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Jakarta Post

Editorial: The politics of corruption

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Wed, December 11, 2013   /  10:21 am

The Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) may claim the Jakarta Corruption Court'€™s decision to sentence its former chairman, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, to 16 years for graft and money laundering is unjust and, therefore, will boost its consolidation ahead of next year'€™s election. Nevertheless, the verdict on Monday reinforces the public perception that politicians are the main culprits of the rampant corruption plaguing Indonesia, despite their key role in drafting the legislation that the nation badly needs to eradicate graft.

It seems that politics, at least in contemporary Indonesia, is inseparable from corruption. Given the number of politicians implicated in graft cases since the introduction of greater freedoms in 1998, corruption has become the '€œin-thing'€ that those planning to enter the world of politics will have to adapt to.

Many would perhaps resort to the clichéd excuse that political parties require massive operational funds while the state'€™s donation is small. But this only begs the question as to whether those power-hungry people ever anticipated the financial challenges when they decided to establish a party in the first place.

The court'€™s panel of judges found Luthfi guilty of accepting '€” along with his friend, Ahmad Fathanah '€” Rp 1.3 billion (US$107,900) from beef import company PT Indoguna Utama for the two men'€™s assistance in persuading Agriculture Minister Suswono, also a member of the PKS, to increase its import quota. The judges, albeit not unanimously, also found Luthfi culpable of laundering money he obtained while serving as a House of Representatives lawmaker in 2004-2009, via the purchase of luxury cars, land and houses.

Fathanah had earlier been sentenced to 14 years'€™ imprisonment.

Indeed, the judges failed to link the graft case involving Luthfi and his party because the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) seemed disinclined to do so. In previous cases involving politicians, the KPK has always addressed corruption as an individual act. Court hearings, on the other hand, often reveal the fact that a corruption suspect has not worked alone, thereby indicating that political fraud is a collective crime.

Of course, it would take a great deal of extra effort and time by the KPK to charge a party with organized corruption due to its lack of resources and the backlog of cases waiting to be investigated. If such an investigation ever materializes, we fear all the political parties represented at the House would be found guilty and subject to dissolution '€” which would be unthinkable.

Luthfi is just another politician '€” although the first party leader '€” to be brought to justice for the abuse of power. The KPK has displayed its usual steel mentality in taking action against a powerful figure like Luthfi. Hence, it would be realistic if the public demanded equal treatment of the leaders, both former and current, of other parties.

Thus, the KPK should not drag its heels in probing the alleged involvement of former Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum and patron Andi Mallarangeng in the scandalous Hambalang sports complex case.