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Jakarta Post

The historiography of corruption

Bojonegoro   /   Mon, April 4, 2016   /  01:51 pm
The historiography of corruption Corruption is a result of the permissive culture that affects law enforcers. (Shutterstock/-)

The wide debate over the plan to revise the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law is intrinsically linked to the history of corruption in Indonesia. Corruption is a result of the permissive culture that affects law enforcers. During this time, the verdict handed down by the judges to corruptors has tended to be mild. After serving their sentences, corruptors do not stop stealing money from the country.

This matter is compounded by the assumption that legislation tends to protect corruptors. For example, in the Tipikor Law, the law is able to ensnare corruptors only. Thus, their family and relatives are free from all charges. In addition, criminal penalties and state losses can be replaced with further imprisonment. As a result, many corruptors choose subsidiary punishments rather than reimbursing the state’s money.

The Tipikor Law privileges convicts and defendants. Those with convict status still have a vote in political activities. Defendant can receive a salary and pension, and are allowed to conduct business freely.
Urgency of Land

If traced, this permissive culture has been shown by previous rulers. In the empire era, corruption has been commonplace and ratified. In fact, its existence was seen as supporting the glory, honor and dignity of the king. The concept of the Javanese king involved the idiom "Manunggaling Kawula Gusti" in which power always expects the people's approval. The obedience, support and dedication of the kawula (people) for gusti (leaders) are key to governmental success.

The king was expected to provide well-being, protection and shelter, and the people demanded to blend with the king. In contrast, as gusti, the king must be able to mingle with the kawula, among others with the wisdom that defends them. This interrelationship is a fixed price for any power that attempts to combine the microcosm (small universe) and the macrocosm (large universe). Harmony between gusti and kawula doesn’t rest on rights and obligations, but pragmatism.

In traditional thought, there was a consensus saying that all land was under the king's possession (eigenaar). At a time when money did not have a central role in public economic activity, land occupied an important position. As the king was a land’s sole owner, farmers were considered as tenants, with a high burden of rent, with village heads used as mediators in recruiting those who cultivated them.

Rewards for loyalty were manifested by the land. Those willing to help the king were purchased by apanage land. Thus, the village head had a lot of land. As the local authorities, this award was received after handling their duties well. This reciprocation flourished with the appearance of "kickbacks" in contemporary times. The relationship between superiors and subordinates was characterized by bribes in order to secure position and dignity. Superiors needed a "tribute" in order to confirm their existence and increase their treasure, while subordinates required an "asylum", in order to survive.



The foundations of corruption were thus laid by feudalism, with a symbiotic relationship between the king, palace bureaucrats and local leaders deliberately perpetuated. Patronage was a measure of human communication.
Feudalism was not destroyed by colonialism – rather, it was promoted. Besides the ordinary income, the Dutch government provided cultuurprocenten for employees, regents and village heads, aiming to maximize performance. This stimulant was taken as a percentage of the sale of certain export crops.

In an official provision, the cultivation system used only one-fifth of the villager's land. In reality, half or more of their land was frequently annexed. In addition to harming the people, of course, it endangered their lives. If their power ran out, villagers would not be able to cultivate the land as a provider of everyday food.

Citing Marwati Djoened Poesponegoro and Notosusanto Nugroho (2008: 2), when Thomas Stamford Raffles came to power in 1811-1816, he removed the submission of crops and obligatory labor in some regencies. Raffles assigned the traditional rulers as a colonial extension. They taxed the community in in natura (crops).

Raffles understood that the village head could be utilized for land tax collection. Therefore, through the Revenue Instruction, he positioned some village heads as official police and instructed them to act as intermediaries for the central government to collect land tax. The position of the village head as a colonialist medium with villagers in the process of the cultivation system showed a financial orientation. Thus, social division became obvious in some areas.
Corruption was rampant when the New Order regime came to power. At this time, the idiom asal bapak senang (ABS, “as long as Sir is happy”) appeared and fertilized the seeds of feudalism. Those who devoted themselves entirely to the ruler were able to acquire a large fortune and great respect. Corruption was institutionalized by highly authoritarian and undemocratic presidential instructions.

After the reformation era, the number of corruption cases in Indonesia remains high. Although the government has changed, the heritage of the New Order has been maintained. This is why corruption still persists to this day, and is even propagated by supporters of the status quo.



Researcher and lecturer of STAI Attanwir Bojonegoro. His writings were published in mass media. Collection of his articles can be read on


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