Akbar under threat again

New scandal could hurt Golkar leader’s presidential bid.

A dagger is pointing again at Golkar leader Akbar Tandjung’s political future.

Barely a month after being freed by the Supreme Court for corruption, he is facing another damning scandal that could derail his presidential bid.

A former government prosecutor has accused the leader of reneging on promises to pay him for inside information on his graft trial.

Mr Kito Irkhamni, former aide of Attorney-General M.A. Rachman, said Mr Akbar hired him in July 2002 to spy on court discussions of his corruption trial and to ‘convince’ judges that he was innocent.

During this period, he was given two cheques worth 325 million rupiah (S$63,800) for ‘operational expenses’.

But Mr Kito claimed that a sum of 1 billion rupiah was still owed to him as fees for his services – an amount he has asked Mr Akbar to now pay together with another 5 billion rupiah in material damages.

The Golkar chairman swiftly brushed aside the charges, but his supporters are concerned this will provide more fodder for his enemies within and outside the party to discredit him.

His rivals had long hoped that a guilty verdict against him in the two-year-long corruption scandal would have barred him from entering the presidential race.

But the decision by the judges to exonerate him last month did what they feared most: It allowed him to consolidate his grip on Golkar, a move that may well see him emerge as the party’s top contender for the presidency.

A Golkar executive told The Straits Times: ‘The dagger is still pointing at Akbar. He survived the first round. This is Act 2 of the plot to finish him off.’

Indeed, sources reveal that the latest revelation is part of an internal power struggle in Golkar between Mr Akbar and his principal challengers – former military commander Wiranto and media magnate Suryo Paloh – both of whom are taking part in the Golkar convention next month.

The Akbar camp believes the two may have had a hand in getting Mr Kito to go public with the information.

A Golkar member charged that Mr Kito had ‘a reputation of serving two masters as long as they are prepared to pay a price for his loyalty’.

‘Kito served Akbar and may or may not have been paid,’ he said. ‘Now, he sees the opportunity to get something more by working with his enemies.’

His track record is telling.

The source revealed that last year, for example, he tried to undermine the Attorney-General by making public documents that disclosed he had not fully declared his assets to the government.

Then, speculation was rife that he was acting in cohort with a group of legislators from the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle that was conspiring to topple Mr Rachman.

Backed by President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Mr Rachman stayed on in office.

Mr Kito was fired, but he carved out a niche as a broker in high-profile court cases, including Mr Akbar’s.

Will the Golkar chairman survive Act 2?

On the surface, Mr Kito’s allegation appears to have dented Mr Akbar’s credibility further – but not his resolve.

Mr Akbar is a wily politician and a survivor who sees Golkar’s phoenix rising this year – and his own star shining if his party does well in the April 5 election.

His rivals could seek to undermine his credibility by using the media to blow up the scandal. But they will not be able to hold a candle to him if Golkar does well in the polls.

As chairman, he will take credit for the victory and reinforce his hold on the party.

The dagger will then point in the direction of his enemies.

Or will there be an Act 3?

THE SCANDAL

FORMER attorney-general aide Kito Irkhamni has accused Mr Akbar Tandjung (left) of hiring him in July 2002 to spy on court discussions of his corruption trial. Mr Kito was allegedly given two cheques worth 325 million rupiah (S$63,800) for expenses, but he claims he is still owed 1 billion rupiah in fees.

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