Widodo wants to overturn Indonesian law curbing anti-graft drive: Adviser

Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo wants the top court to overturn legislation that makes it more difficult to investigate lawmakers for graft, an adviser said, referring to a law passed with little publicity in one of the world's most corrupt co
Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo wants the top court to overturn legislation that makes it more difficult to investigate lawmakers for graft, an adviser said, referring to a law passed with little publicity in one of the world's most corrupt countries. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo wants the top court to overturn legislation that makes it more difficult to investigate lawmakers for graft, an adviser said, referring to a law passed with little publicity in one of the world's most corrupt countries.

Widodo's team echoes the concerns of civil society groups that have challenged a law requiring investigators to get approval from a special parliamentary council before investigating lawmakers for corruption or other crimes. Many Indonesians see their parliament as one of their most corrupt institutions, according to the anti-graft group Transparency International.

"We are critics of this law," Hasto Kristiyanto, a senior member of Widodo's transition office, told Reuters late on Wednesday, adding that they hoped it would be overturned. "We must establish efforts to eradicate corruption and these must begin in this circle of power. The law should not be used as a tool for protection."

Parliament approved the bill on July 8 but it got little media coverage as it came a day before the presidential election won by Widodo. It was signed into law a month later by outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose son will be a member of the new parliament, which takes office on Oct 1.

Yudhoyono's ruling party has been hit by a series of graft scandals including, most recently, one involving Energy Minister Jero Wacik, who was identified as a suspect in a case involving extortion and kickbacks worth about US$841,000 (S$1.06 million).

Under the law, any law enforcement agency that wants to investigate a member of parliament for corruption or other crimes needs the written approval of a special parliamentary council within 30 days of making the request.

"This kind of council will have a duty to protect members of parliament," said Eva Kusuma Sundari, a member of Widodo's Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), which walked out of the assembly during the vote on the bill in protest.

The law is the latest in a series of attempts by parliament to protect its members from the aggressive anti-corruption drive led by the KPK graft-busting agency.

KPK spokesman Johan Budi said the law was "a step backwards ... and not in keeping with the anti-corruption spirit that requires everyone to be equal before the law".