By: Donny Syofyan
During a press conference on March 15, 2012, the five leaders of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK, Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi) denied that cracks were occurring within the antigraft agency following reports of worsening infighting. Critics say the rifts might slow the country’s fight against corruption, as the KPK remains the only credible institution to combat graft.
Antigraft activists and people rely on the KPK in our endless war against corruption. They hope that the “rifts” are simply part of the normal give-and-take among KPK leaders. It is not an exaggeration to say that deep-rooted cracks in the trusted antigraft body would certainly hinder the war on corruption amid the questionable performance of the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).
A rift would definitely strengthen and benefit corruptors. Discordance among the KPK’s leaders would make corruptors and graft suspects feel more confident to take action. Those who are about to steal state money are very good at misusing and abusing opportunities. The possibility of corruption would increase with a weak KPK.
The graft suspects would easily find ways of splitting the KPK leadership, which in turn would render the antigraft body disoriented in its corruption eradication work.
One possible way to strike the KPK is through character assassination, with Abraham Samad, the KPK chairman, a likely target. Moves to threaten and blackmail Abraham, like the one experienced by former anticorruption czar Antasari Azhar, could happen due to his uncompromising stance.
A “devide et impera” political move could turn into a tactic to destroy people’s confidence in the KPK. There is something to fear if people start to lose optimism over efforts to combat corruption amid consistent attacks of the antigraft body.
Any moves to criminalize Abraham, for instance, could be regarded as a counterattack by corrupt or to decentralize the fight against corruption. Representing a local or a perspective outside Java, Abraham has been said to have given new color to the KPK in his bravery in taking the lead in combating corruption.
Despite being a non-Javanese, Abraham really understands that curbing corruption should begin with curbing scandalous corruption at the capital. Corruptors strike back smoothly as they view the KPK leadership as vulnerable rather than collectively working.
The debacle of eliminating corruption on account of internal quarrels among the KPK’s leaders has sparked public concern. The KPK has been widely known for its capability of being a trend setter and issue maker when it comes to naming graft suspects and its speed in processing graft cases. Conservative approaches and the poor image of other law-enforcement agencies, mainly the National Police and the AGO, have led people to view the KPK as a veritable reservoir of hope.
This is particularly true as most of the KPK leaders stem are antigraft activists, which is the body’s strong point. The KPK’s less-bureaucratic style of combating graft is vastly seen as an added value by public. Moreover, the cracks within the antigraft agency will absolutely make it spend time and energy on internal consolidation in a defensive manner.
Judging from the disharmonious KPK leaders, the House of Representatives Commission III overseeing legal, human rights and security issues will have a stronger excuse to limit the KPK’s authority.
It is no secret that the House is very eager to limit the KPK only to investigations rather than strengthening it, for instance, by allowing it to hire independent investigators and prosecutors.
The House may deem a “one-man show” at the antigraft body as perilous in the fight against corruption and, therefore, subject to control. To a serious degree, Commission III is notorious for its strong resistance to the KPK’s status as a superbody, suggesting how the House has failed to capture the voice of the people.
There is a tendency that the House is committed to treating the antigraft agency as an ad-hoc institution that could be dissolved at any time. Abraham’s decision to return some of the KPK’s colleagues to their original institutions — the National Police headquarters — makes some lawmakers believe that the KPK is not much better than the National Police and the AGO.
Any attempts to revoke the KPK status as a superbody would put the agency on a par with both the National Police and the AGO. Sooner or later, the KPK will be a toothless tiger and distant from the society.
The KPK has given give an advantage to the country in raising its awareness and courage to fight corruption. Granted, the KPK has yet to eradicate “big fish” graft suspects, but the body has improved the financial system and anticorruption education.
The KPK has become a deterrent factor for the state administrators who are frequently involved in recklessly managed state budget. Every antigraft activist and watchdog must be serious about safeguarding the unity and solidness of the KPK leaders so as to block the path for corrupt officers and businesspeople who always resort to taking advantage of opportunities.
Notice: This opinion article is displayed in an online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 22, 2012. It is able also to be searched at: www.thejakartapost.com [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: 23 March 2012].