Two stories in the front pages of most Indonesian newspapers today tell a very interesting story about Indonesia and corruption.
The first is a report by the Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy and tells us how corrupt Indonesia is, at least in terms of perception. The verdict: Indonesia is perceived as the most corrupt nation in Asia Pacific, beating out countries like Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. This is no mean feat and you have to wonder why the perception is so bad because things work better in Indonesia than in some of these countries.
Once again, Indonesian has made it onto a list of superlatives. Unfortunately, not for something the nation should be proud of.
The Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy put Indonesia at the bottom of its latest Asia-Pacific corruption perception ranking, issued on Monday.
While Singapore topped the list of countries perceived to be clean of corruption, with a score of 1.42, Indonesia fared worst out of the 16 countries surveyed with 9.27. Cambodia was second from bottom with 9.10, Vietnam and the Philippines scored 8.07 and 8.06, respectively while Malaysia was ninth, just ahead of China, with a score of 6.47.
The PERC study was based on perceptions, not reality, but perceptions do matter.
The absolute level of corruption in Indonesia, it said, might not be any worse than in any other Asian country, but the perception that corruption is especially bad here will make it more difficult for the country to attract foreign direct investment and toughen the terms of those investments.
Then there is the second story that perhaps tell us why the perception is so bad. It is a story about how, after six years of dicking around, the lawmakers involved in a bribery case linked to the appointment of a central bank senior deputy governor is finally going on trial.
Why the delay? Six years of justice delayed is justice denied. The bribes were apparently paid out in travelers checks, which would have left a paper trail wider than Gelora Bung Karno.
But the most interesting aspect of this story, and perhaps the fact that explains why Indonesia is perceived to be most corrupt in the region, is that the person at the middle of it all, the senior deputy governor Miranda Gultom, has astonishingly been unimplicated in this entire mess.
We have lawmakers who have admitted that they were paid to vote her in as Bank Indonesia Deputy Governor. As evidence is the travelers checks. You do not need to be Sherlock Holmes to connect the dots and establish a legal case, but the lady remains above the fray, like an immortal looking down on the shenanigans of lesser mortals.
Is the perception of how bad Indonesia’s corruption is based on the inference that ony the smaller fish get fried while the bigger ones enjoy full run of the ocean? When will Indonesia begin to change this perception?
Sitting lawmaker Dudhie Makmun Murod went on trial at the Anti-Corruption Court in Jakarta on Monday for his alleged role in a Rp 24 billion ($2.6 million) bribery case linked to the appointment of a central bank senior deputy governor in 2004.
The House of Representatives member from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is accused of distributing Rp 9.8 billion to 18 fellow party members serving on House Commission IX, which at that time oversaw financial and banking affairs, in return for voting economist Miranda Goeltom into the Bank Indonesia post.
Miranda was also backed by dozens of lawmakers from three other party factions — who were also alleged to have taken bribes — and enjoyed a landslide victory with 41 votes from the 51-member House commission.
Former lawmakers Hamka Yandhu of the Golkar Party and Udju Djuhaeri from the Police and Military faction, as well as sitting United Development Party (PPP) lawmaker Endin Soefihara, are now awaiting trial for allegedly distributing the bribe money to their respective faction members.