Monday, 02 July, 2012 | 18:21 WIB
The Elusive Buol Regent
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:The arm of the law does not seem long enough to catch hold of Amran Batalipu. Before becoming regent of Buol, Central Sulawesi, he was convicted in a corruption case. He was eventually acquitted by the Supreme Court. Recently, he eluded attempts by KPK to arrest him in a bribery case.
Caught red-handed by investigators were the man who paid the bribe and his partner, allegedly the boss of a big oil palm plantation in Central Sulawesi. The bribery case against the regent is reportedly associated with obtaining a plantation operations permit. However, when KPK investigators were attempting to arrest Amran Batalipu, so many people were blocking the way. Some of them even beat the investigators and en masse damaged KPK vehicles.
The following day, he still appeared in front of his campaign supporters. He even accused some people of not wanting him to continue to lead Buol. Such political rhetoric was also hurled by Golkar, the party backing Amran. Some party politicians consider KPK actions unethical because the regent, after all, is in the midst of running again for office and the pre-election stages have begun.
Such a statement is obviously misleading because it mixes matters of enforcing the law with political issues. Bribery is bribery - a crime that must be investigated even though the suspect happens to be running for re-election. Alas, people are so easily distracted by politicians, and efforts to eradicate corruption receives less attention.
In April 2007, the Buol residents went ahead to vote for Amran and even brought him to victory although the district court had convicted him in a corruption case of the local budget which transpired when he was Buol Council Speaker. The verdict was upheld in the high court. But several months later, when he had been Amran sworn in as regent, the Supreme Court acquitted him, triggering protests by anti-corruption activists.
It would be of grievous concern if Amran could escape the current bribery case, allowing him to be re-elected as regent. It is a sure sign that the law is well and truly paralyzed. Obviously, KPK would not pursue just anyone without justification. With the arrest of the bribers, KPK is thought to have enough evidence and testimony to capture Mr Regent.
Bribery in obtaining a license for an oil palm plantation is nothing new. Such a crime has been increasing sharply after the implementation of government decentralization. Licenses become up for sale, especially around the hugely expensive local chief elections. That is why, KPK’s efforts to eradicate regional head corruption, including the case of the Buol regent, must be supported.
KPK must also ask the police to investigate those who beat the investigators who were pursuing the Buol regent. Their actions were not mere criminal, but were also an obstruction of justice and even against the law. Pressure may also come from political parties, especially Golkar, who support Amran. But the KPK hopefully will not be influenced by any political powers. *****