What is it with Indonesians and the law? It seems to me the country is beset with enthusiasm for purely symbolic laws, coupled with an utter disdain for the actual law. The photo above, taken in the Maduran town of Sumenep by my friend and colleague Michael Buehler, provides a delightful, home-made example of the first. Here’s a closer look: “Forbidden to have a traffic accident here!” it declares, above a gaping hole in the road. And then it gives…
Several times over the last months, I’ve been asked to comment on the impending execution of convicted drug dealers. I’ve always refused, largely because I thought I’d just be fuelling hysteria about something that wasn’t actually going to happen. Then, just a few minutes before I was about to speak on a panel called “Death Sentences” at the University of California Irvine, I heard that Indonesian police had indeed pulled the trigger on eight people, one of them mentally ill….
In colonial times, there were different laws for different people in Indonesia. Seventy years after independence, it looks as if that’s still the case. In the last week, a woman has been jailed because in a private Facebook chat she told a friend that her husband was abusing her. Her husband, snooping around in her private correspondence (itself a pretty good indicator of abuse) found the comments and reported his wife to the police. Then two teachers, one a foreigner, were jailed for 10 years on the evidence of a six year-old who accused them of using a magic stone conjured from thin air to lessen the pain of sexual abuse.