The Thinker …And Justice for All?
Oei Eng Goan
The story of a woman who became crippled following a road accident caught public attention last week after her plea for justice was turned down by police officials on the grounds that it was her own carelessness that caused the mishap and the death of her 11-year-old daughter.
The accident took place in Purwokerto, a small town in the Central Java district of Banyumas, on the evening of Aug. 6 last year.
People raised their eyebrows when the media reported the case, wondering whether local police officials had worked professionally in handling the case or whether they had been bribed to reverse the issue when they declared the victim of the fatal accident “a suspect.”
Ninik Setyowati, 44, was riding a motorcycle with her daughter, Kumaratih Sekar Hanifah, sitting on the back when a trailer truck passed and sideswiped them. Both riders fell and were run over by the truck. The little girl died on the spot. Ninik survived, but her right leg was crushed.
Logically, it is the truck driver, Suparman, 60, who should have been held responsible for the fatal accident because he was driving the truck on a narrow country road forbidden for heavy and large vehicles. Despite having violated traffic regulations he was never named a suspect in the case.
But illogical things often happen here. It is true that Indonesia’s reformation has brought economic progress and improved the country’s democratic life. But it is also true that justice remains a precious thing hardly obtainable by the underprivileged.
The public sensed that something fishy was going on in Ninik’s case, all the more so after they learned that a local police official had asked her to withdraw a report filed earlier to the police in which she accused Suparman of careless driving. The official also insisted she accept Rp 2.5 million ($258) as compensation from the company that owned the truck.
A subsequent and shocking event confirmed the public’s suspicion when, in the middle of this month, she was asked to sign an official report made by the Banyumas traffic police office, stating that she was the suspect in the tragic accident due to her careless riding.
Thus the victim was victimized. It provoked a public outcry.
It’s crystal clear that some officials were trying to cover up any wrongdoing the driver and owner of the truck might have committed. The public is justified in their suspicions because they have seen how law enforcers — despite their “equality before the law” credo — are reluctant to even name a person close to the corridors of power a suspect but will readily throw any suspected individual in jail if he or she is just a member of a marginalized community.
Responding to the public outrage, the Banyumas commanding police officer, Adj. Sr. Comr. Dwiyono, said last Saturday that the police had halted the investigation into Ninik’s case and dropped charges against her on humanitarian grounds and due to the fact that both the truck driver and the victim had reached a consensus not to sue each other in a court of law.
Had Ninik’s case not been widely reported by the media, another injustice would have been carried out by irresponsible, corrupt law enforcement officials. Also on Saturday, Suparman visited Ninik and apologized for his mistakes, six months after the poor bedridden woman fought hard to overcome her grief over the loss of her beloved one!
The damage was already been done. Now is the time for the National Police chief and Home Affairs Ministry officials to conduct a thorough investigations into this breach of justice and punish rouge officials who have tainted the image of the country’s police forces.
Justice must be upheld for the benefit of every Indonesian citizen. Because, as a leading French historian and philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, once put it: “Justice forms the cornerstone of each nation’s law.”
Oei Eng Goan is a freelance journalist and writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.