Monday 26 Oct 2020 | 21:24 | SYDNEY
Monday 26 Oct 2020 | 21:24 | SYDNEY

Lost and found in Java

26 October 2011 09:19

Peter McCawley is a Visiting Fellow at the Indonesia Project, ANU, and former Dean of the ADB Institute, Tokyo.

In the midst of the worrying reports coming out of Indonesia — such as deaths in Papua and the 14-year old boy arrested in Bali — here is an amazing good news story about the Indonesian police force.

Last weekend, along with friends and family, I caught the comfortable Indonesian express train out of Jakarta up to Bandung in the West Java highlands. The plan was to wander up into the hill country south of Bandung to visit the Kawah Putih crater lake and various tea estates in the area.

The road up to Kawah Putih wound through bustling rural towns and it was something of a surprise to see just how efficiently the state-owned firm Perhutani is managing the Kawah Putih forest reserve. The whole operation is well organised with a steady stream of regular minibuses ferrying thousands of visitors up to the crater on busy weekends.

However, on the way back to Bandung I noticed that I had left my wallet on a table in one of the numerous local coffee shops near the crater. With the train leaving in an hour it was too late to go back. I glumly decided that my wallet, complete with credit cards, was a goner.

But one of my friends suggested we call into the next main town, Soreang, to report the loss to the police. This seemed a vain hope. After all, the likelihood either of the police worrying about the incident or bothering to try to find the wallet was close to zero. But my colleague insisted. Since there seemed little to lose we made a detour into Soreang to visit the police station.

What happened next was fairly amazing.

Four police gathered around, listened carefully, and took notes. They asked us to draw a sketch map to show which coffee shop we had been sitting in, took down mobile phone numbers, and said they would immediately investigate. An hour later, as we approached the Bandung railway station, I was very surprised to receive an SMS from the police saying that, not only had they found the wallet but that they would promptly deliver it to the railway station before the train left for Jakarta.

This wasn't the end of it. The traffic in Bandung is close to gridlocked on Sunday so the police didn't make it in time. Extensive SMS negotiations followed. It was agreed that Sergeant Budianti (not his real name) would send the wallet to Jakarta by express courier. And he did. On Tuesday, less than 48 hours after the wallet was left in a roadside coffee shop in the highlands of West Java, the wallet arrived at my hotel with cash and credit cards intact.

Moral: efforts to improve the institutions which support law and order in Indonesia are bearing fruit. Indonesian citizens are still often dissatisfied with services the Indonesian police provide but there are clear signs (and not only in Soreang) that the level of professionalism across the police force in Indonesia is improving over time.

Photo by Flickr user Satu Lagi.