The Balinese People’s Forum to Reject Reclamation (ForBALI), an activist group of artists, musicians, lawyers, and other impassioned locals, took to the streets of Denpasar once again on Saturday in their first demonstration this year against the controversial Benoa Bay reclamation project.
Formed in 2013, the group is the driving force behind “tolak reklamasi” (reject reclamation), the biggest resistance movement against the proposed project. If realized, the development would see Dubai-esque artificial islands created in South Bali’s Benoa Bay, a fresh base for hotels, restaurants and tourist entertainment facilities.
According to local reports, this latest march comes after the location permit expired last year, but was suddenly re-issued — to the same developer, PT Tirta Wahana Bali International (TWBI) — on 29 November by the Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti.
Talking to Bali Post, ForBALI coordinator, I Wayan Gendo Suardana, explained, “This action is actually the same as the others, except it’s a response to the location permit issued by Susi. We believe that the government does not side with the people’s movement.”
Suardana claimed that legally, since the permit had expired, it should have been processed again from scratch, but it’s unclear whether that happened. “This is a bad legal precedent, so we have taken action again,” he explained.
He also called out Indonesian political parties, who he said in the run-up to the elections had all claimed to reject the project.
“This will also be a bad political precedent because people are making promises to reject the reclamation project without genuine intentions,” he said, as quoted by Bali Post.
One of ForBALI’s loudest voices is Jerinx, the activist-drummer of Bali punk rock band Superman is Dead. Questioned by the source during the rally, he chided Minister Susi for blocking critical comments on her social media accounts and failing to reply to a video related to the public rejection of the Benoa Bay project. “Susi should go to minister school again,” he said.
Jerinx also called for more transparency in the government, arguing that Bali Governor Wayan Koster should make public the letter he allegedly wrote to President Jokowi rejecting the Benoa Bay project.
Since the planned development of Benoa Bay was first announced several years ago, it has been one of the island’s most contentious issues. The artificial islands would not only bring mass development to an area already declared as “sacred” by the country’s governing Hindu authority, but also rip up mangrove forests and likely create flooding issues in Benoa and much of South Bali.