Sunday, October 13, 2013

In Indonesia - Another day of a dynasty

The word “dynasty” reminds us of that 1980s eight-year-long TV series The Dynasty, which centered on oil tycoon Blake Carrington, played by John Forsythe, and the scandals within the businessman’s family amid stiff rivalry in the black gold industry.

“Dynasty” is now a popular word with the Indonesian media, thanks to Banten Governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah.

The first female governor ever in the country, Atut slowly but surely built her own political dynasty in the province. Her extended family is a living example of how a dynasty can gain and preserve power in the province and even beyond, unfortunately thanks to democracy and regional autonomy.

Atut’s brother Tubagus Haerul Jaman is the mayor of Serang municipality, her sister Ratu Tatu Chasanah is the deputy regent of Serang, her stepmother Heryani is Pandeglang deputy regent, her sister-in-law Airin Rachmi Diany is the South Tangerang mayor, her son Andika Hazrumy is a Regional Representatives Council (DPD) member from Banten and her daughter-in-law Adde Rosi Khoerunnisa (Andika’s wife) is deputy speaker of Serang legislative council. Her husband, Hikmat Tomet, is a House of Representatives (DPR) lawmaker from the Golkar Party.

Make no mistake. All secured their posts through a democratic and legitimate process. In fact, Atut was reelected in 2011 with full support from major parties, including Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

But ever since the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested Atut’s brother Tubagus Chaeri Wardhana, who is also Airin’s husband, speculation is rife that the powerful dynasty is about to topple downhill.

The KPK arrested Chaeri, better known as Wawan, last week for allegedly paying Rp 1 billion (US$91,000) in bribes to then Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar to rule in favor of Lebak deputy regent Amir Hamzah in a dispute over the result of the Lebak election.

During a raid on Wawan’s house on Jl. Denpasar Raya up-market residential area in South Jakarta, the public was flabbergasted with the sight of his collection of luxury cars that fill his 240 square meter garage.

The KPK moved quickly, slapping a travel ban on Atut, who was preparing to undertake the haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Atut complied with the KPK summons for questioning as a witness in connection with the bribery case, and on Friday KPK spokesman Johan Budi said investigators required Atut’s testimony in relation to another suspect in the graft case, Susi Tur Andayani.

Before the arrest of her brother, Atut has been implicated in several graft cases.

Quoting the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), political watchdog Untirta Movement Community (UMS) said the governor was held responsible for provincial budget irregularities amounting to nearly Rp 1 trillion between 2007 and 2010. The governor was also reported to the KPK in 2011 for allegedly misusing social funds from the 2011 Regional Budget.

Meanwhile, the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) reported that Atut was allegedly involved in 175 purchasing projects from the Public Works Ministry worth Rp 1.148 trillion in Banten.

But Atut, who is also Golkar’s treasurer, received the much-needed backup from party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, who denied allegations that the party had helped Atut build her political dynasty in Banten.

“They were elected and took office based on existing regulations,” Aburizal said recently, He added that Atut and her family won Golkar’s nomination through the proper procedures. “Golkar always takes into account peoples’ preferences through surveys.”

Nothing is wrong with building a political dynasty. We know the Kennedy clan in the United States and more prominently among Indonesian people, the dynasty of Sukarno, our founding president, and the Soeharto

Sukarno’s daughter, Megawati Soekarnoputri, was Indonesia’s first female president serving between July 2001 and October 2004. She remains the chairwoman of the PDI-P. Her late husband Taufiq Kiemas was speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly, while her daughter Puan Maharani leads the party’s faction at the House, and her younger brother Guruh Soekarnoputra and her niece Puti Pramathana Puspa Seruni Paundrianagari are also House lawmakers.

Soeharto built a dynasty that, during his heyday, controlled business sectors. All his children developed their own business empires, which exist until today, albeit quietly. Soeharto also let his relatives and cronies profit from economic development and political stability during his 32-year rule.

Soeharto was charged with corruption following his resignation in 1998, but the state prosecutors had never been able to present him in court until he died in 2008.

Just like a farmer who stores his harvest in the barn, the dynasties of Soeharto and Atut look to have much in common. They have grown in power and wealth, without anyone daring to question how. There is no law banning dynasty’s from running businesses or contesting public posts, but the case of Soeharto clearly shows the vulnerability of government policies to conflict of interests: the polices were made in favor of his family and cronies.

If a dynasty like the Atut clan and other political dynasties in many regions are present despite reform more than 15 years ago, something must be wrong with our system.

My biggest concern is that a political dynasty here is not something that has been well planned and groomed. We rarely see the younger generation from a clan showing interest in politics until members of their family take office. This kind of opportunism neither supports democracy nor benefits the public.

Indeed, the short-term solution will rest with the KPK. The antigraft commission should take the momentum from last week’s arrests to open Pandora’s box of regional budget irregularities in Banten. Of course the public does not want to wait for eight years to watch how this dynasty’s tale ends.

The writer is managing editor of The Jakarta Post.


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