Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rules Made to Be Broken

By Novar Caine

If I had to be a prisoner anywhere in the world, I’d opt for Bali, I said to my sister, as I relayed the latest prisoner shenanigans to an incredulous mind. Not only Bali, mind you, but anywhere in Indonesia.

We had the spectacle last year of am incarcerated taxman bribing his way out of detention for weekend jaunts in Bali and around Southeast Asia. He may even have gone as far as South America and back. The millions Gayus Tambunan stole from the state greased equally corrupt wheels and more than paved his way. And who’s to say that since he’s been sentenced to 10 years’ jail the same isn’t happening, now that the media spotlight has dimmed?

Elsewhere, convicts pay witless staff to pretend they’re them and serve their terms, and those that are behind bars, most usually for graft, turn their enclosures into grand hotel-like suites.

What a great charade.

In Bali, no stranger to these extraordinary machinations, a drug prisoner allegedly paid to get out of Bangli Prison at the weekend – for a drugs deal at the island’s main Sanglah Hospital after a booze-up at a Kuta nightclub, with the prison chief, who has been fired and is under investigation.

If that series of events seems shockingly abhorrent to you, it’s because it is. There appears to be little, if any, accountability, and whoever has cash gets his or her way, a tarnished existence that’s also traceable to the courts.

Australian media has for years been trying to confirm that Australians in Bali’s Kerobokan Prison enjoy the same liberties as their Indonesian counterparts. A TV crew turned up at this reporter’s office one day asking for an on-camera interview for thoughts on whether drug convict Schapelle Corby was getting out for nights on the town, as rumours had been saying. (They got their interview, but no confirmation.)

Just how President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono kept a straight face at an international corruption conference in Bali this week is anyone’s guess.

Our head of state told delegates that the foundation of his government was fighting corruption, though you’d be hard pressed to find much evidence of such an endeavour.

In hyperbolic fashion, the president told the meeting: “This gathering is truly a corrupter’s worst nightmare!” We all know these talk-shops are little more than that, and largely – though there are exceptions, such as climate change roadmaps (hah!) and people-smuggling agreements (huh?) – don’t devise instruments to tackle whatever it is they’re supposed to be battling. Were the many corrupters the length and breadth of the nation to be cowering in fear over a grouping of anti-graft officials gathered at a luxury resort?

Our Yudhoyono continued, however: “Thank you for taking part in this very important conference, to talk about combating bribery in international business transactions.” That’s nice – cordial – and, yes, just talk.

Officers from the country’s embattled Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) were in attendance, and one wondered what they made of the president’s words. Their former chief is in jail for murder and two top officials are in a see-sawing corruption-scenario fracas, with some saying the powerful vested interests in Indonesia want the organisation severely weakened so they won’t come under scrutiny for their (alleged) nefarious activities.

The public is sick of all this carry-on, but what can people do? The electorate voted in Yudhoyono – twice – because he told them his priority was eradicating corruption, the biggest problem this country is mired in. It’s worse even than terrorism, because it leads to untold deaths due to stolen funds that were destined to feed impoverished mouths, educate and build up our crumbling infrastructure so that Indonesia could, finally, start to advance along a par with its wealthy neighbours.

But no, the good of the nation is continually usurped by a collective of officials who put their own needs first and have not a care for the reputation of the country.

If our leaders want to do more than talk, they could start with real fundamentals in battling corruption. They could begin with paying state workers a salary they can actually live on. It’s possible to believe the Bangli Prison chief felt uneasy about allegedly accepting a bribe to let a prisoner out; but it’s understandable if he was in desperate need of cash because pocket-money wages just don’t put food on the table.

Filed under: At Large

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