JAKARTA (Reuters) - A team of advisers appointed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged him on Wednesday to withdraw his nomination for national police chief after the anti-graft agency declared the candidate a suspect in a bribery case.
The declaration by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) that Widodo’s nominee, General Budi Gunawan, was a suspect has presented the president with his biggest political test since taking office in October.
Gunawan has dismissed any suggestion of corruption.
After the KPK announcement, Widodo set up a team of nine former law enforcement officials and legal experts to advise him on how to proceed. They said they he should drop Gunawan.
“The best thing would be for Budi Gunawan to withdraw his candidacy,” Syafi‘i Maarif, head of the independent team, told reporters.
“The president must decide on this soon,” he said.
Widodo won election on a promise to do away with traditional politics dominated by powerful members of the country’s elite and to tackle entrenched corruption.
Gunawan is close to Megawati Sukarnoputri, former president and leader of Widodo’s political party, and some analysts see his nomination as police chief as a maneuver to appease her.
The uncertainty over Gunawan’s appointment has triggered a two-week feud between the graft-tainted police and KPK, which has won support among the public. The rival law enforcement agencies have long had strained relations.
In an apparent response to the KPK’s declaration about Gunawan, police named deputy KPK commissioner Bambang Widjojanto a suspect in a 2010 perjury case.
Widjojanto denied any wrongdoing and said the police action was a move by them to “destroy the KPK”.
Widodo has faced almost daily protests from anti-corruption activists and even some of his own supporters, accusing him of compromising his graft-fighting credentials for the interests of the political elite.
His advisers urged the president not to listen to the elite.
“He was carried by the party but elected by the people so prioritizing the people is good,” Maarif said.
Reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Randy Fabi, Robert Birsel