Indonesian President Joko Widodo defends corruption law changes criticised by rights groups

The amendment to the 17-year old law, under which the Corruption Eradication Commission was established, will make efforts to eliminate corruption more effective, Mr Joko Widodo said in a televised address on Sept 13, 2019.
The amendment to the 17-year old law, under which the Corruption Eradication Commission was established, will make efforts to eliminate corruption more effective, Mr Joko Widodo said in a televised address on Sept 13, 2019.PHOTO: AP

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Friday (Sept 13) defended his support for amendments to a key anti-corruption law, ignoring calls from the nation's anti-graft watchdog and rights groups to veto the move over fears it could hinder the fight against crime.

The amendment to the 17-year old law, under which the Corruption Eradication Commission was established, will make efforts to eliminate corruption more effective, Mr Joko said in a televised address on Friday. He said the establishment of a supervisory board for the commission, known as KPK, will minimise the potential misuse of authority.

But Indonesia Corruption Watch said the Parliament and the president were rushing through the changes, threatening "the future of the corruption fight". The non-government group said the move will open the door for "the intervention from the executive and legislative in KPK's functioning".

While the proposed amendments will be discussed by lawmakers before the Parliament adopts them, the anti-graft agency said the revisions will "cripple KPK's functioning as an independent institution".

A survey by Transparency International Indonesia in 2017 showed bribes accounted for an average 10 per cent of production costs and about 17 per cent of the participants said their businesses failed because competitors bribed officials for favours.

While Indonesia has climbed several notches in Transparency International's corruption perception index and the World Bank's ease of doing business ranking, corruption remains rampant.

The KPK has named 255 members of the national Parliament and legislative councils, 130 heads of regencies, as well as several chiefs of state agencies as graft suspects since 2004, according to data from the commission.

WIRETAPPING

The amendment to the KPK Law will require the commission to seek a permit from a court for wiretapping. Despite his overall support for the amendment, Mr Joko has separately raised concerns over proposed changes to wiretapping provisions and the plan to recruit watchdog's investigators only from the police and attorney-general's office.

The Indonesia Corruption Watch also criticised the selection of the new board of commissioners at KPK, saying some of them had questionable track records, including violation of watchdog's code of ethics and non-disclosure of wealth.

The Parliament on Thursday picked Firli Bahuri, a serving police general, as the chairman of KPK for the 2019-2023 period.

 

"The attack on the KPK and the anti-corruption movement is the same as the attack on democracy," the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute said in a statement. "Indonesian people must not forget that the nation was under 32 years of authoritarian rule which went hand in hand with corruption."