Concerns grow over 'dark forces' working against Indonesian antigraft body

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Anticorruption activists have criticised Indonesia's House of Representatives and the National Police for intentionally attempting to weaken the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) using a range of methods.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) leader Tama S. Langkun said yesterday that if the House and the National Police kept making counterproductive moves against the KPK, the public would see both institutions as fighting the commission, not the corruption.

Lawmakers and certain groups of people, Langkun said, have tried at least three times, including seeking a judicial review through the Constitutional Court, to remove the KPK's authority to tape conversations.

"If the KPK needs a permit to tape conversations between officials, how can it investigate corruption?" Langkun said, referring to a proposal from lawmakers.

The House's Commission III, overseeing legal affairs, recently proposed a draft revision to 2002 KPK Law, including stipulations weakening the KPK's authority.

House legislation body chairman Ignatius Mulyono confirmed the draft revision, saying at least two articles could be revised.

"The first is about prosecution. Lawmakers want remove the KPK's right to prosecute, handing authority back to the Attorney General's Office [AGO]," he said.

The KPK is authorised to inquire into, investigate and prosecute corruption.

Mulyono said the second article was the KPK's authority to tape phone conversations.

"The revisions say that KPK should gain a permit from the court first before taping phone conversation of any officials," he said.

Mulyono said there was concern that KPK would abuse its authority if the law did not limit it.

At a recent hearing with lawmakers, KPK chairman Abraham Samad said if the House removed both authorities - prosecution and phone tapping - it would be better to simply disband the KPK.

Refly Harun, anticorruption activist and a constitutional law expert, believes the existing KPK Law needs no revisions.

"Even if lawmakers want to revise it, they are supposed to strengthen the commission, not weaken it," he said.

Lawmakers had also rejected a proposal from the KPK to build its own office building.

"KPK was established because we lost faith in the police and AGO. We gave this authority to the KPK because we do not trust the others," he said.

The National Police, at loggerheads with the commission over driving simulators, recently withdrew 20 police officers working as investigators with the KPK.

KPK depends on the National Police and the AGO to supply its staff. All 78 KPK investigators are all from the police.

The number is small, comparing to Hong Kong's anti-graft commission with around 900 investigators and more than 1,000 staff.

KPK spokesman Johan Budi warned on Wednesday that if the police did not extend contracts of the next two batches of investigators in November and January, the commission would be paralyzed.

"The chairman will send a letter to the National Police chief to ask for the extension of the 20 investigators' remit, at least until we recruit new ones," he said, adding that recruitment could take two months.

The KPK confirmed late Wednesday that they are recruiting internal investigators.

"We are recruiting investigators from our own staffers who have been trained in Australia and with the FBI," he said.

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