Suharto won’t sack minister over Busang gold hoax
PRESIDENT Suharto has rejected mounting calls to sack Energy and Mines Minister I.B. Sudjana over the Busang gold hoax.
“Tell Sudjana it was me who appointed him as minister,” State Secretary Moerdiono quoted the President as saying.
Mr Moerdiono told reporters on Friday that it would complicate matters if certain individuals or groups demanded his resignation.
“So I am not going to comment on the matter,” he said.
“Please interpret the President’s answer yourselves.”
The Indonesia Times yesterday said that Mr Suharto’s comments on the matter came after Mr Sudjana reported to him on Thursday about demands for the latter’s resignation.
Several students demonstrated in Jakarta last week, calling on him to quit his post. Mr Sudjana said last week that he would co-operate with police if they called him in for questioning. Indonesian police have formed a special task force to investigate the scam, with powers to interview senior mining-industry officials.
Pressure on him to leave his post came in the midst of reports that his ministry’s secretary-general, Mr Umar Said, was being replaced.
The Indonesia Times quoted industry sources as saying that Mr Said took part in the negotiations leading to the Busang deal earlier this year.
But Mr Sudjana dismissed as rumours allegations that his secretary-general was involved in bribery, saying that his removal was part of personnel changes in the ministry.
Meanwhile, police said that preliminary investigations into the Busang scandal had not found any indication of criminal acts committed in Indonesia. But police were still collecting data and evidence.
“There are a lot of things in this case which need to be clarified,” The Jakarta Post quoted police spokesman Bambang Haryoko as saying yesterday.
He said, though, that it was still necessary to see why the Canadian company Bre-X Minerals claimed there was gold in Busang, where the scam actually took place and who was the mastermind of the hoax.
Colonel Bambang said that the task force would also investigate the possibility of collusion.
But he noted: “It’s not that simple. Can we say that there was an act of collusion just because the authorities had given chances or memos allowing Bre-X to follow up its proposal on the gold mine?”
The Indonesian government has vowed to take legal action against Bre-X if it was proved to have acted fraudulently.
THE Busang gold mine in East Kalimantan was said to have 71 million ounces of gold and touted as the biggest gold find of the century.
However, an interim report by independent consultants Strathcona Minerals Services said that the gold samples had been tampered with and described the scam as “without precedent in the history of mining anywhere in the world”.
Bre-X Minerals shares collapsed after its Indonesian mining property was revealed as worthless and was delisted by the Toronto Stock Exchange and suspended by the Montreal and Alberta exchanges.