JAKARTA, INDONESIA — The arrest of Indonesia’s Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo over alleged graft in the export of lobster seeds has made headlines in the country’s media outlets for the past few days, raising speculation about who is set to replace him and what the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) will do next.
The KPK charged Edhy with allegedly receiving bribes from companies appointed for exporting lobster seeds. The anti-graft agency also apprehended several people from the ministry and private companies.
The KPK is still powerful.
Many people praised the KPK’s raid amid criticism against the controversial KPK law—enacted last year despite nationwide students’ protests—would curtail the agency’s power.
The presence of the body’s supervisory board is feared to weaken the KPK.
KPK spokesperson Ali Fikri told TOC that the anti-corruption body understood how high public expectations are and how people will evaluate its performance based on such raids.
“We are still investigating several cases, but people pay attention to operasi tangkap tangan (raid operations). Especially (given that) we arrested an active minister in the cabinet,” he said in an interview on Tuesday morning (1 December).
Ali snubbed allegations that the KPK conducted a raid without coordination with its chief, explaining that all actions have been coordinated across all sectors in the institution.
Last Monday (30 November), the KPK raided PT Aero Citra Kargo (ACK) and obtained several documents related to the lobster seeds’ export, Ali said.
The spokesperson stated that the KPK would summon numerous witnesses either today (2 December) or Thursday (3 December), adding that the anti-graft body “will inform all journalists soon”.
The need to boost the welfare of fishermen was reportedly behind Edhy’s move to allow lobster seeds’ export. The statistics agency recorded that the export tended to rise from June to September this year, with Vietnam as the main export destination.
However, the export can ruin Indonesia’s marine ecosystem. Also, lobster seeds are food for 14 types of fish, as cited by CNN Indonesia from several sources.
If the 14 types of fish face extinction, fishermen’s welfare will also be affected.
Such a graft case indicates that the ministry only focuses on regulating lobster seeds’ export instead of paying attention to fish farming and how to improve fishermen’s welfare and living standard, said Muh. Abdi Suhufan, coordinator at Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW).
“As of September, the ministry’s budget absorption only reached 50.28 per cent out of IDR 5,082 trillion set in the state budget,” Abdi said in a written statement TOC received on 27 November.
Ironically, the ministry’s budget absorption for fish farming only reached 32.23 per cent out of the slightly over Rp 1 trillion allocated.
Therefore, Edhy’s lobster seeds’ export graft case is the right moment to refocus the ministry’s budget, with fishermen’s welfare as the top priority.
In May, the ministry proposed an Rp1.02 trillion stimulus package for small-scale fishermen and aquaculture farmers hit by the pandemic, The Jakarta Post reported.
Abdi hopes the KPK will tackle problems related to permits in the sector, prone to corruption.
When asked whether the case will expose other possible corruption cases in the ministry, Ali told reporters that doing so will take time.