President Joko Widodo, center, speaks to journalists after a meeting with a number of prominent political figures including Mahfud MD, on his right, who urged him to issue a presidential decree in lieu of the amended law on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) at the State Palace in Jakarta on Thursday. (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

Pressures Up on Jokowi to Discard New KPK Law


SEPTEMBER 27, 2019

Jakarta. Pressures are mounting on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to refrain from signing the amended law on the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, which critics said could effectively paralyze the anti-graft agency.

But even without the president's signature, the amendment will still come into force within 30 days since it was passed by a House of Representatives' (DPR) plenary session last week, legal experts have suggested.

The amended law has come under fire because, among other things, it obliges the KPK to obtain a warrant before wiretapping suspects. It has been widely known that wiretaps are the key behind most of KPK's successful anti-graft busts.

The amendment was initiated by the House and had been discussed with the government in open hearings, resulting in mutual approval with some modifications from the government's side.

According to article 20 of the 1945 Constitution, a bill that has been mutually agreed upon but has not been signed by the president shall become law within 30 days from the date of the mutual agreement.

The president, however, still has the final say. He alone cannot annul the law but he reserves the authority to issue a decree in lieu of the law.

This is the central issue facing the president today amid nationwide rallies against the new law across the country, with Jakarta seeing violent mobs around the DPR compound in recent days.

Dozens of prominent political figures visited the president at the State Palace on Thursday, warning him about growing public opposition to the amended law and urging him to issue a presidential decree to replace it.

The president said he has not ruled out such an option.

"I received many suggestions from prominent figures about the importance of a decree in lieu of the law. We will calculate and consider [the idea], especially from a political perspective," the president told reporters shortly after the meeting.

Once he decided to issue the decree, it would be prepared "as soon as possible," he said.

Among his guests were former Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud M.D., senior journalist Goenawan Mohamad, respected Muslim preacher Quraish Shihab and late president Abdurrahman Wahid's daughters Yenny Wahid and Alissa Wahid.

Why So Fast?

Apart from its controversial contents, the amendment has raised eyebrows due to its unusually speedy approval.

It was passed only a couple of weeks after the president appointed several ministers to represent the government in the discussions of the bill with House Commission III, which oversees legal issues.

The lawmakers typically need months, if not years, to discuss and pass a new law.

The new law was approved by a plenary session of the current House membership whose term will end soon on Sept. 30.

House speaker Bambang Soesatyo indicated on Thursday it would not be a problem to him if the president issued a decree in lieu of the law.

"Whatever the president does [about the new law], the DPR will fully support him because it is the government who has the final say," Bambang said.

Besides, the current House membership has only a few days left in office until new lawmakers elected in April's legislative election are sworn in on Oct. 1, he said.

The current members will have their last plenary session on Monday to bid farewell, and no important agenda had been set for them for Friday.

"So you must ask the new DPR [members] because my term is about to end," Bambang told reporters.

Defiant Minister

Speaking separately, Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly insisted the government would not issue a decree in lieu of the law. According to him, any objection to the law should be lodged with the Constitutional Court, not returned back to the government.

"In my opinion, the only solution is to go through the Constitutional Court. I've said it, the president has said it, please use the constitutional mechanism. You shouldn't force it on us, unless we agree that this country is not based on the rule of law," Yasonna said on Wednesday.

Yasonna went further by saying that a decree in lieu of law was both unwise and unconstitutional, given that there was no urgent circumstance.

"This could undermine a state agency; it's as if we no longer trust the Constitutional Court," he said.