Faking it

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 12:00am

While many political scientists here have been delivering grim predictions about how little this year's elections will really change the quality of Indonesia's politicians, there is at least one positive outcome from the election process.

Even before a single ballot paper has been counted, the General Elections Commission revealed that thousands of aspiring politicians hold fake school diplomas and university degrees.

New election laws require every candidate to have at least a high school diploma. In the rush to register, thousands of potential and existing legislators submitted high school certificates which, strangely, were issued last year, more than 15 years after most would have left school.

In another twist, candidates from Bali and Kalimantan have certificates issued by Education Department offices in Bekasi or Banten, in Jakarta, thousands of miles from their high schools, according to the commission.

One revelation concerned Achmad Ridwan, a legislator in central Java's parliament, who for years claimed he had graduated from Sunan Kalijaga State Institute of Islamic Studies. However, his university diploma was found to be a fake, and a bad one at that - much to the commission's disgust. The certificate did not even resemble the ones issued by the university, while attached to the main certificate was another from the Religious Affairs Ministry, certifying that Mr Achmad had obtained a bachelor's degree. But the word 'bachelor' had obviously been typed on top of the official letter using a different typewriter.

When the commission reported the case to the police, Mr Achmad blamed the university's administrative department, claiming they must have issued him with a false certificate. He refused to pull out of the election race, telling journalists he was in the process of 'arranging' a high school diploma.

Falsifying qualifications is a well-established practice in Indonesia. Thousands of civil servants looking for promotion, or school dropouts seeking work, resort to buying their diplomas and degrees from unregistered universities and colleges.

Several high-ranking officials and even one cabinet minister obtained their degrees from such institutions, according to officials, who are trying to shut down at least a dozen such establishments in Indonesia.

The commission's diligence in uncovering the fakes might not put a stop to the practice, but it could take a few candidates out of circulation.