Bali Police Extortion – Foreigners are on their own!
By Bali BS News
Aug 17, 2005, 02:21
If Balinese police corruption is so bad, the Indonesian judiciary so corrupt, and Balinese defense lawyers so inept except when it comes to colluding with the police, etc. to extort money from foreign visitors, why don’t foreign governments warn their citizens?
The problem, or rather issue for foreign government warnings is that they can not interfere with (even criticize) the internal / domestic workings of a foreign government (shhhh, don’t mention Iraq, that was completely different, weapons of mass illusion and all). This is for two reasons; the first is International diplomatic conventions, the second is large public sector contracts in Indonesia being awarded to large International corporations. Large public sector contracts stop foreign governments from warning their citizens about the risks of police corruption in Bali? Sure, you see the Indonesian government is hardly likely to favour a certain country’s companies when it comes to awarding large dollar value contracts such as in the petroleum, defense and mining sectors if that foreign country publicly shames them, are they? Especially Indonesia, where the expression “Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism” springs from.
But isn’t corruption a risk to these large companies who get awarded such contracts? The corruption risk is only front end; that is, a bribe paid to get the contract in the first place. The contract itself is written by the Indonesian government, so large corporations do not need to fear much in the way of corruption once they have that contract. Unlike, say, small investors buying into villas in Bali who are at the mercy of certain scavenging, mafia style Balinese police officers. And unfortunately, as you may well already know in life, the small guy and his life's savings are pretty much expendable when it comes to their government protecting and even promoting their nation's big business.
However, foreign governments do take into account things like corruption when issuing travel advisories such as terrorism alerts. There can be little doubt that European, North American and Australasian governments know full well about how police on anti-terrorism duty at Bali’s ports are liable to wave vehicles on, without inspection, in return for a few rupiah. That is probably one of the reasons why the travel advisories for Bali have remained at such a high level. But they can not specifically state that part of their advisories are due to such inept and corrupt police, as this would be domestic interference. The more general warning about terrorism risk is not, as it is about the risk from terrorists who are not a part of the Indonesian government. So their travel advisories avoid detailing the causes of that risk that are the Indonesian authority's fault, got it!
But surely, if my government knows Bali is so corrupt, if I go and get money extorted from me, I can demand compensation from my own government. ‘Fraid not, it is a little known fact that each of us are deemed and held responsible to check for such risks before we depart. This is part of the problem of the "If I'm not told, there is nothing to worry about" brigade. Of course a travel agent is hardly likely to tell its customers unless they have been advised to do so. And most large tour operator customers do not get to experience extortion because they are insulated against it. By that we mean large tour groups are likely to stay in a large hotel which paid its dues many years ago to the Suharto regime, and are driven around in large coaches that also have their immunities pre-paid or otherwise arranged in advance. It is really only once you show any level of independence in your travels and / or lay down some roots in Bali do you get exposed to that nasty little fact of Balinese life, police extortion.
Then, if you get into trouble with the police in Bali, your government’s only responsibility is to provide you, if asked, with a list of lawyers that maybe can help you and to afford you financial assistance if you do not have the resources yourself (but you will have to repay this)! Also they will get involved if it is evident the police are acting unlawfully against you. Which is not an easy matter to determine, until all is said and done right? It does not matter whether you scream blue murder because the problem is one of extortion. It is a civil matter and your foreign government can not interfere! They "have" to wait until the court makes a ruling to see if there is a clear breach of the law and with it your civil rights. But showing a breach of law is not that simple, especially if your own defense lawyer colluded with the police, prosecutor and judge in the first place, as they are prone to doing.
Also, the list of lawyers foreign embassy / consulate staff give you to contact is about as good as using the yellow pages, because they do not vet any of the lawyers on that list. And to be candid, there is not likely to be a single honest, capable lawyer in Bali anyway. So they might well be giving you a list of the most corrupt and / or inept lawyers on the island for all those lists are worth. It seems an Indonesian can do a little study, pay a little money and call themselves a lawyer in Bali quite easily. The long and the short of it is, if you get into trouble with the police in Bali, you are probably better off asking the officer “What will it take to make this matter go away?” Irrespective of whether you have done anything wrong or not.
Bearing that in mind, and the fact the corruption that feeds off tourism is actually oppressing the Balinese people both spiritually and financially (see our report: Indonesian Corruption, the cost – it shows that boycotting Bali should actually raise the island’s living standards). Perhaps you should reconsider any plans you have to go and / or to invest there, until after corruption is brought firmly under control.