Novel Baswedan, second right, poses for a photo with fellow former KPK employees in Bekasi, West Java, October 11, 2021. (Mikael Niman)

Waste of Talent: Ousted KPK Investigators Turn to Food Business


OCTOBER 12, 2021

Jakarta. Some of the 57 ousted Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators have made an unlikely turn to make a living: selling fried rice and snacks.

They have been honorably dismissed recently for failing to pass the controversial “nationalism test”, which many considered as a means to get rid of investigators critical of the current KPK leadership and of the government.


Juliandi Tigor Simanjuntak, who once served at the KPK’s litigation bureau, now sells spicy fried rice near his home in the West Java town of Bekasi. 

He got a special customer on Monday night when former top KPK investigator Novel Baswedan paid a visit to his restaurant.

“I come here out of curiosity and it’s just very delicious,” Novel said after finishing a plate of fried rice.

“Tigor prepared the fried rice with all his heart and integrity, not as a show-off.  For me that’s the most important thing,” he added.

Novel was at the center of public debate when the KPK dismissed investigators en masse on Sept. 30 on the grounds that they had failed nation-building and national identity tests.

He had previously led many graft investigations that resulted in the convictions of high-profile suspects from police generals to sitting ministers.

Anti-graft activists argued that he didn’t deserve an abrupt dismissal unless it was politically motivated.

Novel became a victim of an acid attack that damaged his eyes in April 2017. More than two years later, two active policemen handed themselves in to the police after confessing to their roles in the attack.

Other former KPK employees turning to food business include Anissa Rahmadhany who opens Nini's Kitchen restaurant specializing in Korean food and chili sauces, Panji Prianggoro who sells spiced chunks of beef, Ita Khoiriyah who runs a cake store, and Ronald Paul Sinyal who launches his brand D&A Snack.

“As far as I am concerned, at least seven former KPK employees have chosen the path of food business,” said Yudi Purnomo, the former head of the KPK employees’ union.

Yudi too has lost his job at the commission.

The National Police have offered new jobs for the ousted KPK employees only to receive a cold shoulder.

The nationalism test is part of the government policy to transition all KPK employees into civil servants as mandated by the 2019 law on KPK. However, Novel and several other senior investigators argued that the law says nothing about the nationalism test.

In June, the KPK leadership went ahead with the plan by installing more than 1,200 employees as civil servants after they passed the test.

They swore the oath to uphold and protect state ideology Pancasila and the constitution and pledged allegiance to the government.

The ceremony was held in coincidence with the anniversary of Pancasila which now becomes a national holiday.