Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – The deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, Laode N. Syarif, maintains hope that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will change his mind about a new law that he says will "kill" the agency.
The KPK Law, passed by the House of Representatives (DPR) in September, had undergone revisions that will paralyze the anti-graft agency once its new commissioners take over, Laode said in a recent interview with the Jakarta Globe.
"This is the darkest day for the KPK... [which] used to be considered one of the most effective anti-corruption agencies in the world by UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime]," Laode, whose four-year term ends in December, said.
He went on to detail some of the provisions in the new law that would cripple the KPK. "The KPK is not independent anymore because now the staff [have to] become part of the executive [power of government]," he said.
The establishment of an internal oversight body stipulated in the amended law will also complicate the work of the agency's investigators because they would need its go-ahead before wiretapping potential suspects or confiscating assets of convicted persons, Laode said.
The most crucial revision according to Laode is that under the new law KPK commissioners will soon be treated as regular civil servants. "The next commissioners will not have the power to investigate or prosecute, [this] is just like killing the KPK itself," Laode said.
The only one who can change things around for the KPK is the president, according to the Australian-educated commissioner.
Laode still has hopes that the president might annul the law or at least postpone its implementation. Jokowi could do so by issuing a decree to overrule the amended law.
"Under our constitution, he has the power to issue an executive order in the form of a government regulation in lieu of law [Perppu], [that is] if he really wants to uphold his promise to the Indonesian people... if he is elected as the president of Indonesia he will strengthen the KPK," Laode said.
"What he's actually doing at the moment is just the opposite of his promise," he said.
Hope lies with Jokowi
Laode regrets that the drafting and deliberations of the new law were held behind closed doors. The KPK commissioners or other legal experts should have been given the chance to provide valuable inputs during the deliberations.
Now after the law has been passed – pending signature by the president – loopholes are emerging. The weakest point of the law concerns the president-appointed oversight body.
Laode said the oversight body is authorized to give permits for wiretaps or asset seizures, but it will be made up of civilians who have no authority to investigate a case or prosecute suspects, just like the upcoming commissioners.
"This is against the core principle of the law. Maybe the president doesn't see it at the moment," the 54-year-old said.
"This is the danger of making [a] law in a very secretive [way], people cannot actually see it, people cannot comment on the law. [But] when it's done, we see a lot of loopholes," he said.
Laode said the KPK had repeatedly asked then Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly to be involved in the deliberations or at least be given the draft of the revisions, but the minister had turned a deaf ear.
"We hadn't read even one sentence of the new law [prior to deliberations]," he said. "So we asked to meet the president, but we never had a chance."
The only solution now is for the president to issue the decree in lieu of law, otherwise the new KPK Law will automatically come into effect within the next five days even without the president's signature, Laode said in the interview on Sunday.
"I still have the hope that on Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday he may say something about this new law. We really hope he will come out with the Perppu," Laode said.
On new leader Firli
On Dec. 21, the KPK will receive five new commissioners, led by Inspector Gen. Firli Bahuri, a former KPK law enforcement deputy who had once eluded allegations of ethical misconduct in the agency.
Firli swept clean all the votes during a session to elect the KPK's new chairman in the House of Representatives' legal commission despite allegations of ethical violations for meeting a person under investigation for graft while he was a KPK deputy.
Laode stopped short of providing details about the alleged misconduct and said he would not oppose Firli's return to the agency.
"I knew him quite well, he was my deputy for more than a year," Laode said of Firli, who served as the South Sumatra police chief after leaving the KPK.
"He was okay. There are some things in the past that we asked him to change. He was once investigated by our internal disciplinary committee, but I hope he can take a lesson," he said.
Laode said the internal investigation could not be concluded because Firli was called back by the National Police midway through it, and the case was eventually closed.
"I wish him well. I already asked the KPK staff to [welcome] the five new commissioners, to work with them and assist them, including Firli," he said.
"I hope [they will be] more professional... [and] continue [to do] the good things with the KPK, continue [our] achievements, [and] improve other things we haven't. Last but not least, I hope they [continue to] work independently," Laode said.