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.

The desperation behind move to abolish Malaysia’s Press Law

Unspun’s alter ego had his five micro-seconds of fame in the Malaysian newspaper The Star this morning. And since Unspun’s an advocate that bloggers mainly put a context to news items let me put the context on the news item below.

The Printing Presses and Publications Act in Malaysia is a law that successive Malaysian governments have used as one of their instruments of controlling the Press. Essentially it requires any news publication to seek a license from the Government before they can be published. As such the Government can threaten what it considers uncooperative media houses with revoking the license unless they toe the line.

The Act has been around for decades and used mainly to get the editors to self-censor their contents. Why there is now talk of repealing the act is that the Malaysian Government coalition which comprises Umno (Malay-based) and the Malaysian Chinese Association is in, to put it mildly, in deep poo pooh. Voter support has been dropping drastically and they face an upcoming general election.

In deepest poo pooh is the leader of Umno and the government coalition, Najib Abdul Rahman, who is also the Prime Minister. He’s a well-meaning enough person but weak in character and political clout. Observers say he realizes that the government is unpopular because of the rampant corruption within its ranks, and he genuinely wants to change the way things are done. But he’s held ransom by the Umno chieftains who have for too long grown fat on the largest of office and would not let anything tip their applecart.

So poor Najib has been forced to seek help from all sorts of sources to boost his popularity that would make a snake oil salesman seem respectable. He, for instance, once appointed APCO to boost his image. That got nowhere fast. In a fit of desperation he even tried to make himself look “young and cool” by pulling a prank on a DJ (Imagine Najib going: “Ha! Punk’d you”). All it did was to make him look as ridiculous as a middle-aged man trying to look hip and cool in a florid Versace shirt, tight pants and white shoes.

His latest desperate gambit was to present himself as a reforming politician, so me mooted the idea of repealing the much hated Printing Presses and Publications Act.

In not as deep, but deep enough, poo poo are his cohorts in the Malaysian Chinese Association. This political party was supposed to represent the interests of the Chinese in Malaysia but after the first generation of leaders what they did was to represent their own business interests best. Riddled by factional in-fighting and a slew of uncharismatic leaders, the MCA also has seen its support from the Chinese community dwindle.

So now, also in a fit of desperation, they have taken to making a virtue of necessity and have come up with a New Deal Manifesto in which it hopes to be seen as a champion of a more democratic Malaysian society by calling for an abolition of the Printing Presses Act.

This is all political opportunism that is unconvincing to anyone who knows anything about malaysian politics and the Malaysian Press.

The Act is but one of the instruments of control used by the government. The other instruments are the Internal Security Act (there is also talk of abolishing it, to be replaced by an Anti-Terrorist Act), the Police, the Judiciary, political patronage (just try to name any chief editor in any major Malaysian media that is politically unfettered), self-censorship and coziness (as in junkets and golf games).

Moreover, the Malaysian Press has been so neutered in the past decade or so that it is difficult to imagine it nurturing anyone with the integrity, calibre and courage to make use of whatever freedoms the abolition of the Act may bestow to run a kick-ass newsroom.

So take it for what the hullabaloo about the abolition of the Printing Presses and Publications Act really is: desperate political gambits by politicians who are fast losing ground. That’s Unspun’s context on the news anyway. You might want to peruse the actual news itself below:

Unshackle to move with the times

Under its New Deal manifesto, the MCA is calling for the Printing Presses and Publications Act to be abolished to allow free flow of information.

 

IT is not the easiest of times to be a print journalist in Malaysia. While foreign journalists dodge bullets in the Middle East, over here, print journalists are dodging restrictions from the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and blows from a critical public hungry for a free press.

The choice is for online news, blogs and social media which are not subject to the Act and thus enjoy greater freedom. But for Malaysians, the print media is rendered more pro-establishment while the alternative media is deemed more pro-opposition…

 

Ong Hock Chuan, a Malaysian communications consultant and blogger based in Indonesia where the press enjoys unfettered freedom cautions against equating bloggers with journalists.

“Journalists usually come up with the news, bloggers add a context (a comment, criticism) to the news – similar but different functions in the flow of information,” says Ong.

A free press, adds Ong, does not instantly produce good journalism as it requires a combination of factors.

“Good journalism is a complex mix of factors – ownership, owner’s vision and philosophy, calibre, integrity and courage of editors are some of the main factors to consider.”

Rest of story here

Justice goofed is justice denied

The Keystone Cops couldn’t do any better. The Indonesian Justice Minister, according to The Jakarta Globe story below,  wants to nab Nazaruddin, but he doesn’t want him to know about it and refuses to divulge where they think Nazaruddin is. And then he tells the national press that when team will be leaving?

Now let me get this right. In effect the Justice Minister is saying to Nazaruddin: “We know where you’re hiding now and we’re sending a team to nab you tonight. But because I won’t tell anyone where you’re holed up in, you’ll be lulled into a false sense of security and won’t bolt from wherever you are right now (that we know but you don’t know that we know because we haven’t told you).”

Yeah, right. Patrialis wins a shit-for-brains tag for this excellent feat of enforcement.Is it any wonder that they just can’t quite bring him to book.

Justice Minister Employs Team to Nab Nazaruddin

Makassar. Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar has announced that a team from his ministry is leaving for an undisclosed location to track down fugitive graft suspect Muhammad Nazaruddin.

“The team will leave tonight,” the minister said on Tuesday. “But the destination will not be revealed because it is feared he will escape again.”

He also declined to say how many people were in the team, only revealing that it included representatives from his ministry, the immigration office and the National Police.

Read More here

Salvation for Sri Mulyani, purgatory for the rest of us?

Sri Mulyani, it would seem from the excerpts below from her farewell speech dressed up as a public lecture yesterday , has saved herself from the forces of corruption.

Rather than be tortured daily by the Ical Inquisition and be subjected to political decisions dominated by Aburizal Bakrie she has opted to quit and join the World Bank.

Good for her. Her escape is as inspiring and as poignant as nathan Hawke’s character in the movie Gattaca.

But what about the rest of us? We are left to wallow in the twilight of purgatory, where there is no complete darkness but where the light of certainty, logic and justice does not shine either.

clipped from www.thejakartaglobe.com

“There are several parties saying that I’m running away, or that I have lost the battle,” she said in a lecture billed as a talk on ethics and public policy. “I have won … because they were not able to dictate to me, and I have not betrayed my pride and conscience.”

In her strongest remarks since the announcement of her resignation two weeks ago, she stopped short of naming her opponents but made it clear that the political battle that began late last year when the Golkar Party led a House investigation into the Century affair had resulted in an uncomfortable reality.

“I am not a politician, but I understand politics,” she told a packed ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Pacific Place. “There has been a marriage of two political sides and it will not uphold the public’s needs,” she said in an apparent reference to the fallout from the Bank Century case and recent moves to bring Golkar closer to the president’s ruling coalition. “I cannot afford to be part of it.”
blog it

Sometimes it seems like the darkness is gathering. Consider today’s headlines, for instance:

Is This Statue So Divisive it Has to Go? In Bekasi, Yes

House Investigates Fresh Allegations Involving Tax Directorate

Susno: comeback king or a wounded bull in a china shop?

I’ve said my piece in the Jakarta Globe article below. What do you think?

Susno Duadji. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

Susno Duadji. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

NGO Testing Susno’s Food for Poison

Susno Duadji says he has taken steps to ensure his safety after making corruption allegations against fellow officers in the National Police.

“I’m not a little boy anymore. I calculated the risks before I opened my mouth. I’m not afraid. I know the National Police institution and I have taken preventive measures,” the former National Police chief detective told detik.com.

He said he anticipated the possibility of being slandered, attacked, imprisoned and even murdered.

“I don’t stay in one place anymore now. It’s not safe for me anymore,” he said.

Susno has even enlisted an NGO to sample his food lest he be poisoned.

“We’re guarding his health because he’s under a lot of pressures,” said Dr Joserizal Jurnalis of the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee or MER-C.

Susno appears to have made a remarkable comeback in the public sphere. Reviled late last year as king of the corrupt “crocodiles” in a battle against the “geckoes” of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), he now presents himself as a man risking his life to battle graft. He has even been mentioned as a candidate to lead the KPK. 

But talk of Susno heading the antigraft agency comes from politicians “with an axe to grind,” says media strategist Ong Hock Chuan of Jakarta’s Maverick public relations firm.

“The press picks up those interpretations and presents them as fact,” said Ong, who dismissed the notion that Susno could actually get the position.

Meanwhile, Ong suspects Susno’s actions are not a strategy to reinvent himself but simply an attempt at revenge. The longtime police officer was removed from his position in the wake of the KPK scandal.

“I think he’s like a bull in a china shop, a wounded bull. It’s about getting back at the people who cost him his career,” he said.

JG

Why we all should support Susno for KPK chief

It is, of course, complete nonsense that disgraced-police-top-brass-turned -whistle-blower Susno Duadji should even be considered as a candidate to lead the Corruption Eradication Commission.

The preposterous suggestion comes from Golkar, a party with a huge axe to grind, especially after they failed to oust Boediono and Sri Mulyani in the recent furore over the Bank Century case, and therefore should be ignored.

Despicable slimeball as he is, however, Susno deserves all our support and encouragement for the time being. This is because he is the guy who knows where all the skeletons are buried in the Police Force. And now that he’s been done out of a career in the Police Force, sacrificed, as it were by fellow slimeballs and corrupt officers, he’s now out for revenge by spilling the beans on his former comrades.

This is unsavory but healthy for the nation for it will help bleed corruption out of the system faster than other means. It is interesting to see how the implicated police officers are now screaming blue murder and getting all defensive about their role in the alleged corruption cases.

All of them have predictably protested innocence but how innocent are they? If the country’s journalists are worth their salt they would go digging around the houses and families of these police officers. How many of their wives would sport Bulgari watches, Louis Vuitton or Hermes handbags? What luxury cars do they and their family members drive? How many Blackberries per household? These are telltale signs of the integrity of lowly paid police officers and it is extremely simple to find out. So Unspun is at a loss why the journalists haven’t gotten of their backsides to do some investigation.

In the meantime and in the absence of some investigative spirit among the journalists the only recourse we have left is to egg and encourage Susno on in his mad quest for revenge. Feed his delusion that he could be the head of KPK, or even the police department, stoke his ego or whatever it takes to keep him spilling the beans on the corruption in the police department.

So anyone up for a “Susno for President” campaign?

Susno has chance to lead the KPK

The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Mon, 03/22/2010 4:23 PM  |  National

Former National Police detective chief Susno Duadji has been tipped as a candidate to lead the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

“Susno has a chance,” legislator Bambang Soesatyo from the Golkar Party said as quoted by kompas.com.

The KPK has no chairman after the House of Representatives rejected the government regulation-in-lieu-of-law that appointed Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean as KPK acting chairman, replacing Antasari Azhar who was found guilty of murder.

Four KPK deputy chairmen, however, remain on active duty.

Bambang said the government must decide quickly whether the KPK should have a new chairman or whether the current deputy chairmen were sufficient.

A tale of the most corrupt told in two news stories

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.

Indonesia is Seen as Most Corrupt Nation in Asia-Pacific Region

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.

read more

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?

PDI-P Lawmaker Goes on Trial in Bank Indonesia Vote-Buying Case

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.

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