Writer : Gatot Goei and Christine Susanna Tjhin
Gatot Goei is an advocate and a former member of the Jakarta Legal Aid Body. Christine Susanna Tjhin is a researcher at CSIS Jakarta and a PhD candidate at Peking University, China.
Published by : The Jakarta Post, 17 Desember 2009.
The tapes and subsequent debates have depicted how “well-connected” Anggodo is to the legal system. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s laggard response to the whole saga and the National Police and District Attorney’s obvious anti-KPK crusade firmly and appropriately probed Anggodo’s six reported cases, but has also added to the prejudice that Chinese Indonesian businesspeople are all closely linked to power and are beyond legal reach.
Numerous other recent cases: Budi Sampoerna’s lawyer, Lukas, was tapped and suspected of paying the former police chief detective Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji in order to retrieve funds from Bank Century. Then there was the former owner of Bank Century, Robert Tantular’s alleged recording with the Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati.
Businessman Murdaya Poo was recently dismissed from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) for being too close to the Democratic Party and allegedly accepting money transferred from Bank Century.
His wife, Hartati Murdaya, is also facing allegations from an NGO, Bendera. The latter’s close link to the palace has further enhanced the biased impression that Chinese Indonesians are all about greed and power.
Immediately after the wiretapped conversations were played at the Constitutional Court, a radical Islamic group began chanting anti-Chinese slogans, which were luckily immediately stopped by members of another more moderate Islamic association.
There have been reports that anti-Chinese posters were found in parts of Jakarta and the Cipularang turnpike. Text messages threatening to hold another racial riot in early January were also reported.
The media plays a key role in this. Some national media has a tendency to flaunt bias headlines such as, “Yulianto has slanted eyes, is a nephew of a minister and has a well-built body”.
Several times, derogatory terms such as “Cina” came up (not by a slip of the tongue) during TV talk shows. Racial slurs have also been found in various Facebook groups related to antigraft, the KPK and Anggodo.
“One drop of indigo stains the whole cauldron of milk,” our proverb says. In reality, corrupt practices are not only committed by Chinese Indonesians. The whole bias is as lame as that old contemptible fallacy that alleges “2 percent of the population occupies 70 percent of the national economy”.
To deny there are some corrupt Chinese Indonesian businesspeople would be an ultimate hypocrisy, yet to brand all Chinese Indonesians as corrupt would be pure idiocy.
The purity of the anticorruption movement is already facing great challenges from political-riders, and now, racial prejudice is a looming threat that must not be allowed to alter our conviction for a better and cleaner Indonesia.
Racial prejudice risks altering the focus of our anticorruption agenda and splitting the movement, causing it to lose energy and momentum, and worse, allowing opportunists to maintain their grip on the fragility of our democratization.
People witness the cruelty of law more than the certainty of law. Minor thieves are beaten black and blue, while major thieves are untouched.
The public wonders why taking three pieces of cocoa was enough to put someone in jail, while taking billions of rupiah was not enough for others to even be trialed.
Pickpockets have been tortured in cells, yet owners of a certain company have not only evaded their responsibility to compensate thousands of people whose houses and lives were ruined by hot mud, but actually received ministerial jobs.
While the public continues to witness law distortions on the live news feed, it would be easy to direct frustrations to the usual scapegoat – in this case, Chinese Indonesians.
That the December 9 rally proceeded in a relatively peaceful manner is admirable and has become an important indicator of how Indonesian civil societies, despite our strengths and drawbacks, have matured. Hopefully we can continue to withstand the threat of racial prejudice.
The world is watching us. The longer that legal uncertainties persist, the more graft cases are politicized, the more racial insinuations flourish, the more we have to lose.
For example, China has promised Indonesia a quarter of the US$10 billion investment fund pledged to Southeast Asia for investment in infrastructure, which is crucial, not just for our economy.
Our government’s dubious antigraft commitment, domestic political instability and an anti-Chinese threat are already the three concerns raised by observers in China. Similar concerns may well be found elsewhere.
The anticorruption movement is far from over. The Century-gate is just the tip of the iceberg of the challenges we still face to make a better and cleaner Indonesia.
And we certainly do not want to get trapped in racial prejudice in the process.