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Ahmad Syafii Maarif: We Have Failed To Produce Real Statesmen
Ahmad Syafii Maarif. TEMPO/Seto Wardhana
Wednesday, 04 March, 2015 | 15:56 WIB
Ahmad Syafii Maarif: We Have Failed To Produce Real Statesmen

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Political tension surged when Ahmad Syafii Maarif declared that the sole candidacy of Budi Gunawan as the national police chief was not the initiative of President Joko Widodo. The statement angered the police and politicians, including Megawati Soekarnoputri, chair of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Megawati then summoned Syafii to her home in Central Jakarta. "We spoke for almost two hours," recounted the chair of the Team of Nine, a group formed by President Jokowi to resolve the conflict between the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the police.

In that meeting, Syafii told Megawati he did not approve of Budi's appointment. But Mega would not be swayed by Syafii's opinion and insisted that Budi, her aide when she was president, should be appointed. Despite the intense discussion between the two, Syafii was full of praise for Mega, who conducted the conversation with no sign of emotion. "We reminisced about TK (Megawati's late husband, Taufik Kiemas) who used to be strict about his diet," said Syafii. "We both suffer from diabetes."

Even after it became evident that Budi Gunawan's appointment would not happen, Syafii remained dissatisfied. He believes much still needs to be done, such as the dismissal of Police Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso, Crime Investigation Division chief. "He's out of control, he doesn't know what investigation means, indicting people whenever he likes," said Syafii.

Today, the Team of Nine awaits further instruction from the president. If the KPK-Police conflict is seen to have been resolved, the work of Syafii and the other members of the team will be done. "If we are asked, we can give recommendations. Otherwise, we're done," said 80-year-old Syafii. Last Thursday, he agreed to be interviewed by Tempo reporters Ani Nur Yasin and Heru Triyono at his home in Yogyakarta. Excerpts:


Zulkifli Hasan, who is vying to be chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) recently paid you a visit. Was he asking for your blessing before the upcoming PAN convention in Bali?

Many people come to see me. Before the general elections last year, people came to see me, including Pak Jokowi. I told him (Zulkifli) I wished the convention well, hoping there would be no problem. I will support anyone who becomes chairman of PAN. Zul has a vision, he wants to make PAN an open and modern party and empower its members in the provinces.

Were you invited to the Bali event?

I was, but I will not attend. What for?


The chair of the PAN Consultative Council (MPP) always seems to go to party founder Amien Rais. But at the convention the participants will put this position to vote. Would you be interested if it was offered to you?

I would not. Why join the party? In 1998, I was also asked by Amien Rais to be PAN chair but I refused. I am not interested in joining a party because I know that political parties are like packs of wolves.


You have refused offers of important positions, such as membership in the Presidential Advisory Council.

I am old. Besides, I was once a member of the DPA (Supreme Advisory Council). The position should go to someone younger. The palace shouldn't have difficulty finding people to sit in the council.


Yet, you accepted the position to lead the Team of Nine, formed by President Jokowi to resolve the KPK-Police conflict.

You can say I was drafted. When I asked Jimly (Asshiddiqie) about it, he jokingly said, "You were chosen because you came late [and couldn't refuse]…" He was referring to the fact that I arrived late at the team's first meeting in the palace (on January 25).


Exactly how was the Team of Nine set up?

This team was formed by the president to resolve the KPK-Police feud. At first, there were only six of us in the team because Hikmahanto Juwana (University of Indonesia professor) and Sutanto (a former police chief) were absent. I also couldn't make it in time because the notice about the meeting came so suddenly. But Pak Sutanto never attended subsequent meetings.


So it should have been called the Team of Eight.

True, but that name Team of Nine had already been publicized.


Did anyone oppose the names selected by the president?

We are all fighters. He wanted dedicated people without vested interests. So no one objected. In fact, the addition of two names, Imam Prasodjo and Sutanto, who joined us on January 27, added more value to our existence.


The Team of Nine was to have been officially formed by a presidential decree, but this didn't happen. Do you know why?

That's the strange thing. On that day, we met with the State Secretariat special team to discuss the decree. The draft was almost done. The State Secretariat then asked us for our views on the draft document. We wanted it to be signed by the president by the end of the day. But the president was in Tapanuli at the time, so we had to wait for the following day. Then, on that Wednesday morning, before meeting with the president, State Secretary/Minister Pratikno and Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto suddenly came to me and told me there would be no presidential decree. I told them I didn't mind it because it was voluntary work.


Did they explain why there was to be no presidential decree?

Not clearly. But we presumed there was very strong opposition to the idea. Who opposed it? Well, almost all of the political parties.


If there had been a decree, how much more effective would the team be?

We are independent, maybe we were seen as a threat. Even without that decree, I am sure we would have recommended that Budi Gunawan's appointment be withdrawn. In the end, people in Jakarta acknowledged the team. Interestingly, although we failed to be an official entity, we became instead a moral authority and for us, that's an honor.


Are you convinced that all of your fellow team members are independent? It was the president's initiative, after all.

I'm very sure. We all volunteered. There are no [hidden] motives and more importantly, the public recognizes and accepts us.


But not officially…

Never mind. We don't need the legality. It's important that we are solid and effective. If Pak Jokowi asks for and needs our counsel, we will be ready to give it. (*)


Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine

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