Friday, 11 July 2014

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Yudhoyono's Annus Horribilis

Revelations of corruption continue from former fugitive treasurer Nazaruddin

As 2011 draws to a close, it would be hard to imagine a worse year for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party. The president’s image as a reformer has been irreparably damaged, along with his party’s hopes to maintain control of Indonesian politics into the future.

Much – but not all -- of the damage has come at the hands of Muhammad Nazaruddin, the former treasurer of the party, who has been delivering up bombshell after bombshell in a Jakarta courtroom for much of the last month.

This week was no exception. Nazaruddin showed reporters copies of 16 receipts for bribes allegedly paid by Party Chairman Anas Urbaningrum to individuals connected to the controversial Athletes’ Village constructed for the Southeast Asia Games which were held in November.

Nazaruddin fled Jakarta in May ahead of arrest by the Corruption Eradication Commission. He has drawn Yudhoyono himself into the mess, saying he had visited the president’s home the day before he hurriedly decamped for Singapore, to tell him of the involvement of top Democratic Party officials in the scandals. Nazaruddin’s lawyers told reporters in early December that the president hadn’t acted on the former treasurer’s information.

Nazaruddin was on the run for months before he was intercepted by Interpol in Cartagena, a resort city on the Colombian coast. During that period of freedom, he texted and tweeted reporters in Jakarta, alleging the involvement of the party officials.

Urbaningrum was once considered one of Yudhoyono’s young reformers and was a presumptive candidate for the presidency when the president’s term ends in 2014, as was former Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng. With the evidence Nazaruddin has offered against other top Democratic Party officials, however, it is unlikely that the party will be able to field a candidate at all.

The marriage of Yudhoyono’s son, Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, and Siti Ruby Aliaya Rajasa, the daughter of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Hatta Rajasa, was touted in November as producing Hatta as a viable political candidate. Hatta is the chairman of the moderate Islamist National Mandate Party (PAN) and, under this theory, would be nominated in 2014 to replace SBY as the country’s chief executive in national elections. PAN has already announced that Hatta, a seasoned political veteran who has served in four different cabinets and is one of the president’s closest advisors, would be nominated as the party‘s candidate to hold the fort until Edhie ages enough to seek the presidency.

That theory has been largely forgotten, however. No other major figures have emerged, leaving the race open to such unlikely figures as Aburizal Bakrie, the coal tycoon and head of Golkar, who has been tarred with a long series of scandals himself, and Wiranto, a retired general who was accused of a long list of human rights violations at the time the strongman Suharto fell in 1998, and in 1999 in East Timor as the fledgling country fought for independence from Indonesia. Another mentioned is Prabowo Subianto, like Wiranto a onetime general who was also accused of extensive human rights violations. Both ran in national elections held in 2009 although neither gathered many votes.

The constant barrage of revelations by Nazaruddin – often delivered to reporters with a big smile on his face -- also has put paid to earlier suppositions that he would shut up and that his testimony would be muted because it involves top Indonesian political and business figures. Despite the fact that an official of the Corruption Eradication Commission said the 16 receipts can’t be considered valid evidence in Nazaruddin’s trial, their widespread publication is damning evidence against Democratic Party leaders.

Indonesia being Indonesia, however, spectacular revelations come and go.  A former mid-level tax official, Gayus Tambunan, who like Nazaruddin went on walkabout, although from jail, alleged that Bakrie had evaded hundreds of millions of US dollars in taxes. However, the allegations have oozed away to nothiong.

Although Nazaruddin is standing trial for allegedly taking bribes in the bid-rigging case linked to the construction of the athletes’ village, he has previously accused Urbaningrum of corruption in another project, the construction of Hambalang Stadium in Bogor. He has also implicated Democratic lawmaker Angelina Sondakh, a glamorous former beauty queen and television presenter, for having extorted bribes in the same athletes’ village case for which he is on trial.

“These receipts are proof. For the originals, ask Anas because he is the one holding them,” Nazaruddin told reporters Wednesday. On Thursday, he said he explained to KPK investigators all about the Hambalang project and how Anas had allegedly taken a bribe from state-owned construction firm Adhi Karya to give it the contract for the project. He also claimed that Anas then used the money to fund his successful bid for the Democratic Party chairmanship at the party’s national caucus in 2010.

Nazaruddin has also accused Saan Mustofa, the Democratic deputy secretary general, of distributing the money as bribes in exchange for votes for Anas.

“I’ve already told them everything, from where the money came from to who passed it on and where — everything,” Nazaruddin said after being questioned at the KPK office.

He added that he was also quizzed about other projects awarded to Adhi Karya, including the construction of a tax office building and an electricity grid in East Kalimantan. It seems certain that the revelations will continue into the new year.

(With reporting from Jakarta Globe)