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(WSJ) An Anti-Corruption Hotline for Jokowi


The recently suspended deputy chairman of Indonesia’s anticorruption agency says it needs a direct line to the president as well as a larger staff and budget.

“One of the problems of the KPK is how to create a hotline of communication with the president so he knows better the programs, the problems of the KPK,” said Bambang Widjojanto, speaking to a group of foreign reporters, diplomats and businesspeople. “If it’s difficult to communicate our programs and the president doesn’t have good information,” the challenges to the agency “will increase.”

His comments follow a battle between the police and the graft-busting body, known as the KPK, during which Mr. Widjojanto was named a suspect in a criminal case. KPK head Abraham Samad has been named a suspect in a separate case of document forgery.

Since its founding in 2003, the KPK has convicted hundreds of officials, including dozens of lawmakers, mayors and a former deputy central bank governor, of corruption. It has a 100% conviction rate. But it has also battled with the police on and off since its birth, and has faced challenges from Parliament, which has sought to reduce some of its powers, including its right to wiretap.

For weeks anticorruption activists have been calling for efforts to stop police prosecution of KPK officials, allowing it to continue its work investigating cases of corruption. Others say it needs more resources and a wider mandate to pursue corruption investigations – a responsibility it shares with the police and Attorney General’s Office.

President Joko Widodo, who has appealed to both sides to avoid friction, has temporarily dismissed Messrs Samad and Widjojanto and appointed acting commissioners to replace them, helping ease tensions that have threatened to derail Mr. Widodo’s ambitious reform agenda just four months after he took office.

But Mr. Widjojanto says the president needs to do more to show his support for the KPK, a pillar in the country’s effort to reduce graft.

“We have the same problem, how to improve Indonesia,” he said.

Mr. Widjojanto said the government could help the KPK achieve that goal by helping provide it with more funding and employees. Currently the KPK has around 1,180 staff. The police and Attorney General’s Office have tens of thousands between them.

The president’s office didn’t return a request for comment.

Political observers say Indonesia could suffer in the eyes of investors if it’s seen to be damaging the fight against graft. Indonesia ranked 107 out of 175 countries in the latest corruption perception index from Transparency International.

Others, such as Tony Kwok, a former commissioner at Hong Kong’s anticorruption commission, which has provided the KPK with guidance, say the tensions between the KPK and the police are a chance to reevaluate the way Indonesia goes after graft.

Mr. Widjojanto, too, said the tensions have provided an opportunity to look critically at the KPK and the way it operates.

He said the KPK has tried to build its relationship with police and prosecutors (the police provide the KPK with investigators), “but when we handle cases of high-ranking officials, we have a problem.”

Better communication would go a long way toward improving the relationship, he said.

Even then, however, the KPK’s problems may not be over. A South Jakarta district court recently ruled the KPK’s decision to name Mr. Widodo’s nominee for police chief invalid, and already several other corruption suspects have filed pretrial motions to have their status as suspects dismissed.

Mr. Widjojanto’s problems may not be over either. The police have continued to pursue the case against him, calling him in for a second round of questioning Tuesday afternoon.