Anti-graft body accuses dozens of Indonesian legislators

At least 40 local lawmakers, including a Catholic, are thought to have taken bribes to push through projects
Anti-graft body accuses dozens of Indonesian legislators

Protesters gather outside the anti-corruption commission office in Jakarta, in this 2016 file photo to demand the arrest of parliament members and regional heads involved in corruption. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com)

More than forty legislators in several local Indonesian assemblies have been named suspects in corruption cases by the country's Corruption Eradication Commission, one of whom is a Catholic.

The length of the list has caused a public outcry, especially in North Sumatra where the vast majority of those named come from.

Commission chairman, Agus Rahardjo, said on April 3 that 38 former and current legislators were linked to bribery case involving Gatot Pujo Nugroho, a former governor of North Sumatra province, which caused US$4.7 million in state losses.

Nugroho was accused of bribing many local legislators to push through projects that he allegedly had a direct interest in. He was arrested in 2015 and later sentenced to four years in prison.

The 38 people named by the anti-graft body this week allegedly received between US$25,000-40,000 and included Jhon Hugo Silalahi, a local Catholic legislator representing the Democrat Party.

On April 5, the commission also named six legislators in Malang, East Java province, as suspects together with 12 other people.

They were connected to a bribery case involving a bridge construction project in 2015 that has incurred state losses of $747.000.

"It shows rampant corruption where legislators are using their position and authority for their own benefit," Rahardjo said.

All face from 1 to 15 years in prison, he said. 

Capuchin Father, Selestinus Manalu, Secretary of Medan Archdiocese which covers North Sumatra, expressed dismay at the number of people implicated and said that local Catholics were particularly upset one of the suspects was one of their own. 

"It's very embarrassing. It injures the people's sense of justice," Father Manalu told ucanews.com.

 About 5.4 percent of the provincial population is Catholic.

"This should become a point of reflection for Catholics and also all of society in the province to elect people who have good track record," the priest said. 

 Nicolas Simanjuntak, a Catholic lawyer, accused all the suspects of betraying the nation.

"This is systematic corruption because it involves so many people," he said.

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He encouraged Catholics, particularly those in influential positions to show courage and reject something contrary to the Christian faith.

Both North Sumatra and East Java are among 17 provinces that will elect new governors in June this year.

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