IndonesiaLeaks – Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Chairperson Firli Bahuri used the pretext of the 'Taliban' and the nationalism test (TWK) to remove 75 KPK employees from their routine duties of fighting corruption. Out of the 75 employees, Bahuri weeded out 24 he felt could be promoted to state civil servants (ASN) providing they took part in a "guidance" program.
The materials in the TWK used in the interview sessions in March-April contained odd questions ridden with stigma and examined their personal lives and sexuality.
Meanwhile Bahuri used the "Taliban" stamp to destroy the integrity of these KPK employees. The empty accusation of "radicals" were allegedly aimed at saving Bahuri from investigations into alleged ethical violations which allowed the three-star police general to be selected as KPK chairperson.
The removal of the 75 KPK employees ignores their integrity and track record in fighting corruption, recovering state funds stolen by corruptors and various awards they received for maintaining the pride of the anti-corruption agency so it would continue to have a relevant role for the public and Indonesian democracy.
An IndonesiaLeaks investigation – a consortium of media groups including Tirto – has looked into the story of how Bahuri had long wanted to kick out some of the 75 KPK employees who have now been sidelined.
The first target was five KPK investigators and criminal investigators. An IndonesiaLeaks source inside the KPK said that the five people targeted first were Andi Abdul Rachman Rachim, Harun Al Rasyid, Novel Baswedan, Rizka Anungnata and Yudi Purnomo. The number of targets was later expanded to 21 employees.
This information was obtained by KPK Investigation Taskforce Head Harun Al Rasyid and KPK Employee Association (Wadah Pegawai KPK) Secretary General Farid Andhika from KPK Deputy Chairperson Nurul Ghufron sometime in November 2020. They had met in the KPK office mosque area and Ghufron informed them of a list of 21 employees that would be sidelined by Bahuri.
"I remembered the number because it was like the cinema twenty one", said Andhika when speaking with the IndonesiaLeaks team in the Palmerah area of South Jakarta in late May.
Harun Al Rasyid was number one on the list. "You've already been marked", said Rasyid repeating Ghufron's words when he met with the IndonesiaLeaks team in Bogor city in late May.
The IndonesiaLeaks team has sought confirmation from Ghufron on this via a WhatsApp message but as of posting this article Ghufron has not responded.
Rasyid was allegedly to be kicked out of the KPK because he had been conducting many sting operations (Operasi Tangkap Tangan, OTT) in big corruption cases, particularly cases which cut into political interests.
He was the investigator who carried out the sting operation against South Sulawesi Governor Nurdin Abdullah in February 2021. Two days prior to Bahuri removing him from his post, on May 11, Rasyid lead a sting operation against Nganjuk Regent Nova Rahman Hidayat. The case was subsequently transferred to the national police headquarters criminal investigations directorate.
Rasyid also conducted the sting operation against United Development Party (PPP) General Chairperson Muhammad Romahurmuziy in the lead up to the 2019 presidential elections. Moreover in 2018, he was able to conduct as many as three OTT in a week.
This performance earned Rasyid the nickname "The King of OTT" among his colleagues. He used the terms "menanam" (to plant, sow) and "menuai" (to reap, harvest) in the handling of corruption cases. If he had not been removed from the job by Bahuri, Rasyid would now been in the "menuai" season or arresting corruptors now.
"Right now, after the TWK, it's actually the 'menuai' season. I asked [Bahuri] Firli to revoke the TWK because I wanted to arrest lots of people", Rasyid told the IndonesiaLeaks team.
The deputy chairperson of the KPK employees association also headed the KPK's wanted persons list (DPO) taskforce which is hunting for ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle Party (PDI-P) politician Harun Masiku who has been on the run for 17 months.
Masiku was declared a corruption suspect for bribing former General Elections Commission (KPU) commissioner Wahyu Setiawan. Masiku was believed to have been in Indonesia in May.
Key employees targeted
Aside from Harun Al Rasyid, dozens of other now sacked KPK employees were categorised into clusters.
The first cluster included six KPK employee association leaders, namely Novel Baswedan and his team. The next cluster was employees who opposed the 2019 revisions to the KPK Law. The third cluster included investigators pursuing the "fat bank account" case involving Budi Gunawan, who is now the head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).
Then, there was a cluster of three investigators examining an ethics code violation by Bahuri in May 2018 when he still held the post of KPK deputy of enforcement after he met privately with West Nusa Tenggara Governor Muhammad Zainul who was the subject of a KPK investigation.
And the final cluster, a KPK employee investigating an ethics code violation by Bahuri for leasing a helicopter for personal travel purposes.
Bahuri denies drafting the list of 21 names. "What interest would I have in drafting a list of people? There's no link. They passed or didn't pass [the TWK] because of themselves", said Bahuri in a high-pitched voice and pointing his finger at the IndonesiaLeaks team at the House of Representatives (DPR) building on Thursday last week.
Bahuri claims that KPK leaders and employees are all obliged to take part in the nationalism test selection. So he claims that the 21 names – which have now grown to 75 or 5.4 percent of KPK employees – were sacked simply because they failed to pass the TWK.
"The KPK's work pattern doesn't depend on individuals", he said. We work according to a system, according to legislative stipulations. So whoever is in the KPK has the same spirit of carrying out corruption eradication. To this day I'm sure they still have this spirit", he said.
The Taliban narrative
The "Taliban" and "radical" narrative was used to force the KPK employees who failed the TWK into a corner. The indicator being: admitting that there is a Taliban group in the KPK who in carrying out their duties are only afraid of Allah and the truth they agree with.
The TWK also involved the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), BIN, the Indonesian military (TNI) headquarters Army Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS) and the Army's psychology office.
BNPT spokesperson Brigadier General Eddy Hartono has stated that they were involved in the TWK because of a request from the State Civil Service Agency (BKN) and that it was part of efforts to "prevent terrorism".
"There was a request from the BKN. Actually it wasn't because of the Taliban issue. There was no talk about the Taliban problem. The source of the Taliban issue isn't clear", Hartono told IndonesiaLeaks late last week.
The "Taliban" stamp was first coined by Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) Chairperson Neta S. Pane in May, 2019 to refer to the head of the KPK investigation taskforce "camp", Novel Baswedan.
The accusation was made when the KPK was "harvesting" OTT cases involving supporters of 2019 presidential election campaign candidates President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Ma'ruf Amin.
Several months later the term "Taliban" increasingly reverberated in digital space and was echoed by well known social media and stanch Widodo supporter Denny Siregar. Siregar tweeted that Bahuri would clean out the Taliban group nesting inside the KPK.
It was when this empty accusation was reverberating on social media that politicians in the DPR agreed to proposed revisions to the KPK law during a plenary meeting that lasted just 20 minutes and was only attended by 70 out of 560 legislators.
The other context was that this was when Bahuri was being selected by the DPR to become the new KPK chairperson. This was despite the allegations of Bahuri committing serious ethical violations when he was the KPK's deputy of enforcement: of privately meeting with Muhammad Zainul Majdi on two occasions when the KPK was investigating him for alleged corruption over the ownership of regional government shares at PT Newmont in 2009-2016.
As many as 114 KPK investigators and criminal investigators also launched a protest on the grounds that Bahuri had obstructed a number of cases, leaked information on investigations and afforded special treatment to witnesses. Some 500 KPK employees rejected Bahuri as their leader.
Within the KPK, Bahuri has been repeatedly cited as equivocating that the TWK was need because there is need to erode the Taliban group.
"Have you forgotten? Before there were many 'Taliban' there", said an IndonesiaLeaks source mimicking Bahuri when he proposed the TWK at a leadership meeting forum on the 15th floor of the KPK building on January 5, 2021.
The "Taliban" pretext is believed to have used by Bahuri to take over the discussions about a KPK regulation on transforming the status of KPK employees into state civil servants in January.
Based on the IndonesiaLeaks team's findings, between August 27, 2020 and January 5, 2021, KPK employees and the leadership put together the KPK commission regulation and made improvements to it dozens of times. At that time there was not one article about the TWK.
Then, on January 25, a KPK leadership meeting was held which discussed the draft regulation. It was during this meeting that Bahuri asked for the inclusion of an article on the TWK.
Then on January 26, Bahuri is alleged to have signed KPK Regulation Number 1/2021 on the procedures for transforming KPK employees into state civil servants.
On the same day, Bahuri was present at his own initiative at a KPK harmonisation meeting at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. He brought the KPK regulation with him which already stipulated the TWK, which was included in Article 5 Paragraph (4). On January 27 the KPK regulation was enacted and published in the State Gazette Number 49, 2021.
"The KPK legal bureau was forced to include the TWK. Yet there was no budget. No note of cooperation, no Memorandum of Understanding", said an IndonesiaLeaks source familiar with the drafting stages of the regulation.
In relation Bahuri's initiative to visit to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the IndonesiaLeaks team has already submitted a letter requesting clarification from the ministry. As of this report being released however, there has been no response from the ministry. Bahuri meanwhile claims that the transformation of KPK employees into state civil servants through KPK Regulation 1/2021 was based on legislative stipulations.
Bahuri is also alleged to have given himself the authority to organise the TWK through Article 5 Paragraph (4) of the regulation. Some 15 KPK employees have reported this irregularity with the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM).
The KPK employees believe that their removal and sacking was premeditated move to abolish the KPK's independence. (tirto.id – Indepth)
This report was written thanks to media collaboration through the IndonesiaLeaks consortium which is made up of Tirto, Tempo, Suara.com, Jaring.id, Independen.id, The Gecko Project and KBR.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Akal-akalan Firli Pakai Cap 'Taliban' & TWK untuk Pecat Pegawai KPK".]