Thursday, June 23, 2005

First Public Caning in Aceh Friday

Friday, June 24 will be the first time for Indonesian province of Aceh Sharia Council to execute 26 gamblers with 6 to 12 strokes of the rattan cane to be delivered in public. It draws controversy, even in Aceh, but visitors started to flock into Bireun, 200 kilometers east of Banda Aceh, worst hit by recent tsunami.

Sharia Court in Bireun, one of Aceh’s districts, 200 kilometers east of Banda Aceh, had convicted those 26 gamblers. They have been detained for almost 52 days before their punishment day. While some tried to get freedom with money, all of them will face the rattan cane which has one meter long and diameter of 0.75 centimeter.

The Bireuen government has prepared a 9 square meters stage, where the caning takes place, presumably so interested members of the public can get a better view. Not all gamblers will be punished here. Only five of them will face public caning here, while the rest in other places. The ‘show’ will be started after Friday prayer. reported from Bireun that the executors, known as Wilayatul Hisbah, are unpaid for months already. So the online publication run an article titled Bila Algojo Hukum Cambuk Belum Terima Honor (When Executors of Public Caning Unpaid Yet). Wilayatul Hisbah are moral police officers appointed by Aceh governor with 500 thousands of rupiah salary per month which is equal to US$ 50.

In the past months they only gave advise for wrongdoers. “We never saw their faces and never gave them advise as our main job. But now, we are about to do this (caning),” said one of the executors as quoted by

He admitted ever since their appointment many uninvited guests came to meet Wilayatul Hisbah “and give us nightmares.” “But we are not afraid to do this glorious job,” he continued as saying even though since April no salaries paid.

The caning sentence, the first such corporal punishment verdict in Aceh's modern history, is a product of the autonomy law, which gives the traditional and conservative province the right to enact its own bylaws. Its announcement caused controversy on Wednesday when it was made public. reported Thursday (June 23) that people flocked in Bireun to watch the caning.

While some have opposed the caning, others questioned why the painful and humiliating punishment did not apply to the big-time thieves, politicians and public officials convicted of stealing billions of rupiah (millions of US dollars) in public money.

"Why is the caning sentence only targeting the gamblers, drinkers and those who have committed adultery? It should apply also to the graft convicts," said Maisarah, 45, a resident of Jambo Tape, Banda Aceh as quoted by The Jakarta Post Thursday.

Abdullah Puteh, Aceh former governor is lucky to be punished by criminal law with 10 years in jail due to corruption. Early this year, 72 civilian, 5 military officers, and one police officer caught in a cockfight, a popular sport in Aceh, but all them released after a peace agreement even though some argues the sport is classified as gambling.

The Post reported Muhammad Ali, a convicted gambler facing a public caning, gave a weary look when asked about his punishment. The man in his 40s confessed that he had left his fate to God.

"If they insist on punishing me in this way, then they can go ahead. But they have should have punished the (big-time) graft convicts first," Ali said.

Ali, a construction worker, was arrested on April 30 this year when police found him and his six of his friends involved in illegal gambling in Pulo Kitca, Bireuen.

After being jailed for 15 days, he once freed by the police but now he has to answer to the province's Islamic court, which will punish him under a new bylaw inspired by Sharia Law.

Shortly after his release, Ali was summoned by the Bireuen Sharia Office, which passed his sentence -- 10 strokes of the rattan cane to be delivered in public.

But if the provincial leaders have their way, those found guilty of graft offences could face a much tougher punishment than caning.

In Aceh, there are currently only three bylaws passed that relate to sharia law -- those that prohibit gambling, adultery, and the consumption of alcohol drinks. Corruption, meanwhile, is being included in a new law encompassing theft.

"The bylaw on theft, including corruption offences, is being deliberated by the Sharia Office," said Raihan Iskandar, the deputy speaker of the Aceh provincial council.

Once the office completes its work, the new law will be proposed to the Aceh provincial council for approval.

According to Raihan, the office was proposing convicted thieves would have their hands amputated, a tradition still practiced in Saudi Arabia. This tough punishment would help establish order in the province and be an effective deterrent, he said. reported seven convicted gamblers were offered by someone to release them with payment of US$50 each. Later on, the officer asked another US$30 each. They admitted to have paid US$560. But Friday Showdown Will Go On.



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