JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s government will back controversial revisions to the law governing its top anti-graft agency, a senior cabinet minister said in a statement on Monday.
Lawmakers in parliament have been in discussions to review the authority of the popular Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), proposing revisions that critics say will leave the agency unable to effectively fight endemic graft in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
“The government will agree to the revisions as long as they can be shown to strengthen the KPK, and not weaken it,” said chief security affairs minister Luhut Pandjaitan.
Criticism from anti-corruption activists and the KPK itself last week prompted President Joko Widodo to ask parliament to suspend its discussions.
Among parliament’s proposals, which the government backs, are the limiting of the KPK’s powers to wiretap suspects without a warrant and setting up a watchdog for the KPK.
“All this time, the wiretapping has been done without any coordination or clear accountability even within the KPK,” Pandjaitan said, adding the new law should call for the agency to set up a standard operating procedure to approve wiretaps.
The government agrees with the KPK’s need to hire independent investigators, Pandjaitan said, while parliament has sought to limit its pool to just the police and attorney general’s office.
The new chief of the KPK, Agus Rahardjo, has threatened to resign if the revisions proposed by parliament are enacted, saying they will make it impossible for the agency to make arrests.
The KPK suffered huge setbacks last year when a bitter rivalry with police prompted the arrests of three key KPK personnel and several cases ground to a halt.
Parliament and police are widely perceived to be among the most corrupt institutions in Indonesia, and MPs and police officials are often the targets of KPK investigations.
Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editng by Michael Perry