Jakarta Globe | Insight

Corruption Undermines Pancasila

Jakarta. Pancasila, Indonesia’s official state ideology, may have survived many existential threats over the decades since its birth, but there is a latent threat from within the country’s ruling elite that may eventually bring it down.

“Some people who see the rise of corrupt practices think that the democratic system of Pancasila must be replaced,” said Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest, sociologist and interfaith activist.

Indonesia has been struggling with corruption since its independence. Two ministers under the presidency of Sukarno were charged with corruption in the 1950s. He was succeeded by Suharto, who took over power in the 1960s with the promise to clean up the bureaucracy. But when he finally stepped down in 1998, he left behind a state apparatus rife with corruption, collusion and nepotism.

The country set up the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in 2002 as a workaround to perceived corrupt law enforcers. And while there was some progress, it could be better.

In 1995, Indonesia scored 1.94 out of 10 – the lowest of 41 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Last year, the country scored 37 out of 100, ranking 90th out of 176 countries in the index.

“Corruption is what must be stopped and the state plays a big role to stop it,” Franz said.

Failing to do so would only undermine the current administration’s standing with citizens, which will eventually erode confidence in the Constitution and Pancasila, Franz said.

He emphasized that religious radicalism has been present in Indonesia since 1945, although it was previously regarded as a marginal problem. But now it gathers support from an increasing number of Indonesians, who seek alternatives to fill the void.

“Religious radicalism is a symptom of a semi-educated middle class,” he said.

Since the 1970s religious ideologies from overseas have entered the country, finding fertile ground at state universities. In fact, they are now damaging public educational institutions, including schools and universities, he added.

The government should increase efforts to reduce corruption and improve social equity to restore confidence in the state.

“Let us build our nation together, because we are all Indonesian,” Franz said.