Dr. Spilchuk – Dr. Walter Tonetto Says ISR Failed Him…2017-06-02T14:25:39+00:00
Dear Dr. Spilchuk…

September, 2008

Fired from BPK Penabur International School, Indonesia,
Dr. Walter Tonetto Says ISR Failed Him.

There are two sides to every story and we at ISR do not have all the answers. Our reluctance, however, to validate Dr. Tonetto’s accusations against Penabur International School prompted him to request this blog be removed from ISR. We did temporarily remove this blog which contains Dr. Tonetto’s statements along with some very strong letters received from his school. We have replaced the blog.

Dr. Tonetto writes: “I was baulking at the wording of the opening lines of the blog; to present my case as “having two sides” is incorrect (since the having of two sides is invariably interpreted by people as meaning something to the effect …”here goes …. he says this, they say that!”.

Soon after we removed the blog we began receiving letters from Dr. Tonetto. He wanted to know when we planned to unequivocally support his position and repost his blog. ISR explained to Dr. Tonetto that we provide a venue through which teachers share information with each other and are not in a position to take sides. Dr. Tonetto then began to send letters to ISR.

Dr. Tonetto writes: “My so-called “threats” have to do with an awareness for the limited editorial capabilities of a site that just doesn’t get the key points it is supposed to be presenting for impartial discussion: but I’m afraid that the loaded phrase “there are two sides to the story” is the aflatoxin in all this self-congratulatory “voluntariness” that has spoiled the batch”. “The way this is shaping it will in some places mean a not-so-honourable mention of your website. I don’t think that this is what your team wants, or is it?”


Following is the original blog:

Dear Dr. Spilchuk,

Jakarta, August 2, 2008: Maybe you can help me in some way, or suggest ways of dealing with the unacceptable and brutal treatment I received, as recent incumbent principal of BPK Penabur International School in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was also hired to be Head of English and Head of e-Learning across the entire cluster of Penabur schools in Indonesia.

During the first week on the Tanjung Duren campus in Jakarta, I noticed that one of the ladies providing food in the cafeteria was crying. Since I had eaten her inexpensive and tasty food every day since starting my job, I enquired about what seemed to be amiss. She replied she had worked there for some time and Penabur had summarily told her to get out by the beginning of the new academic term in July. Apparently there had been some complaints about the taste of her food.

The lady told me that there was a new lady in charge at General Affairs and she was dreaded by all the food vendors on campus. I said simply, let’s go and find out! So we went to General Affairs where we received a very rude reception, but I persisted, later asking my assistant to find the location of the head of the bureau. After that was discovered, I went up to meet her, only to discover that apparently a letter of warning had been sent out to this unfortunate food-vendor. Although I had previously requested to see it, the letter was never shown to me. The food vendor also never received a copy.

It is difficult to fight against “official letters” being sent out, whether virtual letters or ‘real’ letters, so there was nothing else I could do for that hapless food vendor. My efforts, however, to enquire politely the whys and wherefores of this poor woman’s distraught state obviously ruffled the feathers of the administration. During my meeting with the head of the bureau, the lady who had been involved in hiring me was called in, ostensibly to assist with English — but it was a veiled threat of sorts. I had noticed the food vendor lady had disappeared from campus from that day on, though she had, on the face of it, still a couple of weeks left to offer her food. After the meeting that day she told me that they had threatened her, and that also some nasty things were said about me.

The school, run by the Presbyterian Synod of Indonesia, had so far failed in assisting me in securing a suitable visa, contrary to our Employment Contract — all they obtained for me was a Tourist Visa, which put me into a very precarious situation and dictated I leave in mid-June, for Singapore, to extend what was at the time a mere one-month Tourist Visa. The school expected me to advance payment, out of pocket, for my visa and visa-trip and promised to reimburse me. I left on a Friday for my visa-trip, after which I went straight to Bali to prepare my personal belongings for shipment to the school. Since the school-holidays had officially started that seemed fine to do. In any case, I had to vacate my place in Bali, and relocate. Now the waiting for the promised funds from Penabur started …. I waited and waited … they finally arrived some 3 weeks later. The funds should have been given to me in Jakarta, but that did not happen.

Dr. Tonetto reported to ISR that he would have moved his belongings between the time he signed his contract in April and the actual start of his tenure in June, but had been flown to Jakarta, at the school’s expense to attend a meeting, after which he agreed to stay on and assume his duties immediately. This was all done with the understanding that he would have to return to Bali at the earliest possible opportunity to close out his apartment and ship his personal belongings to Jakarta.

Then, just as I was about to forward my belongings to Jakarta, I received an email from the HRD at Penabur, which included some scanned letters that had supposedly invited me to meetings in Jakarta — despite the fact the administration knew I was in Bali and could not attend. The whole thing was preposterous. I was obviously not remiss from my duties: I was relocating myself, during my holidays. In addition, I was making daily preparation for the assumption of my duties in Jakarta: a 25-page Excel book-list for the new library, a 3500 word introductory essay for students, etc), and communicated with other teachers and the assistant principal via my cell-phone and email from Bali.

I also kept an SMS from another principal that showed one of the Penabur Board Members who had supposedly asked me to attend one of the meetings knew of the fact that I had not been able to relocate from Bali yet. Thus, I was also able to identify some clear discrepancies in the assertions by the school’s administration and Board members. The point is that I never received the letters the school claimed it sent to me nor any warning SMS or phone-call. The only letters I received were email-copies of the ostensibly mailed letters, after-the-fact.

When I received the copies of the emails I rang the Operational Director of the school, Winfrid Prayogi — and after we spoke for 30 minutes on the phone, he appeared to understand the situation. I asked him to email me a protocol of our talk, but two days passed, and no email from him. When I pressed him by SMS, he replied (by SMS) that he was still looking into something, but would write later. The brief protocol of our conversation was never sent by him.

Once I saw their attitude, and noticed that there was a tacit understanding by the school to get rid of me, I sent a letter to the Operational Director, going into detail about the groundless assertions made. No reply — then, a “final” note by one of the Board Members to me, which did not address any of the issues, but simply stated that if I wanted to talk to them, I had to make an appointment to see them, etc.

One of the scanned emails they had sent to me mentioned that because I did not attend their meetings, I implicitly consented to the termination of our Employment Contract, meaning they did not have to pay me 3 months’ severance pay nor, it appears, my outstanding salaries.

During all this time my June salary remained unpaid, giving me considerable financial difficulties (right up to the present moment): they were evidently wanting to coerce me into a position where I would become complaisant to their wishes. Under International Law that is called “Duress” — but their only reply in that “final” email to me was that they have plenty of lawyers ready to pounce.

Dear Dr. Spilchuk — How can I best deal with these people? BPK Penabur credits itself on being the most successful school in Indonesia as far as university entry is concerned, and it has a very negative attitude towards the majority Muslim population (no Muslim students are allowed in, and certainly no Muslim teacher is ever hired). Along with the self-righteousness of the Penabur Board there is a smugness that I resent in individuals and institutions. But they have also clearly crossed the line in their behavior towards me, their principal.

All good wishes,

Walter Tonetto

Dr. Tonetto reported to ISR that he believes coming to the aid of the food vendor demonstrated he would stand up in defense of injustices and, in so doing, stepped on the toes of an administration that does not like to be challenged. He feels the school created a systematic plan to get rid of him in a way that would free them from the financial responsibility of paying money due to him under Indonesian law.

“So off we went … and the response to my polite queries (about the food-vendor) brought on a squall of bad language and sour words …from “General Affairs” at the school. The lady later also told me that she was threatened … and as it happened,and although the new term had not yet started, I did not see her again serving any food at the refectory …

From that day on, my intuition told me that I was too “transparent” and “straight” for them … and I could feel that some people feared me. I believe that became the nucleus of their efforts to oust me in foolish fashion …while I was trying to relocate from Bali to Jakarta, but the promised relocation funds just weren’t arriving (all during the vacation). I think Mr Yadi (Board Member) saw this as an opportunity to fashion a rope out of that circumstance … rather foolish, I would think, not only benighted ….but brazenly foolish …..

Hello Walter,

The school is, at the very least, responsible to pay you termination salary and all salaries due prior to the termination letter. My best advice to you is that you find a local lawyer who can act on your behalf for a percentage of the money that he/she ultimately negotiates as a settlement on your behalf. If you get no satisfaction through a lawyer, I can send a letter to the school requesting that they give their interpretation of the situation to ISR prior to us posting a warning regarding employment at this school. Perhaps I can negotiate a resolution for you if all else fails. Please do keep me informed of the results.

Good Luck

Barbara

Prior to Contacting Dr. Spilchuk, Dr. Tonetto spoke by phone with key administrative persons at BPK Penabur International School. The board claimed he had taken an unauthorized leave of absence from his duties and, in addition, had not responded to their letters calling for a meeting at which he was to explain his actions. The board of directors then sent him copies of the following two letters they claimed to have sent earlier. Dr. Tonetto asserted he had not received the letters and was, as everyone knew, taking advantage of the school vacation to prepare his possessions for shipment to Jakarta.“…..why would they call for a meeting I physically could not attend unless they didn’t want me to attend?” This question remains unanswered.

“……..After my 30 minute phone conversation — that I had placed — to the Operational Director, Mr. Winfrid Prayogi in Jakarta … no promised email protocols of our talk were forthcoming from him. I waited three days and sent a sms, to which he only gave one untruthful reply. I penned a letter to Penabur: but not a single reply to any of my points was made by anyone!”

Letter to Walter Tonetto from Penabur International School
Letter to Walter Tonetto from Penabur International School 2

In response to receiving the copies of the above letter Dr. Tonetto called the school and reiterated he had not received either letter. He also pointed out he was taking advantage of an official school holiday to arrange for the shipping of his personal possessions. In response to his attempts to resolve the situation the board of directors sent the following correspondence, essentially saying, ‘our lawyers are ready for you’.

Dear Walter,

This forum ( i.e. email exchanges ) is not the proper and legally recognized forum to discuss your matters. Penabur and I will not be drawn in endless arguments / debates / exchanges of emails / sms / letters / telephones unless you have a specific , definitve and intended time dan day to propose when to meet us face to face to settle the issues in our office . The “Proper & Relevant Credentials” are required by the law when you want to be legally and properly representend in Indonesia ( they are not Penabur’s newly invented demands ! ) To avoid misunderstanding, let me explain the credential requirements so you exactly know what you need to prepare:

Original Power of Attorney Letter from you. A legalised stamped copy of your passport showing your name, photo & address which must match the Original Power of Attoney Original , still valid KTP ( ID Card ) of the holder of Original Power of Attorney Letter If The holder is a licensed and practising lawyer, he must be able to show his Original and still valid Practising Licensed Professional Card issued by relevant Authorised Statutory Board. If not, you must prove clear cut relevance or ties to the holder of Power of Attorney to demonstrate the appoinment is done in a qualified and properly recognised manner. The holder must be minimum 21 years of age Please note and understand that this email is my / Penabur’s last email / sms / letter / telephone to you unless and otherwise we move forward our discussion to a definitive time and date of a face to face meeting at our office in Jakarta. Regards – Yadi.

Dr. Spilchuk Writes to Walter after receiving a copy of the above letters:

Hello again Walter,

Would you like me to contact the Board and Director to see what I can do to resolve this situation positively? They may respond because they do not want this situation posted on ISR. Let me know if you would like me to pen a letter, send it to you for approval, and then send it off…

Best,

Barbara

With Dr. Tonetto’s approval, Dr. Spilchuk attempts to mediate and sends a letter to BPK Penabur School on Walter’s behalf.

Mr. Winfrid Prayogi
winfrid@bpkpenabur.or.id
Operational Director
BPK Penabur School

Kantor Pusat (Pengurus Harian)
Jl. Tanjung Duren Raya No. 4, Blok E Lantai 5
Jakarta 11470 , Indonesia

p: (021) 5606773, 5606774, 5606775
f: (021) 5666968 e: pengurus[at]bpkpenabur.or.id

August 12, 2008

Dear Mr. Winfrid Prayogi,

I am the online teacher/administrator advisor to International Schools Review. I have been contacted by Dr. Walter Tonetto who was hired to work at your school as the in-coming principal for an initial one year contract. Below are the facts presented to me by Dr. Tonetto regarding what appears to be an unlawful dismissal situation your school instigated in terminating him from his position:

1. There was NO trial-period clause in Dr. Tonetto’s contract.

2. While still living in Bali, Dr. Tonetto spent about one month in Jakarta preparing for the position (at his own expense).

3. He started formally on June 1, 2008; as such, your school owes him salary from June 1 up to and including today as he was never legally terminated.

4. Dr. Tonetto was eventually paid 5 Mio Rp relocation allowance, and 9 Mio Rp rental advance (for 3 months). He is still, however, owed 252+4.5 Mio Rp= 256.5 Mio Rp + 1000 USD or 266, 300,000 Rp to this point in time: ($29,000 USD )

2 X 500 USD= 1000 USD (for two visa-trips to Singapore , accommodation, and visa arrangements)

• Salary for the months of June, July and August= 3 X 28 Mio Rp

• Travel Allowance for June to August: 4.5 Mio Rp

• Termination (3 salaries): 84 Mio Rp

Dr. Tonetto has given permission for ISR to publish his story on the International Schools Review web site. We have over a million visitors and members, most of whom are international teachers and recruitment agencies, visiting our web site on an ongoing basis. We would like to offer you a chance to explain this situation to us and/or negotiate a positive resolution for the school and Dr. Tonetto through our organization.

Sincerely,

Dr. Barbara Spilchuk
Online international teacher consultant/advisor
International Schools Review
drbarbaraspilch@yahoo.com

CC: Board Member: Email Add: Mr. Hadi: hbu@cbn.net
Board Member: Email Add: Mr. Yadi: yadifam@cbn.net.id

Response From BPK Penabur International School, Jakarta, Indonesia

August 31, 2008

Dear Dr Barbara Spilchuk,

I will answer your email on behalf of Mr Winfrid Prayogi ( Penabur Executive Director ) since I am 1 of the 2 signatories of Walter Tonetto’s Engagement Contract. Allow me to furnish some background information of our school before I response to the essence of your email.

BPK PENABUR is a Private Christian School established 59 years ago (so we are not a new player and know what we are doing). BPK PENABUR School is 100% owned by The Synod of Indonesia Christian Churches. Our school logo depicts a Cross and a Bible. Penabur tag line for past 59 years is Faith, Knowledge and Services. Penabur Foundation Board Members and Management Heads have to be long time (minimum 10 years ) Indonesian Christian Churches registered members or activists or former or present elders or deacons (so let me assure what we say, what we decide and what we present is based on the truth , facts and firmly holding integrity & honest principles).

BPK PENABUR School is formed under A Foundation Charter thus making it A Non Profit Organization. We are not federally or government funded or subsidized. 100% of our proceeds come from 1x Admission Fee , 1x Registration Fee until next School Grade Category Level, Monthly School Fee, Alumni Contributions and Churches Contributions. (So let me assure you that Penabur exercises and upholds professional & accountable management principles and strict integrity principles to comply state law, government department rulings and our Churches Synog & Alumni Donation Board code of ethics)

Presently Penabur has 43,000 active students spread across 153 school units located within 58 school complexes in 16 cities and 4 states of Indonesia . Penabur has 2,300 national, native and expatriate teachers from 9 countries plus 900 non academic staff in our payroll making BPK PENABUR as the Indonesia’s largest Private School Chain and largest School’s employer of native & expatriate teachers in indonesia (so let me assure you that every decision reached is based on deliberate, careful , meticulous facts and considerations never by 1 person but collectively by a Committee Management or Board. Before Penabur decided to act, we have discussed Tonetto’s issues with 2 Penabur’s Internal General & Legal Counsels each specializing in 2 different legal and statutory matters then further verify and consult the decision with Penabur External Legal Counsel)

Thank for allowing us to state PENABUR version of the facts. Now I am responding to your issues point by point.

1. There was NO trial-period clause in Mr. Tonetto’s contract.

Under Indonesia Labor Law , one of the key features differentiating Working Engagement Contract with a Permanent Employment Letter is that the former will not have “Trial period”. Employers are forbidden to insert a Trial Period or Trial Employment Duration clause (because Employment / Engagement Contract has already a period specified timeframe ) . Whereas the latter ( Permananet Employment Letter ) has max 2 x 3 months Trial Periods allowed under the law. 95% of Expatriates working in Indonesia is under Employment / Engagement Contract rather than on Permanent Employment Status. PENABUR is definitely not willing to break the law if you ask us to include TRIAL PERIOD IN ENGAGEMENT CONTRACT. I assume you and your organization are not familiar with Indonesian Labour Law.

2. While still living in Bali, Mr. Tonetto spent about one month in Jakarta preparing for the position (at his own expense).

His decision to spend 1 month in Jakarta preparing for the position (at his own expense) is dubious and unbelievable for 3 reasons. PENABUR never asked him to do so. It was his personal decision done at his own risk. So there is no justification.

If Tonetto is truthfully preparing for the position 1 month before he formally started on June 1, 2008 why did he not spend sufficient time (say 3-4x ) came to our office or met and discussed his preparation with our Management Head / Board Members at PENABUR office or at neutral venues during 1st – 31st May 2008 as he claimed ?

According to our Gate Security Pass, Reception Guest Book, Minutes of Meetings and 5 Key Eye Witnesses, during 1st – 31st May 2008 Tonetto never (not even a single time ) came to Penabur office to formally met our Management Head and Board Member other than attending an Introductory Meeting on 15th May 2008 which Tonetto agreed to attend as long as we paid him for his air ticket Bali > Jakarta > Bali and 1 night hotel accommodation which he was duly paid for Rp 2,280,000,- as per actual cost.(So he came Jakarta at Penabur’s request and not out of his own initiative !).

He flew back to Bali later. 5 of us are willing to stand in Court’s Witness Box testifying Tonetto did not spend 1 month is Jakarta effectively and professionally preparing for the position with me or other Board Members or Executive Director or Penabur International Dept Head for his position 1 month ahead of appointment as he claimed !

We have serious doubts If he had been in Jakarta between 1st – 31ST May May 2008. PENABUR had Cellular & Fixed Line Telephone Bills / Records / Evidences and Email Messages to Tonetto indicating that he spent many days in the month of May 2008 in Bali. It will be a strong evidence for us to submit to the court.

3. He started formally on June 1, 2008; as such, your school owes him salary from June 1 up to and including today as he was never legally terminated

Tonetto worked and turned up at our office only from 1-11 June 2008 ! After working for 8 days, he failed to report to work. In US Army it’s called a Desertion which carry severe legal consequences ! Similarly, Tonetto abandoned / deserted his job at Penabur !

The real issue started when Tonetto did not turn up at PENABUR’S OFFICE after Penabur gave him an exceptional approval after he pleaded many times to go to Singapore the 2nd time within less than 1 month to renew the visa of Tonetto’s second passport which had nothing to do with his PENABUR’s employment visa. Penabur had paid Tonetto 3 weeks earlier for his trip to Singapore and back to Jakarta the following day to stamp for a bridging visa of his first passport ( which was connected to his Penabur’s employment visa )

Tonetto went to Singapore on 12th June 2008 and should be report back to work the following day .PENABUR heard nothing of him until 4th week of June 2008 that he was in Bali . We were shocked as he did not ask permission from Management Heads or Board Members to go to Bali. The approval was given only to Singapore and report back to office on 13th June 2008.

Second unexpected problem came up when Tonetto text messaged / called some of his expatriate and local office colleagues from 17th June to 25th June 2008 stating that he would not report to work before PENABUR transfer his expenses claim to HSBC Bank Account – World Trade Center Branch in Jakarta . After many back & forth text messages / communications to prove that it had been transferred, it was only on 22nd June Penabur discovered that he was in Bali after our Personnel & GA Staff challenged and asked him to meet face to face with a Penabur staff at HSBC World Trade Center Branch – Jakarta because he persistently said he did not receive the transfer sum.

PENABUR has administrative and documentary proofs as well as 4 staff witnesses from Bank Ina and HSBC and if need be , we can produce Affidavit from HSBC – WTC Branch Jakarta, contrary to Tonetto’s statements and excuses , his expense claim has been transferred timely through PENABUR’s Bank Ina on 13th June 2008 and was properly and effectively received by HSBC World Trade Center Jakarta Branch the following afternoon. So he lied when he repeatedly said he had not received transfer from Penabur between 17th – 25th June 2008 and Tonetto made it as the basis of his refusal to resume working at PENABUR.

With regards to your insinuation that he was never legally terminated. Under Indonesia Labor Law , if an employee (whether Permanent or Contract Status ) does not come to the office / report to work for 3 working days consecutively and he / she did not give formal notice to management in charge, the employer ( in this case Penabur ) is obligated to write him a letter and ask the employee to report back to work immediately or appoint his representative to come to the employer’s office or to respond formally by means of registered courier mail why he left Company without notice ?

If he does not respond, the employer is obligated to issue the absent employee a second and final registered warning letter to his officially known address. If again the employee or his representative does not turn up at the employer;s office or does not formally respond by registered mail / courier; Under Indonesia Labor Law, the employer (PENABUR) has the legal rights to interpret and conclude the employee as deserting or abandoning or withdrawing or declining to work in the Company. Thus Penabur as Employer can lawfully cease all its working relationships with Tonetto. PENABUR had done this and highlighted these consequences in writing through our letter to him dated 30th June 2008. So you misunderstood the facts when you wrote he was never legally terminated!

PENABUR had fulfilled its legal obligation by sending Tonetto 2 registered formal airmail via Indonesia’s largest Courier Company the first dated 24th June to report to work and meet us on 30th June 2008 and the second warning letter on 30th June to meet us on 3rd July 2008. To ensure he receives both registered airmails, we sent them to 2 Official Addresses in Jakarta and Bali which he himself filled in Employment Database Form several weeks earlier (so it was a new and fresh data and it was sent out to the correct addresses). The 2 letters are in addition to a text message reminder sent on 19th June from my cell phone to report back to work immediately or to meet me on 23rd June 2008. This text message reminder was highlighted in Penabur’s first letter of 24th June 2008. Additionally, Penabur took a deliberated action to email Tonetto of our 2 registered letters at the end of July 2008 as a backup. These 4 communications are clear cut proof that Penabur had proactively and formally as well as properly fulfilled our Legal Obligations as Employers.

Tonetto had ample time to properly respond to Penabur’s 1 text message + 2 reminder letters + 1 email backup by reporting back to work personally or though his representative meet Management in Charge which he failed to do. Instead he delayed telling us of his whereabouts by repeatedly demanding that he had not received the transfer money which Penabur perceived as a weak and made dubious rationale for not turning up to work until 4th week of June 2008.

4. Mr. Tonetto was eventually paid 5 Mio Rp relocation allowance, and 9 Mio Rp rental advance (for 3 months). He is still, however, owed 252+4.5 Mio Rp= 256.5 Mio Rp + 1000 USD or 266, 300,000 Rp to this point in time:

· 2 X 500 USD= 1000 USD (for two visa-trips to Singapore , accommodation, and visa arrangements)

· Salary for the months of June, July and August= 3 X 28 Mio Rp

· Travel Allowance for June to August: 4.5 Mio Rp

· Termination (3 salaries): 84 Mio Rp

I suggest you submit the above claims to court. PENABUR also have substantiated and significant claims against Tonetto. We are fully prepared and willing to stand up and fight for our rights in court. We had done this a few times before and we had 100% strike rate (won all the cases!). PENABUR is not interested to let your organization become the Arbitrator or Facilitator. The case, the contract and the work place originated and happened in Jakarta – Indonesia . Accordingly the law and court of the country must be used and upheld.

In summary, Tonetto had committed 4 major breaches of conducts and statutory mistakes violating Indonesia labor laws and School’s Regulation Policy & Procedures:

1. He went to Bali without any prior permission or approval or knowledge or notice from PENABUR’s Management (unauthorized extended absent)

2. His repeated claims that PENABUR’s transfer had not been received as the basis for not coming to Jakarta is irrelevant, groundless and a total lie because his trip to Bali was not prior notified and approved and the money was at his Bank Account on 14th June 2008. (He could not claim for something that went wrong which he made his own mistakes. He was in Bali at the time his money was transferred to his HSBC Account in Jakarta . HSBC unfortunately does not have a Branch in Bali !)

3. PENABUR had strong and water tight evidence proving he had received the transfer money at his bank account on14th June 2008 and so he had absolutely no reason to delay going to Jakarta and resume to work at PENABUR even before Penabur sent out its first letter on 24th June 2008. (He lied and failed to formally and lawfully respond to PENABUR’s letters which means he deserted and abandoned Penabur rather than the other way around!)

4. He did not formally and lawfully responded to 2 PENABUR letters as required by the law if he did not want to be interpreted and concluded that he was withdrawing from or declining to work at or abandoning or deserting PENABUR.( He refused the opportunities to resume working at PENABUR by failing to respond the 3 invitations for him or his authorized representative to meet PENABUR Management on 23rd June or 30th June or 3rd July 2008)

I trust this lengthy and detailed letter will give you a better and balanced understanding to review the case objectively. If you want to further communicate or engage in this matter, let’s handle it through the Indonesia court system and through respective plaintiff’s and defendant’s lawyers. We had been advised by our lawyer not to speak and communicate with you and or Tonetto any further without their presence.

Regards

Chrismaryadi

School Board Member in charge of

PENABUR INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS

Dr. Tonetto Replies to Peabur’s Letter

— FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION —

Jakarta, August 31, 2008

Dear Dr Spilchuk,

How very nice it is to see that Penabur have deigned us with a reply! I will not go into Mr Yadi Budhisetiawan’s letter to you in detail — readers may already jib at the inordinate length of this expense of ‘electronic ink’ — but suffice it to note that it is a fantastic mélange of arrogation and downright lies. The inimitable Dr Johnston springs repeatedly to mind in the wake of so much Biblical longings expressed by Mr Budhisetiawan, especially his remark that “The Devil will quote Scripture for his purposes”!

So while restraining one’s emotions, let me pick in the unpalatable broth. There is talk about phone-records: I have more than 200 sms messages pertaining to the entire period in question saved in my Nokia PDA: it shows my almost daily contact with Dr David Woodart, another Penabur principal, who I am sure will not perjure himself if it comes to court-proceedings, but I suspect Mr Budhisetiawan’s assertion (knowing full well it cannot be examined in this online venue) will see him likely hoisted on his own petard. From historical evidence, it is unfortunately likely that Penabur may persist in holding this position of falsehood and arrogance (which, by the bye, is in stark ironical contrast to the tense assertions by Mr Budhisetiawan that Penabur, with its ‘solid’ tradition, its Bible and ‘mellowed’ leadership are, ipso facto, beyond possible reproach)!

One brief aside here about Indonesians, their supposed ‘honour’ and unquenchable self-satisfactions, since Mr Budhisetiawan has jumped onto that slippery box by trotting out a spec-sheet of Penabur in the first half of his mail. Close your eyes for a moment with me, if you will. You have a giant complex in the very heart of Jakarta’s business-district, The Sampoerna Square, set up by one of the Chinese-Indonesian tobacco barons; but no smoke-stacks here: you see the Sampoerna fences emblazoned with crowns and other self-congratulatory insignia of Napoleonic self-coronation: and that tobacco family, after having sold most of its business to Philip Morris, is into ‘education’ now, at the fag-end of one lighting up another business … but behold, just outside this giant complex, mountains of garbage tossed carelessly into a quiet tributary, poisoning ground-water supplies. It signifies to me the incongruity of those ruthless people who will poison millions of children and adults, and then swing across their shoulders the mantle of education and professions to following Christ! What about numbers? Since at least 60,000 Indonesians die every year of diseases directly linked to smoking, Sampoerna (with its previous 20% stake in the 200 billion cigarettes being sold annually in Indonesia) would statistically account for causing the death of at least 12,000 Indonesians annually — not to mention the many smoking-related illnesses that escape our reckoning! That is — on an annual basis — four times more people than were murdered when the NY City Twin Towers collapsed after a terrorist strike! Maybe some of the people dying of preventable diseases in years to come will be better educated than the children of yesteryear, as they roam with the ghosts of poisoned children the Elysian fields ….

But let’s get back to the issue on the tapis, and let me be succinct.

Aside from the fact that Mr Yadi Budhisetiawan comes from a point of falsehood — I have evidence to prove that — it is conceivable that he mixes up the issue of my relocating myself from Bali; I simply refer to my chronology. But even if we give him the benefit of a doubt, such muddy tributaries lead inevitably to one main, which is sludge of sewage.

Fact is: I had written a 5000 word reply to Mr Prayogi, Operational Director, the moment I discovered Penabur did not really want to meet and discuss matters with me in the way the Board and Mr Yadi Budhisetiawan claims. The substance of my long reply was not only about my various, surprisingly comprehensive preparations to assume my principal position (and the two other hats I was expected to wear), but also to set straight what I thought at the time were mere erroneous assertions (but which turned out later to be deliberate concoctions)! How is it that I simply did not want to take up my position, when I had spent already spent so much time in preparations — including in my vacation time, and for some time before my contract officially started? (As an aside, Dr Woodart was treated even worse in this regard; his contract for a principal’s position at the Serpong Campus was slated to commence mid-June, but he, like me, was active on our preparations after we were both hired in late April. He was understandably aggrieved about this, but I do not know if and how he sorted through this with the Penabur Board)!

Let me deal here simply with one or two of Mr Budhisetiawan’s outrageous points:

Tonetto worked and turned up at our office only from 1-11 June 2008 ! After working for 8 days, he failed to report to work. In US Army it’s called a Desertion which carry severe legal consequences ! Similarly, Tonetto abandoned / deserted his job at Penabur !

The tone shows the mark of the man. I was in my office before those dates, but started my contracted duties officially on June 1, correct (I don’t ask Penabur to pay me for that, but it does tend to vindicate my commitment and zeal). There is no time-reporting system for principals (not that that point is entirely relevant here). Mr Budhisetiawan’s is a mendacious chronology, and the context is also missing and twisted (similar to his statement about phone-records, etc).

Fact is: I worked until June 13, 8 pm, when I had to make a visa-renewal trip (which Penabur knew about; ask Felix Narka from HRD, but he, like all the others, are under instructions not to respond)! In fact, Penabur still owes me money for that very visa-trip as well, and they failed to prepare a proper work visa for me (as their contract obliged them to do). Straight after I went to Bali in order to relocate myself (the relocation fee was paid for that specific purpose by Penabur)! On top of that, on Monday, May 16, the summer-holidays had started at Penabur (I will send you an email from one of the VPs at HSBC regarding, in part, the belated arrival of Penabur relocation fees, but that letter is not for publication here).

But while the tone of Mr Budhisetiawan’s might be amusing, his choice of militaristic metaphor (a Christian soldier he?) is inappropriate: holidays are not states of “war”, nor are agreed times when a new staff-member is relocating himself, or getting his visa-firepower to some level of survivability!

Mr Budhisetiawan also does not note that I had ONE-MONTH TOURIST VISA status at the time (I am happy to send scans to you to prove this point), thus obliging me not to overstay my rather inappropriate visa. I had indeed pleaded with Penabur to get a PROPER visa-status prepared, but Penabur simply ignored me (maybe a page of their ever-present Bible was dog-eared)?

Every paragraph of Mr Budhisetiawan’s is riddled with lies, and one has to contain one’s outrage over such enormity! Let me point out here, contrary to Mr Budhisetiawan’s lies, and I am repeating myself here, that I have in my possession the various sms (and their provenance) that prove that I was in constant contact with relevant staff members, especially Dr Woodart, since he, like me, was Head of English from another Penabur school, and we both tried to make sense of Penabur’s various incompetencies. If The International School’s Review wishes, I will go and meet with anyone they designate in Jakarta (could be a staff-member of the US Embassy, or a teacher at another school), and that person can protocol the items that I will show to them (phone and corresponding sms logs, etc.).

I should also note here that during my repeated enquiries to HSBC why my relocation funds were not available, I was in contact with a Mr Festo from Jakarta’s WTC branch (and more recently with Mr Miller, a VP of HSBC Banking). It appears that HSBC heightened the difficulties by screwing up passage of funds (see my letter to you from HSBC under separate cover; I also have receipt for TWO REGISTERED LETTERS I SENT TO HSBC), and I repeatedly requested Mr Felix Narka (and Dr Woodart) to sort this out, but that does nothing to change the basic constitution of Penabur’s designs to oust me because I would not kowtow to them in their inexcusable treatment of a poor food vendor.

Talking about Penabur’s claims to have sent me registered letters: ask them to scan and email delivery receipts! If they do, then we will get a graphologist involved, for I never received any — BUT I replied the moment I was sent some email scans of those ostensible physical letters by Mr Felix Narka of HRD Penabur! What great communicators these guys are! To those who are curious, please have a close-read of the addressee portions of both letters that Penabur claimed were sent to me (which your website reproduces) … isn’t it odd that it mentions there my work-title and school’s address? Whoever sends out such letters? Even if they did, does it make sense in the context of Penabur’s complete failure to arrange appropriate visa-status for me (but evidently believing one-month tourist visas will suffice)! Dr David Woodart, by the bye, was very angry that he, too, had to renew his non-working visa at his own expense (I have his sms to that effect on record)!

On the issue of visas I have come to believe that there may be two reasons why Penabur systematically breaches its obligations to foreign staff: 1) miserliness; 2) the classic master-slave coordinates: it gives Penabur an ‘edge’ over their foreign employees by weakening their status. If something untoward occurs to a foreign staff member (or is precipitated by Penabur), they have the easy way out. Should a foreign staff member still be considered by the venerable Penabur Board to be of use to them, and Immigration Authorities catch him or her in breach of the required visa-status, a simple bribe will settle the issue! Indeed, on my first one-month visa renewal trip (that Penabur did pay for, one of the few correct assertions by Mr Budhisetiawan), I promptly had a problem with Immigration on my return from Singapore, since I did not have a return ticket in my possession. I phoned Mr Budhisetiawan from the airport. He laughed and told me to bribe the Immigration officer. Penabur clearly and smugly know how the game works!

Mr Budhisetiawan ends his malicious and mendacious letter to you in typically martial tones, like a bugle-call of the faint-hearted, hoping to find succour in a corrupt court system; but he should beware. Indeed, the thug-mentality is deeply ingrained in the Indonesian psyche, so whether the thugs wear suits or sport cross-bows, the intent is the same. That, as in my case, HSBC’s foibles may lessen the sharpness of the poisoned arrows of their cross-bows may be granted, but that does not assuage the rot at the heart of the Board of Penabur, their most uncivil demeanour, and criminal intent.

‘ Penabur’ means ‘Seeder’ in Bahasa Indonesia. It might as well read ‘infantryman’, for the seed that Penabur sows is bitter and life-negating, beholden to a militaristic spirit of fear. Whatever a venal court may or may not adjudicate, I will see to it that Mr Budhisetiawan and his meretricious cabal receive their comeuppance in Internet fora of this kind.

P.S. The Presbyterian Synod (or other church-goers in Indonesia) might like to check very carefully who is on the Penabur legal team payrolls … there has got to be a discernible reason, besides ego, why Penabur is so benightedly litigious!

Dr. Tonetto may be completely correct in this situation as he claims. But, as the school suggests, “If you want to further communicate or engage in this matter, let’s handle it through the Indonesia court system and through respective plaintiff’s and defendant’s lawyers”. Penabur International School is no stranger to legal proceedings and is currently in the process of being sued by teachers who, like Dr. Tonetto, feel unjustly dismissed. The school is also the topic of a blog /Penabur which exposes their mode of operation.

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