Jakarta. A district head in North Sumatra who is being detained under corruption charges has private prison cells at his residence to lock palm oil plantation workers, a human rights group said on Monday.
Terbit Rencana Perangin Angin, the head of the district of Langkat, has built two prison-like rooms with iron bars and brick walls, according to Migrant Care, an NGO specializing in migrant workers’ rights.
“There are two prison cells at the district head’s residence and they have been used to lock up at least 40 workers,” said Anis Hidayat, the group’s lead researcher.
She said in a statement that the finding has been reported to the National Commission for Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, for alleged slavery.
The cells were built in the backyard and surrounded by high walls.
Anis said there were reports of workers being locked in the cells, beaten, and fed only twice a day.
“Their salaries weren’t paid either," she added.
"We have filed a report on the inhuman act to the Komnas HAM once we learned that a district head who supposedly protected his people has misused authority to commit gross violations to human rights.”
Komnas HAM Commissioner Choirul Anam said the commission plans to immediately send an investigation team to the district head’s residence to follow up the report.
Choirul said his office has received plenty of photos and video footage describing suspected slavery committed by the district head.
He added the commission will cooperate with the police to locate victims and collect more evidence.
Terbit was detained by the Corruption Eradication Commission or KPK on January 19 for allegedly taking Rp 786 million in bribe money from a businessman who won projects from the district government.
He is one of the richest regional leaders in the country with a personal wealth of Rp 85 billion ($5.9 million) according to his public disclosure.
Terbit is the third regional leader to be arrested by the KPK in just two weeks, following the arrest of Bekasi Mayor Rahmat Effendi and North Penajam Paser District Head Abdul Gafur Mas’ud.