The KPK's Proving Ground: Indonesian corruption suspect Nunun Nurbaeti to undergo questioning

Updated On: Dec 14, 2011

Nunun Nurbaeti, one of Indonesia’s most wanted corruption suspects was finally captured in Bangkok and brought in to Jakarta for questioning. She fainted just as the proceedings began and was rushed to hospital, in what is suspected to be another attempt to avoid the law. The Corruption Eradication Comission (KPK) is now at the center of the nation’s attention—the sentence handed down to Nunun will mean many things for powerful interests in the country, and furthermore will signal for the Indonesian population whether the KPK truly is the strong arm of the law, or a tool in the hand of powerful interests.

For the Indonesian public, law enforcement in the country, in particular the fight against corruption, is seen by many as politically motivated, making it vulnerable to political intervention. The Nunun Nurbaeti case will be the KPK’s proving ground, and it remains to be seen whether the comission will continue to operate sluggishly, or if it will restore confidence in the law. 

The warrant and arrest

One of Indonesia’s most wanted corruption suspects, Nunun Nurbaeti arrived in Indonesia on the 10th of December after she was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand. Nunun was captured in a rented house by Thai Police and Interpol after five months on the run. She was  imprisoned with 35 other detainees at Pondok Bambu in Jakarta before her questioning on Monday, 12th of December, when she fainted halfway through the proceedings and was rushed to hospital.

Nunun is wanted under suspicion of having distributed Rp 24 billion (US$2.7 million) in traveler’s checks to legislators to bring Miranda Goeltom into office as senior deputy governor for the Indonesian central bank. Nunun departed from Indonesia in March 2010 to ‘seek treatment’ for an illness, but seemed to have disappeared for good by the time a warrant was released for her arrest in May. Her husband, Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) leader Adang Daradjatun, admitted to keeping in touch with his wife up to her arrest, but consistently refused to furnish information about her whereabouts to the authorities.

Nunun’s health roller-coaster

Various details in this high-profile case have incensed people on every side. Some argue that Adang’s refusal to cooperate with authorities is an offense under anti-corruption laws, while PKS party members have stood by Adang’s decision, saying that it is a husband’s prerogative to keep information about his wife private. The popular sentiment among the Indonesian people is that a heavy sentence for Nunun is long overdue, and that her recent fainting spell at the KPK office was a ploy to avoid questioning.

Johan Budi, spokesman for the Corruption Eradication Comission, said that health checks performed on Nunun before her questioning showed she was in good health, and that she did not have high blood pressure, as her doctor and lawyer claimed. Chandra Hamzah, another KPK figure who was on hand when Nunun was transferred to Indonesian authorities in Bangkok said that Nunun immediately identified him on sight, casting serious doubt on claims that Nunun suffered amnesia and dementia, for which she sought treatment overseas.

Professionals like the Indonesian Judicial Watch Society’s Muhammad Hendra Setiawan and Indonesian Doctors Association Chairman Priyo Sidi Pratomo are also of the opinion that claims of illness by suspects and witnesses in graft cases should be considered with great wariness. Both lamented the fact that the KPK still lack standard procedure for assessing the medical conditions of these suspects, especially because the doctors responsible for these persons are appointed by the suspects themselves.

The KPK: Between a rock and a hard place

Nunun’s capture is far from the end of the story. The case Nunun is tied to also implicates quite a number of high-powered players in Indonesian politics, and all eyes are now on the Corruption Eradication Comission, following their every move and waiting to see if they will buckle under powerful interests or prove themselves to be reliable partners of the people in the fight against graft.

Nunun’s case, for example, has embittered Megawati Soekarno Putri, former president and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) party leader. Of the 28 lawmakers convicted in connection to the Miranda Goeltom case, many are members of the PDI-P party. Megawati and her party have accused the KPK of targeting opponents of the ruling government.

The fact that it has taken the KPK over a year to arrest Nunun has also given the impression that political interests are at play. Not to mention, Nunun’s husband, Adang, is a former National Police Deputy Chief. Golkar Party lawmaker Bambang Soesatyo noted that many parties do not want Miranda Goeltom charged, as she may reveal various wrongdoings at Bank Indonesia in connection with the 2008 Bank Century bailout. To that effect, they are likely to try to keep Nunun from being convicted as well.

Report: Nunun Nurbaeti Has Landed [The Jakarta Globe, 10 December 2011]

Report: Megawati ‘Bitter’ over Nunun Corruption Case [Jakarta Globe, 12 December 2011]

Report: Nunun’s Trip Ends [Jakarta Post, 11 December 2011]

Report: Nunun Faints at KPK Office from ‘High Blood Pressure’ [The Jakarta Globe, 13 December 2011]

Report: Nunun’s Health Needs a Second Opinion [Jakarta Post, 14 December 2011]

Commentary: Nunun’s Fiery Tale [Jakarta Post, 14 December 2011]

Commentary: The Thinker: A KPK Swan Song? [Jakarta Globe, 13 December 2011]

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