From The Jakarta Post http://www.thejakartapost.com/detaileditorial.asp?fileid=20060524.E03&irec=5 Why it's so difficult to eradicate corruption in Indonesia
T. Sima Gunawan, Jakarta
You don't have to be a businessperson or an international analyst to tell how corrupt Indonesia is. Whoever you are, once you set foot in the country, you'll get plenty of evidence from your interaction with corrupt immigration officials who try hard to find fault with your documents, and will let you go only after you hand over some greenbacks.
Immigration officials are among those notorious for their abuses of power. Indonesian migrant workers know this very well, since they have long been their object of extortion. This is all the easier because the government gathers them in a terminal separate from the other two terminals at the Soekarno-Hatta airport. It's closed to the public, which makes corruption harder to control.
Customs officials are no better. If your items shipped from abroad arrive here, and you want to get them soon, you might be asked to pay extra. Otherwise you'll have to wait for days, weeks or even months before the officials allow you to take them.
Indonesia indeed is a home to corrupt officials who do not hesitate to misappropriate state funds and steal people's money without any sense of guilt. From birth to death, people here are subject to corruption.
Officials can make money from a newborn baby or a dead person by taking advantage of the tortuous bureaucracy involved in issuing papers.
It's widely known that people sometimes have to pay officials extra money called "cigarette money" to get documents ranging from ID cards to building permits in due time. There are no written rules about this, but it has become a deep-rooted tradition.
Everybody knows corrupt officials must go to jail and return the state's money. Some of them have received heavy sentences, but others have gotten light sentences or been acquitted. Many, including former president Soeharto, are still free.
Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) says that from 1999 to 2006, there were 142 defendants exonerated in 77 corruption cases. ICW is upset with these verdicts and has reported the 133 judges who handled the cases to the Judicial Commission.
As for Soeharto, in 2000 the South Jakarta District Court decided that the country's former leader was too ill to stand trial. The Jakarta high court later annulled the decision and ordered prosecutors to try Soeharto again, but the Supreme Court in 2001 told prosecutors to allow Soeharto to be treated until he got well.
On May 11 a team of doctors stated that Soeharto was permanently ill, which prompted Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh to drop the case. The decision has sparked controversy as it is considered to fly in the face of the people's sense of justice. There is a mounting call to try Soeharto in absentia or to attempt to settle the case under civil law in order to recover the embezzled money, which, according to the government, amounts to US$419 million and Rp 1.3 trillion (US$ 150 million).
That amount is far below the estimate arrived at by the Berlin-based NGO Transparency International, which reported in 2005 that Soeharto was the most corrupt leader in the world. They concluded he embezzled between US$15 and 35 billion. Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, in second place, stole only between $5 billion and $10 billion.
Why does the practice of corruption remain rampant in this country?
You can make a long list of reasons. For example, because the people are used to corruption, so they are permissive. Or perhaps because the government is not really serious in its efforts to fight corruption and because the law is not adequate, which is why some have called for a shift of the burden of proof, and for the categorization of corruption as an extraordinary crime which requires extraordinary efforts to combat it.
But there's another thing which explains why it is so difficult to fight corruption.
Because you can't clean a dirty floor with a dirty broom, an activist once said.
Those who want to fight corruption must first get clean themselves. It's impossible to combat corruption if many law enforcers, police officers, prosecutors and judges, as well as lawyers, are also crooked.
There's a joke among the people here which goes like this: if you lose a chicken, and you report it to the police, you'll also lose a goat. Why? Because if you want the police to follow up your report and find out who stole your chicken, you have to give them some money, because they'll argue that they don't have enough resources to carry out their duties.
Like those police officers, a lot of prosecutors, judges and lawyers are also corrupt. They are involved in the so-called court mafia, making money from people who have cases before the court. They play the dirty game, taking bribes amounting to billions of rupiah from defendants and others.
The dirty game is played not only at the lower court, but also at the Supreme Court. Businessman Probosutedjo, who was convicted of corruption, claimed that he had spent Rp 5 billion in his efforts to settle the case and that some of the money was for Chief Justice Bagir Manan. An employee at the Supreme Court is now being tried in connection with the alleged bribe. When the prosecutors wanted to present Bagir Manan as a witness, however, their request was turned down, even though three judges on the five-member panel who are hearing the case supported it.
Another shocking bribery case was just revealed last month, when a defendant in a corruption case, Achmad Djunaidi, the former director of state pension and insurance company PT Jamsostek, stated that he had paid a bribe of Rp 600 million (US$ 70,000) to prosecutors. The prosecutors allegedly gave some of the money to the judge who handled the case.
If many law enforcers still play the dirty game, bribery and embezzlement will remain rampant. They must get clean themselves, before they can fight corruption and win. Otherwise, the anti-corruption effort will not be successful and Indonesia will retain its status as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.The writer is a journalist based in Jakarta. She can be reached at email@example.com.