Activists in a show of support of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) march in Jakarta on Jan. 30, 2015. (Antara Photo/M. Agung Rajasa)

2015: The Year the KPK Came Under Attack

BY : NIVELL RAYDA

DECEMBER 08, 2015

Jakarta. As 2015 draws to a close, the Jakarta Globe will for the next few weeks take a look at some of the stories that shaped Indonesia this year from the choking haze affecting hundreds of thousands of people across Sumatra, Kalimantan and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, to the many controversial statements aired by senior public officials.

For our first review of 2015, we chose to focus on the many blatant attempts to undermine the much-respected Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), whose officials were at the receiving end of one malicious blow after another, starting with the seemingly trumped up charges against its commissioners and investigators, to the many attempts by the House of Representatives a long time foe of the KPK to pass into law a series of legislations that would weaken the agency.

Such attempts were not new, but never were they executed on a scale so massive as what the nation witnessed this year.

However, these underhanded schemes also spurred millions of Indonesians to rise up and take to the streets as well as social media in defense of the anti-graft body, which has successfully unraveled countless corruption cases and placed hundreds of corrupt officials and politicians behind bars.

The beginning

The attacks began when President Joko Widodo sent a letter to the House of Representatives on Jan. 9 asking them to vet his sole nominee for police chief: Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan.

The move was quickly criticized as Budi was among several police generals flagged in 2010 by the country's anti-money laundering agency PPATK as having suspiciously large bank accounts.

It came to no surprise when the KPK announced on Jan. 13 its decision to charge Budi on suspicions of bribery and money laundering – a day before the House was scheduled to interview Budi as part of his nomination process. The charges fell on deaf ears as lawmakers unanimously agreed on Jan. 15 to appoint Budi as police chief.

Only the president showed a slight reluctance in installing a graft suspect as the country's top law enforcer. The following day, Joko announced he was delaying Budi's installment and appointed then police deputy chief Badrodin Haiti as acting police chief, drawing the ire of lawmakers who threatened to launch an inquiry against the president for contempt of the parliament.

Having failed to secure his position as police chief, Budi – who was head of the Education Institute (Lemdikpol) at the time – worked to place his most trusted men in strategic posts inside the National Police. The most notorious of these is Budi Waseso, who was appointed as head of the criminal investigation unit (Bareskrim) on Jan. 20, the second most powerful position in the police force.

It seemed the National Police were doling out their revenge on the KPK – and they were just getting started.

On Jan. 23, officers from Waseso's unit arrested KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto over a 10-year-old perjury case police had dropped in 2010. He was released the following day.

Around the same time, photos purportedly showing KPK chief Abraham Samad in an intimate position with a beauty queen were leaked online. Accusations also surfaced that Abraham promised to go easy on the president's party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), in exchange for a ticket as Joko's running mate in the 2014 election.

On Feb. 17, the South Sulawesi Police named Abraham a suspect for allegedly forging state documents, claiming he had helped a woman named Feriyani Lim obtain a passport from a local a immigration office in 2007 by including her name in Abraham's family certificate, when in fact the two were not related.

Police soon announced they were in the process of investigating the two remaining KPK deputies: Zulkarnaen for receiving bribes in 2009 during his stint as chief prosecutor in East Java; and Adnan Pandu Praja, accused of fraudulently acquiring shares in a timber company while acting as its adviser during an ownership dispute in 2006.

The two were never charged.

Although the charges against Abraham and Bambang seemed trumped up and exaggerated, they were enough to get both suspended from active KPK duties. Joko suspended the pair on Feb. 18 but announced that he was also retracting Budi's nomination in favor of Badrodin Haiti. Joko also appointed Taufiequrachman Ruki, Indrianto Seno Adji, and Johan Budi as interim KPK commissioners.

Still, the National Police's attack on the KPK continued, this time with Waseso threatening to charge KPK investigators for possessing illegal firearms, while its senior investigator Novel Baswedan was being investigated for the 2007 death of a thief during his time as a police officer.

Police even targeted supporters of the KPK, most notably former deputy minister for Justice and Human Rights Denny Indrayana, whom they accused of bypassing proper tender procedures in a project to build a payment system during his purview.

Pretrial

Budi triggered further national outcry when he filed on Jan. 21 a pretrial motion to the South Jakarta District Court, challenging the KPK's decision to charge him.

With the law clearly stating at the time that a pretrial hearing was not the venue to have one's charges dropped, the KPK took the motion lightly a move it soon regretted. On Feb. 16, the court granted Budi's pretrial motion and ordered the KPK to revoke its decision to charge him.

Budi's success in quashing the charges against him set an example for other KPK suspects who quickly launched their own pretrial motions.

In the face of massive criticisms from legal experts and KPK supporters, the lone judge in the police general's pretrial motion, Sarpin Rizaldi, threatened in March to sue anyone who openly criticized his ruling. He did exactly that to two members of the Judicial Commission (KY). And despite having the authority to scrutinize the ruling, these two commissioners were then charged with slander by the National Police.

In the meantime, Budi continued his retaliation by pulling a few strings and getting himself appointed as deputy police chief. Badrodin, who became the nation's top cop on Apr. 17, inaugurated Budi as his number two on Apr. 22.

Legislation

As tensions with the National Police began to abate, the KPK came under threat again in June, this time from the House of Representatives which was deliberating an amendment to the Law on the KPK. Activists quickly recognized the move as an effort to defang the anti-graft commission.

The deliberation went on for months and at one point the House even suggested the KPK should be stripped of its powers to wiretap telephone conversations as well as the authority to prosecute its own cases.

Lawmakers also hinted at limiting the KPK's lifespan to 12 years.

On Oct. 18 the president finally ordered the House to postpone its deliberations amid growing public backlash. But judging from the unwavering tenacity of the House and National Police to demolish the KPK, this will not stop them from trying again next year.

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