06 February 2011

A Conversation with Teten Masduki (Part 2)

In this second installment of a three-part interview, Teten Masduki shares the value of multistakeholder coalitions in his experience of championing reform work, and his desire to influence a wider audience to support the anticorruption movement.  Read part 1, and part 3

ANSA-EAP: From Legal Aid work, what attracted you to Indonesia Corruption Watch?

Teten Masduki:  [Indonesia Corruption Watch] was set up in Suharto’s time. I thought that the problem of our democracy was corruption. Democracy was coming, was underway, but I believe democracy alone is not enough to improve social welfare. From my experience as a labor activist, I knew very well that the problem of corruption was also in the industrial sector. At the time, labor cost was just 4 to 11 percent of the total cost, and the invisible cost was more than 20 percent. So, corruption pushed the lamentable labor condition further. Employers have no choice but to pay the military and local governments bribes. I dreamed that when I finish my work on the labor process, when we have new democratic capabilities, we could establish an anticorruption movement. But I couldn’t implement my dream during Suharto’s time.

ANSA-EAP: And you were the pillar in establishing Indonesia Corruption Watch. You also brought along some of your friends.

Teten Masduki: Yes, I think anticorruption needs a strong foundation, strong support from many—from various NGO groups and so on. So I discussed the idea with my colleagues and we agreed to establish Indonesia Corruption Watch, and they appointed me as the coordinator of the movement.

ANSA-EAP: How old is Indonesia Corruption Watch now? You established it in what year?

Teten Masduki: 12 years, almost. It was established in 1998, one month after Suharto retired. There was no government watchdog before ICW. At the beginning we were trying to build a network with people in the government, in the farmers community, and also in business.

ANSA-EAP: So you were already looking for champions in government?

Teten Masduki: I believe not all government officials are corrupt. The anticorruption movement should be decided by collective action, by people, the government and also the business sector.  It is very important for me that anticorruption [work] includes confidence building among and inside government, business and the whole of society.  Everyone involved should also be aware of and reap the benefits of anticorruption work. Without these, we could not get support from the population.

ANSA-EAP: Is your realization about the importance of different stakeholders working in a coalition something that has always been there in your mind, or was it a lesson from an experience? What was the significant experience that led you to such a belief and a commitment, that made you realize, “wait a minute…I need to bring them together. This is not going to work, if it’s just anti-corruption, anti-government.”

Yeah, we learned so much from experience.  When I joined the labor movement, I was already building relationships with the businesses that had good ethics, those who also were also victims of extortion by the government. We need them; we need their perspective, their new paradigm [to intensify] respect to the people, respect to human rights, respect to democracy. I also built relationships with young government officials.

ANSA-EAP: Your multistakeholder approach—the term was not yet famous then—was and is really getting the important groups together for reform. Your whole mentality about societal change is very apparent. Now, you’re in Transparency International, what is it that you want to be able to do more?

Teten Masduki: Anticorruption is now my conscience and [Transparency International] has a good perspective on how to build cooperation among civil society, the business and the government. And of course, [Transparency International] has a good, large network internationally. I think corruption is not a national problem; corruption is a multinational problem. So we have to cooperate with each other internationally, especially in the East Asia region. We are similar in culture; we have the similar problem of corruption in East Asia so I think we have to collaborate with each other. Transparency International gives me the opportunity and the platform to do this.

Interview conducted by A. Gregorio-Medel. Writeup by K. Aquino.  Special thanks to Rhesa Hadisoebrata and Novi Indriani.

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