JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia’s parliament voted unanimously on Tuesday (Sept 17) to approve changes to a law governing the country’s anti-graft agency, which activists fear could undermine its powers to tackle corruption.
The Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its Indonesian initials, KPK, has prosecuted hundreds of politicians and officials since its formation in 2002, becoming one of the country’s most respected agencies.
But there have been repeated efforts by politicians and police to undermine it.
Parliament passed a motion last week to debate amendments to the 2002 law that created the agency, leading to Tuesday’s revisions that will place it under the oversight of an external board. The board’s main power will be to authorise wiretaps.
Member of parliament Johnny G. Plate dismissed criticism of the changes, saying all state agencies needed oversight.
“We want to establish a supervisory board to make the KPK’s management more prudent and accountable,” Plate told Reuters. “There is no state institution in the world that does not have supervisory board, without checks and balances.”
But the reforms have alarmed anti-corruption activists, who fear they are meant to weaken the agency.
Protesters gathered in front of parliament before Tuesday’s vote, some holding signs bemoaning the KPK’s “funeral”.
Many of the KPK’s investigations have involved members of parliament. A former speaker of the house is among those who have been convicted of graft.
President Joko Widodo, who has 30 days to sign the law, has defended the changes and stressed that he would not compromise in the fight against graft.
Mr Joko declared in a televised address last week that an external board was necessary for “good governance”, though he said he would pick the members and they would include researchers and anti-corruption activists, not politicians or bureaucrats.
Under the changes, the agency’s independent investigators will become civil servants. Activists fear that could make them more vulnerable to pressure.