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Jakarta Post

The story of Golkar’s Azis

The story of Golkar’s Azis House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Azis Syamsuddin (center) presides over a plenary session in Jakarta on April 2, 2020. (Antara/Raqilla)
Editorial board
Jakarta   ●   Thu, April 29, 2021 2021-04-29 01:17 8 0920e6703081f028872405a52642351a 1 Editorial KPK,bribery,investigator,Tanjung-Balai,mayor,Azis-Syamsuddin,Golkar,probe,PDI-P,Gerindra-Party,trust Free

Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Firli Bahuri said openly last week that House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Azis Syamsuddin had hosted a negotiation between a potential graft suspect and a KPK investigator at his official residence in October 2020.

For the sake of equality before the law, the KPK must investigate the alleged involvement of the seasoned Golkar politician now that his two guests have been named graft suspects. A failure to do so would be unacceptable and would hurt the public’s sense of justice.

The fact that a KPK investigator was allegedly caught accepting money to stop a probe into a graft case has worsened the already tarnished image of the commission. Perhaps the case would not have shocked the public if it had involved a police officer or state prosecutor, as has often occurred, but a KPK investigator being arrested for allegedly accepting bribes is unprecedented.

The KPK and its investigators had once elicited praise for their impeccable integrity. They dared to act against political bigwigs and those dubbed untouchable without compromise. This, of course, put them at risk of power games.

The meeting that Azis reportedly facilitated was between Tanjungbalai Mayor M Syahrial and KPK investigator Adj. Comr. Stepanus Robin Pattuju. The mayor was under KPK scrutiny for allegedly demanding money from civil servants in exchange for lucrative posts in the North Sumatran city’s bureaucracy, and the KPK investigator allegedly agreed to help the mayor avoid further investigation after receiving a Rp 1.3 billion bribe out of a promised Rp 1.5 billion.

Stepanus has acknowledged that the meeting took place, and the KPK is scheduled to question Azis as a witness this week.

Pressure has been mounting for the House to subject Azis to a disciplinary hearing because his choice to bring together a potential graft suspect and a law enforcement officer, whatever the motive, constitutes a serious ethical violation for a public official. Like Azis, Syahril is a Golkar politician.  

Unlike in the past, the prevailing KPK Law would require the graft busters to obtain the consent of the KPK supervisory council before launching a probe into Azis, conducting a surveillance on him or searching his office or house. But this procedure should not stand between the KPK and the enforcement of the law.

Last year, the KPK proved its doubters wrong with the arrest of two serving ministers from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Gerindra Party, the country’s two largest political parties, for alleged corruption involving lobster larva export permits and social assistance for people affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

But public trust in the KPK may not be fully restored, because the KPK Law was designed to weaken the once feared institution. Worse, as mandated by the law, in October all KPK employees and staff will join the civil service, which means they will not be able to act independently.

Notwithstanding the changes, the KPK’s lack of will to uphold the values of transparency and accountability in its investigation of Azis will be very difficult to forgive in the eyes of the public.