Sunday, September 25, 2011

Creating a Culture of Violence in Indonesia

Religious groups. Indigenous tribes. High school students. In Indonesia recently, everyone seems to agree on one thing: violence is the way to go.

Last week, a throng of SMAN 6 students attacked and injured several journalists outside their high school. The journos were there to cover a meeting regarding an earlier incident in which students assaulted a Trans 7 cameraman and took his videotape. The cameraman was recording a brawl between SMAN 6 and SMAN 70 students — another instance of violence.

Around the same time, a riot at a Batam shipyard, which was started after a worker was allegedly beaten up by a guard, resulted in a fire, a lot of damage and several injuries.

In Purwakarta, West Java, there was a conflict between religion and culture. On Sept. 18, a mob coming from a post-Idul Fitri prayer destroyed four wayang statues around the city, probably because the statues, which have been criticized in the past by hard-line Islamic groups for encouraging people to have “superstitious beliefs,” were seen as an affront to Islam.

A few weeks ago in Ambon, mass violence led to seven deaths. In a place with a history of religion-fueled clashes, rumors surrounding the death of an ojek driver led to a new bout of violence. The rumors, which were spread by SMS messages, were later proven to be unfounded as the driver had died in a traffic accident.

There has also been an upsurge, in Jakarta at least, of sexual violence. Earlier this month, a girl was gang-raped by four men on an public minibus. In August, Livia Pavita Soelistio, 21, was raped and murdered by an angkot driver; her body was found in a ditch days after. Also in August, a 19-year-old girl was raped inside a karaoke room in Jakarta.

Individually, these cases have separate causes. The destruction of the wayang statues shows a lack of tolerance among certain religious groups toward other cultures. The Ambon event is an example of violent chauvinism overriding any possibility of peacefully resolving a dispute. The same can be said of the SMAN 6 and SMAN 70 incidents, but those are really about the preservation of stupid traditions in the country’s high-school culture, whether it be tawuran (interschool brawling) or hazing and bullying during the orientation period.

But there remains a constant thread that binds them all together — the failure of authority, be it the high school principals, the shipyard owner or the police, to uphold order by enforcing the law.

Take the SMAN 6-SMAN 70 rivalry. At a high school, the adults in charge need to hold their students accountable. Every time students are involved in a brawl, authorities must take note of everyone involved, whether they participated directly or simply stood by and watched, then reprimand them heavily, expelling them if necessary. If the students do not learn the difference between right and wrong, they will have no respect for law and order.

The same kind of negligence is evident in the wayang statues case. Did the police assert their authority in any way? Or did they just remain silent?

Look at the governor’s own response to the incidents of sexual violence. Instead of promising to crack down on the troubling trend, Fauzi Bowo told women that if they didn’t want to get raped, they shouldn’t wear short skirts.

It is these kinds of mind-sets that have led to the country’s current state, one in which a lack of law enforcement has allowed widespread violence, corruption and all of the other wrongdoings one can think of. Armando Siahaan Jakarta Globe

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