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Jakarta Post

Thorn in the flesh

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, May 7, 2019   /   09:04 am
Thorn in the flesh President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (center) leads a limited Cabinet meeting on the rehabilitation of Citarum River in Bandung, West Java, on Jan.16. (JP/Arya Dipa)

Even if the people acknowledge his achievements by entrusting him with leading the country for five more years, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo should refrain from celebrating. He could end his current term in October on a low note, particularly regarding corruption eradication, now that three of his ministers have come on the radar of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin and Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukito, who are members of the National Awakening Party (PKB), the United Development Party (PPP) and the NasDem Party, respectively, have been implicated in three different corruption cases the KPK is investigating.

Imam has appeared in court to testify, Lukman is scheduled to face the music soon and Enggartiasto may receive a summons for questioning in connection with the cases. Investigators have also searched their offices — and home in Enggartiasto’s case — confiscating documents that may not only confirm that corruption has been committed but also lead the KPK to the ministers.

We don’t know how the ongoing probes will unfold, but it will not come as a surprise if the KPK declares any of the ministers suspects. The KPK knows no compromise when it comes to graft cases involving serving Cabinet members. There is a precedent.

During the second term of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the KPK brought then youth and sports minister Andi Mallarangeng and then energy minister Jero Wacik, both from the ruling Democratic Party, to justice.

One of President Jokowi’s Cabinet members, Idrus Marham of the Golkar Party, resigned from his post as the social affairs minister last August after the KPK declared him a suspect in a bribery case related to the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Riau. Industry Minister and Golkar chairman Airlangga Hartarto has also been linked to the case.

It will be a hard lesson about ineffective supervision for Jokowi if the KPK eventually snares other members of his Cabinet. As the President, he should be held morally responsible for any acts of corruption committed by people he trusted, regardless of the fact that the appointment of ministers and other Cabinet members is typically a power-sharing mechanism between an elected president and the coalition of parties that nominated him or her.

Power sharing, transactional politics or whatever it may be called, seems to have led to repeated cases of graft involving ministers. Political party-affiliated ministers are more prone to committing corruption than nonpartisan ministers, as the past and current cases have shown.

Indonesia Corruption Watch, as well as other civil society organizations, has persistently warned of the risk of appointing ministers from political parties. It has become an open secret that political parties vie for strategic ministries that receive huge allocations of the state budget.

It should be easy for Jokowi to remove the thorns in his Cabinet’s flesh, but withstanding the pressure from his coalition parties when forming his next Cabinet will be daunting challenge.