Mahfud MD: “Many state practices suffer from oligarchy”

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Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud M.D. (Photo: Rayi Gigih/IO)

IO – Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud M. D. has complained that corruption practices nowadays are actually imposed over a democratic process. A path towards corruption is frequently opened through the forces of formal democracy. Corruption is legalized by the fact that many regulations created by stakeholders facilitate it. “For example, if you want to build a loophole for wrongdoing, you just need to submit the draft law through the House of Representatives (DPR). The factions will debate and fight with each other: “I want that article put in!” “Well, I want this article in!” “If you want to put this in, let me put that in!” And that’s how corruption is built through democracy,” he said in a virtual discussion themed “A Reflection of 75 Years of Indonesian Culture” held in Jakarta on Tuesday (11/08/2020). 

Mahfud finds this ironic, as one of the purposes of the 1998 Reforms was to eliminate the corruption practices we inherited from the New Order regime, but instead it has worsened. The difference is that corruption the New Order was centralized, while today it has spread out even to village level. “We are building democracy, but corruption has increased. Have corruption levels decreased from those of the New Order? No. Corruption has increased, and it is now built through democracy. Back in the New Order era, corruption was built through authoritarianism. Power was centralized, and those in power set up their own corruption levels. Nowadays, because of democracy, because of liberty, everyone performs their own corruption using various ways,” he said. 

Mahfud states that our culture has indeed improved since the 1998 Reforms. For example, democracy itself is now present in our country. Democracy has given birth to many liberties in society. However, a cultural change that eliminates corruption did not occur at all. In fact, “Corruption seems to stick fast in Indonesian blood. Indonesians are actually hypocrites. So we fight corruption, but we seek out chances to go corrupt at the same time; isn’t that hypocritical? Can our culture advance or not, really? On paper, we’re doing good. In fact, we implement reforms by including stipulations for human progress in our new laws, we create new agencies, but corruption practices continue,” he said. 

Mahfud further highlights the fact that Indonesia’s democracy is currently within the grip of oligarchs. Consequently, there are many policies that are issued with a corrupt intent, thanks to its spirit of mere procedural democracy. Democratic practice in Indonesia only occurred properly in the first leadership period. “After that, the philosophy behind our national administrative practices becomes oligarchic. Corrupt policies appear because decisions are made based on oligarchic, not democratic interest,” he said. 

Mahfud believes that any law generated by the State can change the people’s behavior for the better…with the provision that it is enforced properly, under the people’s control. He further hopes that the people do not become apathetic and accept the label of being “corrupt and lazy” as a nation. “If the politics are democratic and the people’s control is strong, the laws will automatically respond. We can change it through our collective awareness – we can make law into a tool that changes our behavior,” he said. 

Mahfud reminds us all that the national concept of our founding fathers is the acceptance of diversity. Our national identity is not based on any of our many different tribes, races, languages, or religious beliefs. Our identity is actually based on the uniformity of our beliefs, of the idea to become independent and eliminate colonization. “Diversity is a human reality throughout history. Therefore, it is impossible for us to deny diversity, especially religious diversity. I have frequently said in many places that it is precisely because God makes it so that people are different, because God is All Powerful and All Knowing. If He should wish it, He can simply create us into a single type, whether race or religion. IF God wills it. However, it is God that creates differences among us. Let us not fight diversity, let us not attack differences – let us embrace each other as we are instead,” he said. (dan)