Indonesia’s anti-graft bill ushered in after deadly protests

Police spokesman Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo (back, centre) briefs journalists during a media presentation of suspected militants in Jakarta October 17, 2019, following an assassination attempt on Indonesia’s chief security minister Wiranto. — AFP pic
Police spokesman Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo (back, centre) briefs journalists during a media presentation of suspected militants in Jakarta October 17, 2019, following an assassination attempt on Indonesia’s chief security minister Wiranto. — AFP pic

JAKARTA, Oct 17 — A controversial law critics say would weaken Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency came into effect today after it sparked nationwide protests that left at least three students dead and scores injured.

The new bill was introduced as the South-east Asian nation is on high alert ahead of President Joko Widodo’s second-term inauguration Sunday, after Islamic State-linked militants tried to assassinate a government minister.

Under tight security in the capital Jakarta today, about a hundred students protested against Widodo not rolling back the law after he earlier pledged to consider a revision.

The legislation will see the appointment of a board to oversee Indonesia’s graft-busting agency — known as the KPK — and limits its ability to wire-tap corruption suspects in the graft-riddled nation.

“The new law will make it difficult to arrest big fish,” said Syamsuddin Haris, a political analyst at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

“If Widodo doesn’t stop or annul the law, then public confidence in him is going to drop...It would show he is a prisoner of the oligarchy. It’ll kill his image as a man of the people.”

A recent survey by pollster Lembaga Survey Indonesia found 70 per cent of respondents thought the new law would weaken the agency.

Weeks of demonstrations that started in September were also fuelled by a proposed bill that included dozens of legal changes — from criminalising pre-marital sex and restricting contraceptive sales, to making it illegal to insult the president and toughening the Muslim-majority country’s blasphemy law.

Those changes were delayed after the backlash.

The countrywide protests were among Indonesia’s biggest student rallies since mass street demonstrations in 1998 toppled the Suharto dictatorship. Three students die in the unrest.

Widodo’s inauguration on Sunday comes just over a week after his chief security minister was stabbed in an unrelated attack by two IS-linked militants, who were arrested at the scene.

Today, police said 40 suspected militants had been arrested in a nationwide dragnet following the attack last week on Security Minister Wiranto, a former general who goes by one name. The 72-year-old is recovering in hospital. — AFP

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