SP/ Anastasia Winanti Riesardhy, Dessy Sagita
Indonesia Corruption Watch slammed the Anti-Corruption Court’s decision to sentence palm oil tycoon Siti Hartati Murdaya Poo to 32 months in prison on Monday, calling the punishment “too lenient” and a bad precedent for future corruption cases.
The court sentenced Hartati to 32 months in prison for attempting to pay a district head in Buol, Central Sulawesi, a Rp 3 billion ($310,000) bribe in exchange for the right to establish new palm oil plantation in the resource-rich district.
The sentence was nearly half of the five years recommended by prosecutors at the start of the trial.
“We think 32 months is too lenient,” ICW analyst Donal Fariz told the Jakarta Globe on Monday. “We expected her to receive at least the maximum punishment the prosecutors demanded [and] even that would still be too low.”
The prosecution accused Hartati of withholding information during the trial and of attempting to disrupt the court’s proceedings by mobilizing mobs of supporters to protest outside the courthouse.
But a panel of judges cited the prominent businesswoman and Democratic Party financier’s commitment to develop the local economy in Buol as a mitigating factor.
Donal doubted Hartati, who is a close associate of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, helped impact Buol residents’ lives in any meaningful way.
“Did she really help develop the Buol district?” he said. “Or did she enrich a bunch of elites and bureaucrats?
“She asked for a [new] land concession so that more land could be turned into plantations. The locals would still be poor.”
Mahfud MD, chairman of the powerful Islamic Students Alumni Association (Kahmi) and outgoing Constitutional Court chief justice, accused the judges of being out of touch with the average citizen.
“Maybe the judges’ sensitivity for justice has faded because judges nowadays are getting so used to seeing money that they don’t know how hard people work just to earn Rp 300,” Mahfud said.
Mahfud urged the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to appeal the sentence and show Indonesia they are serious in their fight against corruption.
“This country should be strict towards corruptors,” he said. “Otherwise our country will fall apart.”
The KPK is currently discussing whether to file an appeal, spokesman Johan Budi said.
“We haven’t made a decision yet,” he said. “We’re still talking about it and we will come up with a decision soon.”
Hartati was found guilty of giving a bribe to a public official, under Article 5 of the Anti-Corruption Law, and of causing someone else to commit a crime, under Article 55 of the Criminal Code. She was fined Rp 150 million.
She faced a maximum of five years in prison and Rp 250 millon in fines under the Anti-Corruption Code.