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Jakarta Post

KPK's war within

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, April 13, 2019   /   09:25 am
KPK's war within The Corruption Eradication Commission building on Jl. HR Rasuna Said in South Jakarta. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)

Despite the hard work of law enforcement agencies, in particular the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), in combating graft, and major improvements in the bureaucracy to curb rent-seeking practices, a society free from corruption remains an elusive dream.

Even though the KPK has arrested hundreds of corrupt public officials, Indonesia languishes in 89th place of 180 countries and territories surveyed in the latest Corruption Perception Index, with 38 points on a scale of 0 to 100. The index shows Indonesia is perceived to have a high degree of corruption in the public sector. As Indonesia’s ranking has not changed much over the last two decades, it seems our anticorruption drive is going nowhere.

Reality bites, but the latest development in the KPK should give us a clue as to why we have never been able to claim a victory in our fight against corruption. This week 114 KPK investigators signed a petition to the commission’s leaders, in which they complained about bureaucratic hassles that have allowed big fish to get off the KPK’s hook. They also revealed a high rate of leakage of confidential information related to covert KPK operations.

The petition comes on the heels of uncertainty surrounding the police’s probe into an acid attack on senior KPK investigator Novel Baswedan. After two years, the police remain in the dark about the perpetrators of the attack, let alone their motive. Novel joined a rally on Thursday to remind the government about this unfinished business, which sends a message that the KPK is highly vulnerable to terror tactics and there is little the state can do to protect the antigraft body.

The KPK and its individual investigators and leaders have been dealing with many forms of threat, ranging from the assault that Novel endured to political maneuvering to weaken the commission. Every time the KPK has been in danger, the government has expressed support for the commission but it has failed to translate this into bold measures in favor of the KPK.

In the case of Novel, for example, the government looks hesitant about forming an independent team to resolve the issue beyond doubt. Independence matters, as Novel could possibly be dealing with powerful individuals who are worried by his stance of going after big fish. Novel has been involved in investigations into a number of high-profile cases.

Not only Novel, but the entire corps of KPK investigators will find it difficult to perform if the internal bureaucracy poses a hurdle to their efforts to uncover acts of corruption. The impediment may not amount to obstruction of justice, but the impact will be the same.

The KPK leaders’ promise to immediately address the petition gives us some relief; but until the procedural barriers are removed the commission’s credibility will remain at stake. The five KPK commissioners are facing a leadership test, which they have to pass or else the rogue element will continue to undermine their campaign against graft.

The commissioners must stop the war within KPK.