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Indonesian NGOs Blast Police Appointment of Scandal-tainted Candidate

FILE - Budi Gunawan attends a hearing with lawmakers in Jakarta, Jan. 14, 2015.

FILE - Budi Gunawan attends a hearing with lawmakers in Jakarta, Jan. 14, 2015.

Indonesian civil society groups are sharply criticizing the appointment of General Budi Gunawan to be vice chief of police, despite his candidacy for the top job being dropped in February because of his implication in a corruption scandal.

While much of the nation's attention was on the Asia-Africa summit in Jakarta Wednesday, Gunawan was quietly sworn in as the number two official for the national police force.

He originally was President Joko Widodo's first choice for police chief. But the president, widely known as Jokowi, canceled the nomination after the general was named as a suspect in a corruption scandal.

Now, many of the same groups that applauded the decision to drop the nomination are criticizing Gunawan's elevation to the second highest police post.

An analyst at the Center of Indonesian Law and Policy (PSHK) Thursday told VOA his group plans to send a protest letter to President Jokowi and Chief of Police General Badrodin Haiti.

Miko Susanto Ginting told VOA that Gunawan should not be in the post because he is still under investigation for corruption.

“The president could have cautioned the chief of police that in choosing a vice chief of police, anyone who is in the middle of a legal process shouldn’t be selected," he said. "The public increasingly have no trust in law enforcement because of the legal problems facing the appointee.”

When asked about the appointment Wednesday, the president did not directly address the controversy, saying only that he had asked the police chief to improve the performance of the department.

The Civil Society Coalition Against Corruption of Jogjakarta Thursday demanded the nullification of the appointment, saying the process should have been transparent.

But police spokesman Anton Charliyan defended the process Wednesday, saying, “The meeting to decide the candidate was a secret, the appointment itself is called a secret telegram, so I hope you can respect that.”

The coordinator of Indonesian Court Monitoring (ICM), Tri Wahyu, said the appointment casts doubt on the president's commitment to battle corruption.

“For us at the Civil Society Coalition Against Corruption, Budi Gunawan is a policeman and a politician. He is close to… the political party in power, but ironically President Jokowi gave his blessings for the appointment. For us, the problem is not only Budi Gunawan but Jokowi-Kalla regime is also problematic," said Wahyu.

Widodo, who narrowly won election with a promise to ushering in clean, effective government, took the unusual step of having almost all of his high-ranking appointees vetted by the anti-corruption commission. But one exception was Gunawan, whom the commission has accused of accepting illegal gifts when he was heading the police human resources department from 2003 to 2006.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Indonesian Service.