Finding the Mastermind

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaIt feels like an insult to common sense if the public is expected to simply lap up the confessions of the two suspects arrested by police last week, in the attack case against senior investigator of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Novel Baswedan.

    In front of scores of journalists, one of the suspects, Brigadier Rahmat Kadir Mahulette, claimed he disliked Novel because he deemed the anticorruption investigator a traitor.

    The confession indicated that Rahmat and his colleague, Brigadier Ronny Bugis, intended to reduce the case to that of a mere attack with a motif of personal vengeance. In fact, the findings of the joint fact-finding team formed by the (then) Chief of the Indonesian Police General Tito Karnavian clearly connected the attack using acid that blinded Novel in one eye to a number of major corruption cases he was handling.

    The apprehension of Ronny Bugis and Rahmat Mahulette, two officers in active service in the police mobile brigade (Brimob), though very late in the game, can be considered a step forward in the investigation of the Novel attack case. But the Chief of the Police Crime Unit, Police Commissioner-General Listyo Sigit Prabowo, still has some explaining to do regarding the various anomalies that have arisen when they determined Ronny and Rahmat as suspects.

    A case in point is the chronology of the investigation. On December 23, 2019, the police released a letter announcing the investigation start wherein they also informed that Novel’s attackers were as yet unknown. Three days later, suddenly news made the rounds the perpetrators had been apprehended.

    Another anomaly is the difference between the face sketches of the two perpetrators released by the police and the sketches forwarded by Tito Karnavian and Jakarta Metro Police Chief Inspector General Idham Azis at the end of 2017. The face sketches distributed at the time also differed from descriptions from a number of witnesses who had seen the attacker.

    Neither did Ronny and Rahmat in the Brimob have any record of connection with the KPK, nor with Novel’s work as an investigator. Normally, a revenge motif could only emerge if the perpetrator and the victim knew each other and if the perpetrator’s interests were directly disrupted by the victim’s actions.

    The question is: can Commissioner-General Sigit Prabowo fulfill the public expectations and shed light on these various anomalies? The public’s skepticism is not without a basis. The KPK and the police have too often been in conflict. The leaders of the two law enforcement bodies once even slapped each other with criminal suspect status. This ongoing conflict even has a title: the case of the lizard versus the crocodile.

    Chronic tension between the two institutions almost always get re-triggered when the KPK begins an investigation into cases of corruption in police circles, from suspected bribery to then Chief of the Police Crime Unit, Commissioner General Susno Duadji, to the simulator device corruption case involving then-Police Traffic Corps Chief Inspector General Djoko Susilo. Revealing Ronny and Rahmat’s roles, two officers still in active service, as perpetrators in the attack against Novel is merely adding to the long-drawn-out conflict between the KPK and the police.

    Moreover, there is suspicion the attack on Novel is directly connected to KPK’s efforts to dig into the case of alleged bribery to several police officers whose names were exposed in a record known as “the Red Book”. The book was an internal financial ledger kept by beef importer businessman Basuki Hariman, accused of bribing Constitutional Court judges.

    Though still speculation, this suspicion cannot be shunted aside, much like the suspected connection between Novel’s attack with the investigation of the electronic ID card case, the bribery to the Supreme Court case, and a whole slew of other KPK cases. For this, it would be difficult to hope the police can work professionally to reveal the case of Novel’s attack. There is too much conflict of interest within the police corps itself.

    As a solution, President Joko Widodo could form an extra mechanism to help shed light on the entire case. The mechanism can be in the form of establishing an independent team tasked with overseeing police investigation in this case.

    It can be made up of persons with skills and experience in law enforcement and – most important – are trusted by the public, the team can assist the police in unfurling the fog surrounding the case of Novel’s attack, and, more importantly, reveal the name of the mastermind pulling the strings behind the scenes.

    A thorough and complete investigation into the case will be a crucial turning point for President Jokowi’s track record, thus far considered wishy-washy in his fight against corruption. The president could surrender the whole thing to the police and ignore public criticism, or he could aid and abet the public’s concern by appointing an independent team. The choice is in Jokowi’s hands.

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