Why Indonesian graft-busters face an uphill battle

Updated On: May 24, 2005

Jakarta – Confusion over the legal definition of corruption. Lack of funding for the graft-busters. Indonesians’ permissive attitude towards corruption. These are among the reasons why seven years after the reform movement began with the collapse of the Suharto regime, Indonesia has the dubious honour of being labelled the most corrupt country in Asia

     At a discussion sponsored by the Indonesian Institute on May 20, Mr Teten Masduki, Indonesia Corruption Watch coordinator, noted that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had made some progress in enforcing the law. 
    For example, the KPK has not shied away from using its right to use “entrapment” as a means of nabbing corruption suspects.
    But a lot of work still needs to be done. KPK chief, Mr  Taufiequrrahman Ruki, noted that the law enforcement authorities are still trying to figure out how to define corruption. Some judges even questioned whether the KPK could investigate corruption cases that took place before it was established in 2002.   
    Mr Ruki said the law enforcers are not supported by sufficient funding – which seems to suggest that the government is not serious in fighting corruption. Some judges handling the corruption cases have not been paid for seven months. 
     “Not to mention the massive public permissiveness towards corruption... the problem is just taken for granted," he said. Mr Ruki said his commission had received more than 4,000 reported cases of corruption in the last 18 months, of which only three cases had gone to court.
    Political observer Eep Saefulloh Fatah of the Indonesian Institute said public support is also an important aspect in the war against graft. "Some experts have said that our society's mindset is already corrupt," he said, adding that it would be very difficult to change such a mindset. 
    Mr Fatah calls for a comprehensive strategy to fight corruption, which includes the participation of “clean” and pro-change men and women, stricter set of rules, strong authorities, public support and effective mechanisms to produce synergy. 
    Despite the uphill battle that graft-busters in Indonesia face, there may still be hope yet. The KPK’s aggressive probe into the alleged misdeeds of the Indonesian Election Commission – which has already seen the arrest of its respected head Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin and several other officials – is seen as having a deterrent effect on the public.  
    In a separate interview with Reuters, Mr Masduki said:  “The public, and I am talking about everyone – government officials, bankers and businessmen – are now thinking twice about corruption.”

* Anti-graft campaign sees little progress: ICW (The Jakarta Post, May 21)

* Jakarta’s anti-graft war making an impact (The Straits Times, May 23)