If law enforcers would go after high-level corruption the same way they handled the kid who stole a pair of sandals from a police officer, just imagine how clean this country would be.
The case referred to is the now-notorious arrest of a 15-year-old kid identified as A.A.L., who was taken to court for stealing a pair of sandals from a policeman. He was found guilty by the court, but following mounting public criticism, was not sentenced to any jail time.
This controversial case revealed layers of things that are wrong with this country.
The first is how public officials, such as the police, have this “I am someone important therefore I do as I may” mentality.
The best example was First Brigadier Ahmad Rusdi, the policeman who not only took A.A.L. to court, but also illegally assaulted the kid following the petty theft.
Just because Rusdi is a member of the men-in-brown, it doesn’t mean that he has the right to break the law and beat the kid.
In fact, by doing so Rusdi actually revealed himself to be more criminally wrong because he has officially taken an oath to uphold the law and as well as to serve and protect the citizens. What he did was the opposite.
The case is so wrong, especially considering that A.A.L. is still a minor, because it highlights how draconian Indonesia can be when it comes to petty crimes involving youths. A boy in Bali was recently convicted of stealing a purse containing Rp 1,000 (11 cents). A few years ago, a group of several shoeshine boys were arrested at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport for playing a coin toss game, which was considered a form of gambling by the police.
The same goes for Deli Suhandi, a 14-year-old boy who was put on trial for allegedly stealing a Rp 10,000 phone card that he found lying in the street. He faced a possible seven-year prison term, about the same amount of time that ex-taxman and mega-corruptor Gayus Tambunan received for his sins.
In every case, these children were found guilty, but, like A.A.L., at least they were not given prison sentences.
Of course, narrowly argued from a legal perspective, what these kids did may have been wrong and thus punishable.
But surely there is a remedy short of taking them to court. Being found guilty could result in these youngsters being stigmatized as criminals and face possible psychological damage that could harm their future.
Sadly, the sandal scandal is just another example of the pervasive irony in our legal system. It’s easy to nab young wrongdoers, but mission impossible to catch the really big fish.
Remember Minah, the 55-year-old grandmother who was found guilty in 2009 of stealing three cacao pods?
Compare that to the Bank Indonesia deputy governor bribery scandal. Dozens of lawmakers have been convicted for receiving bribes during the 2004 selection process of Miranda Goeltom as central bank deputy governor.
But they just got the money, what about the giver? Until now, law enforcement has been unable to name who gave the money and for what purpose. Why? Is it because they are afraid of touching the untouchables?
The Muhammad Nazaruddin saga is another example. The embattled Democratic Party politician has repeatedly mentioned other big-name politicians involved in his ultra-expensive corruption case, including Democratic Party Chairman Anas Urbaningrum. Yet, law enforcers are downplaying his allegations.
Or recall that tax embezzler Gayus revealed that he helped three companies affiliated with the powerful Bakrie interests evade taxes,
Whatever happened to those cases? Perhaps they ran away in a pair of stolen sandals.
Armando Siahaan is a reporter at the Jakarta Globe. Follow him on Twitter @jakartajourno or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.