JAKARTA, Indonesia — An anti-corruption investigator almost blinded by an acid attack urged Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to set up a fact-finding team to solve his case as he returned to work Friday 16 months after the assault.
Activists and anti-graft officials, showing solidarity by wearing white shirts and red arm bands, cheered and clapped Novel Baswedan as he arrived at the headquarters of the Corruption Eradication Commission in Jakarta.
A banner with a picture of Baswedan was emblazoned with the words: “Mr. President, where is your promise?” and “16 months the case of Novel in the darkness.”
Baswedan was leading investigations into an epic graft scandal that implicated prominent politicians when he was attacked last year as he left dawn prayers. No one has been arrested and Baswedan has criticized police handling of the investigation.
“I hope Mr. President wants to know the real facts,” he told reporters. After the attack, Baswedan underwent months of medical treatment in Singapore to treat his damaged eyes. He said vision in his left eye is not fully restored but it has recovered much better than he’d thought possible.
“I thought I could not see as you all can see, but now, I can see,” he said. “I will use my vision for good and useful things as God’s blessings given to me,” Baswedan said. “This blessing should be followed by action, by working. I love my job and now I’m back.”
Baswedan was leading investigations into in a case in which 80 people, mostly officials and legislators, and several companies allegedly used the introduction of a $440 million electronic identity card system in 2011 and 2012 to steal more than a third of the funds.
Senior Golkar party politician and former speaker of parliament Setya Novanto was sentenced in April to 15 years in prison for his role in coordinating the $170 million theft of public money. Baswedan has also been involved in investigations of alleged corruption involving senior police.
Corruption is endemic in Indonesia and the anti-graft commission, one of the few effective institutions in the country of more than 260 million people, is frequently under legislative attack by lawmakers who want to reduce its powers.
Agus Rahardjo, chief of the anti-graft commission, said Baswedan’s return to work will bring new spirit and inspiration for the commission in its fight against corruption. “He is our role model to make the best contribution to the nation,” Rahardjo said.