March 7, 2023
JAKARTA – In his first public statement on the uproar over the lavish lifestyles of tax officials, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on civil servants to lead modest lives and refrain from showing off their wealth, especially on social media.
In a speech delivered at the Presidential Palace on Thursday, Jokowi also called on all Cabinet ministers and government agencies to enforce discipline among their ranks and urged the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to investigate possible wrongdoing in how officials had obtained their wealth.
“I want us and everyone below us to stress this; don’t show off your power. Don’t show off your wealth, especially by posting on Instagram and other social media platforms. For members of the bureaucracy, this is really inappropriate,” he told a national coordination meeting.
In his speech, Jokowi acknowledged the public’s anger toward the extravagance of civil servants, as well as toward police and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel, who face criticism for being arrogant and insensitive.
“I’ve followed the developments very closely both on social media and on the ground […]. I can sense there’s massive disappointment and the people are right about this. The service is subpar, while officials are arrogant,” he said.
The President’s remarks were his first comments on the public relations crisis currently engulfing the Finance Ministry, which emerged after an assault case in South Jakarta opened up a Pandora’s box of irregularities involving the behavior of officials from the Directorate General for Taxation.
Increased scrutiny of wealthy officials came after Mario Dandy Satrio, the son of tax office worker Rafael Alun Trisambodo, was arrested last week after allegedly assaulting a minor.
Photos and videos of Mario’s extravagant lifestyle, and his father’s Rp 56 billion (US$3.6 million) in reported wealth, came to light in the following days, raising questions about where the money had come from.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which investigated Rafael from 2015 to 2018, recently launched another probe into his wealth.
Rafael said he would cooperate with the investigation and, on Wednesday, answered the KPK’s summons to clarify his wealth report. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has suspended Rafael from his position but has rejected his offer to resign from the tax office.
This week, Sri Mulyani reiterated her call for officials at the Finance Ministry to lead modest lives and refrain from showing off their wealth, while pressing ahead with a clampdown on errant officials.
On Wednesday, the ministry removed the head of the Yogyakarta Customs Office, Eko Darmanto, amid allegations that he, too, had accumulated an immense personal fortune through unscrupulous means.
The move followed an uproar on social media sparked by some internet sleuths who exposed examples of Eko showing off luxury goods.
One social media user posted a photo of the official striking a pose in front of a Cessna aircraft.
The decision to remove Eko was made after the ministry launched an internal probe on Wednesday.
“To facilitate the investigation, I have instructed the Customs Directorate General to relieve him of his duties,” Deputy Finance Minister Suahasil Nazara said.
The Jakarta Police has recently named Mario’s 15-year-old girlfriend, identified only as AG, as another perpetrator in the alleged assault.
“After a thorough investigation, we decided to change AG’s status from witness to a perpetrator. However, since she is still a minor, we can’t name her a suspect,” the Jakarta Police’s head of criminal investigations, Chief Comr. Hengki Haryadi said on Thursday, Kompas.com reported.
This statement comes less than a week after anonymous citizens sent dozens of flower boards to the South Jakarta Police headquarters, demanding authorities arrest AG as they believed that she was the one inciting the attack.
The Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry’s expert for the Juvenile Justice System Law, Ahmad Sofyan, said that it was unlikely that police would detain AG.
“Police will only detain minors suspected of committing crimes under three conditions; if it is likely that they will commit another crime, destroy evidence or fail to attend trial,” he said, adding that AG would still be prosecuted under juvenile law.
Authorities have previously named Mario and his friend, 19 year-old Shane Lukas, as suspects in the case. They were initially charged with violating Article 76c of the Child Protection Law, which forbids acts of violence against minors and carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.
However, on Thursday, the Jakarta Police added planned aggravated assault to their charges, meaning they now face a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment.
The police said the alleged assault was the result of a dispute among friends. The 17-year-old victim, Cristalino David Ozora, is the son of a high-ranking member of GP Ansor, the youth wing of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama.
The attack left David in a coma and he is currently receiving intensive medical care at Mayapada Hospital in South Jakarta.
A team of doctors who are treating David said on Tuesday that his condition had improved significantly, although he has not yet regained consciousness. (nal)