02 June 2009
Manohara Odelia Pinot -- Part II
Here I was consciously not writing about the Manohara (photo courtesy of R. Berto Wedhatama / JP) case and I have now written two posts in a row on it. It is a fascinating story as there are so many parallel lines to pursue. For example, how much protection do Indonesian Embassies provide to Indonesian citizens resident overseas and in trouble or more specifically the lawyer for the prince withdrawing from the case and then publicly criticizing the intentions of his former client.
On the embassy front, the reality is that embassies will always be criticized for never doing enough. In this case, the Manohara vs. the Prince is in essence a domestic dispute that has escalated allegedly into violence. I would argue that the violence is extreme if it involves slashing of Manohara with razor blades. Nevertheless, as I noted in the first post, these are issues that will be adduced at trial and with, I am guessing, photographic evidence of the crimes / violence claimed.
However, and despite the protestations of Commission I of the House of Representatives, embassies are sometimes unable to provide the necessary assistance. Yusron Izha Mahendra, Chair of Commission I cites the example of abused foreign migrant workers, particularly maids, however most of this abuse remains unknown until such time as it can no longer be hidden; the migrant worker is so severely abused that they need medical attention or they die. At this point the embassy can really only facilitate the repatriation of the body and family members to and from the country concerned. And, assuming the family wants to take legal action, facilitate that as well by connecting the family to local legal representation.
This is not to say that the Indonesian Embassy's performance in this case was beyond reproach, to the contrary, however Manohara's allegations of being ignored by the embassy is her side of the story. It goes without saying that the Indonesian Embassy in Malaysia is going to have a different take on how the events transpired. Hopefully, there can be good come from this and the procedures can be tightened and improved so that any future occurrences can be better handled and resolved more quickly.
Interestingly, the latest statement from the Kelantan royal family is that Manohara's flight was not so much an escape from evil but an agreed return home. It would seem that some of Manohara's statements would seem to agree. Although, she has not backed of the abuse claims so it remains to be seen how this plays out in this respect. There is also some intrigue as there are claims that not only were Singaporean police involved but there was FBI involvement as well. The FBI involvement is presumably because Manohara retains US citizenship.
On the lawyer front. Todung Mulya Lubis, a highly respected Indonesian lawyer, has withdrawn his services as legal counsel to the Kelantan family. According to The Jakarta Post the reason was that "there was no will from the family to settle the problem amicably." Now, most people would be all for amicable settlements however this hardly seems to be a case where an amicable settlement is ever likely to be achieved in light of the serious charges being levelled at the Prince by his wife.
I wonder whether the public statements attributed to Lubis prejudice the case of his former client. I have no problem with a lawyer withdrawing their legal services when they no longer feel they can represent their client to the best of their ability. It is a different kettle of fish to withdraw your services and then go on the record that your former client has no intention of settling the case. This would seem to suggest that there is merit to Manohara's claims and that the best course of action is to pay out and be done with it. Perhaps The Jakarta Post selectively quoted Lubis and the above quote is not the sum total of what was said.
It would seem that an amicable settlement in this case would be agreement to a quickie divorce (which should not be any trouble) and a financial transaction in order that the aggrieved party feels like they have been taken care of (or their silence is paid for). An amicable settlement might be a good PR strategy, particularly when all signs are pointing to this dragging on and getting even messier in the weeks and months ahead.
Yet, it would be a sad day when domestic violence can be rectified with a swift transfer of funds. People who beat their spouses must not be allowed to get away with paying cash for their crimes. If the abuse is proved then they must be subject to the criminal penalties that apply. If the rich can pay their respective way out of crime then we as a community are moving further away from the ideal of equality before the law.
It seems that the idea of a settlement is intended to avoid any criminal prosecution for the alleged abuse. However, if the Prince maintains that he did not abuse Manohara then a criminal trial where Manohara would be called on to prove the abuse might be in the Prince's best interests. Once again, this assumes no abuse took place.
However, if there was abuse then a settlement agreement with watertight confidentiality provisions and a statement that admits no guilt, may in fact be a good option.
The idea that this is going to be a strain on Indonesian and Malaysian relations is a stretch. There are far more interesting happenings that are likely to strain the bilateral relationship like allegations that an Indonesian warship was within seconds of firing on a Malaysian warship in the area surrounding the contested waters of Ambalat.
The saga continues.