Local News

Australian man jailed for drug offences in Bali

An Australian man and his Indonesian girlfriend have each been sentenced in a Bali court to five years and four months in prison on drug offences. Brendon Johnsson, from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and his partner Remi Purwanti, both 43, were arrested last August, caught with 11.6 grams of cocaine separated into 13 plastic bags. During the trial, former drug addict Johnsson provided a written statement to the judges in which he took full responsibility for his actions. “I sit here a broken man, a regretful and remorseful man – but also a sober man, a changed man,” he said, according to News Corp.

The couple was yesterday sentenced to five years’ jail and each fined 800 million rupiah ($A79,360) or an additional two months in prison. Presiding Judge I Ketut Kimiarsa said the panel of judges had exercised leniency because the defendants didn’t have criminal records and had expressed regret for their crime. However, he said the crime was still considered serious because it went against the Indonesian government’s program to combat the spread of narcotics and damaged the country’s reputation as a top tourist destination. Johnsson and Purwanti won’t appeal the decision.

The couple had initially faced a possible death sentence when they were arrested, with police seeking to have them charged with drug dealing. Johnsson’s stepfather, Ashley Robinson, thanked the Indonesian justice system for sparing his stepson’s life. He said Johnsson, who has lived in Bali for about four years, is now drug-free after decades of addiction.

“Brendon has been addicted to drugs since he was 16, we always knew we were going to get a phone call and we did. He has to pay the price for what he has done. He has to get his head down now, do his time, be a good prisoner and be productive in there,” Mr. Robinson said outside court, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “The Indonesians have given him a chance to get on with the rest of his life, after he has served his time for breaking the law. He is a different person, he is in prison but he is a different person. He’s thinking clearly.” Johnsson, who will serve his time in Bali’s infamous Kerobokan prison, is the latest Australian found guilty in recent years of drug offences in Indonesia. In 2015, Bali Nine ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed by Indonesian authorities. [9news.com.au February 28, 2019]


Bali deputy governor criticizes Sandiaga Uno’s plan to develop halal tourism

Vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno has not had the easiest of runs during his recent tour of Bali. First, Tabanan village elders refused point blank to let him speak in their community on Sunday, and now Bali authorities are abruptly dismissing his vision to develop halal tourism on the island. Sandiaga, who is the running mate to presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, put forward his proposal during a speech at Hotel Alkyfa in Denpasar on Sunday, citing the potentially huge economic benefits of catering to Muslim tourists.

“We want Bali, and Indonesia in general, to take the potential of halal tourism which is believed to be worth more than IDR. 3,000 trillion (about US$214 billion). This is extraordinary potential for economic growth in Bali,” he said, as quoted by detiknews. He expressed a hope for Indonesia to follow suit from other countries in the region already promoting Muslim-friendly tourism though halal-certified restaurants and halal hotels.

Unsurprisingly, Cok Ace, the deputy Governor of Bali, publicly rejected Sandiaga’s idea. “The concept of halal tourism is not in accordance with the potential, character, and branding of Bali tourism which has been known worldwide all this time,” he said last night, as quoted by Jawa Pos. “If the concept is forced on Bali it will cause a decline in Bali tourism,’ he added. Though he acknowledged that halal tourism worked well in destinations that have a cultural closeness with Middle Eastern culture, he reiterated that Bali is not one of those destinations. Instead, he highlighted tourism statistics from the past few years indicating that the highest volumes of tourists coming into Bali were from China, Australia, the UK, France, Japan, Korea, India, America, Germany, and the Netherlands. “This is the market potential that we must keep and develop,” he explained. He also spoke of Bali’s unique cultural character and natural attractions, a feature that Governor Wayan Koster has been pushing to promote and develop lately. “This branding could be damaged if we develop a tourism concept that does not match the uniqueness of Balinese culture, for example, halal tourism,” he concluded.   [Coconuts Bali February 26, 2019]


British gran on death row in Bali abandons legal battle to avoid firing squad

A British grandmother on death row in Bali for smuggling drugs has given up her fight to avoid execution and says she is no longer scared of facing a firing squad. Lindsay Sandiford, 62, was sentenced to death in 2013 after she was caught with 10lb of cocaine on a flight from Bangkok to Bali. In her sixth year on death row, the drug mule has revealed that she has abandoned her legal battle to avoid a death sentence. The gran, originally from Redcar in North Yorkshire, said in a jailhouse interview that being executed by firing squad “won’t be a hard thing for me to face anymore”. Sandiford’s two young granddaughters, aged one and six, recently flew to Bali from the UK and visited her at the island’s notorious Kerobokan prison, known ironically as Hotel K.

She told MailOnline she feels “blessed”, even though she has been sentenced to death in Indonesia, because she has seen her two sons grow up and she has met her grandchildren. Facing the prospect of death by firing squad, she said: “It won’t be a hard thing for me to face anymore. “It’s not particularly a death I would choose but then again I wouldn’t choose dying in agony from cancer either. “I do feel I can cope with it. But when it happens I don’t want my family to come. I don’t want any fuss at all. The one thing certain about life is no one gets out alive.”

She added: “My attitude is ‘If you want to shoot me, shoot me. Get on with it’.” Sandiford said she spends her days knitting clothes and toys for her granddaughters, charities and church groups in a cramped cell measuring five metres by five metres (16ft by 16ft) that she shares with four other women prisoners. She keeps photos of her granddaughters next to her bed in her cell, and has expressed regret that she cannot be a full-time grandmother. Well-wishers had raised more than £40,000 for a final appeal, with the money spent on a succession of Indonesian lawyers and legal assistants, it was reported.

Now grey-haired, Sandiford said she doesn’t want to deal with another lawyer after being “burnt enough times”, and she doesn’t want help from the Foreign Office. The grandmother is said to suffer from arthritis and has difficulty walking. A date for her execution has not been set.

Sandiford, who has no previous convictions, had previously launched an unsuccessful appeal to block her execution. She has continuously claimed she was forced by a UK-based drugs syndicate to smuggle the drugs to protect her son who she claims was being threatened.

Just over 10lbs of cocaine was found in her luggage after she stepped off a Thai Airways flight in December 2012. Sandiford was sentenced to death even though she cooperated with police in a sting to arrest people higher up in the syndicate. She has said her sentence was “unjustly harsh”, and she was supported by celebrities and human rights groups as she tried to overturn it. If and when the sentence is carried out, Sandiford will be transferred to Nusa Kambangan, known as Execution Island, and killed by a firing squad at midnight. She said she isn’t afraid of dying, and the worst thing will be the humiliation of being paraded in front of Indonesia’s press before being executed. [Mirror.co.uk February 22, 2019]


Corpses piling up at Bali hospitals due to ban on cremations during Panca Wali Krama ceremonies

The Panca Wali Krama, a rare series of ceremonies that reportedly occurs only once in ten years, is well underway at Bali’s Mother Temple, Pura Besakih. The Balinese say that the ceremonies are carried out in order to re-balance the natural environments of the island. And it seems that, with Mount Agung’s recent rumblings, the deluge of waste washing up on our shores, and the earthquakes that Bali and our neighboring island of Lombok have been experiencing, it’s long overdue. But in order for spiritual energy to be focused on the matter at hand, ngaben (traditional Balinese cremation ceremonies) have been suspended until April 4, according to a report by Bali Post. And that is causing some issues at Bali’s hospitals.

Several of the island’s regional general hospitals (RSUD) have become inundated with dead bodies. According to an article in Nusa Bali, the morgue at Tabanan Hospital is already full. “The maximum capacity in the mortuary is 6, because there are 6 freezers, but now there are 11 [bodies],” explained Gusti Nyoman Sadia Wirka, the head of the hospital’s mortuary. Sanjiwani General Hospital in Gianyar and Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar are also quickly filling up, with around 75 percent of their spaces already occupied, according to an article by detiknews. Presumably, the ban has had a financial impact on the families of the deceased too, with body storage at these two hospitals ranging from IDR150,000 (US$10.63) per day for basic storage to IDR305,000 (US$21.61) for freezer space.

For the Balinese, ngaben offers an opportunity for the soul of the deceased to be released into the ‘upper realm’ where it can wait to be reborn. And this philosophy coincides with one of the main reasons for the cremation ban; that the impure air during the huge ceremony would not allow for the soul to be freed as desired. “In Bali, every time there is a big ceremony like the Krama Panca Wali, it is believed that if a person dies, his spirit cannot be freed because the environment is not yet clean. After the Besakih ceremony, the air of sanctity can be guaranteed,” explained Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, the chairman of the PHDI Hindu group, as quoted in detiknews. [Coconuts Bali March 1, 2019]


Tax office gets data of Indonesian wealth in 65 countries

The tax office has obtained information about the wealth of Indonesian nationals that is deposited in financial institutions in 65 countries. After joining 120 countries in the Automatic Exchange of Information in 2018, the tax office has obtained information about the wealth of Indonesian nationals that is deposited in financial institutions in 65 countries, according to the Finance Ministry’s Taxation Directorate General. Taxation Director General Robert Pakpahan said the tax office was scrutinizing the data. “We are cross-checking the data with tax identification numbers,” Robert said as reported by kompas.com.

He said the verification process was being carried out very carefully and the office would not immediately publish a list of Indonesians who kept their wealth abroad. “We believe that the clarification of taxpayer data should be implemented carefully,” Robert said, adding that after the process was   complete, the tax office would send the findings to the people in question who should follow it up with the tax office. He declined to mention the countries that had revealed the wealth of Indonesian nationals. He also did not mention the value of the wealth. He said he would be happy if all the wealth had been included in the relevant documents that had been submitted to the office.

During the tax amnesty from July 2016 to March 2017, Rp 4.8 quadrillion (US$345.24 billion) was declared by wealthy Indonesians, Rp 3.8 quadrillion of which was kept in Indonesia while Rp 1 quadrillion was kept in other countries. However, according to the Tax Justice Network, at least $331 billion is parked overseas, a much higher figure than the Rp 145 trillion in overseas funds that were repatriated. [Jakarta Post February 21, 2019]