In this interview, we examine why many former teachers and managers have concluded that an unscrupulous and dishonest clique, popularly known as “The TBI Mafia”, control the company for their own selfish advantage and bully anyone who is a challenge to their authority within the organization. This interview is with the former manager of TBI Sudirman and TBI Kuningan, who fell victim to an alleged incident of fraud by Luke Preece, a key player in the TBI Mafia.
Does the “TBI Mafia” exist?
I have absolutely no doubt that there is a group of people of within TBI who act in a grossly immoral way and support each other whenever they are called out about it. I have seen it in action, especially with regards to Mariam protecting Luke.
I went to both Ibu Mariam and Ibu Ning and told them that Luke Preece had said that I had to resign from TBI or I would be deported from Indonesia. He had told me that a high profile customer called Tante Vera had decided to get revenge on me because I wouldn’t let her pick the teacher for her child’s class. He said that she was friend of Bakrie, the politician and tycoon, and that she was determined I had to go. When we contacted Mariam she denied that TBI had made any such decision even though Luke assured me it had come from the top. She said she regretted the whole thing had happened and she doubted Luke would have tried it if she had been there to stop him: she was about to go to Singapore on holiday for a week or so and the fraud happened just before she was about to leave. Presumably Preece had timed the whole incident so Mariam wouldn’t be in the country to derail his plans. By the time she got back from her holiday, my replacement had already been installed in the job for 10 days.
So Mariam admitted that Luke had lied to you about TBI’s support for Tante Vera?
That was just the start of it. He lied that she had already left for Singapore when she was about to leave. She clearly knew he was lying about this and much besides. In all the times I talked to her she never once denied that Luke had set the whole thing up. But she just said it was a a very “difficult and unfortunate” situation but I would have to go anyway. In the the later meetings she had clearly had legal advice because she kept repeating the phrase, “We are not willing to discuss any allegations against Luke”, time and time again. She also ordered Ibu Tuti, the supposed HR head, not to even answer questions such as, “Is it TBI policy not to investigate claims of fraud against managers, Ibu Tuti?” Mariam responded in her normal bullying fashion and yelled, “Don’t answer that Tuti!” She quite literally refused to answer any questions about Luke’s misconduct and gagged her HR manager too. She was clearly very angry and upset at the whole situation and just wanted it to go away. She was completely biased and unfair in her handling of the matter and went out of her way to protect Luke.
I was told by Mariezka that Luke Preece had been the subject of numerous formal complaints by teachers and managers from Bandung over many years. I was told that HR always refused to admit wrongdoing on Luke Preece’s part and they often fired the people making complaints against Luke!
This fits exactly with my experience. Mariam and HR closed ranks and refused to investigate my complaint. I had four witnesses from TBI Kuningan who signed an affidavit supporting my version of events. Every single witness to the event supported my version of events and said I was not rude to this customer. Not one of those people was ever contacted and interviewed by Mariam or HR. They had 5 people against 1 in terms of what happened and they didn’t even bother to do their job and ask the other witnesses. It was as blatant and obvious a cover-up as you can ever imagine. They didn’t even pretend to go through the motions. Mariam ignored 5 people to protect Luke. Her loyalty to him even when he lies and commits fraud is unbending.
Do they have any motive for behaving in this manner?
Of course they do. It’s all about money. These few people are extracting large amounts of money from TBI. Luke Preece secured a salary of Rp 45 million for himself as far back as 2010. That is 300% higher than the average teacher at TBI Kuningan and maybe 400 -500% more than what teachers get at some franchise schools. They could solve their recruitment crisis right away if they got rid of Preece and raised teacher salaries significantly. Mariam and Reza conduct a school which is registered as a charity (yayasan), but which does no charitable works to speak of (not even scholarships for poor kids, for example) and yet which has been known to record profits of over $35,000 a month at TBI Kuningan. Whoever gets the lion’s share of that is a very wealthy individual in Indonesia. Luke and Ashley never question Mariam publically on any issue and Preece has used his cronies and stooges to undermine Ibu Wati when Ning placed her in charge of TBI Kuningan. Wati was a close friend of Ning, who was long engaged in a turf war with Mariam. Luke and Mariam are part of a dishonest clique which has progressively hijacked more and more of TBI.
Why do you believe that Luke Preece is a key figure in the TBI Mafia?
Once it is pointed out to you, it is obvious that he is trying to establish indirect control of TBI through his stooges. In 2010 he appointed his best friend of 30 years, Scott Martin, in charge of TBI Riau. Now Scott had 1 years’ experience as teacher, had almost failed his CELTA and had no uni degree in any subject. He did not even fit TBI’s own criteria for the job position yet Luke appointed him as the “only candidate”. We later heard that other candidates had in fact applied but Luke claimed “never to have received their CVs.” This despite the fact the sent emails were still in the applicant’s in-box! Now, Luke told me that Scott was the only candidate, so that was why he was able to get around not having a degree, but that turned out to be a lie. It was clear to everyone at TBI Riau and is certainly clear to me that Luke rigged an appointment to get his crony in charge of TBI’s biggest school. He has also appointed his woman-on-the-side, Lilies Agustin, as Head of Marketing. She is a real airhead prone to sending out grammatically scrambled tweets about how much she desired various men. But she got this high-ranking job without declaring her intimacy with Luke at any point, and then she was put in chrage of Internet surveillance at TBI and was able to read everyone’s emails. There is no doubt in my mind she shares this info with Luke, who she told me herself was her former lover.
Does it end there?
No it doesn’t. I heard from GA in Malang that Niah, the young woman from Bandung who Luke strongly recommended as Office Supervisor, had run amuk in the school in Malang, holding secret meetings behind the manager’s back and reporting any “dirt” back to Luke. I knew this was true because I remembered being in the car one time when Niah called Luke to report some of the “dirt”. So I eventually learned that Luke planted spies into schools who undermined Luke’s enemies and reported any embarrassing info back to him. At this point I remembered that the three most uncontrollable teachers at TBI Kunigan- Matthew, Minnie and Nicola- had also been brought by Luke from Bandung to Kuningan and they had routinely refused to teach classes on their schedules. They had also ran to HR continuously about pay, perks, unwanted classes and everything else when Chris, Wati and I were in charge, creating the impression that these managers were unable to control their own staff. It seemed that Luke was using the same tricks at every branch. He was regularly having secret meetings with teachers and staff behind the school managers’ backs and using this information to undermine his rivals. In the end, these spies of his were given outsized raises, perks and bonuses which other teachers didn’t get, causing resentment and unhappiness in the staffroom. Preece was up to his eyeballs in every frivolous complaint being made within the organisation.
Were these secret meetings something which was part of TBI’s established procedures?
Of course they weren’t. What company encourages supervisors to have secret “dirt-raking” meetings where the person who is the subject of the allegations doesn’t even get a change to respond to the allegations? It was completely random, completely against the established rules and shrouded in complete secrecy. The fact that these meetings went on at all was a serious breech of company policies. But that is the crux of the TBI Mafia. The inner clique can act with impunity. Rules and procedures are something they insist on for other people and they completely ignore their own company’s rules themselves.