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Jakarta Post

Legislative assault on KPK

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, September 18, 2019   /   09:01 am
Legislative assault on KPK Rest in peace: Employees at Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) lay flower and wreaths on top of a casket in front of the KPK's headquarter in Kuningan, Central Jakarta, on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

The revision of the 2002 Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law will go down in Indonesian history as one of the fastest bills to be passed into law. This statement, alas, is not a compliment for the notoriously lethargic members of the House of Representatives. On the contrary, it serves as an indictment against their integrity.

The bill is highly controversial as it contains articles that current KPK commissioners, activists and academics believe will compromise the commission's independence and seriously undermine its ability to fight graft. Its swift enactment during a plenary meeting at the House on Tuesday after a series of closed meetings between lawmakers and government officials is therefore problematic on so many levels.

The bill was not on the list of priority bills (Prolegnas) for the 2014-2019 period. If it was not a priority, why the rush? It boggles the mind that it took only a few days for the lawmakers and the government to agree on the proposed changes in the bill. This has never happened before, except with regulations in lieu of law (Perppu)

The legislative decision to deliberate the law was made on Sept. 5 and PresidentJoko “Jokowi” Widodo sent a presidential letter that initiated the deliberations six days later. On Sept. 12, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly was sent by Jokowi to discuss the bill with House Commission III overseeing legal affairs.

Within a week, the House approved the bill.

While the swiftness of the bill’s deliberations is conspicuously suspicious, it is the secretive nature of its deliberations that angers the public the most. Most of the hearings were closed to the public despite the rejection of this not just by the KPK but also the academia.

Under the new law, the KPK is no longer an independent state institution. It is now a government body that must be staffed by civil servants and overseen by a supervisory body, the members of which will be handpicked by the President with House consultation. Furthermore, it has been stripped of its right to conduct independent wiretapping.

There is no doubt that the new law is unnecessary — it practically cripples the antigraft body, which in the past has taken on major graft cases involving political big wigs, from a House speaker to a senior Cabinet minister.

Many parties, including former Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD, have argued that the much-decried enactment of the KPK law is legally flawed. Besides not being on the list of priority bills, it ignores public aspirations regarding its content.

With many politicians arrested by the KPK on graft charges, the lawmakers had made numerous attempts to neuter the antigraft body, but to no avail until now. This time, with a green light from President Jokowi, their assault hit the target hard.

Nevertheless, it is not over yet for the KPK and the war on graft. Civil society groups must challenge the law at the State Administrative Court over its dubious legislative process and the Constitutional Court over its problematic articles.

The public should be given a say on this crucial matter.