Finally, Jokowi dumps controversial police chief nominee
JAKARTA, Indonesia – After keeping the country waiting for weeks, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Wednesday, February 18, finally came out with a decision that aims to resolve the biggest controversy his young administration has faced so far.
He dropped his politically connected but graft-tainted police chief nominee, Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, defying his own political party and immediately cheering the Indonesian public that was already beginning to lose patience. (READ: Jokowi's police chief nominee declared corruption suspect)
"The appointment of Budi Gunawan as the police chief had raised differences in public opinion," Jokowi said in a televised press conference.
Budi, a former aide of Jokowi's political patron, Megawati Sukarnoputri, was named a graft suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) just a few days after being nominated as police chief, igniting one of the worse conflicts between the police and the anti-graft agency. (READ: Indonesia's political crisis deepens with arrest of antigraft official)
The two law enforcement institutions have a colorful history of clashes, with the public always firmly behind KPK, a powerful agency that has jailed may high profile politicians and officials, including police generals.
The Indonesian public, who had hoped the new president would usher in cleaner governance in a graft-ridden country, protested Budi's nomination on the streets and online, with the hashtags #ShameonyouJokowi and #WhereAreYouJokowi trending at the height of the conflict. (READ: #WhereAreYouJokowi: President steers clear of police-KPK conflict)
Jokowi acknowledged nominating Budi had been controversial but said he now wanted to "restore calm".
Deputy police chief Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti has been nominated as the new police chief and will be considered by the House of Representatives, which must endorse police chiefs, in March after its recess.
KPK officials suspended
At the same time, however, Jokowi also temporarily suspended the top two officials at the KPK, Abraham Samad and Bambang Widjojanto.
The police had named them criminal suspects in what many saw as retaliation for naming Budi Gunawan a suspect, and activists warned that Jokowi was allowing the anti-graft agency to be weakened and criminalized. (READ: Indonesia's political elites drive anti-graft agency into jeopardy)
Acting commissioners will be appointed, but activists claim Samad and Widjojanto could have been spared had Jokowi acted before the crisis got out of hand.
"Although his decision to drop Budi Gunawan was a relief, we are not happy that it was at the expense of two anti-corruption leaders," Indonesian Corruption Watch activist Emerson Yuntho told AFP.
"It's too little, too late."
'Jokowi is us'
The public, though, appears to have been immediately pleased with Jokowi's decision. The hashtag #JokowiKita – a shortened version of his campaign tagline Jokowi adalah kita (Jokowi is us) – quickly topped trends on Twitter.
Zainal Arifin Mochtar, lecturer on corruption at Gadjah Mada University, said the public would be happy with Wednesday's outcome but more was needed to protect the anti-corruption agency from future attacks.
"The president must follow up with measures to protect the anti-corruption agency or to give them immunity, so it's not so easy to name commissioners or the investigators as (criminal) suspects," he told AFP.
The agency has clashed with the police and other powerful bodies in the past as it sought to improve Indonesia's poor record on graft.
Transparency International ranked Indonesia 107th out of 175 countries in its annual corruption perceptions index last year. A number one ranking means the least corrupt. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com