Indonesia's government grilled for going soft on graft

Indonesia's government grilled for going soft on graft
Supporters of national police chief nominee Budi Gunawan rally outside the presidential palace calling for his inauguration after a court invalidated the anti-graft agency's decision to name him a corruption suspect, in Jakarta February 16, 2015.

JAKARTA - While the crisis between the National Police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) recedes, the government has drawn further ire with a plan to relax a 2012 remission policy for corruption convicts, allowing them more sentence reductions.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly has detailed a plan to revise a 2012 government regulation that imposed stricter remission requirements on drug, graft and terror convicts.

The regulation requires graft convict to fulfil two criteria before they can be granted a remission.

First, they must be a justice collaborator. Second, they must pay back the state losses they caused as well as the fines imposed on them by the court.

Yasonna said he would amend the regulation, arguing that receiving remissions was the right of graft convicts.

While the plan has drawn fierce criticism from antigraft activists, a lawmaker in the House of Representatives Commission III overseeing law and human rights, Abubakar Al-Habsyi, said critics should not hastily oppose it.

"This issue is not something that is comfortable to be raised because it makes us look like we are defending corruptors. But there is a need to protect people that get mistreated [by the law]," he said over the weekend.

The deputy faction head of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which saw its former chairman, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a graft case in 2013, said the law had to treat every citizen fairly, including graft convicts.

Abubakar said that sometimes graft convicts received much harsher sentences than they deserved.

Moreover, he said law enforcers could go overboard in prosecuting graft suspects.

"For example, Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan could win his pretrial hearing. It means there's something wrong [with naming him as a suspect]," he said.

Abubakar was referring to the former National Police chief candidate, whose pretrial request was fulfilled by South Jakarta District Court judge Sarpin Rizaldi in February, who said that the KPK's investigation into Budi was invalid.

The 2012 regulation has been seen by many convicts as draconian. The Law and Human Rights Ministry under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued parole to high-profile convicts such as businesswoman Hartati Murdaya.

Supporting the proposal is former Constitutional Court justice Jimly Asshiddiqie, who is also a member of an independent team assigned by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to resolve the current standoff between the KPK and the National Police.

"Graft convicts have the same rights as other convicts," he said on Saturday.

However, Jimly believed that graft convicts should receive fewer remissions so the public would not be angered, and added it was enough for the government to give remissions once a year, during Independence Day on Aug. 17, as opposed to the current practice of giving remissions twice a year.

Transparency International Indonesia (TII) secretary general Dadang Trisasongko said the Jokowi administration, which vowed to eradicate corruption, must ensure that those who committed graft received punishments that acted as deterrents.

"The statement [made by Yasonna] could decrease the spirit of law enforcers to win cases against graft defendants in court.

"Law enforcers' efforts to successfully convince judges to give harsh sentences to graft culprits will be useless if later on graft convicts are able to receive sentence reductions," Dadang said on Sunday.

Due to the classification of corruption as an extraordinary crime, Dadang went on, the prosecution and sentencing of individuals involved in graft cases had to be different from that of other criminals.

"This is a setback in the country's commitment in the war against corruption," Dadang added.

Former KPK deputy chairman Busyro Muqoddas said the treatment of graft convicts had to be discriminative and that Yasonna was wrong to attempt to reverse the situation.

"A theory says that discriminative prosecution [for graft convicts] is something normal and it is strange if the government says it wants to fight corruption but it is still permissive in terms of remission," Busyro said.

"Corruption has caused systemic problems in the country. It's against logical reasoning if the government insists graft convicts should be treated the same as perpetrators of general crime," Busyro went on.

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