Jakarta – Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly dismissed director general of immigration Ronny Sompie on Tuesday amid public uproar over the whereabouts of a graft fugitive.
Both men have delivered conflicting statements about Harun Masiku, the subject of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)'s manhunt for allegedly bribing a general election commissioner to get a seat in the House of Representatives.
On Jan. 16, Yasonna said the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician was in Singapore when the KPK conducted a raid over the bribery case on Jan. 8. On the same day when Yasonna made the statement, Tempo newspaper reported that Harun had arrived in Jakarta a day before the raid was conducted.
As the controversy was heating up to a point that Yasonna was reported to the KPK for "obstruction of justice" by an anti-corruption group, Ronny finally admitted that Harun had arrived in the Soekarno-Hatta Airport on Jan. 7.
However, Ronny's statement was delivered two weeks after the KPK's operation, where Harun eluded justice.
Even President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo commented on the saga, saying all ministers should be very careful when making public statements.
The mounting public criticisms prompted Yasonna to form an independent investigation team involving various agencies. He said on Tuesday that Ronny was dismissed to "prevent conflict of interests" during the investigation.
"We have formed an independent team comprising members from the Communication and Information Technology Ministry, the BSSN [National Cyber and Encryption Agency], the National Police's criminal investigation agency and the Ombudsman," Yasonna told reporters in Jakarta.
"To prevent any conflict of interests, I have removed the director general of immigration," he said.
Justice Ministry's inspector general Jhoni Ginting was appointed as interim director general of immigration.
Yasonna said Alif Suaidi, a director who oversees IT system at the immigration office, had been removed as well.
The investigation team is tasked with finding out why there was a very long delay before the accurate information about Harun's arrival in the airport was released by the immigration office, he said.
"I want a really transparent process to know why there was a delay," the minister said.
Yasonna, also a PDI-P politician, has been reported to the KPK by anti-graft activists Indonesia Corruption Watch for allegedly obstructing justice by concealing information about Harun's whereabouts.
He strongly denied the accusation on Monday and responded by announcing an independent fact-finding team involving officials from various agencies other than the Justice Ministry.
Harun is accused of bribing General Election Commission (KPU) commissioner Wahyu Setiawan in his attempt to fill a House seat vacated by fellow PDI-P politician Nazarudin Kiemas, who died before elected House members were sworn in last October.
Wahyu and two other suspects have been in the KPK custody, while Harun remains at large.