The Jakarta Post
The House of Representatives has opted for new faces over figures with proven track records to lead the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), the vanguard in the country's fierce fight against graft, for the next four years. It's therefore understandable if doubts loom over the prospects of the war on entrenched corruption, which this nation has not yet won, or, in the eyes of pessimists, has already lost.
On Thursday, members of the House's Commission III overseeing legal affairs elected former National Procurement Agency (LKPK) boss Agus Raharjo as the new KPK chairman, picking as his deputies police general Basaria Panjaitan, former State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief advisor Saut Situmorang, former Jakarta Corruption Court judge Alexander Marwata and legal scholar Laode M. Syarif.
The lawmakers spurned former KPK leaders Busyro Muqoddas and Johan Budi and KPK education and public service director Sujanarko, who were all part of a team that brought prominent politicians, public officials and members of the judiciary to justice in recent years.
Their rejection had been predicted, as they had openly challenged the House's bid to amend the 2002 KPK Law, which is no more than an attempt to weaken the antigraft body, one of the few state institutions that records high levels of public trust.
We share concerns that the choice of the new KPK leadership is part of a grand design to transform the commission into an 'ordinary' law enforcement agency through amendments to KPK legislation, a transformation long sought by the political elite. If the agenda is accomplished, corruption will no longer be considered an extraordinary crime necessitating extraordinary measures.
It appears, indeed, that members of the ruling and opposition coalitions in the House have joined forces in an attempt to destroy the 'Frankenstein's monster' they created when they passed the KPK Law 13 years ago.
Commission III may think it has elected figures they can control, given that they share many stated opinions, such as on the need to prioritize prevention over prosecution. All five elected leaders have pledged to opt for preventive measures, describing them as 'more effective and efficient' than attempts to catch suspects red-handed engaging in graft.
The new commissioners have also promised to handle cases that inflict massive losses on the state, as desired by lawmakers. The question now is whether and how the KPK, with new leaders and new rules of the game, will retain public confidence. It would be wise to give the new leaders a chance to prove their commitment to uprooting corruption.
When the House elected a former police officer and a state prosecutor to lead the KPK in 2003 and 2007, respectively, public criticism was rife. But the two proved the naysayers wrong and managed to build the commission as a credible law enforcement agency.
We can only hope that such history will repeat itself.
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