Tommy Suharto says corruption has become worse in Indonesia since it became a democracy

Tommy Suharto. AFP FILE PHOTO
Tommy Suharto. AFP FILE PHOTO

Last week was the registration deadline for candidates seeking to compete for seats in Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR) and one of the most surprising contenders to announce their candidacy was Hutomo Mandala Putra, better known as Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of the dictator Suharto, the chairman of the Berkarya Party and a convicted murderer.

Besides the controversy over his murder conviction (which, as it turns out, doesn’t disqualify one from running for office in Indonesia), many wondered what Tommy could offer in terms of a political vision for Indonesia and East Papua (the region he is vying to represent in the DPR).

That vision became clearer over the weekend when Tommy, who was convicted in 2002 for ordering the assassination of a judge who had found him guilty of corruption, said that corruption had actually become much worse in Indonesia since the age of Reformasi after his father (who is, by the way, ranked 1st on Forbes’ list of the most corrupt leaders of all time) was removed from power.

Reformasi promised to get rid of KKN (corruption, collusion and nepotism), but in reality it has become worse. Foreign debt is getting bigger while foreign investors are being pampered,” Tommy said to reporters in Bogor on Sunday as quoted by Detik.

The son of Suharto also said that the presence of more foreign workers was making it harder for Indonesians to find work (an argument that’s simply not supported by data) and that the country suffered from a lack of food self-sufficiency. He promised that he and his party could change Indonesia for the betterment of average Indonesians.

Naturally, Tommy’s assertion that KKN is somehow worse now than during the notoriously corrupt dictatorship of his father, who is estimated to have embezzled some US$35 billion in state funds and given his family members (including Tommy) highly lucrative monopolies on state industries, did not sit well with many people.

“Regarding the problem of dependence on foreign parties, Mas Tommy should read up on history. Who started the [problem of] foreign debt? Was not the IGGI (Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia) during the era of Soeharto? What institution is that? Learn your history,” said Golkar Executive Board Chief Ace Hasan Syadzily yesterday.

Inas Nasrullah Zubir, the head of the Hanura Party’s executive board, was even more blunt.

“Tommy is very familiar with KKN because in the Soeharto era he was directly involved, right?” he told Detik yesterday.

There is no question that with independent institutions such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) given extraordinary power to take down corrupt officials, corruption in Indonesia is far less pervasive now than it was under Soeharto’s reign.

But that is, of course, not to say that corruption has been eradicated in Indonesia. Far from it. The KPK’s raid of Sukamiskin prison in Bogor on Saturday, for example, showed that corruption convicts can still purchase the good life even after they’ve been found guilty of stealing the people’s money.

In another terrible example of corruption that still exists within the Indonesian legal system, a prisoner who had been sentenced to serve 15 years for ordering the assassination of a judge in 2002 only ended up serving 4 years of that sentence (while also allegedly being able to come and go from prison as he pleased with a private helicopter). As if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s been allowed to run as a legislative candidate in the 2019 elections…

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