Rule of Law at Stake in KPK-Police Showdown

By webadmin on 10:46 pm Nov 02, 2009
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South Korean ferry ‘Sewol’ is seen sinking in the sea off Jindo on April 16, 2014. (Reuters Photo/Korea Coast Guard/Yonhap)

Facing mounting public pressure, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has finally stepped into the maelstrom surrounding the battle between the antigraft commission and the National Police. The announcement of the establishment of an independent fact-finding team to be led by Adnan Buyung Nasution, a prominent lawyer and member of the presidential advisory council, will hopefully bring a quick and transparent end to this long-playing saga.

Since the arrest of Chandra M Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto, the two Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputy chairmen, a war of words has erupted between the police, the KPK and anticorruption civil society groups. Street protests, concerns from business groups and growing public distrust are threatening to undermine the social and political stability that has been painfully rebuilt over the past five years.

At the heart of the issue is not who is right or wrong. It is the perception of legal certainty in the country as the two state institutions go head to head with mutual accusations of abuse of power and conspiracy. The Attorney General’s Office also has been implicated and is now attempting to distance itself from the case by indicating that it does not have strong evidence against the two men.

The KPK has been at the center of the anticorruption fight, indicting and jailing 150 politicians and government officials since its founding. The institution is an investigator, prosecutor and judge all by itself. But in recent months, the institution has been hobbled by the arrest of its chairman, Antasari Azhar, for his alleged role in the gangland-style murder of businessman Nasruddin Zulkarnanen and last week’s detention of the two deputy chairmen.

An independent fact-finding team that includes prominent lawyers, legal experts and academics is the best means to bring this sorry saga to an end. The team, which has two weeks to conclude its findings, must remain impartial, transparent and carry out its duties without fear or favor. Much is riding on what it discovers and its recommendations to the president on how to move forward.

Legal certainty and the meting out of justice are at stake. This case needs to be resolved speedily and with full transparency if public and investor faith in the government and its institutions is not to be eroded beyond repair.

However, the search for a solution should ]not distract SBY from ]improving economic growth and building infrastructure].

The next two weeks will be crucial. Much is riding on the outcome of this case, and the newly installed government cannot afford to get off on the wrong foot. This battle between the police and the KPK must not be allowed to be politicized or blown out of proportion. The law, at the end of the day, must prevail if the country’s reputation is to be preserved.