The Jakarta Post
What can we expect from an investigation team set up more than 640 days after a crime took place? That is the question many of us raised after National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian announced the formation of a joint fact-finding team mandated to identify the alleged perpetrators and the motive behind an acid attack on senior Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan.
Supervised directly by Tito, the 65-member team comprises police top brass and 46 detectives, KPK staff, a former KPK leader, researchers, law experts and human rights activists. The lineup suggests the police are serious in revealing those behind the assault that not only partly blinded Novel, but also marked the first ever physical attack on a member of the KPK. But, we cannot deny there are many who criticize the police’s initiative.
Forming the team one year and nine months after Novel was attacked in April 2017 is too late, if not a show of ignorance, on the government’s part. All the suspects must have fled and destroyed any evidence, barely giving the team a chance to track them down.
The fact that the team mostly comprises police officers (it looks more like a police team than a joint team) has to a large extent undermined its credibility in the eyes of the public. There are concerns about possible conflicts of interest, particularly after Novel openly expressed his suspicion that a police general played a role in the assault.
Novel, a former police detective himself, has had a bitter relationship with the institution to which he once belonged. The police named him a suspect in 2012 for alleged abuse of power in the past, as he was leading an investigation into a graft case involving a number of police generals. The Attorney General’s Office stopped the prosecution against Novel in 2016. In October, Novel came close to being named a suspect in a defamation case filed by a KPK director, who is a police general.
Indeed, Novel has played an instrumental role in KPK investigations into big cases, even after the acid attack. It is therefore unsurprising if many parties who want to escape the KPK’s scythe seek every path to silence Novel, as evident in a number of assault attempts and death threats before the acid attack.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has said he will ensure the team works fast. But, the President also needs to look beyond the Novel case because as an institution the KPK has been facing constant danger, ranging from political moves to weaken or dissolve it to death threats against individual KPK personnel. Last week, two KPK leaders became the latest victims of such terror in the form of a Molotov cocktail and a package resembling bomb-making materials found at their private residences.
Jokowi should clearly articulate his full support of the KPK by, among other actions, ensuring the safety of KPK leaders and investigators and facilitating their fight against graft.