Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dateline Jakarta: Sex, Hypocrisy and Video Tapes

I see nothing wrong with people changing their minds about an important issue. Nobody’s perfect and a bit of self-reflection and calm, cool reasoning is healthy. So in that spirit, I’d like to announce that I have changed my mind and am ready to be an enthusiastic supporter of Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring’s antipornography campaign.

However, I do have one condition: Tifatul must stop trying to filter Internet pornography coming into Indonesia, and instead block the pornographic movies and pictures starring Indonesian lawmakers and their mistresses that are being exported into cyberspace. Indonesia isn’t being attacked by evil Western pornographic movie producers. No sir. Indonesia is producing evil pornography and exporting it to the world via the Internet, burning the retinas of school children as far away as Peru and turning the normally law-abiding citizens of Malta into violent sex maniacs.

The latest addition to the “DPR: House of Porn” series allegedly stars Anis Matta, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and secretary general of Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). You remember them, right? The ultra-moral, conservative Muslim political party that once campaigned to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state under Shariah law?

The PKS was a staunch supporter of the 2008 Anti-Pornography Law and 2008 Information and Electronic Transaction Law (ITE). Interestingly, Anis could be prosecuted under both if a sex video of a couple that was posted on Twitter on Feb. 28 turns out to be him. Oh, the irony.

In case you’ve forgotten, the PKS supported a clause in an early draft of the antipornography bill that would imprison Indonesians for up to 10 years for kissing in public. How much time do you think Anis would get if it’s proven that it was him on the video tape groping an unknown woman in a bathtub?

In all fairness, Anis has categorically denied that it was him in the video, and he claims its posting was part of a conspiracy by a Twitter user against the PKS. On the other hand, if it is indeed Anis, then the Twitter user is doing no more than highlighting a possible criminal act, not to mention the stunning hypocrisy of lawmakers within the House.

Let us not forget former Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Max Moein, who took semi-nude photos of himself with his young secretary, which later circulated on the Internet. Max is now in jail awaiting trial for corruption. Then there was former Golkar Party lawmaker Yahya Zaini, who chaired the religious affairs committee no less, resigning in 2006 after appearing on a sex tape with a dangdut singer.

Only a state institution as brazenly corrupt as the DPR could simultaneously attempt to be Indonesia’s morality police.

And speaking of the police, what’s the status of the investigation into Anis and the sex video, anyway? The National Police have been pretty quiet since announcing last week they would launch an investigation. Why aren’t they acting with the same vigor displayed against pop star Nazril “Ariel” Irham, including threatening to toss his girlfriend, Luna Maya, into jail and breaking out a forgotten 60-year-old emergency law just to get a case? Are they also going to investigate Anis for polygamy, given that he reportedly has three wives, to make sure the unions are legal?

Where is President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono? Why hasn’t he expressed public outrage about how the sex video made Indonesia look bad internationally? Why hasn’t he personally ordered the police to go after Anis, as he did in the case of Ariel, saying at that time: “The law must be upheld”? And what about Tifatul, who also publicly supported prosecuting Ariel? Is he using his position as information minister to protect one of his party bosses from prosecution, or is he just too busy preparing for his next verbal tirade against homosexuals and AIDS victims?

And speaking of hypocrisy, where in the world is the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI)? The boys in white had spent months protesting, lobbying, rallying and finally threatening to burn down a courthouse in Bandung unless Ariel was put away. Today they’re neither in front of the House complex, demanding Anis’s head, nor blocking the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, burning Anis in effigy. Why haven’t they filed a criminal complaint against with the National Police, like they did against Playboy Indonesia magazine?

I have my theories, which began when then-Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Indonesia in 2007. The Russian Army had killed tens of thousands of Muslims in Chechnya, but there wasn’t a single FPI protestor on the street when Putin arrived.

I called up FPI headquarters to ask why, given that they were out in full force when then US President George W. Bush visited Indonesia the year before. After first demanding money for an interview, an FPI spokesman on the line said they didn’t protest Putin because he didn’t draw enough international media coverage.

So the FPI is ready to defend Islam to the death only when the cameras are rolling? And is it OK for other “believers” to violate the Anti-Pornography Law as long as they support turning Indonesia into an Islamic state?

Actually, I wish it were as simple as that. The fact that the group is openly supporting terrorist suspect Abu Bakar Bashir during his ongoing trial, and one senior FPI official is part of his defense team, is extremely disturbing. Registered hard-line radical groups such as Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, which is Bashir’s outfit, have members engaging in terrorist activities against the Indonesian state, according to police.

There is now a blurred line between what is a terrorist group, such as Jemaah Islamiyah, and what is a registered legal religious group, like FPI and JAT. It’s certainly no secret that the FPI wants to replace Indonesia’s constitutional government with an Islamic state, and last month they even threatened to violently overthrow Yudhoyono’s government. Their members have been implicated in bloody religious attacks against the Ahmadiyah sect in West Java last month in which three people were brutally killed.

To date, the Yudhoyono administration and the National Police have done nothing to stop the FPI. They did, however, do a lot to prosecute and imprison Ariel over his sex tape scandal. If the president and National Police want to continue to ignore the grave and growing threat of FPI, that is their call.

But if they also fail to thoroughly and impartially investigate Anis’s alleged appearance in the Twitter sex video, then they have completely lost the plot.

During an appearance on Tuesday with visiting Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Yudhoyono asserted that Southeast Asia “must not become a safe haven for terrorism.” The question remains whether Indonesia’s violent religious groups, not to mention its publicly elected porno stars, will keep their respective safe havens. By Joe Cochrane contributing editor of the Jakarta Globe.

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