The Corruptors Clause
It is not enough for President Jokowi to reject the proposal to release corruptors during the pandemic. He must also prevent the relaxation of parole conditions for corruption convicts.
PRESIDENT Joko Widodo should reject the proposal to free corruption convicts during this Covid-19 pandemic. The fact that Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly even suggested it is cause for regret and caution.
It is difficult not to see Yasonna’s proposal as a maneuver to ride on the coattails of the pandemic. The interests of corruptors have sneaked into the measures to control Covid-19 in jails that are over capacity. Even more ironically, this proposal gained support from the leadership of the Corruption Eradication Committee chosen by Jokowi.
One thing should be clear: the government policy to bring forward the release of prisoners who are old, who are still minors or are undergoing assimilation, is a right one. Overcrowded jails can become centers for the rapid spread of the virus. Once one prisoner is infected with Covid-19, it is difficult to stop contagion. This is why a number of nations struck by the pandemic have adopted the same policy.
However, the good desire to battle the pandemic must not be besmirched by mistaken endeavors to release corruptors. Corruption convicts already receive too much special treatment. Reports in this magazine have repeatedly revealed the luxury facilities enjoyed by corruptors in jail. While ordinary prisoners are packed into crowded cells, some corruptors occupy spacious rooms complete with air conditioning and entertainment facilities. For those corruptors able to pay guards, the matter of maintaining physical distance to avoid the coronavirus is no problem at all.
Using the excuse that it is based on the aspirations of the people—it is not clear which people—Yasonna proposed a revision to Government Regulation No. 99/2012. The rules regarding the conditions and implementation of the rights of prisoners have long been a bogyman for corruption convicts. According to these rules, convicts are only eligible for parole if they are prepared to become justice collaborators—working with the law enforcement authorities to uncover crimes—have paid their fines and compensation, and have served two thirds of their sentences.
Jokowi’s insistence that the government will not free corruptors during the pandemic calmed the controversy. However, this alone did not show the government’s commitment to eradicate corruption because at this time of pandemic, the government and the House of Representatives have considered to continue the deliberations of the penitentiaries bill, which is also controversial.
In this new penitentiary bill, to be eligible for parole, corruption convicts will only have to have served two thirds of their sentence. They will no longer be a requirement to become justice collaborators or to pay off their fines. The justice and human rights minister will also be able to grant assimilation to corruptors who have served half of their sentences. The conditions are very general: convicts will have to have shown good behavior and to be of service and use to the nation.
From the perspective of eradicating corruption, the relaxing of the parole requirements for corruptors in the penitentiary bill is clearly a step backward. The lack of strict conditions negates the universal view that corruption is an extraordinary crime. If he really wants to fight corruption, Jokowi must reject the deliberations of the penitentiary law that will reduce the punishment for corruptors.