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Jakarta Post

Desperate times for KPK

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, September 16, 2019   /   10:25 am
Desperate times for KPK Resistance: A Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) staff member carries flowers to be given to members of the public during a rally on the sidelines of a Car Free Day event at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta on Sunday. She also holds a piece of paper with a message that highlights KPK employees’ opposition to a revision of the 2002 KPK Law, which they say will weaken the antigraft body. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Rescuing the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) from political power plays is undoubtedly tiring and frustrating for many. The past few days have seen the hopes for a future, uncompromising anticorruption drive suffer a dreadful blow, ironically at the hands of our elected representatives.

Not only have those in the political elite turned a deaf ear to the strident clamor against the maneuvering to undermine the antigraft body through amendments to the KPK Law. They have also bulldozed the people’s desire for KPK leaders whose track records are clean and clear.

Given the course and timing of the debates marking the selection of new KPK leaders at the House of Representatives and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s much-anticipated acceptance of the deliberation of the KPK Law revision, one must doubt whether the two political processes were simply coincidental. It would be safe to say that we are seeing two sides of the same coin.

The fact that the two big coalitions that competed in a bitterly contested election last April have joined forces to set up a new anticorruption regime again proves true the old political adage that there are no perpetual friends or enemies, only interests.

There was nothing procedurally improper in the recent selection of the KPK leaders nor in the planned revision of the KPK Law in regard to the exercise of executive and legislative powers. But the failure to listen to the concerns of the many is a mistake that will never be forgotten, although much later may be forgiven.

As many had expected, House Commission III overseeing law and human rights chose South Sumatra Police chief Maj. Gen. Firli Bahuri as the new KPK chairman and four other candidates, Alexander Marwata, Nawawi Pomolango, Lili Pintauli Siregar and Nurul Ghufron as his deputies early on Friday. The lawmakers ignored deputy KPK chairman Saut Situmorang’s revelation that an internal investigation found alleged gross violations of the KPK code of ethics involving Firli when, as KPK deputy for enforcement, he met with then-West Nusa Tenggara governor Zainul Majdi at a time when the antigraft body was investigating a case implicating the governor.

During his interview at the House, Firli denied breaching the code of ethics and said that none of the five KPK leaders had found him guilty, although he admitted that he had been reprimanded.

The case against Firli may never be satisfactorily resolved, but the fact that he represents the police, who have several times launched direct attacks on the KPK, will continue to raise questions about the KPK’s independence under its new leaders, who will begin their terms in December.

Likewise, the public’s fear of a weakened KPK remains unaddressed, despite the President’s assertion on Friday that he desired a stronger antigraft body. Jokowi said he opposed the draft KPK Law amendment that restricts the commission’s wiretapping authority, but he agreed to the lawmakers’ wish to form an oversight body to control the KPK and to allow the commission to drop an investigation.

Changes may happen during the deliberation, but there is little left to hope for.