(P21) Corruption in colonial and postcolonial histories of empire and nations in Southeast Asia in the 20 th and 21 st centuries
Thu 11:00-12:30 K10 | 3.39
- Ronald Kroeze VU University Amsterdam
- Bambang Purwanto UGM Yogyakarta
- Jonathan Saha Durham University
- Xavier Huetz de Lemps Université Côte d’Azur, Nice,
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Corruption discourses and Indonesia during the Cold War
Farabi Fakih Leiden University
This research project focuses on the discourse on corruption and corrupt practices in Indonesia during Suharto’s dictatorship (1966-1998). With no freedom of press, the dominance of the army in political and economic spheres, and Golkar and related institutions having a firm grip on civil society, corruption was discussed at international fora, but could hardly be addressed within Indonesia. This national/international interaction will be investigated with a focus on the IGGI – the International Governmental Group on Indonesia which was established after the rise to power of Suharto in 1967. It was chaired by the Netherlands and its policy backed by a considerable commitment of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP). IGGI decided on multilateral aid (mostly loans) to Indonesia. Indonesia’s IGGI 5-year programmes were discussed in constant interaction with political discussions about human rights, corruption and good governance. In 1992, criticizing the former colonizer, Suharto no longer accepted Dutch critique on Indonesian human rights violations and the Dutch left the consortium. As such, these negotiations, their impact on Indonesia’s economic and political power dynamics and their relationship to the growing international sphere of justice invoke the question whether and how previous mutual (Dutch and Indonesian) experiences with corruption and corruption critique (i.e. Dutch ethical policy or Indonesian anti-colonial nationalist critique) informed contemporary good governance and developmental aid projects. Development aid should bring prosperity and end corruption, but also led to activities that became associated with KKN (Korupsi, Kolusi, Nepotisme) (Noor 2015; Purwanto 2015; Pranoto 2008; Nekkers and Malcontent 2000). The research will look at political and economic models that were developed and promoted in the context of IGGI activities. The broader context is that of high-trust in modernization schemes to develop former colonies.
In Dutch policy papers (Ontwikkelingshulp dossier) and among Dutch scholars and policy advisors as well as in media and political debate, for long, the overall opinion, in the context of the Dutch-Indonesian relationship, was that serious corruption was a problem not of Dutch but of Indonesian society. Brasz and Wertheim in their Corruptie (1961) saw the problem of corruption as more or less solved in Dutch/ Western society and mainly as a serious issue of Indonesian society. It would take until the 1990s, after a series of ‘European’ corruption scandals, before a slow rediscovery of corruption in Dutch society would take place (Kroeze 2015). This research will also take into account the emergence of a ‘Washington-consensus’ in global anticorruption/ developmental aid projects from the 1980s onwards, which was based on and further cemented a liberal-economic principle-agent understanding of corruption and development. This model has had a huge impact on policy making, but proven way to simplistic (Johnston 2005). What ideas and models can be distinguished from the debates within IGGI-group? How did these debates impact on policy proposals?
Corruption in Colonial and Postcolonial Indonesia (the 1910s—1960s): Nationalism, normativity, and the making of the modern state
Nugroho Winardi Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
My presentation will be based on a draft version of the introductory chapter of my research. This study pays attention to the historically changed concept or understanding concerning corruption from about the 1910s to the 1960s to reflect on a political system and its continuing development. Here, corruption is seen as a practice as well as a discourse that has performative functions. What was the role of corruption and anticorruption in maintaining and challenging exclusive power structures in colonial and post-independent processes of state-making? This study aims to overcome historiographical leaping to which corruption in the past is used to explain the current dynamics, and to fulfill the gap on the absence of narratives concerning Indonesian nationalists in the historiography of corruption. It departs from questions on how the understanding of corruption was shaped in the different political regimes, what role corruption and anticorruption played on the establishment of the political and economic institutes in the late colonial era and postcolonial Indonesia, and what kind of corruption cases, scandals, understandings, discourses, or debates did play a role in each period. Those inquiries will be divided into three interlocking issues following chronological order. The first part aims to investigate the role of corruption in the context of the Dutch colonial government and the Indonesian (nationalist) relation. The second part crops the years between 1942-1949 into a single historical unit so-called an era of promising uncertainty to revisit arguments of the impact of the war on the prevailing corruption in the post-colonial state. The last part deals with two different political circumstances under Sukarno era to explain how did the understanding of corruption from the colonial past contribute to enhance the anti-corruption campaigns in post-independence Indonesia. In the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century of colonial Indonesia, corruption contributed to the construction of the image of the corrupt colony that itself served as an argument for the colonial state to intervene in state-making processes (Kroeze, 2021). After explaining some basic ideas behind my study, I will focus on the case of W. Baljet—the assistance residence of Southeast Borneo afdeeling— to serve as an example of my approach. Baljet’s case in the 1920s reflects how the understanding of corruption was produced and contested. Denouncing corruption enabled the state to perform control and close supervision over its margin that became pivotal aspects in political formation characterized by a process of integration, centralization, and standardization (Locher-Scholten, 2014: 111).
Introduction on the theme and the project Colonial Normativity: Corruption in the Dutch-Indonesian relationship 1870s-2010s
Ronald Kroeze VU University Amsterdam
Susan Legêne Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam / KNHG
Contemporary corruption in Southeast Asia is regularly linked to the history of colonial state formation. How these two relate has not systematically been researched. This session takes as a starting point a Dutch-Indonesian project on the role of corruption in Dutch and Indonesian histories of state-formation and economic development, and has invited discussants who are experts of other Southeast Asian regions to reflect on the first findings, and this theme in a broader sense. Doing so, the aim of this session is twofold: to discuss some early results from the Dutch-Indonesian research project and to evaluate the role of corruption discourses in critically understanding Southeast-Asian colonial and postcolonial state-building and economic processes from a comparative perspective.
Islands of horrors, islands of intrigue: debating abuse of power and official responsibility in the Dutch empire
Otto Linde Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
In this paper, I focus on a series of scandals (the ‘’Bacan scandals’’, c. 1892-1903) related to themes such as corporate violence, abuse of power and official responsibility. The scandals originated in a distant and relatively isolated part of the broader Dutch empire (the sultanate of Bacan), but quickly became a topic of debate in more central hubs of the Dutch empire (the major cities of Java) and eventually also in the metropole itself, underscoring intra-imperial connections. Inspired by J. Saha’s (2013) performative approach to the colonial state and official abuses in colonial Burma, I argue that the performative approach utilized by Saha can also be extended to non-state actors in more peripheral areas of colonial empires, such as Bacan. The ‘’Bacan scandals’’ demonstrate how a planter (plantation manager), in an area where control by the ‘’state’’ was almost non-existent, could impose his own authority over his laborers by means of his own, which included a large degree of violence. The planter in question created a sphere of ‘’private sovereignty’’ (Barker, 2016) in which he tried to exert his ‘’sovereignty’’ over his laborers by means of theatrical violent spectacle and a privately financed police force. For a ‘’modernizing’’ and expanding Dutch colonial state the existence of such ‘’private sovereignties’’ became ever more unacceptable. Thus, the violent labor regime of Bacan was exposed, and this led to a court case. Different groups held vastly differing views on the case. A planter wrote an opinion piece to a newspaper wherein he asked why planters were punished for violent actions similar to those of the officials. Was it because the officials were committing violence in the name of the state, while planters were acting as individuals? Important Java-based journalists became embroiled in the case as well. Bartelds and Brooshooft discussed the question of official responsibility: how could a case such as this occur? Was it due to neglect by the local junior official (who was tinged by an air of corruption), or rather due to neglect on the side of his superior? The resulting scandal became a point of debate in the Dutch lower house (‘’Tweede Kamer’’). In these debates, we hear two kinds of arguments. Both the Liberal Minister of Colonies and his Anti-Revolutionary successor envisioned the case of Bacan as an incident, whereas the socialist opposition saw the case as the tip of a proverbial iceberg. Proposed solutions diverged accordingly. The prominent socialist H. van Kol hoped for a total overhaul of justice and policing in the colony. The Ministers of Colonies saw more in the implementation of external controls (more checks from superior officials on their subordinates, as well as stricter documentation) which could be accomplished by an expansion of state authority and by improving the infrastructure of the colony. This study suggests that debates concerning ‘’abuses’’ perpetrated by both state actors and non-state actors played a role in emerging moralistic discourses relating to ‘’modernization’’ and colonial state expansion (both horizontally and vertically).
Contemporary corruption in Southeast Asia is regularly linked to the history of colonial state formation. How these two relate has not systematically been researched. This session takes as a starting point a Dutch-Indonesian project on the role of corruption in Dutch and Indonesian histories of state-formation and economic development, and has invited discussants who are experts of other Southeast Asian regions to reflect on the first findings, and this theme in a broader sense. Doing so, the aim of this session is twofold: to discuss some early results from the Dutch-Indonesian research project and to evaluate the role of corruption discourses in critically understanding Southeast-Asian colonial and postcolonial state-building and economic processes from a comparative perspective. The session explores the contexts of corruption as a normative framework to create, maintain and challenge exclusive power structures in colonial and post independent processes of state formation. It does so at intersecting moments of entanglement: around 1900 (late colonial state, norm-setting debates among the colonizers); around WWII (independence, debates on good governance of the anti-colonial nationalists against colonialism); during the Cold War (the authoritarian state, and the conditional norms of development aid); post-1990 (transnational corruption; global corruption indices). Questions that will be addressed include:
- What role did corruption and anticorruption play in the development of a colonial normativity both in the colonies and in Europe in the late 19th and 20th centuries?
- How were discursive stereotypes and anticorruption policies used to (de)legitimize institutions?
- What role did (anti-)corruption discourses play in Southeast Asia during the Cold War?
- What is the connection between colonial political structures and contemporary notions of corruption?
- What do today’s indices show in terms of governance; what is the weight of the past, and which past?