I was shocked to learn that my neighbor decided to erect a two meter-high wall to clearly separate my house from his. I honestly don’t know why my neighbor did this, but for some time it has been a nuisance because a) no other houses in our neighborhood are separated by fences, b) he hasn’t erected a fence next to the house sitting to the right, and c) now my house doesn’t get the morning sunlight as it used to.
I could report my neighbor to the police for theft. Police has been known for arresting a teenager accused of stealing a pair of sandals worth Rp 30,000 ($3.35), an elderly woman accused of stealing a set of plates, another woman for stealing a cooking pot with stew still inside and more recently a man for stealing five coconuts worth Rp 26,000 from a tree he planted himself.
Morning sunshine is surely worth more than coconuts and sandals. I could sue my neighbor, but I didn’t.
Indonesia boasted itself for having a so called “restorative justice system” instead of the “punitive justice system” employed in some countries.
Indonesia claims that the penal system is to reform criminals and provide damages to the victim. I often hear that our justice system always emphasizes a peaceful resolution instead of a legal conflict. But as these cases highlight, that is not how it works in practice.
Before he was removed last year, former Justice Minister Patrialis Akbar had a program that he believed would fix this: amend the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedures Code, which he said allow for the prosecution of these petty thieves. Instead he proposed an alternative mechanism and punishment.
No need to go to court when the perpetrator can make amends and restore the damages, both material and psychological. No need to send someone to prison when he or she can instead do community service, like sweeping the street or cleaning the gutter.
It makes absolutely no sense for these cases to be investigated by police officers who are being paid with taxpayers’ hard-earned money, let alone to go to court. With cases like these out of the picture, law enforcers can focus on other more pressing issues like patrolling the neighborhood, ensuring peace or catching the real crooks: corrupt officials.
The idea was somehow sidelined after Patrialis was replaced by Amir Syamsuddin and with so many trivial cases now going to trial, it would make sense to prioritize these amendments again.
As for my neighbors, they agreed to tear down the wall and replaced it with chicken wire. It is still unsightly, but at least I got my morning sunlight back.