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Over the years, Rani and I have asked these questions many times:
-Why is corruption so rampant in Indonesia?
-Why is it that Indonesia does it much "better" than most other Asia Pacific countries when it comes to corrupt practices? See Indonesia Matters' story on Corruption Index.
It's not until recently that we both started thinking of these fundamental yet intriguing questions:
-Do majority of Indonesians know what the word "corruption" means?
-What sort of activities/practices are considered "corrupt"?
-Do you think the government officials really know which types of activities are considered corrupt?
I remember my high school days in Jakarta in early 1990s when my some of my close friends would ask for hard cash from his parents to buy books. When asked by their parents how much money they needed they would innocently tell their parents that the price of the books were X dollar while in fact they cost so much less than that (probably nearly half of it!). It's not that my friends had a good intention to return the balance to his mom, but most of them ended up pocketing the rest of the money for consumption. I knew that what they did was wrong. I should have not said "okay" when they wanted to buy me snacks or drinks.
My parents always taught me and my brothers to return the money with the proper receipts. If they were kind enough, they normally would tell us to keep the change for buying some snacks or some music cassettes.
In late 1990s when I came back to Jakarta for a short while my mom had asked me to buy a printer from Glodok. She knew the price, which was Rp. 1 million, and gave me the cash to get the item. A few hours later when I was about to pay for it, the sales clerk asked me, "So... how much do you WANT me to write on the receipt?". I did not quite get his message and responded, "Hmmm... what do you mean?" He said it again, but in a different tone, "Most people would tell me how much the amount they wish to appear on the receipt. So I am asking you how much do you want me to write down?". I was shocked for the first time in my life! This guy was offering me a chance to mark-up the price for my mother's personal purchase?? I told him straight in the face that the printer is for my mother and I asked him what kind of person he was to think so corrupt like that. Then he answered, "Well, if you don't want it, then it's okay. I was only asking". He finally wrote the actual number for me only after I gave him a negative response. Immediately, I gave him the money, took the receipt with actual price and went straight home with a dizzy head.
I kept thinking: If a simple business transaction between a private individual and another involving a small amount of one million rupiahs had the potential to be corrupt, imagine what it's like when two parties transact involving billions of rupiahs. Not to mention the deals between a private individual (or a corporation) and a government official.
Maybe our President SBY has not done it right in fighting corruption. Instead of fighting the internal battle against corruption and the hassle of choosing the law enforcement officials, he should try to translate these posters below, make 220 million copies (using recyled fibres, of course) and spread them across the archipelago.
Fighting corruption does not always have to start in the law enforcement end. It should, however, start in everyone's mind. We must tell our friends and family members what is considered corrupt act (small scale: at home, and large scale: in government).
If you have friends who are in media organizations, please ask them to translate these posters, adapt and distribute in every way possible. Maybe you can print them in a wallet size card so that you are always ready to show it to the members of the authority who are asking for trouble.
**Additional definition of corruption in Indonesian language can be found here
***For an excellent personal blog piece related to corruption, you can read it here
****A humble Math teacher from a middle school in Central Java wrote this excellent piece on the methods to teach students the concept of honesty & fairness to cure the disease of corruption here on Kompas.
*****Now, if you are ready to teach your kids about anti-corruption values, you can download a PDF format of this booklet: Special Edition Tool Kit: Teaching Integrity to Youth.