Indonesia strikes again. Almost a year after President Joko Widodo passed a case blind death penalty law for all drug convicts, which hasn’t been working as well as he’d hoped, Widodo has announced a slightly more creative approach to his country’s ever-growing narcotics problem.
The plan is to build a new prison exclusively for drug criminals in hopes of reducing the drug-related crimes committed from within jail cells. This isn’t any ordinary jail, though, as it will be located on a remote island surrounded by “the most ferocious type of crocodiles.” Although I’m still unclear on how an animal’s ferocity level is measured, the head of Indonesia’s anti-drug agency and the mastermind behind this project, Budi Waseso, seems to have it all figured out. He stated in an interview with local media that he will personally travel around the archipelago to recruit his new guards.
Yes, this James Bond-like Alcatraz replica seems slightly outdated and in many ways an inconvenience to the poor crocodiles who will soon have the job of guarding convicted drug-users, but President Widodo has some fairly solid reasoning behind his plan.
First of all, crocodiles cannot be bribed. One of the crucial flaws in the Indonesian prison system is that even after convicts are captured and locked away, it is not uncommon for them to continue operating from within their cell. Guards are constantly arrested for narcotics-related crimes, defeating the whole purpose of a “secure” detention facility.
Also, by separating the convicts who are imprisoned for drug-related crimes, they will be preventing other prisoners from being dragged into drug gangs while in jail. And of course, isolating prisoners and surrounding them with hungry crocodiles will make sure they stay put until their time on death row comes to its unfortunate end.
Even after his announcement was ridiculed nationwide, President Widodo did not back down, instead making a statement adding man-eating piranhas and tigers to his project.
Slamet Pribadi, a spokesman for the anti-drug agency BNN, supported his president’s plan, saying, “Drug trafficking is an extraordinary crime and therefore the fight must also be extraordinary.”
I don’t know if extraordinary is the right word to be used here but instead of mocking this I’d like to focus on what this country has come to. Indonesia already has one of the harshest anti-drug policies in the world yet it has not been enough to ensure the safety of its citizens. The drug trafficking issue has become so all-consuming that the government feels the need to resort to measures that are literally inhuman.
We might find it easy to brush this off as another radical foreign policy that would never cross the mind of a western leader, but let’s take step back and imagine the fear that must be overpowering that nation for them to entrust their criminals to man-eating creatures.
President Widodo is under immense pressure. His country is facing a crisis and by proposing this he is exhausting his last resource, and as absurd as it sounds, it doesn’t seem like he has any other choice.