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'Cicak' vs. 'buaya' redux

Jakarta Post Editorial - May 29, 2024

Jakarta – The Indonesian public and the international community would agree that poor law enforcement has notably slowed the country's journey to become a robust democracy, and the latest friction between the National Police and the Attorney General's Office (AGO) shows exactly why this issue has remained a challenge.

The standoff evolved around the alleged surveillance of Febrie Adriansyah, assistant attorney general for special crimes, by members of police counterterrorism squad Densus 88. Two Densus 88 officers reportedly followed Febrie into a South Jakarta restaurant on May 19, where they attempted to record his conversation and fled after being noticed by the prosecutor's aides. One of the officers was apprehended and interrogated but was later released after high-level negotiations.

Shortly after, the Military Police provided cover for Febrie, who is leading investigations into a number of high-profile corruption cases, including one involving publicly listed tin miner PT Timah, which is estimated to have incurred Rp 271 trillion in state losses. Febrie stole media attention a few years ago for bringing to justice actors behind corrupt practices that condemned state insurance companies PT Jiwasraya and PT Asabri to bankruptcy.

Because of these and other achievements, some politicians have touted Febrie as an ideal candidate for the attorney general post in the incoming government.

There have been no explanations about the circumstances of the spying incident from either the AGO or the police. Attorney General Sanitiar Burhanuddin was seen shaking hands with National Police Chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo when attending the launch of GovTech Indonesia at the Merdeka Palace on Monday, while Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Hadi Tjahjanto has denied any conflict between the two law enforcement agencies.

Also on Monday, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo summoned Burhanuddin and Listyo in connection with the incident. Both Listyo and Burhanuddin said there was no problem between the two institutions.

The lack of transparency, however, has only raised suspicions that there is something fishy that the government wants to keep from the public. This penchant for obscurity will only spark further speculation, including allegations that the police are trying to protect certain individuals from the AGO.

We have seen this infighting between law enforcement institutions before, not just once but several times. During the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from 2004 to 2014, the police twice resisted efforts by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to hold police generals accountable on graft charges. The bickering was known as the cicak lawan buaya (gecko vs crocodile) saga.

The stiff rivalry continued during the Jokowi administration, as evinced by the 2017 acid attack on top KPK investigator Novel Baswedan, a former cop who was responsible for investigating graft cases involving politicians and police generals. In 2019, two police officers surrendered and claimed responsibility for the attack that caused Novel to lose his left eye.

As if to cap the wrangling, police general Firli Bahuri was named KPK chief in 2019 as political efforts to defang the antigraft body intensified. As the KPK lost credibility under Firli, the AGO stole the show and won credit for its campaign against corruption.

Both the police and AGO are known for their connections with the powers that be and have been struggling to uphold good governance and remove bad apples from their bureaucracy. Any attempt to fight graft by either agency deserves public support, considering the fact that corruption has reached an alarming level.

And any attempt to resist the AGO's enforcement of corruption law constitutes obstruction of justice, which should carry a heavy punishment if it is committed by law enforcement officers themselves.

A little rivalry between the AGO, the police and the KPK in the fight against graft could be productive, provided they enforce the law simply to uphold justice, not to serve their own or certain powerful individuals' interests.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/05/29/cicak-vs-buaya-redux.htm