Awaiting the results of SBY antigraft campaign
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono completed the first year of his five-year term on Thursday. This gives us the opportunity to look back at what he has done since voters gave him an overwhelming victory in the direct presidential election in September, 2004.
Combating corruption was one of his major campaign themes. It is true that corruption was his main concern over the last year, as reflected in his official and off-the-cuff speeches. The President made 35 speeches about corruption, averaging three a month.
Concern about corruption is necessary for any Indonesian leader. International communities see the rampant corruption in Indonesia. The Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) always ranks Indonesia toward the bottom of the Corruption Perception Index survey. There has been no significant change in Indonesia’s ranking in that survey since the end of Soeharto’s regime in 1998. In the latest survey conducted in 2004, TI ranked Indonesia 141 out of 146 countries, or the fifth most corrupt country in the survey.
Another survey conducted by the World Bank, Doing Business in Indonesia 2005, confirmed that Indonesia is not attractive for foreign investors. To invest in Indonesia requires more time, more complex procedures and much more money, all because of corruption.
So, what happened after Susilo became the country’s sixth president? He did not implement many concrete anticorruption programs, especially because the President inherited the same corrupt system that had been built up over decades.
However, some progress was made, which we should acknowledge and appreciate.
First, in law enforcement there are no longer any obstacles for prosecutors who want the President’s permission to prosecute state officials. The Criminal Code states that before state officials, i.e. local and national legislators, mayors, governors and other high-level officials, can be investigated in criminal cases the president must first issue permission. In previous governments, the president rarely gave permission to investigate and prosecute state officials involved in corruption.
Second, during Susilo’s term the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has been a success story. The KPK itself was established before Susilo came to power, but the commission only got the support it needed under Susilo.
Just recently, the KPK conducted a sting to arrest suspects in a corruption scandal in which Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan has been mentioned as someone who allegedly may have received bribes. And the KPK was instrumental in the prosecution and jailing of Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh, as well as members of the General Elections Commission (KPU).
Third, during Susilo’s presidency several big corruption cases were brought to court by the Corruption Eradication Coordination Team. Furthermore, the haj fund corruption case involving former religious affairs minister Said Agil Husin Almunawar, as well as a corruption case involving Bank Mandiri, are now making their way through the courts. Although the trials are ongoing, many people never imagined such big cases would ever make it to the courts at all.
Although Susilo has demonstrated a determination to eradicate corruption, there are still a number of major problems he must confront.
First, the government does not have an integral strategy to eradicate corruption, not just in terms of prosecution but also prevention and education. Following the example of other countries in combating corruption, Indonesia needs a comprehensive strategy to eradicate corruption that is part of general government reform.
The government has drafted the National Action Plan to Eradicate to Corruption, led by the State Development Planning Agency, but there has never been any mention of the progress achieved by this action plan.
Eradicating corruption will never work without first reforming the bureaucracy. A general and integrated strategy to combat corruption must be implemented simultaneously, and it is very important that the President himself monitor this implementation.
Second, corruption and law enforcement are sensitive issues in politics. The President’s attempt to enforce the law could be seen as an attempt on his part to attack the opposition. That is why, in the name of fairness, justice and equality before the law, the enforcement of the law must be impartial.
So, other large corruption cases involving the inner circle at the State Secretariat and the controversial bonuses paid to the director and commissioner at state electricity company PLN should also be prioritized by the President and the Attorney General’s Office.
Third, the successes achieved by law enforcement are a small milestone in resolving some of the internal problems within law enforcement agencies. The establishment of coordination teams consisting of a prosecutor, police officers and auditors is the short-cut solution to the problem of coordination within law enforcement.
Fourth, the President must focus on short and medium-term goals in eradicating corruption. The President has limited resources and an old system to cope with systemic corruption. To get better results, the President needs to use his resources more efficiently.
The President must decide whether corruption eradication is part of economic recovery, the improvement of public services, the efficiency of the state budget or just about improving Indonesia’s rank in the Corruption Perception Index survey by TI. Each option has its consequences and requirements.
After one year, it is the time for the President to choose an option and start prioritizing his targets.
The Jakarta Post, Opinion and Editorial – October 20, 2005