Watch: The suffering of hundreds of fired workers and Trump’s failed projects in Indonesia

Empty beer bottles and broken plastic chairs dot what was a tourist resort that billionaire former US President Donald Trump wanted as his “dream project” before it failed and hundreds of Indonesian workers were laid off.

Almost ten years ago, Trump signed an agreement linking his name to the six-star “Nirwana Golf Resort”, one of the most famous golf clubs in the world.

Trump’s series of failed projects

This golf club has become a weedy area, adding to the series of failed ventures for Trump, whose bankruptcy of six casinos and hotels has resulted in billions of dollars in debt and damages to thousands of people.

“There was no clarity about our future,” said Dita Doi, 26, who was responsible for escorting golfers with their equipment before she was forced to work as a waitress while waiting for Trump’s new venture. “We heard we would be rehired, but that never happened.”

The Trump Organization and the Indonesian “MNC” group closed the resort in 2017 and laid off hundreds of workers after forming a partnership to change the commercial identity of the “Nirwana Golf Resort” overlooking the Indian Ocean.

The son of former US President Donald Trump said during a visit to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, in 2019 that the resort’s renovation was a “dream project”. It was Trump’s first venture into Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

But Trump’s deal to license his name to and help operate the new resort, struck in 2015, turned out to be a pipe dream for Indonesian workers.

After five years of layoffs, the hotel is demolished, the golf courses are abandoned and a security guard, alone in a van, chases tourists off the site.

The abandoned site is a far cry from the high-end image Trump has long maintained with his real estate projects before setting his sights on the White House.

But the property tycoon, who recently announced that he will run again for the US presidential election in 2024, has faced major setbacks in his projects. His hotel and casino projects went bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009.

The first project to face bankruptcy was the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in a failure that threatened Trump’s personal fortune. Trump had to sell his yacht, private jet and half of his stock to cover some casino debts.

Unspecified numbers of laid off workers

Hari Tanuisodibejo, chairman of the MNC group and Trump partner who bought the Nirwana resort in 2013, spoke of delaying completion of the new project due to falling revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the flaws in the implementation of the project began to appear before the outbreak of the virus.

Edwin Dharmasetyawan, director of property at MNC Group, declined to say how many Indonesian workers were arbitrarily fired when work on the project was halted.

He said the delay was due to “financial reasons” and emphasized his hope that the project would be developed within two years, although work has not yet started. “I do not consider this project a failure, but rather a delay,” he told AFP.

“We have another project in Lido (city) that we are currently focusing on,” he said, referring to a giant resort project in Lido, south of Jakarta.

That project in West Java, which will include Trump’s golf club and a tourist resort, has sparked controversy over reports of construction workers excavating Islamic ancestral tombs without the permission of local residents.

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment about the Bali resort.

Many workers in Bali lost their jobs due to the billionaires’ decision not to move the project forward.

While hotel employees received financial compensation after their layoffs, about 150 golfers’ guides – who are temporary contractors – received no money when they were suddenly fired.

“It was difficult. The period when I lost my job was difficult. A lot of people felt angry,” says Doi.

The young woman was paid 1.3 million rupees ($86) a month, but tips from rich golfers made her earn up to 15 million rupees a month. As for her new job as a waitress, she gets the same salary, but she doesn’t get tips.

“If we hate him, will that make him give us our money?”

However, the hotel and golf course workers, left out of work, are trying to forgive and forget. Doi tells AFP that it seems “impossible” to get her previous job back. “I started moving forward,” she adds.

Peta Dewey, who worked at the hotel spa for 18 years and now runs her parents’ coffee shop, says Trump’s shutdown has left her worried about her future.

“I got nervous just thinking about how to make money because I have kids,” she adds, adding, “I was 48 years old, how could I have gotten another job?”

But in Bali, the locals traditionally believe in the importance of forgiveness and letting go of any negative feelings, including negative feelings toward Trump.

“We have to get on with our lives,” Dewey says. “If we hate him, will that make him give us our money?”

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