March 15, 2023
JAKARTA – In 2016, the founder and CEO of Meta (Facebook) Mark Zuckerberg, who also owns Instagram and WhatsApp social media platforms, told his guest President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo of his prediction that the world would face an extraordinary digital revolution within 10 to 15 years.
In 2021, Jokowi made his crystal ball divination based on Zuckerberg’s prophecy, but unfortunately, it turned out to be damaging for himself two years later, thanks to his part in weakening the much-feared Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
Over the last few weeks, millions of Indonesians flooded Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp with their denouncement of Finance Ministry officials and their families for allegedly accumulating wealth to an unimaginable level and shamelessly showing off their hedonistic lifestyle on the three popular social media platforms.
Make no mistake, Indonesia is among the world’s largest social media users. As of February 2022, Indonesia is home to 196.4 million users of social media, mostly Facebook. Only China and India have more social media users than Indonesia across Asia and the Pacific. The data means 70.4 percent of the Indonesian population have social media accounts, more than half of them (52.7 percent) are males.
Around 224 million Indonesians access the Internet, therefore the government will be careful about losing its control of the netizens.
The netizens are now scrutinizing Maritime Affairs and Fishery Minister Sakti Wahyu Trenggono, whose wealth is beyond imagination, although it is not necessarily ill-gotten. The government can no longer silence the noisy netizens using the draconian Law No. 11/2008 on Information Technology and Electronic Transaction (ITE).
According to bisnis.com, Wahyu has amassed nearly Rp 1 trillion since taking over the ministerial post in December 2020 from Edhy Prabowo, who was sentenced to nine years in jail for corruption. In his 2022 wealth report (LHKPN) Wahyu declared a wealth of Rp 2.94 trillion. Previously, when serving as deputy defense minister, he reported Rp 1.94 trillion in assets. Now the link to Wahyu’s wealth report is no longer accessible.
People are now simply using Zuckerberg’s miraculous technology to question state officials about their promise to fight corrupt practices they stated when they were sworn in. The netizens simply worry the officials intentionally pull their teeth.
Zuckerberg knows President Jokowi quite well. The tech entrepreneur first met Jokowi when the latter was an outgoing Jakarta governor and Indonesia’s president-elect on Oct. 13, 2014. The two visited the crowded Tanah Abang textile market in Central Jakarta.
In February 2016, President Jokowi visited Facebook’s headquarters at Menlo Park on the edge of San Francisco Bay. Zuckerberg briefed Jokowi about something big that would happen in the next 10 years. Zuckerberg might not have imagined then that his social media platforms would steal the limelight of the KPK in the country’s long war on corruption.
“I remember in 2016 in my meeting with Mark Zuckerberg. I was invited to play Ping-Pong using oculus and he said, ‘President Jokowi, in the next 10-15 years, will appear again playing Ping-Pong like this. People will buy virtual land and build their businesses virtually, and there will be virtual malls, gyms, offices and tourism.’ At that time I still could not imagine what he explained to me,” Jokowi recalled in December 2021.
Now, Zuckerberg’s magic has revolutionized behavioral change in people, including in Indonesia. Public officials and their families, perhaps their mistresses too, do not feel ashamed to flaunt their wealth on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Now after the brouhaha evolved around tax officer Rafeal Alun Trisambodo, they have stopped (trust me it will be only for a while) showing off their extravagant lifestyle to begin posting their tireless dedication to the country and society.
Tragically, 17-year-old David Ozora became an unnecessary “martyr” of public disclosure of such disgusting wealth-flexing of government officials. He was assaulted by Mario Dandy Satrio, the son of Rafael, who declared Rp 56 billion in wealth although the ongoing investigations show he may be hiding much more than that.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati is becoming the target of “bullying” by the KPK, the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) and Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD, after netizens skinned and stripped the extravagant lifestyles of taxmen on social media.
“It is just natural that people express their disappointment because the services they received are not perceived as good. Worse, the state apparatus shows off their arrogance, power and wealth,” Jokowi said when opening a Cabinet plenary meeting on March 2.
The President may forget he and the House were united in castrating the powerful and much-feared KPK through Law No. 19/2019 that revised Law No. 30/2002 on KPK in September 2019. The President cannot forgive himself for the fact that corruption has appeared to become so rampant in his second five-year term. One good thing about him is that until now the First Family, including First Lady Iriana, his daughter and two sons and in-laws, are relatively clean from corruption, collusion and nepotism allegations.
The new KPK law obliterates at least three most important functions of the antigraft body. According to the revised law, apart from the five-member KPK leadership, it now also has another five-member Oversight Body.
The law said the KPK could only conduct search, confiscation, wiretapping and sting operations upon written permission from the KPK Oversight Body. In May 2021, the Constitutional Court rescinded the article on mandatory prior approval from the Oversight Body for wiretapping and sting operations. But as the Indonesian proverb goes, nasi sudah jadi bubur (don’t cry over spilled milk), the KPK has lost much of its trust and credibility from the public.
The nation has a moral obligation to thank Zuckerberg because his technology has provided the people an effective tool to humiliate corrupt officials, although it may be not enough to stop the entrenched corruption.
President Jokowi made a fatal decision to participate in the destruction of the KPK, the only hope for the people to win their war on corruption.
The writer is senior editor at The Jakarta Post.