The attack against Novel Baswedan on the dawn of April 11, was no ordinary crime. On that fateful day, two men riding a motorcycle threw acid on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) senior investigator’s face, and damaged both his eyes. It was, without question, an act of terror against those battling corruption. Novel was leading investigations in a number of major cases, including the mega-scandal of money for electronic ID cards within the House of Representatives and several cases involving well-known individuals. In the past, he had played an important role in exposing corruption in the procurement of driving license test simulators for the National Traffic Police.
It is regrettable that the police are seemingly half-hearted in their investigation into this case. They have not even found the attackers, let alone the people who gave the orders.
This lack of seriousness is apparent from several irregularities. For example, officers have only questioned three people who were allegedly involved and this was the result of a report from the victim’s family, not from the investigators themselves. Claiming these people had proven alibis, the police released them.
This lackadaisical approach was also seen in the police statement quoting the testimony of Hasan Hunusalela and Muklis Ohorella. These two men were photographed at different times lurking near Novel’s house by a neighbor. Several witnesses stated that the two had been watching Novel’s house, including following Novel family’s domestic help. The photos of these two men were handed over to the police the day after Novel was attacked, but it took more than a week for officers to confirm their identity, after-again, according to the police-they came voluntarily to make statements.
The men were immediately released because-yet again, according to police-they had not been at the location when the attack took place. The police also said the two were working for a finance company that searches out people in arrears with their payments.However, investigators did not follow up the claim that there were people in arrears with loan repayments in the vicinity of Novel’s house. They should have tried to find out why the two had been following Novel’s house help. Subsequently, the police also said that they were police informants in a motorbike theft case.
Another matter that raises questions is the link between Muklis Ohorella and the owner of the motorbike he rode. According to the police, the motorbike is owned by a member of the Greater Jakarta Police detective team. The police should assert why Muklis was using a motorbike belonging to a detective. It is difficult to believe the excuse that it was borrowed because the two men have a family connection.
The police’s inability to find Novel’s attackers is mindboggling, because of all people, they would know how to use technology to uncover a mystery. It is true that the CCTV recordings from Novel’s house are of little use to the investigation. The two men’s faces cannot be clearly seen because the camera’s resolution is too low. Also, the attack happened in a dark place-perhaps it was no coincidence that one particular street lamp was not working on the day of the incident. But the police should be able to collect other CCTV recordings from the streets the attackers passed along. There are other things the police could do-say, when they are pursuing terrorists-such as checking data from nearby cellphone towers. Data of conversations between the perpetrators could help identify them.
This is exactly what the Special Anti-Terror Detachment has done. They were tasked by National Police chief General Tito Karnavian with finding Novel’s attackers. This led to the discovery of a photograph of one of the suspected attackers. But instead of following this up, the photo was passed on to Novel-who subsequently gave it to the Greater Jakarta Police investigators. This back and forth makes people suspicious: are the police hiding something? This then prompted speculation about a number of issues. One is, was the attack on Novel part of a dispute between factions within the police?
To stop this perception of internal strife spreading, President Joko Widodo should immediately step in and order the establishment of an independent team to conduct the investigation. Comprised of competent people, this independent team would overcome the “psychological obstacles” thought to be hampering police investigators in this case. This team’s findings should be published and hopefully, with transparency, it would be easy to see and prevent any efforts to halt or divert investigators.
Novel’s case must not be allowed to drag on. Not doing enough to speed up this investigation will only confirm allegations that the police were involved in the attack. Furthermore, President Jokowi’s reluctance to establish an independent team will lead to the view that the government has no commitment towards eradicating corruption.