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Ending the commission

Tempo - September 6, 2019

Jakarta – A number of problematic candidates have passed the selection process for the leadership of the Corruption Eradication Commission. This is a failure of the selection committee.

It seems that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) leadership selection committee is to become the butcher that ends the life of the institution. Its choices are rife with accommodation and compromise, including ignoring the dark pasts of several candidates. President Joko Widodo could be seen as giving his blessing to their efforts to bring an end to the KPK by ignoring public comments and criticism about the work of this committee, which he established.

Accommodation and compromise were apparent when the committee decided to pass candidates representing the interests of the police. Inspector Gen. Antam Novambar and Insp. Gen. Firli Bahuri are the most obvious examples of this accommodative stance.

In 2015, Antam was accused of intimidating KPK investigator Sr. Comsr. Endang Tarsa when the agency named as a suspect Comsr. Gen. Budi Gunawan – now chief of the State Intelligence Agency. More than a simple breach of ethics, the intimidation was an attempt to obstruct an investigation – a criminal offense.

From April 2018 to June 2019, Firli was the deputy for enforcement at the KPK. He reportedly had links with a number of people then under investigation for alleged corruption. For example, he had repeated meetings with former governor of East Nusa Tenggara Tuan Guru Bajang Zainul Majdi, who was accused of involvement in corruption related to Newmont Nusa Tenggara share divestment funds.

The selection committee also passed a number of officials who had failed to submit official reports of their wealth and assets. Committee Chair Yenti Garnasih claimed these reports are only necessary after candidates are selected. She seems to have forgotten the regulation obliging all state officials to submit wealth reports to the KPK on their first appointment, then when they are transferred, promoted and retire.

These problematic candidates are an indication of a major problem with the selection committee. From the outset, the members have given the impression of prioritizing candidates from the police. The civil society coalition was not wrong when it said that there were at least three committee members with conflicts of interest: Yenti, Hendardi and Indriyanto Seno Adji. There are signs that all three have close links with National Police Headquarters.

It is possible that the president wants a KPK leadership that is calm and that prioritizes prevention rather than prosecution of corruption, and that maintains harmonious relationships with other institutions, especially the police. And perhaps Jokowi does not believe that the sting operations that the KPK frequently carries out will bring an end to corruption. It is not impossible that he takes the view that the hard-hitting operations against corruption will hobble development. If this is all true, then it seems the selection committee has been designed to weaken the KPK.

The president should understand that the KPK is vital to bring about clean development. It is true that the institution should also strive to prevent graft. But there is no avoiding the need for prosecutions. They provide a deterrent effect, as well as being part of the endeavor to prevent corruption.

Jokowi must reject the results of the committee's work if it insists on approving problematic candidates. If not, he will be remembered as the president who paralyzed the KPK, if not the man who planted the stone on the grave of the most important institution to come out of the 1998 reformasi movement.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1244397/ending-the-commission