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Politics, corruption meddle in academic business

Surya Dharma Ali [PPP]          Ahmad Mohamed Ali [IDB]          Deddy Ismatullah [UIN SGD]

Kafil Yamin

IF things go right, Indonesia's State Islamic University of Sunan Gunung Djati [UIN SGD] Bandung will have a new look: fancy buildings , comfortable rooms, good facilities and – perhaps – nice environment.

But whether or not it will have more quality lecturing, university management and services, remain to be seen.

Those are what would come out of the US$21.5-million IDB loan, with an embedded Indonesian government fund of US$5 million.

But if things go wrong, it would be the same old story: unattended buildings, out-of-service toilets, unclean rooms, low-class campus look and a position of insignificant university.

And things seem to be going wrong.

UIN SGD Bandung is a university run by the Religious Ministry, in which corruption, irregularities and low work ethic  are part of administration.

Last January, the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission [KPK] named the Religious Ministry one of the most corrupt government institutions. Needless to say, UIN SGD is part of it.

And the ongoing construction of the university new buildings just confirms the labeling. Certain administration workers suddenly become rich, with senior lecturers and university officials grabbing a chance of becoming land brokers.

“Knowing the loan deal has been sealed, the men purchased the lands that were included in the construction plan, then sold them to the UIN at high prices,” said a resident of Cibiru Kampong who asked for anonymity.

“They got a lot of money from such business,” he said.

The recent university chief election showed that money and power were placed high above the academic matters.

Deddy Ismatullah is a politician of the United Development Party [PPP]. His ascension to the chief chair was anything but compliance with the rule. Indonesian regulation prohibited government employees to become member of political party.

Worse, he was not raised from within. He was ‘sent’ from outside of the UIN SGD, apparently part of the SBY political coalition arrangement, where PPP ‘deserves’ control of the Religious Ministry through his General Chairman Surya Dharma Ali, who is also minister of Religion Affairs.

His win of the university chief election hit the all academics out of the blue. “None of us know about him, and all of a sudden, he is our boss,” said Zainal Abidin, a senior lecturer, and called the election as an ‘kemunkaran akademis' [academic sin].

Some sources within the UIN SGD said that the majority senate members have voted for Deddy for money.

“Here in this campus, money speaks louder,” said a young lecturer at the Islamic Law [Sharia] faculty. Still, Deddy’s win is a mixture of money, party’s power jockeying, poor law enforcement and the absence of academic sense. “It is sad to see those things happened in the so-called Islamic University,” he maintained.

Once he secured his position, Deddy got his staff rolled in such a way that anybody would think it was just a show of power. “It’s a pointless move. I think he just meant to show that he is being in control of this university. And it does not give him any credibility,” said Muhammad Alfan, a senior lecturer of the Ushuluddin Faculty.

He degraded senior men and promoted fledgling lecturers and workers to important position.

But how Surya Dharma Ali, assumed he is aware of the government regulation, went ahead with his appointment of the legally-flawed Deddy Ismatullah?

Dharma Ali said that his decision had a legal base. “He is the chief-elect,” he said. “The university senate members selected him. I would not defy their choice,” Dharma Ali said.

But some observers see differently. For one, the reason is the PPP’s build-up for the upcoming election. For another, money. “He paid off some key officials in the Religious Ministry,” Prof Dr Endin Nashrudin, an official of UIN SGD, said.

And party-originated officials collecting money during their term of office for the party treasures are common in Indonesian politics. “Never, never, never think that leaders work for the people, or even for the organization they serve. They work for their parties,” said Prof Cik Hasan Bisri, a Sharia expert at the UIN SGD.

The political meddling and campus hanky-panky had drawn high concern of a former chief of the University: "I think he [Deddy] should be stopped," he said.

The US$21 million IDB loan, as it seems, would become the target of the PPP fund raising. And the long-awaited ‘world-class university’ would turn to a dashed hope.


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