To the relief of many, the rainy season has finally arrived in Indonesia. “Divine intervention” seems to be the only thing that can put out forest fires that produced choking haze for months.
Millions of Indonesians and those in neighbouring countries had to endure acrid smog as a result of deliberate burning of Indonesian forests and peatlands to make way for plantations.
After visits to the worst hit locations, President Jokowi decided to send thousands of soldiers to help extinguish the fires – a clear sign that local governments on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands are incapable of handling the long-standing problem.
Although a bit too late, the government finally accepted help from neighbours, after initially rejecting their offers. The scale of the problem was too big for Indonesia to handle alone, and obviously, public patience was running thin.
Even after deploying thousands of soldiers and getting all the help, the problem was clearly far bigger than the government had anticipated.
The blame game then began: fingers were pointed at large plantation companies and their suppliers, who in turn blamed small-time farmers and indigenous villagers for the fires.
It’s common knowledge among Indonesians that this problem stems from weak law enforcement. For too long, companies, big or small, have been allowed to open plantations in areas where they shouldn’t have.
Satellite images could have been used as evidence to bring those companies to court. But things are easier said than done. Few if any, perpetrators have been punished.
Indonesia’s legal system has consistently earned poor marks in various surveys. Our police, prosecutors, judges, advocates – those who are supposed to mete out justice – are notorious for being corrupt.
Although Indonesians are known to have extra tolerance to the haze problem, our neighbors don’t.
Now that the haze is gone, people’ attention is being diverted to other issues.
The media have had a field day after it was revealed that House of Representatives speaker Setya Novanto allegedly asked for 20 percent of shares from Freeport Indonesia, on behalf of President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.
Setya Novanto was already the focus of public criticism after he met US presidential hopeful Donald Trump in New York in September. At the end of his speech, Trump briefly introduced Setya, asking him what Indonesians thought of him: “Do they like me in Indonesia?” To which Setya replied: “Yes, very much.”
Thousands have signed an online petition to have Setya Novanto removed from his position as the House speaker. Major media outlets have also repeatedly warned that the investigation should be open to the public, and that the matter shouldn’t be shoved under the rug.
The people are fed up with incompetent and corrupt law enforcement in Indonesia. We want capable and honest law enforcement institutions that can deliver justice for all.
That is why I was shocked when I heard the news that Indonesia’s anti-narcotics agency chief Budi Waseso plans to build an island prison surrounded by croc-infested waters to keep drug kingpins isolated from convicted couriers and users.
Budi Waseso dismissed concerns over inmates’ rights, because “It’s not a human rights violation when a crocodile does the killing,”
I mean, shouldn’t the police be the one who make sure that law is enforced? why leave it to the hungry crocodiles? define irony.
If this kind of public insult to common sense continues, I am afraid people will be desperate and start taking matters into their own hands.
If things continue like now, we can expect the breakdown of law and order. We need to learn from the painful lessons of history.