Anti-graft agency chief courts controversy with billboards, marching song

Source – February 20, 2022
Yasonna Laoly (left), Firli Bahuri (centre) and Ardina Safitri (right) at event handing over rights to hymen and marching song – February 17, 2022 (Kompas)

Irfan Kamil, Jakarta – Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Chairperson Firli Bahuri has become the focus of public attention again after giving an award to his wife, Ardina Safitri, for writing a marching song and hymn for the KPK.

Bahuri gave the award to his wife at the same time as the copyright handover by the Minister for Justice and Human Rights, Yasonna Laoly, at the KPK building in Jakarta.

Bahuri believes the marching song and the hymn will complement the pride and spirit of all KPK staff in carrying out their duties.

"It is hoped that the lyrics in the song will be an inspiration for all KPK staff in their work and strengthen our love for the Indonesian nation", said Bahuri in a written release on Thursday February 17.

More controversy than achievements

The launch of the KPK's marching song and hymn has attracted criticism. Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) researcher Kurnia Ramadhana thinks that under Bahuri's leadership the KPK has mostly created controversy rather then made any achievements.

Ramadhana also questions the choice of Bahuri's wife as the creator of the KPK marching song and hymn. In his view, the choice of Safitri gives rise to suspicions that there is a conflict of interest.

"So he should never think that [just] because he's the chairperson of the KPK that the anti-graft agency is his or his families property", said Ramadhana in a press release on Thursday.

Speaking in the same vein as Ramadhana, Praswad Nugraha, the chairperson of the IM57+ Institute, which was recently established by former KPK employees sacked by Bahuri last year, is also of the view that there is a conflict of interest behind the launch of the song.

The former KPK investigator is of the view that the eradication of corruption does not need marching songs and hymns.

According to Nugraha, the marching song and hymn are the cries of suffering from the victims of the Covid-19 social aid (bansos) funds corruption scandal, a case which has still not been fully resolved by the KPK.

"There's no need to work so hard creating a song, because the real hymn of corruption eradication is in the cries and tears of the suffering people, the victims of the bansos case which has not been fully resolved by the KPK", said Nugraha, referring to a case which many believe the KPK under Bahuri has not pursued due to its links to several senior government officials.

Face of the KPK

Following the controversy over the marching song and hymn, a billboard which carries the face of the KPK chairperson has recently surfaced on social media. In the billboard with the KPK logo, the message reads "We will arrest anyone who is corrupt".

In addition to this, the billboard also contains the message, "We want to create an Indonesia that is just, affluent, smart, prosperous, where it is easy to find a job, an Indonesia which is respected by the world, and an Indonesia which its people are proud of".

Bahuri claims he does not know who made the billboard and were it was put up. He believes that it is a form of public support for the anti-corruption work being done by the KPK.

"Honestly, I don't know who and where they were all put up", said Bahuri in a written statement on Friday February 17.

Nevertheless, Bahuri expressed his thanks to whoever put up the billboard, especially so if it was done to support the KPK's work.

He also emphasised that the KPK is an independent institution and is not influenced by anyone.

However, the former North Sumatra police chief said that they continue to need public support to eradicate corruption in Indonesia.

"If the intention was to support the KPK's work then I express my thanks", said Bahuri.

"The KPK truly understands that the eradication of corruption cannot be staged by only one institution because it needs public involvement. Come one, let us fight those who steal the state's money", he said.

KPK acting spokesperson Ali Fikri also confirmed that the KPK never put up the billboard with the picture of Bahuri's face and the anti-corruption message.

According to Fikri, the KPK does not have a budget for the procurement and installation of the billboards.

"The KPK wishes to confirm that it has never procured or paid from the state budget for the installation of the said billboard", said Fikri in a written explanation on Saturday February 19.

According to Fikri, after photographs of the billboard spread on social media, the Inspectorate Team immediately conducted a check. After checking the location, said Fikri, the billboard could not be found.

Avoid controversy

Meanwhile, House of Representatives (DPR) Commission III member Arsul Sani has asked the KPK leadership to avoided doing things which create controversy.

Sani conveyed this in response to the billboard with Bahuri's picture and the marching song and hymn written by his wife.

"As a partner of the KPK, I suggest that it would be best for everyone in the KPK leadership to avoided public controversy over things such as this", said Sani when contacted by on Saturday.

The United Development Party (PPP) politician said he understands that these issues have attracted negative reactions from the pubic because according to Sani, the public basically wants the KPK to maintain standards of behaviour which are higher than the public in general.

"So it's normal if things which they believe are odd or not right are done then yes, there will be continued criticism", he said.

Nevertheless, Sani said that it is up to the KPK leadership or the KPK's Supervisory Board to assess whether there was an ethical violation.

"So far the Commission III does not see this as an ethics violation, although in order to confirm this, yes, that's the jurisdiction of the KPK Supervisory Board", said Sani.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kontroversi Firli Bahuri, dari Penghargaan untuk Istri hingga Baliho Antikorupsi".]