Indonesia’s Deputy A-G and top cop resign in corruption scandal

(The Star) – Two of Indonesia’s leading law enforcement officials suddenly stepped down Thursday to soothe a tide of public rage over an escalating corruption scandal that has forced intervention by the president.

Deputy Attorney-General Abdul Hakim Ritonga and Gen. Susno Duadji, the head of national police investigations, resigned after being named in wiretaps this week that exposed a plot to undermine the Corruption Eradication Commission.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters he asked for their resignations. But he did not call for their arrests, or condemn their actions.

The men were scheduled to be questioned by a special fact-finding team with no power to initiate criminal charges.

The resignations — virtually unheard of in Javanese culture — were the culmination of a months-long battle between the top anti-graft agency and rival police and prosecutors in Indonesia, which is regularly ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world.

The case has fueled opposition to the police and poses a serious challenge to Yudhoyono’s newly installed government. He was re-elected in July for another five-year term in the Muslim-majority nation of 235 million.

The commission has been key to Indonesia’s efforts to wipe out a culture of corruption since the downfall in 1998 of late dictator Suharto. His 32-year rule was marred by human rights violations, cronyism and nepotism that held back economic development and continues to scares away potential investors.

Public outrage was sparked by the arrest last week of two deputies at the agency, known by its Indonesian acronym KPK. They were released after hundreds of thousands of Internet users signed a petition in their support on Facebook and protests were held across the main island, Java.

Ritonga and Gen. Duadji were named in wiretaps aired on live television this week in which bribes of hundreds of thousands of dollars and a plot to frame KPK deputies Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Riyanto were exposed.

Although Chandra and Bibit have since been released, they still face charges of abuse of power for improperly issuing a travel ban against a corruption suspect and allegedly hampering investigations by talking to the media.

Yudhoyono, a 60-year-old former general who was re-elected in July, had been widely credited for the success of the anti-corruption campaign during his first term in office. Scores of corrupt politicians, entrepreneurs and law enforcement officials were tried and convicted, including the father-in-law of one of the president’s sons.

The latest crisis poses a threat to his counter-corruption credentials and the reputation of Indonesia’s already poorly regarded judiciary. — AP