Camelia Pasandaran & Febriamy Hutapea
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday stepped in to fill a growing leadership void at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) after two deputy chairmen were charged with abuse of power and extortion by the National Police.
Yudhoyono issued a regulation in lieu of law, or perpu , that enables him to appoint replacements for deputy chairmen Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto, and suspended chairman Antasari Azhar, who will soon be tried for murder.
Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi was quoted by state-run Antara news agency as saying on Tuesday that the regulation had been formally published, enabling Yudhoyono to ensure the country’s top anticorruption agency is not left with only two deputy chairmen.
Sudi added that Yudhoyono would also issue a presidential decree technically enabling implementation of the perpu by late Tuesday so the three senior KPK officials could be temporarily replaced until their legal problems were resolved.
Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.
The National Police last week charged Chandra and Bibit with abuse of power and extortion in connection with travel bans against two corruption suspects. Legal experts and KPK supporters challenged the move, noting that the police investigation had initially focused on alleged bribery within the commission. Some claimed the charges were bogus, a case of simple retaliation by some senior police officials as part of an ongoing dispute with KPK investigators.
Yudhoyono came under increasing criticism last week from anticorruption campaigners for not supporting the embattled KPK, which is also fighting efforts by some members of the House of Representatives who want to strip it of its power to prosecute corruption suspects.
Bambang Widjojanto, a lawyer for the KPK, said Yudhoyono’s move to fill the KPK seats was legitimizing the police’s actions. “This will contribute to efforts to weaken the commission,” he said, adding that the KPK had appealed directly to the State Palace.
Alexander Lay, another KPK lawyer, said the regulation would be unnecessary if Yudhoyono simply ordered the National Police to halt its investigation of Chandra and Bibit. He added that the KPK was planning to request a judicial review of the regulation by the Constitutional Court.
Refly Harun, an expert on constitutional law, said the president had the authority to order the National Police to stop investigating the two KPK deputy chairmen. “The president’s decision to issue a perpu is not right,” Refly said. “He should not think about it from a legal perspective and the KPK leadership vacuum, but see the motives behind the police’s efforts.”
Yudhoyono last week said the law required the KPK to have at least one additional chairperson to function.
However, Abdullah Hehamahua, an adviser to the KPK, said the KPK didn’t need any new officials to keep functioning.
“There’s no problem with two chairpersons left on the commission,” he said. “However, if the president has to install new chairpersons, it should be people from within the KPK, not outsiders.”
However, Irman Putra Sidin, another expert on constitutional law, backed Yudhoyono, saying he had the right to issue the perpu and to appoint a temporary KPK chairman. He said the regulation was needed to anticipate future problems resulting from the turmoil at the KPK.
“There may be people who question the legitimacy of the KPK to act with only two chairpersons,” he said. “Moreover, a court may agree with [any legal challenges] and annul [future] cases.”