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Power begets graft, murder

Jakarta Post Editorial - February 18, 2022

Jakarta – Perhaps for the first time in the history of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), the antigraft body has arrested a corruption suspect who was later also accused of committing murder and slavery. The rare event occurred on Jan. 18 in North Sumatra when KPK investigators caught inactive Langkat regent Terbit Rencana Perangin Angin red-handed receiving Rp 786 million (US$54,210) from private companies desiring to win infrastructure projects in the regency.

If found guilty of all the crimes, the court should hand Terbit a maximum sentence, life imprisonment to say the least. The police also should probe into the possible roles of his family members, associates and people who work for him at both the regent's office and his private companies. He could not perpetrate all the alleged crimes – and keep them a secret – alone.

The case also shows the checks and balances mechanism in the regency did not work during Terbit's administration, as neither legislative council members nor civil society groups spoke badly about him. It seems Terbit gained so much power that no one dared to disclose the alleged crimes for years. That is why the public was so shocked upon hearing the news about the alleged murder and forced labor involving him.

The suspended regent is likely to face two separate trials. As a graft suspect he will stand trial at the Jakarta Corruption Court and later will face justice for the other charges. Learning from the Terbit case, the KPK needs to arrange cooperation with other law enforcement agencies in the future as graft suspects may commit multiple crimes at once.

KPK investigators accidentally found 36-square-meter cages, holding 48 people inside, when they came to Terbit's house to seize documents after arresting him. Initially, the regent's staff insisted the cages were used as a drug rehabilitation center, but without any permit. Later it was found that people incarcerated in the cage endured torture and forced labor.

Like in the Robinhood tale, local residents loved Terbit for his generosity. Even North Sumatra Police chief Insp. Gen. Panca Putra Simanjuntak initially played down the horrific KPK findings, echoing Terbit's aides who said the building was simply a rehabilitation facility for drug addicts and everybody was treated properly. Only after public outcry and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) discovered gross human rights abuses had occurred there did the police begin an investigation.

The power and influence that Terbit enjoyed perhaps have something to do with his roles as chairman of the Golkar Party's Langkat chapter, chairman of a local labor union and a senior figure in the Pemuda Pancasila (PP) youth organization.

On Feb. 13, police exhumed two graves believed to contain the remains of people who died from torture. An autopsy performed later identified the dead bodies as Sairanto Ginting and Abdul. Police said they were looking for more victims of torture.

We may wonder how an elected leader like Terbit could perpetrate alleged graft and ruthless crimes at the same time. Perhaps the good behavior he showed to the public had blinded the people around his home and at large.

Whatever the answers, the police and law enforcement authorities should find the whole truth.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2022/02/17/power-begets-graft-murder.htm