Original article no longer available
Posted by: Roy Tupai on 02, 02 2006 @ 01:18 am
Relatives of an Indonesian man found dead in the Indonesian Consulate in New York have rejected findings that he committed suicide after apparently suffering a mental breakdown brought on by homesickness.
Despite their distrust, the family of the Bambang Wielianto (35) is not pursuing legal action to challenge the report by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and Medical Examiner’s Office that Bambang Wielianto (35) had stabbed himself to death.
Wielianto, a groceries trader from Jakarta, was found dead on Sunday (29/1/06) morning in a small room in the basement of the consulate on East 68th Street. He had suffered multiple stab wounds to his body and had a kitchen knife in his chest.
“He had been quiet and well-behaved since childhood. I think it is impossible that he committed suicide,” Wielianto’s uncle John Wilki was quoted as saying by detikcom online news portal.
The deceased’s sister Meina (39) said her brother would never harm himself or his family. “We think he was murdered,” she was quoted as saying by The New York Times.
Wielianto, a father of two young children, had arrived in the United States on December 13 after being granted a tourist visa by the US Embassy in Jakarta. He apparently became depressed because of the unfamiliar culture, his inability to communicate in English and his failure to find full-time work during six weeks of travel that covered New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
He was not allowed to work under the terms of his visa. His relatives said he never mentioned any desire to find employment in the US, claiming he only intended to stay for a month or two. “He just wanted to travel and he was very happy when he first arrived, but in the last week he said he didn’t like the life there,” said Meina.
Wielianto was stressed, agitated and disheveled when he showed up at the consulate last Friday afternoon, seeking assistance to get a flight home as soon as possible. He already held a ticket for a Japan Airlines flight to Jakarta in June and was desperate to bring forward the departure date.
“He came to our consulate and said he did not want to live any longer in the US, in part because of encountering difficulties in looking for work. He told our consular staff that he wanted to return home to Indonesia immediately, whereas the departure date of his Japan Airlines ticket was not until June 8, 2006,” acting consul general Harbangan Napitupulu was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.
“He wanted to go home earlier. He was homesick,” Acup Setia, a driver at the consulate, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
The New York Times reported that Wielianto showed consulate staff $700 in cash in his wallet, enough to stay in a cheap hotel for a few days until a flight could be arranged, but he apparently lacked the ability to negotiate a room for himself.
Staff were able to get Wielianto a seat on a February 1 flight to Jakarta and said he could stay at the consulate until then.
Napitupulu said although it was not common for the consulate to provide accommodation for stranded tourists, officials decided to set up a makeshift bedroom for Wielianto in the storage area of the basement.
Over the following day, Wielianto made several phone calls to his family in Jakarta, restlessly paced the hallway outside his room and smoked heavily. After nearly all staff had left the building for the weekend, he made a final call to his wife and parents at 3am Sunday to wish them a happy Chinese New Year. Police said he then went to the kitchen, took several knives back to his room, stabbed himself repeatedly and bled to death.
A security guard at the building that night told investigators he did not see anyone enter or leave the premises. He also said he did not hear any noises from Wielianto’s room. At 9am Sunday, the guard noticed blood in the hallway outside the room, discovered the body and called police.
Authorities initially suspected a homicide, prompting a search of the building by the US State Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the NYPD on Monday said an autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s Office showed Wielianto had committed suicide by almost entirely chopping off his left wrist and stabbing himself in the chest.
Wielianto’s wife Melia Sanjaya reportedly told investigators that her husband was supposed to be taking medication for a psychological disorder.
Napitupulu said the consulate was shocked by the suicide. “All of us are in a shock situation. He seemed very eager to go home… His psychological condition was not so strong to face the challenges,” he was quoted as saying by The New York Times.
Wielianto leaves behind his wife and their two sons, George (2) and Nathan (10 months), at the family’s house in Green Ville residential complex, Tomang, West Jakarta.
Wielianto’s uncle said Melia could not believe her husband had killed himself. “She is still crying and not yet able to accept Bambang’s death. She is still in shock,” Wilki was quoted as saying by detikcom.
He said Wielianto’s parents also could not believe the news. “When Bambang telephoned his mother [on early Sunday], he told her not to worry about him because his situation was ok and he would return to Indonesia on Monday.”
Wilki said the family doesn’t believe that Wielianto committed suicide but would not press for an investigation into the NYPD’s inquiry into the incident.
Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirajuda confirmed that Wielianto had been “in a stressed-out state” at the consulate. He said the man had been working in the US for sometime and “was always moving around”.
While the family disputed the cause of death, the Indonesian government said it accepted that Wielianto had committed suicide. “We suspected suicide was the cause of death and the NYPD’s investigation confirmed that,” Wirajuda was quoted as saying by detikcom.
“We are now coordinating with his family over whether the body will be sent home intact or cremated in New York and the ashes sent to Jakarta,” he added.
Meina has reportedly traveled to the US to formally accept the autopsy report and make arrangements for the return of the body.
Wilki said the family would likely opt for a cremation in New York because the Foreign Affairs Ministry was unwilling to help cover the cost of sending home the body intact. “The cost of sending the body from the US to Indonesia is quite expensive. The Foreign Ministry does not want to help cover the repatriation cost. So our likely option is to bring home his ashes.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Desra Percaya on Wednesday said it was unclear when the body would be brought home. “We do not yet know when it will be returned. Up to now we are still coordinating with the family. If the body is returned intact, then the cost of repatriation will be expensive. But if it is cremated, the cost will be cheaper. But that depends the decision of the family,” he said.
“All practical costs are the responsibility of the family, but that does not rule out the possibility of the Foreign Ministry providing help,” he added.