09/23/2009, 00.00
INDONESIA
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President Yudhoyono and anti-corruption commission on a collision course

by Mathias Hariyadi
Top officials in Indonesia’s Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) are investigated for bribery and favouring some business people. Yudhoyono is prepared to replace them with new officials, but criticism rises from within the Commission.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (pictured) and the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi or KPK) are again at loggerheads. The president’s decision to appoint new leaders to the KPK re-ignited the dispute, which began in May.

According to sources in the presidency, Yudhoyono has already signed the papers, appointing the new chiefs. The posts that are now being filled had been vacant for quite some time. But many are grumbling inside the Commission.

For a number of KPK officials, the president is trying to stuff the body with ‘yes men’, beholden to him, and that this would hurt the Commission’s credibility

Last Monday, two long-standing KPK deputy chiefs, Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra M. Hamzah, were suspended on suspicions of taking bribes.

They now join the list of officials and businessmen recently involved in a number of bribery cases that touched the Commission.

Once stellar, the KPK’s reputation has sunk low, starting in May when its chief, Antasari Azhar, was jailed for his role in the murder of businessman Nazruddin Zulkarnaen (see “Anti-corruption commission chief jailed on murder charges,” by Mathias Hariyadi, AsiaNews, 5 May 2009).

According to police, the murder was a crime of passion, but for Azhar’s defence lawyers, the former KPK chief is being scapegoated for scaring people in high places with his inquiries.

The same goes for Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra M. Hamzah who are accused of corruption, and who claim they are victims of a conspiracy.

The lawyers for the two former deputy chiefs want a stop to KPK appointments until a final verdict is issued in their clients’ case.

In the meantime, Yudhoyono’s detractors accuse him of acting only to cover up scandals involving high-level politicians and people from his entourage.

The most controversial case involves the former deputy director of the Central Bank of Indonesia, Aulia Pohan.

The KPK had brought charges against him in a corruption case involving his bank, with the media and the opposition pointing out that he is the president’s son-in-law.

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