Fana Suparman & Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – The Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, responded to recent media reports that tens of employees have resigned since the current leadership board took the helm late last year, saying on Saturday it respects their decisions but that greater respect is reserved for those who stay.
The latest staff to resign is renowned spokesman Febri Diansyah, bringing the total number of departing employees to 38. He has indicated that the primary reason for his departure is the amended law on KPK's authority and manpower which came into effect last September.
In response, KPK Deputy Chairman Nurul Ghufron said the disgruntled former employees simply couldn't stand the test of time. He indicated that today's KPK is different from its early years when the commission was granted with all the resources and authorities they need to do the job.
"We aren't proud of those who were serving [at the KPK] when it had all the advantages. But we have tremendous respect and honor for those who stay with the KPK with its many disadvantages today," Nurul said in Jakarta.
"I wish them all success and for sure we respect their personal decision," he said of the departing employees.
Nurul also said a true gentleman "won't leave before the job is done". "I congratulate those who remain loyal to the KPK, those who understand that changes are inevitable," he said.
Another deputy, Nawawi Pomolango, confirmed separately that 38 employees including 30 on permanent basis have resigned since January. Most of them have cited personal matters or desire for new challenges as the reason to resign, he said.
Why is the amended law contentious?
The government and the House of Representatives agreed to amend the 2002 Law on the KPK last year on the grounds that the commission had been too powerful while there was a lack of an oversight body.
The move came shortly after President Joko Widodo was sworn in for his second term and triggered nationwide protests over allegations that the new law would cripple the respected anti-graft agency.
At least two students were killed during marathon rallies across the country that often erupted in violent clashes with security officials.
The amended law introduced an oversight body inside the commission, made it mandatory for all KPK staff to join the civil service and strip off the commissioners' once wide-ranging authority to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
KPK investigators cannot wiretap suspects without prior approval from the oversight body.
Then KPK Deputy Chairman Laode M. Syarif said at that time that dismantling the KPK commissioners' authorities is tantamount to "killing" the anti-graft agency.
"The next commissioners will not have the power to investigate or prosecute, this is just like killing the KPK," Laode said.
The KPK also loses its privilege as an independent state agency, because its entire staff are required to join the civil service, he said.
Furthermore, the new law creates a loophole stemming from the president-appointed oversight body that may cause troubles in the future.
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.
The KPK has won reputation for uncovering high-profile graft cases involving top politicians and close cronies of past presidents.
However, it often came under media scrutiny for alleged political moves. During the 2014 and 2014 presidential elections, the KPK arrested party leaders with close ties to presidential candidates when the voting date was approaching.