Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – The resistance of the Indonesian Military (TNI) toward the arrest of its high-ranking officer and his aide by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in relation to an alleged graft case at the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) has reignited a debate over the military's long-standing culture of impunity.
KPK investigators named five suspects in the graft case, including Basarnas head Air Vice Marshal Henri Alfiandi and the agency's administrative coordinator Lt. Col. Afri Budi Cahyanto. Henri is suspected of accepting up to Rp 88.3 billion (US$5.9 million) in bribes related to procurement in the agency between 2021 and 2023, with Afri acting as an intermediary. The remaining suspects are businesspeople, namely president director of printing company PT Intertekno Grafika Sejati, Marilya; executive commissioner of printing company PT Multi Grafika Cipta Sejati Mulsunadi Gunawan and spare-parts supply company PT Kindah Abadi Utama president director Roni Aidil.
KPK chairman Firli Bahuri insisted the TNI was aware of the KPK investigation that led to the high-profile arrest. But one of the KPK's deputy chairs, Johanis Tanak, publicly apologized for the arrest, which he said was a mistake committed by KPK investigators. Johanis made the statement after Military Police chief Air Rear Marshal Agung Handoko and several high-ranking military officers, clad in camouflage outfits, came to the KPK building.
According to Agung, the KPK had overstepped its jurisdiction by arresting and naming active military personnel as suspects. The TNI maintains that according to Law No. 31/1997 concerning military justice, their institution is solely responsible for handling criminal cases involving their personnel.
Following the apology, Agung expressed the TNI's intention to work with the KPK on the Basarnas case on Monday. Since then, the KPK said it would continue its investigation into the civilian suspects in the case while leaving the TNI suspects in the hands of the military police.
KPK deputy chairman Alexander Marwata said the antigraft body would meet with TNI commander Adm. Yudo Margono to discuss forming a joint team between the KPK and military police to minimize disparities that may come with having separate investigations. Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD also encouraged the same.
A number of civil society groups, however, have called on the antigraft body to carry on with its investigation into Henri and Afri independently. This is because the 2019 KPK Law stipulates that the institution is authorized to coordinate corruption investigations regardless of whether those implicated are civilians or soldiers.
Former KPK deputy chairman Bamband Widjojanto added that although Henri and Afri are active TNI personnel, they were working at a nonmilitary institution, Basarnas, which answers to the President, not the TNI chief.
The graft case in question concerns the misappropriation of state funds in a government agency that handles civilian affairs. Hence, it only makes sense that the case is dealt with through civilian channels. Internal investigations by the TNI are feared to preserve the institution's long-standing culture of impunity, as evident in some cases in the past in which the Military Court acquitted or gave lenient sentences to errand soldiers.
Human rights group Setara Institute is a constant critic of the TNI's culture of impunity.
In 2017, for example, the KPK investigated corruption allegations for the procurement of the AgustaWestland (AW 101) helicopter, which reportedly resulted in Rp 224 billion in state losses. Through separate investigations, the KPK named a businessman as a suspect while the military police named five Air Force officers suspects in the case.
Apart from the fact that none of the military personnel were indicted, the military police dropped the case altogether in 2021. Meanwhile, the KPK brought the businessman to court in October 2022 and found him guilty last April.
The dispute has also shed light on the increasing number of military personnel assigned to nonmilitary posts. This has been a cause for concern considering the TNI's track record of interfering with domestic affairs, and why, after the 1998 reforms, the military has no role in practical politics.
It has not gone unnoticed that more military personnel, both active and retired, have taken up civilian roles under the Jokowi administration. Moreover, talks of revising the 2004 TNI Law to allow high-ranking military officers to assume posts in any of the 18 government institutions has led to fears that it would reinstate the military's dwifungsi (dual role), a characteristic that marked Indonesia's authoritarian past.
For now, the KPK must stand its ground and heed the public's call to thoroughly investigate the two military suspects. It would certainly set an important precedent for future investigations involving military personnel and perhaps restore some of the faith the public has lost in the antigraft institution.
What we've heard
A source who is familiar with the graft case claimed that the KPK had involved the military police from the beginning of the investigation. The military police were invited to hold a hearing and question the parties involved.
The hearing only included two KPK leaders, namely Johanis and Alexander. The remaining three KPK executives were unable to attend. In a discussion with the military police, it was agreed that the military police would name the suspects. "It was not the KPK because cases involving TNI personnel can only be resolved through military courts," the source said.
But later, the KPK conducted a sting operation and named the two military officers suspects regardless, a move that the TNI protested. Johanis is said to have taken initiative to issue a public apology and blame the investigators knowing that the KPK leadership had already agreed to allow the military police to handle the case.
[This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in collaboration with The Jakarta Post to serve the latest comprehensive and reliable analysis on Indonesia's political and business landscape.]