Feb 2, 2013

Indonesia - Politicians and corruption

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I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office,” said the seventh US president Andrew Jackson.

The statement was made by a president of a country that had been dubbed the “champion of democracy” nearly two centuries ago, but its substance still rings true today, even here in Indonesia, a country some 14,000 kilometres away.

We must accept the reality that corruption is rampant in our own legislature. The latest case in point is the arrest of the chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Wednesday, in a bribery case centering on the government’s procurement of imported meat. Luthfi, who is also a member of the party’s faction at the House, was named a suspect immediately.

The KPK’s move against the PKS politician started on Tuesday morning with the arrest of four individuals in a hotel in Central Jakarta, where they were allegedly trying to deliver bribe money for Luthfi through an intermediary. The four were identified as Juardi Efendi and Arya Abdi Effendi, both directors of PT Indoguna Utama, a meat importing company; Ahmad Fathanah, who is believed to be a middleman in the bribery case; and a woman identified as M, who was later released early on Thursday morning after the KPK found no indication of her involvement in the case. The KPK confiscated 1 billion rupiah (US$103,000) in cash stashed in the back of a car as evidence in the case.

The PKS has been building its reputation as a “clean” political party. Rarely have the party’s members been embroiled in graft scandals when compared with other parties.

The latest case against the PKS chairman is not the first to have affected House lawmakers. The Jakarta Corruption Court is now trying Golkar Party lawmaker Zulkarnaen Djabar – and his son Dendy Prasetya – for their alleged roles in the Koran procurement scandal at the Religious Affairs Ministry in 2011 and 2012. Previously, the Jakarta Corruption Court had sentenced 28 lawmakers from different political parties to prison for accepting bribes during the selection process of Miranda S. Goeltom as Bank Indonesia (BI) senior deputy governor in 2004.

We must give a big thumbs-up to the KPK for the determination and success that it has shown in all of the corruption cases that it has handled that have led to the prosecution and eventual sentencing of corrupt individuals. And so far, the commission has remained impartial, with Aulia Pohan, the father-in-law of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s eldest son, who was found guilty in a BI scandal, among those already convicted. The KPK has also named former youth and sports minister Andi Alfian Mallarangeng, also a senior figure of the Democratic Party, as a suspect in the corruption case surrounding the construction of the Hambalang Sports Complex in Bogor, West Java.

The KPK has proven itself to be serious and truthful in all of its actions so far. The commission must ensure that it remains that way by prosecuting and building cases against anyone implicated, including leading politicians of other political parties whose names have largely been exposed in the media for alleged involvement in corruption.

Otherwise, statements such as the ones from senior PKS figures that the party and its politicians are the target of a systematic smear campaign ahead of the 2014 elections could — in the future — contain some truth.

Editorial Desk

The Jakarta Post

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