Sanitiar Burhanuddin, Attorney-General: I’m not partisan
The Attorney-General Office (AGO) suddenly came under public spotlight following the graft case involving state life insurance company, Asuransi Jiwasraya. Right after the investigation was launched on December 2019, the AGO led by Sanitiar Burhanuddin moved fast by first coordinating with the Immigration directorate-general to impose travel ban on 13 people, including the former company board of directors, and later establishing and detaining five of them as suspects.
WITH the potential state losses reaching tens of trillions of rupiah, the mega scandal—which came to light when Jiwasraya failed to pay out claims by JS Saving Plan policy holders—continues to enthrall the nation as the number of victims affected swelled to tens of thousands. “Just imagine, there are 55,000 transactions. Our colleagues have to work late into the night to sort them out,” Burhanuddin, 65, said in a special interview with Tempo last Wednesday, January 15.
The case previously handled by the Jakarta provincial prosecutors’ office actually was not on AGO’s list of ‘homework’. But it is now and will also serves as an acid test for Burhanuddin appointed last October by President Joko Widodo to lead and clean the AGO. Burhanuddin does not want the AGO to be just a passive law enforcement agency. He wants to be more proactive. “For example, as soon as the Jiwasraya case popped up, we immediately get down to business,” he said.
Burhanuddin received Tempo’s Anton Septian, Mahardika Satria Hadi, Aisha Shaidra and Khairul Anam in his office for the interview. Over almost an hour, the tall prosecutor with a thick mustache explained various matters, from the Jiwasraya case investigation, reforms within the AGO, the fate of the past human rights violation cases to his wish to restore AGO’s image. He dismissed the notion that he was picked for the post for his blood relation with Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Tubagus Hasanuddin. Excerpts:
Is the Jiwasraya scandal one of the cases the AGO aims to settle during the term of your leadership?
Actually, the case is not our target. It just appeared recently after I took office. The Jakarta provincial prosecutors’ office handled the case six months ago but not for the saving plan issue (JS Saving Plan, one of Jiwasraya’s products which has contributed highest revenues since 2015.)
The Jakarta provincial prosecutors’ office finally handed over the case to the AGO. What problems did they experience in the investigation?
They had almost completed it actually but the coverage is more about the fees (rewards). The total money involved in JS Saving Plan amounts to Rp57 trillion and the areas involved are also no longer limited to Jakarta only. Therefore, the AGO did not take over the case as it wished but it did so as to probe the case faster as we have no problem in terms of jurisdiction.
(The Jakarta provincial prosecutors’ office found preliminary evidence of criminal corruption at Jiwasraya within the period 2014-2018. At the end of November 2019, the investigation was upgraded to a criminal probe. A month later, the AGO took over the investigation as criminal activities occurred throughout the country.)
What is the progress of the investigation after the AGO named five suspects?
There are no new developments yet. For sure, we’ve issued a travel ban against 13 people, either as suspects or other statuses. For the time being, we only have five most responsible officials (as suspects). There may possibly be more.
The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) also examined suspected violations in the case. Has AGO’s probe reinforced BPK’s findings?
The BPK actually did the calculation using our data. They asked for our assistance in counting potential state losses. Just imagine, there are 55,000 transactions. It took time. Our colleagues at the AGO had to work well into the night.
Is this case the most complex case AGO has ever handled?
It’s easy to prove but complicated to calculate because not all the 55,000 transactions are real. It takes time to sort them out. The case itself is not too complicated.
It means there are indications of criminal corruption?
That concerns a technical aspect. Of course, we made arrests based on evidence of violation of the law.
Is there a strong suspicion that the former board of directors benefitted from the case?
I cannot disclose it here. We’re still building the case in that aspect.
What is the value of state losses caused by this scandal?
Initially, it was clear Rp13 trillion, but when I spoke with BPK chief (Agung Firman Sampurna), they had calculated the potential losses to be Rp27 trillion and it is still growing. For sure, it is massive. We will only know the exact number when the BPK finalizes the calculation.
Is that the largest value ever?
Yes, correct. This is the largest for the time being. The losses from Bank Indonesia’s bailout scandal amounted to Rp6.7 trillion.
When will the AGO upgrade the probe to prosecution?
What I prefer is after BPK’s calculation. If possible, within two to three months. But given the 55,000 transactions with three sheets of document for each transaction, I don’t know how quick they can count.
How many teams did you mobilize for this case?
A full team each for various tasks, from search, intelligence to cloning data. We work quietly. I don’t want to be hasty because this concerns public trust. No one knew when we searched 15 business locations, right? I don’t want the public to mistrust us anymore.
How about the fate of the customers’ money?
What we are doing here is enforcing the law. Other issues are the responsibilities of the state-owned enterprises ministry, the finance ministry and the financial services authority. We have the obligation to salvage the state funds. We’ve set up a team to trace and document the assets of the suspects.
The value of the potential losses from the Jiwasraya scandal is massive. Will the government provide bailout for the state insurance company?
I have no idea. I don’t discuss policies. All I know is to prove that there are actions that violate the law and to save the state money.
Investigation into Jiwasraya has been going on for years. What are the hurdles?
I know what the hurdles are but I cannot talk about them.
But there have been frequent cases of default on claims.
Insurance is a rather risky business. They failed to pay out claims starting 2006. They sold assets. To put it figuratively, when you are sick, it’s time to see a doctor.
Did President Jokowi give you a special instruction for the case?
None. He never makes any comment about legal matters.
After Jiwasraya, there is also alleged corruption in Asabri. Has it been reported to the AGO?
Not yet. Mahfud Md. (Political, Legal and Security Affairs Coordinating Minister) said it would be handled by either the KPK or AGO. Well, please feel free. He’s the coordinator so we’ll wait. If it’s handled by the AGO, there should be a joint team of investigators from the military police and prosecution since the Asabri board has active military officers. There must be both civilians and military officers among the perpetrators.
Under a joint investigation scheme, will the AGO still be in control?
Yes, we will still be a central agency. As regards as to where the case will be tried, we will see whether the perpetrators are mostly civilians or military officers.
Before taking over the Jiwasraya case, what other ‘homework’ the AGO planned to accomplish during your term of leadership?
We’ll focus first on the internal matter, that is, overhauling human resources. Human resource is the most critical part of any management structure. We’ve started to overhaul the staff recruitment, transfer and placement system.
You recently revoked the promotions and transfers of several echelon II prosecutors. Is the cancellation related to the internal reforms being implemented?
The regulation has a clause that allows revocation of transfers. I repealed the decree which endorsed the (transfers) of eight prosecutors. We got information that one of them had allegedly committed a misconduct. I certainly want the best prosecutors so, yes, I did.
Where did the information come from?
Through the public complaints. If we remain silent towards the complaints received, then it means we turn blind eyes to them. That is for improvement.
In addition to human resource reforms, what other programs have you planned?
For case handling for sure. I told our prosecutor colleagues, “Come on, let’s not be conservative anymore.” Being conservative means maintaining the status quo. If you are given a case, they work on it. Otherwise, they just sit and wait. Now, we are more proactive. For instance, as soon as the Jiwasraya case surfaced, we immediately got down to work and we prepared the right program to handle it. I want a modern and moderate AGO.
Do you see any barriers in communicating with other law enforcement agencies?
We always have communication. I was appointed by the President and his order is to fix the AGO. I will fulfill that mandate. I’m a prosecutor. I’m an ‘inside man’. I will return the vigor the institution used to have in the past.
How would you describe AGO’s performance during your time as a district attorney?
The AGO used to have a fine reputation. It was highly respected by the public. I have to restore public trust, AGO’s good name and vigor when, to be honest, we have many rogue prosecutors. Their behavior damaged the dignity of the institution.
How will you ascertain that they don’t commit offences again in the future?
We will enhance oversight. There are already standard rules and mechanism in place. Punishments also vary from mild to heavy. We just need to implement them.
So, oversight has not been running in the past?
I wouldn’t say it was not running. But I will make it more effective.
The AGO was criticized for a special stipulation as regards sexual orientation in its employee selection criteria?
We’ve eliminated it.
Sanitiar Burhanuddin giving press statements of the development of the investigation in the suspected corruption at Asuransi Jiwasraya, at the AGO, Jakarta, December 2019./TEMPO/M. Taufan Rengganis
How was that stipulation even allowed in the first place?
Well, perhaps our colleagues had ideas that Islam, or any other religions, don’t allow LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). But then again, it’s individual’s right. So, go ahead, but don’t interpret it as support for LGBT. No, no, we don’t. I also have kids. I want them to live in a normal environment.
As regards public trust, the public associates the previous attorney-general with one of the political parties. Meanwhile, you are related to one of the board members of the ruling party, the PDI-P. How do you maintain neutrality?
If I may choose, I prefer not to have a brother in the party. But it’s wrong if I don’t acknowledge an older brother who is a party leader. But I’m not at all partisan. On my retirement, I was asked to join one of the parties but I wasn’t interested. My passion is not there. I asked the President why he chose me and he said because of my profession. I will prove my non-partisanship.
Were you not a candidate of a certain political party for a patronage appointment?
Not at all. Anyway, only the president would know that, right? But, for sure, I was chosen for my professional skills.
Have there been any sides trying to intervene your authority in certain cases?
Thank God, no one dares. Colleagues who have been here long enough definitely know me. I was in Special Crimes for a long time and then later Jamdatun (Junior Attorney-General for Civil and State Administrative Crimes). I never think of myself only.
It is the President’s vision to give legal certainty to investors. How does the AGO interpret this?
After being sworn in, I listed seven priorities and among others is safeguarding investments so that investors will enter Indonesia with ease and are legally protected. Therefore, we have the omnibus law because sometimes different institutions apply different regulations. That complicates things. We also instructed the regions to amend the regulations that impede investment. We use a juridical approach because we don’t have weapons.
Inquiries into past human rights violation cases have stalled. What is your opinion?
Just ask Menkopolhukam (the political, legal and security affairs coordinating minister). As investigators, we focus on investigation, not politics.
The public is pinning great hopes on the AGO to follow up on the National Human Rights Commission’s (Komnas HAM) investigation at the soonest.
They (Komnas HAM) are the investigator. Of course, we examined if their investigation dossier had fulfilled formal requirements and it didn’t. We returned it and gave them guidelines to complete it. But, when it was returned to us, the requirements were not still fulfilled. According to the mechanism, we indeed have to follow up. But if the (cases) are not processed (correctly), how do we follow them up? One of the requirements is the presence of an ad hoc HAM court. These are the past cases. We cannot take forced actions.
(In a working meeting with the House of Representative’s (DPR) Human Rights Commission on January 16, Attorney-General Sanitiar Burhanuddin said the Semanggi tragedies I and II did not constitute gross human rights violations thus could be tried in civil courts. His statement referred to DPR’s plenary meeting on July 9, 2001, which endorsed the findings of the special committee on Semanggi I and II tragedies.)
What is the right solution to settle the cases soon?
The victims and their families have high hopes in the Jokowi government to resolve these cases during its second period.
So does Menkopolhukam. The President also hopes for resolution.
Whatever steps can the government take?
There have been meetings towards resolving them. The Menkopolhukam will follow up.
Including with the Komnas HAM?
We met with the Komnas HAM, but only to discuss government’s intention. The Komnas HAM views that since we are investigators, we should complete the dossiers. Meanwhile, all the evidences are in the hands of the preliminary investigators. We uphold the principle that a good preliminary investigation result will give a good final investigation result. A good final investigation result will ensure a good prosecution. That means we have to work together.