Finding the Mastermind
The expulsion of 75 employees of the Corruption Eradication Commission using a nationalism test completes the neutralization of the institution. There is a major power in action.
HISTORY will clearly remember the track record of President Joko Widodo in the anti-corruption movement in this nation. In 2014, speaking during the presidential election campaign, he clearly said that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) must be strengthened “explicitly and not deceptively, dubiously or in a trivial way.” Jokowi even promised that he would strengthen the anti-corruption commission if he were elected president. “How big is the shortfall of investigators? Add a thousand more!” he said decisively at the time.
Unfortunately, all of these speeches did not lead to real action. Jokowi allowed the KPK Law to be revised in a way that reduced the agency’s effectiveness. He opened the door to the nomination of a police officer with the problematic past as KPK leader. Jokowi also said nothing when his request that 75 KPK employees not be dismissed merely because they failed a civil knowledge test was simply ignored.
Signs of a change in Jokowi’s stance became apparent over the last two years. In the crisis after the House of Representatives (DPR) passed the revised KPK Law in December 2019, Jokowi appeared to be duplicitous. At that time, there were protests everywhere. Clashes with police even led to the deaths of two students in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi. After meeting with a number of public figures at the State Palace, Jokowi said he was considering issuing a government regulation in lieu of law. As we know, that never realized.
Previously, in September 2019, President Jokowi's actions were also questioned because he approved 10 problematic candidates for the KPK leadership. Civil groups particularly criticized the nomination of Firli Bahuri, then deputy of enforcement at KPK, who had been found guilty of a breach of ethics because he met with a person under investigation. At that time, Jokowi’s excuse was that his job was limited to passing on the results of the KPK leadership candidate selection committee. The final decision was in the hands of the DPR.
Now it has come to light that the nomination and selection of Firli was in line with the plan drawn up by the Palace from the outset. Therefore, the public should not have been surprised to see Jokowi doing nothing when Firli forced through the screening of KPK employees using a civil knowledge test. This extremely unfair screening mechanism led to 75 KPK employees being dismissed, including senior investigators. It is fair to say that this test of employees was a deadly weapon in the endeavor to emasculate the KPK during the Jokowi administration.
Before the expulsion of these 75 employees, the KPK was still showing signs of life, even though it was gasping for breath. There were internal investigators—as opposed to investigators posted by the National Police Headquarters to the KPK—that still had militancy and considerable creativity. As a result, they managed to uncover corruption involving two members of Jokowi's cabinet, Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo and Social Affairs Minister Peter Batubara.
Hence, to ensure the KPK was completely neutralized, these militant investigators would have to be purged. They were the last obstacle to taking full control of the KPK. The change of status of the employees as regulated by the new law provided the opportunity for this. Firli then included the obligation to take a civil knowledge test and is believed to have drawn up a list of investigators and other employees that needed to be marked as ‘black list’ and because of that, “could not be passed further.”
If they are categorized, the employees who were expelled can be sorted into a number of groups. These are, among others, the group of people who signed the petition claiming that Firli was obstructing the handling of a case in March 2019. The second group is those who handled Firli’s ethics violation case in the same year. The third group is investigators who looked into the alleged gratuities case that led to Budi Gunawan, now chief of the National Intelligence Agency, being named a corruption suspect in 2015.
When the public protests about this unfair treatment reached a peak, President Jokowi gave a speech asking for the test “not immediately be used to determine qualification as civil servant status.” But Firli pushed ahead. What is strange is that Jokowi did not use his authority as head of government to reprimand Firli for insubordination. This shows that there is a major political power behind the KPK chairman that acts as the mastermind.
Clearly speeches alone are not enough to save the corruption eradication movement. And do not be surprised if people begin to suspect that it is Jokowi who really wants the KPK to be weakened. There are also those who suspect that under Firli, the KPK will become a potent weapon for a particular group to use against its political opponents. Therefore, if there is no political intervention or other law that can stop Firli, it is now fair to say that the KPK was established in the time of Megawati Sukarnoputri and is now destroyed in the era of Jokowi.