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[Editorial] Anticorruption commission under attack

With the war on terrorism far from over, Indonesia has seen mounting attacks on corruption fighters, despite the nationwide acceptance that graft is an extraordinary crime, separate from terrorism. A plan by the House of Representatives to revise Law No. 30/2002 on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is widely seen as the latest foray intended to weaken the anticorruption drive.

Sadly, the penchant behind the amendment comes against the backdrop of the prosecution of 25 active and former House politicians implicated in alleged bribery that marred the election of Bank Indonesia (BI) senior deputy governor Miranda Swaray Goeltom in 2004.

Since its inception in 2003, the KPK has altogether prosecuted 42 House politicians involved in eight corruption cases, not to mention high-profile state officials ranging from BI executives to election commissioners.

People with common sense will easily smell the conflict of interest in the House’s move to change the law, which clearly is aimed at downgrading corruption as an ordinary crime and the antigraft body as a regular corruption buster.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) has revealed 13 attempts to undermine KPK orchestrated by lawmakers through judicial reviews of the KPK law, which the House itself had approved, and attacks on individual KPK leaders. The latest failed judicial review motion was filed by Golkar politician Hengky Baramuli, one of 25 people named as a suspect in the bribery case related to Miranda’s election.

Among the crucial amendments sought by the politicians are curbs on KPK authorities that they say overlap those of other state institutions, including the right to wiretap people and officials thought to be involved in corruption. Major graft cases have been unveiled after KPK investigators tapped the mobile phones of certain people.

The revision is also focused on the KPK’s zero tolerance on halting investigations, which has so far been key to the commission’s unbeaten run in its battle against corruption. As the existing law does not allow it to give up cases, the KPK will never launch an investigation with neither solid evidence nor confidence the court verdicts go in its favor.

Lawmakers have questioned this policy, as it contradicts the country’s non-discriminative principle of law enforcement. Other law enforcement agencies ― the Attorney General’s Office and the National Police ― have no hesitation in dropping investigations based on lack of evidence, but this has given room for negotiations that have helped breed corruption and transactional politics.

The KPK arrived just in time ― when public faith in state prosecutors and the police was waning. Public confidence in these institutions has certainly remained low, but the KPK has at times provided glimmers of hope for the country’s efforts to cut the cycle of corruption associated with former administrations. The KPK’s presence is justified by the fact that corruption is putting Indonesia’s democracy at risk, as in the case of vote buying practices in regional or national elections.

Several times the KPK has revealed acts of bribery influencing the decisions made by government officials and lawmakers and it’s only about time that the antigraft commission disclose high-level political processes, such as bribes related to the House endorsement of certain bills ― a fact of life in Indonesia that many have sensed but have found difficult to prove.

There is no action other than rhetoric from the government of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to protect the KPK from potential political harassment.

Acts of terrorism have killed hundreds, but corruption will be responsible for the deaths of millions.

(Editorial, The Jakarta Post)

(Asia News Network)
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