By Angela Dewan, AFP
JAKARTA–A community in eastern Indonesia has placed 1,000 pink adenium flowers outside the local parliament, police station and courtroom, not to say thanks, but to send a message: leave our kids alone. In recent weeks, Indonesians outraged by reports of children arrested for petty crimes — some of whom were later beaten by police — have been mocking law enforcers with flowers, coins and even used footwear. Police are locking up children for minor misdemeanors while rampant official corruption and theft of millions in public funds is often punished with just a slap on the wrist, protesters and rights advocates say. “There is a culture of arrogance in the police force and it is completely unprofessional to go after children,” Neta Pane, director of the campaign group Indonesia Police Watch, told AFP. “Indonesians are getting very angry about how police focus on tedious crimes while politicians and business people walk free from big corruption cases.”
Earlier this month, Indonesians across the country dumped more than 1,200 pairs of sandals, flip-flops and slippers at collection points after a teenager was arrested and beaten by police for stealing an officer’s worn-out sandals. The story of the 15-year-old boy, who faced a stiff jail sentence, has gained international attention. The case goes to the heart of widespread public perception that the real criminals are getting away with it, Pane said. Days after the sandals campaign, children’s rights activists began collecting coins to draw attention to the trial on Bali island of a teenager accused of stealing a wallet containing 1,000 rupiah (11 cents). The 1,000 flowers were sent in another case, that of a 16-year-old boy charged with stealing and selling eight adeniums from his aunt’s garden in the city of Soe, on Indonesia’s part of Timor island. The orphan said he sold the flowers for US$1 each to raise money for school fees.