JAKARTA (Reuters) - Three-star general Budi Gunawan was quietly sworn in as Indonesia’s No. 2 police officer on Wednesday, two months after being dropped by the president for the top job due to his implication in a bribery scandal.
The politically connected general was initially chosen by President Joko Widodo to lead the national police force, but his name was eventually withdrawn in February after weeks of public outcry.
Gunawan has maintained his innocence in the bribery case, and the case against him was eventually dropped by Indonesia’s main anti-graft agency.
Widodo’s anti-graft credentials - which helped bring him to power six months ago - were dented by the controversy, and his weeks of dithering raised questions about his readiness to take on vested interests in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
The president eventually chose Badrodin Haiti as police chief, who in turn picked Gunawan to be his deputy soon after being inaugurated earlier this month.
“The inauguration of Budi Gunawan has started according to our tradition,” said police spokesman Anton Charliyan. “The meeting to decide the candidate was a secret, the appointment itself is called a secret telegram, so I hope you can respect that.”
The inauguration was closed to the media and occurred as attention focused on an Asia-Africa summit in the capital.
Gunawan is close to Megawati Sukarnoputri, former president and leader of Widodo’s political party, and many consider the appointment a political maneuver aimed at appeasing the president’s patron.
Widodo said he was consulted about Gunawan’s promotion.
“I ordered the police chief to consolidate the police institution,” he told reporters. “And ordered him to improve the internal working mechanism of the police.”
But anti-graft activists said the appointment reflected badly on the president and raised questions about much-needed reforms of the police, one of Indonesia’s most corrupt public institutions.
“We talked about getting people to invest in Indonesia ... but how are people supposed to feel comfortable investing when there is a police force and a judiciary with such little credibility?” said Natalia Soebagjo, board member of Transparency International.
Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by John Chalmers and Alex Richardson