Eight of the 10 political parties in the House of Representatives want an explanation from the president about why he canceled Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan nomination for police chief. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

Jokowi Delays Appointment of Graft Suspect Budi as Police Chief

JANUARY 16, 2015

[This story was updated at 11:41 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, to add details, background and comments]

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo announced in a televised address to the nation on Friday night that he would postpone his appointment of graft suspect Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan as police chief due to the legal troubles the three-star general faces.

The president said he had signed a letter to honorably discharge National Police Chief Gen. Sutarman, and that the deputy chief, Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti, would take over in an interim role.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) publicly named Budi a suspect on Tuesday for alleged violations of anti-graft and money-laundering laws, provoking a week of denouncements and public calls on Joko to rescind his nomination of Budi as the new National Police chief.

In remarks from the State Palace, the president stressed Budi’s appointment had been “delayed, not canceled.” He did not take questions.

“Because Commissioner General Budi Gunawan is facing a legal process, I believe it is necessary to delay his appointment,” Joko said. “So it’s delayed, not canceled. That needs to be underlined.”

The KPK’s investigation targeting Budi stems from transactions first flagged as suspicious in 2010 by the Financial Transactions Report and Analysis Center (PPATK). The government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog detected at least $5.9 million funneled through Budi’s bank accounts, and referred their findings to the National Police for further investigation.

Despite Tuesday’s revelation that the president had picked a graft suspect to head the National Police, the House of Representatives voted in a plenary session two days later to confirm Joko’s nomination of Budi for the job.

Despite strong calls from his own supporters, Joko refused to withdraw Budi’s nomination, arguing on Wednesday that he was obliged to “respect the political process in the House,” which at the time was staging uncharacteristically amicable confirmation hearings.

Desmond Junaedi Mahesa, a lawmaker from the opposition Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), said Joko had insulted the House’s decision by delaying Budi’s inauguration.

“We will question [the delay] and maybe invoke our right to launch an inquiry,” he said referring to a House motion (interpelasi in Indonesian political parlance — no relation to its English cognate) that could potentially lead to impeachment proceedings.

“Why didn’t he withdraw Budi’s nomination from the start? It seems [Joko] is blaming the House [for the debacle].” Umbu Rauta, a state administrative law expert, said it was the president’s prerogative to nominate and revoke nominations for police chief. “If the president’s reason makes sense, there’s no reason for the House” to launch an inquiry, he said.

Desmond also questioned the KPK’s timing, calling it “highly political.”

“If they have evidence, why don’t they arrest Budi?” he said.

KPK chief Abraham Samad has vowed to arrest Budi, but added that, according to procedure, investigators can do so only “once an investigation is 50 percent complete.”

Political observer Boni Hargens said that with the president simply delaying Budi’s appointment, the KPK should move quickly to arrest Budi.

“Only the KPK’s courage can save the country from chaos,” he said. “By arresting B.G., the KPK will do the president a favor.”

Boni added that Joko’s pick of Budi was likely due to pressure from former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, who chairs the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) that helped elect Joko.

If the KPK is slow to arrest Budi, Boni said, people will see its inaction as “confirmation that the KPK’s allegations against B.G. were political.”

Further Coverage

Editorial: Budi Delay a Step in the Right Direction