Setya dodges prosecution
Setya survives another test KPK will need to find new evidence to net Setya
Like a cat with its mythical nine lives, Golkar Party chairman and House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto, a key ally of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, has managed to escape even the most severe tests to his political survival.
He dodged the bullet yet again on Friday after the South Jakarta District Court issued a petition to revoke his suspect status in a graft case touted by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) as the country’s biggest — in terms of state losses — in at least a decade.
With the court’s decision, the KPK can no longer continue its prosecution against Setya based on the current evidence.
“[I hereby] partially grant the plaintiff’s motion, ordering the defendant [KPK] to stop their investigation of Setya Novanto,” sole judge Cepi Iskandar said during the reading of the ruling, which has raised a chorus of condemnation from antigraft activists who deemed the outcome a travesty of justice.
However, Cepi denied Setya’s request for the KPK to revoke its travel ban on him.
The ruling ultimately hinged on evidence used by the KPK to name Setya a suspect, but Cepi argued that the evidence was inadmissible because it had been taken from cases that implicated parties who have now been convicted, namely former Home Ministry officials Irman and Sugiharto.
Cepi suggested that the KPK collect new evidence.
“Therefore, the KPK does not have sufficient evidence to name Setya a suspect in the case,” Cepi said, adding that the KPK had not followed procedure.
A pretrial decision cannot be appealed.
Setya is accused of playing a key role in a scheme to skim funds earmarked for e-ID procurements between 2009 and 2012, costing the state Rp 2.3 trillion (US$ 171 million).
KPK legal bureau head Setiadi, who was present at the hearing, said the antigraft body respected the ruling, but suggested the judge may not have been meticulous enough in reaching his decision.
KPK deputy chairman Laode Muhammad Syarif expressed the agency’s disappointment with the outcome, which he said “hindered attempts to resolve the case.”
Both Setiadi and Laode said the KPK would study the ruling before determining a strategy to maintain Setya as a person of interest in the case.
However, Setiadi also hinted that the KPK would issue a letter ordering the start of another investigation into Setya’s alleged role in the graft scandal, as a 2016 Supreme Court regulation allows the issuance of a new order for an investigation even after a suspect status is revoked in a pretrial hearing.
Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) activist Lalola Easter was optimistic the KPK would have no obstacles in rebuilding its case.
There have been precedents that saw suspects escape prosecution due to pretrial hearings, only to be renamed as suspects, she added.
Lalola cited the graft case involving former Makassar Mayor Ilham Arief Sirajuddin. A pretrial decision in favor of Arief was issued in 2015, but the KPK renamed him a suspect two weeks later. Arief is now serving a fouryear prison sentence.
Despite the reprieve from prosecution, Setya continues to be dogged by demands from Golkar rivals to step down following a plunge in the party’s electability based on a recent survey.
Golkar executive chairman Nurdin Halid said that “regardless of the outcome of Setya’s pretrial motion, the party will continue to evaluate his chairmanship.”
He assured that the legal process Setya was facing would have little impact on the political process of his future leadership in Golkar, the country’s second biggest party after Jokowi’s Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
“The evaluation we are currently conducting is to respond to the party’s declining electability, because we must soon take measures with the regional elections approaching,” Nurdin said Friday on the sidelines of Golkar’s national meeting to prepare for next year’s election.
“So, whether or not the court grants his pretrial request, it has nothing to do with what the executive board has been doing.”
Setya, who has been targeted in three different major graft cases in the past but has evaded prosecution, has been a staunch supporter of Jokowi by keeping Golkar in the ruling coalition, which accounts for the majority in the House of Representatives.
Under Setya, Golkar is the first party guaranteeing a presidential ticket for Jokowi in the 2019 presidential election, despite a decision by PDI-P not to follow suit.