Published: Sep 30, 2007

Young girls aged from ten to fifteen hanging out in front of discotheques at night selling things are easy targets for tourists wanting sex. Some are even rumoured to have been sold to America and Australia.

The latest story emerged when an illiterate villager named Wayan Janten complained to police that two of his children had 'disappeared' from his home in Pedahan village, Karangasem regency. The children, let's call them Kibul and Enong, were aged twelve and fourteen. Janten (40) was assisted by Patrice Veissi (49), a Frenchman who used to live in Kuta but joined the Janten family in Pedahan 18 months ago.

According to Janten, Kibul and Enong were taken by a tall, fat man by the name of James Price Tomlinson (45), a US citizen who said he was the director of The Smile of a Child Foundation based in Guam, Hawaii. The complaint was made to Karangasem regency police on 7 September 1996.

Veissi says he is an independent social worker, but appears to have no organisation and works on his own. 'I helped Janten make the complaint to the police so that unsavoury characters wouldn't go wandering around Kuta with his 14 children', he said. He spoke to me in a unique cave-like house that Veissi had built for the Janten family. 'But people here, like Janten, are quite ready to sell their children. There's a lot of proof that this is happening', he confided.

Adopted

Tomlinson was interrogated by police at the end of September, but released due to insufficient evidence. Strangely, he had by this time succeeded in obtaining a 'statement' from Wayan Janten and his wife that they were prepared to hand over Kibul - twelve years old but listed there as 16 - to be brought up by himself. Janten and his wife had affixed thumb prints. The village head acted as witness, and the statement was certified by the notary I Nyoman Sugandhi in Singaraja. Yet it mentioned neither Tomlinson's passport number, marital status, nor his income. 'I just certified it because after all the child's parents themselves were handing her over, and the village head knew all about it', Sugandhi said offhandedly.

Sensing trouble, Tomlinson left Denpasar via Ngurah Rai airport the day after the police interrogation. Kibul, who would have become someone's adopted child, was abandoned in Kuta. She confessed to police she had been Tomlinson's sex object for two years. She first got to know him in front of the Sari Club in Kuta. Tomlinson offered her his room to live in. Kibul agreed as long as she was allowed to bring her four friends, including Enong, and (let us call them) Jero, Karsi and Srinu. One night they were given sleeping pills and Tomlinson 'worked them over'. They were aged between ten and twelve years.

Broker

A close friend and neighbour of Veissi, the 52 year old Frenchman named Maechelo, said the broker for this trade in children was John Waite (46). This American bachelor from Wisconsin who now lives in Darwin, Australia, had been travelling back and forth between Bali, America and Australia for more than four years. Before she was to be taken to Australia, Enong was asked to go to Jakarta to arrange her passport.

Every time he went to Bali, Waite always stayed at the Berlian Hotel at Poppies Lane I. An employee at that hotel apparently often went to Jakarta to help Waite arrange passports for the girls being traded.

On 6 October, Maechelo broke into Waite's room at the Berlian Hotel and found a passport for 18-year old Ketut Apel, who supposedly was to be sold to America. Enong was also still staying in the room after Waite had flown to Darwin the previous day. 'He was going to return later to collect Apel and Enong', Maechelo said. A hotel employee confirmed that he had caught someone entering Waite's room. 'He said he was from the police and aimed a video camera at my face', he said.

Maechelo told journalists both Waite and Tomlinson were part of a syndicate working to buy and sell children for prostitution. 'The girls are usually sold as sex partners for Japanese tourists', he said.

To back up his assertion that Tomlinson was guilty of sexual crimes against children, Maechelo played back a tape from his home answering machine. (Maechelo is indeed rarely at home. His household helpers, two little girls, only arrive at four in the afternoon and work until the following morning.) The voice on the tape said: 'Hallo, this is James. I went out yesterday with a sweet little girl... but I'm getting bored... I hear Patrice (Veissi) is up to no good, we have to do something to make him return to the right way...'.

What was meant by this last phrase was not clear. Maechelo looked startled when asked why Tomlinson needed to ask for his help to 'make Patrice return to the right way'. Did Maechelo work together with Tomlinson? Didn't 'we' there mean 'Maechelo and Tomlinson'?

Impossible

Waite, however, who returned on 12 October, denied that he was selling children. 'It's impossible that I would do that. I have a good job and enough money', the bachelor who claimed to be an eye doctor said in broken Indonesian.

Waite said he had known Apel and Enong for around four years. 'I was particularly close to Apel. I often visited and slept over in her village. Her family are all good, and respect me as a friend of Apel's. For that reason I once promised that when Apel turned 18 I would take her on a tour of America. We actually went to America around a year and a half ago. Now she is in the village, I didn't sell her', he said angrily.

Asked about Enong, Waite said: 'That's bullshit! Maybe Veissi is jealous because Enong doesn't like him. For a long time Enong has wanted to get rid of Veissi but didn't know how. This man says he is a social worker, hands out money, sleeps and has sex with Enong, and wants to control her so she doesn't go to Kuta any more. I happened to meet the Pedahan children in front of Pizza Hut early in October. We ate at KFC and Enong told me she had a problem. Suddenly Veissi arrived, and he angrily took Enong by the hand, telling her to return to the village. But Enong refused', Waite explained.

Eventually Enong went with Waite to Jakarta. 'We were there three days, but not to arrange a passport. We went to Fantasy Park, to Ancol. We had a good time together, just as friends. There was no sex', he added. They returned to Denpasar on 5 October. 'That night I had to fly to Australia. Enong said she wanted to buy a bicycle and look for a room to rent for herself. I helped her out with a bit of money for those things. She was allowed to stay another two nights in Berlian Hotel.'

Syndicate

If Veissi and Maechelo accused Waite and Tomlinson of selling Balinese girls, Waite said on the contrary the real syndicate consisted of Veissi, Maechelo and Tomlinson. He said that at first Tomlinson and Veissi used to work together, handing out shirts to all the little friends of the girls staying at Veissi's place.

'Tomlinson and Veissi used to sleep with all the children, they had sex with them all. They would give them sleeping pills and then fight over them. In the beginning, Kibul and Enong slept with Veissi. But then Tomlinson took Kibul, and Enong liked me. So Veissi got mad at Tomlinson, and also went around saying bad things about me. Now he's lost both the girls', Waite said.

And Maechelo? 'Maechelo has a wife and a child, but they're in France. He lives here and has sex with Jero (14). They bullshit about being social workers, while they consume little children. These are crazy people. They have to be stopped', Waite said angrily.

Marry

Wayan Janten, when we met him in his village, explained nervously: 'Patrice Veissi is lying. I don't sell children', he said. As he was illiterate and didn't understand the law, he was not game to evict Veissi. 'I don't like him being here. He's been here for a year and a half, sleeping with my little girl Enong, but he doesn't like being told to marry her. I am ashamed before the village customs, because unmarried people should not share one room', he said.

Veissi also appeared jittery listening to Janten. 'I can't marry Enong. I have a wife and child. I'm just here to help train these children, so they don't run around in Kuta. I want them to stay in their own religion', he said. Veissi was not able to produce a letter from any organisation or explain his activities. 'I just have a social-cultural visa. I don't need an organisation, I can work alone', he said. The only program he had to show was the cave-house that was not yet ready. 'This house is for the Janten family', he said.

A Social Welfare Department official, Mr I Gde Mika, said that in Bali there was only one non-government organisation dealing with children, namely World Vision International, a Christian organisation based in the US. Anyone else who said they were social workers were illegal, he said.

An edited version of this story appeared in Forum Keadilan 4 November 1996. Putu Wirata is a journalist in Bali. The translator was Wendy Miller.


Inside Indonesia 50: Apr-Jun 1997