Corruption: elite’s abuse of power goes without deterring punishment

It goes without saying that power tends to corrupt. From benign to malignant power abuses all have been displayed in the Republic’s decades of independence. Physical atrocities such as politically related tortures and killings with impunity, activist kidnappings to “economic terrorism” in the forms of corruption, cronyism were all hallmarks of the New Order regime. Even with advent of Era of Reformasi after the toppling of strongman Suharto in 1998 the power abuse is obviously remaining and to some extent getting worse in some parameters.

Some observers have suggested that “economic terrorism” in the form of corruption is getting wilder and expanding in the reformation era. Both quantity and quality of corruption has increased in spite of the establishment of KPK or Corruption Eradication Committee. In the New Order era, it is suggested that corruption was centered around the executives/bureaucrats but nowadays this crime has widened and deepened into legislative and judicative bodies. Furthermore, with the establishment of decentralization in the government, officials in regional government levels also increasingly share the crime.

Many commentators have weighed in the opinion that KPK has failed to do its job in stemming the corruption by citing the never ending of new emerging cases. Specifically there are claims that prevention arm of KPK action is not showing any progress as hoped. While those claims worth addressing, they should not distract KPK from focusing on corruption investigation.

In the realms of crime deterrence, ones need to understand that severe punishment is an integral part. Severe punishment in the forms of  life imprisonment and capital punishment are consequently needed to give deterrence to potential criminals. It is widely accepted that corruption is an extraordinary crime with huge implication to people, so the punishment also should be extraordinary to severely diminish motivation to do it. Although the law or UU Tipikor opens the possibility of capital punishment, up to now not a single verdict has been delivered. We will wait whether Nazaruddin case will be the first example of capital punishment remembering that it may have involved huge amount of money, more than 6 trillions rupiah. This case also draws public attention and requires huge government energy which may fit the extraordinariness warranting severe punishment. In the mean time, let justice takes its course.

Corruption in large scale is only possible if done by elites. More often than not it also requires collaborations of many people (dubbed korupsi berjamaah in indonesian). Elites abuse their power in order to gain wealth for their selves or own groups. So it is highly demanding to punish the elites with the maximal penalties. What I mean elites here are the persons who are entrusted with political power to plan, execute, and evaluate policies and programs which may affect people life. Also including in this category is the law enforcement officials.

It goes without saying that corruption is a form of “economic terrorism” and it goes without saying that without severe punishment it will flourish as ever perhaps because it offers potential and huge rewards, in contrast to the light and dwarf punishment. If we continue to punish corrupt people lightly, then potential corrupt people may say: corruption is worth trying, you get huge sum of money easily by your power, if there is possibility of unluckiness of you getting  caught by the authorities, you will get  a few years in jail with possibility to get out occasionally in the weekends and to get regular remission. What a wonderful world is Indonesia for corrupt people.


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