Jakarta. Despite strong public rejection, the National Police have reportedly nominated the graft-tainted Budi Gunawan as their new deputy chief.
President Joko Widodo had earlier this year scrapped Budi’s nomination as the country’s top cop, after massive public backlash over his alleged involvement in a 2010 graft case.
Joko instead inaugurated Badrodin Haiti as the new police chief last week, but the politically well-connected Budi appears to have been awarded the number two post in the force.
Budi served as the security aide to former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, Joko’s political patron.
A source at the National Police told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday that the Wanjakti, an eight-member police committee that vets and approves candidates for senior positions, had picked Budi for deputy chief.
“The Wanjakti chose Budi Gunawan. They are currently consulting the president before the National Police inaugurate him,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Comr. Gen. Dwi Priyatno, chief of the general supervision inspectorate of the National Police, refused to confirm the information, saying only that “the Wanjakti has made a decision on the deputy chief position.”
“I’m not at liberty to disclose who he is because I can’t overstep the chief,” Dwi added.
Budi did not refute the claim when contacted.
“Let the police chief make the announcement,” he said at the Home Affairs Ministry in Central Jakarta.
Activists were quick to criticize the decision.
“We reject Budi Gunawan as police chief or for any other public post,” Indonesia Corruption Watch deputy coordinator Emerson Yuntho said.
Emerson argued that Budi was still technically a graft suspect, despite a controversial court ruling that threw out the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) decision to charge him.
“There is still a big chance that the case [against Budi] can be revived,” the antigraft activist said, adding it was also possible that Budi might use his new position to “seek vengeance” against the KPK.
The National Police’s criminal investigations division, a unit now headed by Budi’s former subordinate, Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso, has charged KPK chairman Abraham Samad and his deputy Bambang Widjojanto in several cold cases in the wake of the KPK naming Budi a corruption suspect in January.
The same unit also threatened dozens of other KPK officials and investigators on dubious cases dating back up to a decade.
The threats stopped after the KPK agreed to hand over Budi’s case to the Attorney General’s Office. The president has also suspended Abraham and Bambang due to the ongoing police investigation.
Emerson argued that after Badrodin’s inauguration ceremony last week, the president had instructed the new police chief to focus on reforming the police force, widely considered Indonesia’s most corrupt state institution.
The ICW activist said part of the reform effort was “to keep troublesome officers away from strategic posts,” arguing that Budi should not be the next deputy chief.
Law expert Bambang Widodo Umar said Badrodin’s pick for deputy would show his lack of seriousness in reforming the force.
Haris Azhar, coordinator of the rights group Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said the decision would further erode the already low level of public trust in the police.
“People have strongly rejected [Budi’s nomination as police chief]. Budi should have backed away [from becoming deputy],” he said.
But Vice President Jusuf Kalla, known for being outspoken and at times making controversial remarks, seems to think otherwise.
“Not only should [Budi] be a deputy police chief, he should be the police chief. What’s wrong with Budi Gunawan?” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Speculation that Joko and members of his inner circle were pushing for Budi to become Badrodin’s deputy have been circulating since last week, noted by the sudden absence of a rejection by the House of Representatives against Badrodin as Joko’s new police chief nominee.
The House previously threatened to launch an inquiry against Joko for not inaugurating Budi as police chief, arguing that the president had disrespected the legislature, which endorsed Budi’s nomination a day after he was named a suspect.
The House even refused to stage a confirmation hearing for Badrodin before hearing the president’s explanation for dropping Budi.
The House last week unanimously endorsed Badrodin as the new police chief, but not before openly encouraging Badrodin to choose Budi as his deputy.
Haris of Kontras said he suspected Budi may again vie for the top police post once the public rejection against him waned.
“Budi poses a threat to the public at large because the police force will be led by someone who is hungry for power and has political motives,” he said, arguing that with so many figures insisting Budi should be the police chief, Budi would be indebted to many politicians.
Budi, Haris went on, might also work to have Badrodin toppled.
Budi “is a threat to the current police chief,” he added.