Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Notorious Jail

Bali has been known as a paradise for surfers, beach lovers as well as party animals. Bali’s natural beauty and distinctive culture somehow have been able to attract millions of travelers to visit the Island of God annually for decades. Yet, the Island of God is not free from the dark world including drug cartel. Wide range drugs from  weed, cocaine to heroines with various qualities are available in the island. Anyone who wants it, they can get it as long as they have money for it and know where to get it. However, drug is illegal in Indonesia. Even small quantity of drugs can bring anyone to long jail sentence, heavy fines as well as cost thousands of dollars to get your freedom back. A Nepalese inmate Den was quoted in the Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Notorious Jail saying that “If you want to have a little bit of freedom, you need to pay money, including for beer, movie or even girl (sex worker).” Otherwise, you will end up living miserably in the jail cell.

Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Notorious Jail is written by an Australian journalist, Kathryn Bonella who is also the author of No More Tomorrow Schapelle Corby as a warning for travelers. Any holiday can turn to be a nightmare any moment as soon as they are dealing with drugs in the Island of God. With the main source Ruggiero, a Brazilian inmates who was arrested for possessing 146 g of hashish, 43 g of cocaine and one green ecstasy pill, and few other foreign national inmates, Ms. Bonella is trying to bringing the readers inside the Hotel K. Not a fancy villa with private swimming pool and hot shower but a pig house with filthy bathroom, dried poops and dead rats in the water tank. It is just dilapidated.

Through 301 pages of book, Ms. Bonella describes how complicated dealing with Indonesian justice system is and how corrupt Indonesian justice system is -be in the police station, the court as well as inside the jail- is. Really? Is Indonesian justice system corrupt? Yes and it is not surprising. Previously, one of Indonesian top lawyer Hotman Paris was even quoted by various international media outlets including  New York Times and The Age  saying how unclean Indonesian justice system is.

And yet, life does not get any cheaper as soon as one goes inside the prison, one would need to continue to pay their bill as if they are freeman as there is nothing free inside. Interestingly enough, inmates are not only able to buy mineral water, soap or instant noodle but also  beer, weed, cocaine as well as heroin inside Kerobokan prison. What? You could even purchase drugs inside the prison? Yes. That is indeed interesting.

 “Kerobokan is drug paradise. Drugs all the time. No special time for drug. Drugs twenty-four hours. You smoke cigarette, you smoke shabu. The party was daily. Every single day after lunch we’d sit outside and get pissed, those who want to smoke shabu, smoke shabu; those who want to use smack, use smack. That’s on daily basis. ” Brazilian inmates Ruggiero told Ms. Bonella. (132)

So the question is now being “Does arresting drug dealer/runner actually have a significant deterrent effect to them? Will they ever stop of doing their drug business?” No, it does not seem so.

Arman wishes to become Hotel K’s drug lord. He was selling huge quantity of drugs inside and outside, paying Laskar (Bali) for protection, and prisoners and guards to work as couriers supplying bars and club across Bali. Arman made at least 100 million Rupiah a day, sometimes 300 million Rupiah a day. Many times I saw the guy folding up the whole lot of money. He sold shabu, heroine, ecstasy  ganja, hasish, cocaine.” (196) 

I must say that it is slightly shocking but I believe that public actually has acknowledged it through media reports over the years. Even recently, a drug lord Freddy Budiman, who was sentenced to death in 2013, openly admitted that he is still running his business from the jail cell with the help of prison guards because the China-based  drug syndicate does not have any other ‘distributor’ in Indonesia.

Honestly sometimes I wonder how dangerous drugs are? Hotel K gave me clues and  I found it interesting

“With Laskar and Arman pushing drugs and offering unlimited credits to westerners, many inmates let their drug bills spiral out of control. If they couldn’t pay up when Arman called in the cashed, the consequences were deadly.

Many of the westerners who lost control of their drug bills got cash from their parents or friends to avoid being bashed.

Juri (an Italian inmates) lied in any way necessary to get cash from friends and family for his heroin bills.  (198)

You see? Reading Hotel K makes me understand why President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has declared war on drugs. As a president, he refuses to grant president clemency to drug dealers or runners because the drug dealers and runners cannot just be stopped and they do not want to stop. Other than that, an addict would eventually not just hurt themselves in many ways but also their family.

Interestingly enough, it is not only drug dealers who cannot stop themselves from committing crimes when they are in prison. Other criminal still do including  scammers and thugs.

Benoit was one of three Africans doing time for a fake American dollar scam. All three were now acting in sync in Hotel K to find investors among the wealthy drug bosses. Benoit was working with Afong and the third African named Karim. (178)

I must say that I enjoyed reading Hotel K because it was produced through interviews and document research which means it can be quiet objective. It opened my eyes. It brought my imagination inside Kerobokan Prison. It shows the readers what kind of people end up in the prison and what kind of life inmates have inside the jail. It is scary. It drives you insane and brings depression. It kills your soul. Other than that, even though you can buy your freedom by bribing the guards, it is not a life inside the jail cell. For me, it would be very wise to not ignore the warning while you are visiting Bali, the Island of God, the paradise as your holiday can turn into a nightmare any moment.

Yet, I asked myself “Should I buy Ruggiero’s stories especially Ruggiero told Ms. Bonella  the Balinese hate foreigners, they are so jealous simply because only one Balinese guy snitched on him?” He seems like to generalize things and many of his comments sound to be angry or coming from a talker. Well “Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Inside Account of Bali’s Hidden Drug World” has more stories to tell and makes the readers understand about who Ruggiero is. Juicy and eye-opening!



Indonesia: Death Row and Drug World

Indonesia will soon make another international headline as the Attorney General Office has been preparing the execution of drug convicts after executing 14 drug convicts last year. Despite the fact AGO has not published the names and the dates,  Beritasatu TV has reported the names of nine drug convicts who would be executed within weeks.

As many of you might be aware that under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration, the Indonesia government has declared war on drugs. President Jokowi stated that he refuses to grant any presidential clemency requested by drug convicts. As a result, any drug convicts, who have been sentenced to death by the court, would be executed. The government believe that capital punishment would give a deterrent impact and eventually stop drug trafficking in Indonesia. Nevertheless, this step has triggered controversy both in the national and international level.

Many argue that capital punishment is not the answer to the drug problem in the country and it is considered against human right. The government ignores the noise and carries the punishment anyway. As a sovereign state, Indonesia has its rules and regulations which could be implemented. The only way to stop capital punishment is by urging the government to revoke the capital punishment from the regulation. Yet, as I listened to the national radio program, many people actually also support the government decision to execute the drug convicts to tackle the drug problem because it is worrying.

Interestingly enough, some media reported how inhumane Indonesian government is because the government of Indonesia did not give notification about their execution to the convicts as well as the family. Is it true? I doubt it. Hence, it got me wondering “If some want to defend the drug dealers and trafficker from being executed, what do we really know about those drugs convicts? Should we have sympathy toward them?” I do not know.

So last month, I came across to two books titled “Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Notorious Jail” and “Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Inside Account of Bali’s Hidden Drug World” at a bookstore in Ngurah Rai Airport Bali. I found the title and cover very interesting. I read the blurb. It seems to be juicy, it is about crimes, drugs, sex and politics in Indonesia. I decided to buy two of them.

Yet, I was actually bit sceptical because of this book was part of a trilogy written by Australian author Kathryn Bonella who wrote “No More Tomorrows Schapelle Corby“. You might wonder “And so?

Well, Schapelle Corby was a convicted drug runner, who was found guilty of smuggling 4.2 kg of marijuana into Bali in 2004.  Denpasar District Court sentenced Corby 20 years imprisonment on May 2005. Since then, she has consistently claimed that she was innocent and fought for her release by filing appeals, judicial reviews as well as request for presidential clemency. On March 2010, she filed presidential clemency claiming that she has been suffering from mental illness. She eventually won the presidential pardon under the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on February 2012. She was then released on February 2014 but must remain in Indonesia to July 2017.

The thing is rumour has it that the release of Corby was actually part of government deal whereby the SBY government had struck a deal with the Australian government to extradite an Indonesian fugitive Adrian Kiki Ariawan, a graft convict who fled to Australia in 2003. However, former Vice Minister of Law and Human Rights Denny Indrayana denied that the extradition of Adrian Kiki Ariawan had something to do with the release of Schapelle Corby.

Unfortunately, I have a conspiratorial mind and I was suspicious. I said to myself, perhaps these books are actually forms of pressure to the Indonesian government to release Corby. Is it possible? But who is Corby? How important she is?  Was she a mule or a horse? Was she really a victim? Or did she play a victim? Is it a way for a convict drug dealer to escaping heavy punishment by claiming that they are suffering from mental illness?

And by the way, one of her lawyers was Hotman Paris. How much did she pay him? Is she coming from a filthy rich family? How could she afford him? Where is the money coming from? Or is this book just a form of comprehensive criticism to the Indonesian justice system?

I must say that it is hard to tell. Everyone has their own story. Everyone has their own agenda. We cannot just buy her stories through media, including books. Right?

So I began to read these books to find the answers and the red line. Instead of finding the answers, I actually start to have more questions. Yet, I must say that these books are eye-opening and easy to read for non-English speaker. If you want to know further, you can check my upcoming post on “Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Notorious Jail” and “Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Inside Account of Bali’s Hidden Drug World“‘s review.

Ride the bus

Catatan: Buku atau Internet?

Pepatah mengatakan bahwa buku adalah jendela dunia. Tetapi di jaman modern ini, sebenarnya selain buku, internet juga merupakan jendela dunia. Kita dapat berselancar ke mana pun kita mau tanpa batas. Kita bisa melihat dunia dan mengenyam ilmu hanya dari balik layar komputer selama terhubung dengan koneksi internet.

Saya sendiri berkenalan dengan internet pada tahun 2000. Sejak kenal dengan internet, saya sering menghabiskan waktu berjam-jam untuk mengakses internet, entah untuk berkenalan dengan orang dari berbagai belahan dunia atau membaca berbagai macam artikel. Melalui internet, saya dapat mempelajari kehidupan manusia baik untuk kepentingan pribadi maupun untuk urusan pekerjaan. Saya sangat menyukai internet. Saya gila internet.

Namun sayangnya, informasi di internet terlalu banyak dan berserakan di mana-mana. Tidak terstruktur dan bahkan susah dibuktikan kebenarannya apalagi informasi di internet bisa dipublikasi oleh siapa saja, kapan saja dan di mana saja. Belum lagi informasi-informasi tersebut bisa dihapus oleh siapa saja, kapan saja dan di mana saja. Itulah internet sebagai jendela dunia.

Meskipun gila akan internet, saya ternyata lebih menyukai buku ketimbang internet. Kenapa? Karena setidaknya saya tahu siapa yang menulisnya. Tapi sayang saya agak kurang rajin membaca walaupun saya suka membaca.

Sejak kecil, saya suka membaca tapi saya enggak punya banyak koleksi buku. Saya pun jarang pergi ke perpustakaan di sekolah. Tapi….  saya sering ke “Taman Bacaan Tintin”, sebuah perpustakaan keliling yang menyewakan komik. Paling sering saya menyewa komik serial cantik :-).

Menginjak bangku SMA, saya mulai suka membaca novel apalagi sekolah saya dekat dengan Gramedia. Ketika banyak orang suka membaca tulisan Fira Basuki, saya lebih suka baca nover terjemahan karya  novelis Inggris Barbara Cartland. Barbara Cartland menawarkan cerita cinta dengan setting di kerajaan Inggris. Asyik, seru! Tulisannya membawa imajinasi saya ke dalam cerita tersebut.

Selain Barbara Cartland, saya juga suka tulisan Paulo Coelho. Penulis asal Brazil ini menawarkan berbagai refleksi kehidupan dengan tokoh utama perempuan. Menariknya lagi, Coelho selalu membawa sosok Bunda Maria dalam cerita-cerita spiritualnya.

Jujur saja, saya enggak terlalu banyak membaca tulisan anak bangsa saat itu. Kenapa? Saya enggak tahu mana yang bagus. Saya enggak tahu siapa penulis Indonesia yang bagus.

Suatu hari, saya mulai berkenalan dengan tulisan anak bangsa. London Wild Rose karya Kusuma Andrianto. Dari situ saya baru menyadari bahwa tulisan orang Indonesia enggak kalah hebatnya dengan tulisan orang asing. Saya pun mulai membaca tulisan karya Rendra, Ahmad Tohari, A.A Navis, Ayu Utami dan juga Djenar Maesa Ayu.

Tapi seperti yang sayang bilang tadi, saya kurang rajin membaca. Kadang baca, kadang enggak. Saya lebih banyak mengakses internet daripada baca buku. Nah belum lama ini, saya mulai berkenalan dengan tulisan Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Saya baru berkenalan dengan tulisan Pramoedya Ananta Toer di usia saya yang ke 27. Ke mana saja selama ini? Payah ya?! Biarlah!

Meskipun demikian enggak ada kata terlambat. Saya pun keranjingan mebaca tulisan Pram… Seru! Asyik! Menarik!  Sayangnya buku-buku Pram yang asli susah didapatkan. Kalaupun ada, saya harus mengeluarkan uang yang cukup banyak. Tapi enggak masalah, saya enggak suka membaca buku palsu. Sebagai penulis, saya enggak suka buku saya dipalsukan. He he he.

Bisa dibilang bahwa, tulisan Pram membuat saya mengenal Indonesia lebih baik. Tulisannya dikemas secara apik dan sederhana tapi penuh makna. Apa artinya mengenal dunia luar kalau saya enggak mengenal Indonesia sama sekali?! Ya toh?! Tapi ya tapi…. saya juga harus mengerti apa yang terjadi di luar sana secara seimbang.

Bagi saya buku dan internet adalah sumber informasi yang saling melengkapi. Internet merupakan sumber referensi akan informasi sedangkan buku memberikan penjelasan akan suatu isu secara mendalam. Di jaman modern ini, mau tak mau kita harus menggunakan internet, si jendela dunia, to keep ourself updated. Tapi bukan berarti kita harus melupakan buku sebagai jendela dunia untuk memahami isu secara mendalam. FYI, I don’t like reading ebook : -) 

Kalau belum suka membaca buku, mulailah dari sekarang. Enggak ada kata terlambat.


Notes: Back to Jakarta Baby


Bali story is over for the moment. I am back to Jakarta and back to real life where I have to deal with crazy traffic again. But what can I do? I gotta make some cash so I can get some more shoes no? Ooops!

Despite the fact I am complaining about Jakarta’s traffic, I would say that it is fun to be back to Jakarta because I am back to cover some stories again. I would meet new people again, I would get some new informations and I would write more stories again. Yay!

Kabut Jihad book launching in Hotel Borobudur, Jakarta [2012: Oktofani]

Khairul Ghazali, the author of Kabut Jihad, launched his 50th book in Jakarta [2012: Oktofani]

Today I attended a book launching, which was written by an Islamic fundamentalism figure, who was accused to involve in 2010 bank robbery at CIMB Niaga branch in Medan. It was very interesting because it was attended by many Islamic fundamentalism figures, Islamic scholars and also government officers.

Umar Patek, an accused bombmaker in the 2002 Bali attacks, was speaking to reporters in West Jakarta District Court [2012: Oktofani]

While tomorrow (Thursday), I would attend a Umar Patek’s verdict hearing. I really have to wake up early and leave early so I can get a front seat in the court room in West Jakarta District Court. It will be fun!

FYI, Umar Patek, 45, is accused of assembling explosives for twin suicide bombings on a bar and a nightclub in Bali that killed 202 people, and church attacks in Jakarta on Christmas Eve in 2000 that killed 19.

Anyway, I got a little problem here. I have been spending a week writing fiction and now I have to switch my brain to write news again. I found it super hard…. but what can I do? Little mamma needs to make some money.

And yay! I can go back to gym again… it has been a week that I did not work out at the gym.

Ride the bus