Autopilot in the War on Corruption
The detention of two ministers in the last month shows that there is still widespread corruption in Jokowi’s administration. It is the people who are the victims.
THE arrest of corrupt officials is not the only measure of success of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). But the decline in the number of surveillance operations this year shows that all is not well with the KPK.
The detention of two ministers from the Joko Widodo and Ma’ruf Amin administration in the last month shows that corruption is still widespread. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo is alleged to have designed a corrupt system in the granting of permits for the export of lobster larvae for the personal interests of himself and his group. His colleague, Social Affairs Minister Juliari Batubara seems to have embezzled part of the pandemic social funds.
The type of corruption allegedly carried out by these two ministers was both primitive and stark. It was linked directly to levies through their closest associates. It is not surprising that KPK investigators who targeted low level officials at the two ministries were easily able to connect them with their bosses. It is highly likely that Edhy and Juliari are just the tip of the iceberg of corruption that never lessens.
The success of the investigators at the end of this year should be applauded. But this does not obscure the fact that the KPK is in decline. The revisions to the KPK Law at the end of President Jokowi’s first term last year mean that the KPK is no longer free to move. As a result, the number of surveillance operations—better known as sting operations—is far lower.
The KPK has made only seven arrests this year. Compare this with arrests in previous years: 19 in 2017, 30 in 2018 and 18 the following year. This is despite the fact that this type of operation is capable of sowing fear among corrupt state officials. It is true that the KPK also has a preventative function, but it is not effective unless it is accompanied by strong law enforcement.
Moreover, the Jokowi administration gives the impression of not being serious about eradicating corruption. The Global Corruption Barometer 2020 released by Transparency International Indonesia has concluded that not only the eradication of corruption has ground to a halt, but corruption is on the increase this year. The majority of respondents in the survey said that corruption was a major problem for the government. It is highly likely that this perception is closely linked to the revisions of the law that placed the KPK underneath the executive.
Within the constraints of this revised law, KPK investigators must continue their investigation into corruption at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and the Social Affairs Ministry. Corruption in these two ministries needs to be uncovered in its entirety. Any links with the parties of the two ministers—Edhy is from the Gerindra party and Juliari is from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P)—must not be simply covered up.
We need to remember that the main victims of corruption are the people. Fisherman and lobster cultivators have been dealt a blow by corrupt decisions at the fisheries ministry. Corruption in the social affairs ministry has meant that people who are struggling with day-to-day life as a result of the pandemic have received less assistance than they should have. Corruption in other sectors always ends up with ordinary people suffering.
With the status of KPK investigators about to change to civil servant, it will become more difficult to break the chains of corruption in the bureaucracy. On top of this, the direction and the commitment of the government to fight this crime is not very clear. It is very unfair, but it seems that the burden of the endeavor to fight corruption will have to be assumed by the people. We can no longer hope for much from the government or state institutions.