When it Goes Too Far: Pura Besakih, Bali

I was astounded…no…outraged and disgusted when I read an article in the Jakarta Post today about a proposed golf course to be built near the sacred and holy Hindu site of Pura Besakih – the mother temple to all Balinese. Just how far can these development morons proceed to destroy the historical beauty and sacredness of an island so loved by so many. Here’s the article:

Youth protest golf course project on holy site
Ary Hermawan, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar

Dozens of members of the Indonesian Hindu Youth Movement stormed the Bali legislative council on Thursday, demanding authorities block the construction of an exclusive golf course planned near the Pura Besakih Grand Temple in Karangasem regency, eastern Bali.

Wearing traditional Balinese clothes, the protesters said the project was “a terrible blasphemy and harassment” of the Hindu faith.

“We refuse the exploitation of the Besakih holy site for the sake of boosting tourism or for any reason,” the head of the movement’s Bali chapter, I Made Suarjana, said.

They urged Governor I Made Dewa Beratha and legislators to take action against Karangasem Regent Wayan Geredeg for green-lighting the project.

“We doubt the regent’s commitment to conserving the holy sites of Hindus,” Suarjana said.

One of the poorest regions of the tourist island, the Karangasem administration has long been eager to attract local and foreign investors to the regency.

In March, Regent Geredeg announced during a formal meeting that an investor was interested in building a golf course near the traditional village of Tegenan.

In addition to the golf course, the plan calls for the construction of hotels, villas and other services.

The administration hopes the project will revive the local economy and significantly boost regional revenue.

While the name of the investor has not been released, it has been rumored that the golf course and its supporting facilities will cover about 100 hectares of land in the four traditional villages of Subak, Rendang and Menanga and Tegenan.

“A reliable source told us the regent has already issued the permit. Residents also reported that officials had been seen measuring their land,” Suarjana said.

When contacted, Geredeg said the golf course project was still only a proposal and no investor had been named.

He denied ordering officials from the local land agency to survey land in the four villages, and told residents to contact the authorities if anyone claiming to be from the government asked to take measurements of their land.

Besakih Temple is located on the slopes of Mount Agung and boasts dramatic views. It is the mother temple for all Balinese Hindus.

The area surrounding the temple features some of the lushest forest on the island and important water catchment areas.

Bali legislative council’s deputy chairman I Nyoman Purwa Arsana said he would visit the regency and seek clarification from Regent Geredeg.

“We agree with you and share the same concerns,” he told the young activists.

He said any policy that was against the will of the people should be revoked, and should the regent press ahead with the plan he could be removed from office.

“But of course it would all go through the legal mechanisms,” he said.

The province’s Investment Coordinating Board said it had not received any requests from investors for such a golf project. The board’s secretary, Manik Floriani, said the central government would normally require investors, the province’s investment board members and regency officials to asses the investment location before issuing any permit.

Such an assessment is meant to ensure the project will not violate spatial planning regulations.

Indonesian Hindu Youth Movement leader Suarjana criticized the economic reasons behind the plan to build the golf course in the vicinity of Pura Besakih, and said there were alternative sites in Karangasem for the project.

“We regret the fact that development has never been fairly distributed in the region,” he said.

Bali has a history of trying to balance investment and the protection of holy and historical sites.

A lack of law enforcement in the past meant that investment often won out over conservation, particularly during the New Order regime when associates of president Soeharto were behind the investment proposals.

In the late l980s, the development of a golf course and resort near the sacred Tanah Lot Temple in Tabanan sparked protests.