JAKARTA— Seeing the wealthy and influential squirm in court is now a weekly front-page affair for Indonesians. But Friday marks the first time an active cabinet minister has been named a suspect by the country’s anti-graft body, or KPK.
Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng will face charges of graft for his role in a multimillion dollar sports project.
Mallarangeng oversaw the construction of the sports facility in West Java, which is believed to have cost the state $25 million in losses. A government audit identified numerous irregularities and violations.
On Friday, he announced his resignation from the Cabinet, and the board of the Democrat Party. Mallarangeng, who is also under a travel ban, said he could not work effectively as a minister while facing the legal proceedings. Maintaining his innocence, the minister said he hopes that justice will prevail.
Facing repeated attacks to its authority from the national police, and occasionally the parliament, the case is a win for the KPK.
But former KPK deputy head Erry Hardjapamekas said the case against the minister is not a sign the anti-graft body is more emboldened. More importantly, he said, the case could point to a changing culture of accountability - one where politicians act honorably in shameful circumstances.
“Usually they [politicians] are always denying, 'I am not a corrupter, I am only doing my job,' all the excuses. But in this case Andi stands up and says, 'OK, I am a suspect and I will resign from my position and I will focus on the legal process.' I think this could be a good new habit or culture," Hardjapamekas said.
In the lead up to the 2014 election, the integrity of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party has been hard hit. Mallarangeng is the third party member to face a court in connection with the sports facility project.
Former party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin is serving a four-year jail term for his involvement. His deputy, Angelina Sondakh, is currently in court.
Mallarangeng could face 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges.
Transparency International says Indonesia is in the bottom third of its Corruption Index, among the most corrupt nations.