Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Rescuing the Anti-Corruption Commission

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe House of Representatives (DPR) has just approved a proposed revision of Law No. 30/2002 on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). This revision breaks one of the important foundation stones of the battle against corruption by the anti-graft commission.

    According to the law, only President Joko Widodo can stop it. All eyes are on him: will he stop the endeavor to weaken the KPK or allow it to go ahead? There are a number of crucial points in the proposed revision. Among them, KPK officials will become part of the state civil apparatus, and will no longer be part of an independent entity separate from the executive. As a result of this change, the KPK will have to abide by the rules of the bureaucratic structure. The union for employees that has become a moral fortress in KPK will no longer be able to continue operating.

    This bill put forward at the initiative of the DPR also restricts the authority of the KPK. In the future, the KPK will only be able to recruit investigators from the police. The public knows police detectives have been seen as not being serious in handling cases that involve senior police officers or those who have links with National Police Headquarters.

    No less concerning is the DPR plan to establish an oversight commission which will have the authority to determine whether KPK investigators can use wiretaps, and carry out searches and confiscations. If this goes ahead, it will place the KPK within the DPR cage.

    It is easy to understand DPR’s motives: of all the public officials jailed since the KPK was established, the largest number have been members of the DPR and regional legislative assemblies. Of around 1,000 corruption cases it has handled, 225 of them have involved legislators.

    The KPK bill has not yet obtained government approval to be included in the national legislation program. According to Law No. 12/2011 on the passing of laws, this bill cannot be carried forward for deliberation. However, DPR has ignored this important rule. But Jokowi holds a trump card. The Constitution states that bills produced on the initiative of the House cannot be passed into law without the approval of the president. If the president refuses to give this, the plan for the DPR to revise the KPK law will not go ahead.

    The problem is that Jokowi himself has not made any statements supporting the KPK. On a number of occasions, he has condemned the Commission, which he sees as being too focused on prosecution and as having forgotten prevention – a stance that is in line with the general opinion of legislators. But instead of supporting preventative efforts, Jokowi has given the impression of allowing the anti-graft commission to be subject to interference. For example, Jokowi did not step forward in 2015 when KPK leaders Abraham Samad dan Bambang Widjojanto, were named suspects by the police after Budi Gunawan was named a suspect in an alleged corruption case. Jokowi has also not seemed serious in uncovering the facts behind the attack on KPK investigator Novel Baswedan. Instead of establishing an independent joint fact-finding team, he handed over the investigation to the police – the very institution seemingly linked with the attack.

    Jokowi should realize the importance of an independent KPK – neither under the control of the president nor in the pocket of the DPR. In undertaking a number of large projects, from infrastructure and the distribution of trillions of rupiah in village funds to the plan to build a new capital, the president needs the KPK for its oversight role. A weak KPK will mean less stringent oversight of the development and will eventually reduce the chances of success of the government programs. History tells us that corruption delays development and destroys the chances of bringing about a fair and prosperous society.

    The president should remember: the establishment of the KPK is a mandate of the reform movement back in 1998. The KPK has ceaselessly endeavoring to eradicate corruption – no matter how hard the journey. The efforts by the KPK to break the power of the economic and political forces and the domination of sources of power by a small elite and crooked businessmen must be respected. Just look at how the KPK went after the sugar, garlic, and meat import mafias. Therefore, it is easy to see the efforts to weaken the KPK as a scheme to restore this mafia’s domination.

    No wonder some suspect that the president and the DPR are behind the plan to restore these evil forces. The approval by of prospective KPK leaders with problematic track records and the desire by the DPR to revise the KPK law are a manifestation of the fusion of this political-economic political cartel with the oligarchy. This evil desire must be stopped in its tracks.

    Now the decision is entirely in the hands of Jokowi. He could save the KPK, or he could not. If he makes the second choice, we must dig a grave for the KPK – and also one for our trust in President Jokowi.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine