"Indonesian govt red-faced over prison perks - Tue, Jan 12, 2010 AFP
JAKARTA, INDONESIA - The Indonesian government - which has promised to stamp out corruption - was embarrassed by revelations Tuesday that rich and connected prisoners were living in luxury behind bars.
Details of the perks for wealthy and influential inmates were front-page news after a team established by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to probe judicial corruption conducted a snap inspection of a women's jail where they found an influential businesswoman prisoner was in the middle of her laser beauty treatment in her 64 sq.metre apartment style cell!"
Fact can be stranger than fiction. Or is it that the fiction writers often have sharper observation power and accesses to the strangest fact and put them into their fiction novels?
To be honest this does not come as a surprise to me as it is very probable that local officials will take such steps as long as they are paid - illegally of course. At least, the President, who has a reputation of wanting to eradicate corruption from public services, sent in a team to do a surprise check on the prison system to find out for himself the abuses are still prevailing. Much efforts remained to be done. It will be a long hard fight to change the who system and sustain it thereafter.
Lessons for me are:
1. as long as some people in public services DO NOT understand their main duties and WHY they are in public services, such anomaly will always be present;
2. in Singapore, the government believed in paying the public servants well enough so that they DO NOT need to resort to taking illegal payments to live a reasonable lifestyle. This is a very good way to go, especially at the beginning of independence where clear government is imperative to get things done efficiently. At the same time, there must be efforts put in to influence the new public servants about the sense of public duty and obligation besides just emphasizing the pay package. This, I believed, is where Singapore government could have done more;
3. as leader, like President Yudhoyono, want to change a system of corruption, the approach has to be a systematic one too to be really effective. I am not sure if paying the public servants that kind of pay that Singapore government is paying to its civil services is something Indonesia can afford given the population size of the nation. So, incentives must be provided and be affordable. The monitoring and supervisory process must be robust. The inspectors must be schooled steep in personal integrity and strong sense of public services. The penalties meted out to offenders must be swift and heavy enough to have deterrent effects.
May he succeed in his campaign against corruption as Indonesia will be much stronger and prosperous. That can only augur well for Singapore as stability in Indonesia will mean stability for Singapore and the region.