TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Quite a few critics have expressed their doubts about the capacity of Muhammad Prasetyo as attorney general. Based on his tenure as deputy attorney general for general crimes between 2005 and 2006, he was regarded as an average performer. Add to that, the fact that he later became a full-time politician.
How can corruption be eliminated from politics if one of the fighters spearheading the effort is, in fact, a politician himself? As a senior executive in the National Democratic (NasDem) Party, Prasetyo's neutrality has been questioned, particularly when a political colleague will be involved in a case. "I'm used to being bullied, but when you're the target of so many attacks, that means you matter," retorted Prasetyo.
A month after he was sworn in by President Joko Widodo, he had to face up to those doubts. The Central Sulawesi District Prosecutor's Office indicted the chair of the Central Sulawesi NasDem Executive Board, H.B. Paliudju, for money laundering when he was governor of the province. "Pak Surya Paloh (NasDem chairman) only shook his head when he found out. As for me, I am serious about fighting corruption," asserted Prasetyo.
His first move to enforce corruption eradication was to set up the Special Task Force on Corruption Cases, consisting of 100 prosecutors focusing on graft-related cases at the center as well as in the regions. This team works under the leadership of Deputy Attorney General for Special Crimes, Widyo Pramono.
Prasetyo said the first target of this team was Jakarta-born comedian, Mandra Naih, who was charged with graft over a program broadcast on state-owned TVRI in 2012. "Then we will aim at a few local chiefs outside of Java, although we cannot name them right now," he said.
Right now, Prasetyo is busy preparing the second wave of death sentences of convicted drug dealers to be carried out. His next priority will be to enforce the prison sentence on rogue policeman Labora Sitorus, who was found guilty of fuel smuggling, illegal logging and money laundering.
Last week he spoke to Tempo reporters L.R. Baskoro, Jajang Jamaludin, Heru Triyono and Istman Musaharun for a special interview. He admitted his present job was not easy but he promised not to shirk in his duties when it came to party leaders, even if it was Surya Paloh himself. "At least I bring no baggage," said Prasetyo at his AGO office in South Jakarta.
Reportedly, the death sentences are about raising the public image of the new attorney general.
Not at all. We do what we must. This nation is under the threat of narcotics, not just in the big cities but in places where they target our youths, our homes and our schools. The executions are a message to the drug traffickers.
But it's happening under your watch, something that was never done by any of your predecessors.
It's just the right time to do it. When I took over the job, there were 134 death row inmates awaiting execution, 64 of them convicted of drug cases.
In other words, they could have been carried out by past attorney generals.
It just happens that this president's policy supports death sentences. So we must adjust. In my view, execution is the last phase of law enforcement. Every case must have an ending.
But should the final solution be the death sentence?
The law in Indonesia is clear, it allows death sentences. Once it becomes inkracht (permanent law), well, we must execute it.
Are you convinced the death sentence will deter drug trafficking?
It needs time [to take effect]. Drug syndicates will always find new ways to sell their products, because there's a big demand for them. In Southeast Asia, the demand for narcotics is biggest-43 percent-in Indonesia.
How long will these death sentences be enforced?
So long as the legislation is in place, we will carry them out.
Why the focus on drug cases?
This is to address a very critical situation. Imagine, every year, four million people are victims of drugs, and this year, it's predicted to rise to five million people. Every day, about 50 people die because of drug-related crimes.
Have preparations been completed for the second wave of executions?
Because some cases involve expatriates, we need to send letters informing of the executions to the relevant embassies. Not all the letters have been sent. We also need to coordinate with related agencies, such as the ministries of religion, justice and human rights, health and the police. We are looking for the right time. I'm sure it will not be in February, because of flooding in many places.
Will there be more people executed this time around?
Maybe, if the president rejects requests for pardon.
Where will it be carried out?
The ideal location would be Nusakambangan because it's the most sterile location. The execution in Boyolali the last time was quite difficult because it attracted the attention of many viewers. We had to add roadblocks and more guards, and in Nusakambangan, someone managed to smuggle themselves in during the night. He was a Peruvian who claimed to be a human rights activist.
How was he able to do that?
Nusakambangan was meant to be the most secure and impenetrable corrections facility. But it's not the case any longer because an island, close to Nusakambangan, has emerged due to marine sedimentation. The island is called Timbul, and is home to about 2,500 families, among them a few groups of hardliners. Some of them have even attempted to clear land in Nusakambangan. (*)
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine