Benoa Reclamation hot-button issue in 2018 Bali gubernatorial race

Rai Manta and Ketut Sudikerta.
Rai Manta and Ketut Sudikerta.

The controversial reclamation of South Bali’s Benoa Bay has emerged as a hot-button issue in the 2018 race for Bali governor.

This became evident in the reading of the ‘Integrity Pact’ initiated by the Bali People’s Coalition (KRB), a coalition of rights activists, at the Bajra Sandhi Monument in Renon during an event for  Ida Bagus Rai Dharmawijaya Mantra and Ketut Sudikerta on Tuesday.

Mantra and Sudikerta, also referred to as Mantra-Kerta in their campaign, are running in the June 27 election for governor and deputy governor of Bali Province.

With the event on Tuesday, the pair has made it clear that they stand against any reclamation of Benoa Bay and have sworn to keep their position if elected.

Chairman of the Bali Democratic Party for the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) I Made Mudarta read out the Integrity Pact that Mantra and Sudikerta stood behind at the event on Tuesday.

“We support the results of the Udayana University Bhisama PHDI study and the aspirations of the majority of the public who have rejected the planned reclamation of Benoa Bay,” Mudarta read aloud, as quoted by the Bali Post.

The proposed reclamation, which would transform 700 hectares of Benoa Bay into Dubai-esque artificial islands with a vast array of tourist facilities is nothing new and has been stalemated for the past several years.

The Balinese have long been calling for the overturning of Presidential Regulation no. 51/2014.

Despite incessant protesting from local communities and even a contingent of well-known Balinese musicians, along with numerous pleas to President Joko Widodo himself, many spectators believe there’s too much vested interests for the project not to go through. That too much money has changed hands in securing the lucrative deal.

Even the land being designated as “sacred” by Hindu high priests of the PHDI has apparently not been enough to save it from likely getting turned into a super-tourism zone of artificial islands, more hotels, and an F1 track.

Former Indonesian president SBY issued the decree shortly before leaving office, which pulled the 700 hectares of Benoa Bay out of protective zoning, while current governor, Made Mangku Pastika has claimed he’s “powerless” to do anything about it.

Perhaps a change of leadership in Bali could be what’s finally needed to put the proposed project to bed.

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