Politics is indeed a game of possibility.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives ethics council proved the deficit of public trust in the body wrong when it declared House Speaker Setya Novanto guilty of ethical misconduct in the Freeport lobbying case.
The majority of the 17-strong council voted for at least a mid-range penalty for Setya, whose meeting with Freeport Indonesia president director Maroef Sjamsoeddin and fuel importer Muhammad Reza Chalid in a five-star hotel in Jakarta on June 8 has been deemed a breach of the House’s code of ethics.
The punishment will cost Setya his position as speaker, which he secured only last year, regardless of his efforts to cling to power.
It is easily understandable that the council eventually decided to unseat Setya, following mounting public pressure that warned the council not to risk the House’s credibility by leaving Setya unpunished.
What raises eyebrows is that some council members from the Red and White Coalition, which Setya’s party Golkar is part of, demanded an even heavier punishment for the House speaker.
A severe punishment would, however, require the House to form an ad hoc panel that could show Setya the door, banishing him from the legislative body.
Whatever the motive behind the unpredicted decision, the council has honored public wishes and saved the House from a further drop in public confidence.
The punishment of Setya, who only received a reprimand for attending a campaign event organized by US presidential aspirant Donald Trump in October, should start to restore the House’s tarnished image.
The council has given the House momentum, but whether it takes advantage of the rare opportunity remains a big question.
Given the council’s decision, which is heavily political, Setya cannot and must not escape from further attention from law enforcement agencies.
The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) deserves credit for launching a criminal investigation into the case, which may eventually ensnare Setya, a seasoned politician who has been named in at least six graft cases in the past but remained untouchable as a result of lack of evidence.
State prosecutors have taken possession of the recording of a 90-minute conversation between Setya, Maroef and Reza as evidence.
The recording was submitted by Maroef, who told the House ethics council in his testimony that he had taped the conversation on suspicion that his two dialogue partners were setting up a conspiracy during ongoing negotiations to extend the gold mining company’s contract of work, which will expire in 2019.
Based on the recording, the AGO may build a corruption case, or at least an attempted graft case if no state losses have been inflicted yet.
Prasetyo himself, a former NasDem Party politician, is a controversial figure with alleged links to a bribery case that brought former NasDem secretary-general Rio Patrice Capella to justice.
But this cannot nullify Prasetyo’s support for the rule of law, his constitutional mandate or his initiative to open a probe into Setya’s alleged role in the Freeport lobbying case as fulfillment of the principle of equality before the law.
The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers seeking to promote coverage of Asian affairs.