Half-hearted attempt to eradicate corruption in Indonesia

The messy politics of anti-corruption efforts

Politics | Southeast Asia

7 November 2019

The recent revision of the corruption eradication commission law is an attempt to protect the political elite in Indonesia, Wasisto Raharjo Jati writes.

As of December 2018, Indonesia was placed at 89 in a survey of the least corrupt nations, from 180 surveyed countries. This achievement indicates that Indonesia improved slightly from last year in which it ranked 96.

Under Jokowi’s first term administration, the Indonesian corruption index has successfully fallen below 100.

Much of this is due to the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi / KPK), an independent state institution designed to fight corruption in Indonesia.

However, this trend could be reversed after Jokowi and the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat / DPRagreed to revise the corruption eradication commission law.

The most controversial point of the amendment of the KPK law is the new supervisory body above the executive leaders in the KPK. Before investigating a suspected corruption case, the KPK’s investigators must have a permit letter from this supervisory body 24 hours in advance.

This bureaucratic procedure impedes the investigation process and is the sign of half-hearted attempts to abolish corruption in Indonesia.

While the pros and cons of this system are being publically discussed in the nation, Jokowi and the DPR argue that the revision of the KPK law enables the corruption investigation to follow ethical procedures, through following the coordination guidelines and supervision from the new supervisory body.

This argument is meaningless.

Corruption is a crime and it should be dealt with by having a strong and independent institution instead.

Although most Indonesian politicians say they are committed to anti-corruption, frequently, stories of collusion and nepotism break shortly after the swearing-in of members of parliament. Many politicians have been irritated with the KPK’s investigation results, with their MP fellows often the defendants.

MPs have sought to discuss the revision of the KPK law and they have succeeded due to the lack of dissenting voices in legislative and executive branches.

More on this: Why Java's recent blackout illuminates a big problem

The Indonesian public feels disappointed with Jokowi. The president was seen as a new hope in the fight against corruption but has proved unable to deliver. Jokowi’s position is difficult because his party are key supporters of the changes to the anti-corruption law.

This revision also shows Indonesian democracy is in a backsliding trend after the Reformasi (reformation) era, in which corruption eradication attempts were the main point in government agendas in a post-Suharto Indonesia.

Indeed, the KPK has been the most trusted Indonesian institution since its inception; weakening the KPK means betraying the democratisation spirit that most Indonesians hold dear.

This decline in democracy enables the small number of corrupt elites to remain in power after the post-Suharto era and to protect themselves even more.

There are 18 mega corruption cases that to this day remain unresolved; most of them involve top politicians who had a relationship with the Suharto regime.

It would be better if the revised law granted the KPK renewed authority at the provincial level. Corruption in remote locations is a major problem that could be addressed by establishing more local office branches. Alternatively, the allocation of a larger budget to recruit more investigators could be a solution.

However, there is no urgent reason why the KPK law should be changed and the main motivation behind the revisions is likely political revenge.

Certainly, the long history of conflictual relationships between the KPK, the National Police, and the DPR since 2008 might be the cause of this. The KPK pursues corruption eradicaton efforts without considering the structural and political status of perpetrators, often targetting top figures from the DPR, police, ministries, and other judicial institutions.

These public institutions have always been labelled as the top five corrupt Indonesian institutions, the several gecko versus crocodiles cases attest to this unfriendly relationship between Indonesian law enforcement institutions.

As a result, the DPR has threatened the KPK through political intimidation, cutting budget allocations and disbanding its institutions. Indeed, imposing the new supervising body over the KPK certainly accentuates this trend.

The national police and general attorney have also been resentful of the KPK.

The KPK has been raising these institutional tensions by regularly surveilling suspected figures without approval from the court while investigating corruption cases.

Since then, the revision of KPK law has been the top legislative priority, with politicians and judicial aligned in pursuit of these reforms.

Regardless, being surrounded by police and attorneys, the KPK has achieved a significant corruption prosecution rate between 2015-2018. This is an impressive achievement in eradicating corruption in Indonesia. But the predators are not enjoying the results and continue to try and weaken the KPK.

With the new KPK law, the future of eradicating corruption attempts remains unclear in Indonesia.  Without it, elite predators can fight back to secure their political interests and Indonesian democracy will gradually succumb to a downward trend.

Back to Top
Join the APP Society

Leave your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Press Ctrl+C to copy