New KPK commissioners, from left, Saut Situmorang, Alexander Marwata, Basaria Panjaitan, Agus Rahardjo and Laode Muhammad Syarif, following their inauguration by the president at the State Palace on Monday. (Antara Photo/Yudhi Mahatma)

KPK Commissioners Inaugurated Amid Swirl of Skepticism


DECEMBER 21, 2015

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo on Monday swore into office the five new leaders of Indonesia’s antigraft commission, even as skepticism mounts about their commitment to cracking down on corruption.

The four men and one woman were inaugurated as members of the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, at a ceremony at the State Palace in Central Jakarta, four days after they were elected by legislators on the House of Representatives’ oversight commission for legal affairs.

“The president wants the new KPK leaders to be inaugurated immediately so they can get to work right away,” Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung told reporters after the swearing-in ceremony.

In a move that came as little surprise to antigraft activists and experts, the House – persistently seen as among the most corrupt institutions in the republic – overlooked experienced and highly regarded candidates in favor of hopefuls whose own policies and track records appear to diverge from the KPK’s hard line on corruption.

Among them is Basaria Panjaitan, a police general and the first woman to be named a KPK commissioner, who, during vetting by the House, suggested that the KPK should leave corruption investigations up to other law enforcement agencies and focus more on coordination.

Another newly named commissioner, Saut Situmorang, previously of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), agreed with the House that the legislation undergirding the KPK should be revised because it gave the commission “too much power.” The House’s long-running campaign to revise the law is universally perceived as a thinly veiled attempt to rein in the KPK’s powers because of its effectiveness in jailing dozens of legislators since it was established 11 years ago.

The House also elected Agus Rahardjo, the head of the government’s Goods and Services Procurement Policy Institution, or LKPP, who has little in the way of antigraft credentials, to be the KPK chairman.

The other two commissioners are Alexander Marwata, an ad-hoc anti-corruption judge who has often sided with graft defendants, and Laode Muhammad Syarif, the dean of the law school at Makassar’s Hasanuddin University, who activists say represents the only hope for the KPK to continue fighting corruption.

‘A lot to prove’

“The public’s skepticism toward the five new KPK leaders is very high, and the challenges they face are tough,” Agus Sarwo, a researcher with Transparency International Indonesia, said in Jakarta on Monday. “They have a lot to prove.”

Agus said the Joko administration’s program to spend big on public works projects through 2019 would open up ample opportunities for corruption, unless the KPK tightened its supervision.

“Irregularities in the procurement process [of public works projects] have been the main source of state losses. The five KPK leaders must make this a priority,” he said.

The government has also earmarked trillions of rupiah in social aid funds and introduced a stimulus program for villages nationwide, which Agus warned could easily be manipulated and siphoned off by corrupt officials.

Miko Ginting, from the Legal and Policy Study Center (PSHK), said Indonesians must treat the new KPK leadership with greater scrutiny.

“Instead of giving fresh hope to the future of corruption eradication, the newly elected leaders could lead the KPK to become toothless,” he said.

He called for an overhaul in the way the commission’s leaders are elected, to ensure the process was free of the political horse-trading rife at the House.

But legal expert Feri Amsari of Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra said this was not the first time the public had been skeptical about newly elected KPK commissioners.

“Hopefully they only told the House what it wanted to hear in order to be elected, and now that they’re in office they can truly uphold the law and meet the people’s aspirations,” he said.

He also noted that the KPK already had a strong system in place for going after corruption suspects, regardless of who was at the helm.

“The five KPK leaders must prove to the skeptics that they are committed to eradicating corruption,” Feri said.