TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The five are Artidjo Alkostar (a former Supreme Court judge), Albertina Ho (Deputy Chair of the Kupang High Court), Syamsuddin Haris (a researcher), Harjono (a former Constitutional Court judge), and Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean (a former KPK commissioner). These five are renowned for their sterling reputations. But, to use a house as an analogy, the KPK’s foundation and main pillars have been badly damaged. Putting in plush carpets and a snazzy sofa could make the house prettier, but it won’t make it stronger.
This is the sequel to the plot to enfeeble the KPK that begun at the tail end of Joko Widodo’s first period in power. The President collaborated with the oligarchy within the House of Representatives (DPR) in revising some laws in one quick sprint. There was an aura of covertness in the act. The DPR slipped in a number of articles that have the potential to compromise the independence of the Commission’s investigators.
The revised Law on the Corruption Eradication Commission came into effect on October 17. Under the new ruling, investigators will now become civil servants which inexorably weaken their authority. This new status places investigators as compliant to the bureaucracy, making them rigid and non-adaptive, with no wherewithal to be innovative. The shackles of bureaucracy will inevitably impede their movements when wishing to reveal corruption cases, usually the onus of which only lies in the hands of high ranking officers.
Intervention in the KPK’s independency would obviously also come from the Supervisory Board, which among other things is tasked with granting KPK permission to make wiretaps, raids, and confiscation of assets. It is these very actions that all the while was the KPK’s core strength, which in its run managed to take down among many others the Chair of the Constitutional Court, the Head of the Regional Representatives Council, ministers, governors, and scores of regents and mayors.
The accusation the KPK had been taking unilateral action and running rampant with no control – making it imperative it had a supervisory board – is a manipulative one with no basis. Aside from being overseen by the House of Representatives through its budget mechanism, the KPK wiretaps are audited by the Ministry of Communication and Informatics. The argument for placing “good people” in the supervisory board as a last resort to bolster the Commission’s strengths sounds truly naive. To be noted, as monitors, these “good people” hold no executing rights.
The situation turned worse with the appointment of KPK commissioners with bad track records. The figure under most scrutiny is the elected KPK Chair, Firli Bahuri. The Police Commissioner-General, when he was KPK Deputy allegedly met with the selfsame persons being investigated. During the KPK commissioner selection process, Jokowi blithely allowed Firli’s name as suggested by the selection committee to go on to the House of Representatives. The DPR decided to also put on their blinkers and earmuffs against suggestions forwarded by the KPK and the general public.
Jokowi could in fact have saved the KPK by refusing to issue a presidential decree – the letter which was the basis for the discussion to review the KPK Law between the DPR and the government. He also had the authority to issue a government ruling in lieu of law (perpu) – as he promised to a score of senior figures invited to the palace. The promise turned out to be an empty one. Jokowi closed his ears to the pleas forwarded by thousands of picketing students who demanded the President issue a perpu. In the biggest demonstration since 1998, at least five youngsters died as a result of brutality by security forces.
On numerous occasions, the President kept saying the KPK should only focus on prevention rather than take active measures against corruption. Countless times also the President stated his dismay that so many governors, regents, and mayors had lost their gumption to make moves for fear of being nabbed by law enforcers. It would appear Jokowi had forgotten that compliance to articles on corruption was not without limitation. Any official making a decision, or even a discretionary measure, would not be collared by the KPK unless the person in question padded his own pockets or those of other people by abusing their authority.
Undermining the KPK will, in turn, make all manner of government megaprojects run unchecked. Relocating the capital city, dispersal of the village fund, and infrastructure construction are examples of megaprojects under threat of being abused. High-cost economics – particularly as caused by corruption - is projected to run rampant now the KPK has been undercut. The ease of doing business index is also slated to go into decline. If invited to pull in tandem in prevention strategies from the outset, the KPK, in fact, could be a formidable partner to the government as monitors overseeing policy.
Except in the interest of protecting party oligarchies and their power play, it is difficult for common sense to understand how Jokowi does not grasp these principles.
Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine