Determined to keep abreast of affairs throughout the country, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyon has installed a 'situation room' at the Presidential Palace. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)

“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Corruption Threatens to Corrode the Benefits of a Fledgling Democracy

Jakarta Globe, Rheizka Aulia, April 27, 2010

Mafias are not organizations usually associated with Indonesia — not in the vein of southern Italian families or the tattooed Yakuza of Japan. But I believe all kinds of mafias, and the corruption that is their lifeblood, have been around for centuries in our country. If steps are not taken to reduce their influence, then every single policy and every single incremental change that has been made in the march toward democracy will prove to be nothing but historical learning.

Indonesians knew firsthand of corruption even before the word “korupsi” became popular in everyday conversation. Even the name of the Dutch-owned trading association in colonial times, the VOC (Verenigde Oost Indische Compagnie, or Dutch East Indies Company), was jokingly referred to as Verhaan Onder Corruptie — “collapsed because of corruption.” Bribery, influence peddling, patronage, cronyism, nepotism, electoral fraud, embezzlement and every other kind of corruption has been practiced in our land for much longer that we care to sometimes admit. After a decade of political reform, we might ask: Has democracy in our country played the role of David to corruption’s Goliath? Has the cicak challenged the buaya?

Post-Suharto democracy has only been around for a decade and our nation has tried hard and holistically to adapt to the changes. Freedom of the press, decentralization, special autonomy, election of regional officials, direct elections for the president and members of the legislature, and the application of regional planning systems have all increased public awareness about the value of democracy. But most of our citizens remain skeptical about whether the daily practices of government institutions can ever be truly transparent and fair.

If we go to an immigration office, we do not have to line up to get our passport if we know someone “on the inside” and if we are willing to pay more. If we go to the office of the district head, we can get our identity card issued or renewed faster if we can “assure” the officer that we need it urgently. If we are caught by the police for not wearing a seat belt while driving, we can negotiate the price for our freedom on the spot as soon as the police officer asks: “Do you want to proceed with this issue now or in front of a judge?”

The reality is that corruption is widespread. Even if the government has tried to change the structure of institutions like the police to make them more democratic, well-meaning civil servants themselves seem to be unsure whether they can change the culture within their institutions. Meanwhile, many members of civil society still seem to condone corruption committed by low-paid officers because it is “common,” whereas corruption by higher-level officers is another thing. Most civil servants climbing the ranks take corrupt practices along with them. Corruption is systemic in many of our of national institutions and is not related per se to level, but rather as a perk of being in the institution itself.

But it is not all doom and gloom. One decade of reform has shown some positive signs, with public opposition to corruption gaining strength. Media nowadays not only run reports about corruption cases but also report how people react toward these cases. More people are telling stories about their own experiences of corruption, which has inspired others to do the same. Civil society organizations in some areas have tried to engage the public in the process of creating and monitoring local budgeting and involving themselves in budget allocation in order to prevent leakage of state-administered funds.

The above examples show that public demand for government transparency might be increasing, providing the government with a chance to change the culture within its institution. Governments, local and national, will be able to gain the public trust they so often say they crave if there is increased transparency, clean rather than “dirty” decisions and fair procedures in place in all areas of public service. Leaders will benefit from demonstrating consistency and openness in dealing with corruption cases in their midst.

Every instance of showing serious support for the process of democratization in Indonesia will eventually be beneficial for both government and the broader elite, so why are authorities making such a spectacle of high-profile cases on television? Corruption cases are becoming more and more like a reality show. How bizarre it must seem to outsiders when authorities allow a known member of the “legal mafia” to receive cosmetic treatments from a skin specialist while in jail. Cell bars are no hindrance to luxury.

What of other, bigger questions? When will the Bank Century case see resolution? Why is Gayus the only focus of attention? Why do authorities quickly turn their attention from one case to another? We should finish each case and then move on. Governments, elites and civil society all have a role to play in answering these questions.

But the burden on the government and the elites is disproportionately high: if they are not willing to support anticorruption measures seriously and systematically, democracy will not survive. Rotten, corrupt elites will only turn citizens into democratic “zombies” where they are allowed to voice their concerns but are not perceived as a vibrant constituency in the democratic process.

By accepting that large-scale corruption is inevitable, the government, other elites and civil society collude in creating an atmosphere that derides the benefits of democracy. People cannot be blamed for thinking that rampant corruption is winning the battle against democracy. It highlights that democracy has yet to deliver in relation to poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Although in its current fragile state it might not be clear whether democracy is the right device to increase the welfare of all of our citizens, it is worth a try — but not a half-hearted one.

Democracy needs a strong leader, not an authoritarian one. It needs strong institutions, not corrupt ones. It also needs its citizens to actively participate in demonstrations that have a purpose, resisting the pull into anarchy.

Passivity is not an option. Only if we implement democracy fully can we understand its real effects on our nation.

Rheizka Aulia is a research assistant at Strategic Asia, a Jakarta-based consultancy promoting cooperation among Asian countries.

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