Sunday, November 22, 2009

Indonesia - The Republic of Gecko

Indonesia's treasury of fables has a new entry in the wake of a protracted stand-off between up-and-coming corruption busters on one side and long-established police force and state prosecutors on the other.

To many Indonesians, the tale of a fight between a gecko, which represents the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), and a crocodile - National Police - has much in common with the classic bedtime story Bawang Merah Bawang Putih, or even the Mahabharata chronicle pitting Pandawa and Kurawa against one another. They are all about a battle between a hero and a villain, in which the former suffers but fights back to beat the latter at last.

That the KPK has won mounting public support in the face of the allegations of the National Police and the Attorney General's Office (AGO) is not necessarily the work of media campaigns, but the state of the mind of the public at large, which tends to side with the weak, the oppressed and - unfortunately - the good, against the strong, the powerful and the evil.

The presidential fact-finding team formed to probe into an alleged conspiracy to frame KPK deputies Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra Mara Hamzah might have read the public's psyche when they came up with their recommendations this week, which as many had predicted went the KPK's way although the team admitted the antigraft body, too, was no angel.

The team suggested the police and prosecutors halt their investigation into criminal cases involving Bibit and Chandra due to lack of evidence.

The team also recommended that the President punish officials directly involved in the flawed legal process against the suspended KPK leaders and wage a war on case brokers and a mafia affecting all law enforcement agencies as is apparent in the current KPK case.

It would come as no surprise if the team of eight, led by presidential advisor Adnan Buyung Nasution, claimed that they took into consideration the public's "sense of justice" when they drafted their recommendations, given the growing distrust in the conventional law enforcement institutions that tend to follow the due process of law rather than deliver justice.

People have long witnessed inconsistencies in the way the law is enforced. There is a gap between the ideal and the reality when it comes to equality before the law as evident in the presence of the untouchables or certain people who thanks to their economic or political connections can evade justice.

Since its inception in 2003, the KPK has lived up to expectations that the law is upheld indiscriminately. One by one the corruption busters brought to justice powerful big-wigs, ranging from regents to House lawmakers. Although missing major cases like the misuse of Bank Indonesia Liquidity Loans (BLBI), the KPK has changed the face of law enforcement in the country long mired with corruption.

Chandra and Bibit were part of the KPK's new leadership that deliberately targeted politicians at the House as soon as they took office, despite the fact that they were elected by the lawmakers. The KPK leaders also had no fear in sending to jail former BI deputy governor Aulia Pohan, whose daughter is married to the President's eldest son.

A recent study conducted by the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) revealed growing suspicion that the President himself might play a part in the move against the KPK, due to his silence despite the tape recording of a plot to frame Bibit and Chandra that mentioned his name.

The research was only based on how the media reported the conflict between the KPK and the police, but its conclusion could serve as a reminder, if not a warning, that the President needs to take bold and quick measures in response to the case.
According to the study, the public negative perception of Yudhoyono rose to 64 percent from 54 percent within a week as a result of his failure to act quickly to address the controversy surrounding the alleged conspiracy to weaken the KPK. The LSI also warned that the President's inability to pass the early test would play havoc with his short and long-term programs.

Contrary to LSI's advice and the public high expectation, the President opted to leave the fact-finding team's recommendations to the National Police and the AGO, which are the parties the team concluded to be responsible for the KPK debacle.
The President's inaction has allowed the National Police and the AGO to resist the team's recommendations as well as the public's wishes as was evident in the reinstatement of chief detective Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji and Deputy Attorney General Abdul Hakim Ritonga.

The two officials were mentioned in the wiretapped conversations that strongly hinted at the backroom wheeling and dealing thought to characterize the "buying and selling" of justice in the country.

In a similar mood, Yudhoyono expressed his reluctance to take the recommendations submitted by his fact-finding team in connection with the controversial KPK case, saying he could not take actions beyond his authority.

The public is waiting for the President to announce on Monday his decisions regarding the recommendations of his fact-finding team. A watered down plan of action will further confirm suspicion that the KPK case is directly or indirectly connected with the much bigger case: The controversial Rp 6.76 trillion (US$716 million) bailout awarded to Bank Century.

The ball is already on the court. The President must listen to people's wishes or he will play the risky crocodile role. - Dwi Atmanta

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