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Jakarta Post

Free-KPK pass, anyone?

  • Endy M. Bayuni

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, November 8, 2019   /   09:30 am
Free-KPK pass, anyone? Its holders are entitled to free passage from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). If politicians, members of Jokowi’s inner circle and the police are exempted from future corruption investigations, who else is left for the KPK to go after? Do we still need the KPK at all? (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)

The police have it and so do all the political parties. Why shouldn’t President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo buy himself a free-KPK pass too?

Its holders are entitled to free passage from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). If politicians, members of Jokowi’s inner circle and the police are exempted from future corruption investigations, who else is left for the KPK to go after? Do we still need the KPK at all?

President Jokowi is the latest to buy himself a free pass through his decision not to issue the executive order to rescind the new KPK Law. The order is known in Indonesian as a Perppu, or regulation in lieu of law.

Not that he needs a free pass. But members of his inner circle would certainly find it handy.

While he has not completely ruled out the possibility of issuing a Perppu, saying that he simply does not want to preempt ongoing legal challenges at the Constitutional Court, the President is already looking to implement the law. He announced he would handpick the five members of the KPK supervisory council.

“Trust me,” said the President about his decision not to entrust the selection of the council members to anyone else.

The supervisory council, a new addition to the KPK Law, has the power to decide which cases the KPK will pursue and, by implication, which cases it should drop. The independence of the KPK, one of its chief strengths since it began operation in 2004, is no more.

Could the council, whose members are personally chosen by the President, pursue corruption cases involving members of Jokowi’s inner circle, including his bloated coalition government? Hardly.

But that’s not all.

The House of Representatives and the National Police were already ahead of the game when they selected the five new KPK commissioners to take the helm beginning in December. One clue that they were in the game was when they picked a senior police officer with questionable ethics as one of the five members.

Insp. Gen. Firly Bahuri was investigated in 2018 for possible ethical violations while serving as the KPK chief investigator. The internal inquiry, however, was stopped because his superiors pulled him out of the KPK in the nick of time — before any decision was reached.

Firly will soon return to the KPK, and adding insult to injury, the House of Representatives have had the audacity to make him the new KPK chief. The political parties have ensured their free passes.

The new KPK Law was clearly the result of a high-level conspiracy led by political parties with plenty of help from outside, including from President Jokowi’s administration. The new law not only stripped the KPK of its independence. It also stripped many of its powers, including wiretapping, which was an effective tool in the past to catch corrupt politicians in the act.

The KPK bill was introduced in September, deliberated and then passed in record time: 11 days. This from a House notorious for its poor productivity legislation rate.

President Jokowi lent a hand by sending his ministers to the House to entertain deliberations on the bill when he could have stopped them. After the bill was passed unanimously by the House, he could have issued an executive order to have it rescinded. He did not exercise his power when it mattered.

He did tell critics of the KPK bill, who visited him in September, and also students who protested outside the House, that he would consider issuing the execitive order.

The President did sit on the KPK bill, refusing to sign it into law. But the bill automatically became law without his signature on Oct. 17, 30 days after the House’s endorsement.

Hopes that the President would issue the executive order after his second-term inauguration on Oct. 20 have been dashed with the announcement that he is looking for candidates to serve on the KPK supervisory council.

There is one last hope, albeit slim. The KPK Law could be rescinded by the Constitutional Court. But since one of the Court’s chiefs has gone to jail thanks to the KPK, it is unlikely that the justices would look kindly at the case. They too may want to make sure they get a free pass.

The KPK as we know it — the one that sent serving Cabinet ministers, powerful politicians, police generals, top prosecutors and judges, speakers of the House and the Regional Representative Council, governors and regency chiefs to jail — is no longer with us. Those days are gone for good.

In its place is a very different KPK, one that will generously distribute free passes. Anyone else need one?