Response to Jokowi's alleged intervention in graft case fails to address problem

Source – December 7, 2023
President Widodo (centre) and Setya Novanto (right) at Asia-Africa conference in Jakarta – April 23, 2015 (Kompas)

Sandro Gatra – An issue that has been very prominent in the public's attention of late has been the lion's roar by former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) commissioner Agus Rahardjo.

A person who is known for being straight and honest shocked the public with a revelation that in 2017 he was once scolded by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo because he refused to stop an investigation into former House of Representatives (DPR) Speaker Setya Novanto related to the electronic ID (e-KTP) corruption case.

The Palace has denied that the meeting referred to by Rahardjo had ever been recorded on the president's schedule.

State Secretary Minister Pratikno, who said that he accompanied President Widodo during the meeting, claims that he has forgotten the incident. This is an attitude that is an attempt to find a safe position.

What was extraordinary was President Widodo's reaction: "Pak [Mr] Setya Novanto was punished, given a heavy sentence, 15 years. So what's all the fuss about? In what interest is it being spiced up? In what interest?".

In short, His Majesty the President of the Republic of Indonesia denied being involved in or intervening in the Novanto case.

The president, because of this, is hoping that the Novanto issue will stop and there will be no need for it to be discussed. Enough is enough. That roughly the way the president's thinking is.

But the president's position and attitude as expressed, logically, has not yet answered the problem fully.

The problem is, Novanto was indeed prosecuted and sentenced. And he is still serving his sentence to this day.

But the prosecution and sentencing of Novanto was not carried out by the president, but the ones who did it were the KPK. And here lies the problem.

When Rahardjo met with Widodo, the order to start an investigation (Sprindik) into the e-KTP case had been issued three weeks before and Novanto had already been declared a suspect.

At that time meanwhile, under the legal regulations at the KPK there was no order to stop instigation (SP3) mechanism. So the criminal investigation had to continue its course.

He was processed and punished, so once again, according to Rahardjo's claim, Widodo was angry and asked that the process be stopped. That is, the exact reverse of the president's statement.

The president played absolutely no role in the legal process and the sentencing of Novanto. In fact the opposite happened: the President hoped that the investigation would be halted.

Rahardjo's statement has been responded to and proclaimed by two other former KPK commissioners, Alexander Marwata and Saut Situmorang.

Both were once informed by Rahardjo about his meeting with the president as well as the president's reaction during the meeting.

Another thing that should also be discussed is the claims by former Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) minister Sudirman Said.

A person who is very honest and straight, Said also claims that President Widodo once raised his voice when he reported Novanto to the DPR's Honorary Council over a tape recording of Novanto asking for shares in the gold-and-copper mine PT Freeport in the name of the president and the vice president.

The case became known as the "Papa minta saham" (Papa wants shares) affair.

The landing base of the admissions by Marwata and Situmorang are the same. The public believes and has concluded that President Widodo is very skilled at governing and deftly dictating his will.

And most importantly, and this is where it gets stuck, Widodo has an extraordinary talent of deflecting things away from himself. Such is the impression of many people at the moment.

With regard to the Palace's denial of Rahardjo's meeting with the president, this is also very fragile.

Said once told the media, quite openly, that on October 6, 2015 he was summoned to the Palace by President Widodo. Already there was the State Secretariat Minister (Mensekneg) and the Cabinet Secretariat Minister (Menseskab).

At around 8.30 pm Said met with President Widodo and discussed the urgent issue of extending PT Freeport's mining contract.

Said claims that the meeting was considered by the Palace to have never happened. Top secret.

"Before entering the office, I was whispered to by the aspri (presidential assistant), 'Pak [Mr] Minister, this meeting never happened'. I reveal this because it's the public's right to know what was behind this decision. So even the Setneg [State Secretariat] didn't know, the Setkab [Cabinet Secretariat] didn't know", said Said.

This means that there are meetings between the president and other people at certain times that are not recorded administratively. So that there is no accountability if problems arise later.

So people will also ask, can Rahardjo and Said's claims be believed? Is there a possibility that they are lying?

People lie if there's a motive. So far, I have not found any motive for such a lie.

And in terms of their record, Rahardjo and Said are without fault. They both have a big surplus of honesty.

Neither of them are very competent at speaking or behaving untruthfully. Neither have a talent for deceiving the public by obscuring the truth.

Besides, when Rahardjo related the story of the meeting to Marwata and Situmorang, at that time there was no political uproar that could be interpreted as a motive on the part of Rahardjo.

He conveyed the incident he experienced to his two colleagues solely with the motive of being accountable to his colleagues.

And the pair have also never taken advantage of the information for any purpose whatsoever.

I believe that Rahardjo would not have had the guts to speak dishonestly to his colleagues at that time on something that involved the president's name.

I am only worried that it could be a problem if Rahardjo's admission and Widodo's denial get dragged into the political arena.

The politicians in DPR could well schedule it in a serious and systematic way as an interpellation motion then push for a further investigation. This would be a serious problem because there would definitely be an uproar.

The Palace must sincerely provide authentic data that can convince the public that indeed the meeting referred to by Rahardjo never happened.

The Palace should not construct an alibi of denial with an administrative approach about records of the president's schedule.

Such an alibi is not strong because the fact is, many of the president's meetings with a number of people are not listed in his schedule.

The Palace's current alibi could become a trigger for the emergence of a wave of other testimonies which show that President Widodo met with met with so-and-so, met with her-or-him, without it being in the list of the president's routine or formal activities.

The problem is State Secretary Minister Pratikno did not give a definite answer about where he was. Instead he chose the middle ground, "I've forgotten what happened".

It is better for our Mensekneg not to answer in a grey area that is easy to interpret wildly, and could easily trigger a prolonged case of slander.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Pengakuan Agus Rahardjo Vs Penyangkalan President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo".]