Ahok vs Sandiaga a contest of transparency? – Amid the controversy over blasphemy allegations leveled against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama there is little public interest in more substantial issues, such as the private wealth and campaign funds of the incumbent governor and businessman-cum-deputy governor hopeful Sandiaga “Sandi” Uno.
Indeed the rant against Ahok, a minority both by race and religion, over his remarks on the Quran is considered a sexy issue that media outlets will never ignore.
But in order to build a mature democracy, room should be given to the matter of transparency in candidates’ private wealth and campaign funds, as such a debate may provide information voters need before casting their ballots.
Jakarta is set to see a three-horse race in the Feb. 15, 2017 gubernatorial election. Ahok, paired with incumbent Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, will face Anies Baswedan and running mate Sandi as well as Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, who has teamed up with Sylviana Murni.
Regardless of their motives, Ahok and Sandi deserve appreciation for raising the topic of private wealth and campaign funds, which many rich politicians and government officials are reluctant to discuss publicly.
The debate has gained more significance, because it has become a public secret that candidates for public posts never disclose their real wealth and campaign funds they collect from donors, including businesspeople and private companies.
The law sets a ceiling for private and corporate contributions to electoral candidates.
Ahok seems to believe that Sandi, who is a rich businessman, has a problem with his wealth given his participation in the governmentsponsored tax amnesty.
For Ahok, Sandi’s application for tax amnesty proves that the young businessman admitted to having evaded taxes in the past, although joining the tax pardon program means the state has cleared Sandi.
Worse still, Sandiaga was listed among other well-to-do Indonesians in the so-called Panama Papers, a series of leaked documents containing information about assets invested in offshore companies.
The Panama Papers have prompted the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) ethics council to reprimand BPK chief Harry Azhar Azis, whose name is also on the list.
Sandi is not only on the defensive. He has fought back, questioning the transparency in the source of funds for Teman Ahok (Friends of Ahok), a volunteer group supporting Ahok.
Over several months the group collected 1 million copies of ID cards and signatures, enabling Ahok to contest the election as an independent candidate. Ahok, however, finally chose to run under the banners of political parties.
Sandi further challenged Ahok to prove that Ahok acquaintances had not benefitted from his policies as the Jakarta governor.
Voters are now waiting for explanations from both Ahok and Sandi. To satisfy people’s curiosity and for the sake of transparency, the two candidates have to take this challenge.
For a start, Sandi has to explain his inclusion in the Panama Papers. If he claims any suspicions against him are unfounded, he has to explain why.
He has declared his private wealth with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and expressed his readiness to disclose the amount of tax he paid in the last 10 years. He has also claimed to have allocated Rp 29 billion from his own pocket to cover his campaign spending.
As the incumbent, Ahok needs to answer many more questions than Sandi. As Sandi demanded, Ahok has to clarify his links to Teman Ahok and hence the sources of funds to finance day-to-day operations of the volunteer group.
It is quite naïve to expect people to believe that the funds for renting the group’s office, which is an asset of the Jakarta government, opening booths at numerous shopping malls to rally support and cover operational expenses came from the sale of merchandise and Rp 500 million (US$38,306) in donations.
Auditing Teman Ahok’s funds would help settle suspicions beyond doubt. The group has been accused of receiving Rp 30 billion from developers that secured concessions for land reclamation work in the Jakarta Bay.
As a candidate supported by the ruling party and apparently the President, Ahok is vulnerable to temptations to accept donations from many quarters, including businesspeople with vested interests.
Now that the debate about financial transparency has begun, the public must continuously push both Ahok and Sandi, as well as other candidates, to come clean for the sake of a fair contest.
Source : http://www.thejakartapost.com/