Cops to probe Gus Dur scandal

Police, believed to be acting on orders from the top, to quiz housewife on her claims to two magazines that she was the Indonesian President’s mistress.

Indonesian police said they will quiz 38-year-old housewife Aryanti Sitepu following her allegations in two magazines here that she was President Abdurrahman Wahid’s secret lover – a claim the Indonesian leader has dismissed as slander.

National police chief Rusdihardjo, who announced the investigation, described the matter – dubbed candidly by some here as the “Monica-yanti” scandal – as “not a serious crime”.

The four-star general, who became police commander earlier this year with the strong backing of Mr Abdurrahman is believed to be acting on presidential orders.

General Rusdihardjo, taking a tough stance on the issue, told reporters: “We need to know her motive for informing the press about the love affair and we want to know about the widely distributed photo of her sitting on the President’s lap.”

Ms Aryanti hogged the news here last week after the Gatra and Panji weekly news magazines carried interviews with her in which she claimed that the 60-year-old leader, who is partially blind, had an affair with her between 1995 and 1997. Some legislators also received packages containing a photograph of Mr Abdurrahman, dressed in a casual shirt and shorts, with Ms Aryanti, in a housedress, sitting on his lap.

Local media quoted police officials as saying that apart from questioning Ms Aryanti, they planned to collect information from other sources before sending her a letter of summons this week.

Police also announced plans to question the chief editors of Gatra and Panji – a move that has drawn criticism from the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI).

Said AJI coordinator Ging Ginandjar:

“The statements from police include terms such as ‘putting the President in the corner’ and ‘attacking the President personally’. Using these statements as the basis for an interrogation is like the outlandish reasons that were used by the New Order regime to send victims to court.”

The palace appears intent on putting paid to the allegations because for one thing, adultery or “zinar”, is a criminal offence in Indonesia.

Islamic and other groups opposed to Mr Abdurrahman could use the issue to tarnish his image as a religious leader of the 30-million-strong Nadhlatul Ulama – and eroding his moral authority would only undermine his support base among the clerics.

For the President, using the police to disprove Ms Aryanti’s charges is the only way to ward off opponents from further attacks.

Brushing aside the allegations, Mr Abdurrahman said on Friday that there were groups circulating gossip about his private life: “Frankly speaking, I do not care about the curses and obscenities, including the slander that I have a mistress.”

But most observers doubt that the “Monica-yanti” allegation will unfold in the same dramatic way as it did for US President Bill Clinton.

While the knives have been out for Mr Abdurrahman from among the more radical Islamic groups and opportunists, most Indonesians care little for the alleged affair even with the media hype.

Said a Western diplomat: “Indonesian society is generally tolerant of such matters given the pervasiveness of such practices among the political elite. In the end, there is a permissive culture here … Gus Dur might be given a chiding. But that is all. It is unlikely to bring him down.”

Posted in Indonesia