Indonesia's Speaker in hospital, avoids arrest

Above: Indonesian politician Setya Novanto arriving at the anti-graft agency KPK's building in Jakarta in July. Below: Police and investigators from KPK searched Mr Novanto's home on Wednesday.
Indonesian politician Setya Novanto arriving at the anti-graft agency KPK's building in Jakarta in July. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Above: Indonesian politician Setya Novanto arriving at the anti-graft agency KPK's building in Jakarta in July. Below: Police and investigators from KPK searched Mr Novanto's home on Wednesday.
Police and investigators from KPK searched Mr Novanto's home on Wednesday.PHOTOS: REUTERS

Novanto allegedly crashed his car; anti-graft body prevented by law from detaining him

The Indonesian anti-corruption agency's hunt for elusive politician Setya Novanto came to an end yesterday when the Speaker of Parliament wound up in hospital after allegedly crashing his car into an electricity pole in south Jakarta.

Mr Novanto's lawyer Fredrich Yunadi said his client had an accident while he was making his way in his Toyota Fortuner SUV to the agency's offices to be interrogated.

"He is under doctors' and nurses' treatment now. His head is bleeding and is bandaged," Mr Fredrich told TV station MetroTV.

Mr Novanto is believed to be warded at Permata Hijau hospital.

Despite knowing his location, the country's anti-graft body, known as KPK, is no closer to questioning him as it is prevented by law from detaining anyone who is ill or under medical treatment.

Mr Novanto is a suspect in a major scandal unearthed in 2014 involving US$170 million (S$230 million) of stolen state funds.

Investigators have alleged that he was among dozens of politicians who received kickbacks from funds earmarked for a 2009 government project to issue new identification cards, called e-KTP, to citizens aged 17 or above.

ENFORCING LAWS FAIRLY

KPK carries responsibilities and duties to enforce the laws fairly and indiscriminately. No one should think that the law cannot touch certain people based on immunity rights.

KPK SPOKESMAN FEBRI DIANSYAH, speaking to reporters yesterday.

KPK had failed to locate Mr Novanto after a surprise raid on his home late on Wednesday.

The agency searched the house for five hours and confiscated a suitcase of documents and footage from the house's CCTV system.

Mr Fredrich had said that his client, chairman of Indonesia's second-biggest political party Golkar which controls about 15 per cent of the 560 seats in Parliament, is in Jakarta and is not trying to avoid the law.

"We are going to meet the leaders of this country. We will ask for time to meet the President," Mr Fredrich had told reporters yesterday before the accident.

He added that Members of Parliament have parliamentary immunity and they cannot be prosecuted without the President's consent.

Mr Novanto has previously ignored KPK's multiple summonses to be questioned, opting instead to chair meetings in Parliament and attend various Golkar party events.

In September, he failed to show up at the KPK to answer questions on three occasions, citing a heart ailment.

"KPK carries responsibilities and duties to enforce the laws fairly and indiscriminately. No one should think that the law cannot touch certain people based on immunity rights," its spokesman Febri Diansyah told reporters yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Johan Budi told Jakarta-based Elshinta Radio yesterday morning that KPK is an independent agency, stressing that the President cannot intervene in the judicial process.

Under Indonesian laws, anyone objecting to any actions or decisions taken by any law enforcement agency, or by the government, has a right to file a petition or complaint to the state administrative court.

Any citizen may also file a petition to the Constitutional Court to challenge and overrule any law.

In September, Mr Novanto challenged the legality of KPK's decision in July to name him as a suspect in the identity card case, and won.

On Nov 10, the agency restarted its prosecution and again named him a suspect.

Golkar will provide legal assistance to Mr Novanto and allow the due process of law to take its course, its leader Mahyudin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told Kompas daily.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia's Speaker in hospital, avoids arrest'. Print Edition | Subscribe