Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – A Catholic priest and academic has joined more than 70 other leading professors in Indonesia in calling on the country's anti-graft body not to sack dozens of its employees, including senior investigators, after they failed to pass a controversial civil service exam.
In a statement signed by 74 professors from universities across the country, including Jesuit Father Franz Magnis-Suseno, emeritus professor at the Jakarta-based Driyarkara School of Philosophy, they said the mass sackings would seriously weaken the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
Last week KPK chairman Firli Bahuri said 75 commission employees would be terminated for failing to pass a compulsory civic knowledge test, part of a new selection process to earn civil servant status.
New rules introduced in 2019 mandate that all commission employees must be classified as civil servants within two years. The test was introduced to weed out people exposed to or supporting religious and political extremism.
Those who failed the test included senior investigators. One of them was Novel Baswedan, who lost an eye in an acid attack in 2017 allegedly instigated by corrupt officials unhappy with the commission's all-out war against them.
The test itself sparked controversy after several employees objected to some of the questions asked.
Questions sought their opinion on things like reasons for wearing a hijab, why they did not have children, why they divorced, their sexual and other desires, and views on LGBT people.
Father Magnis-Suseno said the test was part of moves to "castrate" the anti-graft body.
"I read the list of questions and I think many are totally unsuitable and actually violate the employee's human rights," he told UCA News on May 18.
He stated the questions had nothing to do with how they would go about carrying out their duties. "[The questions] were formulated in such a way as to eliminate certain people," he said.
The German-born priest said he feared the KPK is being systematically weakened.
President Joko Widodo has called on commission chiefs to give those who failed the test another chance "I personally think that there is still a chance for those who failed the test to improve with training," he said.
The commission's deputy chairman Nurul Ghufron responded to the call by saying the commission would review what to do with those who did not pass the test.
The anti-graft body was formed in 2003 and has successfully prosecuted thousands of people, including government officials, legislators and business people, for corruption.
Its tenacity in going after corrupt officials has made many influential people nervous and attempts have been made to limit the commission's power.
In 2019, the Indonesian parliament voted to limit some of its powers, which included its ability to carry out wiretapping of suspects, which drew strong protests from civil groups.