Jakarta: An Australian businessman is offering a $10,000 cash reward for poor Indonesian villagers to become "bounty hunters" to stop people smugglers leaving the coast of Java bound for Australia.
Alan Johnson, the Australian chief executive of a Jakarta-based security firm, also wants to recruit a network of 1000 “part time, highly motivated, coast watching, bounty hunters”, paying them $50 per month.
“With the average wage of southern coast Indonesians being under $200 per month, then certainly a reward of $10,000 will even turn ‘brother against brother’, much less an Indonesian against an unwelcomed (sic) Arabic person,” Mr Johnson writes in his proposal to government.
Mr Johnson set up an Australian company, Australian Boat Bounty, in June to put his plan into effect, and asks only a $250,000 per month retainer from the Australian government, plus an annual “kicker” if the number of boats falls.
He took out advertisements in the English-language Jakarta Post newspaper on Wednesday under the banner “We Aussie’s (sic) say: Enough is Enough”, asking bounty hunters to apply.
Mr Johnson says a business approach is the best and cheapest way to “stop the boats” because politicians have failed to do so despite spending billions in the attempt.
“We as businessmen, from the school of ‘hard knox’ (sic), removed from the day to day politics, can see the way home with greater clarity,” Mr Johnson writes.
“We can no longer sit by, when we know we can cure the problem, and allow a bunch of criminals to almost bring Australia to its knees. Australia spending $10 billion to date and ‘begging’ its poor neighbours for help, whilst 1100 men women & children die at sea, surely cannot be tolerated any longer.”
Another aspect of the plan involves “bribing” an intending asylum seeker to blow the whistle on the departure by offering priority processing of the refugee application for him “and his small family”.
“Given the last minute nerves an Arabic father must have when he comes face to face with the reality of squeezing his wife and child onto one of these death trap boats, then he could easily get cold feet and decide to instead blow the whistle the night before (as he fantasises about his family basking in the sun by Sydney Harbour, instead of the extreme worry of his wife and child drowning at sea.)”
The Boat Bounty scheme appears similar in purpose to the Australian government's recently announced Maritime People Smuggling Domestic Rewards Scheme, which pays a bounty of up to $200,000 for information about smugglers. However, the government's scheme only applies to Australian-based members of smuggling syndicates.
Mr Johnson said he had "been involved in a lot of different businesses" in China, Indonesia, Europe and Africa which "give me a pretty good grasp of how to deal with this".
He would not name his business partners, saying they were "no-one famous". Company documents name Rama Sallagan, a resident of Indonesia and Wang Yu, a resident of China, as co-directors and shareholders.
An AFP spokeswoman said police were "aware of the advertisements". She said that "any information in relation to people smuggling should be reported to Crime Stoppers".