Rather than improving the questionable performance of his office, Attorney General M. Prasetyo has decided to join the endeavor to paralyze the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). His recent statements show a strong dislike of the anti-corruption agency, despite President Joko Widodo stressing that he will prevent any efforts to weaken the KPK. The president needs to act. Prasetyo’s maneuvers are a clear defiance of his government.
Prasetyo’s strongest attack on the KPK was made during a meeting between the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and the House of Representatives (DPR) Justice Commission on September 11, when he said the prosecution function of the KPK should be returned to the attorney general, as Singapore has done. He also cited the example of Malaysia, where the anti-corruption agency there has to ask permission from the attorney general before laying charges.
Prasetyo later corrected his statement, claiming that he had simply been giving examples of how anti-corruption agencies work in other countries. But it was difficult to accept this excuse because in the same meeting, he said he was ready to reopen the case of KPK’s senior investigator Novel Baswedana case which is part of a larger effort to cripple the anti-corruption agency if there was public pressure and support from the DPR.
Prasetyo’s reasoning was strange. Novel was accused of assaulting suspects in 2004, when he was still head of the Bengkulu Police Detectives Unit. Eight years later, in 2012, after Novel led the investigation into a major corruption scandal involving the National Traffic Police, the first effort was made to reopen this case. Later on, the case was halted at the order of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, but was reopened after the KPK named Comsr. Gen. Budi Gunawan a suspect over the payment of bonuses in 2015. Now, the attorney general has said he is willing to reopen the case again, not in the interests of justice, but, “if there is public pressure and support from the DPR.”
Prasetyo’s dislike of the KPK was apparent on other occasions. At the beginning of August, when the KPK arrested Pamekasan District Attorney General Rudy Indra Prasetya, Prasetyo warned the KPK to act impartially. “The KPK should not only have the courage to arrest prosecutors,” he said. His accusation was unfounded because Rudy had been caught red-handed accepting a bribe in the corruption case involving Pamekasan Regent Achmad Ayafii.
The KPK has indeed detained a number of AGO staff. At least five prosecutors have been caught red-handed in KPK operations over the last year. All are strongly suspected of having taken bribes in corruption cases. It could be this series of arrests that have led to Prasetyo’s anger at the KPK.
But Prasetyo should be thanking the KPK. When he was appointed attorney general in 2014, he promised that one of his priorities was to turn the AGO into a ‘clean’ institution. As there have been no signs of seriousness in keeping his promise, it was the KPK that consistently picked up the slack and ‘cleaned’ dirty prosecutors. Surely Prasetyo owes a debt of gratitude to the KPK.
The attorney general also has failed to put the AGO on the front line of law enforcement. Worse, Prasetyo has tended to prevent the KPK from enforcing the law. He appears to be behaving more like a politician than a law enforcer. His statement to the DPR Justice Commission positioned himself more as a member of the KPK Right of Inquiry Committee than a prosecutor.
Therefore, President Joko Widodo should evaluate Prasetyo’s position. After three years in charge of the prosecution service, his performance has not been outstanding. In addition, his ‘offside’ statements are reason enough for the president to replace him. Unless it is the president himself who wants to reduce the powers of the anti-corruption commission.