JAKARTA, Indonesia—A founding member of a conservative Islamic party in Indonesia has resigned after being photographed Friday watching pornography on a tablet during a parliamentary session. Arifinto, who goes by just the one name and belongs to the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), was shot from above by a photographer as the images, which Arifinto said he stumbled upon as he was accessing email, were clearly visible.
Indonesia, a secular country that is also the world’s largest Muslim nation, has made a decided shift rightward in recent years in terms of its declining tolerance of sexual expression. According to the BBC, the PKS has been a main driving force behind the passage of strict anti-pornography laws that impose prison terms of up to 15 years and fines for everything from kissing in public and exposing parts of the female body to disseminating erotic artwork.
Arifinto (pictured), who oversaw a parliamentary commission on transportation, telecommunications and rural development, and, according to the BBC, was “caught watching the video clip for several minutes as fellow legislators debated plans to build a new parliament building,” is not just another conservative lawmaker. As a founding member of the Justice Party (PK), which later merged with the Prosperous Party to become the PKS, he was “shown no mercy” by fellow religious conservatives.
During a press conference hastily arranged Monday, during which he announced his intention to resign straight away, Arifinto attempted to mitigate the damage by apologizing profusely to his party and the parliament, saying the decision to step down was his alone.
“With all of my conscience, without any coercion from anyone or any elements, for the sake of myself and the party’s honor, following this statement, I will soon file my resignation as a member of the House of Representatives to my party,” he said, adding, " “I will still work for my party, whether I am a House member or not. I'm also going to continue to better myself, by repentance, reading the Koran and asking for guidance.”
Despite his professed remorse, however, Arifinto may yet find himself prosecuted under the very anti-pornography law his party helped push through and of which he was a big supporter, according to the AP. Despite his claim that he was under no pressure to resign, the Jakarta Globe reported, “The Shariah Board of the strictly moralistic Islamic party will also dismiss him from its Syura Assembly—the party’s advisory council that sets its policies—as part of an internal party assessment, said the board’s leader, Surahman Hidayat.”
The paper also said the Sharia Board “demanded Arifinto perform repentance by asking for God’s forgiveness 100 times within 40 days, reading the entire Koran within 30 days and giving alms to 60 poor people.”
Those supplications appease God but they will not necessarily meet the threshold of Indonesian Communications and Information Technology Minister and PKS member Tifatul Sembiring, who said his ministry would work with law enforcement to “try to conduct a digital forensic probe to see whether Arifinto stumbled on an e-mail link to pornography … or already had it stored on his computer.”
Despite these sanctions and the possibility of future charges, Arifinto, in resigning rather than waiting to be dismissed, will get to keep his pension.
“Were he dismissed from the House, he would lose his rights,” said House Ethics Council deputy chairman Nudirman Munir. “I also would not [be able to] save his party’s face.”
Sembiring was not so generous in the aftermath of Indonesia’s latest porn scandal. “This matter smeared not only the image of the party but the [House of Representatives] as a whole,” he said.
Those are not idle words. Indonesia takes porn seriously. In January, the anti-porn law was used to sentence Nazril "Ariel" Irham, the lead singer of the country's most popular band, Peterpan, to 3 1/2 years in jail after two homemade sex tapes were posted to the internet. Last year, the editor-in-chief of Playboy Indonesia was sentenced to two years in jail. And Research in Motion this year promised to filter porn sites from Blackberry’s in the country rather than face expulsion. The country also has followed through on its promises to block access to millions of adult websites.
Despite those proscriptions, in March mobile affiliate program SexGoesMobile announced that it could now able to convert mobile traffic from Indonesia.
"With a population of over 240 million people, Indonesia is a very interesting market for us, as half the population has a mobile phone," said Christian Kreul, managing director of SexGoesMobile. "Indonesia is on its way to become the fourth-largest mobile market in the world and in the coming years, the mobile penetration will rise even further."
After a two-week trial the SexGoesMobile team saw a very respectable conversion rate with Indonesian traffic.
"The results of the first tests were phenomenal and showed a conversion of about 1:20," added Kreul.
It would be interesting to know if Arifinto was himself a new SexGoesMobile customer.
Photo: Friday, April 8, 2011, Indonesian parliament member from Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) Arifinto watches a porn video on his tablet computer. Media Indonesia, M. Irfan / AP