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KPK: New Leaders Enter The Real Battlefield

korupsiFahri Hamzah, the Jakarta Post (11/29/2011)
The fight against graft has been so crucial in this country that the ongoing selection of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) leaders has made headlines in national print and electronic media for the past three months.

The most important point of the House interviews of eight KPK leader candidates is not merely (conflicting) interests of political parties but challenges the elected commission leaders will face in the war on graft over the coming four years.

Needless to say the KPK has made some progress, but it has widely been seen as not doing its best as evidenced in criticisms highlighting its discriminatory policies, lack of independence and neglect of several high-profile cases.

The issuance of 2002 Law on Corruption Eradication was really a breakthrough as the President and the House at that time pledged to speed up the consolidation of state apparatus involved in corruption eradication.

This was shown by the law’s historical passage and letter of minutes and the certainty that Indonesia’s transition into democracy must be followed by a consolidation in the bureaucracy, especially of law enforcement institutions.

As a result, the 2002 Law on Corruption Eradication was made as the first-ever strong legislation in democratic countries mandating the KPK with two major tasks: handling corrective and preventive measures.

Unlike in other democratic countries where only limited authority is given to police and attorneys, the corrective measures include the commission’s full (unlimited) authority to conduct investigations.

The KPK has full authority to wiretap without requiring permission from other institutions such as courts, and can also trap and arrest corrupt suspects while in the act.

Regarding preventive measures, the law places the commission on par with (and sometimes above) the President because it has its authority to report to the President, House and the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) any institutions that are deemed as neglecting KPK guidelines and rulings on good governance.

The crucial point and key question is whether the KPK has been stretched to the limit in implementing the law and whether it has made achievements in the war on corruption over the past nine years. I am very sorry to say no.

The KPK has failed to live up to public expectations for three major reasons: The public perception of corruption in this country remains high, but the corruption eradication apparatus is not solid and its investigations of graft cases are still focused on a routine modus.

While there has been an improvement in the country’s corruption perception index (CPI), this progress has been minimal compared to the Herculean efforts we made in our transition into democracy.

The KPK has thus come under fire for paying more attention to corrective measures while the CPI has been closely linked to preventative measures.

Second, law enforcers have shown rivalry among themselves, rather than unity and coordination. Worse, the criminalization of KPK leaders Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra Hamzah a few years ago indicated a conflict between the commission and the National Police, described as a battle between gecko and crocodile. This was strong evidence of failed coordination, supervision and monitoring as mandated by the law.

None of the cases handled by the KPK to date have been extraordinary, in that they did not need to be investigated by a super body such as the KPK, but could have been handled by the police and the Attorney General’s Office.

Gratuity, bribery and tender irregularities are among ordinary corruption cases that do not involve a mafia or a syndicate but silly individuals.

For the sake of optimizing the fight against graft, the KPK should focus on major cases such as the Bank Century bailout and scandals involving former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammamad Nazaruddin, which allegedly involved big fish.

The public faith in our legal system and corruption eradication in the future will depend largely on their perceptions of the elected KPK leaders, who are scheduled to take office on Dec. 11. If the new leaders follow in the footstep of their predecessors under Taufikurrman Ruki, Antasari Azhar, Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean and Busyro Muqoddas, they will commit the same mistakes.

According to Albert Einstein, insanity is doing the same thing again and again, but expecting a different outcome, so this really is madness.

To prevent the law enforcement and war on corruption from stagnating, I want to compare three models in Indonesia, Hong Kong and United States.

The Indonesian model is ideal and effective in a democratic country but it should be followed with a time limit.

With a time limit, all commissioners would have an obligation to reach targets set by law, ensuring that corruption eradication measures are a systematic approach to repair the system and not an ad hoc measure for temporary or one-sided interests.

What has been put into place in Hong Kong is a moderate model. According to the former deputy chairman of the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) Tony Kwok Man-Way, the ICAC’s success lies in the example it has set, namely an effective work system in prevention, corrective measures and education. In the first year in office, the ICAC focused on a review of regulations to leave no room or loopholes for public debates and compromises once the law was in place.

The third model implemented in democratically developed countries such as the United States does not require a special anticorruption commission because law enforcement and corruption eradication have become a single engine that moves the bureaucracy at all layers.

This is deemed possible only when power is shared evenly and clearly and the bureaucracy is open to more comprehensive regulations. In such a scenario I imagine we would no longer need the KPK.

So, we need a major strategy that can be inserted even into the Constitution, namely that corruption eradication is a spirit of unifying discipline with the administering of state tasks.

And this strategy is compatible with the Amended 1945 Constitution, which clearly stipulates a balanced power sharing among all state institutions, including the empowerment of the legislative body and the judiciary institutions.

It would be better if the 2002 Law on Corruption was amended so that the KPK with its strong power could work more effectively. And the revision of this law should be one of the parameters adopted by the House’s law commission in selecting four of the eight candidates.

Besides, we need commissioners with high integrity and competence because like the ICAC, which holds less authority than the KPK, to control a society that culturally is harder and more aggressive in corruption.

Known as a soft nation, Indonesia has difficulties in fighting corruption. Instead of blaming it on society, let’s lay the blame on the strategy and the institutions mandated to fix it.

The writer is a House of Representatives lawmaker of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). The opinions expressed are his own.

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