Thursday, March 3, 2011

Film Screening of 'Troubled Waters'

The film screening of 'Troubled Waters' (directed by Ruth Balint) tonight in the Aula went smoothly, alhamdulilah. It was my first time being put completely in charge of an event, from its planning to the execution, and I was praying I wouldn't forget anything major like switching on the projector or something, haha.

We set up a food booth outside the Aula, behind the reception to raise funds for Timor Worldwide. A few Indonesian students came to help set up the stall, sell things, collect money, and be enthusiastic in general. A lady from Toko Solo, a small Indonesian warong provided a bento box of rice, chicken and tempe for us to sell (at a small markup), and we also had other people contribute chocolate cake, wajik, and of course we sold pineapple and star cookies! We raised about 300 euros.

zainab, me, febri, indri

The main aim of the film screening was to raise awareness. It tells the story of fishermen from the Indonesian island of Rote/Roti who have often unknowingly strayed into Australian waters (according to their maritime claims that extend into Indonesia) in their low-technology, basic wooden boats. Everyone on board is arrested (including some under 18) and their boat brought to Willie Creek in Northern Australia, where the fishermen are ordered to camp out until their trial; they sometimes wait up to a month.

They are told to get and pay for a lawyer - how does a fisherman from Indonesia find a lawyer in Australia and have enough money to pay him? They are then put in prison, and normally after serving a term of 18 months to 5 years they would be able to bring home their wages earned in prison, but a sudden change of law prevents them from even doing that now. According to the film, the Australian government spends about 7 million AUD arresting, detaining, and prosecuting these fishermen.

After the film someone asked, can you blame the Australian government? They're just doing their job, defending their maritime claims. Yes, I do blame them because as someone replied, defending anything means that defensive, not offensive measures are put in place. For example, vessels should be put along the maritime border to let passing boats know where the line is. Arrests or prosecution should only be done if fishermen consistently and purposefully trespass, which is not the case most of the time since they have no idea where lines on maps are out at sea.

A Rotenese fishermen, towards the end of the film, makes a plea to everyone in general and perhaps the Australian government in particular,

"Jangan buat perundangan yang terlalu membebankan kami, kami yang hanya mau cari makan untuk isteri anak."*

*Bahasa Indonesia: Don't make laws that are too harsh, because we are only looking to earn to support our family.

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