The End of KPK under Jokowi

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    President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo shakes hand with the elected chief of Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Firli Bahuri who has been inaugurated at Jakarta State Palace on Friday, December 20, 2019.

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - If only President Joko Widodo and the House of Representatives (DPR) had not blunted the spearhead of Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency, this embarrassing drama would not have happened.  

    As well as failing to seal the office of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), a team from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) also failed to detain a senior party official suspected of involvement in a corruption case.

    The KPK, which used to be almost invincible, has proved to be powerless after the authority of its investigators was stripped away and its independence eroded via the revised law. Two weeks ago, a team from the KPK faced obstacles when it tried to uncover allegations related to a bribe allegedly paid by a senior PDI-P official to General Elections Commission (KPU) commissioner Wahyu Setiawan. This is despite the fact that Wahyu was caught in a sting operation on January 8. He is alleged to have taken a bribe amounting to hundreds of millions of rupiah related to an interim replacement DPR member proposed by the PDI-P.

    This scandal must not be treated lightly. Do not simply look at the size of the bribe, but also the two important institutions involved: the KPU and a political party that won the election. Without a thorough and complete investigation, these two democratic institutions will lose public trust. It is only right that KPK investigators who still have integrity work hard to get to the bottom of these illegal acts that could damage the mechanism of democracy.

    Initially, the effort to unravel this corruption was proceeding normally. The KPK team managed to arrest the person handling the bribe and seized Rp400 million in Singapore dollar, as well as a bank book. The money was intended for KPU commissioner Wahyu Setiawan. It is alleged that the bribe was paid to smooth the way for proposed legislative member Harun Masiku to become a replacement for Nazarudin Kiemas, a DPR candidate from the South Sumatra I electoral area who had died. The PDI-P insisted on putting forward Harun’s name despite the fact that he had garnered fewer votes than a rival candidate.

    Eventually, the KPU refused to approve Harun as a DPR member. The KPK team, which had gotten wind of illegal conduct, went into action. It turned out that Harun had not paid the bribe directly to Wahyu Setiawan, but had used a staffer at the PDI-P secretariat-general as a middleman.

    According to the law, a proposal to replace DPR members needs to go through party managers, which is why the KPK team was not only pursuing Harun, but also was attempting to catch Hasto Kristiyanto, secretary-general of PDI-P. Harun is still on the run. Strangely, the KPK leadership did not immediately ask for the Supervisory Board to issue a search warrant, so the investigation ground to a halt. The non-cooperative stance of PDI-P members also worsened the situation.

    Now it is certain that the KPK will fail to uncover the corruption case – a clear “win” for the Jokowi administration, which does not want to have a fast-moving anti-corruption agency. It is worth noting that the investigation into the KPU commissioner bribery case began before the KPK was hamstrung. The same is true of the sting operation against Sidoarjo Regent Saiful Ilah at the beginning of January. The investigation into Saiful, who took a bribe from a Public Works Division project contractor, also began when the anti-graft commission was still strong.

    The shackling of the KPK by Jokowi will slow down the war on corruption, and may even cause it to come to a complete halt. The President was proved wrong when he made the assumption that a KPK which prioritized prosecution would disrupt development because it would make officials too afraid to take decisions. The collapse in public trust in the KPK and the political parties will give rise to political apathy – an indirect effect of the lack of resolve in handling the KPU bribery case. Jokowi is seriously mistaken if he wants to prioritize the prevention of corruption. This method was shown to have failed when it was implemented during the New Order regime through the mechanism of oversight of superiors and institutions. This method will only conceal, or even nurture corruption, not eradicate it.

    Almost every party has been the subject of KPK prosecutions. The commission once detained the chairman and treasurer of the Democrat Party, at a time when it was the main supporter of the administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The KPK also often detained ministers and a DPR speaker. It is difficult to imagine that this could happen again.

    Fair law enforcement and the relentless eradication of corruption are preconditions for bringing about a just democracy. Forgetting this, and simply chasing after economic development, is dangerous. If corruption is allowed to flourish, the spoils of development will only be enjoyed by the political elite and rent-seekers.

    Many obstacles in investigating the bribery case involving PDI-P politicians is the first sign of this coming nightmare. The goodwill to put this nation right is readily defeated. It is easy to imagine a gloomy future for this republic unless there is a miracle or a change in the stance of the leadership.

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