Is Corruption Endemic to Indonesia?

Is corruption endemic to Indonesia?


Nothing in Indonesian cultures suggests that corruption should come to Indonesia more easily than to other countries.

Rather, corruption appears to have been carefully and purposely built into Indonesian legal institutions against the will of the Indonesian people and backed by military force over not just decades, but centuries.

Dutch colonization by its deepest nature was undemocratic, with legal institutions intentionally designed to preserve the priveleges of the colonizers.

And under Suharto the institutions started by the Dutch were bent even further into a machine to prevent fair access to law. The very purpose of the institutions of law were to manipulate the law. Police, prosecutors, judges, and other officials were free to do as they wished to enrich themselves—this was often the perquisite that encouraged them to their position in the first place—as long as they did their masters’ bidding when called upon. Those who knew how to twist the system for their own advantage and the advantage of the elite were promoted and rewarded. Those who opposed by trying to uphold the integrity of the law were removed.

The institutions have not much changed in the Reform era. They are unable and unwilling to reform themselves, and they guard their privileges with great jealousy.

The “culture of corruption” in Indonesia is not necessarily the culture of the Indonesian people—but it is the culture of many in the legal institutions.

The entire network of institutional corruption is known in Indonesia by the term Mafia Hukum, or the Law Mafia.

As a result:

  • The Mafia Hukum sponsors both Indonesians and expatriates living in Indonesia to get their way through taking advantage of a dysfunctional system of law.
  • The Indonesians and expatriates who take advantage of this dysfunctional system are the clients of the Mafia Hukum.