The week in review: Anti-collusion boost
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Wednesday’s dramatic arrest of businesswoman/politician Hartati Murdaya, known as a President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono crony, is a milestone in the war on corruption that has spread like cancer and destroyed Indonesia’s reputation in the international community.
A toast for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which has often been timid when dealing with cases involving powerful politicians and business tycoons, as it has spurred new hope for more courageous actions by law enforcement agents to bust corruption in high places.
The subsequent trials of Hartati, 66, will shed more light on the collusion between corrupt government bureaucrats and businesspeople — an evil practice that has been rampant since the New Order era under strongman Soeharto.
The KPK has accused Hartati of bribing Amran Batalipu, the regent of Buol, Sulawesi, with Rp 3 billion (US$315.624) in exchange for a license for a 4,500 hectare oil palm plantation. But Hartati insists that it was a case of extortion committed by the regent who badly needed hard cash to finance his reelection bid.
Hartati is a well-known philanthropist and owner of the Central Cakra Murdaya/Berca Group. She was named by Forbes as Indonesia’s 13th wealthiest person in 2008. She came under the spotlight after the KPK caught red-handed two of her key executives at PT Hardaya Inti Plantations — Yani Anshori and Gondo Sudjono — handing the cash to Amran in June.
Her alliance with Yudhoyono became public after she furnished him with an office in Jakarta after he was fired as the coordinating security and political affairs minister under president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid in 2001. In 2004, she joined a team for Yudhoyono’s presidential bid and his reelection in 2009. In return, she was appointed a member of his Democratic Party’s board of patrons.
The Corruption Court is expected to reveal the possible involvement of other parties in the Hartati-Amran collusion that went sour. It should serve as a good start for a wider crackdown on collusion between businesses and politicians.
When news about violent protests in Libya and Egypt on Wednesday over an American-made film that insulted Islam began to trickle in through online and electronic media, many began to worry about a similar backlash breaking out in Indonesia, where Muslims account for the majority of the population.
Street rallies and condemnation of the amateur film uploaded onto YouTube are, of course, perfectly understandable or even necessary to make our objections heard so long as they are held in a peaceful fashion. Violent reactions are exactly what the maker of Innocence of Muslims intended to achieve.
What a relief that there has been no incident in Indonesia as feared, at least as of Friday, when prayers proceeded as usual. The public deserves credit for remaining unprovoked.
Religious and government leaders promptly appealed for calm, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and prominent Muslim leaders called for restraint and voiced regret over the violence that broke out in Benghazi, where gunmen murdered US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats.
Absurd acts intended to provoke Muslims occur every now and then. Still fresh in our minds is the worldwide controversy that a Danish cartoonist caused with his insulting depiction of Prophet Muhammad in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper back in 2005, which should make Muslims wiser in their responses.
We hope that Indonesian Muslims will not succumb to provocateurs who aim to stir chaos for their short-sighted political and ideological agenda.
Jakartans are looking forward to electing a new governor in a runoff that pits incumbent Fauzi “Foke” Bowo against Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the highly popular Surakarta mayor.
On Thursday, the contenders issued a declaration for a “peaceful election” in the presence of senior government officials and community leaders amid persistent negative campaigning. Jokowi and his running mate Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian Chinese-Indonesian, have become objects of racist and sectarian slurs.
Foke and his running mate Nachrowi Ramli are both Betawi, or natives of Jakarta, something that their supporters have exploited as an advantage to win the support of indigenous residents, who account for 27 percent of Jakarta’s population, according to official statistics.
The Jakarta Election Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu), which has been ridiculed for its indecisiveness in handling reports of illegal campaigning and mudslinging, has been handling reports of violations committed by both Jokowi and Foke camps.
Foke’s supporters attending the joint peace declaration booed Ahok and taunted him with chants of “Chinese” and “Jew”. The incident, which happened in the presence of officials and the public, added credence to public skepticism of a truly honest and democratic runoff.
The Jakarta gubernatorial election, which has grabbed national attention, is widely seen as the barometer of local elections across the country and a prelude to the 2014 general election. So, when Foke received dismal support in the first round in July, it was seen as a sign of the declining popularity of the Democratic Party, which supports him, while Jokowi’s strong showing was interpreted as a good omen for his backers, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Great Indonesia (Gerindra) Party.
If the common belief on the significance of the Jakarta election is credible, an upcoming successful Jakarta election will lead the way to more democratic and peaceful regional elections nationwide.