Saturday, April 25, 2015


To All Canadian Citizens:

I’ve written open letters to your Prime Minister but I guess he wouldn't open them, so I thought I should come directly to his boss.

Many of you may have heard this story; it comes from just below the equator on the other side of the world, but it’s a tale so astonishing it’s made it’s way out.

It concerns, among others, a kidnapped Canadian citizen named Neil Bantleman, who teaches at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) in Indonesia, along with associate Ferdi Tjiong, and a cast of English speaking educators from all over the world. About a year ago, the parent of a kindergartener came to school saying her son had been sexually abused by members of the janitorial staff, hired by ISS, a Danish cleaning company. Members of the school were alarmed and did what any of us would do upon hearing that awful news: believe it and find the predators, or believe it until it can no longer be believed. Six cleaners were arrested. Some confessed under what, in retrospect, appears to be torture. One who didn’t confess is dead. When the cleaners got to what they thought was the relative safety of the courtroom, they attempted to recant, citing the torture and the fear that had they not confessed, would have ended up like their dead compatriot, who the police insisted committed suicide by drinking cleaning fluid, but who died with serious bruising and cutting on his body and head.
The convictions held, the cleaners lost their appeal. Four received eight year sentences, one – a female with representation - got seven years.

The mother of the child sued the school for something close to thirteen million (USD). When she discovered the cleaners didn’t work for the school, but for ISS, she was joined in her accusations by two other mothers, upped the lawsuit by a factor of ten and named Mr. Bantleman, a teacher/administrator and Mr. Tjiong, a teaching assistant, as offenders also. She attempted to add the name of a U.S. citizen but by then the implausibility of the details were becoming the impossibility of the details, and representation from the American Embassy stepped in. That American’s name was removed from the charges.

Here are a few of those particulars that brought the American Embassy to its feet:

-No reputable doctor found any evidence sexual abuse, even though the charges included serial anal penetration over a long period of time.

-When the mother was asked by credible examining doctors to return the child for further testing, she never returned.

-Several of the male cleaners carried a herpes virus, very common among Indonesian men. Though the mother insisted her child had contracted the disease, he did not. All credible medical opinion said, and still says, it would be impossible for the child to have been raped by those cleaners over the period of time the mother alleged, and not contracted the virus.

-In testimony a policeman told the court that both Neil and Ferdi had failed a lied detector test. Evidence of that test was never produced.
The area in which the supposed abuse took place, during school hours as described by the accusing mothers, is visible from at least thirty yards away on all sides. One of the rooms where it was supposed to have happened is called "the aquarium", because all four walls are glass. If a child was sodomized during school hours over that long period of time, all the elementary staff and half the parents are accomplices.

-Two of the cleaners who were identified by the child (and his mother) on the first day, were only present on that day. Their assignments were in a different part of the campus.
The two children whose names were entered later in the proceedings, continued to attend the school after the first mother’s charges, and showed no fear, trepidation or odd behavior of any kind as they played freely around the area that would have been their private hell. And remember this was through a time before the arrests of Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tjiong when school officials still believed that something probably happened with the cleaners. That is to say, they were vigilant.

After that it gets crazy. The lawsuit is increased tenfold and Neil and Ferdi go to jail, awaiting trial.
The court proceedings, which are now finally available to the public, would embarrass a kangaroo. The head judge of the three judge panel – her name is Nuraslam Bustaman and let it be trumpeted across the globe, ‘cause this lady is on the take – rejected the biological/medical evidence presented by the defense and accepted the mindnumbingly absurd utterances of the prosecution: 1)Neil had produced a magic stone from thin air to insert into one little boys anus to anesthetize him from the pain. He then returned the stone to a low flying airplane. 2) The fact that Neil said in testimony that he and his wife had sex about once a week was proof to Nuraslam and the other two judges that he must be having the rest of his sex elsewhere. (Forget the adage that has proven true for ninety percent of married couples in our species: place one bean in a jar every time you have sex the first year of marriage and then take one bean out every time you have sex after that…and you’ll never run out of beans.) 3) Kids don’t lie. (If you ever had a kid or were a kid, you know that’s a crock.) Kids lie all the time. They lie to get out of trouble; they lie to please their parents; they lie to get another cookie. And they sure as hell lie to get their momma a hundred thirty million (USD) while making the nice policemen happy.

The judges conviction/sentencing statement/tirade lasted eight hours. Feel free to go to Freeneilandferdi on Facebook and hit links all day long. But put padding under your chin to soften the impact when it hits your desk.

Or trust me. I worked as a child abuse and neglect therapist in the world of abuse for more than twenty years, and served as chairperson for the original Spokane Child Protection Team for thirty years. I have qualified to testify as an expert witness in both Juvenile and Superior Court in the state of Washington countless times. I’ve kept bad guys away from kids most of my adult life.
Neil and Ferdi are not bad guys, nor are the cleaners. They were feeding their families one day, and pariah the next. One escaped being a pariah. He’s dead. This isn’t an issue that can be perceived either way. It isn’t a flip of the coin; it’s not 51-49. This is 100-0. This is corruption and greed with heart-stopping nonchalance. Seven men and a woman not only wrongly accused of a crime, but accused of a crime that never happened.
I know it’s hard to hear of accusations like this without thinking, SOMETHING happened. Well, you’re right. Something did happen. Some cops and some judges and some parents, driven by astonishing greed, left whatever moral fiber they may have possessed behind (and believe me, those fibers had to be microscopic in the first place) and went about systematically destroying the lives of eight families.

PEOPLE OF CANADA! A loyal citizen has been kidnapped – there’s no other way to say it. The extortion sits there like the 800 pound gorilla no one wants to see, and your government remains maddeningly silent! The school where that citizen taught sends its best and brightest to the finest English-speaking universities all over the world. They are future citizens who will make a global difference. And I’ll say it again: No U.S. citizens were charged because the U.S. wouldn’t stand for it. I ask you, is Neil Bantleman’s only crime being Canadian? Look, if you know anyone with influence in Indonesian politics or economy, it’s time to rattle their cages! Scream for them to bring pressure! We need ALL the voices in Whoville. All of them.

And tell your Prime Minister that if he’s willing to leave his dead and wounded soldiers on the battlefield, he’s not man, or woman, enough to lead you.

Friday, April 10, 2015

ANOTHER Open Letter to Canadian Prime Minister Harper

Another Open Letter to Canadian Prime Minister Harper

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

I probably should have made this clear last time.  An open letter isn’t necessarily already open.  You have to open it.  Since it’s clear you failed to address my attempt  to alert you to the shameful, trumped-up charges in Jakarta, Indonesia against Canadian citizen and respected educator Neil Bantleman, I’ll give it a second try.  I would include the names of the others caught in this web of corruption, but if I can’t get you to stand for your own citizens, how on earth can I infuse you with empathy for citizens of a land half-way around the world?

When last I wrote, Mr. Bantleman had been incarcerated for nearly a year while awaiting and then enduring a trial that would have embarrassed a Kangaroo.  The accusations were horrific.  Mr. Bantleman and the others had been charged with the repeated anal rape of a five-year old kindergarten boy at the Jakarta Intercultural School.  As the courtroom events progressed it became clear that the defendants weren’t only being wrongly accused of a crime, they were being accused of a crime that was never committed.  In the end, the three judge panel accepted none of the forensic evidence presented by the defense, while accepting all of the whimsical, random, colossally absurd utterances of the prosecution. 

I would chronicle the details, but I’m from the United States and keenly aware that on this side of the border at least, the attention span of a politician lasts about as long as a quick trim at the barbershop.  If you’re interested in those details, have an intern go to #freeneilandferdi and follow the links.  There has been international outcry, detailed in presses all over the world.

What bothers me is that within that international outcry your administration’s voice has been silent.  The only feedback I have received from your camp is that you don’t choose to interfere in the affairs of other countries. 

But Mr. Prime Minister, this is an affair of your country.  I’m not asking that you send a unit of JTF2’s to bust Mr. Bantleman out of prison, but I’ll bet if you asked any member of that elite force, they would tell you they never leave their dead or wounded behind. 

There is no downside to this, Mr. Harper.  The international decibel level will only increase as the details of this travesty of justice become more and more evident.  Do not let your voice continue to be unheard.  You have left a wounded soldier on the battlefield and if you allow him to lie there, you will be, in short order and in full world view, on the wrong side of history. 

Good teachers are among this world’s greatest soldiers.  You have the power to put economic and political pressure on a corrupt Indonesian government that has allowed this mockery, and help bring at least one great soldier home.  But your window of opportunity is closing.  Neil Bantleman will be set free.  You can be part of that or not.  Either way, your countrymen and women won’t forget.

With Whatever Respect That Turns Out To Be Due,

Chris Crutcher

Open Letter To Indonesian Presdient Joko Widodo

Dear President Widodo,

I am an American author who recently visited Jakarta as a guest of the Jakarta Intercultural School. It was my first trip there and I was treated splendidly by school personnel, and just as wonderfully by the Indonesian people. I’ve visited International Schools in more than a dozen countries, and don’t remember feeling more welcome in what is, to me, a foreign culture.

So I was surprised to be made aware of the (at the time) ongoing court case involving Canadian teacher/counselor Neil Bantleman and Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdi Tjiong.
Well, the trial is over and the two have been convicted and sentenced. But now the real work begins, because they, along with the six ISS employees also accused and convicted, were all sentenced for crimes that never happened. One of those employees is dead, something you might want to look into after this original wrong is righted.

Along with being an author, I spent thirty years working in the arena of child abuse and neglect in the United States. I spent twenty five years working intimately with troubled families and, concurrently, thirty years as chairperson of our local child protection team, often listening to and ruling on extremely complex cases, with the sole purpose of finding truth and dealing with it. I have testified in dozens of abuse cases, in both juvenile and superior court.

But see, the Bantleman/Tjiong case is not complex at all. While in Jakarta I was privileged to visit the courtroom site on one of the trial dates. Since, I have followed the case closely, reading dozens of articles printed in newspapers all over the world, as well as highlights from the head judge’s conviction and sentencing statement. I won’t bore you with the details, as they can be easily discovered by anyone in your employ who has access to technology. What that techy will discover with very little effort is: no medical evidence of abuse (and in fact evidence to the contrary), child behavior totally inconsistent with prior sexual trauma, huge financial motivation on the part of the complainant, physical impossibility of the abuse taking place in the locations at the time alleged, almost idiotic alteration of the complainants’ stories as the “investigation” progressed, abandonment by the judges of scientific evidence in favor of “magical” evidence, and an attitude of retribution on the part of those same judges in response to the international outcry.

Mr. President, I have been advised more than once that it is possible I just don’t understand the difference between our cultures; that legal proceedings and local customs might be so dissimilar between your country and mine that I just don’t get it. But I reject that notion, because this isn’t about philosophy or customs or cultural actions. This is about human decency, and I’m willing to bet our definitions of that match up quite well. This is about lives being destroyed in the name of greed, and because of that it’s about whether or not a seemingly welcoming nation is, in fact, too dangerous for the families of members of the international business community. I, for one, would think long and hard before bringing my loved ones to a place where I or any one of them could be brought up on baseless charges at the whim of a corrupt legal system.

Because if it can happen to those innocent cleaners and to Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tjiong, it can happen to anyone.


Chris Crutcher
Doctor of Humane Letters
Child Mental Health Specialist
Certified Therapist, State of Washington, USA

Friday, March 13, 2015

Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

Neil Bantleman, a Canadian citizen and educator at the prestigious Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) has been imprisoned in Indonesia on child abuse charges that are dazzlingly absurd. By the most basic standards in your country or mine, not one piece of credible evidence points to Neil or his co-defendant, Ferdi Fjiong, nor the five imprisoned cleaners, earlier tortured into confession in the wake of a sixth who was likely tortured out of his life. In fact, all evidence points to the truth that no abuse ever took place.

Much has been written about this case, in Canadian papers, the Wall Street Journal and various online sites, detailing Indonesian police and court corruption, stories of magic stones, testimony entirely antithetical to original charges, and on and on. Your governmental Google expert, or any seventh grader, can pull up the details.

And yet you remain silent.

This is an easy one, Mr. Prime Minister. When the accusers attempted to add an American educator’s name to the list of suspects, the American ambassador came down on them like a hammer, and that American’s name was removed.

This is an easy one. No one on either side of the Canadian political spectrum could possibly hear the details of the Indonesian legal process to date, and believe justice is being served, or even noticed.

This is an easy one. There’s no downside. You have the opportunity to assure all Canadians that injustice to your citizens will be dealt with straightaway, both economically and politically; that Canada doesn’t leave its people behind. Anywhere in the world.

This is an easy one, Mr. Prime Minister, but surprisingly, a great number of writers and educators on your side of the border say your administration is simply indifferent to the needs of the general population.

Don’t let that be true.

This is an easy one.

With cautious regard,

We Who Are Waiting

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Free Neil and Ferdi


I recently returned from a week of presentations at the Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) in Jakarta, Indonesia, where I witnessed a human rights situation that is, for lack of a better term, dangerously bizarre.  Two elementary educators and six cleaners (janitors from ISS Indonesia) have been charged in a sexual abuse case that does not pass the smell test.  I’m not talking about the smell test that tells you something in the back of the refrigerator has passed its expiration date.  I’m talking about dead bodies stacked on a pile of burning tires.

In March of 2014 a parent came to school charging that her first grade child had been raped by cleaning staff in a bathroom close to his classroom.  JIS administrators removed all cleaning staff under the ruse of training, then cooperated with police, which resulted in the arrest of two identified cleaners.  There was sadness and shock among the entire JIS educational community, and great empathy was exhibited toward the child and Indonesian mother and Dutch father. 

But then Mom went to the press, where she gave graphic descriptions of the rapes and publicized the name of the child.  She said her child was raped thirteen times in March and had contracted genital herpes.  Another four cleaners were arrested, including one woman.  The Mom charged conspiracy, even though two of the cleaners didn’t work on that part of the campus and just happened to be there the day the additional four were being (randomly, it turns out) pointed out. 

The cleaners stated they were beaten and threatened by police without the presence of legal counsel.  One of them supposedly committed suicide by drinking bleach and other cleaning fluids, but a photograph of his body showed severe bruising and evidence that his lips had been stapled.  All but one of the rest of the cleaners confessed, none with any legal counsel.  The female, who did have legal counsel held her ground.  All were quickly convicted, none being allowed to recant their confessions once they reached the relative safety of the courtroom.  Four received eight year sentences, one (the woman) a seven year sentence, and of course, one is dead.

The child was examined by four separate doctors, none of which found any evidence of genital herpes.  Each doctor asked that the mother return with the boy for a second examination and in each case she did not return.  No doctor found anal tears or any evidence that would have had to accompany thirteen instances of sodomy in that short time.  With her case falling apart, the mother offered to disappear for a settlement from the school of thirteen and a half million dollars.  When the school refused, she upped her lawsuit to a hundred twenty five million and implicated three educators: Neil Bantleman, a Canadian, Ferdi Tjiong, an Indonesian and Elsa Donahue, an American citizen.  Neil and Ferdi were arrested and remain incarcerated to this day while their trial proceeds.  The American consulate threatened to bring down the full weight of American diplomacy in the wake of an American citizen being arrested on such flimsy evidence, and Elsa’s name was withdrawn.

After that, it gets crazy.

Some highlights of the stunningly, astonishingly, spectacularly, jaw-droppingly absurd events (this from a writer who knows, at a molecular level, that adverbs are not his friends) are these:

--One of the sites where the rapes supposedly occurred during the school day is a site called the aquarium, so-named because it is glass on four sides.  Four sides.  That’s all the sides there are.  Any passersby, and they would have been legion, would have witnessed the goings-on, and their silence would make them complicit. 

--Later the testimony changed to a indicate a collection of “secret rooms” which have since been walled off or filled in or projected into the universe somehow.

--More of the boy’s testimony - and he is not to be blamed for what he has been coached to say – indicated that Neil pulled a magic stone out of thin air, with which he numbed the boy below the waste so there would be no pain.  The stone disappeared as magically as it appeared.

--In the days following the original accusations, the boy continued to attend school and exhibited no evidence of trauma.  He played happily and alluded to nothing untoward and had no problem approaching the places where the alleged crimes took place.

--The police declared they administered lie detector tests to Ferdi and Neil that concluded positively that the two were lying, but never brought the results into court.

--No credible psychologists or therapists interviewed the child or engaged in play therapy with the child, or brought any evidence to court that a trauma occurred.  (Believe me, the trauma that occurred all comes from the mother’s willingness to parade her innocent child in front of the public.)

It goes on and on. 

And the cleaners languish in prison and Neil and Ferdi await their fates.  The entire JIS community is anxious beyond imagination because nothing has been done to exonerate the cleaners and the fear is that Neil and Ferdi will be found guilty to conceal the embarrassment – and corruption - behind that original injustice.

This isn’t a story about sex abuse.  This is a story about corruption. 

March 3 was the last day of testimony (the defense was allowed three fewer days to present their case than was the prosecution) and the verdict is to come in on April 2. 

I’m calling for OUTRAGE; on the part of the American educational community, on the part of the Canadian educational community in particular, and to whatever extent possible on the part of the world educational community.  This could be you.  The teachers and administrators working at American International Schools all over the world are typically adventurous, dedicated, creative souls from all parts of the globe.  They bypass - by way of exceeding - the grueling, anxiety-producing, memory level testing practices that plague American public schools, to fire the imaginations of their students.  And they direct thousands of well prepared imaginative students into some of the finest English speaking educational institutions all over the world.  I have visited international schools in Jakarta, Singapore, Moscow, Warsaw, Mumbai, New Delhi, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sau Paulo, to name most of them.  Though JIS is halfway around the world, many of the students are Americans, and many more will be applying to attend American colleges and universities.  The Canadian government is being maddeningly quiet for whatever reason, so in my view the educational community needs to raise hell.  Look, I know there are human rights violations all over the world that make this one look tepid, but this is one we can do something about.  Wake up the Twitter world at #Freeneilandferdi and let’s get viral.  For those interested in detail, a chronology prepared by a vigilant JIS parent of the entire set of bizarre proceedings is posted just below this.