‘If the people wills it’: President Jokowi open to death penalty for corrupt officials

Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photo: Twitter/@jokowi
Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photo: Twitter/@jokowi

Faith in President Joko Widodo to combat endemic levels of corruption in Indonesia has waned in recent months, particularly after he was perceived to have sat idly by as a hugely controversial bill that arguably weakened the powers of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) was passed.

Related: Controversial KPK law takes effect today, students plan protest in Jakarta

But the president’s latest statement on corruption may appease those fed up with corruption in the country, even if some could see it as a cause for alarm in terms of human rights abuse.

To mark International Anti-Corruption Day yesterday, President Joko Widodo visited SMKN 57 high school in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta where his ministers, which included SOEs Minister Erick Thohir, Education Minister Nadiem Makarim and Tourism Minister Wishnutama Kusubandio, put on a play that promoted the virtues of honesty and an anti-corruption drive for the students.

The day then took on a more serious tone when, during a discussion session with President Jokowi, a student asked him if Indonesia would ever introduce the death penalty for convicted corrupt officials.

“If the people wills it,” President Jokowi replied, as quoted by Liputan 6.

“[Death penalty as a punishment] could be proposed in a draft for corruption crimes. But, again, it depends on the members of legislative (branch).”

Jokowi noted that under existing laws, death penalty can be given to those convicted of stealing money from disaster relief funds.

Capital punishment still very much exists in Indonesia, as death penalty remains the maximum punishment for crimes such as premeditated murder and drug trafficking. Indonesia has particularly been criticized on the international stage for executing drug traffickers — most of whom were foreigners — in recent years.

By comparison, punishment for corruption is relatively more lenient. Former House Speaker Setya Novanto, who was found guilty in one of the country’s biggest corruption scandals which resulted in US$170 million disappearing from state coffers, was sentenced to only 15 years in prison. The heaviest ever sentence for corruption in Indonesia was life imprisonment for former Constitutional Court Chief Justice Akil Mochtar, who was found guilty of accepting bribes to issue favorable verdicts in local election disputes.

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