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When corruption isn’t a harmless little pastime

The more we uncover about the tawdry and shameless highly placed officials who use graft, extortion and murder to preserve Indonesia’s culture of corruption the more they make one think of Chicago in 1920s.
Bureacrats planning (plotting) strategy (conspiracy)

SBY’s mandate wobbles
Patrick Guntensperger
Jakarta

Only a few short months since Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was re-elected with an overwhelming mandate on an anti-corruption platform, and within days of the announcement of his new cabinet, protest marches and chants calling for revolution were once again heard on the streets of Jakarta. “Revolution, revolution, revolution to the death!” a chant not heard since just before the fall of Soeharto just over a decade ago was sounded as ant-corruption activists and other protestors decried SBY’s alleged involvement in a complex plot to frame two deputy chairmen of the country’s graftbusting Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

The largely autonomous KPK has, virtually since its establishment, been at odds with the entrenched forces within the Indonesian government and bureaucracy. Members of the police, the Attorney General’s Office, and the DPR have been frequent targets of investigations and prosecutions by the KPK, who boast a 100% conviction rate on those cases they have brought before the Corruption Court. As a result, the KPK has come under overt as well as covert fire from groups and individuals who have vested interests in seeing the KPK emasculated, or better still, shut down entirely.

Among the overt attempts to geld the KPK was the transparent foot-dragging over debating the Corruption Court bill employed by the DPR as a method of letting the Court’s legal mandate expire. The DPR also put great effort into redefining the composition of the Corruption Court insisting that the Court be comprised of a majority of career judges rather than a majority of ad hoc judges; the career judiciary being widely recognised as among the most corrupt institutions in the country, while the ad hoc judges, coming from outside the established order, are seen to be relatively free of influence.

Nevertheless, it has been the covert attempts to undermine the wildly successful KPK that have caused the furor.

The widely reported Antasari affair was only the beginning of a labyrinthine and sordid game of plot and counterplot with the destruction or discrediting of the KPK as the prize. Antasari was the chairman of the KPK who found himself accused of contracting killers to murder a businessman who also formed the third corner of a love triangle with a female golf caddy. While Antasari was imprisoned and awaiting trial, he implicated and then withdrew accusations against other members of the Commission of abuse of power and influence peddling, sparking the KPK’s traditional enemies, the police and the AGO to launch investigations into the activities of some of the commission’s senior members.

As a result of the investigation, KPK deputies Chandra M. Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto were suspended; on October 28 they were detained. There was an immediate public suspicion that the two commissioners were being framed and rumours began circulating about an intricate conspiracy to provide false testimony to convict them, and the existence of wiretapped evidence to prove the existence of the conspiracy. The rumours included suggestions that SBY himself was named by the conspirators as being in support of the plot.

Meanwhile SBY has been inundated with a barrage of demands that he become involved in the defence of the KPK which, although an independent body, is directly responsible only to the president. The president, however, in a display of his characteristic reticence, retreated to a defence of merely following the law and allowing the court case to run its course, an approach eerily reminiscent of Soeharto’s manner of allowing the courts to do his bidding.

The protestors took to the streets demanding action from the president, who was, until recently, seen as a champion of the anti-corruption movement, and was re-elected largely on that reputation. The growing number of vocal protestors was clearly no longer willing to accept SBY’s trademark approach of taking a great deal of time before taking any decisive action.

On Monday, the tapes were played in court. To nobody’s great surprise, given that transcripts had earlier been leaked to the press, the plot, by businessman Anggodo Widjodo, to solicit false testimony was now on the record. SBY was indeed mentioned in the conversations as supporting the conspiracy.

Anggodo allegedly contacted AGO and police officials to convince them of his allegations against the commissioners. Anggodo Widjojo is the brother of fugitive Anggoro Widjojo who is wanted for fraud and embezzlement and known to be at large in Singapore. Anggodo is heard on the tape to be soliciting “help” from Ketut Sudiharsa, deputy head of the witness protection agency, the LPSK, to protect his brother. He acknowledges distributing money to KPK officials to ensure special treatment for Anggoro, but when suggestions of bribery were made, was quoted as shouting, “I don’t understand the law! Who said it’s bribery? I just distributed Anggoro’s money.”

He had also accused the KPK of having extorted the bribes from him. “About the extortion, just ask Ary (Ary Muladi, the alleged middle man in the transaction), but if the money had not been given, my brother would live in fear.”

The police were forced to release Chandra and Bibit, the two KPK commissioners whose release had been demanded by the protestors, although they deny that they have bowed to public pressure and saying that the detention was merely suspended “for other reasons” and that they weren’t yet out of the woods. National Police spokesman, Inspector General Nanan Sukarna told a press conference Tuesday night that “They are not free yet, pending a verdict from the court.”

The police then detained Anggodo who had just appeared on a television show where he had made an angry speech defending his actions and denying any accountability. Later, at police headquarters, in another interview, a somewhat chastened Anggodo apologised to everyone he had harmed by the words captured on tape. He apologised for having implicated SBY, he apologised to Deputy Attorney General Abdul Hakim Ritonga, and he even apologised to his wife for the contents of the wiretapped conversation he had with convicted drug trafficker, Yuliana Gunawan, whose involvement in the matter is not yet clear.

SBY, for his part, immediately launched an investigation of the conversations in attempt to clear his name as a participant or even of tacit complicity in the increasingly sordid and convoluted plot. While much remains murky and details concerning the plot and the various players will continue to be revealed, one thing is certain; SBY’s nearly pristine image and reputation for housecleaning in the notoriously corrupt world of Indonesian politics and business has been tarnished, if not destroyed. It remains to be seen whether further revelations will continue to erode his credentials or whether it is possible to recover from the allegations swirling around the very core of the Indonesian reform movement.

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