Law existed to protect people. Law created to make people feel safe. But somehow, it worked the other way around in Indonesia. Law was used to shackle people, to keep people on the leash and to shut down the voice of freedom.

The story so far

This was the case of a mother of two children against the all mighty private hospital with divine and majestic name, Omni International Hospital. The mother wrote an email about her dissatisfaction of the hospital treatment to her, which she claimed was bad and horrendously unsatisfactory. The email, naturally, spread around certain mailing list and published on a couple of website including this one (It’s in Indonesian). Reasonable enough since she said the hospital was not really paid attention to her previous complain. Or not.

Update: The English translation of Mrs. Prita’s email are available; credits goes to Ryan Koesuma for translation and Unspun blog for republishing it outside Facebook.

Somehow, the all mighty hospital felt insulted and sued the mother base on defamation/libel. So, they treated patients like cash cows, which unfortunately a common practice in Indonesia’s medical field, and when the patient complained and wrote the complain so the whole world could see, they felt insulted and sued the patient. Well, as if holding up a body of a deceased person because the family could not paid the bill or holding up a newborn baby because the parents could not afford the bill right away were not enough, now the hospital felt insulted when somebody told the world about their misdemeanor and sued that somebody. What was it? A joke? It wasn’t even funny.

What striked me actually, this fiasco probably would not happened, still probably – there were many way to twist the law in Indonesia, if you had the power and money, if one particular law was not exists. Introducing, the famous Information and Electronic Transaction Law aka. UU ITE (Undang-undang Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik).

Armed with this law, the hospital sued the mother and the court pointed the mother as the suspect and she has been in jail for 3 weeks, as of today (Source: Koran Tempo in Indonesian). The trial will be held on June 4, 2009.

Information and Electronic Transaction Law aka. UU ITE

When this law was signed more or less a year ago, I was cringed. I was afraid, not because I could be punished by this draconian law but because some of the points were obscure, unclear and could be interpreted in some twisted way. I won’t go far to explain the law, use Google and read it yourself. Some items in that law were actually good and fulfill their purpose to protect the people, but those items, especially those parts about “defamation and/or libel” were so draconian and easily manipulated especially to those who got the power and money. Added the corrupt justice system, which again unfortunately a common knowledge in Indonesia, to the mix then we had a recipe to disaster.

I am one of the biggest opponent of this law, as many of my respected colleague, but as you might remember my writing titled “Commander” around last year – it was a different case but it lead into this law being signed, the department who were somehow responsible for the creation of this law was ignorant. Now, to add the absurdity of the current situation, the Director General of that department, Mr. Cahyana who hold the Master of Law degree, told one of the prominent blogger, Enda Nasution that the court actually misinterpreted the law. Where have you been, Sir? Did we said this law could easily misinterpreted more than a year ago? And your department defiantly went into deaf mode and said this law was for the good of the people? The truth, Sir, your department were plain ignorant at that time and now it’s time to feel the wake up slap in your face.

That comment also made me wondered; so if the law was misinterpreted, did it because the law was not clear enough or the court was not smart enough to interpret the law? Or even worse, the law was not clear enough and the court was not smart enough too. Again, the recipe to bigger disaster then.

Cowards

Added insult to the injury was the response of some people related to this case. Some said, it mean everybody, Indonesian especially, should be careful of what they were writing online (email, blogs, tweet, whatever), even if it was the truth. Sounds pathetic, wasn’t it? I called them cowards. When the bush was beaten, they were cowering down under, afraid to speak the truth and even stigmatize those who told the truth.

These people were the reason Indonesia never soar as a great country it supposed to be. These people put a blind eye to the corruption of power those institutions above showed. These people chose, deliberately, to stigmatize the people who brave enough to tell the truth. These people were the traitor to free speech, democracy and humanity.

Critics

So, by writing this, I directly and indirectly criticized the medical institution, justice system, a government department and a bunch of cowards. Will I get sued for defamation and libel? It possible. Even though I am just stating the truth, I am not fabricated any facts, known facts, about the corrupt system of justice, the money seeking practice of medical institution and the ignorance of a government department. So if the worse thing happened then all I can say is the country I always love is going back to the way it used to be, a repressive, totalitarian and draconian one. What a step back and for that I am feeling very sorry…

While waiting for the hammer to fall, these are some call to action links (all in Indonesian):