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Indonesia to Strengthen Arsenal in Fight Against Corruption


Indonesia is looking to strengthen the country's legal arsenal in the fight against endemic corruption. The government wants the police to have powers to detain suspects for six months without charge, putting those accused of corruption on a par with terrorism suspects. But, critics say Indonesia's problems lie more with law enforcement than the laws themselves.

In the latest international survey of corruption by the Germany-based watchdog, Transparency International, Indonesia ranks 7th from the bottom, alongside such countries as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tajikistan.

Crooked Indonesian judges, police and bureaucrats carry a large part of the blame for frightening off the foreign investment that the country desperately needs to get its economy back on track.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made fighting corruption his administration's top priority, and there have been a number of high profile prosecutions since he took office four months ago.

Now the government is considering extending its powers to detain corruption suspects, allowing them to be held for six months without charge.

Frans Winarta is both a prominent opponent of corruption and a human rights lawyer. Although he welcomes the commitment to fighting graft, he says it is the institutions of government and law enforcement that need reform rather than the laws themselves.

"The problem is not because of the law, the problem is more on the law enforcement, and the personnel of the law enforcement agencies, that is the problem you see,said Frans Winarta. "The lack of political will for instance and the lack of, let us say an honest law enforcement agencies like the police, the judges as well as the prosecutors because they are very much involved in the judicial corruption, meaning they can be easily bought by lets say the suspects."

Corruption is one of the most persistent legacies of the dictatorship of President Suharto, who was forced from office six years ago. He is accused of having used the state coffers to fund a huge patronage machine.

Mr. Yudhoyono's government has taken a number of significant steps to create the institutions needed to tackle the problem.

It created a special anti-corruption court to bypass the notoriously corrupt judiciary, and it is negotiating an extradition treaty with neighbouring Singapore, where many white collar criminals have taken refuge with huge quantities of stolen Indonesian money.

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