Take Urgent Measures, Jokowi Is Told as KPK Assailed

FEBRUARY 04, 2015

Activists in a show of support of KPK march in Jakarta on Jan. 30, 2015. (Antara Photo/M. Agung Rajasa)

Jakarta. The national antigraft commission has called on President Joko Widodo to take urgent measures to halt an increasingly apparent attempt by the police to undermine anti-corruption leaders over their naming of a police general as a bribery suspect.

“If all the commissioners of the KPK [the Corruption Eradication Commission] are named suspects, then all of them will have to be suspended from active duty,” Johan Budi, the KPK deputy for graft prevention, said in Jakarta on Monday.

“This will lead to a vacuum of leadership inside the KPK. I think it is time that Jokowi intervenes.”

All four KPK commissioners — chairman Abraham Samad and deputy chairmen Bambang Widjojanto, Adnan Pandu Praja and Zulkarnain — stand to be named criminal suspects by the police in a range of cold cases — some dredged up from a decade ago — that critics say constitute a blatant retaliation by the police against the KPK’s naming of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, Joko’s nominee for police chief, a suspect for bribery and money laundering.

Police have charged Bambang with compelling witnesses to commit perjury when he served as a lawyer in a 2010 regional election dispute heard by the Constitutional Court. The police at the time dismissed the case after the court ruled in favor of Bambang’s client, who was named the winner of the election.

Abraham has been reported to the police for allegedly violating the KPK’s code of ethics by meeting with politicians in secret — which in itself is not a criminal offense and at most warrants an internal inquiry by the KPK — and for allegedly forging official documents.

Adnan and Zulkarnain, meanwhile, have also been reported to the police for allegations of crimes allegedly committed before they were inaugurated as antigraft commissioners.

Those reporting the cases to the police are either members of or people affiliated with Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, which is demanding that Joko inaugurate Budi, the former security aide to PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Former Constitutional Court chief justice Hamdan Zoelva echoed Johan’s concerns about the systematic efforts to undermine the KPK, and urged the government to take “bold steps” immediately to “save the KPK.”

“There must be an emergency action by expediting the selection process of fresh [KPK] leaders,” he said.

The House of Representatives, which is scheduled to select five KPK commissioners in a vetting process this December, can pull the process forward in light of the ongoing crisis, says Aziz Syamsuddin, the chairman of House Commission III, which oversees legal affairs and is responsible for vetting KPK commissioners.

“The law states that there should be at least three” active KPK commissioners, said Aziz, from the Golkar Party. “If there are fewer than that, then we should expedite the selection process.”

Martin Hutabarat, a Commission III legislator from the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, said the president could also issue an emergency regulation in lieu of law, known as a perppu, to anticipate a void in the KPK leadership.

“The president should prepare a perppu to fill the possible void, at least until [definitive] replacements are named or until the KPK commissioners conclude their legal process and are cleared of all charges,” he said.

Would-be police chief and graft suspect Budi Gunawan. (Antara Photo/M. Agung Rajasa)


Critics have savaged Joko for sitting on the fence rather than taking a decisive stand on the matter.

The president has delayed Budi’s inauguration but made clear that he is not rescinding his candidacy just yet.

House Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon, from Gerindra, said Joko needed to make a decision on the controversial police general, and “the sooner the better.”

“The ball is now in the president’s court and everyone is waiting to see what the president will do next,” he said. “This is the only way to stop this mess from dragging on.”

Joko’s reticence to withdraw Budi’s nomination was initially seen as a mark of his deference to Megawati, who is widely acknowledged as pushing for Budi to become police chief, and as an effort not to run foul of the House, after legislators from his own party threatened to launch impeachment proceedings if he refused to inaugurate Budi following the House’s approval of the candidate.

But the picture changed last week after Joko met with Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto, his rival in last year’s bitterly contested election.

Politicians from the Gerindra-led opposition, the Red-White Coalition (KMP), pledged after the meeting that they would oppose any attempt by the PDI-P-led Awesome Indonesia Coalition (KIH) to impeach the president if he rejected Budi.

Fadli, usually an outspoken critic of the president, said that Joko “will not be breaking any regulations” if he withdrew Budi’s nomination.

Street protests

That the usually crowd-pleasing Joko has failed to heed the public outcry to withdraw Budi’s nomination and take a stand against the police’s criminalization of the KPK leaders is a baffling development, says Kuskridho Ambardi, a researcher from the Indonesian Survey Institute.

“People are dying to know how the president is going to decide,” he said. “He’d better act soon and he’d better make the right decision.”

Kuskridho said that by failing to act on public demand would hurt Joko’s already declining popularity.

“People will protest on social media and on the streets. Budi hasn’t been inaugurated yet and already people are protesting. So imagine what they’d do if he really was inaugurated,” he said.

By taking swift and decisive action, Joko will be able to demonstrate to the public that he is taking full responsibility for a mess that he started by nominating the already highly controversial Budi last month, said Didik J. Rachbini, a politician from the KMP’s National Mandate Party (PAN).

“It was the president’s initiative” to nominate Budi, said Didik, who ran on a ticket against Joko in the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial election.

“So the president must quickly resolve this and not let it drag on and on. The president must realize that [Budi] should not be inaugurated,” he said.

A close aide to Joko, however, said the impetus should be on Budi to withdraw from the process, rather than wait for the president to make that call.

“It’s not easy to come up with a solution to end this,” State Secretary Pratikno said on Tuesday, but added that the problem could “end right away” if Budi withdrew.

“If he doesn’t withdraw, the dilemma between the political and legal affairs will continue.”

KPK chairman  Abraham Samad, center left, and KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto, center right, on Feb. 3, 2015.  (Antara Photo/Sigid Kurniawan)

Classy KPK

The KPK leaders have taken the mostly outlandish allegations against them in stride.

Unlike Budi, who has surrounded himself with guards armed with assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons, and who has refused to heed a summons for questioning from the KPK, Bambang showed up at the National Police headquarters on Tuesday for questioning in his own case.

“As a leader of a law enforcement body, I will go and show our class. I will show that law enforcers should obey the law,” he told supporters at the KPK headquarters before his departure, in a clear swipe at Budi.

He added that the allegations and threats that he and his fellow KPK commissioners faced were an “occupational hazard.”

“Even if I have to die, I’ll do it, but I believe that God is with the righteous,” Bambang said. “The prayers of the poor and the victimized will save the country.”

KPK chief Abraham echoed Bambang’s statement: “What is happening to Bambang and other KPK leaders is a risk we have to take on this long journey to eradicate corruption in this country. Let’s pray for the KPK’s survival. May it always be as strong as it is today,” he said.

The allegations in Abraham’s own case were first raised by PDI-P acting secretary general Hasto Kristiyanto, who claimed that the KPK chief violated the antigraft code of ethics last by meeting in secret with him and the PDI-P’s then-secretary general, Tjahjo Kumolo, to discuss running with Joko on the party’s ticket in the presidential election.

Hasto claims that the KPK’s naming of Budi as a graft suspect was motivated by revenge over the PDI-P’s rejection of Abraham as Joko’s running mate.

Abraham has acknowledged meeting with the politicians, but denied ever asking to be on the PDI-P’s ticket in the election.

“I never expressed my interest to be a vice presidential candidate. Other people nominated me. I never promised anything” in exchange for the PDI-P’s support, he said.

Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto, formerly a member of Joko’s campaign team and now one of his closest advisers, said he was willing to vouch for Abraham, adding that all meetings between the PDI-P elite and the KPK chief were “within the ethical boundaries set by the KPK.”

Andi has since been branded a “traitor” by the PDI-P, which holds the distinction as the party with the most members charged, tried and convicted by the KPK.

Independent antigraft activists have called on Abraham to clarify why he met with the PDI-P officials in the first place, saying it would help end the damaging allegations swirling around the anti-corruption body.

“We need to understand the context of the meeting,” said Ade Irawan, the coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch.

Was it a secret meeting that the KPK knew nothing about? If that was the case, then KPK has internal procedures to address the matter. But if it was just a seminar or a regular meeting, then of course there’s no problem.”

There have also been proposals for the KPK to establish an ad-hoc ethics council to investigate the allegations of wrongdoing by Abraham and the other commissioners.

“In the KPK law, it is mentioned that if there is an indication of an ethical violation, then an ethics committee may be formed,” Zainal Arifin Muchtar, the director of Gadjah Mada University’s Center for Corruption Studies, or Pukat UGM, told Detik.com on Tuesday.

He said the KPK’s silence in the face of the various charges leveled against its leaders could hurt the institution.

The police, meanwhile, have shown no signs of calling Budi before an ethics tribunal over allegations that he laundered at least Rp 54 billion ($4.3 million) through his bank accounts, as flagged by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, or PPATK, the government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog.