20 January 2011
Gayus Tambunan, Seven Years, and Justice Seen to be Done?
Gayus Tambunan, the corrupt tax official, received a sentence of seven years for his crimes. On hearing the verdict, Gayus thanked the judges for being fair and impartial, lambasted the incompetent and lying Legal Mafia Eradication Taskforce, and hinted that the CIA was involved in the process of helping him out.
The big question that most people are asking in the immediate aftermath of this decision is: "Was justice done and was justice seen to be done?" Perhaps the 'real' question is whether there is any difference in those two concepts; justice and justice seen to be done.
The prosecution demanded a sentence of 20 years. When one considers the scope of the fraud and the corruption that was alleged in this case, then 20 years was probably not a manifestly excessive request. So, a sentence of 7 years does seem to be on the light, the very light, side of the justice equation. This leads to the idea of justice being seen to be done. In this case, seven years leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth when there are others sent to prison for fraud and corruption cases that involved considerably less losses for considerably longer periods of time. Justice was not seen to be done in this case.
It is a foregone conclusion that the prosecution will appeal this verdict. Based on the 12 instructions issued by the president, it would be a toss-up as to whether the president would want this case to be an ongoing distraction. Perhaps, the Legal Mafia Eradication Taskforce will say "we have done our job and we are outta here...thanks for coming!" After all, the president said he wanted the Gayus case resolved, and it is. Although, the result is hardly a positive outcome for anyone but Gayus who would have been thinking that 20 years was a very real possibility.
Nevertheless, the real question for the president, for law enforcement officials, and to a lesser extent the community is "what happens next?" The reality is that the trial of Gayus Tambunan was a media circus, but in amongst all those shenanigans were some rather explosive allegations and counter-allegations. All of these allegations must be investigated and 'resolved'.
The companies that had dealings with Gayus need to be worried. The individuals that have had dealings with Gayus or who are in someway connected to him need to be worried. The biggest issue now facing the president is does he modify his instructions a little to demand that the KPK become the lead investigator on all these matters or does he let the corruption-tainted national police force continue to participate in a charade where public perception is clearly that the police are operating in a way to protect their own interests and their own people.
The reason this is such a test for SBY is that some of the companies involved are conglomerates owned by well-connected people with special interests that they will be seeking to remove from public scrutiny. The "biggie" now is does the president have the testicular fortitude to take these matters head on an exhibit some leadership to his people? Or, does he do as he has always done hand it off to one of his many minions so that he can later use "plausible deniability"?
But, getting back to the sense of justice and justice being seen to be done. The argument is really one about what is a legally sound judgment and what is a sound judgment with respect to public perceptions. Seven years does not satisfy the public perception of either justice or justice being seen to be done. In a strict legal sense, a seven-year sentence may in fact be fair in light of what the prosecution was able to prove regarding the indictment charged.
Finally, the statement by Gayus that intimated that the Legal Mafia Eradication Taskforce had provided assurances of certain conduct being undertaken and promises being made that were not fulfilled must also be investigated, particularly as this taskforce reports directly to the president and seemingly works at his discretion. Perhaps Gayus was misled into believing a promise from the taskforce was a promise from the president?
The CIA involvement angle may well become a side-show of some importance as it has the potential to distract from the real issues in the case. The US Ambassador, Scot Marciel, wasted no time in suggesting that the whole CIA claim was nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from other aspects of the case. But, then again, he would, wouldn't he?
Ho hum...next case!