Public-sector corruption again dominated Indonesian headlines last week. Youth and Sports Minister Andi Alfian Mallarangeng resigned last Friday amid growing suspicion of foul play involving the construction of a $122-million sports complex in West Java. Indonesia has a storied history of entrenched corruption, but this is the first time a sitting cabinet member has been accused of wrongdoing by the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
Mallarangeng maintains his innocence, and suggested he resigned to prevent more of a distraction from enveloping President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. More from the Los Angeles Times:“Though Mallarangeng told reporters he was innocent and was resigning only to prevent the case from getting in the way of government business, the news is nonetheless an embarrassment for Yudhoyono, who used to rely on Mallarangeng as his spokesman. … Mallarangeng stepped down the same day that the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime praised the Indonesian president for taking on corruption, lauding its national strategy to prevent and eradicate it. Yet Indonesia ranked 118th out of 176 countries this year on the Corruption Perceptions Index created by Transparency International, lower than last year.”
Transparency International’s index, released a day before Mallarangeng’s resignation, reveals that while investors have been bullish on Indonesia, thanks to the large country’s consistent economic expansion during the last several quarters, concern remains that government corruption is pervasive and not going to go away anytime soon.
“A score of 32 (out of 100) shows that Indonesia remains unable to get out of the entrenched corruption.”
— Transparency International
Jakarta’s new governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rolled out an initial batch of his Jakarta Smart Cards last weekend, the beginning of a campaign promise to make education more affordable for the capital’s poor students. The cards, which can be used like ATM cards, are designed to help students buy school supplies like books, uniforms and even food, but some are wondering how this well-intentioned program will be monitored.
More labor protests occurred around the archipelago last week. Workers in Palembang rallied for higher wagers while thousands more took to the streets in Medan. Meanwhile, thousands of coal workers in East Kalimantan are being laid off and finding it difficult to find employment elsewhere.
Finally, the New York Times published a gripping, harrowing photo essay examining the plague of HIV/AIDS that is ravaging indigenous Papua. Approximately 3 percent of 2.5 million Papuans are infected with HIV/AIDS. Among indigenous Papuans the rate is even higher, afflicting upwards of 7 percent. Andri Tambunan, an American-raised photographer who lives in Jakarta, has been documenting the epidemic in Papua since 2009.
“I really believe in the power and potential of photography, to see what it can do to bring about change. Photography has this ability to evoke empathy. You can put the viewer in the same moment, the same visceral space. It makes you think. Maybe it makes you angry or sad.”
— Andri Tambunan
Newsful Indonesia, published every Monday, is a weekly round-up of breaking news, trends and developing stories across Indonesia. Got a tip? Send it to Indonesiaful@gmail.com.