Jakarta’s police will be putting the entire force on standby for the five days of the upcoming fasting month when there is a ban on bar openings and alcohol sales as a precaution against unrest and violence from angry, sober, alcoholic expatriates
The ban, in accordance with national and city law, prohibits retail alcohol sales at supermarkets, bars and restaurants on a total of 5 days over the fasting month and immediately after. These days are traditionally a high-risk period in areas with large numbers of expats, such as Pondok Indah, Jalan Felatehan in Blok M and swathes of North Jakarta.
“We are taking no chances with expatriate sobriety-related violence,” said a stern Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Sutrismono. He justified the deployment of over 17,000 additional police, including TNI units, officers across the city as a necessary precaution against “deranged, sober expatriates.”
Although large-scale rioting by un-intoxicated foreigners is rare, many previous fasting months have seen small outbreaks of civil unrest, usually by expats who were unaware of Ramadan at all and who reacted badly to being told that they can’t have a drink at their favourite establishment.
“For many of these men, 24 hours without a drink and the company of a rented female represents something unacceptable, terrifying even,” said Gumilar Rusliwa Somantri, a famous sociology professor at Indonesia National University. “Sobering up means becoming momentarily aware of their degenerating bodies and emotionally hollow lives. What we might think of as an alcohol-free night represents an existential crisis for them.”
Professor Somantri claims this “sobriety shock” is an actual medical pathology and recommends that SOS Medika offer free alcohol IV drips during the fasting month. “Most expats are perfectly reasonable people,” she said, “the few deranged ones, the ones that end up yelling at waitresses in girly bars, they just need help.”
But according to Jakarta Deputy Mayor Ananas Frendi, much of the problem simply stems from a lack of communication. “Many expats here are so isolated from the realities of the country they live in that something as major as the most important month of the year for most Indonesians can slip under their radar,” he explained. “Those who prepare ahead of time can easily get through the ordeal by having a case of beer and a few DVDs ready at home.”
Major supermarket chains such as Carrefour and Hero are hoping to become part of the solution rather than the problem by touting mixed brand 12 packs with free cooler at their outlets in expat areas as part of their “Stay Home, Stay Wasted” promotion.
Although the supermarkets are confident in their campaign, Professor Somantri still thinks that planning ahead simply goes against the mentality of the alcoholic in general, and the alcoholic expat in particular.
“The people likely to cause a stir during Ramadan generally can’t think three hours ahead, much less plan for a day or more,” she said. “You might as well ask your dog to feed himself while you’re on vacation.”
The NottheJakartaPost.com (tm) staff psychiatrist, who refuses to be named unless he gets paid far more than we are ever going to give him, confirmed, from his favourite seat at Everest Bar, that this sort of problem was Asia-wide and invariably connected to expatriates being forcibly deprived of alcohol for any length of time and was in fact a high priority for discussion at the upcoming ASEAN conference in Jakarta; which will doubtless be looking for an ASEAN solution. Also on the agenda is an item on the prevention of the shameless website plagiarism currently being seen right across the ASEAN area.