Who shall cast the first (subsequent) stone at the lavish and ostentatious legislators?

Before any of us cast the first subsequent stones, deservedly, at the parliamentarians, it is perhaps wise for us to ask what role we in Indonesian society play in condoning and encouraging such ostentatious and shameless displays of (often ill gotten) wealth.

Do we, as a society, shun them or at least avoid them at social functions and the parties they throw,or do cozy up to them and eagerly attend their lavish parties? Do we give that skeptical look when their children flaunt their Hermes handbags, Laubotin shoes and fancy cars or salivate over them and toady to the “rich and famous?”

Unspun suspects that Indonesian society, especially among the elites, not only do not frown on the obviously corrupt lawmakers and their families but actually fawn over them. So who is the guilty one here for all this corruption? The legislators or our very own Washed, Perfumed and Beautiful People that form the upper crust of Indonesian society? Who shall cast the first subsequent stone after Busro Muqqodas and Marzuki Alie, on a good day?

The story below is in The Jakarta Globe today:

Marzuki Defends Lifestyles of Indonesia’s Rich and Elected

Busyro Muqoddas

House of Representatives Speaker Marzuki Alie has found himself in a familiar position, back on the defensive over the extravagance of legislators.

Even while acknowledging a small problem with lawmakers living “hedonistic lifestyles,” he attacked the head of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for making that same claim.

Busyro Muqoddas, the KPK head, this week criticized lawmakers for their shows of wealth, which he said were out of place for so-called people’s representatives. And on Tuesday, Constitutional Court chairman Mahfud M.D. called on lawmakers to curb their extravagance.

Marzuki, from the president’s Democratic Party, responded by saying that Busyro should focus on his own job. “Stop with the inflammatory statements,” he said.

He also denied Busyro’s claim that most lawmakers lived lives of luxury. “Not even 5 percent live these hedonistic lifestyles, and we’ve been calling on those who do to change,” he said.

But many, including the coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch, Adnan Topan Husodo, aren’t buying Marzuki’s defense.

He said the reality was that many lawmakers were showing off their wealth, including when they visit their constituents in luxury cars with security escorts.

And many people have pointed out that the parking lot at the House often resembles a luxury car lot.

Marzuki, though, says the critics are being unfair. “We can’t forbid people from becoming rich, we cannot. But if they enter the legislature, they should live like true representatives of the people,” he said.

But Adnan said lawmakers needed to learn how to take criticism. “They overreact to everything. This is a reflection of their oversensitivity,” he said.

Bambang Soesatyo, a vocal lawmaker from the Golkar Party who was independently wealthy before entering the legislature, however, said Busyro was on target in his criticism

“Public officials, including lawmakers, should not forget who elected them and not be lured by power,” he said.

Ruhut Sitompul, who was a successful lawyer before he became a lawmaker, said that although he had several luxury cars, he drove an Innova to work.

Ruhut also joked that he knew of several lawmakers who used public transportation before being elected and were now being driven around in luxury cars.

Mahfud, from the Constitutional Court, said the lure of the luxury lifestyle ended up snagging many lawmakers.

He said it was obvious that many members of the House suddenly found themselves awash in mansions, fast cars and financial assets after entering the legislature.

The problem, he said, is not the existing laws on corruption, but a decline in morality among the nation’s elected officials. If officials are corrupt, he said, they will find ways around anticorruption laws.

“It is true that not all lawmakers are like that. Bambang Soesatyo , for example, I know was already rich before. But many suddenly became rich after becoming lawmakers,” he said.

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