President Joko Widodo (right) accompanied by First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo (second left) and Dutch King Willem Alexander (second right) accompanied by Queen Maxima planting trees during a state visit to Bogor Palace, West Java, Tuesday (10/3/2020). (Antara/ Sigid Kurniawan)
“The ongoing global economic and geopolitical volatility will not keep Indonesia and the Netherlands from advancing their long-standing cooperation” — that may be the right tone to begin the narrative on the state visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima to Indonesia.
On Tuesday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo greeted the Dutch king and queen at Bogor Palace in West Java.
The visit sends the clear message that the two countries aspire to advance their ties going forward. It will surely create a new momentum for the Indonesian-Dutch partnership. The visit also instils not only increased confidence of Dutch investment in Indonesia but also strategic trust in the long run.
The visit produces numerous concrete deliverables in various sectors at the government-to-government as well as the business-to-business level. These include eight government initiatives in important sectors such as sustainable palm oil production, cooperation on infectious diseases control, waste management, the circular economy, water management, aviation cooperation, capacity-building of healthcare professionals, as well as women, peace and security.
On the business side, the king’s 190-strong business delegation has met with hundreds of Indonesian business counterparts and concluded investment and business deals amounting to US$1 billion. These include agreements on dairy products, oil and gas, agriculture, infrastructure and renewable energy.
However, these achievements did not come overnight. In fact, in the last seven decades, both sides have taken significant steps to strengthen bilateral ties.
I was the Indonesian ambassador in The Hague in 2013, when Indonesia and the Netherlands signed a joint declaration on a comprehensive partnership that laid out the modalities for concrete cooperation. This was an important building block to mature our bilateral cooperation into what we have today and what we will harvest tomorrow.
After more than 70 years, it is undeniable that the bond between the two countries has had its share of challenges. While we cannot deny the past of Indonesia-Netherlands relations, we can choose to fully capitalize on the potential of future cooperation for the benefit of both nations.
Therefore, the goal for our shared future must be clear, which is pursuing a forward-looking partnership that really benefits both countries and peoples.
There are three things that the two countries should advance together to attain common goals for a solid and mutually beneficial partnership.
First and fundamentally, both countries must remain committed to the common values of mutual respect and principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Second, the Indonesian-Dutch partnership must produce long-term and concrete economic benefits for our two peoples.
The Netherlands is and should continue to be Indonesia’s strategic partner for trade and investment. In 2019, the Netherlands was Indonesia’s largest investment partner in the European region, the second-largest trading partner and the fourth-largest tourism partner.
Our political solidarity in furthering the common cause of sustainability is also strong. In promoting sustainable palm oil in Europe, for instance, it is evident that we can rely on the Netherlands as our friend. Last year, together with my colleague, Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and cooperation development, we signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on joint production of sustainable palm oil in New York, the United States. King Willem-Alexander’s current visit has also brought an impetus toward the progression of sustainable production of palm oil through the conclusion of a technical arrangement that will focus on capacity-building for Indonesian smallholder farmers.
This is a good reflection of how trust is an important pillar of bilateral cooperation, as also exemplified through the Netherlands’ support in the establishment of the Indonesia-European Union Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade in 2016.
Third, Indonesia and the Netherlands must continue to promote the universal common values of multilateralism, diplomacy and democracy, promoting habits of dialogue and peaceful dispute settlement to tackle shared global challenges amid rising tensions, intolerance and unilateralism.
Peacekeeping and counterterrorism are among our signature areas of collaboration on the world stage.
Indonesia and the Netherlands were among the core countries facilitating and supporting the Untied Nations' secretary-general’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative to rally member states and other crucial stakeholders to fulfil their obligation in strengthening UN peacekeeping operations.
Both nations also need to stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
Deepening the promotion of democracy, pluralism and tolerance are other important areas of cooperation to further develop. The Bali Democracy Forum could become the platform to jointly advance these shared values.
Women, peace and security shall be another hallmark of our bilateral cooperation. The partnership aspires to deepen the capacity of women to promote peace and security, in line with the formation of the ASEAN Women Mediators Network and the Afghanistan-Indonesia Women Network last March.
In conclusion, another historical step was taken with the king of the Netherlands’ visit to Indonesia, in the very year when Indonesia celebrates its 75th year of independence.
The history binding our two countries together is not an easy one. This dark period should not be repeated in the future.
King Alexander stated that “today, we warmly congratulate the people of Indonesia as you celebrate 75 years of independence. The past cannot be erased and will have to be acknowledged by each generation in turn.” King Alexander also expressed his regret and apologized for excessive violence on the part of the Dutch in those years.
Let us together build a better and stronger relationship, one that is based on mutual respect and mutual interests. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.
King Willem-Alexander and Indonesian president Joko Widodo. Photo: AP Photo/ Achmad Ibrahim, Pool
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (C) said his final term would be aimed at eradicating poverty (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo was sworn in for a second term on Sunday, as helicopters flew overhead and troops kept watch in the capital Jakarta -- days after Islamist militants tried to assassinate his top security minister.
Foreign heads of state, lawmakers and political rivals looked on as Widodo, 58, and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, 76, read an oath to start a five-year tenure leading the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.
Outside parliament, red-and-white Indonesian flags dotted parts of the city, but celebrations were muted with supporters outnumbered by some 30,000 security personnel deployed amid fears of another attack.
Demonstrations were also banned on Sunday as extremist violence continues to plague Indonesia.
Several thousand supporters, many wearing T-shirts bearing the leader's image, watched the ceremony on a big screen near Jakarta's national monument.
"I was worried Islamic (hardliners) would take over the country if he lost," supporter Suprihatini, who goes by one name, told AFP.
"I'm Muslim, but I don't want that kind of movement here," the 53-year-old added.
Widely known as Jokowi, the president said his final term would be aimed at eradicating poverty and catapulting the nation of some 260 million into a developed country with one of the world's top five economies by 2045.
"I'm calling on ministers, public officials and bureaucrats to take these targets seriously," he told parliament, adding that officials not committed to his goals would be sacked.
In Jakarta, supporters carried a 200-metre (655 foot) Indonesian flag along the streets, while Jokowi fans erected a seven-metre (23 foot) tumpeng in his honour -- a towering rendition of a popular cone-shaped dish -- in the country's second-biggest city Surabaya.
Jokowi, a popular, heavy metal-loving former businessman from outside the political and military elite, was hailed as Indonesia's answer to Barack Obama when he was first elected in 2014, partly on a roads-to-airports infrastructure drive.
But his leadership has been under mounting criticism after a wave of crises that threaten to cast a shadow over his final term.
Challenges facing the president range from nationwide anti-government demonstrations -- in which three students died -- and smog-belching forest fires that sparked diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbours, to deadly unrest in Papua province and a slowdown in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.
It marked a stark reversal of fortune just months after Jokowi scored a thumping re-election victory against a former military general.
"This is the weakest point in Jokowi's political leadership," said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
"It's a test for the president in critical times."
Protests erupted last month across the archipelago that were among the biggest student rallies since mass demonstrations toppled the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.
Jokowi's inauguration comes a little over a week after the country's chief security minister was stabbed in an attack by two members of a local extremist outfit allied to the Islamic State group.
Two suspects were arrested at the scene, while dozens of suspected militants have since been detained in a country-wide dragnet following the assassination attempt on Wiranto, a former general who goes by one name. The 72-year-old is recovering in hospital.
Jokowi's new term also comes amid criticism that Indonesia's two decades of democratic reforms are being eroded under the watch of a man once lauded by Time magazine as "A New Hope".
Choosing conservative cleric Amin as vice president has also thrown Indonesia's reputation for tolerant Islam into question.
Jokowi's administration appeared caught off guard in September's protests that saw thousands of students hit the streets to demonstrate against a raft of divisive reforms, including banning pre-marital sex and changes that critics said would weaken the anti-graft agency.
The death appeared to mark the first fatality in days of street battles across Indonesia (AFP Photo/STR)
An Indonesian student died Thursday as thousands hit the streets nationwide in a wave of opposition to a major overhaul of the country's criminal code and a bid to weaken its anti-corruption agency, police said.
The death appeared to mark the first fatality in days of street battles across the Southeast Asian country, which have left hundreds injured and sparked a call from Amnesty International to probe what it described as "massive police violence" against protesters.
The 21-year-old victim was rushed to hospital suffering from a chest wound and later died as riots erupted in Kendari city on Sulawesi island, where the local parliament was torched, authorities said.
But police denied playing a role in the death, amid social media claims that the engineering student was shot.
"There was an injured student among the crowd. He was taken to the hospital and declared dead as doctors tried to save him. He had a wound on his right chest, but I cannot confirm what kind of injury it was," Southeast Sulawesi police spokesman Harry Golden Hart told Metro TV.
Hundreds have been injured in the protests against a major overhaul of
the country's criminal code (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)
"None of our officers carried live bullets... or even rubber bullets," he added.
The unrest was sparked by a proposed bill that includes dozens of law changes -- from criminalising pre-marital sex and restricting sales of contraceptives, to making it illegal to insult the president.
There has also been a backlash against a separate bill that critics fear would dilute the powers of Indonesia's corruption-fighting agency -- known as the KPK -- including its ability to wire-tap graft suspects.
The demonstrations across the archipelago are among the biggest since mass street protests in 1998 brought down the three-decade Suharto dictatorship.
Passage of the controversial changes has now been delayed.
The demonstrations across the archipelago are among the biggest since mass
street protests in 1998 brought down the three-decade Suharto dictatorship
(AFP Photo/CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN)
And, on Thursday, President Joko Widodo appeared to backtrack on plans to press ahead with the anti-corruption agency law, saying he would consider revising it.
"There was a lot of feedback given to me" about the law, Widodo said during a televised press conference.
"Of course I'll consider (a revision) and after making a decision, I will announce it."
Earlier Thursday, officials said more than 500 students had been arrested after a night of street battles in downtown Jakarta between molotov-cocktail throwing protesters and riot police who shot tear gas into the crowds.
Meanwhile, a mass of students stormed and occupied the local parliament building in Sumatra's Padang city Wednesday.
Most of the Jakarta students were set free, but some were still being held after police found knives and other sharp weapons in their possession, police said.
Students have issued a list of demands including scrapping some of the
criminal-code changes (AFP Photo/Bahauddin Raja BASO)
Students have issued a list of demands including scrapping some of the criminal-code changes, withdrawing troops from Indonesia's restive Papua region, and halting forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo that have unleashed toxic haze across Southeast Asia.
A vote on the criminal-code bill was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but Widodo has called for a delay in passing the controversial changes that could affect millions of Indonesians, including gay and heterosexual couples who might face jail for having sex outside wedlock, or having an affair.
Updating Indonesia's Dutch colonial-era criminal code has been debated for decades and appeared set to pass in 2018 before momentum fizzled out.
A renewed push this year, backed by Islamic groups, was met with a wave of criticism over what many saw as a draconian law that invaded the bedrooms of a nation with some 260 million people -- the fourth most populous on Earth.
Protesters set fires and threw rocks at riot police in Makassar on Sulawesi island to protest against a new criminal code law (AFP Photo/DAENG MANSUR)
Jakarta (AFP) - Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters outside Indonesia's parliament Tuesday as thousands demonstrated nationwide against a new criminal code that would, among other things, outlaw pre-marital sex and weaken the country's anti-graft agency.
Protesters covered their faces and scattered in all directions as chaos erupted in the centre of the sprawling capital, Jakarta.
Police also fired teargas at rock-throwing protesters in Makassar on Sulawesi island, while demonstrators broke down a barrier outside the governor's office in Semarang on Java island.
"(We) forcibly dispersed student because they were carrying out anarchist acts, damaging government property and throwing stones at police," said Dicky Sondani, a South Sulawesi police spokesman.
The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered
across the Southeast Asian archipelago (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)
The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered across the Southeast Asian archipelago -- including in cultural capital Yogyakarta and holiday hotspot Bali -- for a second day in a row.
On Tuesday, lawmakers debated a wide-ranging legal overhaul including hundreds of new laws that would criminalise pre-marital sex, restrict sales of contraceptives, make it illegal to insult the president, and toughen the Muslim majority country's blasphemy laws.
"We want the bill which is being debated to be revised," said Jakarta university student Amel.
"The police were excessive teargassing us. We weren't being violent," he added.
A vote on the bill was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but President Joko Widodo last week called for a delay in passing the proposed changes after a public backlash.
Riot police used water cannon against protesters in Sulawesi (AFP Photo/ Andri SAPUTRA)
The mooted changes could affect millions of Indonesians, including gay and heterosexual couples who might face jail for having sex outside wedlock, or having an affair.
Widodo's call for a delay came as the Australian embassy in Jakarta issued a fresh travel advisory, warning that the legislation could put unmarried foreign tourists in the crosshairs.
Millions of tourists visit Bali and other beach destinations in the Southeast Asian nation.
Widodo this week stood firm on plans to pass a separate bill that critics fear would dilute the investigative powers of the corruption-fighting agency -- known as the KPK -- including its ability to wire-tap suspects.
The police action came after flag- and placard-waving demonstrators gathered
across the Southeast Asian archipelago (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)
Updating Indonesia's criminal code, which dates back to the Dutch colonial era, has been debated for decades and appeared set to pass in 2018 before momentum fizzled out.
A renewed push this year, backed by conservative Islamic groups, was met with a wave of criticism over what many saw as a draconian law that invaded the bedrooms of a nation with some 260 million people -- the fourth most populous on Earth.
An online petition calling for the bill to be scrapped garnered half a million signatures, while hundreds of thousands took to social media to vent their frustration.
The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)
Indonesia has arrested nearly 200 people over vast forest fires ripping across the archipelago, police said Monday, as toxic haze sends air quality levels plummeting and sparks flight cancellations.
Jakarta has deployed thousands of personnel to battle blazes that are turning land into charred landscapes and consuming forests in Sumatra and Borneo islands, where thousands of schools have been shut over health fears.
The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia, triggering diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbours.
On Monday, authorities said they had arrested some 185 people suspected of being involved in activities that led to out-of-control fires sweeping the country.
"Indonesian Police will enforce the law against anyone who is proven to have carried out forest and land burning, whether it was done intentionally or through negligence," National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta.
Indonesia's peat fires: a smouldering problem (AFP Photo/John SAEKI)
"This is a last resort. The most important thing is prevention."
Four corporations were also being investigated, he added.
Last week, Indonesia sealed off dozens of plantations where smog-belching fires were blazing, and warned that owners -- including Malaysia and Singapore-based firms -- could face criminal charges if there was evidence of illegal burning.
Some of the most serious fires occur in peatlands, which are highly combustible when drained of water to be converted into agricultural plantations.
Thick haze in Borneo -- where air quality levels have plummeted to "dangerous" levels in some areas -- caused the cancellation of about a dozen flights Sunday, national airline Garuda said.
Rival Lion Air said about 160 Borneo flights had been affected at the weekend.
Meanwhile, nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections linked to the haze in recent months, according to Indonesian health authorities.
Nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections
linked to the haze in recent months (AFP Photo/Str)
While forest fires are an annual problem, the situation this year has been worsened by drier weather in Indonesia, with diplomatic tensions soaring as toxic smog drifts over to neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.
The haze pushed Singapore's air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years at the weekend.
In 2015, Indonesia suffered its worst forest fires for almost two decades, which dramatically increased its greenhouse gas emissions.
Huge fires tearing through the Amazon are also compounding concerns about the long-term impact of such blazes on keeping global temperature levels stable.
Indonesia is battling forest fires causing toxic haze across southeast Asia with aircraft, artificial rain and even prayer, President Joko Widodo said during a visit to a hard-hit areahttps://t.co/eyIkMCRURG
Jakarta is home to some 30 million people and is also one of the world's fastest sinking cities due to excessive groundwater extraction (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)
Jakarta (AFP) - Indonesia is considering a plan to move its capital away from sprawling megalopolis Jakarta, officials said Monday, but any jump to a new city could still be years away.
The idea of moving Indonesia's seat of government from an urban conglomeration of nearly 30 million people with some of the world's worst traffic jams has stretched on for decades.
Low-lying Jakarta is also prone to annual flooding and is one of the world's fastest sinking cities due to excessive groundwater extraction.
On Monday, urban planning minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said the long-stalled relocation plan won approval from President Joko Widodo who favoured moving the capital away from Indonesia's most populous Java island.
Jakarta, which suffers billions of dollars in annual congestion-and-flood linked economic losses, would remain the country's financial hub.
"(Widodo) decided on ... the option to relocate the capital," Brodjonegoro said after a cabinet meeting.
In a statement before the meeting, Widodo expressed support for the idea, but he did not give an alternate location or a timeline for any move.
"In the future, would Jakarta be able to carry the double burden of being both the centre of government and its business centre?" he asked in the statement.
"If we prepare well from the very beginning, this great (relocation) idea could be realised," he added.
During his re-election campaign, Widodo pledged to spread economic growth more evenly in the nation of 260 million.
He won a second term this month, according to unofficial poll results.
Local media have reported that a possible new capital would be Palangkaraya city on the island of Borneo.
It is Indonesia's biggest polls, with 190 million voters and 245,000 candidates standing for the presidency, parliament and local positions (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)
Dipping their fingers in halal ink to prevent double voting, Indonesians cast their ballots Wednesday in a bitterly contested presidential election, with the main rival to incumbent Joko Widodo already threatening to challenge the result over voter-fraud claims.
The Muslim-majority nation's biggest-ever polls -- with more than 190 million voters and 245,000 candidates vying for the presidency, parliament and local positions -- is largely a referendum on Widodo's infrastructure-driven bid to rev up Southeast Asia's largest economy.
But, looming in the background, two decades of democratic gains are at risk of being eroded, analysts said, as the military creeps back into civilian life under Widodo, and his trailing rival Prabowo Subianto, a former general, eyes reforms that harken back to the Suharto dictatorship.
If he loses, Subianto's camp has already warned it will challenge the results over voter-list irregularities.
"It's high stakes in this election," said Evan Laksmana, a senior researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
The election is largely a referendum on President Joko Widodo's infrastructure-
driven bid to rev up Southeast Asia's largest economy (AFP Photo/BAY ISMOYO)
"We simply don't know what (Subianto) would do if he won and we don't know if the institutional constraints in place would contain him."
Voting starts at 7:00 am local time Wednesday (2200 GMT Tuesday) in easternmost Papua and ends at 1:00 pm at the other end of the country in Sumatra.
Ballots will be cast at more than 800,000 polling booths across the volcano-dotted country, from the tip of jungle-clad Sumatra and heavily populated Java island to beach paradise Bali and far-flung Sumbawa.
Voters will punch holes in ballots -- to make clear their candidate choice -- and then dip a finger in Muslim-approved halal ink, a measure to prevent double-voting in a graft-riddled country where ballot buying is rife.
A series of so-called "quick counts" are expected to give a reliable indication of the presidential winner later Wednesday. Official results are not expected until May.
Most polls show the 57-year-old Widodo holding a double-digit lead over Subianto, 67, setting up a repeat of their 2014 contest, which Widodo won despite an unsuccessful court challenge over his narrow victory.
Voters dip their finger in halal ink after casting their ballot, like this Indonesian
woman shown after advance overseas voting in Malaysia (AFP Photo/Mohd RASFAN)
The race has been punctuated by bitter mudslinging between the two camps, religion-driven identity politics and a slew of fake news online that threatens to sway millions of undecided voters.
'Pragmatism over principle'
Widodo campaigned on his ambitious drive to build roads, airports and other infrastructure, including Jakarta's first mass-rapid-transit system.
But his rights record has been criticised owing to an uptick in discriminatory attacks on religious and other minorities, including a small LGBT community, as Islamic hardliners become more vocal in public life.
"(Widodo) has chosen pragmatism over principle on issues of Islamism and pluralism," said Dave McRae, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne's Asia Institute.
Widodo, a practising Muslim, blunted criticism that he was anti-Islam by appointing influential cleric Ma'ruf Amin as his running mate.
But victory for Widodo and Amin -- known for his disparaging views towards minorities -- could be the latest knock to Indonesia's reputation for moderate Islam.
Former general Prabowo Subianto has run on a fiery nationalist ticket, courting
Islamic hardliners and promising to boost military spending (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)
"There is a longstanding track record of very conservative views," Kevin O'Rourke, an Indonesia-based political risk analyst, said of Amin.
"It's inevitable that will affect policy making."
Subianto -- joined by running mate Sandiaga Uno, a 49-year-old wealthy financier -- has run on a fiery nationalist ticket.
He courted Islamic hardliners, promised a boost to military and defence spending and, taking a page from US President Donald Trump, vowed to put "Indonesia first" as he pledged to review billions of dollars in Chinese investment.
Subianto's presidential ambitions have long been dogged by strong ties to the Suharto family and a chequered past.
He ordered the abduction of democracy activists as the authoritarian regime collapsed in 1998, and was accused of committing atrocities in East Timor.
Ballots will be cast at more than 800,000 polling booths across the volcano-dotted
country, including tsunami-ravaged Palu on the island of Sulawesi (AFP Photo/
'Low probability, high impact'
Widodo's own cabinet is stuffed with Suharto-era figures, and he raised eyebrows by agreeing to give civilian government jobs to military brass.
But "there is no grand design for Jokowi to bring back military rule", Laksmana said.
Subianto, however, is a military man keen to roll back reforms that ushered in direct presidential elections, analysts said.
That has raised questions about what an upset victory for the retired general could mean for a system that is supported by most Indonesians.
"Democracy itself would be very much at stake," O'Rourke said.
"This is a low probability scenario, but one with very high impact."
Many Indonesians just want a peaceful power transition -- regardless of the winner.
"I hope there's no hostility," said 53-year-old Untung Sri Rejeki.
The devastating tsunami has shattered the lives of thousands of people. More than 400 families have lost members — and in the hospitals, of all places, people have been cashing in on the survivors' suffering.
A hearse in front of a hospital in Indonesia (DW/J. Küng)
When the relatives of the tsunami victims come to collect the mortal remains of their loved ones from Serang District Hospital in the province of Banten, around 150 kilometers from Java's ravaged coastal region, they are in a state of shock. Jackson Sinaga from Jakarta is one of them. He lost his nine-month-old son to the floodwaters, triggered by the collapse of the Anak Krakatoa volcano just before Christmas. "Satria was fast asleep in a rented villa on Carita Beach when the tsunami crashed through the building," he says. "It happened so fast — I didn't have time to save my little boy."
Traumatized and plagued by feelings of guilt, Jackson has come to collect the boy's lifeless body from the hospital in Serang. However, instead of being met with sympathy, the 29-year-old father is presented with a hefty bill. He's told he has to pay 800,000 rupiah (€50, $55) which he owes for the transport of the body. "In cash," the forensics department employee adds. That's a lot of money in a country where the average monthly wage is less than €240. Jackson, however, is not capable of thinking rationally, and hands over the money.
Family members of the victims are being ripped off
Three more victims' families meet outside the building. They've also been told they owe money — around four million rupiah. This despite the fact that Indonesia's Ministry of Health is paying all costs resulting from the tsunami disaster, in full, with money from the government's coffers. A debate ensues among the relatives of the dead. One of the people who've been swindled collects the receipts and promises to take them to the local authorities.
Receipts issued on forged letterhead
DW confronts the hospital with the accusations, and is invited to speak to its deputy director, Rahmat Fitriadi. When asked if the hospital knew about the illegal takings, Fitriadi bursts into tears. "Neither the management nor our doctors have charged for any services. We have nothing to do with these schemes," says Fitriadi, sobbing. The official letterhead on the receipts is forged, he continues, dabbing the tears from his eyes. "This is a tragedy for our hospital. I hope this scandal doesn't damage our reputation. We support the authorities' investigation and are providing them with all available information."
Fitradi says his hospital has nothing to do with the scam
Investigators from the provincial police in Banten interrogate doctors, forensic scientists and hospital personnel — and open a can of worms. It seem that at least 15 million rupiah have vanished into the pockets of hospital employees. So far, six of the families cheated have been identified. A forensic department employee and two people working with the emergency services have been arrested on suspicion of corruption. The authorities' investigation is ongoing.
Long jail sentences
It's nothing new in Indonesia for workers in public institutions to demand backhanders or issue illegal invoices. Traffic departments will only issue driving licenses within a reasonable time if you make an "extra payment." Teachers at public schools can be bribed to give out the answers to exam questions. President Joko Widodo has repeatedly promised to clamp down on rampant corruption. What is new is people cashing in on the misery of tsunami victims. If those accused are convicted, they could be facing life sentences; they'll certainly go to prison for at least four years.
Right now, though, for Jackson Sinaga, the arrests are of little interest. "I just hope that no more surviving relatives are swindled and met with such lack of empathy," he says. The Sinaga family has certainly lost all confidence in Serang District Hospital. Jackson's brother and sister, who were also badly injured in the tsunami, are no longer being treated at Serang, but at a hospital in Jakarta.