Golkar cuts deal to ditch Akbar and save itself

In a bid to avoid an inquiry that could drag in several party leaders, Golkar will not oppose legal proceedings to bring Akbar to trial.

Detained Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung looks set to be ditched by his Golkar party in a move to avoid a damning probe into a financial scandal that could implicate several other party leaders.

In a last-minute backroom deal still being brokered yesterday, Golkar appeared to have bought some breathing space with legislators backing down on the move to set up a team to investigate corruption allegations.

But it came with an important political caveat: that the party will not impede legal proceedings against Mr Akbar who would be offered as ‘a sacrificial lamb’.

Sources told The Straits Times that the deal had the backing of President Megawati Sukarnoputri and a key faction in her Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDI-P) and several Golkar stalwarts, including Mr Fahmi Idris and Mr Agung Laksono.

‘Ibu Mega prefers Akbar, as a New Order crony, to remain the focus of investigations rather than drag in other Golkar members,’ a senior PDI-P legislator said.

He said that she wanted to pursue this course of action because she was not prepared for a head-on collision with Golkar, the second-largest parliamentary faction.

Said the source: ‘It is going to be hard for her to run this country if Golkar makes things difficult for her.’

The PDI-P officials said that Ms Megawati preferred legal action against Mr Akbar and others like former economic czar Ginandjar Kartasasmita because it boosted her credentials as a leader who was cracking down on corruption.

Not everyone in her party supported the move to do away with a probe team. This included a faction headed by Mr Roy Janis who saw the probe as a way to improve Ms Megawati and PDI-P’s public standing.

The PDI-P’s position had long been to support the establishment of a probe team if the legal process did not take its due course.

Said party secretary-general Sutjipto: ‘If the legal process goes well, we don’t need such a team.’

Indeed, Mr Akbar’s dramatic arrest last week has given little reason for the PDI-P leadership to push the case for a parliamentary probe.

Legislators yesterday delayed taking a vote on the matter in the face of growing resistance from the PDI-P and Golkar, while others like the Nation Awakening Party (PKB) continued to push for investigations.

Golkar members were fast accepting the reality that Mr Akbar cannot survive the incriminating evidence against him. They would sacrifice him rather than leave other party members exposed to complicity that could lead to Golkar being barred from the 2004 polls.

Said a senior Golkar official: ‘In the end, many members are putting their own interests and that of their party first. They are not willing to take the risk now to protect Akbar.’

Mr Akbar allegedly misappropriated 40 billion rupiah (S$7.3 million) of state funds when he was the state secretary in 1999. He has denied any wrongdoing, saying the money had been used for a government aid programme. But the A-G’s Office found that the money allegedly funded Golkar’s campaign in the 1999 election.

His trial date has been fixed on March 25.

Party’s interests first

‘In the end, many members are putting their own interests and that of their party first. They are not willing to take the risk now to protect Akbar.’
– A senior Golkar official

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