Dirty laundry

Kompas Newspaper – October 1, 2023

Woman: If the water's dirty how can you wash it clean?

After years of dodging scandals and ethical code violations, it appears that Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Chairperson Firli Bahuri's (pictured centre) days may be numbered after police launched an investigation into allegations he tried to extort 1 billion rupiah (US$65,000) from corruption suspect Syahrul Yasin Limpo (pictured right) to halt a corruption probe into the now former (Mantan) Agriculture Minister (Mentan).

Bahuri has faced numerous allegations of breaching KPK ethics in the past and got off lightly on two previous occasions, but has never faced a criminal charge. In 2018, when he was KPK deputy chief, he was found to have violated the anti-graft agency's ethics code by meeting with then West Nusa Tenggara governor Muhammad Zainul Majdi, who was a witness in a corruption case at the time. Bahuri was subsequently recalled to the police force but despite this, in 2019 President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo then appointed him as KPK chief.

In 2020, the KPK supervisory board gave him a written reprimand for committing an ethics violation when he showed off his "hedonistic lifestyle" by accepting a helicopter ride that was offered to make a personal trip. He survived another ethics scandal in June that year, when the board dropped its probe into allegations that he had leaked internal documents on a corruption investigation into the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

While many have find it baffling that he has not been sacked earlier after his involvement in a slew of scandals has severely tarnished the KPK's public image, President Widodo has as yet to respond to the issue and appears to be hoping that the case will be resolved quietly, and perhaps that the public will forget his own role in the sordid affair.

Many however still remember that it was Widodo who selected Bahuri in the first place, ignoring a torrent of objections over his chequered past of ethical violations and links with corrupt officials. At the time, Bahuri's questionable appointment was widely believed to have been intentional on Widodo's part to undermine the credibility and independence of the once highly respected institution, which was further weakened in late 2019 by the enactment of the revised KPK Law, which was rushed through parliament in the face of widespread and often violent public opposition.