Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono gave yesterday his utmost support to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and criticised attempts to undermine its corruption fighting efforts, but also regretted the way it failed to resolve differences with other law enforcement institutions.
Earlier that day, thousands of protesters took to the streets yesterday in major cities across Indonesia to stage protests aimed at giving moral support to KPK, which is currently engaged in an existential battle with the National Police.
The KPK named former chief Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo as the main suspect in early August and alleged that he had abused his authority to enrich himself and others and caused state losses of 190 billion rupiah in the National Police Traffic Corps procurement of 700 two-wheel and 556 four-wheel vehicle simulators last year.
Although the KPK was the first institution to probe the case, the National Police insisted on their own investigation.
The case has increased tensions between the two law enforcement agencies. The rift widened when a number of police officers summoned to give statements on the case failed to honour the summons. The police then withdrew 20 personnel seconded to the KPK as investigators.
In the latest controversial move by the police, some officers attempted over the weekend to arrest Comr. Novel Baswedan-police officer seconded to the KPK as an investigator and now is currently leading the probe into the driving simulators procurement case-over an allegation that he was responsible for the shooting of robbery suspects when serving as Bengkulu Police's chief detective in 2004.
In his address to the nation yesterday evening, Yudhoyono offered a wide range of solutions to the KPK-police stand-off, including allowing the KPK to take over the investigation of the vehicle simulators procurement.
"The KPK must only investigate the corruption case involving Insp. Gen. Djoko Susilo, while the police can deal with graft allegations surrounding other procurements within the police institution," Yudhoyono said.
This solution, however, will disqualify the KPK from pursuing other corruption cases that allegedly involve a large number of police officers, such as the collecting of bribes for the issuance of vehicle transfer documents, drivers' licenses and vehicle registration documents.
In his speech, Yudhoyono said that he would issue a regulation that would allow all members of the police to extend their terms for the maximum of eight years to work as investigators for the KPK, an apparent move to end the stand-off.
"The KPK must not arbitrarily fire its investigators when their terms are due, nor must the National Police withdraw them unilaterally. Therefore, I will immediately issue a government regulation to extend their terms for another four years and they can choose whether they still want to work for the KPK or return to the corps," Yudhoyono explained.
The President also lambasted the police for their attempt to prosecute Baswedan for a shooting incident in 2004.
"The timing and approach are not appropriate," he said.
The President also declined to lend his support to the plan by the House of Representatives to amend Law No. 30/2002 on the Corruption Eradication Commission.
"It's better for us to work together and focus on efforts to eradicate corruption instead of draining our energy to amend the law," he said.
At the end of his remarks, Yudhoyono urged the KPK and the National Police to end their bickering and renew agreements to improve their cooperation in the future.
"I think the KPK must consider coordinating more with the police, as well as with the Attorney General, instead of spending more time talking to the media," he said.
KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto lauded Yudhoyono's stance on some of the crucial issues that affected the antigraft body.
"We appreciate what the President and the National Police chief have done," Widjojanto told reporters in the KPK headquarters in Jakarta yesterday evening.
He also said that Yudhoyono's statement concerning the fate of KPK investigator Baswedan had helped the KPK do its job.
"With the President's statement this means that as of now, Baswedan can freely do his job as a KPK investigator. He will not be troubled by other things," Widjojanto said, adding that he also appreciated National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo showing his professionalism in agreeing to the President's proposals.
Febri Diansyah of watchdog Indonesian Corruption Watch applauded Yudhoyono's statement.
"This stand-off was really unnecessary [and would not have happened] if the National Police chief had followed the rules and regulations that the President outlined in his speech," he said.