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Coin by coin ordinary Indonesians help fight graft
PEOPLE POWER: Millions give 35 sen each to set up anti-graft building
WHEN you have 54 million members of the Association of Indonesian Street Vendors (PPKLI) pledging 1,000 rupiah (35 sen) each to help finance the new headquarters of the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi or KPK), you know how serious Indonesians are about fighting corruption.
Its secretary-general, Junaedi Sitorus, went to KPK's headquarters in Kuningan, South Jakarta, on Monday. He was confident his association could raise 162 billion rupiah (RM56 million).
The vendors' association is not alone in pledging support. Professor Ikrar Nusa Bhakti of Lembaga Pengetahuan Indonesia was there with other prominent figures, among them Teten Masduki, secretary-general of Indonesia's Transparency International, Asep Iwan Wiryawan, a former judge, and those from Indonesia Corruption Watch.
Ikrar said the people loved KPK and wanted the agency to be truly effective. He believed Indonesians were capable of financing the new headquarters.
The initiative is catching fire. The debate on the subject is filling the airwaves and newspapers. The movement is now labelled "Koalisi Masyarakat Sipil Koin untuk KPK" (Coalition of Civil Society for Coins for KPK).
According to Ikrar, the initiative is a strong signal to the lawmakers at Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (House of Representatives or DPR) that the people are behind KPK.
He did not mince words in criticising some DPR members for not taking graft eradication seriously. In fact, there are some who want to curtail KPK's powers. KPK has become too powerful to some of them.
Another prominent individual argued that the mass movement to collect funds is not about just building the headquarters, it is also about providing air cover for KPK to act without fear or favour. DPR has been accused of not taking KPK's request for a new building seriously.
The commission has applied for funding since 2008, yet nothing happened. The present headquarters is almost becoming inhospitable, with 650 staff working in premises meant for 350. The building was built in 1981, initially housing the headquarters of the now-liquidated Bank Papan Sejahtera. KPK is planning to recruit 500 more employees, bringing the total to 1,200.
There are those who believe that KPK should only be funded by people. Gedung baru, rasuah baru (new headquarters, new corruption) became the mantra of some groups. Construction of a new building meant some money would fall to the wrong hands, they argued.
To be clean, KPK must be seen as clean. Funds from the people will ensure KPK would not be indebted to anyone.
"Koin untuk KPK" got support from some members of the cabinet, too. Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin said he would like to be one of the first donors.
Minister of State-Owned Enterprises, Dhalan Iskan, pledged his salary for the next six months for the cause. Religious groups, too, are pledging to chip in.
Indonesians have every reason to ensure KPK succeeds. They have woken up from a long period of apathy towards corruption. Everyone who matters is speaking up against corruption.
Not too long ago, the head of the Muhammadiyah movement, Din Syamsuddin, said corruption was becoming chronic and the fight was at best "half-hearted". The newfound press freedom in Indonesia is helping to galvanise the people's fight against bribery.
Even the young are helping wearing T-shirts that read Sang Koruptor: Apa Agama Kamu? (Mr corruptor: what is your religion?) and Jalan Lain Ke Neraka: Ayo Jadi Korup (The other way to hell: be corrupt).
Indonesians can't take it any more. They want some good news on the graft-busting front. They want to prove to the world that Indonesians are taking a no-nonsense approach towards graft eradication.
They have enough bad news already. The latest is the Fund for Peace's 2012 Failed State Index, where Indonesia is not only faring worse than last year but is now placed in the "danger zone". Understandably, there is a lot of debate on that, too.
To be fair, Indonesia's economic growth was 6.5 per cent last year, one of the best in the region. And, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has done more to improve the livelihoods of his subjects than anyone else in recent memory. There is very little Indonesians can do to mitigate jaundiced views about their country.
But in the battle against corruption, Indonesia is showing its true colours.
As the "Koin untuk KPK" campaign has proven, people's power is at work. The coins will be ringing and the people will be watching. We certainly have a lot to learn from them.