News / Asia

Indonesian President Takes Strong Stand on Corruption

Demonstrators from Indonesia's National Workers Union rally outside the KPK building in support of the country's anti-graft body, Jakarta, Indonesia, October 8, 2012. (K. Lamb/VOA)
Demonstrators from Indonesia's National Workers Union rally outside the KPK building in support of the country's anti-graft body, Jakarta, Indonesia, October 8, 2012. (K. Lamb/VOA)
Kate Lamb
Indonesia’s decade-long battle to root out corruption has relied, in part, on a special anti-graft task force aimed at high-profile prosecutions. But investigators’ focus on the police in recent months has led to a very public standoff, with Indonesians turning out on the streets calling for presidential intervention.

Protest over corruption

In Indonesian, “Aku Enggak Mau Warisanmu,” translates as “I don’t want your legacy.”

The lyrics sung at recent rallies in Jakarta sum up just how the nation is feeling about its increasingly lame lame-duck president.

Before this week, the president had refused to weigh in on a public power struggle between the Indonesian police and the country’s anti-graft body, or KPK. The standoff, and the president’s silence, have sent thousands of people to the streets and millions to complain on Twitter.

Prominent politicians arrested

Investigations by the KPK have seen several prominent politicians put behind bars - including one of the president’s own in-laws.

The ad-hoc body is now investigating a case that implicates several police generals. The police have made a public show of resisting the investigation, but that has only led to growing public support for their rival.

Rallying in front of the KPK building on Monday, 34-year-old factory worker Sutarjo says Indonesians must fight for the anti-graft body.

He says he supports the KPK, so that the country will be better.  He says Indonesia cannot bear to lose the case.

Police work with KPK

So far, the police have refused to hand over evidence and have recalled all police investigators working with the KPK.

But after five police officers refused to return, the police tried to raid the KPK building last Friday, saying they had an arrest warrant for one of the officers.

Many say the alleged charges - connected to a case that was closed without controversy eight years ago - are another desperate ploy by police.

But investigating the officers has only made matters worse.

After five police officers refused to return, the police tried to raid the KPK building last Friday, saying they had an arrest warrant for one of the officers.

But many say the alleged charges - connected to a case that was closed without controversy eight years ago - is another desperate ploy by police.

Standoff, investigations continue

Aleksius Jemadu, a professor of politics at Jakarta’s Pelita Harapan University, says the standoff has long needed presidential intervention. “I think everything will depend on the president himself.  This is a critical moment for him because people have very high expectations that he will come up with a very clear solution,” Jemadu stated.

Rising to power on a strong anti-corruption platform, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono rarely speaks out in the support of the KPK.

In fact, critics regularly lambast the president for failing to take a stance on a range of critical issues from corruption to the persecution of religious minorities.

It is the reason why his national address Monday night was something of a surprise.

The president said the police should stop trying to undermine the anti-graft body, which has every right to investigate the case.

He says the investigation into one of the police officers that has chosen to stay with the KPK, is also somewhat questionable.

Yudhoyono also says he will issue an immediate regulation that will prevent police officers that work with the KPK from being arbitrarily recalled.

The police responded by saying they plan to continue their investigation, despite the criticism from the president.  

Although the standoff may continue, the public outcry and the opinion of outside analysts indicate that the anti-graft commission may, in the long run, have momentum on its side.

International monitoring body Transparency International reports that Indonesia has made significant improvements in the corruption perception index since the anti-graft commission was created.

The country has gone from the fourth-most corrupt nation in 2002, to the 100th out of 183 countries last year

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