Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, center, speaks at a press conference in his office in Jakarta on Friday. (Antara Photo/Aditya Pradana Putra)

Justice Minister Details Reasons Why KPK Needs New Law


SEPTEMBER 21, 2019

Jakarta. Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly dismissed allegations that the government had sought to weaken the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, by amending the law on the anti-graft agency, saying instead that the new law would make the agency even stronger.

In an exclusive interview with BeritaSatu News Channel aired on Friday night, Yasonna said 17 years had passed since the law on KPK was adopted, so it needed some fine-tuning to adapt better with current circumstances.

The law was passed during the "Reformasi" era in 2002 in the aftermath of financial and political crises that had dogged Indonesia. It was then that the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) agreed to grant extraordinary powers to the KPK to tackle rampant corruption without much consideration about human rights.

"At that time the country had sunk to the bottom, corruption was rampant, so the human rights perspective was ignored a little bit [when the law was adopted]. Seventeen years on, we must rebuild the KPK into a better agency," he said.

Among the key changes in the amended law was the establishment of an internal supervisory body, from whom the KPK must get a warrant before wiretapping suspects, the minister said, adding that a warrant is needed because the government does not want the KPK to violate human rights.

"Wiretap is closely related to human rights, so it must be regulated properly with the establishment of a supervisory body. The House proposed that a warrant [to wiretap] should come from the court, but we [the government] said no, because we believe the KPK should have a bigger authority. Therefore, we have no intention to dismantle or weaken the KPK," Yasonna said.

Because the supervisory body will be a "built-in" organ of the KPK, the procedure to obtain a warrant for wiretaps should not be too complicated, he argued.

The minister said the KPK was no different from other state agencies in the sense that it has to be supervised, quoting the classic phrase, "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

The proposed supervisory body, which has attracted protests from many anti-graft activists, is crucial to prevent KPK agents from violating the law they want to enforce, Yasonna said. He pointed to practices in the US where police have to declare suspects' rights when capturing them.

Another major change in the new law says that as a state agency, all staff and investigators in the KPK will join the civil service, including those hired from the police and the attorney general's office.

"The law clearly states that the KPK belongs to the executive branch as an auxiliary state agency, although it works independently," Yasonna said.

Yasonna said the government has given a two-year transition period to allow all KPK employees to go through the procedures to join the civil service.

"The House gave one year, but the president argued we need at least two years for a proper recruitment process. Why must they become civil servants? Because this agency is funded by the state budget," he said.

"It would be a problem if we used the state budget [for the KPK], but it lacks a proper bureaucratic and manpower management. We are working to improve governance inside the agency," the minister said.

The third key issue is a new authority given to the KPK to halt ongoing investigations for lack of evidence. The authority, abbreviated as "SP3," is granted to the KPK based on human rights considerations, Yasonna said.

"There were cases when a suspect had to bear that status [of a graft suspect] until he died, or when a suspect went through five years without trial. This shouldn't happen anymore," he said.

The new law gives the KPK two years to complete investigations into a case, otherwise it must be halted.

This new power has been opposed by activists who argued it could potentially be used by outsiders to intervene in ongoing investigations by the KPK, or worse, be used by the law enforcers themselves to extort suspects – name someone a criminal suspect, but if they pay a bribe the case could be halted midway through the investigation. 

Yasonna stressed in the interview that the new law was adopted to improve governance within the KPK with respect to human rights, slamming allegations of government attempts to weaken the agency as groundless.

"I think there's no doubt about the president's credibility and integrity when it comes to the fight against corruption. I'm deeply concerned with such allegations. I must defend my president in this case," Yasonna said.