Thursday, April 17, 2014

An Indonesian Perspective on Aussie Genie in a bottle

Ridiculous,” or “It would never happen here,” would be the reaction of many Indonesians, if not most, when they read Reuters’ report about the decision of the premier of Australia’s New South Wales state, Barry O’Farrell, to resign from his position on Wednesday after he was found to have lied about accepting a A$3,000 (US$2,800) bottle of wine as a gift.

O’Farrell received a bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange from power broker, businessman and lawyer Nick di Girolamo.

“As someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequences of my actions,” said O’Farrell, who was elected to the position in March 2011.

We Indonesians will feel strange about the news wire’s analysis that the O’Farrell scandal was an embarrassment for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who praised his colleague’s announcement, and described it as a sign of integrity. “We are seeing an act of integrity, an act of honor, the like of which we have rarely seen in Australian politics,” said Abbott.

Top government officials in Indonesia would not likely feel embarrassed when a colleague or subordinate becomes embroiled in such a scandal or when they steal billions of rupiah from the state.

For Indonesians, the O’Farrell case merely concerns a bottle of wine. Why should it spark public uproar?

It is true that O’Farrell lied, but in Indonesia this is commonplace despite public officials swearing on a holy book to uphold honesty and integrity upon their inauguration.

But it is as if Indonesian officials are not required to keep integrity intact in carrying out their state duties. Just look at the “innocent” faces of graft suspects at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) office.

It is true that is unfair to compare Indonesia with Australia. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Australia ranks ninth and Indonesia 114th out of 175 countries surveyed.

But it should not be an excuse for us to tolerate officials who tell lies.

The scandal Down Under is not just about accepting a bottle of wine. It is about the values of honesty and

O’Farrell had no choice but to resign, or else he would have faced the wrath of the Australian public, including the media, who do not want to be led by a person who has lost credibility.

Can we learn from Australia, this time around at least?

Jakarta Post Editorial

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