Asip A. Hasani, Blitar, East Java – Lawmaker Arteria Dahlan from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has been in the news lately for his controversial defense of the revised Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law, which many observers fear will neuter the KPK.
Last week, he was involved in a heated exchange on TV with economist Emil Salim on TV and the video has circulated like wildfire on social media, with netizens criticizing the politician for being disrespectful to a man who is decades his senior. On the show, Arteria defended his party's standpoint on the new KPK Law.
"You said that you were elected, but the problem is, was that process free from corrupt practices?" Emil said in the program aired on Oct 9.
Appearing offended by the question, Arteria replied, "of course," while continuing to interrupt Emil. "The professor asked if my election was free from corruption or not; of course it was," he said in a high-pitch tone.
Arteria is a lawmaker from East Java VI electoral district, which includes Blitar and voters there have said they are disappointed at Arteria's stance on the country's fight against corruption.
One such voter, Faisal, said he was disappointed in the PDI-P, especially Arteria's behavior on TV, which he felt was inappropriate. He said that instead of undermining the KPK, the party should strengthen it. He believed the new law would hinder the KPK's ability to catch corrupt people.
He said he voted for Arteria because they went to the same university in the neighboring town of Jember. "I have known him in meetings of law school graduate associations. I saw him as a smart politician, strong in building arguments. Perhaps because he is a lawyer," he told The Jakarta Post.
During the campaign, Arteria said he would focus on improving small enterprises and the agricultural sector in Blitar. "But now, he is sitting in Commission III on law and security, right?"
Ahmad D, 48, a farmer from Kanigoro district in Blitar said he voted for Arteria even though he did not know anything about him. He said Arteria's campaign team came to his village bringing a "voting package" consisting of politicians' names at different levels of legislative institutions. Arteria's name was on the list for the House of Representatives.
In the simultaneous election on April 17, voters were given up to five ballots to punch, ranging from the House to the regency legislative council.
"My neighbors and I chose the offered packaged. We agreed on that package because one of the politicians on the list was a candidate who we know and who promised us better irrigation for our paddy fields. Most of us did not care who Arteria was," he said.
He said despite the "package", the campaign team let them pick their own presidential candidates. Ahmad said most of them voted for Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Mar'ruf Amin.
He said he did not support Arteria's view on the new KPK Law, which he believed would weaken the KPK.
The revised law contains several controversial articles, including establishing a supervisory council to oversee the KPK, requiring that all KPK employees be civil servants – which would effectively turn it into a government body, requiring that the KPK obtain a wiretapping warrant from the supervisory council, authorizing it to drop and close cases whose investigations are not completed within a year, and revoking the KPK's independence in recruiting investigators.
Another voter, a student activist, who asked to be identified only as Nanang, said he worked with Arteria during his campaign. He said Arteria mostly talked about agrarian law to landowners. Even though he helped Arteria, Nanang said he did not agree with Arteria's support for the new KPK Law. "My friends and I supported student protests in Blitar that opposed the new KPK Law and we demanded [the President] issue a regulation in lieu of law [Perppu] to save the KPK," he said.