17 November 2009

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Mr. President, just do it

Sack them and take them to court! That was the recommendation of the presidential fact-finding team to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday. But does the President have the will or the courage to carry out his team’s recommendation?
The President will be staring his own political suicide in the face if he refuses to follow up fully on the recommendations. His choices are limited: defend the corrupt officials, or defend the people who are deeply hurt by their brutal behavior.

Among the first steps he needs to take to regain the public’s trust is to sack National Police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri and Attorney General Hendarman Supandji. If Bambang and Hendarman insist on bringing the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputies to court, they must also be ready to face the court to prove their innocence. These officials have arrogantly defied public opinion, putting justice up for sale just to protect their own careers.
In his own words, the President formed the fact-finding team “to eliminate mistrust in the law enforcement agencies”. So if his actions go against the team’s conclusions, it would come as no surprise if the public suspects him of wrongdoing. To be honest, we only harbor little hope that the President will be able to fulfill the people’s demands. Hopefully this fear is baseless. Press reports on Tuesday gave some indications that President Yudhoyono could eventually side with the people.
On Tuesday, the eight-member fact-finding team in its conclusion strongly urged the President to stop the suspected efforts by the police and the Attorney General’s Office to criminalize KPK deputy chairmen Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra M. Hamzah. They also called for the punishment of the culprits, including senior prosecutors and police officers whose names were thrown about in the case.
Yudhoyono is very close to betraying the trust and hopes of voters who gave him a huge victory in July’s presidential election – if he fails to quickly take credible and stern action against those responsible for attempting to destroy the highly regarded KPK. More than 60 percent of voters entrusted him with another five-year term because they wanted him to continue his achievements in eradicating corruption. But now many of the voters feel frustrated with his actions, which they perceive as being protective of the crooks.
Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party also won April’s legislative elections for similar reasons. Many parties surrendered themselves to him and formed a coalition. The government thus controls the House of Representatives. But that does not mean the people have given the President a blank check. As proved in the past several weeks, the public, together with the media, have strongly expressed their anger at those who have no qualms about ruining this country just to enrich themselves.
Unfortunately, the President is surrounded by people who act more for their vested interests rather than as statesmen. The nation needs his bravery to take drastic action to take to court those named in the KPK case. A betrayal of the voters’ trust, so soon after the casting of those ballots, would not be forgotten soon.
Opini The Jakarta Post 18 November 2009