Editorial: Gecko vs Crocodile Needs Decisive Ref

JANUARY 24, 2015

The gecko and the crocodile are fighting again. And the battle is now being waged in full view of the public eye, with a deputy chairman of one of the nation’s most respected agencies being arrested on the street while taking his child to school.

“I have told the KPK chief and the National Police deputy chief that as the head of this nation I ask the National Police and the KPK to ensure an objective legal process based on the law,” President Joko Widodo said, referring to the Corruption Eradication Commission.

The timing of the case against KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto is highly dubious, but now that it has entered the legal domain, the president cannot directly intervene.

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing Joko can do. This unfair fight clearly needs a decisive referee to make sure it doesn’t get out of control.

Activists gathered at the KPK headquarters on Friday to show their support for Bambang, but the fact that Tweets about “Cicak dan Buaya” or “Gecko vs Crocodile” at some point topped the world Twitter trending topic list shows this is not a case that concerns only the nation’s elites.

Corruption eradication is Indonesia’s most pressing task, and a powerful KPK that can operate without the risk of having its leaders arrested — “like a terrorist,” as one retired police general lamented on Friday — is crucial if we really want to build a safe, prosperous and graft-free Indonesia.

One activist was quoted as saying that Indonesia needs a president, and not a politician.

But one way or another, Joko will have to find a way to make the National Police and the KPK work together, or at least side by side. We simply need both. Corruption eradication, however, should not be sacrificed at the altar of political stability.