Minimarts are currently a popular target of armed robbery but the country’s biggest thieves are those who hide behind a politician’s mask.
Our beloved (and sadly, elected) politicians have time and again demonstrated how well they’ve mastered the art of stealing in all its diverse forms.
Before we highlight the bigger, eye-popping scandals, how about starting with a lesser sin usually perpetrated by high school or college students: plagiarism.
Top lawmaker Marwan Jafar from the National Awakening Party (PKB), who sits on House Commission I, which oversees international affairs, wanted to convey his thoughts about Libya’s energy situation post-Qaddafi with an opinion piece in Koran Tempo newspaper.
But Marwan seemingly borrowed someone else’s work without permission, an act known as plagiarism.
The original author, Jusman Dalle, believed that the piece was his, tailored slightly and claimed as Marwan’s. The politician, of course, denied that he lifted the piece. Instead, he blamed his staff for failing to cite the work properly.
But we all know that the notoriety of the Senayan bunch wasn’t created from stealing intellectual property. Material property, particularly money, is their game.
For example, take the recent testimony by Mindo Rosalina Manulang regarding the Southeast Asian Games scandal and her former boss Muhammad Nazaruddin.
Mirwan Amir, deputy chairman of the House Budget Committee; Mahyudin Husin, the head of House Commission X and lawmaker Angelina Sondakh have also been implicated in the scandal. Other politicians in the case include Democratic Party Chairman Anas Urbaningrum and sports minister Andi Mallarangeng.
And what’s more worrying is that these people are members of the ruling party. Does this mean that whichever party wins an election — even one running on a corruption-fighting platform like the Democrats — will eventually abuse its power?
Of course, the Democratic Party politicians are not the only sinners. In fact, we have strong reasons to believe that this whole money-sucking thing is an enforced culture. First, there’s the current controversy about the renovation of the House Budget Committee’s meeting room, which reportedly cost a staggering Rp 20 billion. The new meeting room includes pricey chairs from Germany that cost Rp 24 million each.
This is particularly ironic because there is a silent understanding among many that the Budget Committee is the place where illicit backdoor deals are made.
Just a friendly reminder, the money used for those chairs was taken from the people. We voted for these politicians to serve in the legislature so that they would fight for us, not sit on expensive chairs while indulging in the perks of power.
There’s also the Rp 1.3 billion budgeted for calendars that feature portraits of the House leadership to be spread around the DPR compound in Senayan. Wasteful is one thing, but narcissism is another and I’m not sure which one’s more worrying.
Even more hilarious is the defense made by Deputy Speaker of the House Priyo Budi Santoso, who responded to the criticism by turning the attack against other state institutions. Priyo said that the media should visit ministries and other arms of government to see if they’ve ordered their own narcissistic calendars.
This sort of logic — or illogic — is what makes Indonesia what it is today, a nation awash in corruption.
Too many politicians and public officials seem to have this idea planted firmly in their minds. Since so many others are stealing then it is okay for me to do the same. Politicians really are good at stealing things, our trust included.
Armando Siahaan is a reporter at the Jakarta Globe. Follow him on Twitter @jakartajourno or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.