The Big Detail: Reform? What Reform?
It has been a year since I visited the tiny goat shed that brought the town of Karangasem, in West Java’s Indramayu district to infamy. I still remember well how to get there: take Java’s North Coast road and when you see the Karangasem Police subprecinct you know you’re close.
I first came to the town in April last year accompanying members from the Judicial Mafia Eradication Task Force, generals from the National Police and top West Java officials. There was so much news about how a young cop extorted money from a murder suspect named Kadana. The officer’s demand was so ruthless that his family was forced to sell all of their possessions and had to live in a goat shed for nine months.
Task force member Denny Indrayana on the team’s official Web site described just how upset he was upon learning the heartlessness of the so-called judicial mafia. After listening to Kadana’s ordeal, “I became enraged. Many times I clenched my fist in anger, trying hard not to show my emotion. I struggled not to break down in tears,” Denny wrote. The Web entry, dated Feb. 11 this year, claimed that since taking up this particular case, the fight against corruption became a personal vendetta.
What the Web site failed to mention is that the task force was unable to keep Kadana out of jail. The rogue officer was not properly sanctioned and has in fact been reinstated. There was no legal assistance, no monitoring of the trial, just press conferences and more pledges from the task force, now credited for exposing the workings of the judicial mafia.
But not only Kadana is left stranded. Disgraced tax official Gayus Tambunan, whose case symbolizes how entrenched corruption is in the country, has said that he also felt neglected after spilling the beans to the task force.
In great detail, Gayus described how he bribed law enforcers to escape a money-laundering charge and how companies paid him off to lower their taxes. He was so convinced by the task force’s pledge of protection that he came out of hiding in Singapore and returned to Indonesia.
However, when time came for him to face justice, Gayus was alone. Twice, the task force said it was too busy to provide defense witnesses to tell of mitigating circumstances in a case with an overwhelming amount of incriminating evidence.
The family of Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji, the former National Police chief detective, told the same story. Without his testimony, the public would have never even heard of Gayus Tambunan. During his heyday, Susno was never afraid to speak his mind, as controversial as his opinions may have been. But when I met him at his home in March, I got a sense that there was so much that Susno wanted to say. I could tell he had more dirt to share.
“The task force can’t even thoroughly investigate the information that Susno has already given,” a woman close to Susno said. “Susno was never afraid of retaliation from his peers. He just wanted the task force to monitor his trial. But the task force never showed up. Denny even refused to see me. Without Susno they have nothing.”
When the task force was established in December 2009, there was some suspicion that the team was set up with a political agenda, to show the press that the government was serious about fighting graft. Still, I thought that any agency tasked with eradicating corruption must have some kind of public support.
The task force is not designed as a law-enforcement agency. It is created to identify the root causes of corruption and do something about it. Its cases are just entry points toward reform, serving as stimulants to get the momentum of change going.
The Big Detail is that the task force should have protected Kadana, Gayus and Susno as well as others courageous enough to spill the beans. And with direct access to the president, who oversees the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office, they could have done so.
The task force only has until December this year, after which it ceases to exist. Will the team manage to rid law-enforcement agencies of corruption once and for all? Will it at least pave the way toward that goal?
When the team was established I was also led to believe that there would be major breakthroughs in the way law-enforcement agencies operate. The task force’s efforts led to the issuance of presidential decree (Inpres) No. 9 on May 12. The decree instructed all law-enforcement agencies to conduct reforms to prevent graft. The formulation of the reform plan is left to the respective agencies.
The Big Detail is that it might have been better if the president had just appointed an attorney general committed to rooting out corruption inside the AGO. And you don’t need a decree if you have a credible police chief who is dedicated to reform.