Ratna Sarumpaet, center, accompanied by her legal counsel Yusril Ihza Mahendra, right, speaking to reporters after questioning by police in Depok, West Java, on Wednesday (03/10). (Antara Photo/Indrianto Eko Suwarso)
Jakarta. Ratna Sarumpaet, a human rights activist, theatrical producer and actress, is at the center of the latest political drama that has stirred major controversy among the country’s political elite and observers alike.
Ratna, who was until this week a member of the campaign team for presidential pair Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno, admitted on Wednesday (03/10) that she has embarrassed her boss and his entire team.
She confessed to having fabricated her claim that she had been assaulted by three people outside Husein Sastranegara International Airport in Bandung, West Java, on the night of Sep. 21, while on her way to a conference in the city.
Ratna said she made up the story to hide from her children and family the fact that she had plastic surgery, which caused swelling to her face, and that she was unable to set the record straight when the story reached Prabowo and his campaign team.
“This is stupidity I would never have believed existed in me,” Ratna said at a press conference.
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Ratna’s false story went viral on social media on Tuesday when Fadli Zon, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and deputy chairman of Prabowo’s Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), tweeted about his meeting with her and a picture showing her bandaged face.Later that day, Prabowo called a press conference after meeting with Ratna to state that the attack was “repressive, a human rights violation and cowardly.” A barrage of posts from his supporters on social media soon followed, insinuating that the attack represented President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s true oppressive nature.
But early on Wednesday, the National Police revealed damning facts that challenged the activist’s account. The police said Ratna’s cellphone number was detected to have been active in Jakarta and not in Bandung on Sept. 20-24, when she claimed the attack took place. There were also no eyewitnesses to the alleged attack and Ratna’s name was listed on no flight manifests on the day of the alleged attack.
There were also bank transfers amounting to Rp 90 million ($5,300) from the bank accounts of Ratna and her son to Bina Estetika, a clinic in Menteng, Central Jakarta, that specializes in plastic surgery. The clinic confirmed to police that Ratna was admitted as a patient on Sept. 21-24 and that she underwent plastic surgery.
This prompted Ratna to call a press conference on her own accord to set the record straight.
“I’m asking for forgiveness from Mr. Prabowo Subianto, who yesterday sincerely stood up for me, for the lies I told,” Ratna said.
“I am asking for forgiveness from colleagues in [Prabowo’s campaign team]. Now I hurt your feelings, but for the sake of God, I never meant to do that,” she said.
She also showed her letter of resignation from Prabowo’s campaign team.
Police to Investigate
Sandiaga – who still said he believed Ratna despite the police report – changed his stance after the press conference and vowed to report her to the police.”We stated that any member of our campaign team who spreads hoaxes will be reported to the police. We will surely follow up on this,” Sandiaga said, without saying when the team would do that.
However, this may not be necessary, after Farhat Abbas, an outspoken lawyer and spokesman for Jokowi’s campaign team, filed a police report against Ratna for spreading a hoax. He also reported Prabowo, Sandiaga, Fadli and 13 others for spreading the hoax on social media, according to a document seen by the Jakarta Globe.
Jokowi’s running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, meanwhile said the case provides momentum to crack down on those who spread hoaxes ahead the 2019 presidential election. “Law enforcement must deal with it,” he said.
Jakarta Police spokesman Chief Comr. Argo Yuwono said on Wednesday that the police were still investigating the case before naming any suspects.
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Ratna, 69, was widely known as a theatrical and film producer, director, actress and writer. She is also a fierce human rights activist focusing on women’s rights, child trafficking and military repression. Her first original stage play, “Marsinah: Song From the Underground,” in 1993 shed light on the tragic rape and murder of a female worker’s rights leader in East Java.In 2009, Ratna adapted her play, “The Whore and the President,” into a film, retitled “Jamila dan Sang Presiden” (“Jamila and the President”), to raise awareness of human trafficking.
This case, however, could be a tragic end to her long and illustrious career. Under Indonesia’s 2016 Electronic Information and Transactions Law, anyone found guilty of spreading hoaxes on electronic media may face up to six years in prison, or a fine of up to Rp 1 billion.
“I am the best hoax creator, stirring up the entire country,” Ratna said, sobbing, at Wednesday’s press conference.
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