Batam Riot & ‘Stupid Indonesians’

Apr 26th, 2010, in IM Posts, Opinion, by

An Indian expatriate is arrested for insulting the nation and sparking patriotic amok in Batam.


ADDING INJURIES TO INSULTS

Police have questioned 46 people – 38 Indian expatriates and eight local workers – in connection with a riot at PT Drydocks World Graha shipyard in Batam, Riau Islands. One of them, an Indian expatriate, was named a suspect as he was considered to be the "mastermind" of the riot after berating an Indonesian worker, for saying

Indonesians are stupid

or

Indonesia is stupid

depending on which report/translation is to be trusted.

Isn't that more than a little odd? This guy is the "mastermind"? Is not a mastermind a kind of George Soros Machiavellian figure who plans and manipulates immense strategies and conspiracies? Or is he nowadays just some poor Indian bloke who tells it like it is? As a benevolent sort who would not tend to 'berate' workers, but most of you must, from time to time, have been exasperated by the indolence and irresponsibility you see every day.

Batam Docks Riot

Not a specially Indonesian flaw, admittedly, but it does seem to be tolerated here more than elsewhere, examples being the crass ignorant discourtesy of many people in all walks of life who think nothing of arriving late for appointments, or those many workers who regard it as acceptable to sleep on their desks when the immediate supply of work runs out, instead of going to find more things to do. I even went to visit a guy in hospital and found the ward closed so the staff could have a rest!

Batam Riots

As I say, it's not unique to Indonesia, but there are enough idlers about to provoke a rebuke or even a 'berating' of those who don't do their stuff. Hardly makes the scolder a "mastermind"!

However....

Riau Islands Police chief Brigadier General Pudji Hartanto Iskandar said that the police would uphold the law in connection with the riot. Swift and effective legal process is necessary to help maintain a conducive investment climate, he said, adding that police would

also process workers who were found to have destroyed facilities at the shipyard.

So arresting an Indian superviser for a possibly harsh telling-off will "help maintain a conducive investment climate"?

Given what he went on to say, I'd have thought it might rather have a counter-productive effect.

Another police officer, Sr. Comr. Leonidas Braksan, said the expatriate named suspect in the incident would be charged under article 154 and 156 of the Criminal Law on enmity toward, and humiliating remarks against, the unitary state of Indonesia. A charge that carries punishment of up to seven years imprisonment.

Seven years? For a rude comment? Enmity towards 'the unitary state of Indonesia? What planet is this guy living on? If you want to arrest people for enmity towards Indonesia, there are many more obvious candidates, not least the entire membership of Hizbut Tahrir, who want this country swallowed up in a fanatic-ruled Sharia caliphate, a mere part of a giant loony-tune empire along with Malaysia and much of the Philippines. That's treason, I'd say, but even if you take a milder view, it's still enmity towards the unitary state of Indonesia.

Indians in Batam

The Indian worker, it appears, was still being treated at hospital as of Friday afternoon for serious wounds sustained during the fray.

So the "mastermind" is in hospital, facing serious charges, and the amok-runners will probably not even get fired, from what I've been able to glean from other reports in the same newspaper, viz.

A later report, "Don’t dismiss workers involved in protest" from Tempo, tells us that Sr. Comr. Leonidas Braksan warned shipbuilder PT Drydock World Graha against dismissing Indonesian workers involved in the riot

The company must introspect following the incident.

So what the heck does that mean? Police side with rioters, as some kind of quid quo pro for the para-police's recent confrontation with other rioters, in Jakarta? Hopefully not, but it does seem a silly thing to say.

Wiser, surely, to tell the amokkers to cool down and stop being so bloody sensitive if they want to keep their jobs!


46 Comments on “Batam Riot & ‘Stupid Indonesians’”

Pages: [1] 2 »

  1. avatar Dan_the_fish_importer says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 2:09 am

    Well I am no expert, (as if the experts really have all the answers anyway) but I would say this expate made a decision to work here and should follow the laws of the land. That being said, is not Indonensia a Democracy? Do you not have freedom of speech cluases in your constitution? I realize that even in my own country we cannot incite a riot with our speech (unless your a liberal, in which case a riot is just a “demonstration or protest”) I would say what this guy said would not cuase a riot, unless, like the guy said, “that Indonesians are stupid” is true. I do not believe that Indonesians are dumb, at least based on what I have read on this site. It would seem most posters on here basically have the same view points that the average westerner would have in comparable situations. This particular group may be below average IQ, or at least itching for a fight with the company, for some yet unknown (or media ingorned) grievences.

  2. avatar capekdeh says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Society Must Be Defended.

  3. avatar quixilva says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 8:38 am

    However errant these workers may have been, one cannot generalise and make derogatory comments about a nations intelligence quotient. It’s downright rude and in very bad taste. Im ashamed that a fellow Indian could be that ‘stupid’

  4. avatar neoyokohama says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 9:27 am

    I remember one of Peter Russel’s racist joke about how to raise a racist kids (check youtube). Being a racist is one thing, but insult one’s nationality is different. for 350 years VOC was in Indonesia, they succeeded, why, the divida-et-empera. If the “mastermind” insulted one of the ethnic group and befriend other ethnic group, he might safe his skin. Instead he spluttered “Indonesia” there where he got it wrong.

    I don’t know exactly when Indonesian became very sensitive about their patriotism. It may caused the Batik’ issue, or TKI issue, who knows, but its all good.

    And to top what Dan_the_fish_importer:

    One of the most expat (westerner) traits that i couldnt comprehend is their satire or sarcastic joke. you might be or might be not one, but you’re not being subtle about this matter.

    Anyway, we do have freedom of speech but like stated in this site, there are also “preventive” clauses such article 154 and 156 of the Criminal Law. The riots? that’s just a small, how to you say, Down-Payment. I would consider it small and the police force acted accordingly in a swift manner. I really hope it stays in Batam and not influencing other cities.

    In the other hand, i have to agree with you about other possibilities. But, saying “may be below average IQ” would be an insult to someone intelligence, i have to disagree with that. the last time someone insulted some people intelligence, all hell break loose.

  5. avatar ET says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Blasphemy laws, enmity and humiliation laws against the unitary state etc. etc.

    Insecurity, instead of pride, seems the common national denominator.

  6. avatar deta says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    People with confidence couldn’t care less if other people call them stupid or ‘has below average IQ’. The least they can do is proving that they’re not. This lack of confidence sometimes manifests itself in a form of ‘fake’ patriotism.

    Dan’s analysis could be right. There might have been some hidden anger among these workers (the cliché ‘economic and social jealousy’ can be the cause). And the word “stupid” is the only thing needed to trigger an amok.

  7. avatar Chris says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I have two thoughts I would like to share:

    1. Many wealthier Indonesian have stereotypes that poor people are poor because they are lazy and don’t work hard. As such, I don’t understand why they can’t handle somebody else saying the same thing. (Although I have heard there was a greater issue of better pay/conditions for expats at this company).

    2. I wonder how much coverage this is getting on the Indian news? (Is it similar to attacks on Indian university students in Australia?)

  8. avatar ET says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    An Indian’s biggest crime is to become a supervisor and more affluent than an Indonesian. The same goes for a Chinese.

  9. avatar BrotherMouzone says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    after berating an Indonesian worker, for saying

    Indonesians are stupid

    or

    Indonesia is stupid

    depending on which report/translation is to be trusted.

    Well, they certainly proved him wrong, didn’t they ;)

    Calling Indonesians stupid when you are a guest in their country and rely on them for the success of your business makes you a muppet, but not a criminal.

    I would be amazed if this actually goes to court.

  10. avatar capekdeh says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Obviously there are larger reasons for this outburst; the “stupid” comment was probably just the last straw. I wonder what the labor practices/conditions were at the company? Indonesians get sort of shat on a lot of times with regard to employment and pay. A friend of mine spent a few months training for a French-owned oil company in Kalimantan, and she was telling me that if you are a foreigner, you will be paid much much more than if you’re Indonesian – even with the same credentials. She was saying this matter-of-factly as if it were simply a codified policy of the company.

    Ross, if you’d have done some research on that angle, the article would have been better. I don’t see the point of just using this as an excuse to express your general disdain for Indonesians or their supposed laziness. Kind of poor taste..

  11. avatar Ross says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Capekdeh, I don’t disdain Indonesians, and in truth I like most of those I get to know.
    My arrows were aimed at the evident silliness of the police for calling the Indian a ‘mastermind.’ Clearly he isn’t, and to have a mastermind you need a plot of some sort, which I can’t quite see in this sorry saga.
    My posts are usually of a generalised nature, to provoke discussion. I often wait a few days to see if anybody else is going to start a debate on an issue I feel needs debated. I simply don’t have the time to do arcane Arie-Brand-style researches into subjects of all sorts. Nor do I ape his self-perceived role as fount of all knowledge. I learn a lot from IM and use a lot in my fiction.

    Having said all that, no country is above criticism. My comments on jam karet are based on real experience.
    When I worked in a paper-mill once, Paddy the Irishman and Mick the Pole got plenty of stick, as did certain others (with Scottish names)goaded for allegedly genetic wariness of spending needless moneys!
    Ethnic gibes are as much fun as any others, if they are witty. The Indian’s weren’t, in this case, but a seven year sentence would surely be going a bit far.

  12. avatar Odinius says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    BM said:

    Well, they certainly proved him wrong, didn’t they

    Indeed.

    I can understand why the worker in question was offended, but a mass of people rioting against people of a particular national background, who as individuals had nothing to do with the offending comment? Completely absurd.

    But there’s another issue here: since reformasi, the Indonesian government has typically responded to riots by seeking out and punishing the person whose actions enraged the crowd, but rarely those who participate in the riots. This sends a clear message that rioting is a legitimate and strategic way of getting what you want.

    Let me just put it out there that it’s not, in any way, shape or form.

  13. avatar David says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    whose actions enraged the crowd

    Incidentally I think the ‘mastermind’ word used by the Jakarta Post is just a bad translation of ‘dalang’, really they meant the cause.

  14. avatar Odinius says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Dalang does mean ‘mastermind,’ though. Or, at least, ‘person orchestrating the show.’

    But as I understand it, a ‘dalang’ implies that someone would have deliberately tried to provoke a riot for some shadowy reason.

  15. avatar David says:
    April 26th, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Yeah I just thought in the context it meant ’cause’ but normally yes it implies orchestration which only makes the use of the word in this case weirder.

  16. avatar Odinius says:
    April 27th, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Yes, but it’s in line with things people said about the riots (and other forms of mass violence) during 1994-2002. The Suharto days, and particular things like the Petrus killings, made people expect a dalang somewhere out there, manipulating people for his nefarious designs. In this worldview, it couldn’t possibly be that a bunch of poorly-paid, rowdy manual laborers overreacted to some douchebag manager’s slight, and in their infinite wisdom, decided the problem was said douchebag’s nationality, concluding that said problem should extend to anyone who looks or talks like him.

  17. avatar venna says:
    April 27th, 2010 at 12:20 am

    I agree with some, this must be more than just an insulting word. The Indian guy using word ‘indonesian’ rather than ‘you’ or ‘this worker’, sounds to me has tons of previous prejudice. And the workers that reacted in a large group rather than individual, showed a peak of an accumulative problems/angers.

    Have any of you heard how factory workers describe their expat bosses? Sometimes when I met someone working in a factory/worker, I ask him/her how the boss treated his workers. I don’t mean to be racist in this case, but you may find similar stereotype: taiwan, japan, india = rude, demanding, and cheap. america/western = demanding, but relatively nicer. The same with the bosses, they might also have specific description about indonesian workers.

    I might be wrong, but I want to show what’s behind these: if people are too consumed with bad prejudice, and if they found some of those prejudice are true/happened to them, they will react more emotionally. Especially the factory workers that have relatively lower education and very low wages, and deal with more than enough problems in their daily life. Don’t need to throw gasoline to crackling logs, if you know what I meant. What the Indian guy did was stupid enough, I hope he learns a lot from this.
    No comment about 7 yrs :D

  18. avatar diego says:
    April 27th, 2010 at 1:32 am

    All I can say, Aluang Anak Bayang was right about our head-bobbing curry-smelling brothers! He must be chuckling in his grave now.

  19. avatar quixilva says:
    April 27th, 2010 at 8:30 am

    @Righteous
    only cursory coverage in the indian media tho’ a lot of friends back home have been curious.
    Having duly condemned the idiocy of my indian brethren, this incident highlights an issue that has perplexed me during my 5 months in this country. Why do you guys pay your blue & white collar workers so much less than their expat counterparts? This kind of discrimination is bound to foster feelings of frustration & inferiority.

  20. avatar alistair cordon says:
    April 27th, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    “Why do you guys pay your blue & white collar workers so much less than their expat counterparts? This kind of discrimination is bound to foster feelings of frustration & inferiority”

    I think this is because the expats were recruited in the west with better income level than indonesia. You can’t expect them to be paid the same level as indonesians no?

    On the other hand, indonesians who are expats in the western countries subsequently receive income with a level equal to their western colleagues. I can attest to this personally.

    Multinationals come to indonesia for cheap labor. Don’t expect them to start paying indonesians western wages. That being said, insult to a country, while you’re in the said country is stupid.

    The indian should’ve said “You” are stupid instead of “Indonesians” are stupid…

  21. avatar Rambutan says:
    April 28th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    And again mob violence goes unpunished. Seems to be a trend lately. Because the Indian insulted Indonesia(ns) it is ok to burn cars and houses. Because we protect the grave of a revered Muslim figure it’s ok to kill Satpol PP. Because those bloody Christians don’t have a permit for their church it’s ok to burn it down. Because the homosexual sinners violate religious norms it’s ok to beat them up and drive them out of Surabaya…

    Sad times…

  22. avatar Odinius says:
    April 28th, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Agreed, Rambutan. Indonesia has consistently decided not to prosecute the perpetrators of mob violence over the past decade. That sends the message that it’s a legitimate way of solving disputes. If Indonesia does not get its act together in this regard, it could end up like India, with its endemic riots.

  23. avatar Latifolia says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Indonesia is eveolving its ‘democracy’, finding the best suited model for running the country, yet it is not finished.

    Developing democracy in a developing country, what else could we expect ?

  24. avatar Oigal says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Indonesia is eveolving its ‘democracy’, finding the best suited model for running the country, yet it is not finished.

    That is not an excuse for mob violence and inaction by the authorities. Unfortunately mob rule has become the norm rather than the exception and that is just …ST****

    As for the nonsense it is a racial or arrogance thing to pay Indonesians less that expats, the statement does just not stand up. Companies are about profit and shareholder value, expats are a killer to the bottomline. If at all possible companies would dump their expats as quickly as possible and use national, witness Singapore, Korea and to a lessor extent Philipines and Malyasia.

    Unfortunately, the generally abysmal state of the Indonesian education system and inability to grasp the fundamentals of promotion on merit means that Indonesia is at least two generations away from reducing expatriate numbers. Perhaps it is Stupid to always look to balme outsiders instead of addressing the fundament issues even if it means losing face.

  25. avatar deta says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Unfortunately, the generally abysmal state of the Indonesian education system and inability to grasp the fundamentals of promotion on merit means that Indonesia is at least two generations away from reducing expatriate numbers.

    While it can be true in some cases, in some others (I said some), hiring expats has nothing to do with education nor merit system, but rather the effort to uplift the image of the company and the mean to create better networks with foreign clients. And I have an objection with the word “inability”…….. “unwillingness” will be more appropriate. And it can last longer than two generations.

  26. avatar Oigal says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    hiring expats has nothing to do with education nor merit system, but rather the effort to uplift the image of the company

    Sorry disagree, (leaving aside insecure exceptions to the rule). Once again Singapore, Korea, Japan don’t see the need nor do multi nationals want to do it as it is a direct cost to their bottom line.

    Unfortunately, it is simply about a failure of the education system to the vast majority of Indonesians. It may make some feel better to same it’s about image rather than address the root cause. As for use of words inability or something nicer, putting a dress on the pig doesn’t change the nature of the pig.

  27. avatar deta says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Once again Singapore, Korea, Japan don’t see the need nor do multi nationals want to do it as it is a direct cost to their bottom line.

    Ya, but it was only until their companies reached the stage of stability and then being hit by global crisis they felt a need to dump the expats. And even if it is a heavy direct cost, but if for the mean time it can be compensated by the return, why not?

    Btw, “inability” = “stupidity”, and we Indonesians are a bit sensitive towards IQ related words these days.

  28. avatar Cargam says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Saying that somebody or a whole nation is stupid is obviously insulting and i understand people got upset about that. Legitimating violence is however not the answer and makes things worse, until . Protest is ok, but when it get violent and destructive, it’s worse then the cause.. Seven year jail for something like this is stupid..

  29. avatar Odinius says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Cargam said:

    Protest is ok, but when it get violent and destructive, it’s worse then the cause

    My thoughts exactly.

  30. avatar sputjam says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Singaporeans are rejoicing that the indonesians have found a way to deal with indian expatriates.

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