Just heard about the Indonesian businesswoman who was sentenced for five years in jail after bribing a senior prosecutor to drop a major emblezzlement case. What the hell was she thinking? A prosecutor? Kudos for the current Indonesian president, SBY, who is keeping his word as promised in 2004 to fight corruption. More details here.

Speaking of bribery, have you ever done one? As long as I could remember, I have not intentionally bribed  an ‘official’ before. I did not have the stomach for it, nor know how to do so. Not a police officer, not a government employee, nor the like. Even when I was actually asked by the ‘official’ himself [to bribe], I was not quite following the down low and just gave him a dumb look, “Huh?”

An example. Long time ago, when I was visiting a police station to get some kind of paper work to apply for a job. In Bahasa Indonesia, it’s called Surat Tanda Kelakuan Baik (STKB), which basically stating that I don’t have any criminal records and I’m a good girl. The officer literally said that if I could come back with a pack of cigarette for him, he’d have it done in 2 hours instead of making me come back the next day or two. Since I was in desperate need for that paper work, I did go find his stinkin’ kretek (clove) cigarette. Sure enough, when I came back 90 minutes later after eating road side ketoprak for lunch, it was ready.

Another example was when I applied for my first ID card or Kartu Tanda Penduduk (KTP) at a local sub-division administrative office (kelurahan). The person behind the counter who happened to look like an official (with his brown government uniform and all those emblems) told me that with some extra money, I could have it done on the same day. When I asked ‘how come?’ , the guy got somewhat offended (which I don’t quite understand). So I thanked him for the offer and said I was fine with the waiting time. He got really upset, “Ya udah. Kalo Ibu nggak mau dibantu, dan mau nunggu lama, terserah aja.” Which would be roughly translated, “Well then, if you don’t want to be helped, and prefer to wait a long time, go ahead.”

Indonesian police officer on the road is mostly notorious, especially in Jakarta. There are certain busy intersections that have too many policemen standing by, waiting for us to make a wrong turn, then whistled us. The scary one is Bunderan HI or the roundabout in front of Hotel Indonesia. I was riding with a friend, and her car was the very front in line at the stoplight. She nervously asked me, “Is this lane OK to make a U-turn? Should I not be on this one? Shit, it’s green! What should I do? Should I go ahead or keep going straight? Aww *bleep* they whistled me. Oh *bleep* here he comes!”
My friend is a very confident woman. Unlike in the US, the driver in Jakarta was OK to get out of a car to talk to the officer. And that’s what she did, after grabbing some money from her purse. I was actually the one who’s sweating and got my heart racing pretty fast. I saw my girl friend was trying to smooth talking the stern-looking officer. Later, I saw her reached something out of her pocket and put something on the officer’s hand so smoothly, it looked like they were shaking hands. The officer looked around to see if anybody’s looking, before he took the ‘thing’ from my friend.

I don’t know how this mentality became a habit for us Indonesians. Is it because we like to do it to get out of a sticky situation? Thus created a suply-demand circle with the authorities? Because if we don’t initiate uang pelicin or money offer to get the proposal get done quickly, officials won’t expect or hope for bribery. Just do it properly, follow the rules, you’ll get there. Eventually.