Is the Indonesian Constitutional Court corrupt?
This blog reflects on the arrest of Indonesia’s Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court for corruption and how the country deals with corruption issues in its government.
Last week on October 2, Akil Mochtar, Indonesia’s Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court was charged with corruption by the country’s special Corruption Eradication Commission (“KPK”).
The Constitutional Court in Indonesia has jurisdiction to review Indonesian laws enacted by parliament, dissolve political parties, resolve disputes between government institutions and resolve disputes concerning the results of public elections. In addition, the Constitutional Court has the jurisdiction to decide, at the request of the House of Representatives, on the dismissal of the President and/or Vice President.
The arrest of Akil Mochtar (the Chief Justice of Constitutional Court) came as a shock to the Indonesian people and the media. Like any other corruption allegations, they both immediately condemned him, issuing news reports about how he hit a journalist on his way out of the KPK building after being interrogated, how drugs were allegedly found in his office, and how he made a statement in 2012 that corruptors should be punished by cutting off their fingers.
The picture above was released by Jakarta Globe, an English language newspaper in Indonesia, depicting the finger-cutting punishment for Akil. Few people seem to think that he might not be guilty. The only positive news about his alleged corruption, is that “if he is not guilty, his reputation will be restored”, said Vice Chief Justice of the Court.
Although his wealth raises questions, Akil insists that he is not guilty. His version of the story is that two people came to his house, and were waiting for him in front of his house. When he went to see who the guests were, the KPK investigators were there along with these two guests. The investigators started searching the guests and found that they carried an exorbitant amount of money with them. However, no exchange had been made.
A couple of weeks before, an alleged corruptor was released following a ruling by the Supreme Court, and the general public claimed that this decision involved corruption. Numerous lawyers, judges, businessmen and politicians have been charged with corruption, even the Corruption Court judges are charged with corruption. Corruption is a very sensitive and intricate term in Indonesia. And as a result it has become very popular for statesmen to campaign on being “clean”
Indonesian people hate corruption and praise the KPK each time it makes an arrest, believing it to be another example of the institution’s success. Nowadays, corruption allegations almost automatically lead to persecution and the crime is treated much worse than any other. On top of that, once the allegation has been made, the alleged corruptor will have already been judged by the public. Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, it is the accused’s task to prove his innocence. The accused will be bombarded with any possible negativity the media can find. This is dangerous, because in this way, any allegation can result in a witch hunt. The KPK could point to anyone, and in the end it is someone’s life, image and/or career that is at stake.
One has to wonder how the KPK makes its decisions on who to investigate and which investigation result in being carried on for prosecution. It should also be noted that part of the KPK investigators came from the Indonesian National Police which, according to many, is one of the most corrupt government bodies in Indonesia, as confirmed by the 2013 Global Corruption Index from Transparency International.
This brings me to reflect on a statement by the late Prof. Achmad Ali of Universitas Hasanuddin who said that Indonesians like everything that is “clean” (free from corruption), without realising that their broom is dirty. I am not saying that the KPK is dirty. I sincerely hope that it is not, but I hope that the Indonesian people keep treading with caution, as the KPK has increasing power to influence the political arena in Indonesia by deciding who it will charge with corruption.
We will have to wait and see whether or not the Chief Justice is corrupt and what will be the consequences of this for the Constitutional Court. But in the meantime, I hope that the Indonesian people do not forget the importance of due process and value our Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “[e]veryone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty […]”.