Muradi, Bandung | Opinion | Sun, December 09 2012, 10:01 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 4

The arrest of Djoko Susilo, former chief of the National Police Traffic Management Corps, by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Monday marked a new chapter of rivalry between the two institutions.

Rivalry between the police force and the KPK emerged three years ago, and was described by the media as a fight between a “gecko and crocodile”, emulating the David vs Goliath epic.

The arrest of Djoko, after months of tension, may indicate renewed conflict between the two agencies. These indications were later confirmed when the National Police wrote to the KPK and explained that it had decided not to extend the term of service of 13 investigators, including Comr. Novel Baswedan, seconded to the commission and would call them back to the force.

The mass withdrawal, if it materializes, will disrupt the KPK’s investigations into various high-profile cases, including the driving simulator procurement and other scandals that implicate many of the country’s top politicians.

Only last month, the National Police recalled investigators assigned to the KPK just after the commission named Djoko a suspect. Some of the investigators refused to comply with the order, further exacerbating the conflict.

The police’s fight-back against the KPK, following the criminal investigation into Djoko, climaxed in a siege of the KPK office by dozens of police officers, who were ordered to arrest Novel in connection with alleged abuse of a suspect in 2004.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, after mounting pressure, asked the police to let the KPK continue investigations into Djoko’s case and refrain from criminalizing Novel.

The police’s resistance led the KPK to the Indonesian Military. The two institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the use of the Guntur military detention house in South Jakarta, once infamous for torture and intimidation to get confessions from antigovernment critics.

It signaled the KPK’s seriousness in investigating corruption within the National Police.

Working with the police as a partner on one side and target on the other could help eradicate corrupt practices and misconduct inside the National Police.

However, the KPK’s bid to clean up the police could be perceived as an image building attempt to cover up its incapability to solve complicated cases involving members of Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party.

People understand that the noble effort to remove corruption and misconduct from the police force is more important than criticizing the KPK’s weaknesses. The question is how long can people wait for the KPK to take concrete action against the ruling party?

I believe the rivalry between the National Police and the KPK will shift to a new phase, which will see the public judge whether the KPK really walks the talk or simply acts against the small fry instead of the big fish.

The conflict between the two law enforcement agencies is likely to drag on as the police will not let the KPK exploit its weaknesses and humiliate it in public.

This time round the National Police lost the battle for the people’s hearts and minds. However, when the public discover flaws in the KPK’s acts against graft, they will stand against the commission.

The serious issue for the KPK is how to treat other law enforcement agencies mandated to combat corruption such as the police as partners rather than a target of operations to cover up poor performance.

The arrest of Djoko should give the KPK the courage to chase after the big fish, especially the elites and their cronies that are embroiled in high-profile scandals such as the Century Bank bailout and bribery in the Hambalang sports center project.

The KPK’s failure to seize the momentum will render the commission a prisoner of the elites’ interests. The KPK’s inaction against those high-profile cases will only confirm suspicions that Djoko’s arrest serves to divert the public’s curiosity of those politically sensitive scandals.

The writer is a lecturer of the school of governance studies at Padjadjaran University, Bandung.