Raden Saleh and the Fight Against Graft


By: Kurniawan Hari

Recently, the public, especially those in Jakarta, have the luxury of observing the works of Raden Saleh on display at the National Gallery in Gambir, Central Jakarta.

Although it runs only for two weeks, the first exhibition of works by the Javanese maestro at home is enough to satisfy the curiosity of art lovers.

Many consider “The Capture of Prince Diponegoro” a masterpiece by the painter, who is regarded as Indonesia’s first modern artist.

The exhibition, titled “Raden Saleh and the Beginning of Modern Indonesian Painting” ended on June 17. But those who want to examine “The Capture of Prince Diponegoro” can go to the State Palace where the masterpiece resides.

In journalism classes, our mentors often told us that one type of event that had strong impact upon readers was anything about capture, arrest and /or detention. In the case of Prince Diponegoro, he was captured by the colonial authorities for being a rebel. At that time, the Prince had led his followers to fight the Dutch colonial powers in an epic five-year war from 1825 to 1830. The war, known as De Java Oorlog among Dutch-speaking people, ended when the Prince was betrayed and eventually captured.

Today, our media outlets often run stories about arrests. The individuals being arrested are mostly suspected of involvement in graft scandals. Tax officer Gayus Tambunan was arrested and later sentenced to jail for bribery.

Muhammad Nazaruddin, the former Democratic Party treasurer, was arrested in Colombia following months on the run trying to evade justice. He was charged with accepting bribes, which carried seven years in jail, but oddly he was convicted only of receiving gratuities and was sent down for four years and six months.

His fellow politician, Angelina Sondakh, has been detained for her alleged involvement in irregularities surrounding budget allocations for projects at the Youth and Sports Ministry and the Education and Culture Ministry.

Businesswoman and fugitive Nunun Nurbaeti was nabbed on the run in Bangkok. She was later sentenced to 2.5 years in jail for bribing lawmakers to swing votes for Miranda S. Goeltom in the election to become Bank Indonesia senior deputy governor. Miranda has been declared a suspect and is now being detained at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

In all these cases, law enforcers seem to be complacent and hovering around these actors, seemingly impotent in their efforts to prosecute the “bigger fish” behind these cases. At his trial, Nazaruddin repeatedly mentioned the alleged involvement of Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum and fellow party leaders. But the antigraft body appeared daunted.

In the trial of Miranda’s vote-buying case, a company linked to Artha Graha was mentioned in one of the testimonies. But, again, the antigraft commissioners looked discouraged.

KPK commissioners look confident each time they announce their investigators’ success in arresting those suspected of corruption — as if their main achievement is in publicizing the arrest.

The recent capture of Tommy Hindratno is the latest example. Tommy, a low-ranking tax officer, was allegedly caught red-handed accepting a bribe from James Gunarjo, a man reported to be an executive with investment company PT Bhakti Investama. Soon after the arrests, KPK investigators raided the company’s offices and confiscated documents. Media tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who controls Bhakti Investama, said he didn’t know about James. But, he said, he was ready for questioning.

While the KPK can be credited for the arrests and the confiscation of Rp 285 million (US$30,495) from the scene, the public has begun looking for the follow up, and the arrests of the main players in Nazaruddin and Miranda’s cases. When will the KPK prosecute them?

The tale of Nazaruddin’s wife, Neneng Sri Wahyuni, was no less controversial. The “arrest” looked more like a soap opera than hard work being carried out by KPK investigators. The KPK claimed it arrested Neneng; but Neneng, on the other hand, said she had voluntarily surrendered herself to the KPK.

It is still within public memory that Neneng was on the run for almost one year. Following her escape from the country last year, the Indonesian authorities announced they had revoked her passport in an attempt to limit her overseas travel.

But, on Wednesday, the suspect in the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry’s solar power-plant project arrived home safely. Speculation is rife that Neneng’s return was arranged with the help of Nazaruddin.

Neneng reportedly flew from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta with an overnight stay in Batam. Her lawyer claimed she had used her Indonesian passport. This may all seem confusing but as news, it’s certainly worth reading.

It seems the KPK too understands the impact of stories about arrests, capture and/or detention. The arrest of a graft suspect will make the news. But the public wants corruption to be eradicated, not just news stories.

So I say to the KPK leaders: Don’t just draw sketches; do something that will become a masterpiece like Raden Saleh’s “The Capture of Prince Diponegoro”.


Notice: This opinion article was displayed in an online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on June 19, 2012. It is also able to be searched at: www.thejakartapost.com [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: 21 June 2012].

The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post.



  1. I think the analogy is confuse. If the capture of Diponegoro is similar with the capture of corrupter, so the General van de Kock whose captured the Diponegoro as the KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission)??? Absolutely wrong, bro!!!

    What’s true is that Diponegoro tried to eradicate the corruption, and the Dutch colonial is as the symbol of corruption system. Although the Prince of Diponegoro failed to against the corruption (arrested by Dutch General), but the spirit for fighting crush to the corruption is still long life recently.


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