ANALYSIS: Polygamy and graft, a most convenient marriage

News Desk in Jakarta/The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - It appears that for some suspects in high-profile graft cases, allegedly abusing their power in office runs alongside their polygamous practices at home.

In the past few months, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has brought to light the sleazy details of some high-profile graft suspects, including that they are serial polygamists.

The investigation into a bribery case involving former Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq not only revealed details from the private life of his aide Ahmad Fathanah, who was found naked in a hotel room with an escort, but later found that Luthfi was married to three women, the youngest being a 19-year-old high school student.

Luthfi married his first wife Sutiana Astika in 1984 and his second wife Lusi Tiaraini Agustine in 2000. He has 12 children from his first marriage and three children from his second marriage.

Last year, Luthfi, who was 50, married Darin Mumtazah when she was 18 years old. The KPK found that Luthfi used his wives to help conceal his illicit assets by buying them houses and cars.

Last week, a trial at the Jakarta Corruption Court revealed that former chief of the National Traffic Police Corps (Korlantas) Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo, hid his true identity so that he could marry his second wife, Mahdiana.

The marriage was on the verge of breaking up, with Mahdiana unable to find the true identity of her husband. Seven years after his marriage with Mahdiana, Djoko tied the knot with teenage pageant queen Dipta Anindita as his third wife, when she was only 19.

The last official found to be a polygamist by the KPK was Riau Governor Rusli Zainal, who was named a suspect in a graft case surrounding the Riau National Games (PON) and the issuance of a forestry permit. Rusli's first wife, Septina Primawati Rusli, who is currently running for the Riau Legislative Council, was questioned by the KPK for seven hours on Monday.

Rusli's second wife, Syarifah Darmiati Aida, declined to meet the KPK summons.

Intan Paramaditha, a gender expert from the University of Indonesia, said taking multiple wives among government officials had become easier following the downfall of former president Soeharto's authoritarian regime, which promoted puritanical family values.

"Polygamy is becoming more visible. Groups that were repressed under the New Order now can express their aspirations more freely, including Islam-based organizations that endorse the practice of polygamy," she said.

Intan said for practitioners of polygamy, wives only served as servants.

"The number of wives that these men have indicates their power. Also, a wife is [in effect] an unpaid worker, so three wives means three unpaid workers and so on," she said.

Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) researcher Ade Irawan said the graft suspects were trapped in a vicious cycle.

He said corruption lead them to become polygamous, because they had so much money to spend. Being polygamous then increased their corrupt tendencies because of more demands that came with having more people depending on them.

To make matters worse, no control could be imposed on their excessive lifestyles.

"In case of Luthfi, Rusli and Djoko, I think they were involved in graft cases because they were policy makers that were not controlled by the state, business or civil society," he said.

Yenti Ganarsih, a money laundering expert, said that being polygamous served a practical purpose.

She said the women were used to conceal the illegal activities of the corrupt.

"However, I don't think these women are victims because I believe they actually have knowledge or are suspicious about the source of the assets," she said.