Irregularities surrounding the naming of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan as a candidate for the role of National Police chief have prompted observers to suggest that the move was related to an ongoing rivalry involving the force’s high-ranking generals, centering on the competition for the force’s top job.
A number of retired police generals acknowledged that fractures within the National Police had begun to become visible ever since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo planned to replace National Police chief Gen. Sutarman before the latter’s scheduled retirement.
“We are suspicious of the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission] because it is very strange to see it naming Budi a suspect while the latter had never been questioned before. Not to mention the timing, which inevitably prompted suspicion that the investigation had something to do with Budi’s nomination,” Insp. Gen. (ret) Sisno Adiwinoto said on Thursday.
Only a few days after Jokowi officially nominated Budi as a candidate for the role of National Police chief, the KPK announced that its investigators had named the latter a suspect in relation to alleged bribery and gratuities.
A plenary meeting at the House of Representatives on Thursday formally endorsed Budi’s nomination, despite his status as a graft suspect.
Sisno’s remarks seemingly affirmed speculation that suggested Budi’s rivals within the National Police had helped provide information to the KPK in relation to his alleged graft.
“If you are a true statesman, why didn’t you just go to the President to tell him that Budi’s nomination was inappropriate?” the former South Sulawesi Police chief said, refusing to disclose who he was referring to.
“The KPK’s investigation into Budi carries strong political intrigue. The tip-offs could have come from those who were disappointed by Budi,” he added.
“This intrigue is not healthy for the police force and the government as it is [creating] conflict among a number of high-ranking police figures as well as politicians,” Sisno said.
Former National Police chief Gen. (ret) Chaerudin Ismail also said he had heard that there was escalating tension within the force surrounding the nomination of Budi.
“I cannot confirm details of what has been actually happening but this is very dangerous to the reputation of the police force,” he said.
On Wednesday, incumbent National Police chief Gen. Sutarman expressed regret that Jokowi chose not to involve him and the National Police in the screening of his potential successors, as was done in the selection of previous police-chief candidates.
“Ideally, the National Police would have been asked to provide information about the candidates’ track records, as we already have an assessment mechanism in place,” said Sutarman.
Budi himself said that he had information indicating that a police general — one who had also been touted as potential police chief — had provided the KPK with evidence used to charge him with graft.
“But I don’t want to be trapped by negative thinking. Let’s just wait and see,” he said at the House on Wednesday.
Sutarman dismissed speculation that the sudden naming of Budi as a graft suspect was fueled by his disappointment in Budi’s nomination, which could result in Sutarman’s term being cut short before his scheduled retirement, or because of infighting among the force’s three-star generals.
“We don’t have any internal problems with Budi’s nomination. I assembled all the three-star generals this morning to discuss the issue and we all agreed to support the President’s decision,” he said on Wednesday.
Desmond Junaidi Mahesa insinuated on Thursday that he had seen on TV that Sutarman showed “happy gestures” after the KPK named Budi a suspect.
“I could spot the difference. Isn’t that strange?” he said.
NasDem Party lawmaker Akbar Faizal said he was disappointed by the police’s inability to settle the rivalry.
“If you have issues related to rivalry, settle it first and don’t throw the fireball at the House,” he told Budi during a hearing at the House on Wednesday.
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