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Petty Man Forced Family Members Out of Their Graves In the Name of Politics

We knew Indonesia's upcoming election is going to be intense, but we're pretty sure no one saw this coming.
January 15, 2019, 1:00pm
Image via Shutterstock

A family in rural Indonesia isn't letting something as simple as death get in the way of a good political feud. The family, which is in the middle of a prolonged disagreement over who to support in the coming legislative race in the province of Gorontalo, in Sulawesi, recently decided that the situation had gotten so bad, become so toxic, that the only sensible thing to do was dig up their loved ones' bones and move them to a new cemetery.


Let's just unpack that statement for a minute. There's a family in Gorontalo that has been so ripped apart by this election that it's even affecting their dead relatives. So the next time your friends doubt you when you say that the political landscape in Indonesia has only gotten worse with time, here's an instant argument ender to shut them up for good.

OK, back to the story. This entire thing apparently revolves around a woman named Iriani Monoarfa, a woman who is running in the local legislative race for the National Democrats Party (NasDem). She is related, through marriage, to man named Awano Hasan who decided to try to shore up some support for Iriani by asking his family members to vote for her.

The problem is that Abdul Salam Pomontolo and Sarce Pomontolo, two relatives of his, had other plans. Neither of them wanted to vote NasDem in the legislative race and they told Awano as much, which apparently set the man into a rage spiral he just couldn't pull out of. And this is where the story takes a dark turn for Abdul and Sarce. You see, Awano owns a plot of land they all use as a family cemetery. Sarce recently buried her husband and her granddaughter some three years ago.

According to Sarce, Awano decided that neither of the bodies could remain on his land if Sarce and Abdul didn't vote NasDem.

"I was asked to support a legislative candidate, or the bodies of my husband and grandchild would be exhumed and kicked out of the family cemetery." Sarco told Kompas.


Those graves have been, for some reason, something of a sore spot in the family for years and this political fight, it seems, was the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

"He repeatedly told me, 'if you don't choose Iriani, then these graves will need to move immediately," Abdul told the local media.

Soon, the dispute had pulled in most of the town, including local elected officials who tried—and failed—to cool tempers. Eventually, the only reasonable way out of this mess was to just move the bodies, which the family did late last week.

"We have been invited to the village head's office for mediation," Abdul told Detik. "But the damage has been done to my sister. She's a widow, and she was yelled at [by Awano]."

Then everything was quiet. Until this story hit the national press and went viral because, I guess, there really isn't a better image of Indonesian politics circa 2019 than a family exhuming two graves over a political disagreement.

NasDem issued a statement telling everyone they had nothing to do with any of this, explaining that it was all just a family feud that got way out of hand. And Iriani herself, who remember is related to all of these people, also distanced herself from the entire ordeal, saying that she was in the hospital and walked out to suddenly see her name all over the newspapers.

Then there's Awano himself, who threw further confusion on the matter by saying that he never told anyone to move the bodies off his land.

"They kept insisting, so I don't mind that the graves were moved," he told Kompas. "I said go ahead. But I'd be even more grateful if the bodies were not moved, so that way people wouldn't be able to say it's because of politics."

So where does that leave us? About just as confused as we were when we started reading about all of this. But, in an election where a fake candidate pair known as DILDO is one of the most popular choices out there and plenty of other voters are saying they would rather not vote at all then pick a side, I guess that's par the course.

At least this makes all of us feel better about our own families. We all might have an uncle who still thinks everything was better when the military just ruled the country or a cousin who is a bit too conservative, but at least no one is busting out the shovels and heading to the family burial plot… yet.