Jakarta – When thousands of students took to Jakarta's streets last year to protest the passing of the new Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law, which they believed was designed to weaken the antigraft commission, the lawmakers – including Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Yasonna Laoly – said their work should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Yasonna, who took part in the bill's deliberations in his capacity as the law and human rights minister, told reporters on Oct. 2, 2019, shortly after resigning from his Cabinet post, "Apply the law first, see the implementation. If it is flawed, then write a legislative review. Apply the law without prejudice."
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo did exactly that, giving the law a chance while the students refused to give Yasonna and other lawmakers the same privilege, demanding the President kill the legislation with a regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) instead.
The students were vindicated when – about four months after the law took effect – a bribery case implicating members of the PDI-P became public, showing how problematic the law is, and Yasonna, who was reappointed to be law and human rights minister, has, ironically, proven his critics right.
The scandal – in which a PDI-P legislative candidate is accused of bribing a KPU commissioner to secure a seat in the House of Representatives – has become a litmus test for both the new KPK Law and the PDI-P. Unfortunately, recent developments have given the public little confidence in the two institutions.
The KPK, for instance, failed to seal an office at the PDI-P headquarters after failing to show a warrant, as required by the new law. It is unclear if the KPK has secured or even requested a permit to conduct a search there, despite reports that the PDI-P members involved in the case are known to be aides to party secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto.
It is safe to say that the requirement for the KPK to seek a permit from the supervisory council to conduct raids – and even the very existence of the council itself – has not only made the KPK less effective, but also less independent.
Those concerns were made manifest when the PDI-P decided to set up a legal team to question the legality of the KPK's investigation into the case. In an unprecedented move, the team reported the antigraft body to the supervisory council to express its objection to the KPK's attempt to raid the party's headquarters after failing to properly show a warrant.
To make matters worse, the team was initiated and created by Yasonna, a Cabinet minister tasked with handling legal affairs, an apparent conflict of interest.
It is only natural for the PDI-P to defend itself from graft accusations, but the only way to do it is for the party to let the KPK do its job and not obstruct it. Also, Yasonna should keep his word. The law has been proven to be flawed; it should be reviewed and eventually revised or repealed by a Perppu.
The KPK Law has been shown to have undermined the KPK's performance. The last thing the country needs is for the powers-that-be to abuse the law to escape justice.