Jokowi Stumbles in Interim Police Chief Debacle

JANUARY 19, 2015

(Antara Photo/Fanny Octavianu)

Jakarta. While Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan’s nomination as the new police chief was delayed due to suspicions concerning his “fat” bank accounts, another police general facing similar allegations was immediately appointed to fill the position temporarily, allowing the public barely any time to react.

Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti, formerly the deputy of the National Police chief, accepted the interim role as the nation’s top cop last week — replacing Gen. Sutarman, who was honorably discharged from the position without a clear explanation.

Sutarman was scheduled to retire in October, stirring further confusion as to why he was prematurely replaced.

Joko announced Badrodin’s appointment on Friday night, following the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)’s move to name Budi a graft suspect after an investigation uncovered his suspiciously large bank account.

Joko merely postponed Budi’s nomination — and his incontestable inauguration as he was the only candidate for the job — pending the anti-graft body’s investigations into the case.

“Postponed, not canceled,” the president emphasized on a televised address on Friday night.

(Cmr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, left. (Antara Photo/Wahyu Putro A.)

Dubious history

But the public’s resistance against Budi was high even before last week’s shocking turn of events.

The Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) in 2010 released a list of police generals with hefty bank accounts. Budi’s name was included but KPK had failed to name him a suspect until last week — three years too late. Also on the list was Badrodin, who claimed he had already given reasons for his impressive bank balance to PPATK.

Despite having been caught in similarly suspicious circumstances, the public is not as angered by Badrodin because the interim police chief has remained off of Indonesia Corruption Watch’s radar — unlike Budi, said Emerson Yuntho from ICW.

“What we worry about is the rising issue of Badrodin serving as the ‘de jure’ police chief, and Budi is actually the ‘de facto’ chief,” Emerson, coordinator for ICW’s legal and judiciary monitoring division, told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.

He added that the controversy surrounding Joko’s appointment of National Police chief damaged the president’s ability to manage the nation’s law enforcement in the eyes of antigraft activists.

The president, formerly seen as a populist and reformist figure, has proven unable to fight political pressures around him.

Many see Budi’s nomination as a move forced by Joko’s political patron and chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Megawati Soekarnoputri as the police general had served as her adjutant during her 2001-2004 presidency.

Antigraft activists have earlier decried the appointment of National Democratic (Nasdem) lawmaker H. M. Prasetyo as attorney general and PDI-P politician Yasonna Laoly as justice and human rights minister. Nasdem and PDI-P are members of the Awesome Indonesia Coalition, which supported Joko’s presidential bid ahead of the July 9 presidential election last year.

“At the beginning we thought [Joko] was clean. But now that’s becoming more and more uncertain,” Emerson said, comparing Joko’s personnel choice with that of his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudyono. “He [Joko] has picked the wrong people for his anticorruption agenda. He has betrayed his campaign promises.”

Emerson urged Joko to stand up to the political pressures around him.

“What we need is a real president, not a party officer,” Emerson stressed.

Political observer Siti Zuhro of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said the president should have understood that although political backing was necessary to support his presidency, the supremacy of law should be excluded from the political game.

“Crucial positions in the areas of law and justice cannot be comprised. The president must exercise his authority responsibly,” Siti said.

At the same time, she urged political leaders around Joko to make more responsible political suggestions and requests.

“Joko should not be using up his energy to serve the wishes of political powers and financiers around him,” Siti said. “He must stay committed to his principles, beliefs and vision for developing the country; he must not stray even a bit in order to comply with the political power and financiers’ interests.”

Ari Junaedi, a lecturer in political communications with the University of Indonesia, warned the president that his failures to defy the power play around him could be political suicide for him.

“Joko’s political opponents are probably  enjoying the sight of him stumbling as he attempts to deal with the political turbulence. They don’t need to strike out against him ­— he is causing enough damage to himself,” Ari said as quoted by

An Indonesian Navy aircraft passes over two illegal fishing vessels that were sunk by the waters of Ambon, Maluku on Dec. 21, 2014. (Antara Photo/Izaac Mulyawan)

Lack of ‘strategic thinkers’

But the political pressures and adverse influences around him is not Joko’s only weakness threatening the quality of his administration’s decision-making process and policies, noted Aleksius Jemadu, the dean of Pelita Harapan University’s School of Social and Political Sciences.

Joko’s government had a tendency to issue policies that might strike as populist at a glance, but were considered arbitrary, not well thought of upon closer inspections, he pointed out.

One example is Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan’s decision to impose a limit on airfare for low-cost carriers following the Dec. 28 crash of and Indonesia AirAsia aircraft, citing safety precaution.

Unsurprisingly, the policy was met with widespread criticism, with critics calling it a knee-jerk reaction from someone who obviously has very little knowledge of the aviation industry.

Then there is also the draft regulation by the Manpower Ministry that will require foreign workers to pass an Indonesian language test before they can secure a permit to work here — deemed an unnecessary nationalistic approach that will create complications once implemented.

Meanwhile, Anies Baswedan, the minister of education and culture, said he is in the process of forming a “directorate of parents” within his office to educate and train Indonesia’s moms and dads on how to better treat their children.

The move from a highly regarded intellectual like Anies, who was expected to become “one of the brains” within Joko’s administration, quickly drew critics who accused the effort of being the government’s unnecessary involvement in its citizens' lives.

Most recently, Sunday’s executions of six drug inmates — which have triggered condemnations by right activists and governments around the globe — is seen by some local observers as the administration’s misguided attempt to divert public  attention from the police chief debacle.

Even Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti’s instruction to burn every foreign-flagged vessel poaching in Indonesian waters is seen as lacking substance and is failing to address the more pressing issue of preventing Indonesian fishermen from sinking further into poverty.

“Those [arbitrary] moves probably have something to do with a [supposedly] populist president; he will be tempted to use his populist platform, while abandoning more strategic, more comprehensive and more in-depth policies,” Aleksius said. “Though some of his current ideas may sound like populist policies, when we inspect them closely, we see that they fail to touch the core of the problem. These regulation lack comprehensive, long-term planning; they are just a reaction to what hasn’t been there before.”

Aleksius urged recently appointed presidential chief of staff Luhut Panjaitan, an experienced bureaucrat and businessman, as well as a senior politician and retired Army general, to help Joko in creating more strategic policies.

The president may face yet another tidal wave of challenges with the establishment of a strategic policy think tank, the members of which are rumored to be inaugurated in Jakarta on Monday.

Former President Yudhoyono at least appointed real technocrats as his advisors during his terms in office, such as late former foreign minister Ali Alatas, another former foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda, former Constitutional Court chief justice Jimly Asshiddique, Indonesian environmental guru Emil Salim and prominent lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution.

More than half of the names rumored to become nine members of Joko’s presidential advisory team, meanwhile, are politicians from the pro-government coalition: former People’s Consultative Assembly speaker Sidarto Danusubroto of the PDI-P; former Army chief of staff Subagyo H. S. of the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura); Yusuf Kartanegara of the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI); Jan Darmadi from Nasdem; Lion Air chief executive Rusdi Kirana, who is also a deputy chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB); and Suharso Monoarfa of the United Development Party (PPP).

Three other names circulating in the media are former National State Intelligence (BIN) chief A. M. Hendropriyono, a known close aide of Megawati; Hasyim Muzadi of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama; and prominent businesswoman Mooryati Soedibyo.

“Although it is too early to say whether Joko’s administration will continue with its whimsical policy path for the next five years... I doubt that there are strategic thinkers among the names reportedly considered for the presidential advisory team,” Aleksius said.

“They are veteran figures. But their political closeness [to Joko] sounds like the stronger reason for their appointment [rather than their knowledge and capabilities],” he added.

The House of Representatives support the nomination of Cmr. Gen. Budi Gunawan as chief of the National Police. (Antara Photo/Yudhi Mahatma)

Next: impeachment?

In a bizarre turn of events, Vice President Jusuf Kalla finally spoke up Friday evening during an annual meeting for the country’s financial service industry.

Kalla was slated to speak primarily on finance but shocked the audience and the entire nation when he conceded he and the president had just made a series of decisions that could possibly bear damaging political, legal and social ramifications — severe enough to merit “impeachment.”

“I was late [to Friday’s conference] because the president and I were delayed,” Kalla began.

“Joko and I took great risks with several decisions we made recently — some might even say they could lead to impeachment.

“But we have made our decisions. Let’s see what they lead to and then we can find ways to solve any more problems.”

A number of legal experts have warned that nominating Budi as police chief would put Joko in “damned if I do, dammed if I don’t” position.

As the House had agreed on the candidacy, Joko is said to have no choice but to inaugurate the troubled police general.

“From a legal standpoint, Jokowi must inaugurate Budi after the House’s approval. If not, then he violates the Police Law and could be accused of disrespecting the  House,” said Margarito Kamis, an expert on state law, referring to the president by his nickname.

He proposed that Joko inaugurates Budi, then directly declares him non-active pending legal investigation.

Meanwhile, Feri Amsari, a legal expert from Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra, said that if Joko proceeds to inaugurate a graft suspect as National Police chief, the move would go against the very principles of running a nation.

“Joko’s decision to appoint a graft suspect shows he is not professional or accountable. The move is not only catastrophic  for his reputation as a populist leader, it also violates Article 7A of the Constitution that could very well lead to impeachment,” he added.

Tjipta Lesmana, a political communication expert, sees the series of bizarre events as a carefully orchestrated plot formulated by Joko’s opponents with the end goal of seeing the president impeached.

“The Red-White Coalitions seems to support PDI-P in Budi’s nomination. It’s very strange that, suddenly, they stand united behind Joko when only a few months ago they sought to prevent his inauguration,” Tjipta pointed out. “These lawmakers knew that once Budi is approved, the public — even his supporters — will turn against Joko.

“But if the president does not inaugurate Budi, he may be accused of showing contempt for the House — that is a strong basis for impeachment.”

Further Coverage

Editorial: Jokowi Administration Is Its Own Worst Enemy