Reshuffle will not lead to graft eradication

The protracted drama that preceded the Cabinet reshuffle has ended. Taking a close look at the Cabinet’s new picture, it is crystal clear that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono does not regard anticorruption as a priority despite his rhetoric.

That the President failed to prove his commitment to the war on graft was evident in his decision to keep Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar and Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng, two Cabinet members who are linked to high-profile corruption cases.

The Manpower and Transmigration Ministry is tangled in a graft scandal related to the funds for the regional infrastructure development acceleration program (PPID). Two senior officials in the ministry are on trial for allegedly receiving Rp 1.5 billion (US$175,000) in cash from Dharnawati, a businesswoman who was awarded a contract for a development project by the ministry. The money, Dharnawati said, was intended for the minister.

Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators arrested Dharnawati shortly after she delivered the money to Nyoman Suisanaya, who is the secretary-general for the development of transmigration, and Dadong Irbarelawan, head of the planning and evaluation department.

The Youth and Sports Ministry is rocked by a major bribery scandal related to the government development project for the Southeast Asian Games in Palembang and Jakarta. KPK has arrested four people in connection with the case, including former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin.

As the top leader in their respective ministry, Muhaimin and Mallarangeng have not, at least so far, been evidently connected to the scandals, yet the public’s distrust in them has mounted since the graft cases were disclosed. By keeping them in their current positions, the President seems to adopt a double standard when it comes to appointment of his aides.

It appears that for the head of state, the integrity of his ministers does not count. His decision to retain the two troubled ministers also set a bad precedent for the next Cabinet shake-up. The case of Muhaimin and Mallarangeng shows Cabinet members will remain safe as long as they hold a bargaining power.

The reshuffle was reduced to negotiations and political deals between the President and his coalition members, at least as far as Muhaimin, chairman of the National Awakening Party, and Mallarangeng, Yudhoyono’s deputy at the Democratic Party’s powerful board of patrons, are concerned.

The President’s failure to act against the two ministers has only unveiled a gap between his promise to fight corruption that he repeated at the inaugural speech of the new ministers and the reality.

“Whatever happens, we will make eradicating corruption our main agenda. It’s not fair that we work day and night to raise the people’s welfare while corruption is still there, taking away state money,” Yudhoyono said as quoted by The Jakarta Post on Oct. 20, 2011. On the other hand, the President’s order for tougher measures against entrenched corruption will fall on the deaf ears of law enforcers under his command due to discrepancy between his words and his actions.

The public has already seen the President’s orders proven ineffective. Yudhoyono had issued 12 Presidential Instruction (Inpres) concerning the handling of cases related to tax mafia practices centering on former junior taxman Gayus Tambunan, but no immediate action was taken by the law enforcement agencies to uproot the cases.

Yudhoyono’s decision to retain Muhaimin and Mallarangeng and to appoint new ministers from the coalition partners in the latest Cabinet face-lift was much anticipated.

Since the issue of Cabinet reshuffle heated up last September, many expressed belief that the reshuffle would be based on political bargaining. Anticorruption spirit was not in the five considerations that characterized the reshuffle, which the President said followed an assessment of the ministers’ performance.

After all, the new Cabinet lineup is the President’s prerogative. But it goes without saying that he should prove that his affirmation on combating corruption commitment is not simply a political makeover.

Farodlilah Muqoddam, The writer is a staff researcher at Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW).

Source: The  Jakarta Post, November 1, 2011


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