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Indonesians lament celebrity drug use

Khabar Southeast Asia

Indonesians lament celebrity drug use

Following a high-profile-drug bust, parents and children’s advocates demand entertainers set a better example for the nation’s youth.

In the wake of the latest celebrity drug arrest, Indonesians are concerned such individuals are undermining the country’s effort to become drug-free.

“We are worrying with the increasing number of drug users in our society,” said Agus Hendrawan, an officer at the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), when asked about the late January arrest of popular television presenter and actor Raffi Ahmad.

“Many youths admit that their interest to use drugs is influenced by the environment, including public figure such as celebrities,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Even though law enforcement on drug use is improving, the government is still facing big challenges, he said. According to a BNN survey conducted at the end of 2011, there are 3.8 million to 4.2 million illicit drug users in Indonesia, many of them young professionals.

Drug bust grabs headlines

Authorities arrested 17 people in a raid early January 27th on Raffi’s South Jakarta home and seized 14 ecstasy pills and two marijuana joints. Reports of the drug bust went viral, as several well-known people were involved.

Nine people were found innocent and released in following days, including actor Irwansyah, 27, and his actress wife, Zaskia Sungkar, 22, as well as the National Mandate Party’s (PAN) Wanda Hamidah, a 34-year-old member of the Jakarta Legislative Council.

One person was charged for not reporting drug use, while six others were sent to rehabilitation and face up to four years in prison if convicted under Indonesia’s 2009 anti-narcotics law.

Five of those arrested tested positive for drugs in initial urine tests on January 27th. But Sumirat Dwiyanto, a BNN spokesman, told reporters that two people who originally tested negative were later found to have cathinone in their system.

Cathinone, a drug related to the stimulant khat, found in Arab and East African countries, is relatively new in Indonesia.

Raffi, 25, faces multiple charges and up to 12 years in prison if convicted. Once the presenter on television’s most popular music program, Dahsyat, he is now jailed in a BNN detention facility in East Jakarta, awaiting further investigation and a court trial.

Banned from television?

Many celebrities in Indonesia — and abroad — have faced legal problems over drug use. Senior Indonesian rocker Ahmad Albar was convicted of drug use and sent to jail for several years after his arrest in 2007.

Fahria Ade, an Indonesian actress who was arrested for possession of shabu (crystal meth) in 2010, told reporters it is very common to use drugs at filming locations.

“I used to be asked to use drugs by the film director so I would not be tired and could act maximally,” Ade said, according to entertainment news site

Celebrity drug use has a potentially negative impact on children, according to the Indonesian Commission on Child Protection (KPAI).

“Celebrities are idolized by children. We’re calling on celebrities to adopt a healthy lifestyle without narcotics. We’re even encouraging them to become ambassadors in the fight against drugs,” M. Ihsan, the head of KPAI’s child protection task force, told reporters following the arrests.

Nocky Chandra, a 25 year-old university student from Yogyakarta, agrees.

“Celebrities, who actually can be a role model for young people, should really watch their behaviour and lifestyle, because everybody is watching them,” Nocky said.

Ayu Sekarsari, 36, the mother of a 9-year-old boy, thinks celebrities convicted of drug use should be banned from television.

“My son often watches ‘Dahsyat’,” she said. “He often found that Raffi is a cool young man.”

“As a parent, I always tell my son the danger of drugs. I just don’t want my son to think that it is also cool to consume drugs… they are relatively easily influenced by their idols,” she added.

“Banning celebrities who are convicted of drug use is one way to prevent children from using drugs. Unless they have been going to rehabilitation and are willing to fight against narcotics openly through mass media,” Ayu told Khabar