Presiden Joko Widodo, center, bows to PDI-P chair Megawati Soekarnoputri, right, in this Jan. 10, 2015 photo. (Antara Photo/Muhammad Adimaja)

Nomination for Indonesia's Police Chief Meets Criticism

JANUARY 12, 2015

Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan. (Antara Photo/Puspa Perwitasari)

Jakarta. Critics in Indonesia have slammed President Joko Widodo’s decision to nominate Budi Gunawan as the next National Police chief, citing his political affiliation and lingering suspicions over the police general’s swollen bank accounts.

In a letter that was sent to the House of Representatives on Friday, Joko nominated the head of the police’s Education Institute (Lemdikpol), Comr. Gen. Budi, as the new National Police chief.

Budi is set to replace Gen. Sutarman, although Sutarman has not planned to retire until October.

The House will conduct a fit-and-proper test to determine if Budi is eligible for the position.

Based on past experiences, however, the test will likely only serve as a formality. Therefore it is almost certain that Budi will be the next police chief, another political appointment inked by Joko that has drawn the ire of antigraft activists.

Agus Sunaryanto, a deputy coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch, sees Budi’s nomination as another example of horse-trading politics practiced by Joko.

Joko has earlier appointed Yasonna Laoly, a politician with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), as the Justice and Human Rights Minister and National Democratic Party (Nasdem) lawmaker H. M. Prasetyo as new attorney general.

Both PDI-P and Nasdem are members of the pro-government coalition. Joko is a member of the PDI-P.

Budi has no membership in any political party, but he is a known close aide of PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri. He served as her adjutant during her term as president from 2001 to 2004. He also served as provincial police chief twice, for Bali and Jambi, before heading the Lemdikpol.

“The appointment of the National Police chief should not be based on horse-trading politics ... It should be based on aspects of leadership, integrity, track record, capacity and strong commitment to pushing for reforms and an antigraft agenda [within the police ranks],” Agus said. “This is important, so that in the future [Joko’s] administration would not have its credibility marred by corruption issues, human rights, money laundering or other legal problems involving the National Police chief or [other members] of the police institution.”

Oce Madril of Gadjah Mada University (UGM) had the same complaint, calling the law enforcement institutions “crippled” with the political appointments.

“[Such appointments] will further taint the image of the police institution,” said Oce, the advocacy director with UGM’s Anti-Corruption Study Center.

The police force has for years now been perceived as among the most corrupt public institutions in Indonesia, according to the corruption perception index annually released by Transparency International.

Presiden Joko Widodo, center, bows to PDI-P chair Megawati Soekarnoputri, right, in this Jan. 10, 2015 photo. (Antara Photo/Muhammad Adimaja)

More than the political affiliation issue, Budi’s appointment has triggered resistance because of suspicions concerning the size of his personal bank accounts.

The Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) in 2010 released a report of several police generals with suspiciously hefty bank accounts, and Budi was on the list.

Police claim that the suspicion against Budi had been cleared following the police’s internal investigations as a follow-up to the PPATK finding.

“The result [of the investigation] said there was no problem [with Budi’s bank accounts]. If anything suspicious was found, surely it would have been followed up at that time,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie said on Saturday.

Oce, however, doubts the claim, citing a complaint questioning the transparency of the process that had been filed to the Central Information Commission, a public agency handling complaints on blockades to access to public information supposedly guaranteed under the public information law.

“There was an indication that the police never investigated [the PPATK finding]. Besides, will there be a police investigator who dares probe generals?” Oce told news portal on Saturday.

The ICW’s Emerson Yuntho said Joko should have involved the PPATK and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in the selection process to make sure the person he nominated for the top police job was clean from corruption.

Joko consulted with the KPK before he publicly announced the members of his cabinet in October, but did not do the same with Prasetyo and Budi’s appointments.

“Joko should not have repeated the same ‘mistake’ that he did when selecting the attorney general candidate; he didn’t involve the KPK and PPATK,” Emerson said. “The two institutions have been playing active roles and have been tested [for their commitment] to eradicating corruption and money laundering. They have data and information on track records of individuals concerning corruption cases and suspicious financial transactions.”

Emerson on Friday began a petition at asking Joko to be more careful with his selection of the National Police. On Saturday, after Budi’s nomination was made known to the media, the petition was updated with an immediate rejection against the nomination.

As of Sunday evening, the petition had been signed by 500 people.

KPK deputy chief Bambang Widjojanto also regrets Joko’s decision not to consult with his office on the police chief nomination. Although the president is not required to do so, he should have taken an initiative to, Bambang said on Friday.

“During the era of SBY [former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono], the KPK examined financial reports and wealth of [police chief] candidates. We handed over the result directly to the president to help him decide the final nominee,” Bambang said.

He added such a screening would allow the KPK to see whether a wealth amassed by a public official fitted to the incomes they receive from their official jobs.

“It also examines potentials for and indications of gratuities,” Bambang said.

Different opinions, however, came from Muradi, the head of Padjadjaran University (Unpad)’s political and national security study center, and Neta S. Pane, chairman of Indonesia Police Watch.

“We have to respect President Joko’s decision to nominate Budi Gunawan as the National Police chief,” Muradi said.

He thinks Budi is “a complete figure,” who is “able to understand more comprehensively the characteristics of the chief of the National Police.”

“He’s known to be loyal and works professionally within the police organization,” Muradi added.

Neta, meanwhile, believes the hefty bank account suspicion is premature.

“Every time a selection is ongoing for a National Police chief, the KPK and ICW again raise the issue of fat accounts. I just don’t get what they want,” Neta said “All these times, when the KPK has evidence, they will immediately make arrests. But for this case [suspicion against Budi], to date they haven’t arrested or investigated anyone.”

He added that appointing the police chief was the president’s prerogative, and that by law, he was only required to consult with the National Police Commission, or Kompolnas, prior to nominating any name to the House.

“They [the KPK] said they were ready to trace police officials’ fat bank accounts. But this is not their area,” Neta said. “By issuing such a statement, it is as though the KPK undermines the Kompolnas’s authority, as though they are claiming only them are right.”

Neta told the KPK to work on improving its coordinations with the police to deal with corruption cases that continue to plague the country, rather than treating the police force like an “eternal foe.”

PDI-P acting secretary general Hasto Kristiyanto on Sunday defended Joko’s nomination of Budi, saying the president was familiar with Budi’s professional capacity because both of them had known each other for quite some time.

“There’s nothing unusual about the appointment. Anywhere in politics, the president appoints people whose leadership and professional quality he has knowledge about; to help him,” Hasto said. “We will fully support the president’s decision.”

With the Golkar Party, the largest party in the opposition bloc, also having voiced its support for Budi’s nomination, there will be no likely a major obstacle to his appointment for the top police job.

“[Budi’s track records] have been examined by the National Police and the result is he’s clean,” said the secretary of the Golkar faction in the House, Bambang Soesatyo. “Golkar supports the president’s nomination of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan as the next police chief, to replace Gen. Sutarman.”

Further Coverage

Editorial: Nomination of New Police Chief Dubious