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House, KPK on collision course

Jakarta Post - June 9, 2017

Margareth S Aritonang and Safrin La Batu, Jakarta Defying mounting criticism, the House of Representatives has kicked off its inquiry into the nation's top antigraft body, which experts believe is legally flawed and a blatant act of retaliation by the dozens of lawmakers who have been implicated in numerous graft cases over the years.

Activists have called the inquiry "abusive" and see it as an effort to undermine the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), one of the state bodies most trusted by the public, according to surveys.

In contrast, the House has a notorious reputation as one of the most corrupt state institutions. As many as eight currently serving lawmakers have been named suspects by the KPK.

Serving as inquiry committee chairman is Agun Gunanjar, a Golkar politician currently being investigated by the KPK as part of a massive corruption case centering on the procurement of an electronic ID (e-ID) system.

State losses from the allegedly graft-plagued procurement are estimated at Rp 2.3 trillion, according to the case indictment. Agun has denied allegations he received US$1 million in illicit kickbacks. Dozens of other lawmakers are also implicated in the case.

Even though the 2014 Legislative Institutions (MD3) Law gives powerful investigative authority to the inquiry committee, the KPK has said it might not attend its hearings. Experts believe the KPK, as an independent state body, is not a government agency over which the House is allowed to exercise its right of inquiry.

The KPK has said it is considering ignoring the committee's summons because it is convinced the inquiry does not have legitimate legal grounds. KPK deputy chair Basaria Panjaitan, however, said the commission was still mulling its options.

"We will ask for an opinion from legal experts first. We have yet to reach a final decision," she said on Thursday, adding that the inquiry "was the House's right."

KPK spokesperson Febri Diansyah concurred, saying the KPK is not a body that the House could launch an investigation into. "The idea that the KPK is among the institutions referred to in the article about the House's inquiry right in the MD3 is questionable," he said.

Article 79 of the MD3 Law only stipulates that the House has the right to launch an inquiry into government institutions. The 2002 KPK Law stipulates that the antigraft body is an independent institution and not part of the government.

Lawmakers have argued that the inquiry only intends to evaluate and improve the work of the KPK.

However, the House has failed to reach consensus on this notion, with three political parties the National Awakening Party (PKB), the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) opposing the move to launch the inquiry.

This could also be problematic as the MD3 Law suggests that an inquiry should involve all political factions at the House. The Gerindra Party and the National Mandate Party (PAN) initially rejected the inquiry but eventually changed direction and supported it.

"The Dems have opposed the plan to launch the inquiry from the very beginning. We will be consistent and not send our lawmakers to join the team," Dems deputy chairman Edhie Baskoro "Ibas" Yudhoyono said Thursday.

Constitutional law expert Refly Harun said the inquiry was legally flawed as the MD3 Law stipulated that the aim of an inquiry was to question a member of the executive branch of the government over an alleged irregularity in the implementation of a law or policy.

"The House's inquiry is not valid. An inquiry should only be made [to question] a member of the executive [branch]," Refly told The

Jakarta Post over the phone. Refly said, however, that as the inquiry proposal had been agreed on by a House plenary meeting and the committee had been formed, it had a legal foundation and all people, including the KPK investigators, summoned by the task force were legally obliged to fulfill the summons.

"[The person summoned] should fulfill the summons. If not, there is a right to forcefully bring [him or her before the committee]," Refly said. "If [the House asks questions about] the technical aspects of investigations, KPK [investigators] have the right to keep silent," Refly said.

The KPK has received support from various civil society groups since the announcement of the inquiry plan, with more than 24,000 people signing a petition early last month opposing the inquiry proposal.

Dahnil Azhar Simanjuntak, chairman of the youth wing of Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Muslim organization, said the inquiry was an act of political maneuvering to try to prevent the KPK from uncovering the e-ID corruption and to protect individuals implicated in the case.

"The e-ID corruption shows that the public are being deprived of their rights by some political elites," Dahnil said.

Indonesian Corruption Watch activist Donald Fariz criticized the lawmakers who proposed the inquiry, calling the move "political thuggery." (kuk)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/06/09/house-kpk-on-collision-course.html.

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