Five year from now when Indonesians look back at this moment in the nation’s history what conclusions would they draw?
What seems to suggest itself is that the Police-KPK issue is likely to be perceived as watershed moment. On one extreme is a scenario depicting the last gasp of the Lords of Corruption and the Old Guard; On the other extreme is a scenario in which the nation takes a nosedive, erases much of the progress it makes and continues to muddle through or even begin to decline.
The first scenario is difficult to imagine as it would involve Jokowi prying his integrity and will from the clutches of the political parties that he’s beholden to. It would need some radical action such as the President dissolving DPR and appealing straight to the people for support. (Can the President Constitutionally even do that?) Or providing an ultimatum to Mega, Surya and the overlords – back down or I quit.
The second scenario, unfortunately, is more likely. Hemmed in by all sides Jokowi is discredited in to his most ardent supporters and resigns or is impeached. Jusuf Kalla takes over and we all go back to the old ways of doing things – turning a blind eye to privilege and power. The Party Overloards loading over the rest of the country as the rape and collage the land – in short, business as usual. This will be the beginning of a decline that will erase all the progress Indonesia has made in the past 20 years.
Future analysts might also conclude that what caused this second scenario is a confluence of malignant, well-meaning forces, and a KPK that is less than pristine.
The malignant forces are easy to identify in persons, institutions and motivations. There is Mega who is known to harbour grudges and let personal considerations rule the day. There is Surya Paloh who moves in his own world of morality and logic, fuelled by a large ego and unbridled ambition. An there is Jusuf Kalla who has judiciously decided to sit back and let Jokowi feel the heat, not running his chances to step in as President should things go to hell in a hand basket. There are also the party apparatchik and the Police, whose interests are to prop up a corrupt system that has lined their pockets and those of their acolytes and relatives.
The well-meaning forces are the earnest supporters of Jokowi. Professionals, celebrities and activists who campaigned hard for his victory in the belief that he would help rid the country of the rotten, corrupt system that the political insiders have nurtured over all these years. They are passionate, bridle with righteous piety and they are noisy – especially over social media that has become their loud hailer in these times.
Most of their efforts are motivated by an understandable deep hatred for the police that is a symbol of an institution that is corrupt to the core. For them the KPK has become the symbol of defiance against the Police and therefore the #SaveKPK hashtags and protests.
Unfortunately, the KPK has been less than impeccable. One should question whether the KPK overstepped its bounds when it announced that Budi Gunawan was one of the candidates flagged in Jokowi’s list of ministerial candidates. It may be true, and there may have ben very strong evidence that Budi is guilty of corruption but it does not make it right for the KPK to make this information public. Individuals inside could have leaked it to the media but officially they should not have made the announcement.
Then there is the KPK’s indictment of Budi as a suspect. If you have to indict somebody then, to be fair, you need to read out the charges. Otherwise it’s guilt by insinuation. Coming as it was on the eve of Budi’s appointment, and bereft of the charges that would substantiate such indictment, one could argue that the KPK fell way short of the principles of justice and law enforcement.
The KPK’s behaviour, combined with the passion of Jokowi’s disillusioned supporters has, arguably, made it more difficult for the President to manoeuvre as it hardens the resolve of the Police and the Old Guard rather than to get them to reconsider their actions.
So perhaps a rethink of strategies and tactics are needed. Protesters should perhaps try to be fairer, call for the preservation of the KPK but at the same time hold the KPK accountable for their actions. In the meantime pressure should be kept up on the Police to explain how Budi could have accumulated such massive wealth in spite of his low salary. And they should also be pressured to explain the basis and procedures for arresting Bambang Widjajanto.
So the angle of attack should perhaps not be a heuristic impulse to save the KPK as it contains the same contradictions and logical faultiness as the #JeSuisCharlie movement after the Paris attacks. Such an approach is attractive, sexy and populist but does not attack the problem at its core.
If the pressure are sustained on both these institutions it would make it easier for Jokowi to step in to settle matters. It is not ideal. A President should be made of sterner stuff but that is the inexperienced politician that the Indonesian electorate voted for – and as the saying goes voters deserve what they get.
It seems like a choice of helping out Jokowi or descending into a dark period for Indonesia.