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In Their Own Words – The Wisdom Of The Elites: Part 1

December 2, 2011

Public statements made by those in high places in Indonesia, are an endless source of amusement, wonder, embarrassment, amazement and despair. Many of their pronouncements seem to be characterised by outright denial, shifting blame to others, justifications and outright lies. Here is a selection of gaffe-prone luminaries, their immortal words, and the context in which they were uttered. You couldn’t make this stuff up.


Fauzi Bowo, Governor of Jakarta
This was the Governor’s advice to women who wished to avoid being raped by motorcycle taxi (ojek) operators:

“If … you wear short pants or a miniskirt, do not sit like a man, just side saddle. If you side saddle, there will be no problem.”

For those women seeking to avoid being raped by minibus drivers, he offers a reason why the rape victim might be to blame:

“If a woman wears a short skirt and sits next to the driver, it could be ‘inviting’.”


Suryadharma Ali, Minister of Religious Affairs
Despite a large increase in the number of attacks on churches, rampant violence against members of religious groups, organised riots and even murders, the Minister insisted that:

“there were no incidents of violence between religious groups in 2010, only issues with religious groups that failed to comply with the regulations pertaining to the erection of new houses of worship.”


Tifatul Sembiring, Minister for Information and Technology
Tifatul flaunts his conservatism as a Muslim and insists that he always avoids touching women who are not family members. However, during a Presidential visit, he enthusiastically stepped forward and smiling broadly, grasped Michelle Obama’s hand in both of his – an event captured on video. He later denied that he did anything of the sort, saying:

“It was forced contact. The first lady held her hands too far toward me so they touched, though I tried to prevent my hands being touched.”

After a destructive tsunami in Padang, Sumatra, Tifatul claimed that the disaster was divine punishment for watching immoral TV shows:

“Television broadcasts that destroy morals are plentiful in this country and therefore disasters will continue to occur.”


Diani Budiarto, Mayor of Bogor
After cancelling the permit of a Christian church on trumped-up charges, later proven to be false, and despite a Supreme Court ruling instructing him to unseal the illegally-closed GKI Yasmin church and stop victimising its members, he continues to be defiant, giving as his reason:

“No church should be on a street named after a Muslim.”


 Marzuki Alie, Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR)
Weighing into the continuing saga of the GKI Yasmin church, Marzukie Alie now says that the legally binding Supreme Court ruling should be ignored, and replaced by a ruling to be brought down by the House of Representatives.  Rattling the very foundations of Rule of Law in Indonesia, he says that:

“it is not reasonable for the church to hope for enforcement of a court ruling that it be allowed to operate.”

His advice to victims of a tsunami that devastated the Mentawai Islands off West Sumatra last year, killing 500 and displacing 15,000 souls, was:

“If you’re afraid of waves, don’t live by the shore.”

When responding to reports of widespread torture and mistreatment of Indonesian migrant workers abroad, he sided with the abusive employers, saying:

“Some of them can’t iron properly, so it’s natural if the employer ends up landing the hot iron on the migrant worker’s body.”

While doggedly supporting a widely-criticised proposal to construct a new $160 million office tower for legislators, he lashed out at opponents of the scheme, saying:

“Only elites can discuss this – regular people should not be involved.”

Speaking about a plague of caterpillars in Java and Bali, he dismissed biological explanations, claiming instead that Indonesian people should avoid engaging in mindless debate about things that do not concern them. His explanation:

“It is a warning from God.”

By the way, this is the same man who suggested that the country pardon corruptors as a means of eradicating corruption.


Irianto MS Syafiudin, Regent of Indramayu, West Java
Concerned about the morals of students in his area, he suggested that:

“Girls need to undergo a virginity test in order to be admitted to High School.”


Patrialis Akbar, recently dumped Minister of Justice and Human Rights
In trying to explain why people like the infamous Gayus Tambunan (the convicted tax official who kept taking overseas trips while supposedly in jail) deserved a reduction in their prison sentences, he said:

“Bribery is not a form of corruption.”

This is the same man who, during the hunt for the fugitive Democratic Party Treasurer Nazarrudin, prematurely announced to the press that they knew Nazarrudin’s location, but:

“The destination will not be revealed because it is feared he will escape again. The team will leave tonight.”


Siti Haryanti, a secretary at the religious court in Mount Kidul in Central Java
Concerned with a rise in teenage pregnancies and under-age marriages, this worthy identified the root cause as Facebook. She said:

“Many couples admitted they got to know each other through the site and continued their relationship until they got pregnant outside wedlock.”


Ridwan Muhammad, Chairman of the Bireuen District Council , Aceh
This Aceh leader demanded the removal of an elected woman sub-district head, because:

“Women are unfit to lead under Islamic law”.


Senior Commander Boy Rafli Amar, National Police spokesman
Responding to criticism of the FPI as a band of paid fundamentalist thugs, the police spokesman said:

“As a part of society, the FPI is our partner … in a positive way.”

This is not surprising, because Boy’s boss, General Timur Pradopo, Chief of the Indonesian National Police, was described by Bonar Tigor Naipospos, Deputy Chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, as:

“one of the founding members of the FPI in 1998.”


General Timur Pradopo, Chief of the Indonesian National Police
Pradopo contradicted mining company Freeport Indonesia, who had said that payments of $74 million between 1995 and 2010, to the police officers stationed at the Grasberg mine in
Papua were not in fact for government provided security as claimed by Freeport. He said the payments were actually for:

“… meal money”


Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih, Minister for Health
Nisza Ismail, 8 months old, died at Mitra Anugrah Lestari Hospital in Cimahi, West Java, after first being refused treatment for high fever and seizures by both Handayani Hospital and Mitra Kasih Hospital because her parents could not provide an advance payment. The Minister blamed the death on the parents’ failure to say they could not afford to pay, saying:

 “If the parents felt they couldn’t afford the treatment, they should have communicated it to the hospital from the time they arrived”

She is the same Minister who defended Indonesia’s widely-criticised practice of female circumcision, saying that a 2010 Ministerial Decree would “protect girls” by allowing female circumcisions to be performed only by doctors, nurses or midwives. She said:

“If it is not regulated, it may lead to the procedure being carried out not by medical personnel but perhaps by shamans or others who would cause infection, bleeding and excessive cutting.”

A previous memo in 2006, from the same Ministry, had encouraged this very practice of unqualified circumcision, specifically banning health workers from performing the religious procedure.


Syahrul Yasin Limpo, Governor of South Sulawesi
Three year-old Safira was admitted to the Andi Makassau Hospital in Parepare to have 25 rusty nails of about 10 centimetres each removed from her body. Doctors believed that they had been inserted over a 6-month period. However, the Governor had his own explanation, saying:

“In South Sulawesi it is possible for these sorts of things to happen. It’s called magic and it’s explained in the Koran.” 


Judge Sjam Amansjah, Bandung High Court
Peterpan frontman Ariel (Nazril Irham) recently lost his appeal against his conviction on pornography charges. He was jailed for disseminating pornography after explicit videos made by him (legal in Indonesia) and stored on his computer were uploaded to the internet by a thief who stole his computer. The judge who dismissed his appeal gave the following reason:

“We considered the people’s opinion, especially of those who were present during the court proceedings.”

The ‘people’s opinion’ that the judge was referring to was expressed by an organised group of Islamic hard-liners who were present throughout the trial, and who pelted Ariel with rotten eggs and tomatoes as he entered and left the courtroom.

CONTINUE READING: PART 2  &  PART3


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One comment

  1. Excellent articles and a bit scaring, i must say…



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