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Jakarta deathmatch: President steps between police and anti-graft agency

Indonesian President Joko Widodo Indonesian President Joko Widodo nominated a new candidate to lead the national police Wednesday, a month after the country’s independent anti-graft agency accused his original choice of graft.

Widodo said he’ll nominate Badrodin Haiti, the acting police chief, to fill the role.

The president said he’ll also temporarily dismiss the chairman and deputy chairman of the independent Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). Police accused them recently of criminal offenses in two old cases. The president said he’ll appoint three new leaders for the KPK.

President Widodo has promised a zero tolerance for graft. But he faced a huge public backlash when the police retaliated against the KPK after the agency blocked his prior nominee, Budi Gunawan.

Days after the KPK named Gunawan as a graft suspect, the police arrested the deputy chairman of the KPK, Bambang Widjojanto. They accused him of giving false testimony to in 2010 during a trial about a disputed state election. He was released a day later after protesters demanded that President Widodo “save the KPK.”

On Monday, a Jakarta court quashed the KPK’s investigation of Gunawan, clearing the way for his appointment to lead the national police.

The next day, the police arrested the chairman of the KPK, Abraham Samad, and named him as a suspect in a case from 2007 related to a falsified document. The police didn’t provide any details about the 2007 case or Samad’s alleged role.

Widodo’s announcements Wednesday were aimed at defusing rising tensions. Pubic support in Indonesia for the KPK is enormous. In 2013, the agency won the Ramon Magsaysay Award — known as Asia’s Nobel Prize. The award citation described the KPK as “one of the world’s most admired campaigns against corruption with an amazing 100% conviction rate in several hundred high-profile cases.”

The national police and KPK have a long history of conflict.

In 2009, the chief detective of the national police, Susno Duadji, threatened the KPK after he found out the agency had tapped his phone during a graft investigation.

Within a year, the police had arrested three KPK commissioners. Two were charged with extortion and bribery. The KPK proved through secret recordings that the police had created phony evidence against them.

The police then arrested a third KPK commissioner for the murder of a businessman. But a witness came forward and said he was part of a police-led conspiracy to frame the KPK leader.

In 2011, Indonesia’s parliament cut the KPK’s annual budget by a third.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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