Wed, 17 Dec 2003

Officer chairs corruption body

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Lawmakers elected on Tuesday five leaders of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), but critics expressed doubt over the choices for the anticorruption job, and wondered whether they could live up to public expectations.

A secret ballot conducted by 44 members of the House of Representatives Commission II for legal and domestic affairs saw Insp. Gen. Taufieqqurochman Ruki top the list with 43 votes, followed by Amien Sunaryadi (26), Sjahruddin Rasul, Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean and Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas.

They bested, among others, former cabinet minister and attorney general Marsillam Simandjuntak, prosecutor M. Yamin, who recently won the Hatta anticorruption award, Iskandar Sonhaji, a member of Indonesian Transparency Society (MTI) corruption watchdog,

Ruki, who was once a House legislator himself representing the Indonesian Military/Police faction, was then elected the KPK chairman.

The House is scheduled to endorse the result of the election during a plenary session on Thursday. The President will inaugurate them on Dec. 27.

During the ballot counting each House commission member voted for five candidates each during the election on Tuesday.

Patrialis Akbar of the Reform Party said Ruki was elected because most legislators considered his background as a police officer to be very important for KPK, whose main job would be investigate and stop corruption.

"For the time being, we consider his experience as a police officer as mandatory in corruption eradication," he said, adding that Ruki had promised to get tough with his superiors should they commit corruption.

He also disclosed that Panggabean was elected because "we wanted a bit of diversity," referring to his religion, Christianity. The other members are all Muslims.

"I don't mind if you say the quality of this (KPK executive body) screening is far below that of tests on Supreme Court justice," Patrialis said.

The election left an unfinished dispute after Amien had refused to cooperate with people aged 60-years-old or above.

During his screening earlier in the day, Amien said he would not want "to work in an old folk's home". He added that the elderly would only create difficulties as they usually did not master technology, which he said was mandatory.

Two of the elected KPK leaders, Rasul and Tumpak, will both turn 60 within a year.

After the vote, legislator Idrus Marham of Golkar asked the commission to anticipate Amien's withdrawal.

"I just called him (Amien) just now, and he insisted that he would quit. I think we should consider a replacement," he suggested.

Yamin, who finished just behind Erry, would likely replace Amien, if he quits.

A member of the KPK selection committee, Todung Mulya Lubis, expressed disappointment with the composition of the anticorruption commission.

"The line-up looks to represent the dominant parties in the country. I was disappointed from the onset as many credible candidates failed to qualify." he said from Banda Aceh.

He regretted that the House seemed to lack the will or courage to elect figures who are well-known for their integrity and credibility.

"The House is apparently afraid of choosing tough and credible candidates," he lamented.

Asep Rahmat Fajar of the Coalition of the Judiciary Observers (KPP), shared Todung's concerns.

"The House knew there were other candidates with better track records. Why did they vote for figures whose commitment is questionable?" he said.

However, he added that his organization would continue to monitor the performance of the commission.

The KPK's establishment has been postponed several times since 1999, and has been dubbed a "super body" due to its authority to investigate and prosecute corruption cases, which is currently the sole domain of the police and prosecutors.