Friday, November 20, 2009

An Irony of Justice in Indonesia: Old Lady Sued for Three Cacao Fruits

This is the irony in Indonesia. Corruptors who embezzled billions of the people's money can escape the law. But Granny Minah from Sidoarjo hamlet, part of Darmakradenan village, Ajibarang district, Banyumas Regency, must face a law suit because of three cacao fruits which are probably worth only Rp. 2,000. (US$0.20)

Previously, on October 19, the cacao theft that involved Granny Minah had been handled by the State Attorney of Purwokerto. She was charged for theft, which was for the three cacao fruits weighing 3 kgs that she picked from the plantation of PT Rumpun Sari Antan 4 (RSA 4). How much was the loss for the theft? Rp. 30,000 according to the attorney, or Rp. 2,000 on the market!

Because of her action, Granny Minah was charged with chapter 362 of the Criminal Code (KUHP), with the threat of 6 months of imprisonment. Because the imprisonment sanction was only for six months so there was no need for Minah to be in jail.
In the dossier (BAP) issued by the State Attorney of Purwokerto, Minah was considered on house arrest. Currently, Minah has gone through her second trial at the State Court of Purwokerto. The law case against Minah started from her intention to add to the cacao seeds at home last August. She claimed that she had planted 200 cacao trees on her plantation, but she felt those weren't enough, so she wanted to add a few more. Because she only wanted to add a few more seeds, she decided to pick the cacao fruits from the cacao plantation of PT RSA 4 that was next to hers. She claimed that she had picked three ripe cacao fruits, and left them under their tree, because she wanted to harvest the green beans on her plantation first.

Then Tarno (a.k.a. Nono), one of the foreman of PT RSA 4 plantation who was patrolling then took the three cacao fruits. According to Minah, Nono came to ask her who had picked those cacao fruits. "Then I answered, I picked them for their seeds," she said.

Hearing the explanation, according to Minah, Nono warned her that it was forbidden for the public to pick the cacao fruits on PT RSA's plantation. The warning had been put up in front of the way in to PT RSA 4's office, which was a quote from chapter 21 and chapter 47 of the Law No. 18, 2004 regarding plantations. Both those chapters state that it is forbidden for the public to damage a plantation for use its property so that the plantation's production is disturbed.

Minah who happened to be illiterate agreed to that and apologized to Nono, then surrendered to him the three cacao fruits. She then humbly apologized in the local dialect. "Inggih dibeta mawon. Inyong ora ngerti, nyuwun ngapura," she recalled her own apology to Nono as she asked him to return with those three cacao fruits.

She never dreamed that the tiny mistake that she had already amended would have further consequences, and could even drag her to court. At the end of August, Minah was shocked over a subpoena by the Ajibarang Police to be examined for her theft of three cacao fruits. Furthermore, on mid October her case file was handed to the Purwokerto State Court.

Offended by Injustice

Amanah (70), one of Minah's older sisters, expressed her concern for her sisters fate. Especially since the judgement of the attorney for Minah's charge was exaggerated, mainly regarding the value of the loss. According to her, a kilogram of wet cacao currently was worth around Rp. 7,500. But the definition of wet cacao is the cacao seed that has been gouged out of the fruit, not still in the fruit. But in the prosecution it was mentioned that the loss was Rp. 30,000, or Rp. 10,000 per fruit.

In fact, from those three fruits, said Amanah, probably only 3 ounces of wet cacao could be gotten. If sold they were probably worth only Rp. 2,000. "People who corrupt in millions could walk away. But for picking three cacao fruits things could get this complicated," said Amanah, comparing her sister's predicament with the TV news she often watched.

Ahmad Firdaus, one of Minah's sons, said, that their family truly yearn for justice in the solution of his mother's case. According to him, the law is heartless, but the authority upholding the law must have a conscience. "We only hope that the judge would have a sense of justice for our parent," he said.

Wednesday, Minah was present to defend herself, without a lawyer. Since the start of her trial, she confessed, she has never had a lawyer to represent her. "I don't know what a lawyer is," she said plainly. The public relations of Purwokerto, Sudira, said that the panel of judges handling Minah's case had certainly offered a lawyer to Minah. "That was obligatory for the judge to say. But possibly Mrs. Minah refused," he said.

Regarding justice, Sudira said, it was up to the decision of the panel of judges. For that the panel of judges will consider all the facts on trial. "The result will depend entirely on the decision from the panel of judges," he said.

The Judges' Verdict

To attend court in Purwokerto, Minah said she could spend Rp. 50,000 for the bike-cab and public transport. Not to mention for her meals on the way. "Sometimes my son would pay for me," she said. Before delivering the verdict the panel of judges also asked Minah, who else gave her money to come to Purwokerto. "I was given Rp. 50,000 from the lady attorney, for transportation," said Minah as she nodded to the public prosecutor, Noor Hananiah.

Noor Haniah who heard the answer could only look straight into Minah's eyes.
Minah's elegy about the three cacao fruits she took touched the panel of judges. While reading the verdict, the head of the panel of judges, Muslich Bambang Luqmono had to choke back his tears. Muslich confessed that he was touched since his parents were farmers too. The panel of judges decided, Minah was sentenced for probational arrest for 1 month 15 days. So Minah didn't have to be imprisoned, provided that she didn't commit any other crime in 3 month's period.

The trial ended with cheers from the locals who attended. Minah's case can be an example that the resolution of legal issues in this country could still go without listening to conscience or a sense of true justice. (Madina Nusrat/C17-09) —

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