Indonesia President set to act on corruption scandal

Last Updated: Monday, November 23, 2009 - 14:09

Jakarta: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was set to announce Monday "controversial" action on a high-level corruption scandal that has gripped the country for weeks and shaken his presidency.
Yudhoyono is scheduled on Monday night to respond to recommendations of an independent legal team set up to look into an alleged plot by law enforcers to frame senior officials at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

"(My action) will be controversial, it will have consequences, but it`s a risk that I have to take," Yudhoyono was quoted by The Jakarta Post daily as telling a meeting of Indonesian media leaders late Sunday.

The alleged conspiracy -- revealed in KPK wiretaps played in court earlier this month -- to frame KPK deputy heads Bibit Samad Riyanto and Chandra Hamzah for corruption has caused widespread outrage.

The legal team set up by the President found last week that senior police and prosecutors had "forced" through a flimsy case against the deputies.

It recommended the charges be dropped and sanctions be levelled against officials involved in the debacle.

Yudhoyono did not say what action he would take, amid calls for him to sack police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri, Attorney General Hendarman Supandji, top detective Susno Duadji and suspended deputy attorney general Abdul Hakim Ritonga.

The centrist former general won re-election in July on the back of promises to fight rampant corruption in the world`s third-biggest democracy, and is under intense public pressure to prove his sincerity.

He told the editors he would seek an out-of-court solution to the crisis and had recommended police and prosecutors use an old Dutch law allowing them to suspend investigations in the public interest, reports said.

"I don`t want this disharmony between the KPK, the National Police and the Attorney General`s Office to be permanent. This has got to stop," he was quoted as saying by the Post.

Yudhoyono has faced mounting public criticism for taking weeks to act on the scandal, fuelling charges that he is unable, or unwilling, to take on Indonesia`s "court mafia" of crooked police, prosecutors, judges and middlemen.

The President has angrily denied accusations his reluctance to act in the KPK case is due to fears of exposure of an alleged scandal involving the transfer of bank bailout funds to his election campaign organisation.

Indonesia`s Supreme Audit Agency head Hadi Purnomo said an examination of the controversial USD 710 million bailout of the failed Bank Century had found indications of "violations" and recommended a full investigation.

Political analyst Wimar Witoelar said the scandal, if mishandled, had the potential to seriously damage Yudhoyono`s presidency just a month into his new term.

However he said the president would likely avert further crisis by having the case against the KPK deputies dropped, reforming law enforcement agencies and opening the Bank Century case up to investigation.

"The stakes are very high," Witoelar said.

"If he deviates from any of those three he will be in deep trouble. Without being dramatic about it we can say he will be greatly diminished."

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, November 23, 2009 - 14:09

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