Jokowi plays down talk of greater sentence reductions for graft convicts

Jokowi plays down talk of greater sentence reductions for graft convicts
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo insisted on Tuesday that the government remained committed to fighting graft, rejecting recent talk of allowing greater sentence reductions for corruption convicts.

“Personally, I would refuse such remission,” he said during a special interview with Elshinta radio outlet on Tuesday, as quoted on the Cabinet Secretariat website.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly recently floated a plan to revise a 2012 government regulation that imposed stricter remission requirements for drug, graft and terror convicts, arguing that graft convicts had the right to remission.

The 2012 regulation requires graft convicts to fulfil two criteria before they can be granted remission: they must collaborate with justice and pay back the state losses they caused as well as the fines imposed on them by the court.

Yasonna elaborated a plan to remove the authority of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to decide whether a convict has co-operated with justice, arguing that as things stand, the antigraft body “punishes the suspect twice”.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician also said that remission was part of a convict’s rights as a citizen and called for a relaxation of the remission mechanism.

Yasonna’s plan has drawn fierce criticism from antigraft activists and KPK acting deputy chairman Johan Budi, who described Yasonna’s plan as a setback in the fight against corruption. Johan also revealed that his office had not been involved in discussions of the plan.

Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto confirmed Jokowi’s reluctance and played down Yasonna’s plan.

“The minister reported to the President that the ministry was conducting a study on remission, including for those involved in corruption cases. So this study is not specifically about remission for corruption convicts,” Andi said on Tuesday at the Presidential Office.

“The President has asked the Law and Human Rights Ministry to consider the public’s sense of justice,” he added.

Andi further claimed that remission had not been a topic of discussion in any Cabinet meetings.

According to the Cabinet Secretariat website, Jokowi denied that the plan to revise the remission regulation was aimed at undermining the KPK, which is considered to have been the most powerful force in the fight against graft for the past decade.

Jokowi said he was pushing for the swift establishment of a selection committee to scrutinize candidates to replace the current KPK leaders, whose tenures are set to end later this year.

The President’s commitment to fighting corruption has been called into question in the wake of a crisis involving the KPK and the National Police.

The tension, which arose from the antigraft body’s naming then police chief candidate Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan a suspect in a bribery case, has culminated with two KPK leaders being named suspects in separate cases and later being suspended from their posts.

Jokowi eventually stepped in, dropping Budi’s nomination and appointing three acting leaders for the antigraft body, spearheaded by acting chairman Taufiequrachman Ruki.

Jokowi has also ordered the KPK to focus on graft prevention rather than unraveling corruption cases. Meanwhile, a pretrial ruling that annulled Budi’s suspect status has led to more high-profile corruption suspects filing their own pretrial petitions.

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