Indonesian President Declares ‘Jihad’ on Corruption

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday night sought to regain the high ground in Indonesia’s drive to wipe out corruption, terming it a “jihad” and vowing to lead from the front. But those involved in corruption and their supporters will strike back, Yudhoyono warned in a nationally televised speech ahead of today’s International Anti-Corruption Day, which will see street rallies around the nation. The president’s speech came amid mounting criticism that he was faltering in his determination to tackle corruption, especially following his reluctance to deal quickly with drawn-out graft scandals involving law-enforcement agencies, members of his government and allegedly his own political party. “I will lead the jihad against corruption,” Yudhoyono said. “Corruption has now become a common enemy.” He added that groups that had benefited from a past environment tolerant of corruption “will certainly not stay idle and they will use whatever means to halt our efforts.” Anticorruption rallies will be allowed to proceed today, he said, but they should be orderly and peaceful. Yudhoyono, meanwhile, will leave for Bali to attend a conference. Yudhoyono on Sunday claimed he had information that today’s planned protests would include efforts to undermine his presidency. Security officials have pointed to a recent meeting at a hotel allegedly involving activists, public leaders and politicians. Activists have denied the claims. “We believe that the government has made wrong assumptions based on false information,” said Usman Hamid, of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras). “Police showed us the minutes of the meeting, which were completely different from the actual discussion. We were just planning the rally and establishing the short- and long-term goals for the fight against corruption.” Fadjroel Rachman, of the Anti-Corruption Civil Society Coalition (Kompak), said the president’s suspicions may have inspired some groups to take over the rallies to push their own political agendas. “That is why last Friday we submitted details of our plans and registered the members of those organizations [taking part] in the rally. This is to avoid the presence of illegal protesters and organizations,” Fadjroel said. Reacting to the president’s speech on Tuesday, he said Yudhoyono had little reason to boast about the country’s progress against corruption, as reflected in a slight increase in the country’s corruption perception index, from 2.6 last year to 2.8 this year, according to Transparency International. Improving 0.2 points is insignificant, and we are far behind Thailand, Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia,” he said. In his speech, Yudhoyono also seemed to voice support for the harried Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). “A strong and capable KPK is still very much needed. Therefore I approve of wiretapping by the authorities but it should also be appropriately and properly regulated,” he said. In a move widely criticized by activists as designed to weaken the KPK, Communications and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring is pushing for a law that would regulate the body’s wiretapping powers.

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