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Jakarta Post

Not a crime novel

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, December 30, 2019   /   08:02 am
Not a crime novel 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 in 2017. (The Jakarta Post/Dhoni Setiawan)

Avid readers of Agatha Christie novels or the tales of Sherlock Holmes might raise a skeptical eyebrow upon hearing of the recent arrest — some might say surrender — of two junior police officers for their alleged role in the acid attack on senior Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan. But the detention and further questioning of the two officers, identified only as RM and RB, will test the police’s commitment to uncovering the truth behind the case.

National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo announced on Friday the arrest of the two men, who allegedly threw acid in Novel’s face as he was walking home after dawn prayers at a nearby mosque in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, in April 2017. This marks a crucial development in the foot-dragging probe, which saw the police form a 65-strong joint investigation team last January, but which failed to identify any suspect at the end of its six-month tenure.

A spokesman for the National Police, Brig. Gen. Argo Yuwono, said preliminary questioning found that the two suspects had divided tasks in the attack, with RM steering the motorbike and RB hurling the acid. The sight in Novel’s left eye remains impaired despite a series of operations in Singapore as a result of the attack.

We’re told that the police investigators also discovered a personal grudge by the suspects as the motive for the assault, believed to have been the first to physically target an individual KPK investigator. There had been reports of death threats and intimidation aimed at Novel and other KPK investigators prior to the acid attack.

The arrest of the two suspects came almost three weeks after the new National Police chief Gen. Idham Azis presented a progress report on the investigation into the case to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, which Idham said was pointing toward a conclusion. At that time Jokowi said he wanted the police to reveal the alleged perpetrators within days.

Certainly, the police face high expectations from the public and have therefore been under pressure to solve the case in a transparent and accountable manner. Regardless of the apparent deficit in public trust, the police investigators deserve the benefit of the doubt, which is why they must prove their professionalism.

The police must probe further the confession of the two suspects about their motive, which appears somewhat superficial. The police’s joint team had linked the attack with a number of high-profile cases Novel had investigated, such as the electronic ID card saga, bribes for former Constitutional Court chief Akil Mochtar and markups in an athletes’ village construction project. As Novel’s attorney said, the police should find, rather than protect, the mastermind behind the attack.

The government will have to explain not just to the people of Indonesia but to the international community how the investigation will further unfold. In mid-December Novel told a conference of the state parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Abu Dhabi about the assault on him and the country’s anticorruption movement in general.

The case is not only about Novel, but the threat to our dream of a corruption-free society.