Indonesia: Dozens of prisoners convicted of corruption given early parole

Rich and powerful corrupt politicians.

Ratu Atut Chosiyah, Desi Aryani, Prosecutor Pinangki Sirna Malasari, Mirawati Basri, Syahrul Raja Sempurnajaya, Judge Setyabudi Tejocahyono, Sugiharto, Andri Tristianto, Danis Hatmaji, Judge Patrialis Akbar.

Edy Nasution, Irvan Rivano, Ojang Suhandi, Cepy Septhiady, Zumi Zola, Andi Taufan, Arif Budiraharja, Supendi, Suryadharma Ali, Chaeri Wardana, Anang Sugiana Sudihardjo, Amir Mirza.

Prisoners given parole.

The dozens of names above are rich and powerful white-collar criminals convicted of corruption who received parole from the Indonesian government in early September. The majority of them are politicians who served as council members in the regional and central government. Some of them are even former governors and mayors.

When news broke of their parole, it immediately became a hot topic among ordinary Indonesians, including the poor who are often not interested in politics because they are struggling to earn a living.  However, this time round, there was a lot of anger as the public did not believe the criminals deserved to be released from prison and that the government is playing favoritism.

The government stated that the entire parole process was legal and above board.  Yasonna Laoly, minister of law and human rights, said the decision was made following all relevant rules and regulations, and confirmed by the Supreme Court.  In general, a prisoner is entitled to parole after serving two-thirds of the sentence.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) conducts a press conference.

Nonetheless, Suharto, a blue-collar worker from an industrial area in Sidoarjo, told Maritime Fairtrade he did not accept the government’s decision as he found it unfair.

“The paroled prisoners were arrested only around 2018.  How come in 2022, they were allowed out of the prison?  It seems to me the government is saying corruption is a minor crime.  I’ve read in the news that chicken thieves were sentenced to longer prison terms,” said Suharto.

“These corruption perpetrators stole public money, money which could be used to help the poor and impoverished.  How could the punishment be so light?  I believe while in prison, they enjoyed special privileges too.”

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) conducts a press conference.

Muhammad Ridwan, a university student from a poor family is lucky to get a scholarship to pay for his education, but he is angry at the government.  He believed some of these corrupt politicians, who are top figures in political parties, will run again in elections come 2024 as the new election law allows them to do so.

“The new law is in their favor.  They are shameless, right?  In fact, they embezzled money from education program, development projects and financial aid for the poor, from funds which were meant to help the poor,” said an annoyed Ridwan. 

“Many of my friends in my village were qualified to go to college but they cannot because they are poor and have no money to pay for school.  Of course, they can apply for scholarships but the money was taken by the rotten politicians.  Now, they are given parole and are ready to re-enter politics.  Disgusting!”

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) conducts a press conference.

Maradona, deputy dean, Faculty of Law, Universitas Airlangga (UNAIR) Surabaya, told Maritime Fairtrade giving early parole to convicted politicians, which is very common, is a big problem for the judiciary.  In the past, the number of paroles granted was not high but recently, many corrupt politicians were given parole.

“The applications for parole are heard by judges at the Supreme Court. Corrupt politicians stole from the state budget meant for the welfare of the poor.  I hope the judges can review each application objectively, neutrally, and fairly based on its own merits,” said Maradona.

“The Supreme Court must continue to reform to cut down on bureaucracy and make sure their considered judgements do not hurt the poor.  Importantly, it must be noted that at the various levels of the judiciary, there are still judges being arrested for corruption and for accepting bribes.  The judiciary, it goes without saying, should be ethical and transparent. If judges are tainted by corruption, where else can the public go for justice?”

Corruption suspect arrested.

Top photo credit: iStock/ gorodenkoff

All other photos credit: Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)

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