Human rights campaigners have called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to remain independent in his choice of a new chief of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) in order to avoid a repeat of the political controversy that surrounded the recent appointments of the attorney general and National Police chief.
Jokowi has yet to replace current BIN chief Lt. Gen. (ret) Marciano Norman, whereas he has installed new leaders at several state institutions including those considered crucial in determining the fate of cases of past gross human rights violations, such as the Attorney General's Office (AGO) and the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister.
Activists are concerned that stalled cases would be permanently ditched should Jokowi bow to political elites and appoint a controversial individual such as former BIN deputy chief As'ad Said Ali, who served at the agency under the leadership of AM Hendropriyono, a member of Jokowi's inner circle.
Hendropriyono is alleged to have masterminded the murder of prominent human rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib, an allegation that he has repeatedly denied.
"We don't want BIN led by a controversial figure who would use his or her power to shut off all efforts to resolve cases of human rights abuses that took place in the past," the chairman of Jakarta-based human rights watchdog Setara Institute, Hendardi, said on Monday.
"We don't want the President to make a reckless choice," he added.
Although Jokowi has not yet announced any candidates for the position, 65-year old As'ad is seen as most likely to replace Marciano because of his close ties with Hendropriyono.
Besides As'ad, other individuals believed to be in the running for the BIN top job include former Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS) chief Rear Marshal (ret.) Ian Perdanakusuma and current BIN deputy chief Maj. Gen. Erfi Trianussu.
Other names touted are former deputy defence minister Lt. Gen. (ret) Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin and Sutiyoso, the chairman of the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI), a member of Jokowi's ruling coalition.
Activists' concerns over the BIN leadership have grown in wake of the row between the National Police and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) ignited by the nomination of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan as National Police chief .
Budi's nomination is believed to have been strongly endorsed by Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is reportedly continuing to back Budi despite Jokowi's naming a new candidate, Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti.