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Jakarta Post

Justice for Novel, justice for all

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, July 22, 2019   /   08:00 am
Justice for Novel, justice for all Targeted: Corruption Eradication Commission senior investigator Novel Baswedan talks to journalists in Singapore. Novel underwent treatment in Singapore on his left eye, which was injured in an acid attack last year. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

The acid attack against Novel Baswedan was no ordinary crime with the top Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator the sole victim. It was, first and foremost, an attack against a state-sanctioned body established for a single mission: to root out chronic corruption plaguing the archipelago. The body — and no other — has become the symbol of hope for a cleaner Indonesia.

That is why the anticlimactic conclusion of a six-month investigation into the case by a fact-finding team set up by National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian is more than just disenchanting. It is harrowing, for now we know that the state has, again, failed to resolve a high-profile case, putting its credibility at stake.

We shall not forget. Before Novel, there was Munir.

We know that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has failed to shed light on the murder of Munir Said Thalib, the outspoken human rights activist who was killed on a Garuda Indonesia flight to the Netherlands almost 15 years ago. The President is now under increased pressure to resolve the case of Novel, who was attacked under his watch.

The slogan for Munir clearly applies to Novel: Justice for him is justice for all. Thus, whether the people have trust in the state depends on its ability to find the mastermind behind the acid attack against the antigraft investigator.

After failing to find significant leads into the case, the fact-finding team set up by Tito recommended the police create a “technical team” to find three men believed to be Novel’s attackers. The President has given the team, led by police chief detective Comr. Gen. Idham Azis, a three-month deadline to carry out the assignment.

Activists, however, are skeptical the said team could do its job and have called on the President to establish a new and more independent fact-finding team that, first, does not involve members of the police and, second, will report directly to him.

Idham was appointed the Jakarta Police chief a few months after Novel was attacked in North Jakarta in April 2017. Under Idham’s leadership, the investigation into the case hit a stumbling block, forcing Tito to set up a fact-finding team.

But the problem with the police’s involvement in a new fact-finding team has nothing to do with the police’s competence. The force has repeatedly shown its capabilities in solving many cases perhaps more complicated than Novel’s.

Novel himself has expressed suspicion that a police general played a part in the acid attack, though he did not name names. While there is no evidence yet to corroborate the claim, the police — at least in the initial stage — should recuse themselves from the investigation.

The onus is now on the President to solve Novel’s case. He could begin by establishing an independent fact-finding team that will ensure a transparent investigation that is key to finding the perpetrators of the acid attack and, eventually, its mastermind.

President Jokowi owes this to the Indonesian people.