There is bad news for justice seekers in Indonesia: The Corruption Eradication Commission is likely to lose its legal battle against the police over authority to probe a corruption case involving Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo. A noted legal expert says the police will win, and this may discourage the KPK from ever going into the “lion’s den” again.
Ever since the national police and the KPK got involved in a row over authority to probe irregularities in a driving simulator project, news reports and commentaries in the mass media have all been in favor of the KPK.
Political experts and observers argued that police should relinquish their right to delve into the scandal because KPK law states that in cases that are being investigated by the police, Attorney General’s Office and the KPK, the AGO and police must support the KPK as the lead investigator. This means that the two institutions should stop investigating cases that are already being handled by the KPK.
Based on this legal interpretation, KPK leaders met with National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo and got him to instruct his troops to relinquish all documents the KPK needs in its investigation of Djoko Susilo.
Before KPK leaders Abraham Samad and Bambang Widjojanto met with Pradopo, their investigators had reportedly been “held hostage” by police officers who did not allow them to leave the premises of the Traffic Police Division in South Jakarta with the documents they had confiscated.
Insp. Gen. Sutarman, chief of the police’s Criminal Research Division, led officers to storm the location after hearing that the KPK investigators had arrived. They did not allow the KPK team to take the documents on the grounds that doing so violated the police department’s legal authority to probe into the case. That was the reason Abraham and Bambang rushed to meet with Pradopo.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Since then, the confiscated documents have been put under extra-tight security and surveillance at the KPK office because the institution is concerned that the police might raid the place to get the documents back.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has come under fire for not taking action to bring the two institutions to terms but spokesman Julian Pasha said no one should expect the president to respond to every issue, especially when he has assigned the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Djoko Suyanto, to handle it. The assignment has produced no results.
The general public’s perception is that police will not be objective if they investigate the case because this issue involves high-ranking officers who are very influential in the police organization.
Public sentiment favored the KPK’s handling of the case because this institution is more credible and is perceived to be more independent than the police. The fact that the KPK was brave enough to confiscate the documents from the police’s drawers raised the KPK’s image, and many praised Abraham and his team for their courage.
But the moment of pride might be short-lived because police are not giving up. They keep insisting that they are the ones that must tackle the case because they started the investigation long before the KPK stepped in.
Dozens of police generals and officers held a closed-door meeting on Monday to discuss their response to the KPK’s action. This meeting sent the wrong signal to a society that is thirsty for the eradication of corruption — because an expert in state administration law said at the end of the meeting that the KPK would not win the legal battle if it sought justice from the Constitutional Court.
Yusril Ihza Mahendra, a former justice and human rights minister who was invited to give his legal opinion during the police generals’ meeting, said that the KPK based its actions on the KPK Law, but added that there is a higher legal authority to which the KPK Law should submit and surrender: the 1945 Constitution.
The police force and its duties are stipulated in the Constitution but the KPK is contained in a lower-level legal instrument, namely the KPK Law. In other words, police have a higher standing than the KPK when it comes to legal matters.
This will have serious implications to the KPK’s posture. It might even discourage the KPK from ever going after the police again.
It could also fertilize any corrupt practices within the police bureaucracy. For one thing the police force is not a very clean organization despite being an upholder of the law.
But Yusril is also right because he looks at the issue from the perspective of state administration law.
This could be the reason why he has called on the president to take swift action before the case is taken to the Constitutional Court and it becomes too late to change anything.
But there is another way to look at the battle of influence. Some are saying that the president’s apparent inaction is part of a grand strategy meant to divert public attention from some of the big, ongoing legal cases involving many of the political elite.
Whatever the argument, the president must get this dispute resolved because as head of state, he has the terminal accountability over the execution of state affairs; more so because the dispute involves two of Indonesia’s most influential upholders of the law.
Any failure to settle this legal row properly will obstruct efforts to establish a clean and respectable state bureaucracy. Therefore, swift action by our president is highly necessary. Let the KPK do what it was formed to do. Don’t weaken the police force — just clean it.
Pitan Daslani is a senior political correspondent for BeritaSatu Media Holdings.