Culture Matters: How Indonesia Should Account Culture to Eradicate Corruption

Corruption in Indonesia is endemic, permeating all levels of society. As I argued in my last post, Indonesia’s culture of corruption is a result of the corruption of culture: Far too many people see corruption as unsolvable and even “normal,” even though they clearly realize its wrongfulness.

To date, Indonesia’s independent anticorruption agency, the KPK, has pursued a main strategy of prosecuting the “big fish”—the high-ranking officials (including numerous parliament members and powerful politicians) whose corrupt behavior has caused massive damage to the country. Laudable though the KPK’s bold enforcement efforts have been, eradicating corruption requires more than prosecutions. Rather, the KPK needs to complement its aggressive law enforcement with preventive measures designed to change Indonesia’s “culture of corruption” to a “culture of anticorruption.” There are several strategies the KPK could pursue to foster such cultural change:

  • First, the KPK could initiate cultural change through education, particularly at the primary school level, so that positive values of anticorruption such as honesty and integrity could be inculcated as early as possible. Currently, the government has made some effort to incorporate anticorruption values into the academic curriculum through regulations, most notably a presidential instruction that requires the Ministry of Education to integrate anticorruption subjects into school curriculum. However, this initiative has been hindered by the lack of cooperation by the teachers responsible for implementing the curriculum. This is unfortunate, as many of the countries that have been successful in eradicating corruption, including Finland and Hong Kong, have effectively carried out this strategy. Thus, there is an urgent need for the KPK to coordinate with other government institutions, especially the Ministry of Education, to come up with a way to enforce the anticorruption curriculum and monitor its implementation.
  • Second, the KPK could do more to encourage families to cultivate anticorruption values, as families are the most important influence on young people’s values. The KPK has already initiated a Family-Based Corruption Prevention Program in some areas in Indonesia. Character-building will be the focus of this family-oriented plan, where values such as integrity and honesty are taught by the parents and will be internalized by the children. Unfortunately, such family-oriented anticorruption education has yet to be organized systematically at a national level, and there are not yet measures in place to monitor the existing program’s effectiveness. The KPK should also explore ways to utilize institutions such as schools to engage families to learn about anticorruption values, for example by organizing interactive programs in connection with parent-teacher meetings or through the parents association.
  • Third, because religion plays such an essential role in culture formation in Indonesia, the KPK must build relationships with leaders, who can emphasize anticorruption values in their teachings, and in so doing can cultivate anticorruption values and directly affect individuals. For example, the KPK could arrange informative anticorruption seminars for religious leaders, and might even consider disseminating anticorruption materials that can easily be distributed by these leaders to different religious communities all over Indonesia. Unfortunately, many religious institutions and even the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Indonesia are afflicted by corruption. The KPK must therefore also cooperate with the Ministry of Religious Affairs to issue better anticorruption regulations for the Ministry.
  • Fourth, the KPK could similarly make better use of the media to promote anticorruption values. This strategy has been adopted by the Hong Kong ICAC’s Community Relations Department through a remarkable array of activities, ranging from TV dramas to posters and pedagogical materials for public schools. In fairness, the KPK has recognized the importance of this sort of approach, and has used a variety of media campaigns to promote anticorruption messages to the public, especially children. For example, music is used to educate children on positive values such as honesty and integrity, through the release of “Aku Anak Jujur” or “I am an Honest Child” during the Anticorruption Festival on December 10, 2015. The KPK also released a movie titled “Kumbi,”containing a moral message that is packaged in a funny and interactive way, and has promoted anticorruption video games as well. Yet these efforts are still quite limited, and relatively little has been done to reach adults, who have as much need for information and knowledge on anticorruption. To remedy this situation, the KPK could follow the footsteps of the ICAC to engage with broadcasting companies and production houses in coming up with shows that emphasize anticorruption values, even in a subtle manner. Considering that almost 95% of Indonesia’s media consumers spend 5 hours per day watching television and over 3 million people spend time watching music shows and soap operas every day, using the popular media to educate the public about anticorruption values may be a very effective strategy.

Culture has an essential role in Indonesia’s fight against corruption. Even with the strictest, most effective law enforcement system feasible, it is the personal integrity and positive values of individuals that provide the best safeguard against the temptation of corruption. Therefore, the KPK should focus on initiating cultural change, parallel to its other anticorruption strategies. For centuries, Indonesia has been sincerely proud of its heritage and culture. It is time for the country to establish the right culture, the anticorruption culture, to promote the welfare of all of its citizens.

3 thoughts on “Culture Matters: How Indonesia Should Account Culture to Eradicate Corruption

  1. Pingback: How Indonesia Should Account Culture to Eradicate Corruption | Anti Corruption Digest

  2. Pingback: How Indonesia Should Account Culture to Eradicate Corruption – / Real News / No BS!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.