Wednesday, February 09, 1994

Police use soothsayers to trace criminals

Andreas Harsono
The Jakarta Post

JAKARTA (JP): There is a joke here about two anthropologists, who once quarreled about the age of an Egyptian mummy. One of them said the mummy was about three thousand years old, while his colleague stated that the mummy was two thousands years old. As they couldn’t agree they appealed to third party for help.

They were lucky. The two met a police officer. “I’ll do my best,” the policeman said. 

Two days later, the officer told them they were both wrong, as the mummy was 2.789 years old. The anthropologists were baffled and asked him how he determined the age of the relic so precisely.

“Well, I just sent the mummy to a police precinct and had it interrogated in the usual way,” the policeman explained. 

Thirty Policemen

Although this kind of interrogation is still in use –for instance, the investigation of the murder of Sgt. Bambang Sumarno, where Stephanus Bambang, one the three accused of the crime, said that around thirty policemen beat him at the police station during his interrogation.

Modern policemen, however, can boast of not using the “classical semi-torture” method any longer. Now they have a less violent helping hand to unearth the truth ... the soothsayer.

“A wizard helped me to catch the notorious robber Slamet Gundul,” said a police captain who used to be posted in Semarang, Central Java. 

The officer, who asked not to be identified, said the wizard had helped catch the bandit. “It proved to be true,” said the officer, who is now getting his promotion though advanced courses at the Jakarta-based police command school.

When they police are baffled, they usually head for diviners, asking them to show the criminal’s den or the place of his lover. 

Ki Gendeng Pamungkas, the fabulously wealthy and up-beat sorcerer who now heads a loose trade organization of around 470 sorcerers nationwide, confirmed that there is cooperation between the police force and the diviners.

Ki Gendeng, who was a speaker at a seminar on sorcery at the police academy last December, noted that psychics and diviners can help a lot. The sorcerer, whose real name is Isan Massardi, said that faith healers can put not only spell on someone but also foretell the future.

Diviners serve their clients professionally. The police are just one of their clients. 

Judging from his monthly net income of around Rp 60 million (over U$$8500) as well as his regular travel abroad, he must have a lot of clients indeed, serving top government officials and tycoons. 

Another soothsayer, Ki Ageng Selo, explained that occult practices are very popular among Indonesian people from all walks of life. 

Both sorcerers, however, declined to give the names of their clients, “A” professional like me, of course, has to keep the clients' identities a secret,” Ki Gendeng noted, adding that he plies his trade internationally.

Cultural Background

It seemed that the practice of sorcery, incantation, whichcraft, enchantment, or spells for whatever purpose, are still widely adhered to here.

In 1889, a Dutch writer published a book De Stille Kracht (The Hidden Force), which uncovered the practice of black magic throughout the country, then a Dutch colony.

Writer Louis Couperus mentions the story of one top Dutch official here, who dealt with many hideous crimes but dared not to report them to the central government in the Netherlands, because he was afraid that his fellow countrymen would think he suffered from a mental disorder. 

Criminologist Mulyana W. Kusumah, however, believes that such practices are real and that they persist here. 

Mulyana, the executive director of the Indonesian legal Aid Foundation, explained that the phenomenon has resurfaced lately after faithealers, particularly Ki Gendeng Pamungkas, exposed their unearthly magical power to the press.

“The public, including the police, have long considered the help of soothsayers as a last resort," the criminologist noted.

Mysticism is deeply rooted deeply in every layer of society. It is a cultural phenomenon, which is sometimes quite difficult to analyze. 

Based on his experience in the foundation, Mulyana explained the police hire faith healers only, when they are at their wits ends. “From the professional police point of view, soothsayers are not considered legal sources, as they could not act as expert witnesses in a court trial,” he said.

“They can only give hints,” Mulyana said, arguing that the police need to seek conjurers help because they are not equipped with the latest crime technology.

Citing an example, Mulyana pointed out the case of starlet Ria Irawan, whose friend and former lover, was found dead of a drug overdose in her house. “The police spent too much time on finding the type of drug in the corpse,” Mulyana added. The police do not have the modern equipment to perform reliable autopsies.

Newspaper reports said the police could not use a lie detector for Ria. “I doubted if they have the latest make of equipment?” asked Mulyana, who is also a lecturer at the University of Indonesia.

He also said that the current forensic laboratory in the university is out of date too. 

According to Mulyana, it is important to update the crime-solving technology due to the rising rate of criminal cases in the country.

“Killing techniques have progressed remarkably nowadays. Criminals use not only knives, but also poisons. The police have to update their know-how to cope with modern crime,” he added. 

Indeed, possessing such technology will end the delight of the police beating information out of a corpse, but when the police turn to diviners, one can expect to hear another joke on occultism. 

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