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Denpasar, Bali

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The Parent Trap

Editorial: News Over the Past Week Fuel Concerns that the Art of Parenting May be Under Serious Threat in Some Quarters

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Two separate items of news over the past week caught our attention while raising fundamental concerns about modern methods of parenting in some quarters.

Spare the Hot Rod; Save the Child

A horrendous traffic accident at 1:00 a.m. on the morning of Friday, October 28, 2011, killed two 14-year old Balinese boys and sent a third to the intensive care unit of Sanglah General Hospital.

In reconstructing the events that led to the deaths, police say the three boys were driving a luxurious Toyota Alphard to an evening party in Seminyak when, after dinner, they exchanged vehicles for a compact-sized Toyota Ista.

Agreeing to rendezvous with friends at a local 24-hour convenience store, the boys set off on a joy ride through the central area of Bali’s capital, Denpasar. While police remain non-commital as to whether or not the boys had been drinking prior to the accident, they do confirm that the three were not wearing seatbelts when their car struck a tree while traveling an estimated 120 kilometers per hour. The force of the initial impact threw the sole surviving boy out the back window of the small car and instantly killed the two remaining boys as the vehicle rebounded and struck a second tree, virtually splitting the car in two.

Adding to the unspeakable loss of life, local newspapers were filled with reports of how the two dead boys were academically gifted, handsome and popular students, and poised to take advantage of a wide-world of educational opportunity available to them as upper-class Balinese. Somewhat ironicaly, one newspaper reported how one of the boys was recently lavished with the gift of a new motorcycle by his doting parents.

Unspoken in the local press, but almost certainly weighing on the dead boys' parents' consciences are painful questions of parental culpability in the deaths resulting from easy access to motor vehicles for 14-year-olds when in Indonesia the minimum age for holding a driving license is 17.

Following the tragedy came a sensible call from Bali’s Chief of Police, General Totoy Herawan Indra, for firm enforcement against all under-aged drivers including the seizure of vehicles driven by children.

We applaud General Totoy’s instruction. At the risk of sounding heartless in the presence of unspeakable tragedy, we contend that perhaps nothing short of actually charging the parents of the dead boys with reckless public endangerment and contributory negligence in the death of the boys is the strong medicine needed to remind all parents of the need for basic discipline in the care and upbringing of their children.

In Name of the Son

A second incident, also in Bali, confirms that abysmal parenting skills are an international problem, and certainly not limited to Indonesain Moms and Dads. In the second instance, the parents of another 14-old-old boy, this one an Australian from New South Wales, are reported to be busy negotiating a AU$200,000 contract for exclusive print and electronic media rights to the story on their Son who was arrested by Bali police on October 4, 2011.

The unnamed Mom and Dad are said to be bargaining the publication rights to the story whilst their son remains under arrest. He is in detention as he stands trial in Bali’s juvenile court system after being arrested with a pocketful of marijuana on a side street in Kuta.

The boy and his parents, joined by a parade of senior Australian politicians and diplomats, are making a great show of seeking mercy and understanding from the Indonesian courts. Citing the boy's age and claiming in mitigation that the lad had a pre-existing drug dependency before coming to Bali on holiday, they want him releases with a slap on the wrist and put on the next plane back to Sydney. Relying on this argument before the Indonesian panel of judges, the boy will either be immediately released to his parents' custody or, in rejection of that defense, sentenced to months or even years of imprisonment in Bali.

Eagerly and actively seeking to financially profit from their offspring's predicament by selling his story to the press, even before the judges make a final ruling in the case, may prove a major faux pas on the part of the parents bringing dire consequences for the boy.

In fact, if considerations of high-level and political pressure are removed from the current equation, things would appear not be looking very good for the young Australian.

The boy's parent and their fumbling, money-grubbing ways have raised larger questions about their overall judgement and the quality of their parenting generally. Many are now asking why the boy’s parents, already aware of their Son's issue with drugs, allowed a 14-year old with a pocketful of money loose for an afternoon of unsupervised “fun” in Kuta - an area well known for its illicit drug culture. Free and living life to its fullest, police arrested the 14-year-as he emerged from a backstreet massage parlor with a pocketful of marijuana.

Whatever the net effect of "selling" their story to the press will have on their Son's fate remains to be seen. The substantial funds being offered for the story by the Australian press promises a "hot" scoop for that segment of the Australian media all-too-willing to sensationally publicize the tired theme of the perils of a holiday in Bali; cranking up that old fiction of an endemic Balinese predilections to prey on defenseless Australian tourists.

Many in these part suggest that justice will only now be seen to be done if the Australian boy is sentenced to an extended prison term. This outcome would demonstrate to the world and the boy's parents that even if crime does pay, good order demands that the cost should be made more expensive than most are prepared to willingly pay.

In both the death of the two Balinese boys and the arrest of the Australian boy with drugs, we see a common thread of unfortunate kids "cashing" checks written by thoughtless parents, patently inept at playing their assigned role of "the adult" in their respective households.

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