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Indonesian activists decry inaction over human trafficking

Law enforcement agencies fail to nab kingpins behind illegal recruitment in Christian-majority East Nusa Tenggara province
Leonardus Jangkur (center) was sentenced to five years imprisonment for human trafficking on April 2.

Leonardus Jangkur (center) was sentenced to five years imprisonment for human trafficking on April 2. (Photo: Supplied)

Published: April 03, 2024 11:34 AM GMT
Updated: April 03, 2024 11:51 AM GMT

Christian activists in Indonesia have slammed law enforcement agencies for their inability to trace the kingpins behind human trafficking in the Christian-majority East Nusa Tenggara province.

The criticism came after the Ruteng District Court in the underdeveloped province’s Flores Island on April 2 sentenced a man to five years in prison for illegally recruiting a family of five, including two children, in a palm oil firm company in Kalimantan on Borneo Island.

Judge Syifa Alam ordered Leonardus Jangkur, a Catholic, to pay a fine of 350 million rupiahs (US$21,949) subsidiary to four months in prison, and also pay restitution to the victims.

The judge said Jangkur violated laws concerning human trafficking as he did not have a license from the manpower ministry to recruit people. He made false promises regarding salaries to be paid to the family and got them employment without legal documents.

Leonardus, who was arrested on June 8, 2023, claims to work for a broker based in Kalimantan whom he identified by a single name, Leo.

Leo is linked to a palm oil company, PT Sampurna, he further claimed.

Sister Laurentina Suharsih from the Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence based in Kupang, capital of East Nusa Tenggara province, said she was disappointed by the court verdict.

“There is no deterrent effect,” said the nun who is better known as ‘Sister Cargo’ for helping repatriate hundreds of corpses of illegal Indonesian migrant workers mostly from Malaysia since 2017.

“Such cases will always happen again,” she said and drew attention to the March 30 arrests by police in Kupang of 12 undocumented workers being smuggled to Malaysia.

Suharsih said brokers continue to operate in remote areas where the villagers do not understand legal procedures.

Gabriel Goa Sola from the Indonesian Advocacy Service for Justice and Peace, an organization affiliated with the Church, criticized the law enforcement agencies that focus “on recruiters, while the masterminds roam free.”

Jangkur could have been made “a justice collaborator to uncover the network," he noted.

Sola, who is also a member of Zero Human Trafficking Network attached to the Church, alleged that “officials allow the mafia to roam freely” in East Nusa Tenggara province.

Suryanto, police chief of East Manggarai Regency, said the police are helpless.

“The masterminds are all stationed outside” their jurisdiction, said the officer who goes by a single name.

Last year, the National Human Rights Commission categorized East Nusa Tenggara as a human trafficking emergency area.

The police claimed they traced 185 human trafficking cases involving 256 victims in the province during 2023.

Christians form 89.8 percent of East Nusa Tenggara’s 5.5 million population. It is one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia.

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