Indonesia: Sex, lies, and video clips

Indonesia: Sex, lies, and video clips

This week Indonesia was gripped by the appearance of a now-infamous one-minute sex clip that appeared on the Internet. House of Representatives member Muhammad Prakosa must have watched it over and over again: As head of the House’s Ethics Council, it’s his job to decide whether the man and woman in the video are his fellow honorable members of parliament, as many are claiming.

The Council has yet to announce its finding. Prakoso says he will meet with the two alleged MPs first. This won’t happen until the end of recess and the House resumes on May 13. If indeed the two MPs are the couple in the video, they will be fired.

In the meantime, the political rumor mill is already busy. Fingers are pointing at the two representatives from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the country’s main opposition party. Last month, the party blocked the government’s plan to increase domestic fuel prices.

The way the story has been played up by the website that posted the video suggests a political motive aimed not only at discrediting the PDI-P, but also at destroying the careers of the two politicians. Somehow the video clip managed to slip past the Internet censor — despite the government’s efforts to scrub pornographic materials from the Internet.

It’s difficult for public figures in Indonesia to survive a sex scandal, especially when videos of their hijinks are circulated in public. In the previous government of 2004-2009, two House members lost their jobs after videos showing them in compromising sexual positions went viral. In 2011, a member of the Islamist Justice and Welfare Party (PKS) survived a public shaming after he was caught watching porn clips on his iPad during a plenary session. The pressure and shame after the ordeal became too heavy, however, and he voluntarily resigned even though his party had come to his defense.

These people can count themselves lucky that they only lost their political careers. The Anti-Pornography Law and the Electronic Information and Transaction Law, both enacted in 2008, seek to clamp down on pornography, including on the Internet. Infringement entails severe punishment.

Singer/songwriter Nazriel Irham, more popularly known by his stage name Ariel Peterpan, received a 42-month prison sentence after a video of him having sex with his celebrity girlfriends circulated online in 2010. (His reaction to the verdict captured in the image above.) Ariel "Peterporn," as the media dubbed him, was found guilty for storing and distributing the video, considered an offense under the 2008 Pornography Law.

Just exactly how low politicians will go to discredit their opponents is anybody’s guess. With a little help from the internet, politics in Indonesia has just gotten a little bit dirtier.