The recent executions of six convicts from Brazil, Vietnam, The Netherlands, Malawi, Nigeria and Indonesia for drug-related crimes caused worldwide outrage towards President Joko Widodo, the leader so many people—in Indonesia and abroad—had pinned their hopes on to improve human rights in Indonesia.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff reached out to Jokowi prior to the executions, pleading to save their citizen Marco Archer, but Jokowi ignored her plea. As a result of the executions, the ambassador to The Netherlands and Brazil were recalled in what seemed like a political statement, showing their discontent with Indonesia’s decision.
On social media, Indonesians have shown their support of the President’s decision, urging foreign governments to “go ahead”, and “see if we care” to the threat of recalling ambassadors. President Jokowi responded to criticism by stating, “The war against the drug mafia should not be half-hearted measures [sic], because drugs have really ruined the good life of the drug users and their families.” President Jokowi has declared that Indonesia is in a state of emergency over drugs, with 4.5 million users requiring rehabilitation. He added that 1.2 million drug users could not be rehabilitated and nearly 50 of them die each day.
Drug trafficking is a serious crime in Indonesia, and we’re all made well aware of it when arriving from a foreign country; announcements made on flights and billboards warn travellers of the death penalty in airport terminals. Many people are arguing that the convicts knew what they were getting themselves into when they got involved in the world of drugs. What many others are having difficulty accepting is that there seems to be an inconsistency within the law.
Capital punishment in Indonesia is carried out for terrorism, murder and drug-related crimes. Last year, Indonesia paid $2.1 million to save Satinah, a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia found guilty of murdering her employer in 2007, yet on home turf Indonesia has shot five foreigners for a crime which most people would agree is far less grave than murder. Human Rights Watch has called this a “double standard”.
In 2007, the Indonesian Constitutional Court recommended legal changes stating that if a prisoner has been on death row for 10 years without execution, and has been of good behaviour, the sentence should be commuted to life in prison or 20 years. In April of this year, two Australian members of the Bali Nine who are now on death row for drug-related crimes, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, will have been in prison for 10 years and have shown themselves to be remorseful and rehabilitated men, even helping other convicts in their prison to change.
In September of 2003 one of the Bali Bombers, Ali Imron, received a verdict of life in prison after showing remorse for his involvement in the terrorist attack that killed 202 people in two nightclubs in Bali. If a man capable of blowing up hundreds of innocent people receives life in prison for showing remorse, how can it be consistent that Sukumaran and Chan be shot to death, especially after showing rehabilitation and serving nearly 10 years in jail already?
This brings us to the question: who decides what one man’s life is worth over another’s?
60 more convicts, including Sukumaran and Chan—and several other foreigners—are in line for further executions. The question is, what message will Jokowi send if he executes these remaining convicts and what retaliation will Indonesia receive from the countries of these foreign convicts? Has he jeopardized his relationship with the international community so early in the game?
Unfortunately for everyone involved, only time will tell.
Yayasan Kasih Suwitno at Ruang Carlo Community Centre: Non-discriminatory, friendly and free services for people with HIV and AIDS in Jakarta, Indonesia.
World Aids Day took place on 1 December 2014 and according to UNAIDS, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in Indonesia is one of the fastest growing epidemics in Asia, due to the lack of awareness, lack of education and health services, not to mention the social stigmas attached to having HIV or AIDS. Indonesia’s first case of the HIV virus was reported in 1987 and in 2011, 310,000 were reported to have the virus, with 8,700 annual reported deaths.
Today, the highest concentration areas are Papua, where 2.7% of the population have contracted the virus, followed by Jakarta, East Java, West Java, Bali and Riau. In Wamina, West Papua, 30% of the population have HIV, and nearly 100% have either Chlamydia or Gonorrhea, as these particular STDs are closely linked with the HIV virus.
Steve Wignall, Founder of Yayasan Kasih Suwitno (YKS) in Jakarta and Yayasan Bali Peduli (YBP) in Bali, has been working in Indonesia for 30 years and is an expert in HIV and AIDS. Due to an increase in cases in young people, in 2011 Steve and Dr. Emon Winardi (Director of the clinic) and their friend Johan set up YKS at Ruang Carlo Community Centre to provide services to patients that were friendly, efficient, easy to access and most importantly, free.
The clinic is located in the Saint Carolus Hospital and is a comfortable and discreet area, closed off from the rest of the hospital. Walls are painted a calming cream, service is friendly and knowledgeable, and there are different areas where patients can wait in peace.
“For young people with a chronic sickness, it’s very hard. They don’t have a lot of disposable income; the system often doesn’t respect their time and the cost of transport back and forth,” Steve tells me on my visit to the clinic in the centre of Jakarta.
Today the clinic has six full-time staff and is a wonderful example of a public-private partnership, working with the government who provide the reagents and drugs, and the NGO providing the environment and resources to make it accessible to people.
A common misconception is that HIV is a death sentence, when this is no longer true. If a person is tested early, before their immune system is damaged, medication is free and they will be able to live happy, healthy lives, have families and not infect other people. People are afraid to come for testing because of the stigmas associated with the virus.
Dr. Janice Tandraeliene works at Ruang Carlo Community Centre and believes stigmas are the main reason why people don’t take the test. “Some people are afraid to come, not just here but to all health facilities that test for HIV. There are many reasons, including the stigma, because they’re alone and don’t know what to do. When people come here alone, we try to consult and explain about HIV and make them comfortable so that they want to take the test.” If the result is positive, patients will be guided by therapy and given medication, which they are expected to take for the remainder of their lives.
The medication given to HIV patients is called anti-retroviral therapy and works by suppressing the virus and stopping the progression of the disease. Killing the virus is not possible, but these drugs stop it from developing. HIV is different from other viruses and infections because it becomes one with the DNA, integrating and hiding within it. Patients do not die from HIV; they die from infections, viruses and funguses, which are able to attack the weakened immune system.
“Unfortunately, HIV goes for the dalang (mastermind) of our immune system, the CD4 positive T cells, a type of white blood cell that is vital to fighting off infection. We’re all exposed every day to viruses and funguses but our immune system takes care of that,” Steve explains.
HIV is transmitted in key infected populations: injecting drug users – a problem that is decreasing in Indonesia as people are switching to amphetamine-like substances –, female commercial sex workers – 10-15% of whom are HIV positive -, and men who have sex with men – a rapidly expanding population of over 1 million individuals. In Jakarta in 2003, studies showed that 2% of gay men were found to be HIV positive; in 2007, 8%; and in 2011, 17%. At YKS today, an average of 27% of young men tested, are HIV positive.
What is the reason for this growing statistic? Social medias are providing a new platform for young people to meet and sex is happening at a younger age. Unfortunately, this is not coupled with adequate sexual education in local schools, and not at an early enough age, by teachers who are able and willing to talk openly about sex.
One of the fastest growing groups in Indonesia are housewives infected by their husbands who are visiting sex workers or are having sex with other men. In Bali, one in 200 pregnant women have contracted the virus from their husbands.
Steve believes the focus should shift towards men. “The focus often goes to the women, but it’s really the man that’s the problem. There’s only a sex industry if there’s a market to sell sex; if men didn’t buy it, there would not be women selling it. Getting men who buy sex to use condoms is a challenge and we need to continue to work on that; the best we see is 40-50% condom use.”
Antonio is Case Manager at Ruang Carlo Community Centre and is HIV positive. He’s passionate about helping others who are going through what he has. “My life has become more positive, living healthily, and getting support from family and friends. Of course, I want to be a role model for other friends so they do not feel despair and can continue to enjoy their lives by giving and sharing information about the ups and downs of life with HIV, and supporting each other.”
The only way to break the process of infection is for people with high risk behaviours to get tested. “We’re only going to be able to break this chain of infection if people know their status,” reminds Steve. Recently, the team at YKS have been bringing free HIV testing to certain high-risk establishments in Jakarta, resulting in a much higher number of people agreeing to be tested.
How to help
YKS would like to provide more mobile testing, and welcome your donations to help them continue to run their operations.
The province of DKI Jakarta (Daerah Khusus Ibukota, not including Bogor, Tangerang, Depok and Bekasi) has a population of over 9.6 million (2010), each individual of which produces waste. Shockingly for a city of its size, there is no solid waste management plan in place, and recycling is left in the hands of a few non-governmental organizations and the pemulung (rubbish pickers), who work hard to sort through millions of people’s mixed rubbish before it’s taken to a landfill. An estimated 6,000 tonnes of rubbish is produced a day in Jakarta, 2,000 of which is thought to end up in the rivers, causing flooding and diseases.
Rubbish collected in the province of DKI Jakarta all ends up at the largest landfill of Indonesia – Bantar Gebang. This massive 111-hectare rubbish tip is more than meets the eye, as it homes 5,000 inhabitants who live and work here as scavengers, including a pre-school and a primary school, where the children of the scavengers come to get an education.
The first thing you notice when getting close to Bantar Gebang is the smell. It is a stench like no other, and the closer you get to the mountain of rubbish, the stronger it stings your nostrils and the back of your throat. It is a smell I will never forget. Driving into the vicinity, you are met with a shanty town built right on top of and amongst the rubbish and flies number in the thousands.
Arriving at the primary school on Bantar Gebang, Yayasan Dinamika Indonesia, we are greeted by children running around, playing and screaming on their morning break. It’s like arriving at any other school, except this school is surrounded by rubbish, and the odd pemulung rummages through trash left in the shrubs on the school grounds as the kids play. Here we meet Nasrudin, Head of YDI, who explains the story of his school to us, which has been in operation since 1996.
“There are 362 children at this primary school and 52 at the pre-school down the road,” Nasrudin tells us. “We have an open door policy with flexible rules to try and keep children in class. We will even let them sleep if they need to.” Nasrudin has been at YDI since it opened and knows more about the children of Bantar Gebang than anyone else.
After visiting the classrooms, it is interesting to see that these children are quite introvert, not like street children, who are oftentimes boisterous. The children of Bantar Gebang are well-behaved and many have dreams of becoming something other than a scavenger. Many of the children I spoke to wanted to be a teacher, a policeman or even a football player. The sad reality is that most end up working on the landfill or in factories nearby.
“Once the children know how to read and write, they often want to leave and start earning money for themselves doing what their parents do,” Nasrudin explains. “90% of the crane drivers on the landfill are YDI alumni and we also have many grandchildren of alumni attending.” This truth becomes evident when looking at how the number of students goes down as the grade number goes up: Grade 1 (69 students), Grade 2 (79 students), Grade 3 (54 students), Grade 4 (59 students), Grade 5 (41 students) and Grade 6 (27 students).
Pemulung who live and work on Bantar Gebang predominantly come from Indramayu in Cirebon, with a minority from Madura and Karawang. The pemulung mostly work directly for the pengepul, someone who acts as a middle man and buys the rubbish from them at a cheap price, selling onto their bosses, who then send the recyclable items on to recycling factories. There is a monopoly system at play here, whereby the pengepul give the pemulung loans in order to keep them under their thumbs, forever indebted to them. On this landfill, the pemulung work five days a week, wading through mountains of mixed waste in search of recyclable items, with two days left to sort through what they’ve collected, earning between Rp.150,000 to Rp.200,000 a week. The children usually help with the cutting up of plastic and sorting of collected rubbish after school hours.
“Many of the children have skin irritations, and they all have cacingan (worms),” Nasrudin tells me. Anemia is also another common illness these children face, although surprisingly, the number of dengue fever cases is very rare and there have been no reported cases of tuberculosis. Living on a landfill is extremely unsanitary and dangerous, and four pemulung lost their lives recently to a landslide of rubbish. When touring the landfill, I was saddened to see men, women and children working in such terrible conditions, completely oblivious to the foul smell or rotting garbage they have become accustomed to.
“The children find it hard to make it into state schools after they leave us,” Nasrudin says. “There is a certain stigma which is attached to children of Bantar Gebang.” It is wonderful to hear from Nasrudin that a few of his students have gone on to working at big companies such as Panasonic after completing a university degree, thanks to Yayasan Dinamika Indonesia. Oman, one of the alumni of YDI, even came back after studying Mathematics at STKIP Kusumanegara, to teach the children at a place which gave him hope for the future.
YDI now receives financial support from the government under Biaya Operasi Sekolah, which helps to pay for their operational costs, however they are currently looking for sponsors to help pay for teacher’s fees, as the funds they receive do not cover this.
If you are interested to sponsor this extraordinary school, or volunteer your time to teach English or Mathematics to the children of the pemulung, please contact Nasrudin at +62 (0)8129848401.
Borneo, the largest island in Asia and the third largest in the world, is home to ancient rainforests that are 140 million years old, making them one of the oldest on planet Earth. Shared by Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, with Indonesia’s territory making up approximately 73% of the southern territory, the island of Borneo is an incredibly rich and diverse place in flora, fauna and culture. Sadly, development has been encroaching on her territory and is quickly destroying her natural beauty.
In the 1950s, the chainsaw and the tractor arrived on the island, causing much destruction to its rainforests. Satellite studies show that 56% of protected lowland rainforests were cut down between 1985 and 2001 to supply global timber demand. Protection laws are in effect, but inadequately monitored and enforced. The global demand for the production of palm oil has been one of the most devastating reasons for the demise of these ancient forests, as Indonesia and Malaysia account for over 90% of the world’s production area of this product, increasing from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to six million hectares in 2007.
With much of the lowland rainforests already destroyed, pressure is being put on the highland regions, like the Barito River watershed in Central Kalimantan. It is here that The Barito River Initiative for Nature Conservation and Communities (BRINCC) was founded whilst working at a research station in the Sebangau National Park’s Natural Laboratory, and where this pioneering organization is working on the forefront of conservation.
“Progress is inevitable,” Michal Zrust, BRINCC’s Director of Conservation tells me, “however, through science-based mitigation measures, we can help lessen the destructive impact on this fragile environment.” Michal graduated with a degree in Economics and ultimately ended up working in conservation via a number of research projects. He also works with large multinational palm oil companies to push for better production standards for the Zoological Society of London.
BRINCC’s work is separated into capacity building, biodiversity surveys and working with local communities. Their most impressive work is mapping one of the most understudied regions of Borneo, the Murung Raya Region. This map provides new data on species distributions, densities and population numbers, which are essential for making informed conservation decisions. BRINCC’s latest expedition extended the known ranges of many bird species, found numerous endangered tree species and tried to find the boundary of a known gibbon hybrid. This information will provide a deep understanding of the ecology of the region, essential in the policy decision process of the future.
BRINCC use standardized methodology for biodiversity mapping, such as the use of remotely activated camera traps to survey nocturnal animals. They also actively engage in the use of cutting-edge technology to provide researchers with an opportunity to field test and perfect methods. “On our current expedition, one of our visiting researchers is looking at the feasibility of using genetic analysis of blood extracted from leeches to survey rare mammals. If the leeches have sucked blood from, for example, a clouded leopard, we will know it is there, even if we never actually photograph it,” Michal explains.
BRINCC is very proud of the fact that their expeditions are majority Indonesian, employing local staff, including government officials and villagers. They take promising undergraduate and postgraduate students in Indonesia, fund them and bring them on their rainforest expeditions to gain invaluable knowledge.There have been two expeditions so far; the first expedition took place in 2011 and the latest, this year, is still ongoing. Team members are dedicated and extremely passionate individuals from varied backgrounds. BRINCC’s directors consists of: Andrea Höing (Germany), Director of Social-Ecological Research; Dominic Rowland (UK), Director of Expeditions; Director of Wildlife Ecology, Peter R. Houlihan (USA); Director of Mammal Research, Dr. Susan Cheyne (UK); and their leader, Michal Zrust (Czech Republic), Director of Conservation.
Working in the jungle environment for months at a time, and living in very basic conditions, can be very challenging. The team have suffered inevitable illnesses and nutritional deficiencies, not to mention the general lack of home comforts. But their passion for this region’s welfare has helped them through each expedition, bringing them back to this magical area which most of them have dreamt of coming to for years.
In order for their work to bring about a positive change, BRINCC believe that other stakeholders need to be engaged in the process, most importantly the companies themselves.
“The industries working in the area need to acknowledge the fragility of the environment in which they are working and as a group work to ensure mitigation of impacts on the landscape level. We are working to engage the industry players before extraction begins,” says Michal.
The government is a fundamental player in ensuring that such extraction is done within the confines of the law and is the ultimate judge on where it is done and that it avoids negative impacts as far as possible.
Michal urges Indonesia’s economists to think of this natural habitat as having true monetary and intrinsic value if left intact. “Indonesia’s natural heritage is of fundamental value to its society, not just in terms of the magnificent biodiversity it holds, but also in terms of the services that it provides to its citizens and those of the world. The results of deforestation can be seen in the recent haze and this is underlined by loss of clean water provision, loss of fish in rivers, loss of micro-nutrients for local communities, as well as the incredible costs to human health from chest infections (amongst others).”
Michal’s words on how mankind must evolve to live side by side with nature are poignant. “It is only when we begin to value the services we receive from nature, rather than perceiving it as a free, exploitable good, that we will begin to make more sensible and sustainable development decisions.”BRINCC provides field data to inform and support policy development and implementation and are always open to collaboration, whether it is with the government, local or international civil society. They believe that with these partnerships, their work can have a much greater impact.
BRINCC’s work runs solely on donations and sponsorships. They welcome anyone who wishes to collaborate or support them in other ways to visit http://www.brinccborneo.org or email email@example.com.
What does one look for in a music festival? Of course, there are many different types depending on the kind of music you’re after, but usually we have our ears set to the sounds of great bands, uplifting vibes, excellent food and drink choices, a unique location with ample camping options and value for money. In Indonesia, we are getting more and more choices for live music, and although the scene is definitely improving, I still haven’t come across a music festival that has a real atmosphere. One festival in particular, located at the most easterly point of neighbouring Australia, has the potential to be a convenient yearly escape for blues and roots music lovers in Indonesia and I went there to check it out.
Blues and roots music is a wonderfully eclectic mix that covers many genres, having something for every music lover; blues music originating in the late 19th century from African-American communities in the ‘Deep South’, and roots music which identifies with a particular culture, including folk, Americana, reggae, bluegrass, country, traditional and world music. The Byron Bay Blues & Roots Festival celebrated its 25th birthday this year, with over 100,000 in attendance, and big acts such as Dave Matthews Band, Buddy Guy, The Wailers, John Butler Trio, Jack Johnson, The Doobie Brothers and John Mayer were a few of the names on the lineup across six tents. There were also acts who were recently welcomed at the Java Jazz Festival, including Allen Stone, Erykah Badu, Joss Stone and India Arie.
Staying in Byron Bay, you have the option to spend your mornings going for a swim or a surf in crystal clear waters and a good break, followed by listening to amazing buskers as you wander through town admiring everyone’s fashion, enjoying delicious cuisine ranging from raw, vegan organic to pub grub, before hopping over to the festival when it opens its doors at noon, spending the rest of the day singing and dancing until midnight. If camping is your thing, the festival grounds have plenty of options, whether you’re in a tent or an RV, and busses to and from the festival run regularly. I’m told weather can sometimes be an issue and rains often accompany the festival, however I’ve been twice now and both times it has been sunny and warm throughout.The festivities in Byron Bay are held over a period of five days and always cross over the Easter weekend. Located at the Tygarah Tea Tree Farm, just a 20-minute bus ride from the idyllic beaches at Byron Bay, it’s a location difficult to top. Byron Bay in New South Wales was first settled by Europeans in 1770 when Captain James Cook found a safe anchorage and named Cape Byron after John Byron. Ironically, what was once a whaling town in the 50s is now an earth-loving hippy haven – a hub for surfers, music lovers and good vibrations – earning its hippy reputation when the Aquarius Festival was held in neighbouring Nimbin in 1973. The positivity of the host-town’s people was even noted by Dave Matthews, when he addressed his audience at his first performance, “I’ve been here for a week and it’s beautiful. The hospitality has been amazing!”
The festival was opened by Festival Director Peter Noble, who is a part-time resident of Bali, spending around three months a year in his home in Canggu. Peter gave some words of thanks before introducing the Arakwal People, the original habitants of the Byron Bay area. Peter is an advocate for preserving indigenous cultures, and he has another festival called Boomerang Festival, dedicated to indigenous music, which takes place in October, also at Tygarah.
Day one saw Buddy Guy headlining at Crossroads tent, and this 78-year-old blues guitar legend melted the audience with his smooth grooves and cheeky personality. As Jimi Hendrix said, “Heaven is lying at Buddy Guy’s feet while listening to him play the guitar.” As a reggae lover, I was thrilled the following day to witness Bob Marley’s remaining band members, The Wailers, play a 75-minute set of Marley classics, including Buffalo Soldier, Jammin’, Stir it Up and I Shot the Sheriff. The atmosphere was electric as the Rastafarian band’s fans danced the whole way through.
On the third day (Saturday), John Butler Trio packed out the main stage, engaging fans with his guitar solos and political talks. Proceeding him was the headline act, Dave Matthews Band all the way from the USA. Dave Matthews is known for his exceptional live rock performances, accompanied by brass instruments and comedic banter, and he wowed the audience for a staggering 150 minutes. At every show he brings on a special guest, and at this performance we were graced by the presence of Warren Haynes playing an electric guitar solo introduction to All Along the Watchtower. It was goosebumpingly enchanting.
Day four and five kept us entertained by positive vibration man (and adopted son of Byron Bay) Michael Franti, who brought in younger crowds and families, Elvis Costello and the Imposters, not to mention the blues legend Booker T. Jones. An older crowd enjoyed KC and the Sunshine Band on the final afternoon, playing dancing classic hits like Keep it Comin’ Love.
What I love most about this festival, however, is taking a walk to the smaller tents to discover acts I’d never heard of before. One such act I discovered kept the crowd jumping through their eclectic Latin, funk, hip-hop, jazz vibes; a seven-piece bank called Ozomatli from LA. Another new act to my ears were The Beards, an Australian comedy, folk-rock band made of hairy men singing about beards – they have four albums of beard-related songs!
The Byron Bay Blues & Roots Festival is as much a music festival as it is a food festival, with tasty treats from all over the world – Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, South American, Italian – not to mention bars and coffee shops, and is even complete with a Chai Tea cafe. A second VIP bar area was added this year and the VIP band can give you access to a bit of breathing space from the bustle of the festival, where you can relax on sofas, not to mention access queue-less, more spacious and nicer toilets. Shop stalls beautifully decorate the festival, selling anything from artistic fairy lights to alpaca ponchos. During the day, acrobats and buskers perform side shows, and once the sun goes down, a parade of giant lanterns turn the atmosphere magical.
Now if all that doesn’t sound amazing enough already, the icing on the cake is that everybody at the festival is down-to-earth, friendly and heart-warming, including the staff. Australians really do have a lovely temperament and this festival will make you fall in love with their laid back ways. Not one arrest was made at this year’s festival, but that doesn’t mean that everyone wasn’t having a good time!
The Bluesfest is up there with Glastonbury and the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and it’s not much more than a flight away. I can’t recommend this festival enough to anyone in Indonesia who loves real music and wishes to completely unwind and remember what it is to smile at strangers.
Direct flights available from Jakarta and Denpasar to Brisbane or the Gold Coast, Australia, with Garuda Indonesia, Emirates, Qantas and Virgin Australia. From Brisbane or the Gold Coast, daily buses are available to Byron Bay.
If you’re a certified Scuba diver, you know this scene too well; floating around beside a beautiful underwater wall abundant with vibrant coral, getting up-close and personal with a timid pygmy seahorse, or holding on and feeling the force of a strong current blasting over your face as you watch sharks and schools of barracuda in a feeding frenzy in the open waters above you. The opposite of this scene, however, which most divers won’t experience in their lifetime, is the one I’m sitting in now: under 18 metres of atmospheric pressure in a hot, humid and claustrophobic hyperbaric chamber.
The dangers of diving in Indonesia are not heard about as much as the joys are. Naturally, we try to focus on the positives rather than get bogged down with the negatives, and why worry about getting the infamous ‘Bends’ until you’ve actually got it? Unfortunately, there are dangers to diving in Indonesia, which, if all dive outfits were to practice safe management and responsibility, could be significantly avoided.
I am told through the voice on the intercom inside the chamber to take a five-minute break from the oxygen mask. This is my third, and hopefully, final day inside and when resurfaced from this dry dive, total time spent will have been 12.5 hours under pressure in an attempt to alleviate the nitrogen bubbles which have built up in my body after a dive trip to East Kalimantan. Treatment at Jakarta Navy Hospital’s Hyperbaric Centre consists of an examination by one of the Navy doctors, followed by a certain number of hours in the chamber at the relevant pressure table for your condition, combined with pure oxygen treatment for the most part of your stay.
The most common misconception of decompression sickness is that it occurs when you resurface from a deep depth too quickly. The truth is that you can actually get this painful sickness coming up from a depth of only six metres. Divers put their lives into the hands of their equipment, however my dive computer did not enter a decompression dive alert, and many other divers who ‘got deco’ can vouch for me on this.
Alejandro Septien has been diving for 20 years and has not once had any problems. He is now sitting beside me in the chamber for treatment of Type I DCI. “I don’t understand how this happened,” he tells me. “I always follow the rules!” Alejandro, a Mexican expat and new to Jakarta and Indonesia, was diving around the idyllic island of Bangka, and on this occasion had to rent all his gear from his local dive operator, including a dive computer. “I did all my safety stops, didn’t do any deep dives, and didn’t drink the night before, but a few hours after I had ascended, I started to feel a pain in my back. Initially I thought it was from the strain of carrying the scuba equipment, but after two days when the pain moved to my legs, I knew something was wrong.” In Alex’s case, the gauge of the rented equipment was off, causing him to do his safety stops deeper than planned.
Dr. Padma, the Chief Navy Dr. at the Hyperbaric Medical Centre in Benhil insists that at the first sign of decompression sickness, attention must be given immediately. “There are many factors which can lead towards decompression sickness, including not getting enough sleep, consuming alcohol or being physically tired,” she explains. “If you have any tingling sensations, pain in your body, visual disturbances, vertigo, fatigue, lethargy, or a feeling of confusion, come to our hospital for a consultation immediately.” The sooner you treat symptoms, the more chance you have of fully recovering. After treatment you are also told to rest, drink a minimum of three litres of water a day, not fly for at least 72 hours and, should you live on a high floor in an apartment, take the stairs or go up in the lift very gradually.
If you have insurance with Divers Alert Network (DAN) then your treatment will be fully covered, however for many, decompression sickness can cost thousands of dollars, and more importantly, your life. Rendra Herthiadhi, Banyu Biru Explorer founder and DAN Instructor, believes that a common misconception is that dives within a No Decompression Limit or within dive table range are 100% safe. “This is not the case,” he tells me. “Generally dives conducted within NDL should be safe, but DCS could still happen and hit an unlucky diver.” According to DAN statistics, five people’s lives were lost to diving in Indonesia in 2011, of which bodies were recovered, and at least 39 recreational divers were treated for DCS in Indonesia. “Whilst many of these were for mild cases of DCS, several were of a very serious nature, requiring urgent assistance,” Rendra adds.
In stunning East Kalimantan, our dive operator at Nabucco Island Resort were irresponsible by allowing maverick dive guides to continue to work, even when they were aware of their negligence; escorting tourists down to depths of 40 metres without mentioning this in the pre-dive brief and ascending carelessly without proper safety stops. Regrettably the owners of the dive resort were not willing to take any responsibility for their reckless guides. Although their dive outfit come across as reputable, the results were to the contrary. It is always best to do some reconnaissance work before you plan a dive trip and ask fellow divers for advice on trustworthy dive operators.
Of course we are all responsible for our own actions but naturally, when you are new to an area, you trust your local guide, putting your lives in their hands and following blindly. Adrienne Jo Salcau is a PADI certified Divemaster and guide, and one many have come to trust. “I never take divers past 30 metres unless they’re very, very experienced,” she tells me as we discuss my dives at Nabucco. “First thing is a check dive so I can assess their skills. I don’t bring unfamiliar or inexperienced divers right into current or deep dives. If I’m doing four dives in a day, 30m is the absolute max and should be done first, then each dive should be shallower and I always, always do a safety stop. Being a dive guide involves a lot of things, but the main priority is safety.”
Diving is a wonderful sport and pastime, which brings us closer to the curious wonders of the underwater world and its inhabitants, but we cannot deny the dangers involved and must remember that we are merely guests in the ocean. Allow more time between dives, do fewer dives per trip (it’s not a race), always do safety stops and come up slowly, allow a minimum of 24 hours after your last dive before you fly, and ensure every dive guide provides a proper brief, which you stick to. Don’t allow yourself to become a statistic and may you never have to sit inside this hyperbaric chamber to save your life.
Rumah Sakit TNI AL Dr. Mintohardjo (Jakarta Royal Navy Hospital) Jl. Bendungan Hilir No. 17, Jakarta. 021 5703081 Ext. 176/326 Direct line to Hyperbaric Medical Centre: 021 5732221
First published in Indonesia Expat, March 27, 2013
Also published in Diver’s Alert Network Deeper Magazine October 2013
On Sunday, October 16th 2015, Jakarta’s citizens carried out the Indonesian tradition of gotong royong by picking up rubbish and cleaning up Jakarta together in ‘Clean Up Jakarta Day 2015’. The aim of the clean-up is to educate people about the detrimental effects of littering, and in turn spark an awareness of the importance of recycling.
This campaign was carried out by volunteers, of which there were 10,000+ this year, picking up rubbish, separating into recyclable and non-recyclable sacks as they cleaned. All clean-up activities commenced at 7am at 37 sites throughout the city. These sites were nominated by volunteers and approved by the Clean Up Jakarta Day team.
Clean Up Jakarta Day is an annual event which acts as a platform for existing communities, schools, companies and organizations to join together on one day with one united voice against littering. Ambassadors this year included business magnate Sandiaga Uno, actress and TV anchor Marissa Anita and actor and TV host Mike Lewis, as well as Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) and Dinas Kebersihan Kota Jakarta supporting the event.
Rubbish collected was separated into bags of recyclable and non-recyclable materials, and the recyclables were taken by Dinas Kebersihan DKI Jakarta to the city’s waste banks.
Clean Up Jakarta Day is an annual event I founded and I would like to thank all of the Clean Up Heroes for taking part and raising awareness of Jakarta’s rubbish problem, as well as cleaning up the city together.