A French man has heavily criticised the Indonesian government for his detention and confiscating his boat and dogs, allegedly without legal basis.
Days after President Joko Widodo talked of increasing visitors to the country, Bruce Thomas Wak de Mayer, 25, asked “What does the President plan to do against rogue government officers?”
De Mayer recounted his story to Indonesia Expat and provided support documentation for his claims. These are his words, edited for clarity.
“On our way with our sailing boat from the Philippines to the French island of New Caledonia, on the night of 3rd October 2021, a cyclone damaged our navigation system. This forced us to seek refuge at the nearest land, which was Karatung Island, where we arrived early on 4th October.
I went to the police station with my passport and boat documentation to request assistance.
The police took the documents and two days later, we sailed with my boat and the police to the city of Melonguane in North Sulawesi. Here, immigration and customs officers were waiting to search the boat, where nothing illegal was found.
This incident automatically placed us automatically under the protection of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was ratified by Indonesia in 1984.
This convention allows passengers of a vessel in danger to seek refuge at the nearest land without consideration of nationality or visa requirements. The maritime problem we encountered has been proven through a TV news report, which includes testimony from an immigration officer.”
In the news report, Wawan Azmar Mido, Section Head of the Immigration Intelligence and Enforcement Section Tahuna, says “On Saturday, several related agencies carried out an interaction check on the health and safety of the ship.”
He goes on to say, “In general it is said that the presence of foreigners and their ship is due to an emergency situation where the GPS device is damaged. Currently, the foreign national is being brought to Manado for examination of other documents.”
De Mayer’s account continues, “Without having committed a crime or breaking any law, immigration officers then arrested me and sent me to jail for a total of 41 days, without any documentation to sign or due process.
They confiscated my sailing boat and two dogs, all of them with their documents up to date and vaccine books for the dogs.
Finally, without explanation or being asked to sign any paperwork, on 14th November 2021, I was deported. I was not given the opportunity to take my boat or my dogs with me.
When I arrived in France, I tried to contact the Indonesian Embassy. At first, they said they would investigate. After months of waiting, they refused to meet me and told me on the phone that I would need to return to Indonesia to make a complaint.
I decided to press charges against the Indonesian government for abuse of power, illegal arrest and arbitrary detention, and for stealing my sailing boat and my two dogs.
Today, I read that the Indonesian President, Mr. Joko Widodo, made a speech to attract more foreigners to the country. My question is; what does he plan to do against rogue government officers? How can immigration officers incarcerate an innocent person, steal his boat, and the Indonesian Embassy refuses to investigate even after receiving a complaint?
As far as I am aware, my boat is still in Manado. I have unverified reports that the immigration officer who dealt with me has tried to take possession of my boat for himself.”
Note: At the time of going to press, there has been no public statement made by the immigration officials in Manado, the government in Jakarta, or the Indonesian Embassy in France.