Friday, January 1, 2010

List of some issues that will likely make Indonesia’s 2010 an interesting one

Bank Century Scandal

The collapse of a mid-sized bank might not make for the juiciest of scandals, but throw in hundreds of millions of dollars and suspicions of money flowing to the upper echelons of government and you have the makings of the scandal of the century.

The country should tune in as the House of Representatives kicks off the year by summoning Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati for questioning on Tuesday over the controversial bailout, and see whether lawmakers take their inquiry right seriously or not, without succumbing to vested political interests.

Several political analysts and commentators have already aired doubts over whether the House’s inquiry would amount to anything, and have said it was nothing more than a tool for political bargaining. Let’s see if they’re right.

Tifatul Sembiring

When President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appointed Tifatul Sembiring, chairman of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), as the new minister for communication and information technology, questions were raised regarding his capability and whether or not he would be able to perform his duty without being influenced by his religious beliefs. Less than a hundred days from taking office, Tifatul had already made headlines for a number of controversial moves and statements.

From saying natural disasters were caused by immorality to announcing that he would ban telecommunication businesses that have affiliations with Israeli companies, Tifatul has proven that he’s someone whose words and deeds are something to watch out for. For this year, he has promised to complete the implementing regulations for the controversial Antipornography Law. Sounds like the minister will stay in the headlines this year.

Shariah Law in Aceh

Aceh frequently made the news in the past year for its implementation of Shariah laws — unmarried couples were not allowed to sit next to each other, girls not wearing the jilbab properly were busted and harassed by the Shariah police, a bylaw banning skintight pants was issued in one district, and, perhaps the most controversial of all, the Aceh Legislative Council endorsed a bylaw mandating stoning to death for adulterers and lashings for unmarried persons caught engaging in sexual intercourse.

As the bylaw on skintight jeans goes into force this month, it will be interesting to see how people in Aceh will put up with what most of the rest of the world sees as backward steps.

Regional Elections

Scheduled for July, the regional elections have already become mired in controversy, with the government and House debating over whether to continue the polling for 244 districts, municipalities and gubernatorial offices.

Indonesians can expect to see more of this ahead, as elections are natural magnets for controversies and scandals. Bribery, electoral fraud, nasty campaigns and disputes from losers are but a few of the stories expected to come out of this year’s exercise of democratic freedom. With the General Election Commissions (KPU) having been massively criticized over its handling of 2009’s presidential and legislative elections, many eyes will certainly be watching how it carries out its work this year.


After a brutal year for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), with its former chief being tried for murder and two of its deputy commissioners having to fend off graft allegations, it will be interesting to see how the powerful body is going to bounce back this year.

Much work lies ahead. In 2009, the KPK received nearly 7,000 public complaints but only managed to investigate less than 70 cases. Chandra M Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto, the two deputy commissioners who bore the title of graft suspects for a few months, have pledged to continue their fight to eradicate corruption in Indonesia despite the challenges ahead.

Antasari Azhar

The former antigraft chief was undoubtedly one of the most talked about names in Indonesia in 2009.

Antasari was arrested and accused of being the mastermind behind the murder of Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, who was allegedly blackmailing him over a love triangle involving both men and former golf caddie Rani Juliani. Two other high-profile names were dragged into the case — former South Jakarta Police Chief Comr. Williardi Wizar and media mogul Sigid Haryo Wibisono. The courts have already found five men guilty of carrying out the gangland-style murder of Nasrudin. The country is now waiting to see whether the same fate will befall Antasari, Williardi and Sigid.

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