Job in the balance – ‘Strong evidence’ links Gus Dur to scandals
Parliamentary probe team uncovers enough information to suggest Abdurrahman’s involvement in Buloggate and Bruneigate scandals.
President Abdurrahman Wahid’s political lifeline hung in the balance as key members of a parliamentary probe team yesterday disclosed that there was strong evidence linking the Indonesian leader to two controversial financial scandals.
Mr Alvin Lie, a member of the Reform Faction in the DPR, said the 50-member team had uncovered enough information to suggest that Mr Abdurrahman was involved in the Buloggate and Bruneigate scandals.
“There is evidence to show that the President abused his power,” he told The Straits Times in an interview.
Both scandals, he said, could set in motion impeachment proceedings in the months to come.
Buloggate involves the theft of US$4.1 million (S$7.1 million) from the national food agency, Bulog, by people claiming to be acting on Mr Abdurrahman’s behalf.
They included his masseur Suwondo.
The second scandal, called Bruneigate, is over the President’s acceptance outside government channels of a US$2 million donation from the Sultan of Brunei for humanitarian aid in the restive Aceh province.
Mr Alvin declined to provide specific details of Mr Abdurrahman’s complicity except to say that he was “directly or indirectly involved” in both cases.
Others interviewed revealed that the parliamentary commission had established “one critical bit of information” that could implicate the President over Buloggate.
Legislators said that contrary to Mr Abdurrahman’s claims of not knowing Mr Suwondo, the President was in fact “very close” to the masseur and was in a position to know that he had siphoned off funds from Bulog.
Mr Alvin brushed aside suggestions that the team would “whitewash” the whole affair, saying that despite threats to physical security and bribery, the members were “objective and serious in getting to the bottom of things”.
He said: “The great majority of members show great commitment to reaching the truth. We won’t hide the truth.”
But political observers and legislators said it might be premature for opponents plotting to topple the Muslim cleric to celebrate because horse-trading and money politics in Parliament could throw a spanner in the works.
Some legislators said political infighting in the commission represented by all the major parliamentary factions made it difficult for the team to strike a compromise early.
“There are still divisions among the members on how to handle the whole affair,” a senior legislator from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said.
“One major consideration is whether by implicating Gus Dur it will result in mass demonstrations and violence in the country,” he said, using Mr Abdurrahman’s nickname.
Of concern is last week’s warning by a dozen influential religious clerics linked to the President that there would be “anarchy” in Indonesia if Mr Abdurrahman was found guilty.
Meanwhile, students yesterday held protests against the President in at least two Indonesian cities, demanding that Mr Abdurrahman step down.
Analysts are also doubtful whether legislators can muster enough votes to support any commission findings implicating Mr Abdurrahman.
Already, two of the largest parties in Parliament – PDI-P and Golkar – are split on the matter, with contradictory signals emanating from different groups within both parties.
Golkar legislator Slamet Effendy Yusuf said: “There are some in the party who support Gus Dur. The rest, however, will support whatever the findings of the probe team.”
Others said that members of the probe team and legislators well known for their earlier hard line stance against the President were now “taking a softer approach to the whole matter”.
Noted Mr Slamet: “Things can change overnight. Money politics could enter the picture. Intense horse trading is going on.”
Controversial financial dealings
BULOGGATE It involves the theft of US$4.1 million (S$7.1 million) from the national food agency, Bulog, by people claiming to be acting on Mr Abdurrahman’s behalf. They included his masseur Suwondo.
BRUNEIGATE The second scandal is over the President’s acceptance outside government channels of a US$2 million (S$3.4 million) donation from the Sultan of Brunei for humanitarian aid in the restive Aceh province.