The Thinker: Thus Spake SBY
After a long wait amid public outcry, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono finally ordered the National Police to hand over entirely the case of a corruption scandal allegedly involving top police officials to the independent Corruption Eradication Commission. Not just that, the president regretted a midnight police attempt to nab the chief investigator assigned by the commission known as KPK to investigate the corruption scandal — on grounds that he had committed murder eight years ago.
The president’s move, which ended the dispute between the police and the KPK over who was to handle the police corruption case has been widely praised.
Millions of people who were already beginning to lose faith in their leader for always being silent and reluctant to solve some of the nation’s persistent problems breathed a sigh of relief. Pundits agreed that the president’s address to the nation was proper, wise, just and timely, as most people now only trust the KPK as the last bastion of law enforcement in the country.
The president proposed that he would issue a new order governing new assignments of police investigators to the KPK, a sticky point following the immediate withdrawal of 20 police officers who ended their tour of duty at the KPK. The move, many believed, was an attempt to defang the KPK, which relies on investigators from the police and the Attorney General’s Office.
But both the chief of National Police, Gen. Timur Pradopo and KPK chief Abraham Samad have now said that the two institutions would respect the president’s directives.
It is said that social media activity has encouraged the president to step up. It has indeed played a leading role in garnering support for the KPK. The KPK-police conflict and the president’s apparent inaction dominated social media in the past days. There were thousands of tweets such as “Kemana Presiden Kita” [using the KPK acronym to ask “where is our president?”], “I want to report a loss to the police — loss of trust,” “finding a president in a haystack” and, after the president’s speech, “hurray, now I have a president.”
Although many people appreciated the president’s appearance — at the right moment and with actual solutions — questions remain whether the police will be sincere in upholding their commitment.
Neta S. Pane of the Indonesian Police Watch characterized the president’s stance as a “slap in the face” for the National Police. He doubted that police would concede defeat, with the fate of KPK investigator Novel Baswedan still unsure. His whereabouts are also still unclear as the police officer had received death threats by invisible hands for his brave undertakings in the graft case that allegedly involves police Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo.
Baswedan played an important role in the graft cases against former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin and Angelina Sondakh, a lawmaker for the president’s party. He also was involved in the arrest of Buol district head Amran Batalipu, who was caught taking bribes from a company owned by prominent businesswoman Hartati Murdaya.
Meanwhile, the bereaved family of the victim allegedly murdered by Baswedan in Bengkulu rejected police claims that they had filed a case against him. Neta has therefore urged for the officer who ordered Friday night’s attempted police raid on the KPK headquarters to nab Baswedan be dismissed. But Neta praised the president, whom he was convinced has shown wisdom, true statesmanship and commitment to rid of Indonesia of its number one enemy: corruption.
Following the televised address to the nation, the president now commands respect and trust. Many people from all walks of life have sighed in relief. They finally have a president, at a time when they need him most. Now, they wish that he would do the same in solving other problems the nation continues to face.
Yanto Soegiarto is the managing editor of GlobeAsia, a sister publication of the Jakarta Globe.