The announcement of Siti Hartati Murdaya as a corruption suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission is a sad day for the business community and for the country.
Hartati has been named a suspect by antigraft investigators amid allegations that she ordered the payment of a Rp 2 billion ($212,000) bribe for Amran Batalipu, the head of Buol district in Central Sulawesi, in exchange for a palm oil plantation permit.
It cannot be denied that Hartarti is not the only business owner who has offered a bribe for a license to establish a business. Talk to any business owner who has had to deal with regional or local government leaders and chances are they will have a similar tale to tell.
Unfortunately, this is how the system works in this country and it urgently needs to be reformed. It is common practice for regional bureaucrats to demand such payments from business owners. Yes, some business owners are not angels, and some occasionally find ways to avoid the law. However, it is equally true that business owners are victims of the system and have no choice but to comply if they want their businesses to proceed.
Corruption is a cancer that is eating away the soul of this country. But unless the entire system is overhauled, we will not conquer it and innocents like Hartarti will be ensnared in its web.
We hope investigators will conduct a thorough probe into this matter and allow the Indonesian public to view all the facts. We call on the authorities to also ensure that the recipients of the alleged bribe are also brought to justice.
What Hartarti allegedly did is against the law, but she has also contributed enormously to social causes and helped underprivileged Indonesians through her generous charitable works. This should not be discounted in the investigation.