21 January 2015

What are the chances of reducing corruption if the national Police chief lacks integrity?

Indonesia does not rate well in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. It was ranked  107th last year, with an assessment of 34 – a score that is little changed year on year.  (New Zealand with a score of 91 consistent with previous years, slipped last year to second least corrupt country.)

Over the last decade a growing segment of Indonesian civil society has campaigned against what may seem to be entrenched malpractices in both commercial and government sectors.  There has been ambivalence among the political classes although successive governments have enabled the KPK – the corruption eradication commission – to become a trusted and effective agency.  It was established in 2002 after an inquiry concluded that no part of the Police would be capable of reforming. The KPK was elitist from its foundation, and rigorous in its practices. It has been very successful in prosecuting senior officials in all branches of government – made possible by an efficient anti-corruption court.  But the KPK gets questionable support from the Police – all parts of which contribute to a public perception that it is a very corrupt institution.

Indonesia’s Police have been exposed frequently by the extent of their corruption.  A Police General was convicted in 2013 of taking more than $13 million in bribes following a KPK prosecution – although the Police endeavoured to take control of the prosecution.  Many senior officers have substantial wealth although Police are not well paid.

The nominee to be the next Police chief fits that mould.  There has been public anger because of his reputation. He has assets which are irreconcilable with his income.  The KPK has made critical statements about his conduct although he is reported to have passed a fit and proper person test.  Parliament unanimously endorsed the President’s nomination – suspected because he was an aide to the previous President who still wields great political power.

An editorial in the Jakarta Globe has indicated that appointing a graft suspect as Police chief, will be a national humiliation. Only last week the KPK imposed a six month travel restriction on the nominee following investigation of his assets.  Anti-corruption interests are hoping that the President will withdraw the nomination.