CPG Interview with Lola Easter Kaban, Indonesia Corruption Watch
Q: Lola, please introduce us to the work you are doing at Indonesia Corruption Watch and why it is important.
Basically, what Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) does is advocating policy making process related to anti-corruption measures, as well as investigating alleged corruption cases reported by the public.
In terms of advocating policy making, we usually conduct preliminary research, or make policy paper and policy briefs, to then be given to policy makers or other stakeholders. There are two types of research that we conduct; the first is to respond to the ongoing policy making process (usually during deliberation sessions in the House of Reps) or conducting independent research related to certain phenomena in a certain public area, which affects many people, and is related to alleged corrupt practices.
The number of people involved in research varies from one to more than three. Sometimes there are consultants or scholars involved and we ask them to write a short paper addressing the problem or certain phenomena and provide solutions. Other times, we just interview them or invited them to an expert meeting and quot their insights.
Mainly we conduct desk study research. For certain quantitative data, we also would submit a request to related bodies, through the public information mechanism. We also conduct quantitative data gathering, which we gather from surveys or other methods.
ICW research does not necessarily lead to investigation. Those are two different things. Investigation is independently handled, where we follow up on the alleged corruption case report. We receive an average of 700-1000 reports per year. The approach between conducting research and investigating alleged corruption case is very different, as are the aims of each activity.
For investigation, we usually receive reports from whistleblowers, which have certain proximity to the core of the problem as well as the information. Those reporters will provide us with fruitful data and information for us to be followed up on. We then conduct the preliminary report and strengthen the report with further investigation findings, and after the report is seen to be sufficient and passed ICW standard, it will then be reported to the law apparatuses or other related governmental bodies.
Q: Can this be dangerous work?
In terms of security, ICW has a Standard Operating Procedure that needs to be followed by all staff. In terms of receiving alleged corruption cases for example, ICW staffs are prohibited from seeing the reporters (whistleblowers) alone, there has to be at least one other ICW staff present. In certain conditions (during time of crisis), ICW staffs are not allowed to go home (and to certain extent, even to go out) from office exceeding the usual office hours to prevent unnecessary threat.
Generally speaking, ICW research aims to intervene in the policy making process and we want our solutions and advice acknowledged and accommodated by the policy makers. Investigations on the other hand, aim to have the alleged corruption cases reported and followed up on by the law apparatuses. We hope the cases that we report on proceed to the courts.
Q: What are some particular challenges you face? Can you name specific cases?
It’s never an easy process. Sometimes one report could take years before starting the legal process or until the sentencing happens. There are several corruption cases that ICW has reported in the past, and that were considered by Corruption Eradication Commission (CEC). These are the driving simulator procurement by the National Police Force (defendant: Police High Rank General, Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo); the sewing machine procurement in the Social Ministry (defendant: Former Social Minister, Bachtiar Chamsyah); and the Hajj pilgrimage fund (defendant: Former Religious Minister: Surya Dharma Ali).
As far as I know, the law apparatuses would take our report as one of the preliminary leads (not necessarily be taken as evidence), to start the investigation process. It is highly likely that we face direct threats when we file a report towards certain people in power, and it has happened in 2010 that one of ICW’s staff was attacked by a thug. The case remains untouched and the culprit was never found. It was when an ICW report flagged many high rank police generals’ shady transactions and bank accounts.
But nowadays, these efforts are less crude. Opponents use the defamation law to shut us down. This trend is increasing among fellow Human Rights Defenders, including anti-corruption activists. The threat is usually higher (in terms of direct/ physical threat), when we address the problem towards a very well-established institution like the police. Other than that, the fight back is rather sporadic and quite manageable.
A last point I would make is that anti-corruption work is still mainly perceived as masculine work. Thankfully, ICW has tried to empower many young women to join the movement, as well as implement affirmation policies. The ration of men and women within the organization now is almost 50:50 with ICW having 15 male and 13 female staffs. Gender equality in general in Indonesia it is still far from hopeful, although the younger generations thankfully are more aware of the problem. Nonetheless, it hasn’t been fully institutionalized especially in governmental bodies. A basic formality, such as the minimum female representation in the House of Representatives is already within the regulation, but this is not mandatory. Not many female figures are institutionally encouraged by the political parties for example, to present their constituents.