Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Middlemen and the Jakarta Bay Reclamation Scandal  

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  • Jakarta Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama with staff Sunny Tanuwidjaja during to be a witness in trial Mohamad Sanusi at Corruption Court, Jakarta, Sep. 5, 2016. TEMPO/Eko Siswono Toyudho

    Jakarta Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama with staff Sunny Tanuwidjaja during to be a witness in trial Mohamad Sanusi at Corruption Court, Jakarta, Sep. 5, 2016. TEMPO/Eko Siswono Toyudho

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - It is widely known that middlemen are usually more effective in gaining access to influence and power than the officials concerned.

    Sunny is a witness in the bribery case involving Agung Podomoro Land managing director Ariesman Widjaja and Jakarta City Council (DPRD) legislator Muhammad Sanusi. Ariesman allegedly paid Sanusi a bribe during a DPRD session over two proposed regulations on the reclamation issue.

    Sunny appears to be the link between Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) and the developers behind the reclamation, including Agung Sedayu Group owner Sugianto Kusuma, alias Aguan. A telephone call made by Sunny, which the KPK wiretapped, revealed Sunny's role as a middleman in the Ahok-developer-legislator triangle.

    The KPK says it has been difficult to arrest Sunny because he is not a state official. So far, the KPK has found no evidence confirming a formal role for him in the bureaucracy of the Jakarta administration, for example, a letter appointing him as a special staff or evidence of a salary being paid. Sunny frequently attended important meetings with the governor. For example, Ahok often asked him to meet with politicians. 

    When the reclamation bribery scandal came to light, Ahok clearly stated that Sunny held a position in the governor's office. Ahok referred to Sunny as a special staff, a trainee and a student who was doing research. Sunny claimed never to have received a salary from the Jakarta administration.

    But when he was questioned by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators, Sunny said he was the general manager of the Rajawali Group, owned by tycoon Peter Sondakh. This should have prompted the KPK to investigate whether Ahok benefited at all from the businesses, whether in the form of services provided by Sunny. The law clearly states that state officials are not allowed to receive payment from outside institutions or individuals in the form of money, goods or services.

    The question is whether special staffs are allowed to act as middlemen. Without formally joining the bureaucratic structure, middlemen are free to wander at will. This is what often happens: They peddle influence, drop officials' names, lobby left and right or sell inside information. They are inside the bureaucracy, but not inside the structure. Their function as gatekeepers controlling who meets with officials can be carried out unscrupulously by setting a visitor's 'fee'. Only those who pay can gain access to the official. 

    The KPK should not give up its investigation of these shadow staff. 

    Read the full story in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine