Politicizing Law: the Dubious Testimony of MSH

On April 28, 2017, the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) has applied its inquiry right in order to investigate ‘the performance of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)’. It seems a legitimate use of such a right, since it is stated in the law, but in fact it was a controversial decision. Some thought that the decision-making-process was improper, as the hearing session was quickly concluded without proper discussions, but the objection is mainly raised because of the object of inquiry – in which DPR using its right to interfere an on-going legal process.

While a number of DPR members has clarified that they intend to assess the performance of KPK in carrying out its function as a law enforcer in general, many observers still believe that there is a certain link between the use of inquiry and the ‘e-KTP case’ that is handled by the court. This assumption is strengthened by the fact that several key members of the inquiry team are exactly the same persons who had been mentioned in the ‘e-KTP case’.

Begin this week, the inquiry team has requested the police to bring Miryam S. Haryani (MSH) to DPR, the key witness in the ‘e-KTP case’. The National Police’s Chief, Tito Karnavian, has however stated that the police would not follow this request. Tito Karnavian argued that the law has not regulated the procedure of the use of force in this case and he could not refer to the criminal procedure provisions, as they would only apply for the criminal cases ‘before the court’.

It seems that Tito Karnavian has realized a potential conflict of authorities between his institution and KPK, so he would cautiously wait for further development on the matter. At the moment, MSH is detained by KPK, as she is accused of false testimony in one of the trials of the ‘e-KTP case’. Several DPR members have already reacted to this statement by threatening to ‘freeze’ the budgets of the police and KPK.

One could then ask himself what the ‘e-KTP case’ is actually about and why it becomes highly politicized. While the case is quite simple – it was very likely a mark-up practice in which each involved actor received kick-back for her/his ‘contribution’ – the suspicion of many high-ranking officials and politicians, event they have not officially been suspected, has worked as magnet to attract public attention.

The e-KTP (electronic identity card) project was already initiated under President SBY and intended to modernize the civil registration system in 2010. By the existence of a single identity system, it was expected that the risk of terrorist attacks in the country could be reduced. The project falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and is designated to be implemented by a private party through a procurement procedure.

In 2016, KPK has started to investigate the project. An indication of corrupt practices itself had actually already been signalled in 2013, when Nazaruddin – a former DPR member who was then convicted for corruption – said that high-ranking officials and politicians had accepted kick-backs for the e-KTP project.

The fraud did not only involve the procurement process at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but a number of DPR members has suspiciously accepted money for the approval of the budget. According to prosecutors, this whole scheme was resulting in state losses of Rp. 2,3 trillion (of US$ 174 million), a significant amount compared to the total budget of Rp. 5,9 trillion (US$ 447 million).

On March 9, 2017, KPK has brought the case to the court for the first time.

It was actually accusation against two high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but the involvement of some prominent figures, including the Chairman of DPR, was also mentioned in the indictment. The last-mentioned has led to widespread speculations outside the courtroom. While some of those figures have denied the suspicion through the media and (therefore) further comments also raised, the legal process is actually still on-going. On March 16, 2017, for example, the suspects themselves have confirmed the indictment.

Then came the dubious testimony of Miryam S. Haryani (MSH) during the trial on March 23, 2017.

MSH is a DPR member who is likely being suspected to accept the money and to distribute it to other DPR members. Before the trial, she had revealed the names of (former) DPR members who were involved in the e-KTP project to the investigators, including the amount of money accepted by each of them. During the trial, however, MSH retracted all of her testimonies in her process-verbal. Her reason is that during the investigation she was under threat of KPK-investigators.

In the following trial thereafter, the judges have confronted her testimony to the related investigators, including Novel Baswedan, a leading KPK-investigator. According to Novel Baswedan, MSH was in fear to reveal the allegation, since she was threatened by her own colleagues. Some of them denied this fact. Not in, but outside the courtroom. This part of the indictment is still quite unclear and the focus has been shifted to another topic which is then discussed outside the courtroom.

As we can see, the story in the court has stuck at the point of the flow of money from MSH to other DPR members (who were not (yet) suspected). Hence, it opened up more speculations in the media. The lawyer of the suspect himself has in any case regretted MSH’s testimony before the court, since it had affected his strategy. If it was admitted that his client has handed over the money to MSH, then where would that money go?

The testimony of MSH on March 23, 2017, turned to be a significant U-turn in the case. It was a moment that KPK missed the leading in the prosecution process. Not in, but outside the courtroom. KPK has quickly responded by accusing MSH of false testimony in the first week of April, apparently in order to hold the case under the scrutiny of the court. However, some DPR members has also started taking political moves openly and used its inquiry right.

Critics about the imbalance of the anti-corruption court seems to meet its peak point and it is considerably exploited here. All interested parties – legitimate, or not – could, and did, interfere the on-going legal process. The focal point has shifted, from the courtroom to the public sphere. As said before, this political process is not concluded yet. The feast month might slow down the political tensions, but after Eid al-Fitr the story will be continued.


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