Should a lawmaker dodge the law?: The Jakarta Post

Indonesian Parliament Speaker Setya Novanto (centre) walks out of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) building after a questioning session, on Nov 20.
Indonesian Parliament Speaker Setya Novanto (centre) walks out of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) building after a questioning session, on Nov 20.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

In its editorial on Nov 22, the paper slams Setya Novanto, Indonesia's Speaker of Parliament, for attempting to evade the law.

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Enough is enough of the drama that insulted our intelligence prior to the detention of House of Representatives Speaker and Golkar Party chairman Setya Novanto on Sunday for his alleged role in the multimillion dollar e-ID card graft case.

Now, all eyes are on the House and the party, the all-conquering political machine of the New Order era, to see how they will cope with the internal crisis Setya has inflicted.

Outsiders, including former Constitutional Court (MK) chief Mahfud MD, have called Setya the worst House speaker since the beginning of reforms in 1998, for plunging the legislative body into troubled waters again and again.

Nearly two years ago, the majority of the legislative body's ethics council members found Setya guilty of holding an improper meeting with the president director of PT Freeport Indonesia to ask for shares in the gold and copper mining company.

Setya stepped down as Speaker just before the council announced its verdict. Within less than nine months, however, he regained the coveted post following dynamics within Golkar, which, in accordance with the 2014 Law on Legislative Institutions, holds the right to claim the top House post.

It was business as usual again in the House and in Golkar, until the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) declared Setya a suspect in the e-ID card case last July. He stunned the KPK as the South Jakarta District Court upheld his challenge to the antigraft body's decision to name him a suspect last month.

Setya's celebration proved to be short-lived, as the KPK declared him a suspect for a second time and moved quickly to arrest him for fear he would destroy evidence.

On Monday, after days of attempts to evade arrest, Setya was taken into KPK custody, making him another head of a state institution to be detained for graft after Constitutional Court chief Akil Mochtar and Regional Representatives Council (DPD) Speaker Irman Gusman.

Of course, Setya remains innocent until convicted in court. He also stands a chance to foil the KPK's efforts to prosecute him for a second time, if the court rules in favor of his pretrial challenge.

But the way he has justified all means to dodge enforcement of the law, despite his job as a lawmaker, should convince us that he does not deserve the honorable state post, regardless of any possible maneuvering to cling onto power.

It may look as if the KPK is singling him out and taking the e-ID card case too personally, but time will tell whether such concern is valid. A number of defendants in different graft cases have named him in their testimonies, but the KPK simply lacked evidence to ensnare him.

It will be down to Golkar's wisdom to find a replacement for Setya, both as party chairman and House Speaker. The internal dynamics will surely test the party's commitment to anti-corruption efforts and the rule of law.

Or it will simply reproduce a new leader to dodge any trouble with the "teflon" qualities characterising the disgraced Setya.

The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.