to an open and public “Tipiring” Trial Proceeding.
Photographic evidence of the violation could be presented to the Tipiring Court. If found guilty of failing to follow the Provincial law on face masks and helmets, violators could be escorted back to their accommodation and allowed to gather their personal belongings for immediate deportation. The Court would have the option of blacklisting those found guilty from returning to Indonesia for a specific period.
Those unable to return to immediately leave for their homeland due to COVID-19 travel restrictions could be housed temporarily in the Denpasar Immigration Detention Center, supplemented, if need be, by one or more of the Island’s hotels who have plenty of empty rooms to accommodate them..
Would such steps be draconian? Given that public health and the revitalization of Bali’s tourism industry are at stake, removing people whose actions show they care little for the Island or its residents, no matter how harsh, is warranted.
The resulting publicity in the international media would demonstrate Bali’s resolve and no-nonsense approach to protecting both locals and visitors from the current threat to global health represented by malcontents who refuse to follow the rules.