I am writing to ask for your support in bringing to light the truth about the recent allegations regarding the Jakarta International School, and Ferdi Tjiong and Neil Bantleman, two JIS faculty members who are currently in police custody. I appeal to you in the name of the community we share.
Let me tell you about my connection to you, to this school and these two men. I arrived in Jakarta in 1988 to teach first grade at Pattimura School, one of the elementary branches of the Jakarta International School. I was eager to immerse myself in Indonesian culture. I learned Bahasa Indonesia, and how to fast at Ramadan in recognition of those less fortunate. I learned about Ibu Kartini, and the struggles for Indonesian independence. I fell in love with this nation’s diversity, batik, gamelan, wayang kulit, dangdut, nasi padang, and eventually, my former husband, with whom I have a child. Although our marriage did not last, we maintain a close friendship, and I consider his family to be mine as well.
The twenty four years I lived in Indonesia will always be remembered as the best time of my life, for the passion and dedication of the teachers with whom I worked, the beautiful children we taught, and the warmth and friendliness of our host country community members who made us feel so welcome.
Although I moved to Germany in 2012, Indonesia remains the home of my heart, and for this I thank her generous people. We keep close ties with the JIS community, and our Indonesian family. I return every May to attend the JIS high school graduation and to see our adult foster son and our former pembantu’s son, who are among those we continue to support through their schooling. We do this because we believe in Indonesia’s future, and that educated young people are the most powerful resources to support her democracy.
Our son attended JIS for fourteen years. I attribute the fine qualities of respect, tolerance and compassion he exhibits to the JIS teachers who helped to shape his character, and to the many Indonesian people he grew to love, who also practice these traits, people like Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tjiong. Ours is just one of many JIS experiences. Thousands of JIS alumni, both expatriates and Indonesians, are living around the world, teaching, working in hospitals, as environmental activists to save the world’s oceans, and in NGO organizations. Many who attend JIS later return to Indonesia to live and work. Some of them have opened orphanages and sports camps for kampung children. Others are working to create solutions for clean water and accessible electricity. Former and current JIS students and faculty, like Neil and Ferdi, have participated in rebuilding Indonesia’s coral reefs, providing housing and education for street kids, building Habitats for Humanity, helping with flood and tsunami relief, and making a multitude of other contributions to Indonesia’s future. All of them are committed to living the JIS motto, to be the best FOR the world.
Now my friends, this is my plea. JIS, this wonderful school, is under threat from dangerous allegations made by a few individuals. Innocent teachers of various nationalities have been deported, or had their passports confiscated. Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tjiong have been falsely accused of the heinous crime of paedophilia, and these two innocent men are being detained by the police. I am all in support of quick and strong action against any parties who have in fact engaged in paedophilia or any other crime. But these two men are being held without any evidence against them, are not officially even charged with any crime, have not been questioned specifically about any of the supposed evidence that no one has seen, and, to top it off, have recently passed lie detectors tests. And yet, they are not free.
We need your help in calling on the highest officials of the land to support the rule of law and justice, by which our Tanah Air is governed. Indonesia’s future is bright, and now is the time to take a stand against the sort of senseless corruption and greed that appears to be driving these allegations. Help our JIS community to continue to flourish in partnership with you, Indonesia. Help free and exonerate Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tjiong.
Author and former JIS teacher (1988-2012)