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Only a Pawn in Their Game

Although I wrote this piece a while back, I have withheld it from publication until my son was safely free to go to Canada. The contents will explain that decision.


Jacob Simon Julian Alex Guntensperger

Patrick Guntensperger

Jakarta, Indonesia


My son finally has a judicial order of adoption confirming that he is, in fact, my son in the eyes of the laws of Indonesia and Canada. It was obtained when an Indonesian justice signed the order that had taken three years and over $125,000.00 in expenses – including travel between Canada and Indonesia, between cities in Indonesia, to Singapore where much of Canada’s Indonesian mission’s work is done, and (mostly) bribes for Indonesian civil servants and officials of various types. It cost my now late parents their opportunity to meet their grandson; the greed, inefficiency, and corruption that defines Indonesia kept my family separated by half the planet for months at a time, carrying out a legal procedure that should have been completed in about six months with little fuss and nominal fees.

The judge who signed the court order, however, made sure that he stuck the knife in, even though he was giving us the long sought written decision, a decision to which we were manifestly entitled years ago under the laws of both Indonesia and Canada. He stuck it to us in this way: An Indonesian Order of Adoption has two parts; an acknowledgement of the adoption itself, and a secondary order granting the adoptee’s change of name to that of his family. Because I had refused to pay the judge the full demanded tip, “administration fee”, “expression of gratitude”, bribe, or whatever you wish to call it for letting us into his courtroom for him to sign the order, but had only agreed to give him half in advance and the balance when he did his job, he only gave us the first part. We now need a new court date to obtain a name change for my son; until then, he is the Indonesian equivalent of “Baby John Doe 2009/02” and he is unable to obtain documents, like a Canadian citizenship or passport in Canada, or anything at all here in Indonesia. The pro always beats the amateur.

It’s important to be clear that all the criteria for adoption had been met and we were and are entitled to these Orders under the laws of Indonesia and of Canada….the personal gratuity (bribe) was not to encourage the judge to see things our way, or to disregard law or ethics; on the contrary, it is a charge he demands to do what he law already requires of him. And there’s no way around it; no bribe: no court date, no adoption. So now I have to pay him another fee in advance so he will sign the name change portion of the Order…something he is required to do as part of the adoption process, which already has ministerial approval. He gets away with this extortion not by denying us due process, but simply by setting our court date in his judicial calendar several years in the future, which he would keep postponing, and only suddenly finding a five minute opening when the envelope stuffed with cash is handed over and the money is counted. Every single court case, including every criminal trial, in Indonesia is conducted in this fashion. And everyone accepts it. An honest judge is one who moderates his demands, whereas a corrupt judge is one who sells criminal court verdicts at an unreasonably high price. There simply is no sense that justice could or should be equally applied to those with a lot of money and those with less. Justice, like beauty, or any other positive thing is, in this money obsessed country, a commodity; and like all commodities, it is for sale.

The hostage

The chip in this game of Jakarta Hold ’em

Of course the people of Indonesia are an unhappy lot. If they are important (read rich) they screw everybody, so their lives are miserable in any moral or spiritual sense although physically comfortable. If they are one of the unimportant masses (read poor) they are constantly being screwed and fantasising about how they would screw everybody else if they only had the opportunity. The truth is that every Indonesian child’s dream is that he will have his turn at the trough when he grows up. It is a pathetic, miserable place, and until the materialism which is at the very centre of the Indonesian soul is replaced with something – anything – else, this will always be a pathetic, miserable country notable primarily for its hypocrisy,  astonishing greed, heart wrenching poverty, pockets of obscene wealth, endemic corruption, appalling pollution, great weather, and cheap, beautiful prostitutes.

My son will have dual citizenship until he’s eighteen; at that point he’ll have to decide whether he wants to be Indonesian or Canadian. Unless there is some cataclysmic change in the next decade and a half, that call will be an absolute no brainer.




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