Don’t let internal rift cripple KPK
“If I cannot do anything in my first year in office, I’d rather pulang kampung [return to my home village].”
That is the well-documented promise from an elated Abraham Samad, then an obscure antigraft activist from Makassar, South Sulawesi, following his election as the chair of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Dec. 2 last year.
He vowed to speed up investigations into all cases that his predecessors had begun but stalled for reasons unknown to the general public. He assured he would treat all cases equally and would bring anyone involved to justice no matter who they were.
Now, four months on, Abraham is still struggling with stalled high-profile cases and internal leadership bickering stemming from how a particular case should be handled.
Very recently, he said he was besieged by plans to unseat him after a human rights activist demanded that the KPK Ethics Council question him for failing to continue the legal process of politician Angelina Sondakh two months after she was named a suspect.
Although it may be too early to sound the wake-up call for Abraham and ask him to pack up and catch an early flight back to his home village, there has been every sign that he is having a hard time living up to his promises.
Lately, KPK leadership will duck for cover when people ask them why they are yet to resume the questioning of Angelina, a former beauty queen and now a lawmaker with the ruling Democratic Party. Already declared a suspect in a bribery scandal in the 2011 SEA Games dormitory construction project, she remains a free woman, unlike others who immediately were put behind bars as soon as the KPK named them suspects.
The KPK has also been accused of giving preferential treatment to Miranda S. Goeltom, who was declared a suspect on Jan. 26 in the distribution of travel checks worth Rp 24 billion to lawmakers, allegedly in return for her election as Bank Indonesia (BI) senior deputy governor in 2004.
KPK investigators are yet to summon the two women for questioning, although Miranda has appeared in the trial of Nunun Nurbaeti, a key witness and suspect in the bribery case, at the Jakarta Corruption Court.
KPK leaders have said that the seemingly indefinite delay in the arrests of Angelina and Miranda was a mere part of their investigation tactics to find more telling evidence to arraign them in court.
While the controversy over Miranda and Angelina is far from settled, the KPK is currently busy repulsing new attacks for not swiftly following up celebrity graft suspect Muhammad Nazaruddin’s claim that Anas Urbaningrum, chairman of the Democratic Party, received Rp 50 billion in kickbacks from a sports stadium construction project in Hambalang, West Java.
Another big test case for the KPK is the long-standing Bank Century scandal, which allegedly implicates top bureaucrats and politicians of the Yudhoyono administration. The KPK under previous leadership, along with the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), have had a hard time convincing legislators and the public alike that the government’s Rp 6.7 trillion bailout to rescue Bank Century in 2008 had caused no state losses.
A legislative committee monitoring investigations into the bailout scandal has regularly summoned leaders of the three law enforcement institutions only to hear the same answer: They have yet to find adequate evidence of corruption although a House committee did otherwise in its own probe in 2010.
Particularly worrying to the effort to restore public trust in the KPK is the apparent weak teamwork between Abraham and his four deputies, Bambang Widjojanto, Zulkarnain, Adnan Pandu Praja and Busyro Muqoddas when it comes to the investigation of high-profile cases.
Adding insult to injury is the conflict between Abraham and investigators over the technicalities of the investigation into Miranda, Nunun and Angelina that the KPK leadership initially tried to cover up.
The mystery behind the stalled legal process of Miranda and Angelina was uncovered last month when investigators recruited from the National Police and the AGO reportedly staged a protest against the abrupt dismissal of five of their colleagues.
The declaration of Angelina as a suspect stirred some spats among KPK leaders and investigators. Those who were against the move said that Abraham announced it although the investigators were yet to test their findings in the leadership forum, as standard procedures require. This made it look like Abraham, who “suspiciously” made the announcement without the presence of his deputies, had acted under public pressure.
Playing down the rift, the investigators returned to the National Police headquarters and AGO to receive promotions, have their contracts canceled or to be deemed as lacking independence.
Tempo.com reported Abraham ordered the dismissal of three investigators for defying his order to stop following a lead that linked the politically well-connected Bank Artha Graha with the Rp 24 billion funds to bribe lawmakers to support Miranda’s bid for the BI post.
Another two investigators were dismissed for having “overly close” relations with Nunun, the wife of former deputy National Police chief and politician Adang Daradjatun. The corruption court charged her with distributing funds to lawmakers.
The crippling rift is reminiscent of the 2009 conflict between the KPK and police leadership, which broke out after the then police chief detective Comr. Susno Duadji went ballistic on finding out that his conversations were wiretapped by the KPK, which was probing the Bank Century scandal.
There is nothing more worrying than a brewing internal conflict within the KPK, the most trusted law enforcement body. Unless resolved, or at least well-managed, the bickering will cripple the commission, which has already come under constant threat, notably from corrupt politicians.
With strong public backing, Abraham should do everything to fulfill his promises and not cave in to political pressure, or else he’d better pack up and pulang kampung.