Calibre of candidates to head graft watchdog a hopeful sign

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 June, 2010, 12:00am

Indonesia's corruption watchdog has been given a potential new lease on life after the initial selection process for its new chairman produced some credible candidates.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has been partly rudderless since its chairman, Antasari Azhar, was sentenced to jail earlier this year for his role in the murder of a businessman.

The selection process for his replacement started last month with the establishment of a nine-member committee tasked to select two candidates to propose to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono by August. The president will then endorse the names for the House of Representatives, which is expected to reach a decision by November.

Among the 300 hopefuls are former Constitutional Court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie and Judicial Commission chairman Busyro Muqoddas.

Adnan Topan Husodo, vice-co-ordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch, said their inclusion was just what the KPK needed.

'Jimly can build a strong team and he is respected by the people. That's what the KPK needs, to regain respect. Busyro is also highly competent,' he said.

Jimly is an Islamic-law expert who campaigned for the creation of the Constitutional Court and then became its first chief justice in 2003. He generally won credit for institu- tionalising the court's impartiality. He resigned in 2008, and is currently an adviser to Yudhoyono.

Busyro, who was awarded the 2008 Bung Hatta Anti Corruption Award for his work, is a long-standing critic of the justice system, frequently described as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country.

With the consensus among analysts that the committee - which has been deemed competent - will select Jimly and Busyro, some now worry whether the House will approve the selection.

'In the past, the House refused to endorse a name proposed for the KPK. Now they will be given two names, so we hope that it will be smoother,' said Adnan.

Another contentious issue is how long the KPK's new chairman will serve, with uncertainty over whether he will see out the remainder of Antasari's term until December 2011 or serve for a full four-year term.

'The new chairman should be given the opportunity to make an impact with a full term,' said Teten Masduki, secretary general of corruption watchdog Transparency International's local branch.

Jimly and Busyro's clean credentials have eased worries that the 40 million rupiah (HK$34,000) monthly wage for the position is too little to prevent the new chairman being tempted to collude in corruption.

For all the optimism, political analyst Effendi Ghazali notes that among the applicants are lawyers with tainted records. They have all defended people in high-profile corruption cases in the past, including Tommy Suharto, youngest son of the late dictator.

'The KPK is a well-known institution at an international level. It is the only reason why Indonesia has improved its image in terms of fighting graft. It is now going through a rough patch and needs a credible new leader,' he added.

In addition to the Antasari saga, the KPK has lost lustre because of an inquiry into alleged abuse of power and extortion by its deputy chairmen, Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra Hamzah. They have denied wrongdoing, but could face suspension if they have to stand trial.

The agency has also come under attack via a judicial review of the law that grants it power and allows it to operate outside the notoriously corrupt legal system. This is seen as politically motivated since the KPK is the only agency that has targeted lawmakers and various other high officials, formerly considered untouchable, since it was established in 2003.