ASEAN Beat | Society | Southeast Asia

Indonesia’s Drug Crackdown in the Headlines with Australian Sentencing

Two Australian men were sentenced this week for possessing cocaine in Indonesia.

The decision has spotlighted the ongoing crackdown on drugs under the Jokowi government.

By Firdia Lisnawati for
Indonesia’s Drug Crackdown in the Headlines with Australian Sentencing
Credit: Flickr/ukik

A court on Indonesia’s tourist island of Bali sentenced two Australian men on Monday to nine and 12 months in jail for possessing cocaine. The development highlighted ongoing efforts by the administration of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to crack down on the country’s drug problem despite international outcry in some quarters over the years.

Since taking office, Jokowi has insisted that a “shock therapy” approach is needed to resolve Indonesia’s drug crisis. Previously, the Indonesian government had released statistics suggesting a dire crisis, with 4.5 million Indonesians needing rehabilitation and 40 to 50 young people dying each day due to drug use – figures which skeptics have questioned. Over the years, sentencing in drug cases have also affected some of Indonesia’s foreign relations, including with Australia.

This week, Indonesia’s drug crackdown was in the headlines again with a new sentencing. The sentencing was with respect to former Melbourne nightclub promoters William Cabantog and David Van Iersel, who were arrested last July in a police raid at the Lost City Club in the island’s trendy Canggu neighborhood with 1.12 grams (.04 ounce) of cocaine in the pocket of Cabantog’s jeans.

A three-member panel of judges at the Denpasar District Court found Cabantog and Van Iersel guilty of possessing and using a Category 1 drug.

Police initially said that Cabantog, 36, who was described as a hospitality consultant, was well known for circulating cocaine in Canggu. The Lost City Club was managed by Van Iersel, 38. But during the trial, the two men were able to convince the judges that the cocaine was only for their own use.

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Cabantog was sentenced to 12 months in jail and Van Iersel to nine months, and their lawyers said they accepted the verdict. State prosecutors had been seeking an 18-month sentence for Cabantog and 14 months for Van Iersel.

Indonesia has very strict drug laws and convicted traffickers are often executed by a firing squad. More than 150 people are on death row, mostly for drug crimes, and about a third of them are foreigners.

Eighteen people convicted of drug-related offenses have been executed under the current administration of President Joko Widodo.

By Firdia Lisnawati of The Associated Press.