Headlines

Politics continues to derail
anti-corruption fight:
Experts

Politics is stalling the country’s antigraft campaign, with the powers that be allegedly directly interfering with the legal processes of cases implicating high-profile figures.

On Dec. 23, Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud M.D. claimed that he received a threat that one of the court’s justices would be charged with corruption should the court declare then attorney general Hendarman Supandji illegitimate. “It was a threat from the mafia, just before we issued the ruling,” he said.

The former defense minister defied the threat and went on with his decision to declare Hendarman illegitimate and ordered President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately replace him.

Many believe that it is not unusual for the people in power to influence decision makers in law enforcement institutions.

“The threat to charge a judge with corruption means the blackmailer was close to power,” said Indonesia Corruption Watch coordinator Febri Diansyah.

“We have warned for months that a number of corruption cases might have been ‘politically traded’. The government and ruling party’s politicians have always denied such allegations but Pak Mahfud’s statement confirmed such practices really exist,” he added.

The prominent graft watchdog said that at least five corruption cases could potentially be used as “political trade-offs”, including the multibillion  rupiah bribery and tax evasion case centering on former tax official Gayus Tambunan.

Many believe that political interests have prevented those suspected of bribing Gayus from undergoing legal processes.

As trial hearings reveal that giant mining companies partly belonging to the family of Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie were among corporate taxpayers allegedly bribing Gayus, speculations arose that the case has also been used to “attack” the second-largest party in the coalition government.

Golkar, which was embroiled in a political battle against the Democratic Party over a bank bailout scandal last year, has complained that the Gayus case had been “politicized” to corner Aburizal, who has repeatedly denied the allegations that he had a role in the case.

Febri said it was likely that the ruling Democratic Party had “interfered with the legal process” in the Gayus case to attack Golkar. On the other hand, he added, Golkar might have maximized its power in parliament to balance the pressure.

Observers alleged that the House of Representatives’ plan to probe the IPO fiasco of state-owned steel maker PT Krakatau Steel was triggered by the development of the Gayus case. Sources say the company’s controversial IPO involved a number of high-profile Democratic Party politicians.

Senior politician and outspoken critic from the National Mandate Party, Amien Rais, said “the power of the invisible” was trying to bury the Krakatau Steel scandal. “...Now the case has died down and will possibly disappear,” he said on Sunday.

Transparency International Indonesia (TII) secretary-general Teten Masduki said that politicking had resulted in a poor anti-corruption performance and had reduced public faith in the government.

The group gave Indonesia a Corruption Perception Index score of 2.8 this year, putting the country in 110th place out of 178 countries. The score is the same as it was last year.

Presidential special staffer for legal affairs Denny Indrayana has repeatedly reiterated that the President would never allow any legal cases to be politically traded. But doubts linger.

In the words of former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who left her job for a post in the World Bank following bickering over the Bank Century bailout scandal, “Corruption [in Indonesia] remains intertwined with politics, and there are brazen attacks on those fighting corruption”.

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