National Police Cmr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, center, raises his hand with members of the House of Representatives’ Commission III in Senayan, South Jakarta on Jan. 14, 2015. (Antara Photo/M. Agung Rajasa)
‘Bagman Budi’ Finds Hearing for Top Cop Job a Breeze
JANUARY 14, 2015
Jakarta. Indonesia may soon have a corruption suspect as its chief law enforcement officer, after a House of Representatives committee voted unanimously to endorse President Joko Widodo’s sole nominee as the next National Police chief.
House Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, held — and quickly concluded — a confirmation hearing on Wednesday for Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, ultimately approving his nomination for a floor vote in the House plenary on Thursday.
Budi’s successful confirmation hearing comes just a day after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named him a suspect for bribery.
“Based on a hearing in Commission III [...] each faction has agreed to endorse a letter from the president [...] nominating Commissioner General Budi Gunawan as the National Police chief, replacing [current chief] General Sutarman,” Commission III chairman Aziz Syamsuddin said.
The Golkar Party politician said the Democratic Party was the only party to reject Budi’s nomination after the KPK named him a suspect. Instead of voting, the Democrats boycotted the hearing, as they are wont to do.
The House is scheduled to stage a plenary session on Thursday at which a floor vote is widely expected to endorse Commission III’s decision, Aziz said.
The president said he would wait for the House plenary session to make its official decision before the government could decide what to do.
“We respect the KPK. There is a legal process at the KPK, but we must also respect the political process at the House. I am waiting for [the House to stage its] plenary, then we will decide what [action] to take,” Joko said on Wednesday evening.
The KPK said Budi would be charged under three articles in the 2009 Anti-Corruption Law, including for taking bribes.
The decision to name Budi a suspect follows a six-month investigation into irregularities in his bank accounts, which were first flagged as problematic in 2010 by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), the government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog.
If found guilty, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The KPK declined to reveal further details of the case it plans to make against Budi, saying only that the bribery “took place when he was serving as the head of the [police’s] career development bureau,” an office that Budi held from 2004 to 2006, “and other positions within the National Police.”
Budi also served as provincial police chief in Jambi, from 2008-2012, and Bali, from 2012 to 2013.
Budi rose to national infamy in 2010 following an investigative report by Tempo magazine, based on PPATK reports, that identified him as being among several police generals linked to “fat bank accounts” through which transactions amounting to millions of dollars were regularly being made.
Budi on Wednesday denied that the transactions were illicit.
“The transactions were linked to my family’s business and several third-party creditors,” he said at the House, claiming that he had formal documents with the creditors to prove it.
Although announced on Tuesday, the KPK’s decision to charge Budi was made on Monday, three days after the president announced Budi as his sole candidate.
The president said that he knew that Budi was a controversial figure, adding that he had tried to clarify the matter with the National Police Commission, or Kompolnas, a statutorily constituted watchdog for the law enforcement agency.
“I have asked Kompolnas about the bank accounts, and I received this letter,” Joko said while holding what he claimed was a letter from Kompolnas stating that an investigation had been conducted regarding Budi’s suspicious accounts.
The letter, Joko said, “reveals that the transactions are legal.”
PPATK chief Muhammad Yusuf said the transactions were made between 2005 and 2006. “They are worth tens of billions [of rupiah, in total],” he said as quoted by Detik.com.
The PPATK spent the next four years analyzing the transactions. In March 2010, the PPATK sent its final conclusions to the National Police for investigation.
“In May 2010 we received a letter [from police] saying the transactions were not related to any criminal act,” Yusuf said.
The PPATK chief said that in mid-2014, the KPK asked for a copy of the report.
Gandi Parapat, the coordinator of the Indonesian Politics and Legal Monitoring Center, an NGO watchdog, said Joko should replace Budi with another candidate.
“If Budi Gunawan is inaugurated [as the new police chief] you can be certain that [Indonesia] will receive international condemnation,” he said.
“This will be a bad precedent if a [criminal] suspect is named as head of a law enforcement agency.”
Indonesia has scored poorly in the annual Corruption Perception Index conducted by Berlin-based group Transparency International.
Indonesia last year ranked 107th out of 175 countries surveyed, scoring 3.2 on a 10-point scale, with 10 being cleanest.
Years of an aggressive anti-corruption drive by the KPK have somewhat improved Indonesia’s score. When the KPK was established in 2003, Indonesia ranked 122nd out of 133 countries surveyed by Transparency International with a score of 1.9. Much of this improvement, though, is due to other countries’ relative decline on the list.
Gandi said Budi’s appointment would undo these achievements.
Budi’s appointment could also affect public support of Joko, who has promised to act tough in combating corruption.
“Joko will be perceived as inconsistent with his campaign promises. It’s not easy to reverse this negative sentiment,” Gandi said.
Analysts say Joko faces a dilemma: Withdrawing Budi’s nomination amounts to an admission of a blunder; but the risks of a corruption suspect as the country’s top law enforcer are greater, activists say.
“The KPK will one day arrest [Budi], now that he is a suspect,” said Ronald Rofiandri of think tank the Legal and Policy Study Center (PSHK). “If Budi Gunawan is named a police chief [and he is arrested] that would seriously cripple [the National Police].”
Political expert Siti Zuhro from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said appointing Budi as chief of police would also erode public trust in the police force.
Joko “must consider this and not just do something that is according to procedure but has little value,” she said.
On Wednesday, the KPK announced that it had requested the Justice Ministry to impose a travel ban against Budi for the next six months.
KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto said the agency would start questioning Budi as a suspect soon.
By law, the National Police are required to suspend Budi from active duty following his being named a criminal suspect. Budi is currently the governor of the police academy.
Current National Police Chief Sutarman said he could not suspend Budi until “a decision from an ethics tribunal is made.”
That remark contrasts greatly what happened to former traffic police chief Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo, who was suspended a week after he was charged by the KPK in a separate bribery case.
But some legislators say Budi’s questionable legal disposition will not hinder him from performing his duties as police chief.
“Your status as a suspect by the KPK is not out of the ordinary,” Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) politician Desmond Mahesa told Budi during the confirmation hearing. He cited several instances in which public officials continued to carry out their official duties despite being charged for graft.
“I just want to compliment you on how calm you are even though you are named a suspect,” Desmond continued. “I have participated in similar hearings for the last two police chiefs. I must say, you are better than both of your predecessors.”
Trimedya Panjaitan, from Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said he wished the “president could soon inaugurate Budi Gunawan.”
Asked if he thought Budi would be able to perform his duties as police chief, Trimedya said “it is all up to the KPK,” adding there were other officials who could fill the role. “We have the police deputy chief, the chief of criminal investigations. [Budi’s suspect status] will not disrupt their roles,” he said.