Indonesian parliament passes controversial revisions to law on anti-graft agency

Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo has thirty days to sign the new law. (Reuters pic)

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s parliament voted on Tuesday to approve controversial changes to a law governing the country’s anti-corruption agency, MP Johny G.Plate told Reuters.

Having successfully prosecuted hundreds of politicians and officials since its formation in 2002, the Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its Indonesian initials, KPK, has become one of the country’s most respected agencies.

The proposed changes include placing the agency under the oversight of an external board which would have the right to decide whether the KPK could run wiretaps.

The mooted reforms have alarmed anti-corruption activists, who fear they are meant to weaken the agency.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo has thirty days to sign the new law.

Plate dismissed criticism of the changes, saying all state agencies needed oversight.

“We want to establish a supervisory board to make the KPK’s management more prudent and accountable,” Plate told Reuters.

“There is no state institution in the world that does not have a supervisory board, without checks and balances.”

But the reforms have alarmed anti-corruption activists, who fear they are meant to weaken the agency.

Protesters gathered in front of parliament before Tuesday’s vote, some holding signs bemoaning the KPK’s “funeral”.

Many of the KPK’s investigations have involved members of parliament. A former speaker of the house is among those who have been convicted of graft.

President Joko Widodo, who has 30 days to sign the law, has defended the changes and stressed that he would not compromise in the fight against graft.

Widodo declared in a televised address last week that an external board was necessary for “good governance”, though he said he would pick the members and they would include researchers and anti-corruption activists, not politicians or bureaucrats.

Under the changes, the agency’s independent investigators will become civil servants. Activists fear that could make them more vulnerable to pressure.