Suspended KPK chairman Abraham Samad, right, and deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto face criminal charges widely seen as trumped up. (Antara Photo/Wahyu Putro A.)
KPK to Indonesia’s Rescue From ‘Dirty’ National Police Chief Candidate
BY :FANA F.S. PUTRA & MARKUS JUNIANTO SIHALOHO
JANUARY 14, 2015
Jakarta. Indonesia's House of Representatives insists it will go ahead with a confirmation hearing for Budi Gunawan, President Joko Widodo’s sole candidate for National Police chief, despite his being named a corruption suspect on Tuesday.
The announcement by the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, follows a six-month investigation into irregularities in Budi’s bank accounts as flagged by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, or PPATK, the government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog, in 2010.
“The KPK’s decision to name Budi a suspect is not our concern,” Desmond Junaedi Mahesa, a member of House Commission III, which oversees legal affairs and is scheduled to vet Budi, told reporters in Jakarta.
“We have a schedule to stick to. Besides, it’s not certain that [Budi] will be selected as police chief,” added Desmond, from the opposition Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra.
He said the House had been given a mandate by the president to vet his nominee, and such a mandate could not be easily dropped.
The Democratic Party of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the only one of the 10 parties at the House whose members called for the confirmation hearing, scheduled for today, to be scrapped in light of the KPK’s announcement. Democrat legislators also called on Joko to put forward a new nominee.
The Golkar Party, meanwhile, requested that the House speaker and his deputies convene “an emergency consultation meeting” with the president to gauge whether Joko still wanted Budi to go through the confirmation process.
But Gerindra’s Desmond insisted there was nothing the House could do to stop the process, short of Joko withdraw Budi’s nomination.
He added that following the confirmation hearing today, the House planned to call in the KPK’s leaders on Thursday for questioning about their decision to name Budi a suspect just days after he was nominated.
The nomination by Joko on Friday rankled antigraft watchdogs and activists who had hoped the president would appoint a reformer to clean up the police force, long identified as Indonesia’s most corrupt government institution.
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.
The police denied the accusation, though not before buying up all copies of the magazine with the damning article from agents and distributors. Tempo’s office was firebombed shortly after the publication, but the police somehow never managed to identify the perpetrators.
Budi courted controversy again in 2013, when, upon filing a mandatory wealth report after being appointed the governor of the police academy, it was revealed that his personal wealth had ballooned from Rp 4.6 billion to Rp 22.6 billion ($364,000 to $1.79 million) between 2008 and 2013 — an increase impossible to justify based on his legitimate earnings in the police force.
In Tuesday’s announcement, KPK chairman Abraham Samad said Budi would be charged under three articles in the 2009 Anti-Corruption Law, including for taking bribes. If found guilty, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Abraham declined to reveal more details about the KPK’s investigation, saying only that the bribery case “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.”
“As to who [the money came from], how much and in what way [it was paid], sorry, we can’t divulge that just yet,” KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto said. Budi also served as provincial police chief in Jambi, from 2008 to 2012, and Bali, from 2012 until 2013.
Joko on Tuesday addressed criticism of his decision to nominate Budi, speaking just hours before the KPK declared the nominee a suspect.
The president said the decision was based on recommendation from the National Police Commission, or Kompolnas, a government-appointed watchdog for the law enforcement agency.
He declined to comment about Budi’s suspiciously large wealth and transactions, or why he had not consulted the KPK when deciding on nominees, as he had when picking cabinet members.
The PDI-P has also denied that the party or its chairwoman — who Budi served as security aide when she was president — had anything to do with the nomination.
“Choosing a police chief is Joko’s prerogative as head of state. There is no intervention from Megawati as PDI-P chairwoman,” senior PDI-P politician Trimedya Panjaitan said on Monday.
Trimedya also said that Joko had only acted according to Kompolnas’ recommendations adding that Joko remained committed in the fight against graft.
Kompolnas commissioners said on Tuesday that Joko’s decision to name a replacement for the current police chief, Gen. Sutarman, who only retires in October, was so sudden that the commission had failed to check beyond the administrative requirements of possible candidates.
“There was no time to ask for opinions from the KPK, the PPATK or Komnas HAM,” the National Commission for Human Rights, said Kompolnas commissioner Adrianus Meliala.
He added that Kompolnas had recommended five nominees who fit the administrative requirements, but that Joko had settled on just one name to forward to the House.
‘We warned Joko about Budi’
The KPK’s Abraham said Joko “knew very well” that Budi was on the antigraft commission’s radar, and had been probed by the KPK when Joko was forming his cabinet back in October.
At the time, the KPK flagged him as unsuitable to serve in the cabinet because of the likelihood that he was implicated in a corruption case.
“We have warned [Joko] about [Budi],” Abraham said.
Bambang said the KPK had been trying to meet with Joko ever since he made the controversial decision to nominate Budi.
He said that the decision to charge Budi was made on Monday, but that as of Tuesday morning, Joko was still not available to meet the KPK leaders to discuss the matter.
Budi, for his part, called the KPK’s decision “unfair.”
“If there is indeed a legal violation that need to be investigated, why [charge me] now when I am being nominated as police chief? What is the meaning of this?” he told reporters at his house after meeting several legislators to discuss the next day’s confirmation hearing — itself an ethically questionable move.
Budi called on House Commission III to scrutinize the KPK’s decision.
“I don’t want [the KPK leaders] to lose their jobs, but I also can’t allow myself to be the victim of people’s oppression. This is not about [me]. This is about the president and the National Police’s honor,” he said.
The National Police, meanwhile, claimed that Budi’s eye-watering wealth came from “legitimate sources,” while police investigators had attributed the hefty transactions through his accounts to be “not of an illicit nature.”
“Maybe the KPK is investigating a different case entirely. But the police have not investigated any criminal cases [implicating Budi],” said National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie.
Activists were quick to applaud the KPK’s move to charge Budi, but also demanded a probe of House Commission III legislators insisting on continuing with the confirmation hearing, amid speculation that Budi had paid them off to approve his nomination.
“I say it’s not impossible that there have been some political transactions between Budi and people inside Commission III,” said Erwin Oemar, a researcher with the Indonesia Legal Roundtable.