October 10, 2008


Indonesian rusader Antasari Azhar finds fear is the key (Stephen Fitzpatrick, October 11, 2008, The Australian)

During a sojourn several years ago studying commercial law at the University of NSW, [Antasari Azhar, head of Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission] made several visits to Old Sydney Town, the former theme park on the NSW central coast that dramatically portrayed our colonial roots until it closed in 2003.

"My approach to the law now is coloured by my Australian experience," the former public prosecutor says. "I visited Old Sydney Town three times in six months, and I saw there what it was with Australia's history, how strict the early law there was. I was thinking at that time, in fact, how could it be that Australians these days so willingly obeyed the law; how had society become so compliant? You know, just as with Singapore, (in Australia) smoking is generally not allowed, public toilets are clean, when you board a bus the elderly are given a place to sit up the front, that kind of thing.

"Now, I really learned from that. And (at Old Sydney Town) I realised that people must be made afraid first. Only then will they become obedient."

Dioramas depicting floggings and judicial executions in the colony, as well as live-action re-enactments of modern Australia's brutal seeds, became the former public prosecutor's touchstone for how he thought Indonesia's huge need for public service reform could be met. "Open-air courtrooms, a la ancient Rome, that really inspired me," he says. "It meant for us that if we wanted to enforce the law, we mustn't allow permissive thinking at first. First you have to frighten people, then they become compliant. After that, we may allow some permissiveness."

A harsh prescription, perhaps, but Antasari's campaign against Indonesia's porous public sector is showing outstanding results. The Transparency International network last month announced a vastly upgraded result for the country in its annual corruption perceptions index, an outcome welcomed by all observers. "It's fantastic, 30 per cent of the world is now below us," enthuses long-time Indonesia-based anti-corruption warrior Kevin Evans, a former Australian embassy staff member in Jakarta.

Jakarta's rise up the ladder, from 143rd place to 126th and, more important, its edging upwards towards the transparency rating of three on a 10-scale, was attributed by the world organisation in large part to the very public actions of Antasari's bureau.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 10, 2008 11:21 AM
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