The Jakarta Post
The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) has bowed to pressure again, canceling a session to discuss a reclamation project in Benoa Bay, Bali that had been planned for Saturday.
The 'ForBali' session to discuss the Bali Tolak Reklamasi (Bali Rejects Reclamation) movement was set to feature speakers I Wayan Suardana, also known as Gendo, coordinator of ForBali, Gede Ari Astina aka Jerink, activist and the drummer and songwriter of 'Superman is Dead (SID)' and Australian Thor Kerr, whose latest book, To The Beach, examines the dynamics of an effective social movement against coastal reclamation for property development.
The festival's national program manager, I Wayan Juniarta, confirmed that the organizer decided to cancel the session but denied there had been pressure from the authorities to do so.
'The local authorities told us to review our permit, which says that the festival is registered as an art, cultural and tourism promotion event, not an event discussing politics,' Juniarta said on Thursday.
He said that the organizer had been involved in extensive negotiations with local authorities prior to canceling the session.
The cancelation has triggered protests and concerns. Jerink deplored the organizer's decision on his Facebook fan page.
'The police put pressure on the organizer, saying that the UWRF is an arts and cultural event, not a political event. The discussion on reclamation was declared inappropriate. Unfortunately, the organizer has no guts,' Jerink wrote on his fan page.
Gendo deplored the organizer for easily giving in to pressure.
'As an international festival, they should not bow to pressure that easily,' he said.
Prior to the start of the festival on Wednesday, the organizer also announced that it had canceled sessions discussing the 1965 tragedy on pressure from authorities.
The reclamation project was initiated in December 2012 when Bali Governor granted private investor PT Tirta Wahana Bali Internasional (TWBI) permission to develop and reclaim Benoa Bay for an integrated tourist development project.
TWBI was granted the right to manage 838 hectares of land in Benoa Bay over a 30-year period with a possible 20-year extension.
The company's intention was to build luxury tourist facilities, including a Disneyland-like theme park, apartments, hotels, villas, entertainment centers, a hospital and a university campus.
Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika signed the permit but later revoked it on public pressure.
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