Indonesia's president drops police chief nominee over bribery scandal

Indonesian President Widodo's indecisiveness after the nominee's implication in a bribery scandal has led many supporters to question the new president's readiness to take on powerful vested interests in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.

Yudhi Mahatma/Antara Foto/Reuters
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (l.) accompanied by Vice President Jusuf Kalla speaks at the presidential palace in Jakarta February 18, 2015. Widodo on Wednesday dropped his nominee for the post of national police chief after weeks of public outcry over the candidate's implication in a bribery scandal.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday buckled to pressure and dropped his candidate for police chief after weeks of public outcry over the nominee's implication in a bribery scandal.

Widodo's indecisiveness after the nominee, Budi Gunawan, was named a corruption suspect, had led many supporters to question the new president's anti-graft credentials and his readiness to take on powerful vested interests in Southeast Asia's biggest economy and one of its most corrupt countries.

"Today, we put forward a new candidate to parliament for approval," Widodo told reporters at the presidential palace, adding that his new candidate was interim police chief Badrodin Haiti.

Last month, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named Gunawan a suspect in a bribery case, forcing the president to delay his appointment. In apparent retaliation, the police have since declared the KPK's chief, Abraham Samad, and his deputy, Bambang Widjojanto, as suspects in different criminal cases, and have threatened to investigate other top agency officials.

Members of Widodo's coalition initially pushed for Gunawan, who is close to former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, Widodo's chief patron and head of his party, the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P).

Many viewed Widodo's decision to nominate Gunawan in the first place as a tactic to appease the likes of Megawati.

"Jokowi's hesitation in appointing Gunawan has deepened rifts between him and a faction of his PDI-P," political analyst Michael Buehler said in a note.

"Should he retain PDI-P support, his government would face growing pressure to appoint more Megawati loyalists to key posts within the government and bureaucracy."

The president on Wednesday also announced the suspension of Samad and Widjojanto, saying they would be replaced so that "the work of the KPK can continue."

The agency, backed by an army of supporters, has warned that the police actions will "paralyze" it. It has a strong record of convictions, having caught police generals, cabinet-level ministers and lawmakers.

Widodo, the popular former governor of the capital, Jakarta, narrowly won a July election with a promise to voters to bringing clean, effective government.

But a survey published by a local pollster this month showed just 45 percent of Indonesians were satisfied with his performance, down sharply from 72 percent in August.

(Additional reporting by the Jakarta bureau and Dennys Kapa; Editing by Randy Fabi and Nick Macfie)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.