With recent scandals and polling suggesting a very hard road until April’s election for presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto, his camp has decided to take a new tact by attacking President Joko Widodo on one of the ugliest blemishes on his administration’s anti-corruption record: the still unsolved mystery behind the acid attack on Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan.
Andre Rosiade, a spokesperson for the Prabowo’s campaign, said that the Gerindra chairman was ready to be tougher on corruption than President Jokowi, should he win, and he specifically promised to resolve the mystery of who attacked Novel.
“Pak Jokowi is not brave and unable to form a TGPF (Fact Finding Team) regarding this case. Pak Prabowo, as president, will immediately form a TGPF and, God willing, three months later the problem will be resolved,” Andre told Kompas yesterday night.
On the morning of April 11, 2017, Novel was splashed with hydrochloric acid in the face by two people on a motorcycle as he was leaving a mosque near his home in Jakarta. The attack took place while the KPK was in the midst of of one of its biggest investigations ever after it accused dozens of high-level politicians of taking part in a scheme to rob the state of US$170 million worth of misappropriated funds from the program for the country’s new e-KTP electronic ID cards (which has led to the highly dramatic arrest of former House Speaker Setya Novanto).
Novel spent many months recovering from the attack, which left him blind in his left eye. Unbowed despite his injuries, he returned to work at the KPK in July.
Although police say they are still working on Novel’s case, over a year and a half after the attack they have never been able to identify the assailants nor have they announced any new developments in the case for many months.
It’s questionable whether Prabowo’s promised TGPF could shed any new light on the case within three months, but the fact that Novel’s case still remains unresolved is certainly one of the biggest failures of the Jokowi administration in terms of its support for anti-corruption efforts and certainly a legitimate subject of criticism.
Although Jokowi’s administration has a generally good reputation for not being mired in the corruption endemic to Indonesian politics, a recent scandal involving bribery accusations against National Police Chief Tito Karnavian has put Jokowi’s campaign on the defensive. Prabowo’s camp may have seen that as the opening they needed to press their case that the former general could do a better job on corruption than the current administration.