Analysts Warn KPK of Political Backlash

The Jakarta Globe

Last week’s arrests of more than a dozen politicians on bribery charges could earn the antigraft body the ire of major political forces, analysts said on Sunday.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested 19 current and former lawmakers on Friday for their alleged involvement in a Rp 24 billion ($2.7 million) bribery scandal centered on the appointment of Miranda Goeltom as Bank Indonesia senior deputy governor.

Those detained were among the 26 suspects named last September in the 2004 bribery scandal that has already seen four former lawmakers jailed.

Ari Dwipayana, a political science professor at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University, said the KPK’s decision to arrest the 19 suspects would have major political repercussions. “The KPK’s move will lead to a political counterattack,” he said. “Not only against the KPK itself, but also against the ruling [Democratic] Party.”

All of those arrested on Friday came from three parties, including the Golkar Party and the United Development Party (PPP), both members of the ruling coalition. The third was the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP-P).

Ari said he expected any blowback against the KPK to come from the House of Representatives. “It could come in the form of pressure on the KPK through House Commission III [overseeing legal affairs] or even by slashing the [KPK’s] funding,” he said.

“There’s also the possibility of the KPK Law being amended [to curtail the antigraft body’s powers],” he added.

Ari said being dragged into politics would be dangerous for the KPK, which is still trying to regain public trust following a difficult period in which two of its deputy commissioners found themselves in a legal morass over questionable bribery charges.

He said the parties implicated in the BI bribery case, particularly Golkar and the PDI-P, could “ignite a political attack” in the House against the ruling government.

There were several ways this could come about, he said.

First, the PDI-P could push for a special inquiry into the so-called tax mafia. This would have the potential of highlighting the failure of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Judicial Mafia Eradication Task Force to tackle the alleged institutional graft inside the tax office, as indicated by the saga of former taxman Gayus Tambunan.

Second, Golkar could revive its bid to invoke the right of lawmakers to express an opinion on the Bank Century bailout scandal, which could ultimately lead to impeachment proceedings against Vice President Boediono, who was the central bank governor at the time of the controversial Rp 6.7 trillion bailout.

Emerson Yunto, vice coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), agreed it was conceivable that the House would try to hit back at the KPK.

“They could [strike back] through the various policies under their authority relating to the KPK, including the selection of its chairman, the allocation of funds or the appointment of leaders,” he said. “It’s possible because not all lawmakers like the KPK or what it does. Some of them feel the KPK is stepping on their toes, so they’ll do anything to undermine its powers. …”

Emerson said he hoped the KPK leaders were prepared for the potential hostility facing the commission in the House.

“We can only hope that the KPK will continue to work on its campaign to root out corruption in the country,” he said.

He called on all parties in the House to put aside their hostilities toward the commission and back its efforts to unravel the Bank Indonesia bribery scandal.

“The KPK did the right thing by detaining the politicians,” he said. “However, it should not just focus on those who allegedly received the bribes, but also on those who paid them.”

While Miranda has been questioned several times by the KPK about the case, she has not been named a suspect.

Nunun Nurbaeti Daradjatun, who is alleged to have funneled the money to lawmakers, has ignored several KPK summonses. She is reportedly in Singapore, where her lawyer claims she is being treated for an illness that causes acute memory loss.

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