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Authors: Kathryn Bonella

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Sari walked up the steps and disappeared into the hall. Moments later, her anguished screams pierced the air. Nita wiped away her tears as she stood there uselessly, feeling a stinging hatred for the vicious gang that now terrorised Hotel K. There was nothing she could do to help Sari. Even when a female guard came over, both stood helplessly listening to the sobs. Half an hour later, Sari came out, dishevelled and distressed.

She was crying. I ask what’s happened. What did they do? She tells me that three men force her to do sex with them.

– Nita

Nita ushered Sari towards the blue room, suggesting she still go for a short visit to see her friend. The female guard slipped a light jacket around her trembling shoulders. A few minutes later Sari left the blue room too traumatised to be among strangers. She gripped Nita’s hand as she walked back across the jail. The rapists were smugly watching them from the top of the hall steps. Sari was doing three months for petty theft. One of the rapists was her new jail boyfriend.

Back in Block W, all the women were feeling Sari’s distress as she lay silently in the corner of her cell. No-one could comfort her. If they offered her a glass of water, she ignored it. If they stroked her arm gently, she pulled away. For two days, she didn’t move. But when she finally got up, she walked straight out the door without a word and across to the guards’ table. She was bitterly angry at the evil bastards who had raped her and wanted to report them to the police. But the guards shook their heads. Sari checked out a week later. No-one was punished.

The guard told her it’s better to keep silent, otherwise the gang will hit you. I also tell to the security, but they don’t want to get involved in this matter.

– Nita

The incident sent fear through Block W. The women were scared to walk the perilous path across to the blue room to collect their mail. Many now rigidly stuck to the footpaths, avoiding the short cut past the hall. As part of her job as
tamping
, Nita walked back and forth escorting prisoners several times a day; now she always took the long route, usually pretending to buy something at the canteen so that the Laskars loitering in the hall didn’t see her fear.

Jail life is more dangerous than before because inside the jail is a very powerful gang. This gang is more powerful than the security inside the jail. If the gang commands you, you must do it freely without any complaints or they will hit you. Being block leader I have to do my job seriously, but dealing with the gang is very hard for me. I talk sometimes to the woman security, who is very close to me, but she can do nothing more than us.

– Nita

The women were not even safe in their own cellblock. The gang could go wherever it wanted.

One afternoon, a young, drunken Laskar recruit walked into the women’s block and approached Australian inmate Schapelle Corby. She had returned from performing in one of Hotel K’s regular PR stunts – swinging open its doors to journalists and TV cameras to show the women doing a tightly choreographed exercise routine on the grass, in stark contrast to the hellish anarchy that really existed. Schapelle was sitting outside her cell when the inmate sat down opposite her. ‘Come and sit with me,’ he said. ‘No thanks.’ He angrily slapped his leg. ‘Sit here.’ ‘Sorry, no thanks, I’m busy.’ She turned away and walked into her cell. ‘Schapelle, Schapelle, Schapelle.’ He kept calling until she appeared back in the doorway, then hurled a brick at her. It missed her, but hit the bars and broke in half. He threw several more, but she’d retreated into the cell. He was angry. ‘If that’s not big enough, how about this?’ he yelled, throwing a large rock and causing the nearby inmates to scurry into their cells.

He then turned and screamed abuse at a female guard, who burst into tears, frightened and powerless to do anything. A couple of Laskars finally took him out of Block W. But within half an hour, he was back. The guards could do little but lock all the women in their cells early for their own protection.

In the men’s block too, the gang instilled fear. Around 6 am one day,
Pemuka
Saidin was doing his patrol when he received a phone call telling him to come quickly to the gang’s cellblock, C1. Inmate Beny was dead – hanging by a thick plastic rope over the squat toilet. The cells inside the block were already unlocked and inmates had gathered to look. Saidin told everyone to stand back. No-one was to touch Beny until the police arrived. They soon turned up and untied the plastic rope, and Saidin and an officer lifted the body down. Most of those inmates in the block knew the truth. Beny had been strung up by the gang.

If you kill yourself, there are visible signs. I think they overdosed him first and hanged him while he was unconscious, but still alive.

– Inmate

North Sumatran inmate Alpones Simbolon – nicknamed Beny – had been well-liked among the westerners. He often talked philosophy with Mick, or shot up with Thomas, who he’d known since their stint together in Hotel K ten years earlier. Beny had an Australian ex-wife and teenage son, and an Indonesian wife and a young son. His local wife and their 12-year-old boy had often visited him, with the boy even staying overnight in Beny’s cell occasionally. Beny – dubbed a ‘drug trafficking big shot’ in the local papers – had been caught with more than two kilograms of heroin, and had been next to face the death penalty after Frenchman Michael and Mexican Vincente. He had hoped to do a deal and get fifteen years, but like the other two had received life. He admitted to friends in Hotel K that he’d been dealing up to six kilograms of smack a month.

Inmates had different theories about why he was dead, but none believed Beny suicided. It was a paid hit. Some thought Beny, a heroin and
shabu
user, had been murdered for a spiralling drug debt and it was a warning to all. But those closest to him were convinced it was because he knew too much, was using too much smack and had become loose-lipped; something not tolerated by drug bosses. The night of his hanging, several prisoners heard Beny shouting as one of the Laskar gang hit him.

A cursory jail investigation deemed his death suicide. But the police suspected foul play, telling the media there could be a link between Beny’s death and a syndicate that was possibly behind the Bali Nine. Beny’s body was exhumed and autopsied.

Police are investigating a possible link between the suspicious death of a convicted drug dealer in a Bali jail and the syndicate believed to be behind the Bali Nine. The body of a man convicted in 2002 of trafficking 2.2kg of heroin has been exhumed after he was found dead in Bali’s Kerobokan Prison last week. Dealer Alpones Simbolon was apparently hanged in the washroom of his cell last Tuesday. His death was originally treated as suicide, but Indonesian police said that there was a possibility it might be linked to the same syndicate as the Bali Nine.


The Daily Telegraph
, 25 April 2005

When the autopsy found there had been drugs in Beny’s system, the police investigation was closed, with no further word of a link to the syndicate. But local journalists and those inside Hotel K had no doubt that Laskar Bali had been paid to kill him.

After Laskar entered the jail, there were one or two unsolved murders inside the prison. Although the prison authorities said it was suicide, a friend of mine who is very close to Laskar, said they were Laskar jobs.

– Journalist,
Jakarta Post

Beny’s death cast a shadow of sadness over the westerners. Scottish Robert walked around for days in his usual drunken haze muttering, ‘Why did they have to kill him? Why?’ It was a sentiment shared by all.

Out of five major gangs in Bali, Laskar was the most violent. The up-market tourist areas of Seminyak and Legian were its turf. Laskar was in charge of security in all the nightclubs, bars and restaurants, also selling ecstasy in most of the major tourist clubs, such as Bounty, the Hard Rock Café, Paddy’s and Double Six. Four or five Laskar members were security at each club, and had the ability to call on its five hundred or so members if a situation escalated. It was a shock when the top bosses of Laskar, including number one Agung Aseng, were sent to jail. They normally had immunity, working with police to evade punishment.

Usually the Bali police tried not to disturb the Laskars. Here is how it works in [the] Balinese underworld; the gang kills someone, the police announce informally to the gang leaders that they have to surrender the person who killed.

Please make our job easy, the police say. The leadership of the gang will hold meetings to decide who will be sent to the police to confess as the killer. They will never send the actual killer because the actual killer is an asset to the gang. A killer will increase its reputation and power.

This is the story behind the story that never made the newspaper or [reached] the public. Denpasar Moon, supposedly a karaoke bar but it’s open until six in the morning, is right across the street from a military complex that oversees Bali.

The security of this Denpasar Moon is not by Laskar. On this night, there is a violent argument with one of the security and one of the guests. It turns out that the guest has a good relationship with Laskar, with Agung Aseng, the head of Laskar himself. He calls Agung Aseng. The Laskars arrive in two open jeeps, carrying swords, spears, lances.

And they attack Denpasar Moon security. One of the on-duty military men at the regional complex (First Corporal I Gusti Ketut) hears the commotion. He goes to check, he wants to know what is happening, he approaches Denpasar Moon, and is stabbed and killed by Agung Aseng and his men while he was trying to break up the fight.

I was there several hours after the murder of this military guy, and already several young soldiers were gathering and speaking about revenge. The commander of Bali military summonsed all his officers and told them he will not tolerate any revenge, because the image of Indonesian military is still very low and they should not create an incident that will further tarnish that image.

But his subordinate, chief of the Denpasar military, was a very young, very tough, no-nonsense guy. He calls the chief of Denpasar police and says, ‘Do you have a suspect yet?’ Of course they didn’t have a suspect yet because they had to sort it out with the gang first. The military knew Laskar did it; they knew Agung Aseng was there.

So this young military guy informs the Denpasar police chief, ‘Okay the one who commit[s] the crime is Laskar and . . . the guy’s name who was involved in the attack is Agung Aseng. I expect all the suspects to be arrested within twenty-four hours; otherwise I and my men will arrest them. And if I do the arrest, you can be sure that none of them will be alive to stand trial’.

It was not an empty threat. A group of military soldiers in plain clothes was already surrounding Agung Aseng’s house under direct order from him.

The police chief knew the house was surrounded and called Agung Aseng, saying, ‘Please surrender’.

Agung Aseng surrendered. The Denpasar police chief called the Denpasar military chief … ‘We’ve got the suspects’.

So, normally there is some arrangement with the gangs, but when you deal with an angry army guy, you don’t have any choice. Agung Aseng got three or four years. It’s common knowledge that each night he’s still able to leave the prison, stay at his house, or control his men who are working in the streets of Legian and Seminyak. Eight Laskars got sentenced. And, suddenly, when they went to jail, Laskar Bali owned the jail. I think most of the guards are frightened of the gang, afraid for their own lives and their families’ lives.

– Journalist Wayan Juniartha of the
Jakarta Post

From the first day Agung Aseng entered Hotel K, he took over, strutting about while talking on a mobile phone, walking into the boss’s office, out the front door, doing whatever he liked. The guards knew the power of the Laskars and just stood back to let the gang take control.

BOOK: Hotel Kerobokan
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ads

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