The Jakarta Post
Humanitarian reasons helped graft convict former Riau governor Annas Maamun persuade President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to grant the clemency that may allow Annas to regain his freedom in October next year. By doing so, the President has ignored not only the environmental devastation Riau people have had to endure as a result of corruption but also his responsibility to strengthen the country’s anticorruption drive.
Annas, now 79, claimed to be suffering from a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dyspepsia, gastritis and a hernia when he filed his request for clemency. A law and human rights ministerial regulation issued earlier this year allows criminals aged above 70 years to ask for leniency on humanitarian grounds, such as illness and old age.
In 2015 the Corruption Court sentenced Annas to six years’ imprisonment after finding him guilty of accepting more than Rp 1.5 billion (US$106,413) in bribes in a forest-conversion case that caused Rp 5 billion in state losses. He challenged the verdict, but the Supreme Court increased the jail term to seven years instead.
A sense of justice was obviously absent when the President signed on Oct. 25 the letter of clemency for the senior Golkar politician. The corruption Annas committed has deprived many people of their right to well-being and a healthy environment in which to live. As a leader, Annas should have exercised his mandate to fulfill the people’s needs in line with the oath that he took when assuming power in February 2014, rather than abusing it for his personal gain.
Breaching the people’s mandate should never be forgiven, although no law criminalizes this act of betrayal. But since corruption is classified as one of three extraordinary crimes, along with terrorism and the drugs trade, extraordinary, rather than business-as-usual, measures are essential for combating it.
One reason why Indonesia’s corruption perception index has not changed significantly despite the tough enforcement of the Corruption Law is a lack of deterrence, which is evident in Jokowi’s decision to grant clemency to Annas. The ministerial regulation that justifies Annas’ request for leniency is another policy that undermines the deterrence value of the law.
The environment in which to create a corruption-resistant society has further been contaminated by policymakers who, instead of empowering, have undermined the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) through their amendment of the KPK Law. Not only has the new law put the antigraft body’s independence at risk, but it has also reduced the KPK to an ordinary law enforcement agency akin to the police and Attorney General’s Office, which continue to struggle to win the public’s trust.
Jokowi’s commitment to eradicating corruption has come under scrutiny yet again because of his refusal to sign an executive order needed to overturn the new KPK Law. Previously he endorsed new KPK leaders, whose selection caused many raised eyebrows. Given these controversial decisions, Jokowi’s clemency for Annas comes as no surprise. More graft convicts can now hope for Jokowi’s mercy. While Jokowi may be of impeccable integrity, he is normalizing corruption, despite the damage it inflicts on the nation’s morality.
It seems that to be corrupt is human and to forgive is divine.