Police arrest Ratna Sarumpaet at Soekarno-Hatta Airport before she could board flight to Chile

Ratna Sarumpaet. Photo: Instagram / @rsarumpaet
Ratna Sarumpaet. Photo: Instagram / @rsarumpaet

Indonesia’s infamous woman of the hour, Ratna Sarumpaet, was arrested by the Jakarta Metro Police Thursday evening just as she was about to leave the country amid national outrage over a scandalous hoax she had perpetrated on the public.

Ratna was reportedly arrested at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport before she was able to check in for a flight to Santiago, Chile, where she claims she was going to attend the Women Playwrights International Conference on Oct 7-12 (we checked, this particular international conference actually exists and Ratna is listed as one of its senior advisors).

The police say Ratna was initially summoned as a witness for their investigation into her public fraud case, but they elevated her status to suspect and arrested her to avoid another elusive fugitive situation (as happened with a certain founder of the Islamic Defenders Front).

“We made the arrest tonight because she failed to meet our summon [as a witness]. We don’t want another problem like Rizieq Shihab, who fled the country,” Jakarta Metro Police General Crimes Directorate Violent Crimes Sub-Directorate Head Jerry Siagian told Kompas yesterday.

The police have not announced any specific charges against Ratna nor did they say if her charges would allow them to keep her in custody beyond the first 24 hours of interrogation.

It’s entirely possible that Ratna was not trying to escape police investigators as her trip to Chile seems to have actually been planned some time ago. The Jakarta Provincial Government today confirmed that she filed a sponsorship request to the tune of around IDR70 million (US$4,600) with the capital’s administration to attend the event, which was approved by the Jakarta Tourism and Culture Agency in February.

READ: Losing face: What the Ratna Sarumpaet farce means for her and Prabowo Subianto’s presidential campaign

In case you have been focused on the disaster in Sulawesi and missed the story behind this bizarre farce, it all began early this week when Ratna told presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto — for whom Ratna was campaigning for in next year’s election — and her fellow campaigners that she had recently been assaulted by a group of unidentified men in Bandung, where she was attending an international conference (which didn’t exist). A photo of what was supposedly her battered face went viral online and Prabowo and others in his coalition called upon the police to bring her attackers to justice.

But a police investigation into her claim quickly concluded that the bruises in her photo were the side effects of a recent facial liposuction procedure and that her entire story had huge holes in it, indicating the whole thing had been falsified.

Ratna eventually fessed up to her lie, claiming she fabricated the assault story so that her children wouldn’t be concerned about her swollen up face (because that totally makes sense, apparently). Soon after, Prabowo dropped her from his campaign team and numerous police complaints against her from various civil groups were filed.

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