Ready for a Long Battle
The ruling by the Constitutional Court rejecting the judicial review of the formulation and content of the Corruption Eradication Law signifies the end of the road for the anti-graft agency. Jokowi must take most of the responsibility for this.
SO, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has finally met its end. It is a death that is not surprising—not the cause, time or consequences. Since the KPK Law No. 30/2002 was revised two years ago, we have known this day would come. The Constitutional Court ruling rejecting the judicial review of the formulation and content of the revised law is a sign it has arrived.
The court did find for the plaintiffs regarding some aspects—for example, the revocation of the article on permission from the Supervisory Council on wiretapping, searches and confiscations. Despite this, overall, the KPK structure is in ruins. The KPK is no longer an independent state institution because it is now a branch of the executive with all the consequences that involves. Regarding the formulation of the law, the judges closed their eyes to the fact that the revision did not involve the general public.
We now know that nothing came of a request from a number of public figures in 2019 for President Jokowi Widodo to issue a government regulation in lieu of law (perpu). The president did not issue such a regulation. We could have guessed this when Jokowi sent a letter to the House of Representatives (DPR) containing his agreement to deliberations of the revision. Jokowi would not have sent this letter if he were on the side of the KPK.
Previously, Jokowi had complained about a number of arrests by the KPK that had led to government officials lacking the courage to make decisions. As well as lacking a perspective on the importance of eradicating corruption, Jokowi appeared to have something else in mind. It has been widely speculated that the President initiated the changes to the KPK Law together with the political parties so that these parties were willing to pass the Job Creation Law, which it is believed will attract investment. The political parties had been one of the groups whose activities were heavily disrupted by the commission’s actions.
According to this analysis of the plan to weaken the KPK, the attempt to sideline 75 of the commission’s employees using a civics knowledge test contrived as a condition for them becoming civil servants is no surprise. This test seems to confirm the long-standing rumor that the KPK is dominated by investigators with radical opinions. In kicking out a number of employees—including a number of senior investigators—the commission leadership is using sectarian issues long believed to be an effective way of silencing opponents.
These investigators should not be comforted by the move by a number of presidential aides who have told them the Palace does not agree with these dismissals. The true stance of these officials cannot be judged by whispers—aimed at ensuring the Palace are not associated with the firings. Until these officials take more significant measures to prevent these dismissals, they are nothing more than political actors looking to save their own skins.
The largest share of responsibility for this tragedy lies of course with the current administration, that of President Jokowi. The President has now become what he told his supporters he would during the election campaign: a leader with the courage to take unpopular measures. With regard to the KPK, this unpopular measure has now taken Indonesia to the edge of the abyss of eradicating corruption.
Even though we are very pessimistic, there is nothing wrong with seeing the KPK from a wider perspective. The history of eradicating corruption is not always a straight line. It is a graph that rises and falls in response to many things, including politics and the constellation of those in power. It appears that until Jokowi’s administration ends in 2024, the skies of corruption eradication will be clouded over.
Now is the time to take political action. Activists must begin dialogues so that respective leaders after the Jokowi administration realize the importance of eradicating corruption. The old ways, including the practice of weakening the KPK and trade it for passing other regulations, must be abandoned. At a time of crisis over our national leadership, along with the rise in political party cartels and oligarchies, this is important in order to ensure but the public does not lose hope. Activists must take a long breath so that the struggle to rid Indonesia of corruption does not come to a halt.
Regarding the KPK after the revisions to the law, we must keep our distance. The KPK nowadays must be seen as no different from the police or attorney general's office, two institutions of dubious effectiveness in the war on corruption. Measures taken by the KPK must be viewed cautiously and with skepticism.
It is possible that there are still some good people in the KPK. The minor actions they undertake must be respected even though they will not be able to restore the KPK to the might it was before. The investigators who will shortly leave the commission should ready themselves. We salute those who have worked so hard for Indonesia.