Papaua governor Lukas Enembe is accused of pilfering state funds to finance an extravagant lifestyle and loss-making gambling habit. Image: Facebook

JAKARTA – Indonesians have been given yet another reminder that corruption remains a drag on the country’s economy with a Supreme Court justice and the gambling-addicted governor of Papua under investigation for allegedly taking bribes and stealing from the public purse.

Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index ranks Indonesia 96th out of 180 ranked countries, a small improvement on the year before but with the watchdog noting that justice and civil service remain the most corrupt public sectors.

Sudradjat Dimyati becomes the first Supreme Court justice from the 60-strong bench to be arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK) for taking bribes amounting to 800 million rupiah (US$52,937) in a case involving a financially-troubled savings and loan cooperative in Central Java.

The case is likely to speed up a government plan to give the country’s Judicial Commission greater external oversight over the legal system, including the authority to select lower court judges – a role taken from it in a 2015 Supreme Court ruling.

Papua’s Lukas Enembe, 55, is the seventh governor to be charged with corruption over the past 12 years, accused by KPK investigators of embezzling a fortune in public funds to feed a voracious gambling habit and a jet-setting lifestyle.

As a member of the majority Dani tribe, he is the first Papua highlander to serve as governor in the troubled easternmost province, where the indigenous population is being increasingly marginalized by migrants from Sulawesi and other islands.

In the Dimyati case, four court registrars, two clerks and four alleged civilian bribe givers are also in custody, a sign that collusion between corrupt judges and powerful business groups remains an enduring feature of Indonesian life.

Then a high court judge in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Dimyati was accused of handing over an envelope to a member of Parliament’s law commission in a brief toilet encounter during a fit and proper test for Supreme Court candidates in 2013.

Sudradjat Dimyati is in the corruption hot seat. Image: Facebook

The Supreme Court later cleared him of any wrongdoing after he claimed the envelope contained a list of career and non-career female justices he said National Awakening Party (PKB) legislator Bachrudin Nasori had asked for at a prior hearing.

While Dimyati is behind bars, Enembe managed to slip away to Singapore where he claims to be seeking medical treatment for a kidney complaint – a common excuse for Indonesian graft suspects trying to elude the net closing around them.

Political coordinating minister Mahfud MD says the governor is facing a “very serious case” involving the plundering of the Papua administration’s operational funds and money laundering.

Indonesia’s Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) recently announced it has evidence that Enembe has splurged a whopping $39 million on casinos in Singapore and Malaysia.

The agency has also frozen transactions worth more than 71 billion rupiah ($4.69 million), some of it traced to Enembe’s children and several other people at eleven different banks and financial services companies.

“The case against Lukas Enembe has nothing to do with politics,” Mahfud told reporters in an effort to head off protests by the governor’s supporters in Jayapura, the province capital.

He is reportedly in ill health after two strokes and a bout with Covid-19 last year, but he is ambulatory by most accounts and Indonesian judicial authorities want him to return to Jakarta to be checked out by a team of local doctors.

The governor claims the money came from alluvial gold mining in his home district of Tolikara, about 100 kilometers northeast of Freeport Indonesia’s giant Grasberg copper and gold mine.

The central government has channeled $9.1 billion in assistance funds to the two provinces of Papua and West Papua with little to show for it since they were bestowed with special autonomy status in 2002.

In the KPK’s Integrity Assessment Survey last year, they both scored 64, well below the national average of 72 and the lowest among the country’s 34 provinces. The Human Development index was even lower, at 60.62.

Embezzlement and kick-back allegations in the House of Representatives have rocked Indonesia's political establishment, presenting President Joko Widodo with a political dilemma ahead of general elections in 2019. Photo: Reuters
A money changer counts rupiah bank notes in a file photo. Photo: AFP

As a member of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s centrist Democrat Party, Enembe is no friend of President Joko Widodo, which may account for some of the difficulties he faces as he approaches his final year in office.

In October 2017, a day after police questioned him over the alleged misuse of budget funds, State Intelligence Agency (BIN) director Budi Goenawan and national police chief Tito Karnavian flew to Papua to persuade him to sign a 16-point declaration of loyalty to the Unitary State of Indonesia. 

But despite the corruption investigation hanging over him, Enembe reportedly refused their request to go a step further and take former Papua police chief and Golkar Party loyalist Paulus Waterpauw as his running mate in the 2019 gubernatorial election.

Waterpauw was recently appointed acting governor of West Papua and is thought to be in line to become the first governor of the newly-formed province of Central Papua, stretching from the northern coastal city of Nabire to Timika, Freeport’s logistics center on the south coast.

A native of West Papua’s Fak-Fak district, Waterpauw was brought back in 2019 to deal with the fallout from riots that engulfed the two Papua provinces after a racial incident against Papua students in the East Java city of Surabaya.