Budi’s Lawyer Accuses KPK of ‘Abusing Authority’
Jakarta. A lawyer representing National Police chief candidate Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan has told a court that Indonesia’s antigraft commission abused its authority by naming his client a corruption suspect and that the case against him should be dropped.
The South Jakarta District Court on Monday finally heard a pretrial motion brought by Budi, who is challenging the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) decision to name him a graft suspect last month. A hearing scheduled for Monday last week was delayed as representatives for the KPK failed to show.
The court date follows the KPK’s naming of Budi a suspect on Jan. 13, just a few days after he was nominated for National Police chief by President Joko Widodo. The antigraft commission claims Budi received bribes when he was heading the National Police’s career-building bureau. The allegation was first flagged in 2010 by the government’s anti-money-laundering agency, the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), which included Budi in its list of police generals with suspiciously hefty bank accounts.
Budi immediately filed a pretrial motion against the KPK’s move, arguing that his status as a graft suspect was illegitimate because only four out of five KPK leaders were present during the deliberation to decide on his status.
The fifth leader, Busyro Muqoddas, entered retirement age in December last year. But lawmakers agreed last month that they would not select a replacement for Busyro until the end of the terms of the rest of the KPK leaders in December this year.
On Monday, Budi’s lawyer, Maqdir Ismail told the court again that the KPK’s decision to single out Budi was illegitimate, saying his role as chief of the police’s career-building bureau was not a public post. The case did not therefore constitute corruption, Maqdir said.
Maqdir also said it was strange that his client was named a suspect just three days after the president announced Budi’s nomination. He said it was Joko’s prerogative to appoint his aides and he did not need approval from the KPK.
“This is clearly an abuse of power,” Maqdir said.
The KPK’s lawyer, Chatarina Muliana Girsang, said the antigraft body was confident of winning the case because Budi’s motion was baseless.
“This is the first time ever the KPK has been brought to a pretrial hearing for naming someone a suspect. The KPK rejects all the reasons behind this pretrial motion,” Chatarina said.
While lawyers representing the two parties squared off inside, dozens of demonstrators braved the rain to show support for the three-star general outside the court. More than 500 police officers were deployed to secure the trial.
Budi himself was not present at the hearing.
Jokowi urged to act
Meanwhile, calls are mounting for the president to immediately decide to cancel or proceed with Budi’s nomination as the National Police chief candidate.
In the wake of growing public protests against Budi’s nomination, and after the House of Representatives endorsed it in spite of the KPK’s declaration of the police general’s suspect status, Joko announced last month that he would postpone, but not cancel Budi’s nomination — pending investigation results.
“[Joko] has promised to decide on the matter this week,” House Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon, among those urging Joko to make a decision right away, said on Monday.
“So all of these must be decided this week; no more waiting… this has been going on for nearly a month.
“He doesn’t need to wait for the pretrial hearings to conclude. Otherwise it will further prolong and complicate the problem. Look at all of those public rallies and social media comments on the topic; this has become very time- and energy-consuming.”
Fadli added that whatever the decision the president would make, what mattered was explaining the reasons to the public.
“Every decision will have consequences. You can’t please everyone. The president can muse about this, find enlightenment,” he advised.
Joko’s indecisiveness over the Budi squabble has been widely seen by critics as his inability to defy pressure from his political backers, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and its chairwoman, former president Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Budi is a known close aide of Megawati, having served as her adjutant during her presidency from 2001 to 2004.
Issues of Joko facing impeachment by the House if he defies lawmakers’ endorsement of Budi’s nomination have surfaced, further complicating the situation.
Defying the Constitution?
While to antigraft activists the matter is clear-cut — for Joko to side with the KPK and end what is widely perceived as the retaliatory criminalization of its leaders by the infamously corrupt police force — some observers see the impeachment threat as something that cannot be easily dismissed, especially with Joko facing the real threat of losing the backing of the PDI-P and other pro-government coalition parties in the House.
“Deciding against inaugurating [Budi] will be considered an act of defiance to the Constitution,” Padjadjaran University political lecturer Muradi said on Sunday, reminding Joko that the House’s endorsement of Budi’s nomination was constitutionally binding. (It is not.)
“If he decides to suspend [Budi] after his installment [as the police chief], then that’s another matter. So just inaugurate him first. Therefore the president will be considered to have done his duty as mandated by the Constitution.”
Muradi dismissed the public’s opinion — which tends to side with the KPK and is against Budi’s nomination — as less imperative, saying the president should not be swayed by the public.
“Public opinion is part of political dynamics. The president may listen to it, but should not listen to it only,” he said.
“If he has to choose between complying with the Constitution or listening to the public opinion, then I suggest that the president do as mandated by the Constitution, however bitter it may taste.”
He added Joko could have avoided the whole mess if he had withdrawn Budi’s nomination the moment the KPK named him a suspect, before the House had chance to endorse his candidacy just a day later.
Marrie Andi Muhamdiyah, the chairman of the Association of Postgraduate Students of Political and Government Science, gave a similar warning.
“There is an impression that there is an agenda to overthrow Joko as president by saying he’s failing to meet his obligations as mandated by the Constitution,” Marrie said.
He blamed this on members of Joko’s inner circle such as Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto and State Secretary Pratikno, as well as members of the independent advisory team that Joko has appointed to consult with him on the standoff.
The team has advised Joko to scrap Budi’s nomination, and therefore put him at risk of impeachment, Marrie claimed.
“Those who have been trying to stop the inauguration of Budi as the National Police chief are breaching the president’s constitutional right because Budi has been approved by the House to serve as the National Police chief,” he said.
Political observer Said Salahudin from the Public Synergy for Indonesia’s Democracy (Sigma), however, thinks the president can simply cancel Budi’s nomination by first consulting with the House and avoiding facing impeachment.
“The president can submit a letter to the House requesting its approval to annul Budi’s nomination. If the House agrees, that’s the end of the problem,” he said.
Although the PDI-P-led pro-government coalition might not back the president on this issue, some leaders of the opposition Red-White Coalition (KMP) have pledged their support for the president.
“Hasn’t the president obtained the KMP’s commitment [to supporting his decision]? They control the House,” Said pointed out.
Nico Harjanto of the Populi Center also suggested that the president find another cohort in the House, such as the Democratic Party, the only one of the 10 parties at the House to reject Budi’s nomination during the vetting process and subsequent plenary session to approve him in mid-January.
Source: The Jakarta Globe