32 Children Died In Indonesia Stadium Disaster, Officials Reveal

This picture taken on October 1, 2022 shows security personnel (lower) on the pitch after a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java. AFP

 

At least 32 children died in Indonesia’s stadium crush, an official said Monday as police moved to punish those responsible for one of the deadliest disasters in football history.

The tragedy on Saturday night in the city of Malang saw a total of 125 people killed and 323 others injured after officers fired tear gas in a packed stadium to quell a pitch invasion, triggering a stampede.

Dozens of children caught in the chaos lost their lives, an official at the women’s empowerment and child protection ministry told AFP.

“From the latest data we received, out of 125 people who died in the accident, 32 of them were children, with the youngest being a toddler age three or four,” said Nahar, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name.

As anger mounted against police, Indonesia’s chief security minister Mahfud MD announced a task force had been formed to investigate and called for those responsible to be punished.

“We asked (police) to unveil who has perpetrated the crimes and take action against them and we also hope the national police will evaluate their security procedures,” he said in a broadcast statement.

The police force sacked its local chief in Malang within hours of the minister’s speech.

“Tonight the national police chief has made a decision to relieve Malang police chief Ferli Hidayat from his duty and replace him,” national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told a press conference.

East Java police also suspended nine officers on the instruction of the national police force, he said, without providing details about their role in the tragedy.

‘We want accountability’

Saturday’s incident unfolded when fans of home team Arema FC stormed the pitch at the Kanjuruhan stadium after their loss 3-2 to bitter rivals Persebaya Surabaya.

Police responded by launching tear gas into packed terraces, prompting spectators to rush en masse to small gates where many were trampled or suffocated, according to witnesses.

“It felt like people were packed into a small tube with a tiny hole, and then they were smoked,” said 29-year-old spectator Ahmad Rizal Habibi, who escaped before the crush.

Police described the incident as a riot and said two officers were killed, but survivors accuse them of overreacting and causing the deaths of scores of spectators.

“One of our messages is for the authorities to investigate this thoroughly. And we want accountability. Who is to blame?” said 25-year-old Malang resident Andika, who declined to give his last name.

“We want justice for our fallen supporters.”

One witness outside the stadium said police refused to help when the crush happened.

“The place looked like a mass cemetery. Women and children were piling on top of one another,” Eko Prianto, 39, told AFP.

“I ran to the police or soldier to help. There were no medics in sight. The police did not help and the soldier threatened to beat me.”

‘Full responsibility’

In a tearful live address, Arema FC president Gilang Widya Pramana apologised for the tragedy.

“I, as the president of Arema FC, will take full responsibility for the incident that occurred,” he said.

The Arema squad visited the site of the crush on Monday wearing black shirts to pay their respects and lay flowers before gathering on the pitch to pray for victims.

Newspaper Kompas published a black front page with the word “tragedy” and a stadium bearing the names of victims.

Graffiti daubed on the walls of the venue revealed bubbling anger towards authorities.

“My siblings were killed. Investigate thoroughly,” read one message scrawled on the stadium’s shutters, accompanied by a black ribbon and the date of the disaster.

“ACAB”, an acronym for “all cops are bastards”, was sprayed on another wall.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered compensation for families of the victims to the tune of 50 million rupiah ($3,200) each, a minister said on Monday.

He has also suspended football matches until security improves and announced a probe.

Rights groups said officers should be held accountable for using tear gas in a confined area.

Mahfud said the task force for the investigation would consist of government and football officials, academics and members of the media.

He said the probe would be “concluded in the next two or three weeks”.

But Human Rights Watch said the police and Indonesia’s football association “may be tempted to downplay or undermine full accountability for officials”.

‘A dark day’

Football fan violence is an enduring problem in Indonesia.

Witnesses say supporters of the home team invaded the pitch after their loss to Persebaya Surabaya.

Persebaya Surabaya fans were barred from the game, due to the fear of violence.

Mahfud said 42,000 tickets had been allocated for 38,000 seats.

After the stampede, Arema fans threw rocks at officers and torched vehicles including a police truck on the streets of Malang, according to police.

FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino called the tragedy a “dark day” for football.

The world governing body’s safety guidelines prohibit the use of crowd control gas by police or stewards at pitchside.

32 Children Died In Indonesia Stadium Stampede, Says Authorities

In this picture taken on October 1, 2022, a group of people carry a man after a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java. At least 127 people died at a football stadium in Indonesia late on October 1 when fans invaded the pitch and police responded with tear gas, triggering a stampede, officials said. (Photo by AFP)

 

At least 32 children died in the Indonesia stadium stampede that killed 125 people, an official at the women’s empowerment and child protection ministry told AFP Monday.

“From the latest data we received, out of 125 people who died in the accident, 32 of them were children, with the youngest being a toddler age three or four,” said Nahar, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name.

More to follow …

Indonesia Authorities Confirm At Least 125 Deaths In Football Stadium Stampede

In this picture taken on October 1, 2022, a group of people carry a man after a football match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java. At least 127 people died at a football stadium in Indonesia late on October 1 when fans invaded the pitch and police responded with tear gas, triggering a stampede, officials said. (Photo by AFP)

 

The death toll from an Indonesian football riot that turned into a stampede was revised down to 125 on Sunday due to double counting, an official told local media.

“Today the death toll is 125. 124 have been identified and one has not. Some names were recorded twice because they had been referred to another hospital and were written down again,” East Java deputy governor Emil Dardak told broadcaster Metro TV, citing data collected by local police from 10 hospitals.

The tragedy on Saturday night in the city of Malang, which also left 180 injured, was one of the world’s deadliest sporting stadium disasters.

Arema FC supporters at the Kanjuruhan stadium stormed the pitch after their team lost 3-2 to the visiting team and bitter rivals, Persebaya Surabaya.

Police, who described the unrest as “riots”, said they tried to force fans to return to the stands and fired tear gas after two officers were killed.

Many of the victims were trampled or choked to death, according to police.

At least 125 people died, East Java deputy governor Emil Dardak told broadcaster Metro TV on Sunday evening, significantly lowering officials’ earlier death toll of 174 because of double counting.

“124 have been identified and one has not. Some names were recorded twice because they had been referred to another hospital and were written down again,” he said, citing data collected by local police from 10 hospitals.

Survivors described panicking spectators in a packed crowd as tear gas rained down on them.

“Officers fired tear gas, and automatically people were rushing to come out, pushing each other and it caused many victims,” 43-year-old spectator Doni, who declined to give his last name, told AFP.

“Nothing was happening, there was no riot. I don’t know what the issue was, they suddenly fired tear gas. That’s what shocked me, didn’t they think about kids, women?”

President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation into the tragedy, a safety review into all football matches and directed the country’s football association to suspend all matches until “security improvements” were completed.

“I deeply regret this tragedy and I hope this football tragedy will be the last in our country,” Widodo said.

A hospital director told local TV that one of the victims was five years old.

Images taken from inside the stadium during the stampede showed police firing huge amounts of tear gas and people clambering over fences.

Amnesty International called for an investigation into why tear gas was deployed in a confined space.

“Tear gas should only be used to disperse crowds when widespread violence has occurred and when other methods have failed. People must be warned that tear gas will be used and allowed to disperse,” it said in a statement.

People carried injured spectators through the chaos and survivors lugged lifeless bodies out of the stadium.

“It was so terrifying, so shocking,” 22-year-old survivor Sam Gilang, who lost three friends in the crush, told AFP.

“People were pushing each other and… many were trampled on their way to the exit gate. My eyes were burning because of the tear gas. I, fortunately, managed to climb up the fence and survived,” he said.

– Enduring violence –

This picture shows torched vehicles outside Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java on October 2, 2022. At least 127 people were killed when angry fans invaded a football pitch after a match between Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya in Malang, East Java in Indonesia late on October 1, police said. (Photo by PUTRI / AFP)

 

Video footage circulating on social media showed people shouting obscenities at police, who were holding riot shields and wielding batons.

Torched vehicles, including a police truck, littered the streets outside the stadium on Sunday morning. Police said 13 vehicles in total were damaged.

The stadium holds 42,000 people and authorities said it was a sell-out. Police said 3,000 people stormed the pitch.

Fan violence is an enduring problem in Indonesia, where deep rivalries have previously turned into deadly confrontations.

Arema FC and Persebaya Surabaya are longtime rivals.

Persebaya Surabaya fans were not allowed to buy tickets for the game due to fears of violence.

However, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Mahfud MD, said organisers ignored the recommendation of authorities to hold the match in the afternoon instead of the evening.

And he said the government had recommended only 38,000 tickets be printed, but there was instead a sell-out crowd of 42,000.

– ‘Take some measures’ –

Relatives of victims wait outside a hospital in Malang, East Java on October 2, 2022. At least 174 people died at an Indonesian football stadium when thousands of angry home fans invaded the pitch and police responded with tear gas that triggered a stampede, authorities said on October 2. (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP)

 

Before Widodo’s announcement, the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) apologised to victims’ families and suspended football matches of Indonesia’s top league, BRI Liga 1, for one week.

It also banned Arema FC from hosting home games for the rest of the season.

The association had communicated with FIFA about the stampede and hopes to avoid sanctions from the world football governing body, PSSI secretary general Yunus Yussi told a press conference.

On why police used tear gas inside the stadium, he said they “had to take some measures to anticipate” spectators entering the pitch.

The Asian Football Confederation, the governing body for football in the region, expressed its regret at the loss of lives in the disaster.

Indonesia is to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in May at six stadiums across the country. The Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang is not included in that list.

It is also bidding to replace China as host of the 2023 Asian Cup alongside South Korea and Qatar, with a decision due later this month.

Other stadium disasters include a 1989 crush in the stands at Britain’s Hillsborough Stadium, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans, and the 2012 Port Said stadium tragedy in Egypt where 74 people died in clashes.

In 1964, 320 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured during a stampede at a Peru-Argentina Olympic qualifier at Lima’s National Stadium.

-AFP

Nestle Drops Contested Indonesian Palm Oil Supplier

Indonesian workers transfer harvested palm fruits to a transport truck at a plantation in Pekanbaru. The country’s president Joko Widodo has announced a total ban for outbound shipments of palm oil © Wahyudi/AFP/Getty Images

 

 

Swiss food giant Nestle said Friday it would stop purchasing palm oil from Astra Agro Lestari (AAL), an Indonesian firm whose farming practices have come under fire from activists.

Nestle, known for its KitKat chocolate bars and Nespresso coffee capsules, said it had instructed its direct suppliers to stop purchases from three AAL-linked entities.

The decision follows an investigation conducted earlier this year by EcoNusantara, an independent Indonesian organisation dedicated to the protection of forests and the climate, the company told AFP, confirming information reported by Bloomberg News.

The investigation discovered land seizures, environmental damage and human rights violations by the three AAL subsidiaries.

“As part of our approach to sustainable palm oil sourcing, we have been closely monitoring the situation in the region, and the three Astra Agro Lestari entities in question have been on our grievance list for several months,” Nestle said in a statement.

The process of switching suppliers will likely take at least several weeks, but Nestle said it aims to have the process completed by the end of the year.

In an open letter last week, representatives of indigenous populations and civil society organisations called on global food processors to stop purchasing palm oil from the AAL firms.

The appeal was addressed in particular to Procter & Gamble, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mondelez, Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo et Nestle.

“Nestle’s suspension of AAL from its supply chain is an important first step toward ensuring accountability for ongoing human rights violations,” said activist group Friends of the Earth.

“Nestle and other multibillion-dollar consumer giants — who for years have pledged to protect forests and respect human rights — cannot simply walk away from these abuses,” it said.

Friends of the Earth said these firms now have an opportunity to ensure grievances are redressed and conflicts resolved.

It also noted that numerous European firms continue to buy palm oil from AAL.

Singapore Denies Entry To ‘Extremist’ Indonesian Preacher

Singapore has barred the entry of Indonesian Muslim preacher Abdul Somad Batubara, citing the preacher’s “extremist and segregationist teachings.”

 

 

A prominent Muslim preacher from Indonesia has been denied entry to Singapore over extremist teachings, officials said, sparking criticism from a top Islamic body in his homeland.  

Singapore is majority ethnic Chinese but also home to several minority groups, including Muslims, and authorities take a hard line against anyone they believe could inflame tensions between different communities.

Abdul Somad Batubara arrived in Singapore on Monday along with six travel companions on a ferry from the neighbouring Indonesian island of Batam.

But the group was denied entry after officials interviewed Somad, and sent back to Batam on the same day.

“Somad has been known to preach extremist and segregationist teachings, which are unacceptable in Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious society,” the interior ministry said in a statement late Tuesday.

He sought to legitimise suicide bombings in his preachings, and also publicly referred to non-Muslims as infidels, the ministry said.

“While Somad had attempted to enter Singapore ostensibly for a social visit, the Singapore government takes a serious view of any persons who advocate violence and/or espouse extremist and segregationist teachings,” it added.

Somad — who has a large social media following in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country — said on YouTube that officials gave him no explanation as to why he was denied entry.

“You have to explain to our communities, why did your country, why did your government reject us?” he said.

Indonesia’s Ulema Council, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, reacted angrily to the incident.

“What is it with Singapore? Did he ever hurt Singapore? I don’t think so,” Sudarnoto Abdul Hakim, a council official, told CNN Indonesia.

The Indonesian embassy in Singapore has also contacted the city-state’s foreign ministry to seek further details.

Indonesia Tourist Bus Crash Kills 14

Medical workers load a victim’s body into a vehicle after a bus crash, to transport to their family at a hospital in Mojokerto on May 16, 2022.  (Photo by AFP)

 

At least 14 people were killed and more than a dozen others injured when a bus carrying domestic tourists crashed into an advertising sign in Indonesia’s East Java province early on Monday, police said.

The bus — which was carrying 31 passengers, the driver and a crew member — hit the pole and then rolled over on a toll road connecting the town of Mojokerto to the country’s second city, Surabaya.

The victims were from Benowo, a village near Surabaya, and were returning home after a long weekend at popular holiday destination Dieng Plateau, about 400 kilometres away in Central Java, local official Ridwan Mubarun told Indonesian television station Metro TV.

“Fourteen people have died and 19 others sustained minor and serious injuries,” Mojokerto police chief Rofiq Ripto Himawan told reporters on Monday, adding that authorities were still investigating the cause of the accident.

Earlier, a spokesman for the East Java police blamed the crash on driver error.

“This accident was caused by human error, the driver was exhaused or tired,” Dirmanto, who goes by a single name, told Metro TV.

A police report stated that both weather and traffic were clear when the accident occurred on Monday morning.

The driver survived and has been taken to a hospital for his injuries, the police report said.

Deadly traffic accidents are common in Indonesia, where vehicles are often old or poorly maintained and road rules are routinely ignored.

Last month, 16 people were killed when a truck carrying miners crashed into a cliff in West Papua province, police said.

In February, 13 people died and dozens more were injured after a tour bus carrying factory workers to a popular beach holiday tipped over and crashed on Java island, according to police.

Indonesia’s Palm Oil Export Ban Heats Up Vegetable Oil Market

A worker weighs palm oil seed in Pekanbaru, Riau province on April 28, 2022. Wahyudi / AFP

 

Indonesia’s decision to suspend palm oil exports in the face of domestic shortages has pushed vegetable oil prices to new highs, further tightening a market already on edge due to the war in Ukraine and global warming.

The prices of palm, soybean, European rapeseed and even its Canadian GMO counterpart, canola oil, have reached historic highs following Indonesia’s announcement on Wednesday.

“We already had problems with soybeans in South America, with canola in Canada,” said Philippe Chalmin, an economics professor at Paris-Dauphine University in France, stating that both crops had been severely affected by extended droughts.

Then came devastation for the “sunflowers in Ukraine” due to Russia’s destructive invasion, he added.

Palm oil is the most consumed vegetable oil in the world, and Indonesia accounts for 35 percent of global exports, according to James Fry, chairman of LMC consulting firm.

READ ALSO: Five Rescued From China Building Collapse

Indonesia’s export ban is designed to bring down prices in the country and limit shortages, according to authorities.

But Chalmin said the move “comes at the worst time.”

“The rise in prices dates back to last year already and it is exacerbated by the Ukrainian conflict,” he explained.

Rich Nelson of the agricultural market research and trading firm Allendale said “the industry believes it’ll last maybe for one month, perhaps two.”

But in the meantime, prices are skyrocketing in a market that was “already accelerated,” he said.

Unlike other oilseeds, palm fruit does not keep once picked and has to be processed immediately, Fry said.

Indonesia’s palm oil storage system, which was already holding substantial reserves, is now under further stress, Fry said.

Vicious Cycle

Even though the price of vegetable oil, in addition to multiple other agricultural commodities, has been rising for months, demand has yet to slow.

“It’s difficult to ration demand for food commodities with higher prices,” said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at StoneX Financial.

Palm oil, which is used heavily in processed food such as instant noodles and baked goods, is also present in other consumer products, such as personal care items and cosmetics.

“Eventually it will trickle down,” said Paul Desert-Cazenave of consulting firm Grainbow, “but it’s still too early to measure price increases to consumers.”

In the short term, the only oilseed that might be able to provide some relief on the vegetable oil market is the soybean.

The United States and Brazil, the world’s two top soybean exporters, still have available stock, even though more shipments from the countries would only have a marginal impact on edible oil prices.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last month that it expects soybean acreage to increase more than 4 percent from last year, while corn would shrink by a comparable amount.

The world’s top rapeseed exporter, Canada, meanwhile said Tuesday that it expected a seven percent decline in acreage devoted to the GMO rapeseeds used in canola oil.

Analysts and economists say they see a need for public policy concerning the food crisis since, in addition to food, vegetable oils are also widely used in biofuels.

Based on the current crisis “we’re going to see more pressure on countries to reduce their biodiesel blending mandates, and renewable diesel mandates,” Suderman said.

“That’s going to take time,” he warned, “but that’s ultimately where you’re going to get your biggest demand destruction.”

Europe passed a directive in 2018 excluding palm oil from renewable energy targets by 2030. Some of the bloc’s countries, including France, have already stopped using it.

Despite the current turmoil, Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s second-largest exporters, have maintained their respective programs blending palm oil in their biofuels.

To make matters worse, many of the major palm oil importers, mainly Egypt, Bangladesh and Pakistan, have seen their currencies depreciate significantly in recent months, said Michael Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics and Consulting.

Some major oilseed exporters such as the United States and Brazil have, meanwhile, experienced the opposite, with the dollar reaching multi-year highs.

“This is kind of the worst-case scenario starting to develop,” said Zuzolo.

Putting importers in a “negative feedback loop where they’re going to have more and more difficulty keeping supplies ample, that’s the potential tragedy we’re walking ourselves into.”

Indonesia Suspends All Exports Of Palm Oil


A vendor sells packages of vegetable oil at a traditional market in Medan on April 28, 2022. ANDI / AFP

 

Indonesia began imposing a complete ban on palm oil exports Thursday, as the world’s largest producer of the commodity risked destabilising a global vegetable oil market already hitting peak prices.

The archipelago nation is facing a shortage of domestic supplies of cooking oil and soaring prices, with consumers in several cities having to wait for hours in front of distribution centres to buy the essential commodity at subsidised rates.

Authorities in Southeast Asia’s most populous country fear the scarcity and rising costs could provoke social tensions and have moved to secure supplies of the product, which is used in a range of goods such as chocolate spreads and cosmetics.

In a last-minute reversal late Wednesday, they clarified the embargo would include all exports of the oilseed and not only products intended for edible oils, as indicated a day earlier.

READ ALSORussia Cuts Gas Supplies To Poland, Bulgaria

A vendor packs vegetable oil at a traditional market in Medan on April 28, 2022. ANDI / AFP

 

“All products,” including crude palm oil, “are covered by the Ministry of Trade regulation and will be enforced,” said Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto.

President Joko Widodo said supplying the country’s 270 million residents was the “highest priority” of his government.

“As the world’s largest palm oil producer, it is ironic that we are having difficulties getting cooking oil,” he said.

Indonesia produces about 60 percent of the world’s palm oil, with one-third consumed by its domestic market. India, China, the European Union and Pakistan are among its major export customers.

The months-long shortage has been exacerbated by poor regulation and producers who are reluctant to sell at home because high international prices have made exports more profitable.

Jakarta plans to resume exports when the price of bulk cooking oil in local markets has fallen to 14,000 rupiah (97 cents) per litre, having rocketed 70 percent in recent weeks to 26,000 rupiah ($1.80).

Vegetable oils are among a number of staple food items that have seen prices hit record highs in recent weeks, following Russia’s invasion of agricultural powerhouse Ukraine, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

AFP

Indonesia Clarifies Its Palm Oil Export Ban

A file photo used to illustrate the story.

 

Indonesia has clarified a ban on palm oil exports announced last week, saying it would only prohibit shipments used for cooking oil, just as traders prepare for the embargo to kick in on Thursday.

The world’s top producer of the commodity — which is used in a range of goods including chocolate spreads and cosmetics — sent prices soaring on international markets with the surprise announcement, as officials look to protect domestic supplies of cooking oil.

The ban covers refined, bleached and deodorised palm oil (RBD), which is a key ingredient in cooking oil, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said in a briefing late Tuesday.

Crude palm oil shipments will not be affected.

Jakarta will resume exports when the price of the bulk cooking oil in the local markets has fallen to 14,000 rupiah (97 cents) per litre, having rocketed 70 percent in recent weeks to 26,000 rupiah now.

READ ALSO: Russia Cuts Gas Supplies To Poland, Bulgaria

“We will evaluate the policy regarding the export ban regularly, this is a regulatory sandbox that will be adjusted according to the development of the situation,” Hartarto said.

Refined palm oil accounted for less than half the country’s 34.2 million tonnes of palm oil exports last year, according to figures from the Indonesian Palm Oil Association.

Despite being the world’s biggest producer, the country has been facing a cooking oil shortage for months because of poor regulation and producers reluctant to sell at home when exports were more profitable due to high prices on world markets.

Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in Indonesia. Vegetable oils are among a number of staple food items that have seen prices hit record highs in recent weeks following Russia’s invasion of agricultural powerhouse Ukraine, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

AFP

Dozens Rescued After Indonesian Boat Carrying Migrants Sinks

This handout photo from the Search and Rescue (SAR) team and taken on March 19, 2022, and released on March 20, 2022 shows migrants workers sitting on a boat during a rescue operation at sea in North Sumatra water where two people died and 26 others are missing after a ferry carrying dozens of migrants sank off the coast of Indonesia.
Handout / SEARCH AND RESCUE / AFP

 

 

Twenty-six passengers reported missing when a fishing boat carrying undocumented migrant workers sank off the coast of Indonesia have been found alive, some after drifting for two days, officials said Monday.

Two of the vessel’s 86 passengers, who were seeking work in neighbouring Malaysia, were killed when it capsized Saturday, said Rully Ramadhiansyah, spokesman for the Belawan naval base on Sumatra island.

The captain and three crew members all survived.

“We found some of the passengers tightly holding to floats, jerry cans and other floating objects to survive in the ocean,” Ramadhiansyah told AFP.

“Some others were rescued by a fishing boat”.

The wooden vessel sank off North Sumatra province near the coastal area of Tanjung Api as it attempted to sail through an unguarded route to Malaysia.

It sprang a leak soon after departing before then being hit by strong waves and capsizing.

Officials had previously said there were 89 people on board at the time of the sinking but later revised it to 90 following testimony from the boat’s captain.

Relatively affluent Malaysia is home to millions of migrants from poorer parts of Asia, many of them undocumented, working in industries including construction and agriculture.

Indonesians illegally seeking work in neighbouring Malaysia often risk dangerous sea crossings, and accidents are common due to bad weather and poor safety measures.

In January, six Indonesian women drowned off the coast of Malaysia when their boat sank during a suspected attempt to enter the country illegally.

A month earlier, 21 Indonesian migrants also died when their boat capsized.

Bali Welcomes Back Tourists With First International Flight

Travellers walk through the international arrivals hall at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Tuban near Denpasar on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali on February 16, 2022, after a Singapore Airlines flight arrived following a nearly two-year break due to Covid-19. (Photo by SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP)

 

Bali began a tentative re-opening to foreign tourists on Wednesday with the first international passenger flight to the Indonesian holiday island in nearly two years.

The resumption of flights comes as the Southeast Asian archipelago loosens quarantine rules even as it battles a surge in Covid cases fuelled by the Omicron variant.

A Singapore Airlines plane carrying 109 international travellers and 47 Indonesians landed in Bali on Wednesday, the island’s governor Wayan Koster told a press conference.

The foreign visitors must stay in a quarantine bubble at one of 27 designated hotels for three to seven days, depending on the number of vaccine doses received, according to new nationwide rules published Wednesday.

“I hope that in early March, there will be no more quarantine obligation for tourists as long as they comply with health protocol requirements and show negative test results on departure and arrival,” the governor said.

Arriving at Bali airport, Australian holidaymaker James said the re-opening was a “great sign” for tourism.

Swiss national Manuela, a frequent visitor to Bali before the pandemic, said she had been eagerly anticipating the first flight to the “Island of the Gods”.

“Two years not going to Bali is a long time. After my friend wrote me that Bali would open, I immediately looked for the first flight,” she said.

Singapore Airlines said it will operate daily flights between the city-state and Bali to meet “good demand”.

Other airlines including Australia-based Jetstar Airways could resume flights to the holiday hotspot as early as next month, Bali’s governor added.

“We are aware of the increasing and fluctuating Omicron variant cases, but as long as we are strictly implementing health protocols, we should not be worried,” said Bali Hotel and Restaurant Association chair Rai Wijaya.

Bali authorities trialled a limited re-opening in October for a group of select countries but the response was tepid due to strict quarantine requirements and the absence of direct flights.

Indonesia reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.

Daily infections topped 57,000, according to the government’s Covid-19 taskforce, surpassing the previous peak in July last year during the country’s Delta wave.

Elsewhere in the region, the Philippines re-opened for international tourism last week while Vietnam is planning to welcome back foreign tourists from March 15.

Indonesia Teacher Sentenced To Life In Prison For Rape Of 13 Students

 

Indonesia teacher gets life in prison for rape of 13 students
Indonesian teacher Herry Wirawan (C) is escorted prior to his trial at a court in Bandung, West Java on February 15, 2022, where he was later sentenced to life in prison for the rape of 13 students, all minors. TIMUR MATAHARI / AFt

 

An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced a teacher to life in prison for the rape of 13 students, in a case that has drawn national attention to sexual abuse in some of the country’s religious boarding schools.

Herry Wirawan, 36, was found guilty of raping 13 female students — all minors — and impregnating at least eight of them by Bandung district court in West Java.

The revelations sparked national outrage, with a senior government official saying President Joko Widodo has paid special attention to the case.

The pattern of abuse came to light when the family of a female student reported Wirawan to the police for raping and impregnating their teenage daughter last year.

During the trial, it was revealed he had raped the children — many from poor families attending the school on scholarships — over five years.

Prosecutors requested chemical castration and the death penalty for the accused, who asked the judge for leniency to allow him to raise his children.

Wirawan arrived in court in handcuffs and kept his head down as judge Yohannes Purnomo Suryo Adi sentenced him to life in prison.

The court said restitution for the victims will be paid by the government.

The chairman of Indonesia’s Child Protection Commission said Tuesday’s verdict meant “justice for the victims has been served”.

 

Indonesia teacher gets life in prison for rape of 13 students
Indonesian teacher Herry Wirawan (C) attends his trial at a court in Bandung, West Java on February 15, 2022, where he was later sentenced to life in prison for the rape of 13 students, all minors. TIMUR MATAHARI / AFP

‘There will be more’

But a family member of one of the victims told AFP he was “very disappointed” that Wirawan did not receive a harsher sentence and warned that leniency would embolden other abusers.

“This wound will never be healed as long as we live, maybe until we die. The pain we are feeling is indescribable. We don’t feel heard,” said Hidmat Dijaya, an uncle of one of the 13 victims.

“If the sentence is lenient like this, there will be more Islamic teachers who will abuse children,” he added.

“We will let God as the highest judge punish him. We can only pray because those judges failed to represent our hurt and pain.”

More than 25,000 Islamic boarding schools — known as “pesantren” — are dotted across Indonesia, with nearly five million students living and studying in the dorms.

Teaching is often regimented — students attend regular classes during the day and continue Koranic studies and Islamic teachings into the evening.

The Bandung rape case has shone a spotlight on the problem of sexual abuse in some of the schools, with 14 out of the 18 cases reported to the Child Protection Commission last year taking place in pesantren.

Last year two teachers at a boarding school in South Sumatra were arrested for sexually abusing 26 male students over the course of a year.

And in 2020, a boarding school teacher in East Java was sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually assaulting 15 female students.

President Widodo last month called on parliament to approve a bill on the “elimination of sexual violence”, which seeks to combat sex crimes and provide justice to victims, including in cases of marital rape.

The bill was drafted in 2016 but has run into delays, with Islamic groups complaining it promoted promiscuity and conservative lawmakers calling for it to criminalise extramarital sex and LGBT relationships.

-AFP