Categories: World

Indonesia puts on show at the G20 but graft still greases its wheels

The latest in the sights of investigators are Sudradjat Dimyati, a Supreme Court judge, and Lukas Enembe, the governor of the disputed province of Papua.

Dimyati was arrested in September for taking bribes of 800 million rupiah in connection with a case before him. Some of the money was found in a hollowed-out dictionary in his office.

Enembe is also suspected of taking bribes, alleging he has denied, and his spending of 560 billion rupiah in casinos in Singapore and Australia since 2017 is under investigation.

It is only the latest high-profile cases occupying the KPK. This year’s Jakarta race of the Formula E World Championships – an electric car motorsport class – is also subject to a corruption investigation and several former ministers have been jailed in the past two years.

Edhy Prabowo, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries until November 2020, was sentenced to five years in prison last year for a lobster export scandal; Juliari Batubara, the Minister of Social Affairs until December 2020, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in August 2021 for a COVID-19 disaster involving food aid packages; and Imam Nahrawi, the minister of sports and youth until 2019, was jailed for seven years in 2020 for hoarding money to approve sports scholarships.

Indonesia, as president of the G20 in 2022, has placed the fight against corruption on the agenda of the economic forum and has organized several multilateral workshops on the subject this year.

Joko Widodo will welcome world and business leaders to the G20 summit in Bali on November 15-16.Credit:Bloomberg

However, it has slipped backwards, on Transparency International Corruption Perception Indexwhich assesses 180 countries each year, giving them scores from zero (worst result) to 100.

Indonesia improved its ranking from 102nd to equal 96th, alongside Brazil and Turkey, between 2020 and 2021, but the score has fallen from 40 in 2019 to 38.

It was only 34 when Widodo, known as Jokowi, was elected in 2014, but after some progress during the first of his two five-year terms, the Indonesian leader and his broad coalition government have recently been accused of being soft on corruption.

Adnan Topan Husodo, the coordinator of the non-governmental organization Indonesia Corruption Watch, said Transparency International’s scores indicated “a deteriorating condition”.

“Although there was an increase of one point in 2021 [from 37 to 38]it was not a better score compared to the one we got in 2019, that was 40. Referring to the 2019 score, we clearly experienced a step back,” he said.

Vehicles seized in case of former Indonesian minister Edhy Prabowo, who was in prison for corruption.Credit:Jefri Tarigan

The drop from 2019 coincides with a controversial revision of Indonesian legislation that year that erodes the independence of the KPK, rolls it into public service and limits its powers, such as with wiretapping.

Dozens of top researchers were also suspended after failing a so-called citizenship test in which intelligence services asked them about their sex lives and other questions, including their view of Chinese and homosexuals.

“Officials’ views on the principles of corruption are fading…corruption is seen as a regular crime, not an extraordinary crime,” Husodo said.

“For example, the government [in September] granted parole to 23 corruption convicts and a former corruption convict was promoted to commissioner of a state-owned company.”

The powers of the KPK were affected three years ago by a change in Indonesian law.Credit:Jefri Tarigan

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Among those who were released early was Indonesia’s first elected female governor, Ratu Atut Chosiyah, who was found guilty of bribing the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, and a former prosecutor originally sentenced to 10 years in prison, six had had it cut off on appeal and served only one.

Responding to criticism that too much leniency had been offered to those on parole, Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said granting parole to the nearly two dozen detainees was in line with the law.

Last week, State Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir said those guilty of graft crimes will in future be blacklisted from senior positions in government-run companies.

However, for activists concerned about a weakening anti-corruption landscape, the release of nearly two dozen corruption offenders was yet another blow.

“If we look at the government’s policy design, it’s very tough on the economy and this regime is quite pragmatic,” Husodo said.

“At the same time [the] KPK is one of the tools of the state that is very disturbing for the elite. They arrested ministers and the elite’s efforts to consolidate public economic resources through corrupt practices were hampered by [the] actions of KPK in enforcing the law.

“That’s why it had to stop revising the KPK law. Now we finally see that politics is killing the fight against corruption.”

For the anti-corruption personnel, however, the struggle continues.

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Back in the new 5000 square meter warehouse of the KPK, four cars belonging to Edhy Prabowo, the former Minister of Maritime and Fisheries, are in storage when The Sydney Morning Herald and The age

visits, washed and reheated twice a week to maintain their auction value.

Prabowo’s Hyundais and Toyotas, however, are modest compared to what else the agency has taken up.

“We can’t expose some of the luxury cars here because their” [legal] the process is still ongoing,” said Hadipratikno, head of KPK asset recovery.

Fittingly, the warehouse itself, which opened in August, was built on land also seized by a corrupt government leader – Fuad Amin Imron, a former regent of Bangkalan, East Java, who was exposed to money laundering money and taking bribes from a gas company and owned vast amounts of real estate across the country.

It houses not only cars, but also a steady stream of other goods to be sold and the proceeds of which go to the state treasury.

“We also auction luxury bags. The best-selling items are luxury bags, watches, shoes and jackets,” said Hadipratikno.

“These sell fast.”

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