More than 300 hundred natives of Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos who were moved from the island of Benjina to neighboring Tual this week as part of Indonesia’s investigation into slavery on fishing vessels in its waters there. Photo: Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry
The composition of Indonesia’s special team tasked with investigating slavery allegations against fishing company Pusaka Benjina Resources reflects the government’s acknowledgement that the crimes might have happened with the assent of corrupt officials.
The team, formed by President Jokowi “Jokowi” Widodo after a closed meeting on April 7, includes representatives from the military, police, attorney general and several ministries.
The meeting was called in the wake of an Associated Press investigation that revealed dozens if not hundreds of slaves, mostly from Myanmar, were held captive and forced to work Thai-run fishing vessels off the island of Benjina in eastern Indonesia.
“Right now we’re making an inventory of the problems,” said Mas Achmad Santosa, head of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry’s illegal fishing task force. He added that the allegations included slavery, bribery and collusion as well as illegal fishing.
Pusaka Benjina’s director, Hermanwir Martino, claims to have bribed marine patrol officers for sailing permits, according to Tempo, the Indonesian news magazine. The money was allegedly distributed among officials from the Maritime Affairs Ministry, the Transportation Ministry, the Customs and Excise Office and the Immigration Office.
Anda Fauzi Miraza, the Maritime Affairs Ministry’s inspector general, pledged to crack down on anyone taking bribes. However, he added that because there was not yet data or facts, it was not clear whether the matter would invoke legal proceedings or stay within the ministry’s own disciplinary process.
“We are going to look into whether our employees are on the take,” Anda promised. “If someone is punished, he could lose his position as a civil servant.”
Hermanwir’s Facebook page shows he is friends with a number of ministry officials.
Produced in English by Philip Jacobson.
- Jay Fajar. “Pemerintah Bentuk Tim Khusus Tangani Perbudakan di Benjina.” Mongabay-Indonesia. 8 April 2015.