Editorial: It’s not the end of the day
Paper Edition | Page: 6
The glass is half empty,” a pessimist will say on a half-filled glass of water. “The glass is half full,” an optimist will say to the contrary. These are the two distinctive characteristics of human beings, especially when they are confronted with problems.
The National Police’s recent decision to recall its 20 officers assigned to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has received both pessimistic and optimistic responses among the general public — and the anticorruption commission itself. While pessimistic voices say that the withdrawal of these police investigators will bring the commission’s graft investigations to a halt, optimistic ones say the commission can seek replacements for the officers or at least seek extensions on their deployment to the commission.
The KPK has been historically dependant on the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to supply its staff — particularly for its investigative and prosecution work. Prior to this decision, there were a total of 87 investigators working in the commission, more than enough to handle the rampant corruption in the country. The withdrawal of the 20 police officers will surely reduce the commission’s speed and energy in combating corruption.
The police’s decision to not extend the “contracts” of the 20 officers is a shocking maneuver but apparently not baseless, as both the police and the commission have recently been at loggerheads over an investigation into an alleged corruption case surrounding the procurement of driving simulators for the National Police Traffic Corps.
The move came on the heels of the police’s failure to block the KPK’s own investigation into the driving simulator procurement case. This became a new episode in the National Police-KPK standoff after the first one in 2009 — dubbed the “Cicak vs Buaya” standoff, which cast the commission as a cicak or underdog gecko, and the National Police as the buaya, a much larger and more rapacious crocodile — when police declared two KPK commissioners criminal suspects after the KPK tapped the phones of the National Police detectives chief while investigating a bribery scandal.
KPK chairman Abraham Samad was correct when he declared on Thursday the antigraft body’s intention to recruit 30 independent investigators — coming neither from the National Police nor the AGO — to replace the recalled 20 police officers. He said the KPK would start recruiting soon after receiving the go-ahead from the Supreme Court, which will provide training to the new investigators.
KPK spokesman Johan Budi, meanwhile, said the chairman would send a letter to the National Police chief asking for an extension on the 20 investigators’ remit, at least until the commission installs new ones.
The police’s sudden decision to recall its officers seconded to the antigraft commission was yet another display of how prone the commission is to “maneuvers” aimed at containing its investigative powers. Previously, the commission had been attacked by maneuvers to scrap its legal authority to tap telephone conversations of corruption suspects or of people implicated in corruption cases.
What the KPK needs to do is to immediately replace the 20 outgoing police officers so as not to jeopardize the entire anticorruption campaign in the country. As Law No. 30/2002 on the Corruption Eradication Commission does not specifically stipulate the source for its investigators, or their ages, the commission can thus recruit — at least for the interim, due to time constraints — retired but credible, respectable police and AGO officers.
Grooming and training in-house investigators is a long-term plan. Currently, the KPK must pursue every legal avenue to resolve the deficit in the number of its investigators.