Yudhoyono Heeds Public Outcry, Steps Into Indonesia Antigraft Conflict
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono set up an emergency team on Monday to look into a National Police investigation against the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) amid mounting public pressure following the arrests of its deputy chairmen, Chandra M Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto.
“The president said that the situation is not good for the nation because the growing lack of trust in our law enforcers could tarnish the credibility of the police, the [state] prosecutors and the KPK alike,” said Djoko Suyanto, coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, explaining why Yudhoyono reversed his decision not to interfere in the case.
On Sunday night, Yudhoyono met four experts to get their views on the controversial police investigation, the fallout from which has overshadowed the start of his second term. It centers on Chandra and Bibit, who have been charged with abuse of power for allegedly not imposing a travel ban on fugitive businessman and corruption suspect Anggoro Widjojo until after he fled to Singapore last year. Police also claim — but have yet to prove — that the pair extorted money from Anggoro via a middleman.
Chandra, Bibit and their supporters claim the arrests are part of a plot by figures in the National Police and Attorney General’s Office to frame them for corruption and weaken the KPK, which in the past has clashed with both institutions. Two witnesses to the alleged payoffs have both recanted their testimonies, and last week transcripts surfaced of wiretapped conversations among an AGO official and other figures that appear to back claims of a conspiracy to frame the commissioners.
Yudhoyono had largely kept out of the fray, but that changed last week when he ordered an investigation after his name was cited by figures speaking on the taped conservations as supporting moves against the KPK.
The fact-finding team will report back to SBY within two weeks, but it’s anything but an independent body. It is led by presidential advisor Adnan Buyung Nasution, and includes lawyer Amir Syamsuddin, a senior member of Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, and Denny Indrayana, a presidential adviser on legal affairs.
Djoko said the team was given power to collect information related to the police investigation against Chandra and Bibit, who were declared suspects in September but only arrested on Thursday. On Monday, hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital to protest the arrests.
“The team will verify whether the police have implemented a legal process in accordance with the facts, whether they used correct articles [to arrest Chandra and Bibit],” said Hikmahanto Juwana, a University of Indonesia law professor who is also on the team.
Marwan Effendy, deputy attorney general for special crimes, defiantly said the case would continue regardless of the fact-finding team’s work. “The sooner we conclude the case the better. If [their defense] has evidence [refuting the Chandra and Bibit charges], let’s prove it in court.”
Activists called on Yudhoyono to publish and implement recommendations from the team, which also includes Koesparmono Irsan, a former National Commission on Human Rights member and T Mulya Lubis, a lawyer and founder of Transparency International Indonesia.
TII secretary general Teten Masduki said the president had also set up a team to probe the 2004 murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib, but its recommendations were never implemented.
His criticism was echoed by some members of the House of Representatives.
“It’s confusing how the independent team will work, how far its authority will go, or whether its duty will bypass the process that is being conducted by the police,” said lawmaker Ahmad Yani of the United Development Party (PPP).