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Jakarta Post

Editorial: Geckos vs. lots of crocodiles

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Sat, January 24, 2015   /  10:22 am

We cannot help recounting the one-sided clash between the National Police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) back in 2009 '€” later dubbed Cicak lawan Buaya (Gecko versus Crocodile) '€” when on Friday police investigators arrested KPK deputy chief Bambang Widjojanto and named him a suspect for allegedly asking someone to commit perjury during a court hearing to settle a regional election dispute in Central Kalimantan in 2010.

It was complete déjà vu to see hundreds of people from all walks of life and various civil society groups rally outside the KPK building in South Jakarta to show their support for the antigraft body, which, whether liked or disliked, has a proven track record of fighting against corruption in the country.

Such a quick, spontaneous response was a testament to the public'€™s confidence in the KPK, which has become the target of persistent attacks from all directions after it declared Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, the sole candidate for National Police chief post, a graft suspect last week. President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo delayed Budi'€™s inauguration pending completion of his legal case in a surprise move that also saw National Police chief Gen. Sutarman honorably dismissed and detective chief Comr. Gen. Suhardi Alius moved to the National Resilience Institute.

Jokowi'€™s response to Bambang'€™s arrest was immediate too, but glaringly inadequate from a head of state in such a crisis. The President looked to play it safe by allowing the police to proceed with their investigation into Bambang'€™s case the same way he allowed the KPK to prosecute Budi, his choice for police chief.

The President'€™s brief appeal, that '€œthere should not be any friction'€ between the KPK and the National Police after meeting with police and KPK leaders, however, did not demonstrate an awareness of the arrest'€™s adverse effects on the nation'€™s attempt to eradicate corruption '€” an effort he has pledged to advance. Public hope in the uprooting of corruption has been pinned on the KPK rather than upon other law enforcement agencies simply because of the KPK'€™s time-tested integrity.

In its 14-years the KPK has faced backlash whenever it ensnared a police general, as is seen in the '€œGecko vs. Crocodile Part 1'€ saga and in 2012, when dozens of police officers besieged the KPK office after it arrested the former head of the police'€™s traffic directorate, Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo.

But opposition to the KPK today seems far stronger, with the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) entering the fray after its acting secretary-general, Hasto Kristiyanto, accused KPK chief Abraham Samad of abusing his power in naming Budi a suspect. Hasto claimed that the KPK prosecuted Budi in retaliation for the police general'€™s role in foiling Abraham'€™s bid to become Jokowi'€™s running mate last year.

Whatever the reason behind Bambang'€™s arrest, it could weaken the KPK'€™s efforts to dig deeper into Budi'€™s corruption case, as well as its war on graft in general.

We cannot just let that happen.

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