When Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono formed a special taskforce to root out graft in the judiciary, many hoped a parliamentary commission tasked with overseeing legal matters would be a help, not a hindrance.
Indonesia’s 11 parliamentary commissions — each made up of around 50 lawmakers — are responsible for portfolios ranging from energy and finance to law enforcement and foreign affairs, and are often influential in government policy.
But criticism abounds that the commissions merely adds another layer of bureaucracy — and opportunity for graft — to a system already tangled in red tape and corruption.
“The main problem of corruption in Indonesia is within the political parties, so it is hard to have any hope the commissions will do something to address corruption — even if there are some individuals who want to try,” said Adnan Topan Husodo of Indonesia Corruption Watch.
A case in point is commission number 3, tasked with overseeing the legal system that Yudhoyono has vowed to clean up during his second term — reform seen as vital if Indonesia is to continue to attract the sort of investment that made it Southeast Asia’s most attractive investment destination last year.
The head of the commission, Benny Kabur Harman of Yudhoyono’s own Democrat Party, dismayed many when he said he thought the government should pare back wiretapping powers of the ant-graft watchdog, the KPK, a move likely to neutralise one of its most effective weapons.
Harman also caused a surprise by saying he preferred career judges — widely seen as tainted by the corrupt system in which they have worked so long — to non-career judges, usually academics who are seen as more independent and clean.
COMPETITION FOR COMMISSION PLACES IS FIERCE
Political parties work hard to get as many members as they can on each commission to help control policy, and competition for the post of chairman is fierce.
“In theory they can and are supposed to vigorously test proposed laws, but this is politics,” said Aleksius Jemadu, a political analyst at Pelita Harapan University, adding that politicians usually put their party before the public interest.