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Bali SOS - How Harry Bleckert saved Balinese tourism and then was tortured by the Balinese WiFi police

Bali SOSThis is a picture of Merry Bleckert, daughter of Harry Bleckert who ran Bali SOS. I have pictures of Harry; I should have, he is now a good friend and he, his wife Sang Ayu and daughter Merry have been guests at our home in Portugal after their having fled Bali because of unlawful imprisonment and other nasty acts against them by the corrupt Balinese WiFi police.

Bali SOS was the voluntary organization that supported bomb victims and Bali's tourism industry alike after the Kuta 2002 terrorist bombings. Harry Bleckert unselfishly devoted every waking moment for months to help those hurt by the attacks and to protect his beloved Bali. Unbeknown to the world, Bali's very nasty and selfish tourism industry would have destroyed their own industry if it were not for Harry as they were going to charge bomb victims and their families for their hotel rooms after the even nastier Indonesian Government had invited them to Bali and failed to provide for them as they were meant to. Harry Bleckert's Bali SOS just managed to secure enough donations and pledges of support to avoid this total PR calamity; just imagine the western media's headlines "Bomb victims and their grieving families made to pay hotel bills in Bali".

The more I learned about Harry Bleckert's case, I finally realized Indonesian justice was a nom de plume without hope for civil and human rights abuse.

I want people to pause a moment and think about that. How the Indonesian Government and Balinese tourism industry could be so stupid and callous. How inappropriately named hospitality industry organizations like PATA and the Bali Hotels Association could not see the forest fire for the twigs of narrow, blinkered self-interest. Bali SOS was not government project either, just the work of one man Harry Bleckert and equal minded volunteers who cared about much more than themselves. Harry Bleckert did not expect any thanks for his industry saving work but that is what Bali owed and still owes him, yet left him virtually alone to the pack of dogs called the corrupt Balinese police force when they decided to act against him and his family unlawfully. Harry Bleckert's story is not just the shame of Bali with regard to how it was him alone who saved their precious tourism industry from yet further well-deserved demise, but also of how Bali turned their back on Harry when the monkeys in uniform came for him.

You see, besides helping Bali, bomb victims and others, Harry Bleckert (who also called himself "Made Sambu" in true spiritual seeking foreigner style - Harry knows I say this about him and others) also had to earn a living to support Merry and Sang Ayu. He did this by running an internet cafe called "Candi Internet" which was very popular. But then Harry made the mistake of daring to think about something much more lucrative, the burgeoning WiFi (cordless Internet) business which brought him into competition not with other small shop owners, but with larger and more influential telecommunications companies. Harry Bleckert knew it would take his life savings to get his new WiFi company up and running, but he had done all the research, found several interested prospective customers (unfortunately some were customers of an established WiFi provider), got an exclusive franchise agreement for Bali from one of Indonesia's main telecoms providers, been to all the meetings help by the industry regulators to ensure he was compliant legally. Harry thought he was onto a winner and as such a well known and respected public figure in Bali really believed this was his and his family's dream come true. Harry forgot one thing though, how corrupt Indonesia's law enforcement agencies are, how easily and readily they can be bribed, how they can and do act unlawfully against anyone less powerful than the person who paid them to so act, and that he was moving into a much bigger business arena.

Harry went and bought the equipment he needed, the same equipment as everyone else in the WiFi business in Indonesia uses. After successfully installing and trialing his WiFi service, Harry Bleckert formalized his customer service pricing and like many businesses published a price comparison page on the Internet to show off his highly competitive rates. One particular existing WiFi provider well known to Harry took great exception to this, the same company several of whose main customers were signed up to trial Harry's service. The trial went exceptionally well and everything was set, but unbeknown to Harry it was set to all end with a bump. The day before Harry Bleckert's official WiFi full launch and paid operational start date, police officers came into his premises demanding to see his "illegal web site price comparison", referring to the WiFi price comparison page Harry had published. Before I continue, I want to illustrate this act not only proves how corrupt the Balinese police are, given it is clear what was going on there, but also how stupid and totally ineffective the Balinese police are as law enforcement officers. You see, these police officers were members of Bali's newly formed "Cyber Crime" division but they were so clueless as to the workings of the internet they thought you had to go to a particular business' premises and get onto their computers to be able to view that company's web site! Bali's Cyber Crime police department did not know that you can view other people's web sites on any Internet PC. I bet you grinned, smiled or even let out a quaff or laugh at that, but it is not funny. If the Balinese police do not have a clue how to conduct police investigations diligently in one area, why would any of division of the "Polda Bali" be any different?

Harry's expensive WiFi equipment was seized although it was hardly anything to do specifically with his web pages and his launch date and with it credibility totaled; it does not take too much to imagine why the police took WiFi relays not PC's if you believe Harry's competitor was behind all this. As Harry tried to stop the police from acting so unfairly, so unlawfully and so stupidly but without being willing to pay them a single cent in bribe money as they no doubt expected he would have to, he was just banging his head against the wall. You see the Indonesian police virtually always act unlawfully and as a "favour" to someone more powerful than you, and the way you resolve the problem someone else falsely made for you is either a) pay the police bribe money to "get a friend" and for them to "forget the problem", or b) you increasingly suffer at their hands when you don't pay them off; especially if you try and get justice against them! But Harry Bleckert is not like that, he had hopes of becoming a Hindu priest on Bali and his ethos does not allow him to pay a single cent of corruption money. Being straight, honest, decent and expecting justice was Harry's downfall, as you will learn.

Illegal Human Effluence DumpingOnce the police realized emails don't come from the electricity company, that Harry's price comparison did not break any laws and even if it did was not justification for seizing his unrelated WiFi equipment, but with Harry refusing to pay them any bribes, even worse with Harry demanding justice, the police and their pet colluding prosecutor Suhadi came up with different reason after different reason why they had seized Harry's WiFi equipment. From being a health risk, although quite how the police could judge what is and what is not a health risk with all the illegal human effluence dumping that goes on through Bali is beyond me. To the equipment being illegal, but then every WiFi provider in Indonesia including Telkom and IndoSat were using it too, so that not just cause either!

What follows is clear proof that justice does not exist in Bali or Indonesia in that Harry Bleckert quite rightly, after exhausting all reasonable prospect of getting his equipment back from the police decided to file a complaint with the Indonesian Corruption Commission or KPK. The KPK now have been acknowledged by many to be a deliberately ineffective PR stunt by President Yudhoyono, but they did at least inform Harry that indeed there was a case to answer by the Balinese Police and then promptly turned the matter over to, you've got it, the Balinese police for them to investigate themselves! Instead however of saying "OK, this has gone too far, we need to stop acting unlawfully against Bali SOS hero Harry Bleckert and give him his equipment back so he can make a living.", the police showed there are only three options open to people when they decide to afflict them unlawfully or not; 1) pay bribe money to make the problem go away, 2) get out of Bali and do not come back, 3) get prosecuted and go to jail no matter how ludicrous and unlawful the case.

The police responded by arresting Harry's wife Sang Ayu without charge on the basis she had ignored a police summons; it transpired after that the police had deliberately served a summons against her (she being Balinese was the official owner of Harry's business) with their accountant the day before; serving a summons with an accountant is not legal service nor is giving just 12 hours notice; but the Balinese police do this all the time. Secondly they issued a summons against Harry for criminal libel (yes, that old chestnut again) for defaming them with the KPK; that's right, the Balinese police are so above the law they even act unlawfully against a person when they have filed a lawful complaint with the correct Indonesian authority. As a consequence to this Harry had no choice as he was not prepared to bribe himself out of "trouble" but to flee Bali before he was arrested, even though that meant leaving poor Sang Ayu in jail as he would be more help to her at liberty in his native Germany than he would be in a prison cell himself in Bali. It is a matter of fact that Harry had been urged to leave Bali several times by Balinese police officers which only leaves option 3) above remaining.

Having arrested Sang Ayu for "ignoring a summons" which allows police to jail a person up to 90 days (including court extension) even though the summons was unlawfully served, having been made the subject of a KPK complaint and increasing deserved bad publicity for their nasty corrupt actions, instead of resolving the problem for the benefit of all except the competitor who started the process against poor Harry in the first place, the police showed they know no better and with their pet prosecutor Suhadi decided to go ahead with a prosecution against Sang Ayu as director of Harry's business in order to try and justify the unjustifiable. So the police and prosecutor sat down and discussed which was the most reasonable sounding charge they could bring against Sang Ayu and decided upon "Unlawfully operating illegal (unapproved) telecommunications equipment". This was actually the second reason they gave previously after "publishing and unlawful price comparison" and before "operating equipment which is a health hazard"; they went back to this because it was the best of the different ludicrous and ever changing reasons for closing down Harry's 100% legal business at the bequest of a competitor.

Actually it is a fact that the satellite equipment Harry and for that matter every WiFi company used was not approved yet by the Indonesian telecommunications approvals board. But the reason is that the approvals board is so backlogged with approvals given the massive increase in telecommunications services and associated equipment that the government introduced a 12 month amnesty, where equipment could be used as long as ultimately it was approved by the approvals board. So Harry and every other company including publicly listed giants like IndoSat and Telkom used this very same equipment (which Harry bought from the fully licensed main supplier in Jakarta under his franchise agreement with one of Indonesia's largest telecoms companies). The problem with the corrupt Indonesian law enforcement service and judiciary though is that colluding police, prosecutors and judges can and do ignore conflicting criminal codes and governmental / presidential decrees. That's right, as long as there is a law they can use, they ignore any others even when those other laws effectively countermand the criminal code they are applying. If you have broken a law, even if that law is no longer effective, as long as that law exists, bent Indonesian judges and prosecutors will convict you of that ignoring more recent legislation; that is how bad Indonesian justice really is.

So poor Sang Ayu was prosecuted for operating unapproved telecommunications equipment even though they had not officially launched the service when the police raided, even though every WiFi company in Indonesia including the competitor who paid the police to put Harry out of business uses the very same equipment and they are not being prosecuted. Daughter Merry and Harry were forced to leave Bali for fears of their own liberty and safety. Sang Ayu was left traumatized in a nasty Indonesian jail cell.

I would like to deviate just a little now to explain to you what Balinese jail cells are like. First, they are overcrowded to the point of bursting beyond the imagination of westerners, where eight or more people have to share a cell designed for just two. Second, these jails are breeding grounds for diseases such as malaria, dengue and Japanese Encephalitis. Third, if you want a spot on the floor and a roll mattress you can lie down and sleep, you have to pay for it or sleep sitting upright on a dirty, wet hard section of floor where it meets a wall. Third, if you want to avoid the prison food not fit for dogs in the first place which prison guards often urinate and spit on in front of inmates to torment them, you have to pay for food to be brought in for you. Each cell and block of cells has a "boss" and you need to get on their good side if you want to avoid punishment; often this means you have to buy drugs from them and actually use the narcotics as a sign of good faith. The narcotics are actually supplied by the local "Laksar" (Suharto / Golkar party run youth wing mafia who also provide "security" services and hit men around the island), in league with the prison guards. Women inmates are guarded by both female and male prison warders and prisoner rape is commonplace. This is what poor Sang Ayu had to endure without charge for over 2 months.

I actually have been given a lot of information by Harry Bleckert since we became friends but can not publish the details now because of where he and his wife are with things. As and when I am able to divulge these sordid nasty stories, I will. Please understand therefore there now needs to be a gap of facts in Harry's story.

From Germany Harry was actually able to help his wife Sang Ayu not just get out of that horrible jail cell but also have the pathetic case against her and the falsely alleged "unlawful" WiFi equipment overturned. Actually, I found this aspect very interesting and all telling about Indonesian justice. You see the legal term the court that ruled in Sang Ayu's favour was "rehabilitation"; Sang Ayu was innocent and so she needed to be compensated by the police and state, so she was to be "rehabilitated". For me this totally inappropriate term shows how the Indonesian justice system can not ever publicly or to itself admit fault. With Sang Ayu released from jail and the case of alleged criminal libel against Harry apparently dropped, although no-one knows for sure, Harry and Merry would speed back to Bali to be reunited with Sang Ayu right? Well no, but here comes another gap I can not tell you about because of my word to Harry. Read into it what you will and should that Harry and Merry did not return to Bali but instead, having had Sang Ayu acquitted of all criminal charges, was then able to get her a German visa so she could leave Bali for Germany to be with her family.

While getting Sang Ayu out of Germany was frantically going on, the Balinese chief prosecutor Suhadi (he is the man that prosecuted the likes of Schapelle Corby) appealed Sang Ayu's "rehabilitation"; this was quite expected, Suhadi could not let this case be overturned of course. The appeal is now due to be heard by the Supreme Court in Jakarta, the court which recently allowed transparency in the appointment process to replace the existing judges (because they were reckoned to be the most corrupt in Indonesia) but failed to appoint even half the number they needed because of corruption concerns against virtually all of the people whose names were put forward! Anyway, the smart money is on the Indonesian judiciary continuing in its time honoured tradition of never being found wrong, that in 2 or 3 years the verdict will be overturned. Poor Harry therefore has to wait to see if he needs to file a human rights complaint until then because such complaints can only be made if all internal Indonesian remedies have been exhausted. This is partly how human rights cases get buried and why the true scope of the problem is never seen by the world public.

Harry, Sang and Merry now live in Germany. Harry, the unrecognized and un proclaimed hero of Bali's tourism industry lost all of his life savings at the hands of the corrupt Balinese police simply because a more powerful competitor wanted his business closed down. To say Sang Ayu was traumatized by her experience is an under statement. She said she got through jail without having to take drugs at the order of the cell boss because her gentle ways allowed her to befriend the prison bullies, plus a little cash helped. Sang Ayu confided to myself and my Balinese wife Suci, that she does not want ever to go back to Bali because of what happened, she is so terrified it would be worse next time and that next time will definitely come as the police never bow to justice. Although all their dreams have been shattered through absolutely no fault of their own, they are at least together again as a family and have some good news; Sang Ayu is expecting a baby and they think it was conceived while staying with us at our home in Portugal. Harry continues his fight for justice.

Bali stood by and watched Harry, Merry and Sang Ayu get defiled and robbed by the corrupt Balinese police under the man so many wrongly praise; Police Chief Made Pastika. Made Pastika reportedly these days, after having left the top job at Bali's Polda (police), has started to suffer heart related problems; I can only wonder therefore if karma does exist. Not that Made Pastika in my opinion is any different to any other police chief or even police officer in indonesia today; I believe the evidence shows they are all inhuman crooks with the unfair and absolute power of corrupted law to do as they please. But even so, I still shake my head in disbelief and ask if Bali and the Balinese are so subdued in fear of the Indonesian cancer to just stand by and watch this all happen, without coming to Harry and Sang Ayu's aid? For me this shameful story shows just how bad everything is in Bali, how the Balinese are incapable of defending themselves and others, and why it is therefore up to foreigners to do what they can to change things before it is too late. To understand how to do this, please visit Ethical Balinese Tourism and also ask your preferred political party back home what their foreign policy is regarding countries like Indonesia. If all you get is empty generic lip service back at the very least have the decency for the sake of other people and your descendants to live in the real world and understand where this foreign policy is all actually heading. If you somehow think that the world's richest nations can go on treating the rest of the world as their pawns with impunity, what sort of future do you think you are creating for your children's children to live in? Please, do not be so insensitive to the plight of others or ignorant of the consequences to you and yours.

If you would like to send some money and / or words of support to Harry Bleckert and his family, God bless you; his email address which you can also send money via PayPal to him is here: .

For details on other ways to help Bali and / or other worthy causes to donate money to, please visit Help Bali.

Budi Setyawan | Made Pastika | Soenarko Ardanto | PATA | WIPO | Victoria Police Australia | Hill Associates Bangkok
© Copyright 2006. Mark Austin / Nasty Bali Org. All Rights Reserved.