Happy New Year 2012!

someecards.com - This year let's resolve to make better bad decisions

What are the things to look forward to? Foreign Policy curated twenty elections that could change the world in 2012. Jakarta will also hold its gubernatorial elections this year, though I doubt any significant changes will be made after the elections.


Homework after Indonesia’s Land Acquisition Law

The House of Representatives (DPR) passed a Law on Land Provision for the Development for Public Interest on Friday (16/12).

For those who have been involved in infrastructure provision in Indonesia, the new land law provided a breath of fresh air in the process of acquiring land that is much needed for infrastructure projects in the country. The Law is not a novel policy, but in the form of Law (Undang-undang) it provided better legal certainty compared to the previous Presidential Regulation stipulating the similar matter.

Based on the Law, it set a timeframe for acquiring land, whereby all of the land acquisition process should be finished within a maximum of 436 working days, which includes notification, public consultation, and dispute settlement mechanisms that provides legal protection for rightful landowners to get their fair share of compensation.

Compensation is also not limited to money, as rightful landowners can be compensated through land swaps, resettlement, stock ownership or any other forms agreed by both parties.

Agrarian reform activists fear that the Law can be used to forcefully take land for the benefit of corporations, such as in the recent case of Mesuji whereby farmers’ land are allegedly taken away by force for palm oil and rubber plantations. The Law, however, specifies exactly which categories of projects are eligible in the name of “public interests” and palm oil is not included. Moreover, the Law emphasizes that it is the responsibility of the state to acquire land from rightful land owners. Even if they are in a public-private partnership agreement for a project, any risks involved in acquiring land is shouldered by the government.

The term “rightful land owners” imply that landowners truly own their piece of land and are registered, not just simply owning a land certificate. Problems will then arise with those whose lands are not registered, and considering that most indigenous land or ulayat rights in Indonesia are not registered, the fears of landowners being evicted out of their land – their home – is not baseless.

There are due process mechanisms in the new Law to ensure that anyone who is affected with the land acquisition can voice out their concerns. However, embedded in the spirit of the Law is the assumption that at least two enabling conditions are in place: that Indonesia has an efficient land registration system and an effective land-use planning.

Unless we get these two enabling conditions right, no matter how good the land acquisition law and its bylaws are drafted, implementation will still be difficult.

New Australia-US Base and Indonesia

Last week US President Barrack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled the plan of establishing a US base equipped with 2,500 US marines in Darwin, Australia’s Northern Territory, only 820 kilometers from Indonesian territory. The Jakarta Post reported that the new US base should not be a threat to Indonesia, as President Yudhoyono was reassured by Gillard that “Australia and the US meant no harm in their plan to build military base in Darwin.”

International Law Professor Hikmahanto Juwana was quick to analyze that US interests may change from time-to-time, thus he warned that Indonesia should nevertheless be cautious about the US military presence in Australia. A part of that cautiousness was also attributed to whether the US would intervene among the rising tensions in the Papua region of Indonesia. Although during the recent visit, US Defense Secretary Leon Panettavoiced support for Indonesia’s strong stance against the Papua separatist movement.

The US and Australia have always been strong allies since a very long time, and as Michael Wesley from Lowy Institute have mentioned in an AlJazeera interview:

Australians tend to think with the American alliance as an insurance policy. We’re paying our premiums, we go to Afghanistan, we go to Iraq, and we just hope that the insurance premium will come when we’re in trouble.

And this is not a reason for Indonesia to be cautious with either Australia or the US?

One possibility of why Obama paved the way for the military base in Australia was to have a strategic position in the region especially to counter China’s influence. China was also quick to react to the plan, saying that “one should consider other regional countries’ interests when developing ties in that region”. Indeed, Stephen Walt from Foreign Policy explained why the US have been shifting a lot of strategic attention to Asia and mostly it is to contain China’s growing powers.

A friend once joked that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. But when two elephants make love, the grass suffers also. It is too early to tell what Indonesia can get out of this positioning, but surely we need to figure out how to make the best out of the situation.

A Tale of Two Prisons

What Indonesia can learn from Singapore on how to manage their prisons.

A former inmate of Salemba Penitentiary, Syarifudin S. Pane, released a video from his cellphone taken in 2008 depicting the conditions inside the prison and the stark contrast between the treatment of inmates convicted of corruption and other crimes.

Syarifudin claimed that Block K – notorious for housing convicted corruptors such as Nurdin Halid (former Chairman of Indonesian Soccer Association, for illegal smuggling of imported sugar and corruption of cooking oil distribution) and Said Agil (former Minister of Religious Affair, for corruption of Hajj funds) – have rooms equipped with air-conditioning, refrigerator, water dispenser, and even gym and karaoke facilities inside the block, all with the price of IDR 30 million (US$3,330) per room in addition to IDR 1,250,000 (US$135) per month for electricity, security and cleaning services.

Despite the oddities of why Syarifudin was allowed to bring a cellphone inside the prison in the first place, the story of exclusive treatment of inmates with the expense of bad treatment of others is not new in Indonesia. In early 2010, for example, the head of Pondok Bambu Penitentiary was released from his duties along with the rotation of several prison officers due to the case of Artalyta Suryani’s penitentiary pent house.

How do you prevent discriminatory treatment such as these in Indonesia when you know that the very institution that is supposed to penalize corruption is corrupt? In this post I examine the organization of prisons in Indonesia and roughly explain how it is done in Singapore.


Before we move on, it is important to know the difference between a penitentiary (rumah tahanan) and correctional facility (lembaga pemasyarakatan) in the Indonesian criminal justice system. A penitentiary is a temporary place where criminal suspects are held, pending of their final and binding decision from the court regarding their punishment. Correctional facilities on the other hand is a place where convicted criminals are held, and it is where they are supposed to get their guidance and re-education before entering into society again.

By function, penitentiaries and correctional facilities are different, but both are Technical Implementation Units (unit pelaksana teknis) carrying out some tasks and functions of the Directorate General for Corrections of the Ministry for Law and Human Rights. Each of them are managed by the head of the penitentiary or head of correctional facility allocated to each regions in Indonesia.

My first puzzle here, is why are convicted corruptors held in penitentiaries and not in correctional facilities?

The immediate response would be that there is currently a problem of overcrowding in Indonesian prisons, thus more often than not, criminal suspects are put into correctional facilities temporarily, or if the correctional facilities are full, convicted criminals are put into penitentiaries. Consequently, one would think that why are penitentiaries and correctional facilities differentiated in the first place because it boils down to the very same thing.

Overcrowding in prisons may signify that not much resources are allocated for the rehabilitation of inmates in Indonesia. It’s also not a politically popular issue either, resulting the low priority for the welfare of prisoners.

However, overcrowding is simply not just a matter of not enough prisons, but also how the overall criminal justice system (involving the courts, police and the prosecutor’s office) is carried out in Indonesia. Patrialis Akbar, the previous Minister of Law and Human Rights, have also once said that overcrowding might also be caused by unnecessary prosecution of petty crimes. If trivial cases such as selling an iPad without a manual or an illiterate grandma “stealing” palm oil seeds worth Rp 2,000 (US$0.22) are being prosecuted, perhaps Patrialis has a point.

Separate from the problem of overcrowding, corruption in prisons should be given special attention. First and foremost, I would see that putting corruptors behind bars will have no penalizing effect, but freezing their assets and returning what belongs to the state should be the initial punitive action that prosecutors aim for. Afterwards, they can be put to jail as a secondary punishment.

When corruptors are held in prisons with access to their assets in hand, they have the opportunity to exploit the low incentives that the prison officers currently have and develop patron-client relationships within the confinement, as they have the means to pay the prison officers in exchange for better treatment.

If the government does not put a priority into how the prisons are being managed and look carefully on the human resources of people running the prisons, the problem will become a never ending cycle and most importantly, there is no incentive for people to deter themselves in doing corruption because they know they can easily pay their way out.


In contrast with how prisons are run in Indonesia, this semester one of the case studies that I did in my public management class is on the Singapore Prison Service (SPS). The SPS have gained a lot of awards, from the Excellent Service Awards to the Top 10 Best Employers in Singapore.

I am amazed on how successful SPS is and how one can make a career in correctional facilities. One of the lessons learned in this case is that the achievement is largely due to the organizational culture embedded within SPS.

Recruitment ad for the Singapore Prison Service

Even though they are a government agency under the Ministry of Home Affairs, the SPS operates efficiently like a corporation. It gets the job done by emphasizing the common values shared by the people inside the organization, which shaped their attitudes and behavior aimed for better performance.

The organizational culture of the SPS was transformed by the leadership of Chua Chin Kiat, which took over the Director position in 1998 and was instrumental in directing the new vision and mission for the SPS, calling themselves the “Captains of Lives”. Prison officers believe that they are the Captains in the lives of inmates, responsible for their journey for rehabilitation, and not just punishment.

What I take away from the story of SPS is that code of ethics (like the one in Indonesia) can only go so much for controlling the behaviors of staff, as it is often violated without any real sanctions. It really takes the leadership of the organization to manage and motivate their people to take ownership for better results and leveraging culture is a powerful tool to do so.

Shaping culture should be strategically relevant. In the case of SPS, the “Captains of Lives” culture was aligned to their business strategy of “Executing Justice, Reducing Reoffending, and Preventing Offending”.

Employees should have intense training and socialization to embody this culture, recruitment should ideally be targeted for people that has the cultural fit (see recruitment ad above), and rewards system should be put in place (however, usually bureaucratic rules prevent organizations to do this). Culture will then empower people to think and act on their own in pursuit of the strategic objectives.

The SPS also collaborated with aftercare agencies in order to reduce the recidivism rates and gained public support with their yellow ribbon campaign, creating awareness to give ex-offenders second chances in society. I believe this aftercare rehabilitation process is important, especially in the case of terrorism acts in Indonesia as ex-offenders may regroup with their extremist communities after prison (they even recruit in prisons).

There are several other innovations that the SPS pursued, such as the cluster management system, integrated electronic database of inmates or better educational and rehabilitative activities, which had a lot to do with the SPS strategic planning and research branch, the “think-tank” of the organization.


A lot of people say that Singapore had it easy because it’s a small country, unlike Indonesia. I believe the problem is not about size per se, but more on the political willingness to change how prisons are managed in Indonesia. I’ve explained the urgency of the problem in Indonesian prisons, and possible solutions from Singapore that the government can look at, so what else is the government waiting for?

Oh, Komodo

The voting of the Komodo Island in the New7Wonders of Nature contest serves as another example of lack of coordination in the Indonesian government.

One of the reasons why I’m happy I don’t own a Blackberry anymore is that I managed to avoid receiving annoying, misleading broadcast messages rallying people to vote for the Komodo Island in the New7Wonders of Nature contest.

I have been, first and foremost, skeptical of the whole contest, because I knew at the very beginning that the “movement” is no different than a popularity contest tricking people into using your money, invoking your sense of nationalism and making you believe that your votes will actually translate into doing something good for your country.

There’s already a good blog post (in Bahasa Indonesia) explaining why the New7Wonders contest is basically a vanity scam, but what I would like to question here: why is there a lack of coordination in the Indonesian government regarding the Komodo voting?


Tracking back from the current status, the Government is filing a law suit to the New7Wonders Foundation because the Foundation have removed the Ministry of Tourism (technically it is now called the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy though they haven’t changed it in their website) as an Official Supporting Committee (OSC)/Lead Agency from the contest.

The dispute started when the government refused to become the host for the winner announcement ceremony of the contest, because allegedly the foundation asked for US$10 million in license fee, in addition to the fee that the government already paid for entering the contest. As a result of the refusal, the Foundation still listed the Komodo Island as one of the 28 finalist in the contest, but the Ministry is not allowed to act as Komodo’s OSC anymore.

Based on the article, the Ministry is demanding its right to become the OSC again. However, previously on August 15 2011, the Ministry declared its withdrawal from the New7Wonders of Nature contest with their press release.

Apparently a group of environmental activists led by Emmy Hafild (known for her work in Walhi, Greenpeace, TI) established the Support Committee for Komodo Island (P2Komodo) to continue promoting the bid and has been registered as Komodo’s OSC because they lobbied the Foundation to continue the nomination. They even asked Jusuf Kalla (the ex-vice president of Indonesia) to become the Komodo Ambassador, calling people to vote for Komodo through cheap SMS.

The cheap SMS votes (Rp.1) is indeed misleading, because of course there is a sponsor behind it. Recently the Indonesian Telecommunications Regulatory Body (BRTI) have received numerous complaints from users who were charged between Rp.1,000 and Rp.1,500 for each Komodo SMS vote that they thought were free. As of now, BRTI is summoning Mobilink and Telkomsel regarding this matter.

We are now left with the Ministry not being the official supporter of the Komodo campaign, but other parties are profiting through the number of SMS that we send each time we vote for Komodo. Ultimately, however, the profit goes to the organizers of the contest themselves, although they say “it aims for a distribution of surplus“.

Economic benefits to Indonesia? Komodo National Park was already registered as a UNESCO heritage site since 1991, and I see no additional benefit of branding Komodo Island as a winner of a suspicious vanity contest. One should definitely scrutinize the Ministry whether it has conducted any due diligence before it participated in the contest in the first place, especially since it involved taxpayers money.

If any taxpayers money should be involved, it should be invested to improve infrastructure in Komodo Island itself, including the surrounding areas in West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara. Not to mention to increase the welfare of park rangers because in the end Komodo Island is a National Park where one of its main purpose is for conservation of the Komodo dragons.

I see no difference between the New7Wonders of Nature contest with Miss World or Miss Universe. If anyone deserves a title out of this mess here, it should be, misunderstanding.

Disillusioned by Corruption

The current Nazaruddin saga have perfectly captured Indonesia’s struggle in the fight against corruption. Did Indonesia’s government lost the battle, or was the duel insincere to begin with?

The current Nazaruddin saga have perfectly captured Indonesia’s struggle in the fight against corruption. Did Indonesia’s government lost the battle, or was the duel insincere to begin with?


It worries me that some Indonesians deals the issue of corruption with cynicism, followed by apathy, and are sometimes subdued to its practices because it is seen to be “entrenched” in the system – as if there is no exit and no hope in trying to curb it out.

What also worries me is that the whole issue on corruption has taken over Indonesia’s mainstream and social media, leaving other important issues such as public health, education, the environment, and many others behind.

Last year, Prof. Robert Klitgaard, a renowned scholar on corruption, gave a talk on his five ingredients for the recipe to fight systemic corruption:

  1. Improve structure, leadership and incentives
  2. Take a whole-government approach
  3. Involve business and the people
  4. Subvert corruption
  5. Emphasize morality

Prof. Klitgaard firstly argues that we shouldn’t target corrupt individuals, but target corrupt structures. Corruption, can be seen in this formula:

Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion – Accountability

By using this formula, a successful anti-corruption effort is to reduce monopolies over a good and service, limit and clarify discretion, and raise accountability. My question to this statement is that just by raising accountability, it does not necessarily mean that it can control corruption straight away. I looked at the Worldwide Governance Indicators and compared Indonesia with its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia and China, based on voice and accountability and control of corruption.

World Governance Indicators on Voice and Accountability and Control on Corruption for selected countries in Southeast Asia and China

Indonesia tops the list in terms of voice and accountability, but when it comes to control on corruption, it is one of the poor performing countries. Based on the chart above[1], it gives me a certain confidence that voice and accountability[2] alone is not enough in controlling corruption. A critical media and transparency principles are needed to perform the checks and balances that are needed, but I would argue that the rule of law, especially the law enforcement agencies and judiciary institutions are pertinent to this equation.

An insulated and professional law enforcement agencies and judiciary are thus important, and it is what I see still lacking in Indonesia.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – KPK) is one of the approach that Indonesia takes into curbing corruption. But this is where Prof. Klitgaard’s second ingredient comes in: a whole-government approach. Putting the weight into KPK as a single institution to fight corruption will not work, because a national anti-corruption agency is futile “if it cannot coordinate with the other ministries and agencies vital to prevent, prosecute, and punish corruption“. It is also dangerous to put all the power in KPK, as KPK itself is not free of political interests, and its investigators and prosecutors do come from the police force and the attorney general’s office as well.

Rather than focusing too much on who’s going to head KPK, tell me, how are we going so far with our reforms in the police force, attorney general’s office, and the supreme court? Not to forget our bureaucracy reform progress to correct Gayus and the likes in the tax department.

The basic concept of supply and demand in my sense can also be applied in corruption. The reason why bureaucrats and public officials become corrupt is because there is a demand and incentive for them to do so. And if the system provides that window of opportunity for misbehavior, then you got yourself a case. Businesspeople, lawyers, accountants, and other stakeholders involved with state institutions in general in their daily business, must be engaged actively in reducing corruption from the demand side.

This is exactly what is also happening in India, as an op-ed in the New York Times have suggested that there is a selective rage over corruption, whereby their citizens direct their rage towards the corrupt government, but they’re lenient towards the companies who did it too. It takes two hands to clap, anyway.

Now, if people were strategic about subverting corruption, one would make use of whistle-blowers. In Indonesia, however, the price for being a whistle-blower is too high. Sadly, sometimes if you’re telling the truth, you are offering yourself in a risky position.

Take for example the case of Siami, a housewife and mother from Surabaya, whereby she was forced by her neighbors to move out from her house after she reported a national exam cheating case in her son’s class at a state elementary school. How can you say no to corruption when cheating is seen as a customary practice in schools? Have society gone mad now that an honest person is seen as the bad guy?


I fear that corruption is an issue which is now used as a political rhetoric. Every politician talks about it, how serious and detrimental it is, but no one has actually an idea and the strong will to get rid of it.

Perhaps because the very institution where these politicians come from are the breeding grounds for corruption itself. Nazaruddin was the (former) treasurer of the ruling political party after all.

[1] Chart methodology: Kaufmann D., A. Kraay, and M. Mastruzzi (2010), The Worldwide Governance Indicators: Methodology and Analytical Issues

[2] According to WGI, voice and accountability captures perceptions of the extent to which a country’s citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and a free media

A Case for the Presidential Plane

I’m not against the idea of buying a Presidential Plane, I’m just questioning whether it is necessary at this point of time.

I’m not against the idea of buying a Presidential Plane, I’m just questioning whether it is necessary at this point of time.


President SBY is planning to buy a presidential plane, a Boeing 737-800 Business Jet 2, which seems to be a favorite aircraft among State VIPs in other countries. How much? Some estimate from US$ 68 million to US$ 85 million, but we don’t exactly know the actual price, although Sudi Silalahi, the State Secretary said that the government already sealed the deal on December 27, 2010.

Boeing Business Jet
Who wouldn't want to be in this lavish plane?

Some arguments for buying the plane would be for security and economic efficiency, not about foolish pride or showcasing the strength of the Presidency.

Security should be the number one priority, as flying on commercial planes pose a greater threat for security rather than a military-run presidential plane like the US Air Force One. The next question is to ask whether the operational budget will come from the military or the presidential post.

To my knowledge, President SBY travels either by Garuda Indonesia Airways or Pelita Air Service to this date. However, the intricacies of how much SBY and his entourage spend for each time they fly using these planes are not clear. Thus, if economic efficiency were the case, they should lay down the numbers of how much savings will be gained if the government were to purchase its own presidential plane rather than renting to a third-party for each flight (read: a cost-benefit analysis).

I’m sure all of this is public information, no? If they are reluctant to share it then we should be suspicious if there’s any shady transactions behind these deals. For example, aren’t you curious why the plane deal was signed on December 2010, but DPR said they haven’t agreed to anything?

If you look at the interior of the plane (picture above), it’s very lavish. I’m sure SBY or any future president of Indonesia will need that level of comfort because, well, being a President of the second-largest democracy in the world is a tough job, right?

I’m just questioning whether the same amount of money of buying that plane could be put to better use and for more pressing matters for its citizens, i.e. basic infrastructure such as water and sanitation, health and education.

If buying the plane is necessary and urgent, the government should really make the case why buying the plane is a priority, rather than leaving its citizens second-guessing why and how much money is actually being used.