Manohara in her Own Words
|Our Correspondent||Jun 15, 2009|
The story of the jet-setting Indonesian teen model who was kidnapped by her 31-year-old Malaysian royal husband who allegedly raped and tortured her keeps taking on new permutations, including, last week, protesters who surrounded the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta, demanding war.
Now the 17-year-old model, Indonesian-American Manohara Odelia Pinot, has told her story in English, to Jakarta Globe journalist Armando Siahaan. At times insouciant, at times seemingly bewildered, she describes a high-flying life in Europe's capitals as well as detailing allegations of terror and rape at the hands of the prince. Her story can be found here.
Last week Mano, as she calls herself, hired Indonesia's most flamboyant lawyer, Hotman Paris Hutapea, to announce she was filing a case with the Indonesian national police alleging abuse against her husband, Kelantan Tengku Temenggong Muhammad Fakhry. Fakhry fired back by filing charges against Manohara in Kuala Lumpur, alleging she had made the whole thing up.
It is notable that Manohara didn't file in Malaysia and Fakhry didn't file in Indonesia. Indonesian courts, considered the most corrupt in Southeast Asia, have a pretty much unanimous record of siding with the locals against the foreigners. The courts in Kuala Lumpur are only marginally better, having suffered through a long series of judicial scandals over the last 20 years. Neither side apparently wanted to dare defeat in the other's court.
In Indonesia, Manohara's story has consumed readers of tabloid newspapers, TV, Web sites and blogs, making the relatively unknown beauty a household name although at 16 she was named one of Indonesia's 100 Precious Women by Harper's Bazaar magazine. A full half-hour documentary of her travails has aired repeatedly, at times almost a continuous loop, on Jakarta television.
The tale of the tortured princess has taken on unlikely diplomatic overtones as well, nearly overshadowing the cat-and-mouse game going on along the ill-defined border between Indonesia and Malaysia in the Celebes Sea, where the two countries' navies have repeatedly squared off since January over the resource-rich Ambalat exploration block.
Last week, Malaysia's Navy Chief, Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar, journeyed to Jakarta to say he was offering an apology to Indonesia over the incidents and added the navy would no longer deploy its Scorpene submarine in the block. Unfortunately, the commander said, they couldn't deploy their submarine in the Malacca or Sulawesi straits because they're too shallow.
War is hardly likely, with the two countries agreeing last week to trade so-called fifth-freedom air rights granting expanded permission for stopovers in each other's major cities.
There have been no similar apologies over Mano, as the 17-year-old princess calls herself. Harrumphed one Jakarta paper: "It is a sad truth that Indonesian workers, including female domestic servants, have long been the target of abuse by some employers in Malaysia…We must not stand by and accept such treatment of an Indonesian citizen. The publicity the case has generated and the shocking accusations made by Manohara herself have elevated this matter beyond the tabloids. It is serious and demands action."
Malaysia's nine sultans, who critics say were nothing more than a bunch of pirate chieftains until the British colonial government co-opted them to help them run what was then Malaya, today have become nearly a law unto themselves.
Despite moves by then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to take away many of their powers during his 22 years in power, the United Malays National Organization, the country's biggest ethnic political party, today uses them in much the same way the British did. Although some have repeatedly run up gigantic gambling debts in London casinos, to be paid off by their sultanates, and that at least one reportedly killed two innocent people, none have ever been brought to justice. Whatever the prince either did or didn't do to Mano, it is unlikely he will be dragged before the bar in Malaysia.
Accordingly, once Mano made a dramatic escape from the Kelantan royal family in Singapore on May 31 with the aid of the American embassy and the Singapore police, she took to the airwaves along with her mother, Daisy Fajarina, to repeatedly allege in French-accented vernacular American-English that she was drugged, raped, tortured, kidnapped, burned with a cigar and carved with an eyebrow razor by the prince, and that she didn't know she was getting married until two days before the event took place. The prince, she thought, was just a friend, she said, until the family showed her the wedding notices.
However, Fakhry's lawyer, Mohamad Haaqiz Pillay, told reporters Friday that, "A police report has been officially [filed] with the National Police in Malaysia and investigations are ongoing." He declined to elaborate, saying that, "Locally, our laws don't provide for us to make statements. Let them have an independent and fair investigation. Since investigations are ongoing, we are in no position to make any comments at this point in time. We will let the authorities investigate and decide accordingly to get to the truth of the matter." he said. He had earlier told reporters the prince was "contemplating legal action with regard to the false allegation."
Mano first started making the news in April when her mother, Daisy Fajarina, took to Indonesia's airwaves in hysterics to demand the return of her daughter, who she said had fled the prince before. However, she said, the Kelantan royal family persuaded Mano, her mother and sister to make the umroh, or minor pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. But on Feb. 26, as they were about to enter a private jet to come back, Daisy said, the prince's people bundled Mano onto the airplane, pushed Daisy and her other daughter out of the way, and disappeared into the wild blue yonder.
Daisy later charged that the prince's family offered her a million-dollar flat if she would cut off all contact with her daughter. The prince's people, however, countercharged that Daisy was demanding vast sums of money from the prince.
The story riveted and shocked the nation, and as the 17-year-old has repeated her tale in numerous media appearances, she has been a regular fixture on the front pages of local newspapers, which have delivered long, verbatim interviews with her.
One thing is certain. Mano has been transformed from minor to major celebrity at the age of 17. Agents have come calling. A career beckons.