Another (former) minister under the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration was arrested in a corruption case. On Thursday (27/10) former state-owned enterprises minister Dahlan Iskan was named a suspect and arrested by the Prosecutor Office of East Java. Dahlan is suspected of being involved in irregular sales of assets owned by the Province of East Java and managed by regional state-owned property company Panca Wira Usaha. Dahlan served as president director of Panca Wira Usaha between 2000-2009. The irregular sales were reportedly conducted between 2002-2004.
East Java's Prosecutor Office told media that the aforementioned irregular sales resulted in state losses worth IDR 83.5 billion (approx. USD $6.4 million). A total of 33 state assets were allegedly sold below the taxable value, and therefore constitute illegal sales.
When briefly talking to local reporters, Dahlan Iskan defended his case by stating that - when acting as president director of Panca Wira Usaha - he simply signed the documents that were prepared by his subordinates and therefore he had no knowledge of any illegal acts. Iskan emphasized that he had never received any bribes nor cash and actually not even received salary for his duties as president director at the state-owned firm.
The arrest of Iskan was no surprise considering he had already been interrogated five times since 2015 about this case. Earlier this month, Wishnu Wardhana, former asset manager at Panca Wira Usaha, was arrested by the East Java Police Department. Wardhana informed investigators that the illegal asset sale could not have taken place without Iskan's approval (as president director of the state-owned firm).
Corruption in Indonesia's political circles is widespread and has been a persistent disease that causes an inefficient economy, injustice in society and relatively low confidence in politicians. Three ministers in Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's second administration (2009-2014) were arrested and sentenced to imprisonment. These were Andi Mallarangeng (minister for sports and youth), Jero Wacik (minister for energy and mineral resources) and Suryadharma Ali (minister for religious affairs). Moreover, it is estimated that some 300 regional government officials were investigated for corrupt behavior during Yudhoyono's second term, indicating the widespread presence of corruption in government circles and Yudhoyono's failure to combat corruption, collusion and nepotism.
Although the alleged illegal activities in this latest corruption case - involving Dahlan Iskan - occurred before he became minister in Yudhoyono's cabinet, it is yet another well-known political face that is (for the time being) put behind bars and therefore undermines people's trust in politics.
Dahlan Iskan, born in Magetan (East Java) on 17 August 1951, started his career as journalist but managed to become head of the Jawa Pos, an Indonesian national daily newspaper, in the 1980s. During his leadership the newspaper grew into one of the country's biggest newspapers. After forming the Jawa Pos News Network Group, it became one of the biggest media networks in Indonesia. In late-2009 Iskan was appointed General Director of state-owned utilities company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN). In 2011 he entered Yudhoyono's cabinet as state-owned enterprises minister, replacing Mustafa Abubakar who had fallen ill. Iskan's style was controversial, sometimes attracting popular support and at other times attracting criticism.
In 2013 when he personally tested a new electric environmentally friendly car by attempting to drive 1,000 kilometers from Solo (Central Java) to Surabaya (East Java), the car's brakes gave out when ascending a steep slope. He managed to bring the car to a stop by driving it into the mountainside. The car was wrecked but Iskan was unharmed.