‘Wild’ Indonesia Police Choose Deputy in Blow for Graft Fighters

A general dropped as potential police chief by Indonesia President Joko Widodo amid a corruption probe has resurfaced as the force’s deputy, a move activists said risks tarnishing government efforts to fight graft.

Budi Gunawan was inaugurated on Wednesday, said national police spokesman Agus Rianto. Gunawan was named a suspect by the anti-graft agency or KPK shortly after he was announced as a nominee for chief, though his case did not proceed to court after police investigated several KPK board members.

Tensions between the police and the KPK have overshadowed the president’s initial months in office and contributed to his falling popularity at a time he is seeking traction for his economic policies. Widodo, known as Jokowi, vowed after winning office last July to curb graft through law enforcement and new systems to improve transparency.

“It’s bad for the anti-corruption fight because Indonesia’s main problem is political corruption,” said Ade Irawan, the head of Indonesia Corruption Watch, a Jakarta-based activist group. Gunawan will become the “de facto chief of police,” he said.

Gunawan was formerly a personal adjutant of Megawati Soekarnoputri, who heads the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, that backed Jokowi.

Jokowi, who met Asian and African leaders on Wednesday at a summit, was not aware in advance of Gunawan’s inauguration, the Jakarta Post cited State Secretary Pratikno as saying. The ceremony was private, which was unusual, the Jakarta Globe quoted National Police Commission member Muhammad Nasser as saying. Jokowi left the choice of deputy to the force, police chief Badrodin Haiti told reporters on Wednesday.

Strategic Positions

Public satisfaction with Jokowi fell to 42.3 percent 100 days into a term that began in late October, from 71.7 percent in August, according to a poll conducted in January by Lingkaran Survei Indonesia that reached 1,200 respondents.

Transparency International has described the police as the nation’s most corrupt institution. It ranked Indonesia 107th on a list of countries in its 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index.

“We are witnessing the wild, arbitrary nature of the national police,” said Shinta Eka Puspasari, a political risk analyst at Jakarta-based security company Concord Consulting. “This might be worse than the Indonesian National Armed Forces during the New Order era because the police now have greater authority and are in direct touch with society,” she said, referring to former dictator Suharto’s rule last century.

“Gunawan being number two will not stop him from steering the force as he has numbers of men planted at strategic positions,” Puspasari said.

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