Wed, 10 Sep 2003

'How did this happen in a school for future leaders?'

Theresia Sufa, The Jakarta Post, Bogor, West Java

"I'm going back to the lion's den," is not the usual farewell phrase from a son returning to school after a short break at home, but those were Wahyu Hidayat's last words spoken face to face with his dad.

"He also said that when he said goodbye to neighbors before he left home on Aug. 30 to return to his STPDN campus/boarding school in Jatinangor, (West Java)," recalled his father, Sarif Hidayatullah.

Did Wahyu know what lay ahead of him? Some premonition, perhaps?

Nobody knows, but his violent death seemed to explain his choice of words when describing his school.

"When he left, he was in good health. He was wearing his uniform, walking tall and straight and I felt very proud of him. He was our only hope. He was smart, good with people and religious. But that was the last time I saw my son," said Sarif.

Wahyu's death was a big blow to both Sarif and his wife Siti Rosada, who still cannot stop crying over their son's senseless death.

Fate can be an odd thing at times. Wahyu actually wanted to become a policeman, and in 1999 he enrolled at the Jakarta Police Academy. He was turned downed simply because he failed to meet the age requirement.

Wahyu was only two weeks away from reaching the minimum 18- year-old age level when he applied.

In the following year Wahyu was accepted at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) through a special recruitment program that provides highly intelligent students seats at state universities without an entrance test.

However, Wahyu's desire to become a policeman remained strong and after spending three semesters at IPB, where he studied animal husbandry, he applied for a position at the Regional Manpower Bureau at the Bogor regency administration, with one objective in mind: to enter STPDN.

"I have applied for STPDN, Pa," Sarif said, quoting Wahyu.

From the financial point of view, Wahyu's decision was quite a burden, said his father.

"At IPB, he studied on scholarship, not to mention the fact that he had done three semesters there. But I did not want to deter him because he was very smart. He held his future in his own hands, and as his parent, I could only pray for him and support him," said Sarif, the father of four who works at the Citeureup district office in Bogor.

Wahyu was among five people from the Regional Manpower Bureau who passed the entrance exam and received an annual scholarship of Rp 5 million (US$588) from the Bogor regency administration.

After going through a series of selection procedures, Wahyu was finally accepted at the STPDN. He lived in the South Sulawesi building that provides board for the students.

Wahyu never came home except for holidays. Last month he took a leave from Aug 14 to Aug. 30, but returned to his campus on Aug. 16 to attend the Independence Day ceremony on Aug. 17.

He was back at home on Aug. 18 and spent his holiday with his family before he finally left on Aug. 30.

That was the last time they saw him alive.

Although Wahyu never said anything specific about his school, Sarif knew it was tough because the STPDN has a militaristic- style education. If he wanted to meet his son, Sarif was not allowed in the boarding house. They could only meet after Friday prayers at the mosque on campus.

"Wahyu once told me, 'I am now a second-year student and there is so much punishment because now I have the freshmen to guide. My friends and I agreed we would not be too hard on the new students'," Sarif said quoting his son.

On Sept. 3 at around 3 a.m., shortly before Wahyu died, Sarif received a phone call from STPDN, telling him his son was at the Islam Hospital in Bandung.

"But five minutes later STPDN called again, telling me to be brave because my son had died. I went straight to Jatinangor and arrived there at around 9 a.m. I asked what caused his death, but everybody was tight-lipped. In the end, I took my son's body home to Bogor," he said.

Sarif was very upset with some of the older students.

"STPDN is a school for future leaders, future public leaders. How could they have acted so carelessly? What will happen when those children graduate?

"It's a school for civilians they have this militaristic-style discipline. That is not appropriate and those things (they committed) were not in the curriculum," said Sarif.

"Wahyu was the kind of student who always tried to be punctual so whenever he went home to Bogor, he was always in a hurry to return to school. Sometimes I urged him to 'defy' the seniors whose acts often went beyond the curriculum."

According to Sarif, Wahyu was beaten to death shortly after dinner. He was dragged to another building, the Bangka Belitung building, where he met his death.

"When I came to collect his body, I had known he must have been beaten to death. Word had it that he was beaten because he refused to attend a ceremony and to distribute proposals to former STPDN students who are now working at the Bogor regency administration. The proposal was a request for funds," said Sarif.