The earliest theme of this blog was corruption and collusion within a small clique at TBI who we dubbed ‘The TBI Mafia’. We identified the core of this group as four or five people: Mariam Kartkatresni, Ashley Platts, Luke Preece, and Luke’s cronies Lilies Agustine and Scott Martin. We documented how these five had constantly colluded and conspired together over a number of years to get all other expats removed from TBI and to place their own cronies in key roles.
We showed how this was completed in 2010-2011 when the last five non-TBI Mafia managers were removed one by one and replaced by friends of Mariam. Their methods involved smear campaigns, rigged interview panels on which only TBI Mafia members were allowed to sit, illegal visa scams to allow their cronies to stay in Indonesia without academic credentials, and throwing away CVs of people outside their group.
Their hostile takeover of TBI was achieved against the backdrop of real soap-opera style office politics, especially the long-running turf war between Ibu Mariam, the long-time TBI Director, and Ibu Ning, the head of USG, the murky “charity” which owns TBI. The rise of Mariam’s clique (the so-called TBI Mafia) happened at a time when Ibu Ning, then in her late 70s, was looking to move towards retirement and had been very sick at times. Luke Preece had said of Ibu Ning’s cancer diagnosis, “I don’t hope that she dies, but I hope that she gets very, very sick so she stops interfering in TBI.”
By all accounts, Ibu Ning hated some members of Mariam’s clique, notably Lilies Agustine. Lilies had told us she was the mistress of Luke Preece and she had lived with Minnie, another crony of Preece’s who he had installed as Academic Manager of TBI Kuningan though she didn’t even have a degree. Ning thought that Lilies looked cheap and trashy with her low-cut dresses and had insisted she show less cleavage at work. Lilies’s intimacy with Preece was key to her rise in true TBI Mafia style. She had been promoted straight from the lowly role of Marketing Manager at TBI Dago (where she had worked under Preece) to Marketing Manager of the whole TBI group, despite the fact she had no more experience than running a few cheap promos for Preece’s school in Dago.
She was woeful in the role. She sent out materials for promotions weeks late. She once set out the promotional materials for Chinese New Year on the day before the event, making them impossible to use in time. When questioned on this she had fired off an email blaming her incompetent staff. Like all of the TBI Mafia, nothing was ever her fault. She took months to approve other peoples’ ideas, slowing down the growth of the better-performing and more active schools and turned down everyone else’s ideas but never came up with any of her own. What she did manage to get done was tirelessly brown-nose Mariam and write hundreds of tweets in broken English, many of them fired off while drunk in karaoke joints about how attractive she found certain men in the vicinity. One of my favorites was, “What a hunky guy…I’d like to eat some of that!” No one apart from Mariam and Luke ever had a good word to say about her, but they all wrote glowing recommendations for each other on LinkedIn, lavishing praise on each other in a congratulatory circle-jerk.
Anyway, the years of slow to no growth and disappointing student numbers finally confirmed the picture of dysfunction we painted on this blog. Mariam was finally shown the door, the Reign of Error coming to a long end. And when Lilies’ contract ran out three months ago, she was shown the door too. But she has found a new job working with Mariam, her former TBI Mafia crony, at UTS:InSearch. Ibu Ning must be pleased that the trashy Lilies, who Luke and Mariam had dragged in, is finally gone. The TBI Mafia’s incompetence and lack of results are finally catching up with them. TBI is finally taking out some of the trash.