From the Prisoners’ Eyes

Jumat, 5 Januari 2007

Oleh: Uzair Fauzan (Koordinator Lafadl)

“We used to meet at the House, now we meet at rutan.” It was the first statement from Mr Syukron (falsified name) right after we, myself and a researcher from Australia, arrived at the meeting hall of the rutan, an abbreviation from rumah tahanan which literally means house of prisoners. At right here, Mr Syukron, a former head of local house of representatives, has been staying for almost 80 days. He is accompanied by Mr Soleh (also falsified name), his former deputy. Both are being in trial process for the charge of corruption. The court instructed their imprisonment on the ground that they would repeat the crime, they would discard the evidence, or they would runaway, reasons that for them are hardly understandable.

This morning, we decided to visit the convicted because the rutan is only within walking distance. It is located near the square (commonly known as alun-alun), the regent’s office, and the great (regency) mosque, typically Javanese spatial configuration which for some reflects colonial impression. For my colleague personally, he would like to see Pak Syukron because, while he was still a leading public official, Pak Syukron was willing to be interviewed for his research for several times. Before entering rutan, we registered our names at the section of visitor registration which is located at the far corner of the rutan. As first time visitors, we needed to open wide our eyes to find the place. At this section, we were already welcomed with a request-cum demand from a female receptionist to leave a pack cigarette for the guards. It is only because he is a white man whom probably she never met at this prison, she finally forgave us. “Wis ora opo-opo (It is ok [if he doesn’t bring any cigarettes]). Dheweke durung mudeng (he still doesn’t know (“the rule”),” she said. Before we finally met Pak Syukron and Pak Soleh, we must went through guards’ desk, around nine meter square with iron gates connecting both outer life and inner life of the prison, where we found several packs of cigarettes from previous visitors.

It was just like a visit to a nearly dead man. Full of sadness, especially in the beginning. Words were almost unspoken. With gloomy face, Syukron who wore prisoner uniform number 171 opened our conversation about his unlucky nasib (=destiny). He repeatedly said several other statements which in essence reflect his regret about his current life episode. It was a big shock for him; formerly very active and mobile, now he is very passive and his activities are very limited. A bit different from Syukron, Soleh was still showing his optimism in struggling against the trial by telling about mistakes in the charges. But, both agreed that their case is very political. They questioned several decisions of the court, among of them is the exclusive charge on both of them, releasing from charges other political actors who agreed (either directly or indirectly) to the decision to allocate funds for personal welfare of the house members. The political weight of the case is very striking, especially approaching the district head election (commonly known as pilkada). Due to highly political character of the case he conceived, Soleh said that he needed to be careful in eating meals in prison. So far, he says that he prefers to have meals carried by his own family than meals from the prison. Some says that their trial are potentially dragging some other public officials into prison, especially those who are currently running for regent’s office.

In spite of the corruption they probably committed, as the convicted, they surely have rights which are supposed to be considered by the court. And these rights, they think, are not yet fulfilled. Their story about unfulfilled rights of the convicted goes expanded with cases of their fellow prisoners. Being wong cilik, literally means little people, who hardly have access to resources, most of prisoners here were imprisoned for small cases such as (survival) thievery of less than USD 15 but with quite long sentence in jail. Many of them had violent actions during their interrogation. “It is here that human rights abuse is the worst,” says Pak Syukron. Besides, it is already a public secret that family of the convicted usually spend more money in order to have access to their convicted relatives and to make sure that their relatives have a good treatment. At least, like what we did, they will have to buy a pack of cigarette in each visit. If they want to have more access, they will have to spend more. “Saben mrene, aku nggowo (rokok) sak bos (Every time I visit here, I will bring with me a package of cigarettes [between  10-20 packs of cigarettes]),” says Pak Syukron’s son. With these cigarettes, he will have much longer time to talk to his father than the average time allowed by the rule (we saw a small paper attached to the wall saying that visiting time is 15 minutes, but this morning we spent at least half an hour with the two convicted [probably because of the cigarettes]).

Several years ago, from this city, mafia peradilan (court mafia) was successfully uncovered, making the head of regency court transferred to other regency. During New Order, transfer [or usually called mutasi] because of a case/affair is a severe sentence for public officials. But I don’t think it was quite successful in improving conditions of the convicted or prisoners. It is a pity realizing that not many organizations concerned with this issue.

We all know that the world is not fair. But from these prisoners’ eyes, the world is probably much more unfair.

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