Coming To The Boil
When I got home today, 'Er Indoors greeted me with the news that Bagir has been suspended.
Who, you cry? And why has Jakartass started today's post with such an uninteresting sentence?
Actually, if this is true (and I have yet to see this confirmed by local media) this could well be an event of cataclysmic importance in the burgeoning democracy of Indonesia.
In brief, Bagir Manan, 64, is the country's Chief Justice. In April 2003, ex-dictator Suharto's half brother, Probosutedjo, now 75, was sentenced to four years imprisonment for embezzlement of reforestation funds, which cost the state some Rp.100 billion in losses. Naturally, given the status of the convicted man, the case has gone to appeal.
Where this all gets interesting is that Harini R. Wiyoso, one of his lawyers, has admitted that she gave US$500,000 to Supreme Court staff to pass on to Bagir, and another $100,000 for other officials and judges
. Naturally, he has denied knowledge of this
."This is 100 percent slander against me as chief justice because I don't know, and have nothing to do with, this bribery case," he said.
Bagir said for the time being he would not step down from his position as suggested by a number of parties, including the Judicial Commission."I have no reason to step down. I am innocent. I have nothing to do with bribery," he said.
Maybe he doesn't, even though any favourite son of Golkar, Suharto's political power grouping is automatically suspect in the eyes of those seeking to root out KKN ~ Korruption, Kronyisme and Nepotisme. Bagir was nominated for his position in 2001 by Golkar, then under the control of since discredited Akbar Tanjung
Bagir's declared wealth is not unseemly for someone of his age.According to an audit report by Supreme Audit Agency in April 2003, Bagir has personal wealth of Rp.678 million (US$68,000) that consisted of 1,490 square meter of lands in Bandung and Sumedang (both in West Java province), a house worth Rp.246 million, four cars and prescious stones Rp.361 million, and bank deposit of Rp.71 million.
With a take home pay of Rp.20 million (US$2,000) per month, it should be relatively easy to conduct a new audit.
Yesterday, SBY said no person involved in corruption or any sort of crime, including court crime, was untouchable by the law.
One aspect overlooked by the media is that this could well be a sting operation by the Suharto clan because there have been an increasing number of bureaucrats and businessmen caught up in investigations by the Corruption Eradication Commission, with Probosutedjo one of the most prominent.
However, it is clear that Bagir should step aside for a while, especially if he is to win back public trust.
And if he really is innocent, then the cancerous boil of corruption may well be lanced.
(For much background information, I am indebted to Yosef Ardi, formerly managing editor of Bisnis Indonesia, who is currently a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley. He maintains a blog, Indonesia Today.)