Jakarta. President Joko Widodo returned to Jakarta early on Tuesday from his first state visits abroad, only to be met with criticism over his lack of action in a standoff pitting Indonesia’s highly regarded antigraft commission against the corruption-riddled police force.
“The president should have made a decision on this matter immediately,” said Ahmad Muzani, the head of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) at the House of Representatives, referring to the conflict sparked by the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) naming of Joko’s police chief nominee, Budi Gunawan, as a graft suspect last month.
“He should have prioritized resolving domestic problems,” Muzani said.
Joko has been criticized for doing virtually nothing to defuse the tensions between the KPK and the police, which have seen the latter lash out in apparent retaliation by digging up a raft of cold cases to pin against the KPK’s commissioners.
Some of the cases being acted on by the police were reported by members of Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Joko’s nomination of Budi and his refusal to cancel it despite Budi’s status as a graft suspect and wide public protest is widely seen to reflect the president’s inability to defy the wishes of his political patron, PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Budi is a known close associate of Megawati’s, having served as her security aide during her presidency from 2001 to 2004.
The public has also criticized Joko’s lack of action to protect the KPK’s commissioners from the police’s increasingly transparent attempts at criminalization.
Muzani warned that the problem could grow even worse if the president let it drag on without some kind of decision.
House Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon, also of Gerindra, urged the president to fulfill his promise to resolve the matter this week.
“Look at all of the public rallies and social media comments being generated by this topic,” he said. “This has been going on for nearly a month. It has become very time- and energy-consuming.”
He added that whatever decision the president made, what mattered was to making the public understand by explaining the reasons clearly.
“Every decision will have a consequence. You cannot please everyone. The president can muse about this; find enlightenment,” Fadli advised.
Political and constitutional law expert Refly Harun also condemned the president’s decision to head abroad while stalling on a decision that could bring the KPK-police standoff to an end.
“He couldn’t cancel the visits because they were scheduled long before, but he should have settled this conflict before he departed,” Refly said.
Joko on Tuesday called a meeting with the National Police Commission, the body tasked with vetting candidates for police chief, further signaling a potential backing away from his controversial first pick.
Members of the National Police Commission said they had come up with six candidates for Joko to choose from — but only if he decided not to proceed with Budi’s inauguration.
“If [Joko] asks [for the candidates] we will give them to him,” said commissioner Syafriadi Cut Ali before the meeting at the State Palace.
The commission has so far interviewed four three-star generals: the current police deputy chief, Badrodin Haiti; internal affairs chief Dwi Prayitno; security chief Putut Eko Bayuseno; and chief detective Budi Waseso.
“Nobody asked the commission to [interview the generals],” said M. Nasser, another commissioner. “We’re just preparing in case” Joko wants to nominate a replacement for Budi Gunawan, Nasser said.
Hamidah, another commissioner, said that National Narcotics Agency (BNN) chief Anang Iskandar and former chief detective Suhardi Alius were also eligible.
“Currently the two are stationed outside of the police force, so it’s difficult [to arrange an interview] with them,” Hamidah said, but added that Anang and Suhardi would be on the list of likely candidates forwarded by the National Police Commission should Joko request it. “We haven’t excluded anybody just yet,” she added.
Hamidah said that if the president asked, the commission would also conduct interviews with Anang and Suhardi.
Budi Waseso is analysts’ strong bet for nomination should Budi Gunawan’s bid be scrapped by Joko.
Budi Waseso, a self-professed supporter of Budi Gunawan, is responsible for launching the suspiciously timed investigations against all four KPK commissioners, in what is widely seen as retaliation against the antigraft agency.
PDI-P officials have already signaled their approval of Budi Waseso, who himself has made no secret of his support for Budi Gunawan.
Meanwhile, there is much internal resistance to Suhardi, the man who Budi Waseso abruptly replaced last month, despite strong support from activists who see Suhardi as “relatively cleaner” than the other potential candidates for police chief.
Suhardi was removed from the post of chief of detectives, second in importance only to that of police chief, for reportedly leaking information about Budi Gunawan to the KPK and leading to his being named a suspect for bribery and money laundering.
Badrodin’s nomination could trigger similar a controversy to that of Budi Gunawan.
Both men were among the police generals flagged in 2010 by the government’s anti-money-laundering agency, the Financial Transactions Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), for suspiciously large transactions — in the millions of dollars — flowing through their accounts.
Joko on Tuesday met with PPATK chief Muhammad Yusuf. Yusuf declined to tell reporters what they had discussed, but denied he was summoned to the palace to discuss possible police chief candidates.
Indonesia Legal Roundtable researcher Erwin Natosmal Oemar said he was pessimistic that the National Police Commission could recommend any worthy candidate to replace Budi Gunawan in the search for a police chief.
“I get the sense that each of the commissioners has their own preference,” he said. The commission has indeed sent mixed signals, with statements by individual members seeming to dismiss those by their peers.
Erwin also criticized the commission’s supervisory ability, given that it gave the green light for Budi’s nomination.
“The commission has not been responsive [to public demand],” he said. “They’ve refused to admit that they made a mistake with Budi. They still formally support him. They’ve proved ineffective as supervisors, so we may as well disband them.”
Even if Joko names a new nominee this week, he will have to wait a month to be vetted by the House, which breaks for recess on Saturday.
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