Sacked Indonesian graft-busters to fight dismissal in court

Former KPK employees greeting relatives as they leave the Indonesian anti-corruption agency's building after getting fired, on Sept 30, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Dozens of employees controversially removed from Indonesia's anti-graft agency will appeal against their dismissal, staff members said on Thursday (Sept 30), fighting what they saw as a move to weaken a body that prosecuted hundreds of politicians and businessmen.

Fifty-seven KPK staff were fired after being told they had failed a civil service exam, the results of which they said have been withheld. The Ombudsman and human rights commission suspected maladministration and the KPK has defended the exam.

On their last day of work on Thursday, employees lamented their exit.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad," said investigator Yudi Purnomo Harahap, one of three employees who confirmed a plan to appeal to the state administrative court.

"There's sadness in leaving this office in such an inhumane way," Mr Yudi said.

The president's office referred Reuters to the KPK's spokesman, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the employees' appeal and allegations of foul play.

At the KPK office in Jakarta, former KPK staff praised the employees, who they said were being punished for their commitment to fighting graft, and for making powerful enemies.

"They're heroes, they've dedicated themselves to erasing corruption without favours," said former KPK chief Abraham Samad.

Indonesia's police chief this week said dismissed employees could join the force, an offer Mr Yudi said he appreciated, adding that colleagues were considering it.

Overall, 1,300 staff took the test, part of a transition for employees of the independent KPK into the state bureaucracy.

Controversy has surrounded the composition of the test, with employees asked of their sexual desires or whether they pleaded allegiance to Indonesia's state ideology over religion.

The KPK has previously denied the exam was designed as a pretext to sack employees, as alleged in June by Mr Novel Baswedan, one of Indonesia's best known graft investigators.

Critics say the KPK, established in 2002, has weakened under President Joko Widodo, with revisions to a 2019 law that led to street demonstrations.

"There should be no systematic weakening of the institution... because our transparency and accountability will always be questioned," said Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, chairman of the opposition Partai Demokrat party.

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