Tuesday, 12 November 2019

KPK's Yenti Garnasih: We Are Not Looking for Demi-gods

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe selection process of candidate leaders for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) garnered much criticism because the committee invited candidacies from the police force and the attorney general's office.

    Anti-corruption activists deemed this a major step backward considering the very reason why the KPK was established back in 2003 was that because the corruption eradication always met a roadblock at the portals of those two institutions. This pessimism closely tailed the original critics who said the committee formed by President Joko Widodo on May 17 were not imbued enough with the spirit of combating corruption and were too close to the police.

    The selection committee comprise Yenti Garnasih (criminal law lecturer at Trisakti University), Indriyanto Seno Adji (former KPK commissioner and professor at Krisnadwipayana University), Harkristuti Harkrisnowo (criminal law professor at the University of Indonesia), Mualimin Abdi (Director-General of Human Rights Ministry of Justice and Human Rights), Marcus Priyo Gunarto (professor of criminal law at Gadjah Mada University), Hamdi Moeloek (professor of psychology at the University of Indonesia), Hendardi (founder of the Setara Institute, human rights advisor to National Police Chief), Diani Sadia Wati (expert staff member to the Minister of National Planning), and Al Araf (director of the Imparsial organization, and lecturer at the Police Institute of Higher Learning).

    The nine looked like they had put on blinkers to focus on the task. They elected to conduct a swift working session to fulfill the deadline of submitting 10 candidate names to President Jokowi by September 2. The President will then submit the list to the House of Representatives (DPR), which in turn will conduct fit-and-proper tests to finally come up with five leaders for the KPK for the 2019-2023 working period. “Our responsibility is to the President,” said Jokowi’s appointed selection committee chair, Yenti Garnasih, to  Tempo.

    In the middle of her many duties conducting competency tests, Yenti, 60, received Tempo reporters Reza Maulana and Rosseno Aji Nugroho, at the State Secretariat Ministry Training Center in Cilandak, South Jakarta, on Thursday, July 18. The expert on criminal law for money-laundering responded to the various accusations slung at the selection committee, including the matter of the team being too close to the police. “This does not mean I follow their every wish,” said Yenti, who was also a selection committee member for KPK candidate commissioners for the 2015-2019 period. In the course of the interview, her colleagues continually came up to Yenti seeking consultation. Marcus P. Gunarto and Hamdi Moeloek also answered some of Tempo’s questions.

    Why did the selection committee personally bring the ball to the court of the police and the attorney office to have them dispatch their candidates?

    Yes, indeed we did go to the police and the attorney general’s office, but the main point was not to bring them the ball. We needed to seek help in tracking some candidates. For instance, we needed to explore letters of clearance for police records. We did not want to be gypped by a commissioner who later turns out to have a negative blot on their record. We had the bad experience four years ago of having a candidate already reaching the interview phase suddenly being accused of a corruption case by the criminal unit of the National Police.

    Was a similar request for assistance in record tracking carried out four years ago?

    Yes, there were some requests. In this round, besides the police and the attorney general, we also went to the National Counterterrorism Agency and the National Narcotics Agency.

    When you met with the National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian and Attorney General M. Prasetyo in June, did your committee also invite high ranking officers from the two institutions to apply?

    We did indeed pay the two institutions a visit and at the same time invited them to do so because they too have a right to apply. We limited our invitation to the words, “Feel free, Pak, if anyone wishes to put in an application.” It was mere routine politeness.

    Was that not tantamount to bringing them the ball?

    The (lip service) invitation was far different from the ball-lobbing I did at the Society of Indonesian Criminal Law and Criminology. In that academic circle, I actively invited individuals whom I considered good for the job. So, it was only natural in the end lecturers became the highest category, 67 persons out of 376 applicants. But I promised them nothing. We only wanted a rich selection to be able to choose from. We did not want the selection to be filled up purely by job seekers. I’ve been involved in several selection committees, and often come across the same job seekers. Oh, it’s you and you, again?

    What did the Police Chief say when he met the selection committee?

    He wanted a police representative in the KPK. We asked his reason. He said, with a police officer in the KPK, it would be good for synergy and would make coordination easier. He told us about the incident of a KPK officer who was beaten up because the community did not know their identity and there was no coordination with the police. To our mind, that concern made sense.

    Do you agree with the view that in a legal process, including in the KPK, it is better if it were done by law enforcement apparatus?

    We depend heavily on the KPK Law that says commissioners should consist of elements from the government and the community. Law enforcers come into the category of government elements. For me, if a law enforcer fulfills the criteria and succeeds in becoming a leader of the KPK, this would be all to the better.

    Your reasoning?

    This is a law enforcement agency whose opponents are corruptors with a slew of top-notch legal advisers. The process for seeking out evidence, making arrests, impounding assets, and all the other things, these need certain special skills.

    Marcus Priyo Gunanto: Article 21 item 5 of the KPK Law states the KPK leaders are investigators and public prosecutors. They carry out a technical judicial function as investigators and public prosecution. How would it work out if the selected leaders do not have a grasp of technical judicial knowledge needed in those two areas?

    So, according to the committee, KPK leaders should be law enforcers?

    You know, we have never ever said they should only come from the police and the attorney general’s office. Make no mistake. If it’s said they should come from the police, the attorney general’s office, or this or that institution, that would be in violation of the law. Nevertheless, it’s imperative a candidate leader has the knowledge and the competencies in the fields of investigation and prosecution. Because it is they who will carry out those functions. The applicants who have those capabilities in these two field, well, they should be the ones (selected).

    Of late, anti-graft activists have been imploring no police nor prosecutors should be on the KPK commissioners’ bench. Your response?

    And then where will the element from the government be? That would mean, the ruling the commissioners should consist of elements of government and the community will not be fulfilled. By the same token, this would also apply if all the commissioners came from the police and the attorney general’s office. We need to tread the narrow path of the law here. Let’s avoid being too emotional, based on a priori we hate all the police and the public prosecutors, and even their very institutions. In the very first KPK leadership team, 2003-2007, under the command of Pak Taufiequrachman Ruki and Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean, the KPK was tremendous. Pak Ruki was from the police and Pak Tumpak was a prosecutor. The following leader, Pak Antasari Azhar, was also a prosecutor. Many are of the opinion the KPK was at its best during those first and second management periods. Let’s look back. We should never do it in bits and pieces. To my view, if we go on with the idea of no police and no prosecutors in the KPK, the corruptors would in fact all rejoice.

    Hamdi Moeloek: Even though the raison d’etre of the establishment of the KPK was that, we still have to comply to the behest of the law, namely that the KPK leaders should comprise elements of the government and the community. In our work, the selection committee is objective, neutral, and independent, as required. If we comply to that demand, we’d be in the wrong. The police and the prosecutors have the same right as any other citizen to put in an application.

    How large is the possibility for a candidate to be scratched for wrongs conducted in the past?

    Something like that happened four years ago. The rank position was even higher. We asked them something, they did not give an answer. So be it, we scratched the name off. We asked another candidate about their bank account. The person could not give confirmation. Well, we failed the person. The trickiest part is validating the information. We garner information from three or four sources, including the National Intelligence Agency and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In the last stages, we also dispatch a tracking team to scrutinize the daily comings and goings of the candidate, their social relations, their relations with their superiors, and the like.

    Including scrutiny on their understanding of religion?

    Yes. We’re very sorry, but we conduct tracking even down to their spouses, their offspring, their parents. If there are indications they adhere to radical views, they would later be incapable of focusing on the job at hand. All this is in the interests of safeguarding the KPK

    Is this scrutiny related to the issue of the emergence of a group dubbed the ‘Taliban’ within the KPK?

    This has nothing to do with it. Even without that issue, we would still conduct the same scrutinizing. We tour many ministries. Practically all the ministers agree, radicalism has spread even to people in high positions. This is a general phenomenon we wish to put a halt to.

    Some say you are close to the police and so have the potential to provide special privileges to candidates from the police. Is this true?

    I am close to them because I’m an instructor in police training and education sessions. But this does not mean I follow their every wish. I’m one who strongly opposed the idea that the Police Institute of Higher Learning made it compulsory to have an academic degree to be able to get into the Police Academy in 2005-2007. That was an insult to the education system. Being a graduate to be able to enter an academy is a downturn. I also turned down requests to become advisor to the Police Chief several times. If I entered into the system, I would no longer be free to criticize the police.

    How about the fact you have often been a witness for the police in the past 20 years?

    It’s always been limited to the extent of my giving testimony as a professional expert, getting an honorarium, and that’s it. Moreover, I am not by myself in this committee. There are nine of us.

    And of that nine, many have often worked in conjunction with the police.

    It was the President who made the selection. How would I know, (laughs.) Some of the committee members, such as Pak Al Araf, I only met after we came here.

    The committee will be criticized if the selection process allows most of the commissioners to come from the government element...

    So long as we have conducted the selection process in the right manner, it won’t matter to us. Our responsibility is to the President.

    Hamdi: The 10 names will be the best of who’s available. It could be they’re not the best in the republic. But if that best did not apply, what can we do? We understand the expectations of a public so angered by corruption it hopes we can find something akin to the Avengers who can kill off corruption as large as Thanos, (laughing.)

    What’s your response to the accusation that the selection this time around is part of an effort to weaken the KPK?

    There is nothing of the sort. How could we weaken the KPK? The work is not even completed yet. Please don’t set too high a hope. We are not looking for demi-gods. We are looking for people who have a desire to strengthen the KPK, in accordance with the institution’s behest when it was founded.

    Read the full interview in Tempo English Magazine