Ni Komang Erviani , Contributor , The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Tue, 12/16/2008 11:09 AM | Bali
Bali’s largest prison facility, Kerobokan Penitentiary, held Monday a joint Christmas celebration that was attended by 156 inmates and members of the local Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) congregation led by Rev. Benny H Sitompul.
Several foreign inmates participated in the celebration, including two death-row convicts — Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; two inmates serving life sentences — Matthew Norman and Martin Stephens; and Renae Lawrence, who successfully appealed for her original life sentence to be reduced to 20 years.
The five Australians were convicted for illegal drug smuggling. The media labeled the convicts “the Bali Nine”.
The HKBP congregation donated to the inmates three guitars, three volley balls, three soccer balls and 180 packages of toiletries prior to the commencement of the joint religious service.
Kerobokan warden Yon Suharyono said the Monday celebration was part of a series of Christmas celebrations that the prison would organize.
“We have received requests from many communities and congregations that wish to celebrate Christmas with the inmates,” he said, adding that the biggest celebration would be on Christmas Day.
Suharyono said he hoped the celebration would strengthen the inmates’ sense of togetherness. “I hope the inmates will no longer separate themselves into rival groups,” he said.
In conjunction with the Christmas celebration, the prison’s authority has requested the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in Jakarta issue sentence remissions for certain inmates.
The request was filed for three foreign inmates — Australians Schapelle Leigh Corby and Renae Lawrence, who are both serving 20-year prison sentences, and American Derrick Arthur Weston.
“They have displayed good attitudes and fine conduct during their stay here. That is one of our primary reasons for submitting the request,” he said.
Head of the HKBP congregation Raja Pasaribu said the joint celebration was to let the inmates share in the joyful spirit of Christmas.
“The grace of the Lord is for all of us,” he said.
In his sermon, Rev. Benny H Sitompul reiterated that Christmas was a joyful day for mankind, and that therefore everyone had the right to celebrate it.
“Those who are present here are all sinners, people who are in need of absolution, in need of assistance. Christmas is all about absolution, all about helping each other,” he said.
An inmate, Ronald, said the celebration had filled his heart with happiness.
“I miss my family and long to celebrate Christmas with them. But that’s impossible. The joint celebration has eased that longing,” he said.