The nation’s antigraft body has rejected the Home Affairs Ministry’s request to allow a corruption suspect to be inaugurated as a district chief, with a top official slamming the minister for “eschewing moral leadership” in the matter.
Johan Budi, a spokesman for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), confirmed on Sunday that the office had received the request with regard to Hambit Bintih, the now-jailed head of Central Kalimantan’s Gunung Mas district, and had turned it down.
“The KPK has received two letters, the first from the Gunung Mas district legislature asking permission for Hambit to be inaugurated for his second term in office, and the second from the Home Affairs Ministry, which contained a decree on the inauguration,” Johan told the Jakarta Globe in a text message.
The KPK rejected both calls, he said, and would send formal written notification soon.
The move was widely expected by the KPK, which arrested Hambit in October in a raid linked to the alleged bribery of the country’s top constitutional judge, who was hearing a dispute filed by one of Hambit’s opponents over his controversial win in last September’s election for district head in Gunung Mas.
Busyro Muqoddas, a deputy chairman of the KPK, said earlier on Thursday that the insistence by the Home Affairs Ministry to proceed with Hambit’s inauguration regardless of his criminal status was both puzzling and counterproductive.
“Even if he were to be inaugurated, there would be no point because he wouldn’t be allowed to serve, so it would all just be a waste,” he said in a text message to the Globe.
He slammed the planned inauguration, which was to have taken place on Christmas Day, as setting a poor precedent for efforts to clean up the government, and faulted the home affairs minister, Gamawan Fauzi, for being a stickler about bureaucratic procedure at the expense of doing the morally right thing.
“It would be very dignified indeed if the minister had sided with the ethical and moral choice in this matter instead of pushing ahead with regulations that in the end eschew moral leadership,” Busyro said.
The KPK, he went on, would always treat corruption as a moral scandal, and thus would never be able to rationalize the appointment of a graft suspect as a public official on purely administrative grounds.
Busyro’s statements echo those of Bambang Widjojanto, a fellow deputy chairman of the KPK, who said on Monday that allowing Hambit to formally take office would only allow him to appoint his cohorts to key positions in the district administration.
“He’s currently being investigated and has been named a suspect,” Bambang said. “I’m not saying he’s definitely guilty, but the preliminary findings are strong enough.”
The KPK has a near 100 percent conviction rate against those it has charged with corruption.
Bambang urged Gamawan to seriously reconsider the plan to swear in Hambit, saying that although it could be legally justified, it was still morally questionable.
“The government should learn from previous mistakes, because there will potentially be a lot of trouble arising from this inauguration,” he said.
Hambit, the incumbent in Gunung Mas, was declared the winner of the Sept. 4 election with 52 percent of votes, with his closest challenger, Jaya Samaya Monong, getting 38 percent.
However, Jaya contested the results at the Constitutional Court, claiming widespread poll fraud, including the mobilization of minors by the incumbent’s camp to cast votes, as well as the recognition of hundreds of votes in favor of Hambit from a nonexistent ward and the disqualification of hundreds of ballots from one of the challenger’s strongholds.
Hambit was arrested in Jakarta on the night of Oct. 1, in a series of raids that also netted Akil Mochtar, the chief justice of the Constitutional Court, and charged with bribing the judge for a favorable ruling in the election dispute.
Akil was also charged in the case and accused of taking up to Rp 3 billion ($246,000) in kickbacks from Hambit, as well as Rp 1 billion in connection with another dispute being heard over an election in Lebak district in Banten.
The KPK is investigating whether he took bribes in any of the dozens of other election disputes that he heard during his four years at the court.
Despite the controversy, the Constitutional Court went on to rule on Oct. 9, just eight days after the arrests, that Jaya did not have a case, effectively upholding the victory for the now-jailed Hambit.
The KPK has indicated that its case against the disgraced district head will be ready to go to court soon.