“protesters burned flags on the streets with impunity”
There are many good things about Indonesia: spicy food; friendly people who take an interest in others; volcanoes, jungles, reefs and other natural wonders. But one of the negative factors about life in Indonesia has long been the ability of powerful people to ride roughshod over the little guy. Orang berkuasa have long been free to exploit the orang kecil with impunity. The best example is surely General Suharto, who was never tried for human rights abuses or corruption, despite being rated by the United Nations as “the most corruptor dictator of the 20th century”, stealing an estimated $35 billion during his reign. (It would be many times more in today’s money.) Similarly, Abdurizal Bakrie (who is on the board of USG, the “charity” which owns TBI) was able to avoid culpability for the Lapindo Disaster, caused by incompetent drilling at one his projects. More than 10,000 people were displaced due to the mud volcano Bakrie unleashed on villagers, and he fought against claims for compensation every step of the way. The Surabaya police and judiciary were alleged to be in his pockets, as they frustrated the claims of villagers for years on end.
It is not easy then to see how TBI have been able to get away with their crimes for so long. They used the name of Bakrie (the current leader of Suharto’s GOLKAR party) to silence anyone who spoke out. One of the authors of this blog was advised against complaining about lies he was told by TBI on the basis that one of the offenders was Tante Vera, a friend of Bakrie. Luke Preece, a corruption-tainted Australian in TBI, was very free with the Bakrie name in trying to terrify whistle-blowers into silence. Basically, the well-connected in Indonesia feel that they are able to mistreat people with impunity, which is part of the reason why the nation has so often suffered from a bad human rights image.
In this context, the closure of two Rumah Bahasa schools (Baywalk and Season City) must be greeted as a rare victory for the “little guy / gal”. Frendy Horas, the wealthy founder of Rumah Bahasa, has used the whole arsenal of weapons of wealthy Indonesians to try and silence critics- threats of lawsuits, arrest by the police for “slander”, and even physical violence have been legion. Pak Horas has tried to terrify his disgruntled customers, teachers and staff into silence by threatening violence and legal retribution. The Chinese-Indonesian businessman with the Batak name has felt that he can break promises and intimidate people with impunity. He thought that because he had a lot of money, he could do whatever he liked. It is a great victory for the orang kecil then that his shady schools are closing down. Using information sent to us by former teachers and current unhappy customers, we have exposed this sorry school and saved untold numbers of people from financial distress and hardship.
Rumah Bahasa, TBI and any other rogue school operators in Indonesia need to realize that the Internet and social media have provided a new outlet for challenging the corrupt status quo in Indonesia. At least for the moment, the playing field has been somewhat levelled. This can only help the victims of crooks in the TEFL industry in Indonesia, and the bank-books of their trusting Indonesian customers.