New graft scandal hangs over Gus Dur

He allegedly took donations from the Middle East to solve Aceh’s problems without reporting the funds properly.

Fresh accusations of graft have been made against President Abdurrahman Wahid for allegedly receiving US$90 million (S$162.9 million) in funds meant for the restive province of Aceh from several Middle Eastern countries.

The accusation, by Golkar legislator Ali Yahya and published in the latest edition of the Forum Keadilan magazine, was dismissed immediately by presidential aides as another attempt by Mr Abdurrahman’s critics to discredit him.

Nevertheless, it could further undermine the image of the Indonesian leader, who has already been accused of involvement in the “Bruneigate” and “Buloggate” financial scandals.

Those centred on a US$2-million donation from the Sultan of Brunei and the embezzlement of US$3.5 million from state food agency Bulog by the President’s former masseur.

According to the magazine, Mr Ali said Mr Abdurrahman revealed that he had received the funds when he appeared at a parliamentary commission hearing in November 1999, after returning from Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan.

He reportedly said that the funds were a donation to resolve problems in Aceh.

But Mr Ali said he did not report the funds to the proper authorities – as happened in “Bruneigate”.

Mr Yahya Staquf, deputy secretary-general of the President’s Nation Awakening Party, said the latest charges were “baseless and politically motivated”.

But he acknowledged that funds to bail Indonesia out of its economic difficulties had been obtained through government channels from several countries in the Middle East.

“I don’t know the amount that we received but it was not just for Aceh … And Gus Dur did not receive any of them directly. There was no personal benefit,” he told The Straits Times yesterday.

Political observers said the allegation by Mr Ali could be taken as “sweet revenge” for his not getting the governorship of West Java.

Other analysts see the latest accusation as being put out by Golkar, which believes that several of its leaders have become political targets of the President and his supporters.

A senior Golkar legislator said Mr Ali had “the quiet backing of the party to unearth more dirt on the President”. But whether he finds it will make no difference to some.

Said Mr Meilono Soewondo of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle: “Arabgate or no Arabgate, we have already made up our minds. His credibility is zero already. It can’t get any worse.”

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