Posts Tagged ‘Jakarta’

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Insensitivity, Victimisation and Compassion

April 24, 2013

This is a story of blind bigotry, injustice, denial, and a culture of blaming victims.  It is also a story of  wonderful compassion and tolerance.

In September of 2012, a 14-year-old schoolgirl made an error of judgement that changed her life. She befriended a young man on Facebook, one whose carefully selected ‘identity’ was superficially charming and solicitous. As young girls sometimes tend to do, she responded to his wiles, mistakenly believing that his friendship was genuine, that he was a decent person, and that he was truly interested in her.

Well he was, but not in the way that she thought. The man, identified in the press as being Den Gilang, a.k.a. ‘Yugi’, was apparently in the habit of lurking on social media specifically for the purpose of verbally seducing and meeting naive under-aged girls. He convinced her to meet him at a department store – a place that most people would think would be safe.

But of course it wasn’t. Her new ‘friend’, a predator of the worst kind, lured her into a public minivan, where more of his predator friends were waiting, and they drove her to a house in Parung, Bogor. There, she was imprisoned with  several other young girls who had been similarly duped.

Over the following week, ‘Yugi’ allegedly raped her, threatened her with death if she disobeyed him, and forced her to have sex with numerous other men. The plan, as she understood it, was that she was to be ‘sold’ to someone in Batam,  Riau Islands when he tired of her. During the time that she was missing, her frantic family and friends had widely distributed flyers to try and find her. The media had also picked up on the story, so to her captors, she suddenly became a liability. They dumped her at a bus terminal, where local residents recognised her and took her home.

Now the story took a bizarre turn. After spending a month to recover sufficiently, this brave girl wanted to pick up the broken threads of her life, return to her studies at Budi Utomo Junior High School – a private school in Depok – and put her ordeal behind her.

But when she returned in October 2012, she was publicly humiliated in front of the whole school at a flag-raising ceremony, where she was told that she had “tarnished the school’s image”. She was summarily expelled, and prohibited from sitting for her mid-semester examination. As so often happens to women in Indonesia, this teenager – a victim – was treated as a perpetrator.

The principal refused to meet with the girl’s parents. Journalists were fobbed off without explanation. Officers from the school’s foundation refused to comment, apart from denying, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that she had been expelled.

Following a great deal of public ire and media publicity, the school reversed its stance, saying those all-too-common words, “It was all a misunderstanding”. Mediation was agreed to, and it was reluctantly agreed that the girl could return to school. No apology was offered, and no attempt was made to rehabilitate her good name. The feelings of the girl, and her family, can only be imagined.

I spoke to a friend in Jakarta about this episode, and I must say I didn’t try and hide my feelings about the lack of compassion shown by some Indonesians towards girls and women who have been sexually abused. And while I was in mid-flight, she stopped me and said, “I agree with everything you say. But you need to know something else about this case.” What she told me provided an interesting and illuminating new perspective on Indonesian society.

During the time that the girl was missing, the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood where the girl’s family live were incredibly supportive, keeping the family calm, promoting positivity, and helping to distribute flyers. Then, after she was found, her recuperation was helped by the many caring, supportive neighbourhood visitors who brought food, money, and most of all, the gift of their time and love.

They didn’t stop with that. They started – and completed – a major fund-raising drive to enable her to finish her education privately, away from the school that had besmirched her name and honour, and treated her with such vile insensitivity. They also found her an excellent, well-qualified teacher who was also a counsellor familiar with the needs of traumatised young girls to guide her education.

The whole Muslim community in her neighbourhood rallied to help someone who was in trouble and desperately needed their help. To me, this is one of the untold stories of true, genuine compassion in Indonesia that might well be common, but largely remains un-trumpeted. Maybe this is because compassion carries its own quiet rewards.

Oh, and I nearly forgot – the girl and her family are Christians. To their wonderful, caring Muslim neighbours, that fact was, as it should be, completely irrelevant. I salute you.

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The ‘Express’ KITAS Renewal Process

May 20, 2012

Knowing that I could not travel for a few months, I grudgingly surrendered my passport and soon-to-be-expired KITAS to the Immigration office. Of course the usual raft of paperwork had to accompany this, including solemn written promises that I will employ Indonesian staff, that I will live in an approved tourist zone, and that I will not, under any circumstances, engage in gainful employment. Truth be told, I actually welcome this latter injunction, as it validates my choice to live a life of slothful drifting from one day to the next. In fact, I have no idea how I ever managed to fit work into my daily life before coming here.

As in previous years, I was a little worried about not having my travel documents while the tedious process of KITAS renewal dragged on for several months. One can’t travel at all without documents – not even within Indonesia, where ID is mandatory. The supposed 12-month KITAS which I pay for is not really usable for the whole year anyway. Not that that matters, because the essential Multiple Entry and Exit passport stamp is now only valid for eleven months, because the authorities have decided that they don’t like you travelling during the final month of your KITAS term …

Two years ago, it took two and a half months for the renewal process, because my documents were ‘lost’ – and then the official who had to sign off on them was ‘on leave’. Last year the process was incredibly protracted because the Immigration Office was being investigated by the anti-corruption people, during which time most of their normal work – glacially slow at the best of times – ground to a halt. Ironically, it was suggested to me that a ‘facilitation fee’ might speed up the process, but given the reasons for the low work output, I thought it best to decline.

This year, I planned, perhaps optimistically, for a eight-week turnaround. Naturally, only five days after feeding my entire legal identity into the maw of the Immigration Office, I found out at 9am on a Monday morning that I needed to travel urgently to Australia to help out a friend who had been incapacitated in an accident.

Luckily, I have an excellent agent, who immediately put in an urgent request for ‘express processing’. By 11am, I was in the Immigration Office being fingerprinted yet again, presumably because my fingerprints had changed in the intervening twelve months. I was told that processing would take about a day, so I couldn’t travel on Tuesday, but was assured that I could pick up my completed travel documents by noon on Wednesday. The nice official told me that it would be quite OK for me to book  a flight for Wednesday afternoon. The only flight I could get at short notice was via Jakarta, which meant that I had to be at the airport by 5pm on Wednesday. With Bali’s notorious traffic, I had to leave home by no later than 4pm.

But by noon on Wednesday, there is no sign of my passport or KITAS. I feign stoicism until 1pm, when I call my agent. She says my passport “is on its way and will be there this afternoon”. I begin to worry; “this afternoon” is a rubbery concept in Bali.

At 3pm, my rising stress levels making my voice rise an octave, I speak to my agent again. With insufferable calm, she says: “They’re still waiting for a signature at Imigrasi”. Ye gods. At 3:05pm, she tells me my documents will be arriving in 40 minutes. She also chooses  that moment to inform me that I need to bring 1.5 million with me for the express processing fee. Oh, wonderful. Three hours ago I discovered that my debit card has stopped working at all of the ATMs I tried, and I have just enough cash for the taxi, a humble snack and the obligatory departure tax.

At 3:45pm, not game enough to call the agent again because my voice is approaching ultrasonic frequencies, I hurtle over there on my bike. Praise be to The Great Squirrel! My passport and KITAS has just arrived! The agent apologises for the delay, explaining that, only that morning, a team of workmen had unexpectedly descended on the Immigration offices to perform ‘unscheduled maintenance’, which stopped all work. I am so speechless that I brush off her request for money and rush back home to call a taxi, finally departing for the airport, my stomach full of hydrochloric acid, a mere half an hour behind schedule. But I have my passport back!

On the way to the airport, I puzzle over my itinerary, which doesn’t tell me whether I leave from the domestic or the international terminal. The cab driver laughs. “If you transit in Jakarta, you go from domestic terminal”, he says assuredly. I am sceptical; after all, isn’t it a normal international flight with a stop-over? “No”, says the cabbie. “This is Indonesia. You go from the domestic terminal, because that way you have to pay 40,000 departure tax, and another 150,000 when you leave Jakarta.” He grins wickedly. “The government likes that.” Oh, of course. Why didn’t I think of that?

So, finally on the plane, I have time to think about how it is possible, for extra money, to get a two-day KITAS renewal instead of waiting for two months. And I realise why it normally takes that long for us normal schmucks to get one – because the full resources of the immigration department are engaged in making money from the express delivery set.

Some might think that it’s almost like a sort of, er, bribe. But when you need something done right now, and people have to make a special effort to make sure you get it – well, I reckon paying a fast-tracking facilitation fee is worth it. Despite the last-minute panic, it certainly was for me.

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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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FISKAL: It’s on, it’s off, it’s on again …

October 17, 2010

Hey Jakarta! I’m confused. OK, OK – it’s a normal state for this bule pikun, but I’m even more confused than usual about conflicting reports about FISKAL from various news sources.

FISKAL, for those who have never had the pleasure of being ensnared in its tentacles, is a departure tax levied on local residents, and on those expats who have temporary resident status, such as a KITAS. This is completely separate from the Airport Departure Tax of 150,000 rupiah, and must be paid by every resident who leaves the country.

A year and a half ago, FISKAL was 1,000,000 rupiah. Then, in a cunning move designed to get people in to the often-avoided tax system, the FISKAL was raised to 2.5 million rupiah, UNLESS one had registered with the tax authorities and been issued with an NPWP card as proof of membership in the Indonesian Tax Club. Once you have an NPWP card to flash at the boys at the airport, you are exempt from having to pay FISKAL.

I have an NPWP card which exempts me from FISKAL. This is crazy in itself, as I have a Retirement KITAS which prohibits me from working in Indonesia, which means no income, which means no tax. I still have to submit monthly and annual tax returns stating that I am a person of zero income status. But I have my FISKAL exemption, which was the aim of the charade in the first place and this is a Good Thing. At least I thought it was.

A news item in the Jakarta Post on  17 October 2010 [ http://tinyurl.com/29mbsy8 ] announced, with not a little fanfare, that FISKAL is being scrapped for everyone from 1 January 2011. Yippee, I thought. Closer reading however, reveals that it is being scrapped for taxpayers only. In other words, there is no change in the status quo. That’s newsworthy?

One week later, an acquaintance’s agent, someone who is presumably supposed to know the convoluted workings of Indonesian bureaucracy, informed him that new regulations require that everyone, including KITAS holders, pay FISKAL.

Is there ANYONE out there who knows what is really going on?