All the best, Lin Che Wei!
The Jakarta Post : Opinion & Editorial, Saturday, March 01, 2003
by Yanuar Nugroho
A short message service (SMS) on the morning of Feb. 25 read, “Please help invite as many economists, stock and market analysts and other professionals as possible, to come to the Attorney General’s Office this Tuesday, March 4 at 1 p.m. to support Lin Che Wei.” Being aware of what business would likely do to protect its interests, I spontaneously circulated the message among my inner circles and colleagues.
Some of Wei’s analysis, apart from others, have confirmed the need for business accountability, since business (though privately owned) is now being practiced, mainly, in the public domain.
Such notions of “good corporate governance” would be cliche if the understanding of the underlying concerns were absent. This concerns the fact that the “power of capital” has escaped from the criteria of public accountability. This is because it is embodied in business, whose only responsibility is to accumulate profit.
When gaining profit has become the highest value in business practice, everything seems to be legitimate as long as it is aimed at accumulating profit, and it could be very vicious. “Double dating” in its financial report as indicated in case of the Lippo Bank, is only one instance of how business practices, hiding behind its interests, can do anything “as usual” — as if it is commonly done without having to be scrutinized — and without regards to other possible implications.
First, in such a view where business success is only marked by financial and profit gain, other consequences indirectly derived from the Lippo case, like predicted obstacles in divestment for recap banks (as denoted by Sri Adiningsih, in Bisnis Indonesia, Feb. 25), which is actually important, becomes irrelevant.
Second, although a public authority like the Capital Market Supervisory Agency (Bapepam) has
formally announced it will investigate Lippo for manipulating the market, the penalty is still unclear. Many are skeptical whether Bapepam would have enough power to touch, let alone to execute sanctions against such business practices.
It is worse when such public institutions lack the necessary support like a recommendation from Jakarta’s Stock Exchange or a request from the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), or complaints on transaction, etc, since such forms of support might be considered unusual in resolving disputes.
Does the stock market authority have real power over business practices, by giving harsh penalties like heavy fines for those who commit malpractice?
Make no mistake. The law, which looks immense before “small” people, seems always inferior in front of capital in business disputes. Because the processes do not go one way. Many would consider fines or penalties as harsh, but business surely can afford to at least sway such decisions.
We need to recall the distinction between the public characteristic of public authorities (“state”) power and “private” nature of capital or business power. State power is rooted in its control over the state and its resources which cannot be attributed as “private property”, but the immense power of business is rooted in its private ownership of capital.
Thus property and power cannot be separated since there is no property which does not involve power, and vice versa. And here comes the very basic argument on any efforts intended to make business practice accountable: (1) Since there are no dominant factors that determine the dynamics of our shared life except power, and (2) since any power practice should be accountable when it affects public domain, (3) then the exercise of private power which is publicly influential should also be made accountable.
Any socially consequential exercise of power based on the private property should therefore not escape accountability. The use and abuse of private property in the Lippo case, for example, certainly has deep implications for stock market governance in Indonesia in the future.
Learning from Wei’s case, we should pay more attention that what is most influential in our life nowadays is not only the dictatorship of the state (as suggested in the case of another whistle blower, Kwik Kian Gie), but rather oligarchic domination of capital which clearly proposes that everything is just a business function and capital performance.
At the Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday we may witness how powerful business power is when its interests are being scrutinized. The old saying goes, there is no smoke without fire.
We may have to swallow the bitter fact that public authorities would probably surrender and fail to protect and side with independent analysts like Lin Che Wei.
A circulated email from Wei says, “Hopefully I stay on track … and not be used and turned in other directions.” We now live in a time where everything can be bought easily. I am sure that Lin Che Wei will not be cheaply and easily bought. But for the rest of those who are involved in such cases, who knows?
The writer is the Executive Director of the Business Watch Indonesia, lectures at Sahid University in Surakarta and is a researcher at the Uni Sosial Demokrat organization in Jakarta.