Sat, 23 Aug 2003

Crime pays a bundle, while corruption rules govt: LIPI

Margaret Agusta, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

In Indonesia, crime pays and it pays enormously well, a socio- political researcher said at the seminar on "Culture as Inspiration for an Enlightened Indonesia from the Viewpoint of Economics and Politics" presented by Executive magazine and the Gugus Nusantara Movement, here on Thursday.

Mochtar Pabotinggi, a respected researcher at the National Institute of Sciences (LIPI), told the seminar at Hotel Aryaduta that corruption has been increasing steadily at all levels of government. This was due to the failure of reform measures, a deficit of moral leadership, a weakening legal structure, and the lack of public pressure for an accountable government, he elaborated.

"It is a public secret just how rich our representatives in office are becoming," Mochtar told the audience of businessmen, intellectuals, political activists and educators.

"In this era of negative political transition -- over the past three years -- not only are members of our legislature getting exponentially richer, but also our members of the executive and judicial segments of government, at both national and provincial levels.

In this situation in which impunity reigns. We are experiencing political, economic, legal, and leadership bankruptcy," he continued.

"In such a situation, crime does pay and it pays enormously. The mind-set of impunity has led to the criminal abuse of authority, that shows no sense of shame, making the continuum of ethics, rationality and accountability impossible to implement."

Leon Agusta, an intellectual, who presented a paper on the role of culture in reformation, told the gathering that without an educated, well-informed public, Indonesia could never hope to hold its leadership accountable.

Only a public that fully exercises its right to "know," and its responsibility to hold its leadership and bureaucracy accountable, would make reformation a reality, she explained.

"Even though we are now 58 years independent, with the kind of leadership we have at this time, our existence as a nation-state seems insubstantial. We do not yet have a well-informed society that can exert control over its own government," Leon said.

Both speakers agreed that there could be no immediate solution to the crisis of ethics now facing Indonesia, but said education was the key to the creation of a stronger ethical foundation on which to build a more responsible society.

Another speaker at the seminar, Revrisond Baswir, a professor of economics at the University of Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, suggested that increasing the incomes of civil servants could reduce corruption.