Indonesians have found a new symbol for their growing frustration at uneven justice in this young, democratic nation: cheap, worn-out flip-flops.
They have been dropping them off at police stations throughout the country to express outrage over the arrest and trial of a 15-year-old boy for taking an old pair of white sandals from outside a boarding house used by police in northern Indonesia.
“This is insane,” said Titis Anissa, a high school teacher in Jakarta, adding that government officials found guilty of plundering state coffers get off with a slap on a wrist. “And a young, poor boy takes a pair of US$3 sandals? Enough already!”
The boy snatched the footgear while he and several friends headed home from school in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi Province, in November 2010. He was later interrogated and badly beaten by three officers, and faces up to five years in prison if found guilty — the same sentence given to many terrorists, drug pushers and rapists.
He will appear today before the court in Palu for the second hearing of his trial, which opened last month.
Indonesia has made tremendous strides since the ouster of former dictator Suharto just over a decade ago, implementing sweeping reforms that have freed up the media, scrapped oppressive laws and given citizens the right to directly pick their leaders for the first time.
However, the judicial system remains a weak point. The flip-flop case has captured headlines since the boy’s trial began and is one of the most popular trends on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
As a form of protest, thousands of Indonesians have dumped flip-flops and other old sandals at police stations and prosecutor offices.
A batch of 1,000 flip-flops are being collected as “compensation” for Sergeant Ahmad Rusdi Harahap, whose sandals allegedly were stolen by the boy, and will be delivered soon to national police headquarters, campaign organizer Budhi Kurnianwan said.
Some high school students in Palu say they will wear flip-flops to class today, instead of their fancier school shoes.