Indonesia’s Graftbusters Seek Military Help

Indonesia's widely respected and currently beleaguered anti-corruption agency is reaching out to the country's controversial armed forces for support, apparently to bolster its defenses against a National Police force that has harassed, arrested and threatened its officials in a months-long dispute.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is dependent on the National Police for investigators assigned to the agency. But when the KPK charged police General Budi Gunawan with corruption in January after he was nominated to be national police chief, a simmering dislike erupted into bitter and open conflict between the two agencies. Police investigators inside the KPK are under increasing pressure as a result.

Now it looks like the military could be dragged into the fray. This week, Indonesian Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya was quoted saying that the KPK was asking military commanders for help recruiting military investigators to work with the agency, apparently because police personnel can no longer be trusted and are becoming harder to find.

“The KPK leaders explained their wishes to recruit TNI investigators,” Fuad said on Tuesday. “In principle we are ready to assist the KPK. If needed, we will provide [the KPK] with our best men.”

Bitter battle

The news could provide a clue to the direction of the nation’s current bitter – and confusing – political struggle that has seen President Joko Widodo apparently at odds with both Vice President Jusuf Kalla and the head of his own political party, former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the chair of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

It all seems to revolve around Budi Gunawan, who was Megawati’s adjutant when she was president from 2001 to 2004. By most accounts Budi remains a very close friend and advisor to the powerful and enigmatic 68-yearold heiress to the political legacy of her father, founding President Sukarno.

After Joko withdrew Budi’s name from consideration for the top post over the corruption allegations, the police reacted with fury, spurred on, insiders say, by Megawati, who seems to regard Joko as a subordinate upstart not the country’s rightful leader.

In short order, a Jakarta court used shaky legal grounds to say the KPK had no right to charge Budi – the first time in the 13-year history of the agency that a trial court has intervened in an action. The police took over the “case” against Budi and dropped all charges. Budi was then quietly named deputy police chief on April 22 by the current chief, effectively serving notice on the KPK and its allies that the agency would be ignored by the National Police.

The police have also gone after numerous KPK officials, using a variety of cold cases and questionable charges to drag the agency’s leading officials, including chairman Abraham Samad and his deputy Bambang Widjojanto, into Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt courts. Dozens of other officials are under threat.

It is a settling of accounts that goes back to a successful case the agency brought against a corrupt police general in 2012. That officer, traffic chief Gen. Djoko Susilo, is now in prison serving 18 years. The chief investigator in that case, Novel Baswedan, is currently the subject of an attempt by the police to prosecute him on charges that were dismissed previously.

Who ya gonna call?

In such a situation there is little chance of the KPK being able to recruit the kind of reasonably honest cops it needs to continue the work that has made it the most respected government institution in the country.

With Budi Gunawan and his cohorts seemingly able to roam unchecked through the halls of power, the idea of appealing to the military for support, although risky, may seem necessary.

When the police were split off from the military the wake of the fall of former President Suharto, the hope was that military reforms would take root and the TNI’s history of human rights abuses and massive corruption through a vast web of state-owned companies would gradually fade away. While the human rights situation has improved, most observers see the military as still wielding enormous power – although not on the scale seen during the Suharto era.

It may come down, for the KPK and its supporters, to a choice of lesser evils – the fearsome military or a massively corrupt National Police force that see itself as above the law and has the political support of Megawati and others to enforce its will against a weak president.

“Given the current situation between the KPK and police, it’s quite understandable that the KPK is seeking help from other institutions besides police and the AGO [Attorney General’s Office],” said Hendardi, the chairman of the Setara Institute, a well-known NGO that works on issues like corruption and religious tolerance.

It is also well to remember that President Joko’s single strongest ally in government is his powerful and astute chief of staff, Luhut Panjaitan, a retired general who maintains considerable support in the active duty military. Some insiders have speculated for some time that the military – through Luhut – might prove to be Joko’s trump card as a counterweight to the police.

Both Megawati and Kalla opposed Luhut’s appointment to the post, seeing him as a political threat to their own interests.

For now, there is little likelihood of the Special Forces immediately marching into the KPK’s Jakarta office to put things right. An existing law intended to reform the way things were done under Suharto bars active duty officers from working in civilian agencies other than Defense, Intelligence and Search and Rescue.

“The most likely scenario is to wait for a revision of the Law on State Agencies,” said the military spokesman, Fuad.