President Jokowi torn between 'two lovers' in anti-graft test: The Jakarta Post

Indonesian President Joko Widodo speaking with Reuters during an interview in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb 10, 2016.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo speaking with Reuters during an interview in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb 10, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on Feb 16, the newspaper said the Indonesian president must make clear whether he supports a draft legislative amendment that will undermine the powers of the anti-graft body.

When President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo refused to endorse a draft amendment to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law last year, the public kept their hopes alive for a strong anti-graft body.

With pressure mounting from political parties that support his government for the revision to materialise, Mr Jokowi is clearly torn between two lovers, which perhaps explains why he has until now failed to send a clear signal about the controversial amendment plan.

Throwing his weight behind public resistance against the revision that clearly aims to undermine the KPK, he will again open another battle with his own allies, which have grown in strength after the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Golkar Party joined forces.

Bowing to the push for amputation of KPK powers, which will turn it into an ordinary law enforcement agency whose job is to fight an extraordinary crime called corruption, Mr Jokowi will put his public confidence on the line.

He should thank the only opposition parties left, the Gerindra Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), as well as the neutral Democratic Party, which have forced a delay to the House of Representatives' decision to approve an amendment to the law as a House initiative bill, allowing the President to buy time.

Mr Jokowi has tweeted his response to the debate, saying he would support a revision of the law if it further empowered the commission, which is stating the obvious.

More than just tweets, an official statement from the President, whose campaign promises included commitment to the anti-graft fight, is all the nation is eagerly waiting for.

What most House politicians really want from an amendment to the law is to build a stumbling block rather than supporting mechanism for the uncompromising fight against graft.

The draft revision, seeks to, among other things, restrict investigators' wiretapping authority, which has until now been effective in catching the untouchables, and allow the KPK to halt probes, an authority many believe will give room for deals with the commission.

Such revision will only lead to impunity, which is clearly against the principle of equality before the law. Those with financial or political connections can evade its radar if the KPK's eavesdropping power is restricted or use their influence to make the commission stop its investigation into them.

As evident in Sunday's arrest of a Supreme Court official, corruption remains rampant in the country and has infected all state institutions, regardless of the frequent pay increases for state employees. In its latest operation, the KPK allegedly caught Andri Tristianto Sutrisna, a staff member responsible for civil suits and appeals, red-handed accepting a bribe to help a convict delay serving his prison term.

It is not the first case that proves the highest court is prone to corruption, nor is it the only sign that corruption eradication requires a stronger, rather than weaker KPK, which has also come under external pressures with the demand for the exit of its top investigator Novel Baswedan.

Mr Jokowi must have a clear picture about what is going on with the KPK, but his standpoint remains vague.