The Jakarta Post
The current standoff between the National Police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has raised concerns among international observers at the country's efforts to fight corruption.
Former commissioner of Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Tony Kwok, has been in town to get a firsthand look at the current scuffle.
The Jakarta Post's Haeril Halim interviewed Kwok earlier this week, during which meeting he shared stories about a similar conflict between the ICAC and the Hong Kong police back in 1977. Below are the excerpts of the interview.
Question: What is your take on the current standoff?
Answer: I'm very concerned about the current situation because there seems to be some kind of effort to defeat or minimize the KPK.
Based on my experience handling the same kind of conflict between the police and the ICAC in 1977, here is my solution to the conflict.
I want to emphasize the importance of the conflict of interest principle in criminal investigations. For example, if I'm investigating a case and I find my brother is involved then I must declare that I have a conflict of interest. That way I will be taken off the investigation.
The same principle applies to the police as there is a public perception, rightly or wrongly, that investigations into the KPK's commissioners, which have all come at the same time, are more than a coincidence.
This gives the impression that this has been orchestrated by some elements of the police to really try to cause problems with the KPK.
So who should investigate?
Somebody else, but who is up to President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo. He can appoint an independent team to takeover the investigation from the police. As President, he must have the authority to do so. This is something he should seriously consider.
The President has already appointed a team of nine individuals to monitor the situation, but instead of just asking this team to give him advice, he should go further by giving investigative authority to the team to carry out an investigation.
What about Budi's case at the KPK?
The same principle should apply to Budi's case. As the handling of the two cases seems to be plagued by conflicts of interest, then the advisory team set up by Jokowi should takeover the two cases, or the President could form another new team to investigate Budi's case. That would seem to be fair.
But the problem remains, because even if Jokowi gives investigative authority to the team, it still would not have the authority to bring the cases to court. What do you think?
It's simple. The team finishes its investigation and then follows the normal channel and hands over the investigation dossier to the Attorney General's Office (AGO), so at that point it's the prosecutors' job to prepare an indictment to face the court.
Explain the nature of the conflict you experienced in Hong Kong in 1977. What lessons can be learnt from that clash?
The ICAC investigated police officers in 1977, after which the police tried to attack the ICAC.
This sort of crisis can bring opportunities to improve the situation. To ease the tensions, the government of Hong Kong gave amnesty to police officers for their crimes of corruption committed prior to 1977, except those who had committed very serious corruption.
At that time, the problem was that there was no clear definition of 'serious corruption'.
Giving amnesties was not an easy choice and the government was criticized afterward. Still, the move helped to ease tensions at the time. But I'm not suggesting this kind of solution for the conflict in this country.
At the time, ICAC took strong actions against the police. The amnesty route could be something to look into, but it wasn't an easy path to follow as we could not draw a line to determine who to give amnesty to and who not.
If someone accepted US$1 million in bribes, would you give him an amnesty? What about $500,000? Where do you draw the line? You cannot give blanket immunity (amnesty to all). That's why you need to consider the term 'amnesty'.
However, after the 1977 conflict, the Hong Kong police and ICAC enjoyed much better relations.
That's why I say a crisis can become an opportunity. Perhaps President Jokowi could launch a comprehensive review of KPK-police relations after the current conflict is resolved.
This crisis could turn out to be a golden opportunity to build a better KPK and National Police.
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