Sun, 08 Apr 2001

Parents remember daughters killed in a1 fan stampede

By Yogita Tahil Ramani

JAKARTA (JP): It is often said that daughters are closer to their fathers, and that the only man in the world a girl can trust is her father.

This is just one of the reasons that the will to live is being slowly sucked out of Joni Siantani, 45, a vegetable trader who finds it difficult nowadays to sell his vegetables, or anything else for that matter.

"His daughters were the world to him. We were really poor, but he would never allow his daughters to go hungry. Since the deaths of our daughters Rani and Eka, he has rarely talked," Joni's wife, Wartini, said tearfully, at her residence in the Petir subdistrict of Tangerang.

The teenage girls died in a stampede during a recent meet-the- fans event with the British pop band, a1, in Jakarta.

"He wonders why he didn't stop the girls from going to see that stupid boyband. He keeps on remembering how the girls were when they were kids, how they moved ... how both of us, husband and wife in our poverty, had worked to keep them happy."

Wartini said that her other daughters, Yulia and Sari, have tried to reason with Joni but he turns a deaf ear.

"Nothing effects him. It's as if he refuses to get over what happened."

Can a father really ever get over the senseless death of his daughter?

It is hard to imagine anyone getting over something as heart- wrenching as the deaths of one's own teenage daughters, especially ones who had solely aspired to be photographed alongside the a1 boys.

Four teenage girls died in the stampede, on the rainy afternoon of March 18, and all in a matter of 15 minutes.

Greater Jakarta residents seem to have moved on, forgetting the bruised corpses of Rani Siantani, 15, Eka Wanti, 20, Indri Ayuningtyas Dharmawan, 17 and Nurdiana Wali, 15.

The lives of these girls were stamped out, when hundreds struggled to catch a glimpse of their idols at the meet-the-fans event staged at the Disc Tarra music store, located on the third floor of Taman Anggrek Mall in West Jakarta.

The incident, ironically, does not seem to fill the mind of Joni either, Wartini said.

"It's not really the incident that he thinks of I believe ... it's the girls. He cannot get over what, for instance, Rani used to write in her notebook," she said.

According to Wartini, Rani loved to play her music loud, loved to dress like her friends, loved life, but was still trying to find her place in the world.

Rani, she said, liked to quote William Shakespeare in her notebook, and wrote her own thoughts in it as well.

Excerpts included: "If you want to find yourself, do not try to find it in a mirror. You'll just find your shadow there. Which is better, to be alone and not have many problems, or have many friends, and live with the consequences they bring in a society?"

Several media reported at the time that Tarra Megastore (PT Nara Mitra Tarra), which was responsible for providing security guards for the event, and Sony Music Indonesia (SMI), which brought the boyband here, wasted no time pointing fingers at one another.

The West Jakarta Police have declared five suspects in the case for culpable negligence leading to death, but has refused to detain one of them, on the grounds that the suspect, a female executive of SMI in her 70s, is "too old" to be detained in police custody.

Old fashioned

These details, however, seem to be lost on the parents of the girls.

"What can I say about the loss of my daughter? I had told her not to attend the fans' gathering. She called me so many things ... she said I was old-fashioned, stubborn and a square for not allowing her to go," Yoseph Dharmawan, father of Indri, said earlier this week.

"My wife is still beside herself. She is so torn over this ... we cannot live normally now. I blame myself ... like a fool I allowed my girl to go to that function. Why did I allow her?"

Yosef, an entrepreneur and resident of Duri Kepa in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, said that he had gone to fetch his daughters Indah and Indri from the mall. He found Indah, but no Indri.

"We searched everywhere for her ... then my wife and I heard about the dead girls. We steeled ourselves and went to the (Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital) morgue."

Nurdiana Wali's father, Amir Wali, combed several hospitals on that tragic day, at first still clinging to the hope that he would fund his daughter, lying hurt, but at least not dead.

"Her mother had told her not to go ... she told Nurdiana that if she went, I would get angry. But she went anyway," Amir, a resident of Jl. Kesatriaan in Matraman, East Jakarta, said tearfully.

Nurdiana's family had finally relented. Then, over 12 hours after the incident occurred on March 18, they found themselves on the way to the Cipto Mangungkusomo General Hospital morgue.

Morgue staffer Rachman told the Post that Nurdiana's family were beside themselves when they saw their daughter lying in the morgue.

"It was so heartbreaking to see how these parents reacted. Some refused to see the corpses of their daughters first ... some were just not talking. Some even fought with the pathologists ... they didn't want an autopsy to be carried out on their daughters," Rachman said.

"As if there was still life in the girls ... the girls were dead! Their parents were behaving as if anything else were to be done to the corpses, the girls would feel pain."

It's a tragedy that an event like this, which should have been enjoyed by these four teenagers, ended up taking their lives.

Yoseph however said that a bigger tragedy would be to forget this incident and the girls, because the city had been taught a tough lesson, which was paid for with the lives of the innocent.

"I wanted my girls to grow up, make something of their lives, live well and see their children. I cannot accept all this, because some company has been so dumb and careless as to not apply for a proper police permit to secure the area."