The Jakarta Post
Indonesians at home and abroad are reeling from shock and shame after the name of Reynhard Sinaga, an Indonesian student convicted of over 130 rape cases in the United Kingdom, made global headlines as the “most prolific rapist” in British history.
In the UK, especially, the revelation has shaken Indonesian students currently studying there, with some expressing concern that Reynhard’s case might blacken the reputation of Indonesians by association.
Stela Nau, the president of Indonesian Student Association (PPI) in the UK, said that the news had caused uproar among those in the association. “We were shocked and concerned, especially because the case has become headline news everywhere,” she told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Gilang, a 30-year-old PhD student at the University of Lancaster, said that the news had horrified her community of Indonesian doctoral students in the UK, driving her to fear the case would adversely affect the Indonesian student community in the country.
“First of all he’s an Indonesian, and an Indonesian PhD student,” she told the Post. “It’s not easy to get into a PhD program in the UK as an Indonesian, and we PhD students have worked hard to make Indonesia proud and a case like this seems to undo all that hard work.”
Reynhard, a 36-year-old PhD student, was sentenced on Monday by a court in Manchester to life on 136 counts of rape, eight counts of attempted rape, 13 counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual assault with penetration.
The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) called him "the worst-known sex offender in the country's history" for the assault or rape of as many as 195 men and for attacking “scores more” since moving to Britain as a student in 2007, AFP reports.
Gilang said that the case had made her feel less confident as an Indonesian student in the UK and made her feel like she and her fellow Indonesians had to prove that they were not like Reynhard.
“The case is very disappointing and like a slap in the face,” she said. “I feel like we have to prove to institutions here - universities, the government, the public - that we’re not all like that.”
Both Gilang and Stela said that Reynhard was not known within the Indonesian student community in the UK, possibly because he had been there much longer than the typical student.
Reynhard first moved to the UK as a student in 2007, obtaining a master’s degree in sociology from Manchester University, as reported by The Guardian. In August 2012, he started to pursue a PhD in human geography at Leeds University, but did not finish his doctorate before his arrest in 2017.
He was born in Jambi to a respected and affluent businessman family of Batak origin - his last name Sinaga is a marga or clan name of the Batak people of North Sumatra.
Wati, not her real name, one of the people who knew Reynhard during his childhood in Jambi -- where he lived with his family from 1982 to 1988 before moving to Kendari in Southeast Sulawesi -- was in utter shock upon learning about his conviction.
"He was friendly, although he was more of a quiet person," Wati said, adding that, however, she did not know how he had been since he left Jambi.
Reynhard's case has led to a wave of shock and contempt online and offline, both in the UK and in Indonesia, including among the Batak community.
Lamsiang Sitompul, the chairman of the Horas Bangso Batak community, said that Reynhard’s actions had hurt and shamed the Batak community and that his crimes made it seem like the Batak people were sexual deviants.
“That is not true, and honestly we are very ashamed of Reynhard Sinaga’s actions. His actions do not reflect the behavior of Batak people,” Lamsiang told the Post in Medan, North Sumatra, on Tuesday.
Reynhard was arrested in 2017 after one of his victims was able to hand one of his mobile phones to the police. The CPS said its investigators discovered 3.29 terabytes of graphic content of sexual assault equivalent to 250 DVDs or 300,000 photos. One of the assaults lasted eight hours.
The Indonesian Embassy in the UK, which had kept a low profile with regard to the case, revealed on Monday that it had followed Reynhard’s case for the past three years to ensure he was afforded the full extent of his rights and protections as an Indonesian citizen.
The embassy, which stated that it had provided legal assistance to Reynhard, said that he had been tried in four separate trials in which he was found guilty and sentenced to life with a chance of parole after 30 years. (afr)