He must have had excellent leadership skills for him to have been granted a top position within the party. Now that he has been declared a suspect in a bribery case involving imported meat, the most logical conclusion is that he is also good at destroying the reputation of his own party.
It is a common practice among Indonesian political parties that whenever their leaders are named suspects in corruption cases, they rush to develop a counter-narrative in order to rescue the image of their parties. In the lead up to the 2014 elections, the easiest thing to do is tell the public that the corruption allegation is part of a political game or, if that is not enough, the political parties will point the finger at a transnational conspiracy. Indonesian politicians do all these at ease, as if the public is stupid enough to believe their story.
The dominant narrative of Indonesian democracy over more than a decade since Suharto’s fall has been centered upon the indispensability of political parties, regardless of the fact that they comprise the institution that is most productive in generating hypocritical corruptors.
French philosopher Michel Foucault, in his book titled “Discipline and Punish,” warns readers against any political narrative or establishment that seems like its conditions are normal or natural. There is always a need, he says, to deconstruct “the history of the present.”
No one can reject the dogmatized procedure that people can only become members of parliament if they are nominated by political parties. Not only do the political parties have the monopoly of authority to nominate legislative members, they also have the privilege of determining who is eligible for various executive positions. This is why controlling a big political party is not only about power and prestige but also access to lucrative businesses.
From a series of past corruption cases we have discovered that the likelihood of corruption is high when a political party can secure the operation of a conspiratorial triangle comprising a relevant commission at the parliament, a ministerial cabinet position and a private business network.
The division of labor is clear. Members of parliament have the task of persuading or pressurizing the executive power into doing something that will benefit certain business clients. The minister who issues permits and distributes quotas will try to appear objective and transparent but at the same time send a message to his subordinates that certain private companies should get priority. Otherwise, their promotion could be jeopardized.
Things would be much easier if all the actors in that triangle come from the same political party. Not only would it be easier to do the business, but the distribution of the profit would not lead to quarrels. Allegations of suspicious bank accounts held by some members of parliament may have links to this type of corruption.
All over the world, corruptors can be divided into two categories. The first is those who come to their senses and humbly acknowledge their wrongdoings. If they make a public confession and ask for forgiveness, people will sympathize with them because at least they still have some self-respect and the courage to submit to the justice system.
The second category is those who are dishonest, arrogant and self-righteous. They will do whatever is needed to protect their personal pride. Asking for forgiveness does not come easy to them, if at all, but scapegoating comes easy.
A massive outpouring of cynical comments ridiculing the former party president and his party is understandable. Unfortunately, instead of expressing a much-awaited intention to introspect, the party’s leaders continue to blame others.
A public official being implicated in a corruption case is bad enough. But trying to deny it by demonizing other people is worse. With political leaders like this, do we still have hope for the nation? By Aleksius Jemadu professor teaching political science at the School of Government and Global Affairs at Universitas Pelita Harapan, Karawaci.