Jakarta. The country's antigraft agency has received widespread support from the local and international community over what is believed to be another systematic ploy by politicians to weaken the graft buster's power in the country.
A new rift between the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and lawmakers began when the agency earlier this year intensified investigations into a graft case surrounding the multi-trillion rupiah electronic identity card (e-KTP) project.
Since the scandal broke in 2015, the KPK have arrested Irman and Sugiharto, two officials with the Ministry of Home Affairs; businessman Andi Narogong; and former Hanura Party politician Miryam S. Haryani. The agency has said it plans to announce more suspects in the case, which might implicate high profile lawmakers within the House of Representatives.
Unhappy with KPK's move, the House launched its 'right of inquiry,' known as Hak Angket, and accused the graft buster of overstepping its authority in the ongoing e-KTP investigation.
The right to inquiry is granted by Law No.17/2014 on Legislative Bodies, which gives the House the power to investigate a government body to ensure its works are in line with the greater public interest.
The chairman of the Hak Angket committee, Agun Gunandjar Sudarsa, said on Thursday (13/07) that the committee may scrutinize KPK's procedure in prosecuting its suspects and will seek advice from the country's Attorney General's office on whether or not the graft buster breached any regulations.
Through the rights of inquiry, the House also planned to summon Miryam for questioning, an idea rejected by the KPK on concerns that the former politician, who has been in the graft buster's custody, may retract her testimony due to pressure from her former colleagues.
Lawmakers also made another threat to stall discussions for KPK's budget allocation for 2018, though the antigraft agency rebutted, pointing out that the Ministry of Finance sets specific budget allocations for each government agency every year.
Global anti-corruption organization Transparency International has also voiced concerns over recent threats from the House of Representatives.
In a statement released on Friday (14/07), the organization said it has been following up on a series of attempts by the country's legislative body to weaken KPK and it, for the second time in two years, called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to "publicly commit to protecting the organisation’s independence so it can carry out its work free from intimidation."
"The KPK is determined to fight corruption, no matter who is involved. There must be no impunity for the powerful. President Widodo must speak out and take actions to ensure that the KPK is safe from intimidation. Lawmakers must not be allowed to weaken its powers or dodge its investigations,” said José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International.
"The KPK has a solid reputation for doing a good job in the fight against corruption. It is respected by ordinary Indonesians who are fed up with the corrupt acting with impunity. It should be allowed to work, free from intimidation," said Felia Salim, chair of Transparency International Indonesia.
According to the 2016 results of Transparency's Corruption Perceptions Index, Indonesia ranks 90th out of 176 countries.
KPK's Sacred Friday Unaffected
Amnesty International representatives joined local civil society organizations, lawyers and rights advocates in a gathering on Friday in front of KPK headquarters to coincide with antigraft agency's summoning day, known locally as "Sacred Friday," where investigators typically grill witnesses, or suspects in various corruption cases.
On Friday morning, the House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto arrived at the commission's headquarters for questioning as a witness in relation to a case involving a Rp 5.9 trillion ($443 million) tender project won by businessman Andi Narogong in the e-KTP project.
He was accompanied by Golkar secretary general Idrus Marham.
Legendary rock band Slank also held a concert on Friday in front of KPK headquarters in support for the graft buster against Hak Angket, which many believe is aimed at weakening the commission.
Representatives from the University of Indonesia and other campuses also released statements calling for the House to drop its inquiry.
Hak Angket Morally Wrong?
According to prominent lawyer and human rights advocate Todung Mulya Lubis, the KPK cannot be the subject of a political inquiry by the House of Representatives, which could constitute obstruction of justice.
"If the House of Representatives, for example, would stop or reduce KPK's budget, the commission's function would be disrupted," Todung said on Wednesday.
He said that even though the right of inquiry is legal and all procedures have been approved in the House's plenary session, the House's decision is fraught with conflicting interests and is "morally wrong".
Todung, a former chairman of Transparency International Indonesia, said the global anti-corruption NGO's study showed that the most common case of corruption is related to procurement projects financed through the state budget.
"If we have a look at the KPK statistics, many cases of corruption are strongly related to the procurement projects, whether the procurement for ports or land procurement such as toll roads projects. These are all projects that concern the public interest," he said.
Not the First Time
Over the past few years, KPK has faced daunting challenges from politicians seeking to weaken its powers, including by proposing a revision to the corruption law that could take away the agency's authority to wiretap and make it difficult to recruit new investigators.
Another clause in the revision could ultimately dissolve the agency if it is considered ineffective.
However, those revisions have been put on hold after widespread public outcry.