Rabu, 20 November 2013

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Unlicensed dentists bite back after ban


JAKARTA: For more than 30 years, Indonesian dentist Edi Herman has been fixing the teeth of Jakartans in the rusty chair of his tiny shop, advertising his services with a huge poster of sparkling pearly whites on blood-red gums.

He is one of thousands of low-cost, unlicensed dentists, whose small stores with their lurid signs can be found nestling in grimy alleys and wedged between red-tiled houses across the capital.

But after years of horror stories about people suffering terrible damage at the hands of unscrupulous practitioners with neither clean tools nor training, the government moved to ban them from all dental work in 2011.

The unlicensed dentists are fighting back, however. They have managed to get the ban overturned after challenging it in the constitutional court – and are now demanding the right to practice.

"We demand to be granted a licence so we can operate legally. We will never give up our fight," said Dwi Waris Supriyono, chairman of the Informal Dentists' Association.

For Herman, 56, a ban would have destroyed his livelihood and stopped him from practising a trade passed down to him and his brothers by their father.

"The government wants to put us out of business," said Herman, dressed in a faded T-shirt and sarong, as he puffed on a clove cigarette waiting for his next patient at his central Jakarta shop.

Wanting to protect their livelihoods, the informal dentists – who can be found all across Indonesia – argue that they are the only realistic option for many in a country where millions live in abject poverty.

Herman charges only 50,000 rupiah (RM14) for a simple scaling job, and 1,500,000 rupiah (RM446) to fit a brace – four to five times lower than prices at professional, licensed dentists.

It is also much easier to find an informal dentist. The health ministry estimates there are 75,000 of them in Indonesia, compared to 35,000 licensed practitioners.

The government insists that numerous tales of dental disaster at the hands of unlicensed practitioners vindicates its drive to impose a ban.

One such case is that of cleaner Fitri Hayati, whose attempts to get her teeth straightened at two illegal dentists in Jakarta were far from successful.

The 24-year-old was fitted with braces but one tooth has been pushed down so it now looks longer than the others and she said she suffers from "unbearable pain".

"I can't eat or sleep as my whole mouth is in pain since I started wearing these braces," she said.

Senior health ministry official Untung Suseno Sutarjo accused unlicensed dentists of "putting our people at risk for their own gain".

"These practitioners have no qualifications. They use tools which have not been cleaned or sterilised properly."

Informal dentists, known as "Tukang Gigi" in Indonesian – which translates as "Tooth Workers" – have been plying their trade for generations.

In the late 1980s, authorities sought to crack down on them by ordering that they limit their work to making only dentures.

But the new law was largely ignored and they continued to perform many other procedures regardless.

So, in 2011 the government sought to ban them from doing all dental work, a move the informal dentists countered by seeking a judicial review of the new legislation.

Earlier this year the constitutional court sided with them and declared the law against the constitution, which states that every Indonesian has the right to work.

Supriyono, of the Informal Dentists' Association, argues that despite a lack of formal training, unlicensed practitioners often have years of experience and skills passed down from generation to generation.

"Informal dentists have been around a lot longer than the professionals," he said. — AFP

Online bullies' shameful tactic


The most common act of Singapore cyber bullies is to alter a person's picture to make it look humiliating or obscene, and then circulate the image online via social media or the WhatsApp messaging platform, according to a local study.

More than one-third of students aged 13 and 14 have been the target of such actions.

Next in line is spreading rumours about a person on social networks, with one-quarter of students having fallen victim to it, said cyberwellness research firm Kingmaker Consul­tancy.

Other ways these bullies torment include intentionally excluding a person from an online group, like an online gaming group, and trolling by hurling vicious remarks, said the Singapore-based Kingmaker.

It polled about 1,800 students aged 13 and 14 between January and October.

Yesterday, Law Minister K. Shan­mugam said the Government plan­ned to put a stop to such behaviour, with new laws to be tabled next year against harassment.

Citing a Microsoft survey from last year, he said Singapore had the second-highest rate of online bullying out of 25 countries among youths aged eight to 17.

China holds the top spot.

In explaining the main bullying tactic, counsellors blame the abundance of free picture-altering apps and the ease of Web access on smartphones. These apps allow users to make a person look ugly, old or bald, or add facial blemishes.

Some also let users superimpose someone's face on a naked body.

One big draw of these apps is that bullies can be cruel while staying anonymous, said Dr Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.

"Humiliating pictures are also potentially more damaging for victims with low self-esteem and who lack emotional support from friends and family," she said. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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