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President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono finally made a public statement and came up with several solutions concerning the heightened tension between the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the National Police.
Many view Yudhoyono’s speech as decisive and siding with the public this time, such as ordering the National Police to hand over the driving simulator graft case investigation completely to the KPK, criticizing the police’s attempt to arrest KPK investigator Novel Baswedan and the political move to revise the KPK law that would reduce its power.
Novel and Yuri are among five of the 20 police investigators on loan to the KPK who have defied orders to return to the force. The police tried to arrest Novel by reopening an assault case in which he was implicated while serving as a detective with the Bengkulu police in 2004.
Both Novel and Yuri are now under the KPK’s protection. The tension between the KPK and the police basically reiterates the police’s double standards in the war against corruption in recent times.
With the police ordering their seconded investigators to reunite with the force, the police have shown that the war on corruption is a singular battle where the police should be considered the sole agent or entity involved in it.
Such a move suggests the police are not serious about being a cooperative law enforcement agency in the fight against corruption and are seemingly unaware of their arrogance.
By arrogance we refer to the police’s decision to withdraw their officers from the KPK, which gives the impression that the force is not only better than KPK but also it ignores the people’s real dictates of conscience.
The police’s move to arrest Novel is obviously part of ongoing attempts to criminalize the KPK investigators.
In response to the President’s speech, the police need to purify their motives in the war on corruption. The public is despondent by the fact that the police’s cooperation with other national elements in the war on graft over the years, such as civil societies or anticorruption bodies, rests more on shared interests than shared values.
The National Police seem to believe that anybody playing with the KPK is playing with fire.
The National Police must be open-minded and ready for the strict evaluation that corruption eradication will bring and be ready for damage to the dignity of the institution.
Allowing the KPK to continue its investigations into the Rp 198 billion (US$21 million) driving simulator procurement scandal, which involved several police generals, where Novel is the main investigator, may very well lead to free fall and suicide for the institution.
Many are wondering if the police will shed their egos and think of the larger picture when it comes to the damage of their reputation. The raid on the KPK, to a serious degree, is a clear sign of a poorly managed police force.
How did the National Police chief, Gen. Timur Pradopo, have no knowledge of the raid, and denied ordering the arrest of Novel?
Granted, the key to the tension between the two enforcement agencies is in the hands of the President.
Although somewhat tardy, Yudhoyono’s response to a number of police actions against the KPK should be appreciated and followed up quickly.
President Yudhoyono’s speech is seen as an alarm that says that any assaults on the KPK means interfering with the country’s most trusted anticorruption body.
The existence of the KPK will not be able to eradicate corruption until the antigraft body no longer gives in to high level intervention.
In the midst of this soaring public trust in the institution, the failure to counter strong political intervention — such as that from the House of Representatives as well as the National Police — risks making the KPK ineffective, like a hit-and-miss cancer-fighting drug.
It cannot kill cancerous corruption, but enables bribery to grow instead.
Coupled with serious and decisive action from the president, the public is also waiting for action from the House, which has cancelled its strong desire to curb some of the KPK’s essential powers after the legislators realized that their popularity was at stake.
If the lawmakers are committed to curbing corruption, it is high time for them to stop criminalizing the KPK and rather it despite its defects.
Lawmakers with House Commission III overseeing legal affairs and laws, human rights and security could also order the police to end its assault on the KPK and bolster the KPK to complete the investigation into the driving simulator graft case.
In addition, the lawmakers must stop questioning the KPK’s status as an ad hoc institution, which in turn hijacks the legitimacy of the anticorruption body in a subtle manner.
Strong and continuous political support for the punishment of corruption, particularly from the House, is necessary with a view to fending off political negotiations.
Do not let this country decline into a failed state, just because law enforcement agencies blame each other in the war on corruption. A war that we have yet to win.
The writer, a graduate of the University of Canberra, Australia, is a lecturer in the school of cultural sciences at Andalas University, Padang.