Nunung and husband July Jan Sambiran seen at the headquarters of the Jakarta Police on Monday. They were arrested on July 19 for the illegal possession of methamphetamine. (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Kumay)

Comedian's Arrest Puts Spotlight on Indonesia's Treatment of Drug Users


JULY 24, 2019

Jakarta. Last week's arrest of senior comedian Tri Retno Prayudati, better known as Nunung, for methamphetamine possession has renewed discussion on how Indonesia deals with drug users and addicts. 

The 2009 Narcotics Law makes provision for drug addicts to receive medical treatment and undergo social rehabilitation instead of jail time, Anang Iskandar, former head of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), said in a statement on Wednesday. 

"Legally, if Nunung personally used the drugs, then she must be subject to the legal process without detention," Anang said. 

The Indonesian Ombudsman also expressed concern that Nunung's arrest may perpetuate a tendency by law enforcement agencies to send people guilty of illegal drug use to the country's already overcrowded prisons. 

"Indonesian comedian Tri Retno Prayudati, a.k.a. Nunung, will join the long list of prison inmates if the government does not prioritize rehabilitation in dealing with drug abuse," said Ninik Rahayu, a member of the Indonesian Ombudsman. 

"Data shows our prisons are overcrowded, with 50 percent of inmates charged with drug-related offenses," she added. 

Police said they would detain Nunung for 20 days for trying to destroy evidence.

Nunung's Arrest

The Jakarta Police's narcotics unit raided Nunung's home in Tebet, South Jakarta, on July 19 following the earlier arrest of her alleged supplier, Hadi "Tabu" Moheriyanto.

At the time of his arrest, Hadi had Rp 3.7 million ($264) in cash in his possession, which he initially claimed to be the proceeds of a jewelry transaction. He later admitted to having sold 2 grams of methamphetamine to the comedian and her fourth husband, July Jan Sambiran, who also acts as her manager. Courts consider suspects caught with less than 1 gram of methamphetamine in their possession as users.

Police found 0.36 grams of methamphetamine, two empty packages and various other paraphernalia during their search of Nunung's home. She allegedly flushed the 2 grams she had bought from Hadi down the toilet. 

Police said Nunung and her husband had made at least 10 drug purchases over the past three months. Police also arrested Hadi's supplier, only identified by the initial E., in Bogor, West Java, on Sunday. He is currently serving a prison sentence in a separate drug-related case.


Nunung is a former member of Srimulat, Indonesia's largest comedy group. She got her big break in showbiz when she landed the role of Basuki's younger sister in the 1994 television show "Si Doel Anak Sekolahan" ("Doel the Schoolboy").

The Solo, Central Java-born comedian gained further fame in recent years with her involvement in the comedy shows "Opera Van Java" and "Ini Talkshow."

Nunung's arrest adds to the list of Srimulat members, such as Tessy, Polo, Gogon and Doyok, who were previously caught for illegal drug use.

The comedian confessed to having used illegal drugs over the past 20 years to cope with strenuous work demands. She claimed to have stopped for some time, but having started using methamphetamine again in March to boost her stamina.

Nunung said she is grateful for having being caught because she had difficulty to quit.

"I apologize to all my family, my children, grandchildren, siblings. I have disappointed them and did wrong by violating the law and I thank the police officers because I have been saved by this incident," the 56-year-old comedian said at the Jakarta Police headquarters on Monday.

"If this had not happened, I don't know until when I would have been like this. I apologize to my fans, I'm very sorry and I promise to never repeat this mistake," Nunung said.

Rehabilitation Uncertain

Police have yet to confirm whether Nunung and her husband would be given the option of rehabilitation.

"We have not received any rehabilitation request from the family, but the Jakarta Police have made an assessment," spokesman Chief Comr. Argo Yuwono said on Wednesday.

Argo said police are still waiting for the result of an analysis of Nunung's hair, blood and urine samples to determine the level of her addiction.

Nunung, July and Hadi are all charged with contravening the Narcotics Law, which sees each of them facing at least five years' imprisonment.