Honesty hardly ever heard: Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Abraham Samad (left) talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono as they attend the observance of World Anticorruption Day and World Human Rights Day at the State Palace in Jakarta, on Monday. JP/Jerry Adiguna
Less than a week after one of his ministers was named a graft suspect, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Monday that “the state must protect officials who do not have the intention to commit corruption”.
“Sometimes we need to make a quick policy, but the lack of knowledge about corruption can lead to officials making a decision that can be considered a violation of the Corruption Law,” he said in his speech during the commemoration of International Anticorruption Day and International Human Rights Day at the State Palace.
Therefore, Yudhoyono called on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and other law enforcers to provide guidelines on the categorization of corrupt acts.
“I have observed in the last few years many matters that used to be dealt with only at the ministerial level being brought to me. It’s due to the ministers’ hesitation as they’re afraid that their actions could be perceived as violations. I believe such a problem is happening in other places throughout
“There are two kinds of perpetrators: those who deliberately engage in acts of corruption, and those who do not realize that what they are doing is wrong,” he added.
KPK chairman Abraham Samad, who also attended the ceremony, said that officials could not hide behind such reasoning.
“High-ranking officials must be aware of how to accountably conduct clean governance. They can’t be acquitted of graft charges because they say ‘I didn’t know that it was wrong’. As a leader, you have a responsibility. If you do not know [about conducting clean governance], don’t be a leader,” he told reporters.
Yudhoyono said he planned to invite all regional leaders to meet with representatives of law enforcement bodies, including the KPK, the National Police, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP) and the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK), for presentations on what was considered corruption.
“We should not live in fear due to our lack of knowledge on anticorruption. But this should not be seen as a permissive act to corrupt individuals. I am always committed to fight against graft,” he said.
Former youth and sports minister Andi Mallarangeng, a senior member of Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, was named a graft suspect by the KPK last Thursday for allegedly abusing his power to enrich himself with funds appropriated from the construction of the Rp 1.17 trillion (US$121.62 million) Hambalang sports complex in Sentul, West Java.
The next day, Andi — who served as Yudhoyono’s spokesman from 2004 to 2009 and is known to be close to Yudhoyono’s family and inner circle — resigned from his posts as a minister and as the secretary of the party’s board of patrons.
Andi has repeatedly denied he was involved in the case, even though witnesses have said that he played a significant role.
Yudhoyono made a similarly controversial statement in May in a meeting with members of the BPK at the Presidential Office.
At that time, Yudhoyono said that government employees’ poor grasp on how the bureaucracy worked had resulted in “unintentional” misuse of state funds — a statement critics claimed was a defense for corrupt government officials.
“I appreciate the BPK for its good work, but it would be better if the BPK not only focused on wrongdoings or enforcement. I would like it if the BPK could enact preventive measures to curb the wrongdoings or misappropriations by officials who lack the understanding [about how the system works],” Yudhoyono said in the meeting.