Indonesia’s Golkar Party to Find Replacement of House Speaker as Chairman

Putra Andespu
Jakarta
2017-11-20
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171120_ID_SN_1000.jpg Indonesia’s Speaker of Parliament, Setya Novanto, talks to reporters in Jakarta after the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) ordered his detention, Nov. 20, 2017.
Putra Andespu/BenarNews

Indonesia’s second largest party may convene an “extraordinary meeting” to replace its chairman, Parliamentary Speaker Setya Novanto, after an anti-graft agency ordered his arrest and detention over his suspected role in a corruption scandal, a senior party official said Monday.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) detained Novanto, 62, on Sunday night in connection with the alleged theft of U.S. $170 million in state funds from an electronic national identity card scheme.

“In the interest of the party … Golkar should hold an extraordinary national meeting to select a new party chairman,” the chairman of the Golkar party’s advisory board, Agung Laksono, told the Jakarta Globe.

Golkar, a partner in the ruling coalition, so far has not removed Novanto as party chairman, but Agung said he had urged members to support its secretary-general, Idrus Marham, who could become the acting chairman before Novanto’s permanent replacement is found.

Novanto, who vanished for 24 hours as anti-corruption investigators issued a warrant for his arrest, turned up in a hospital emergency room on Thursday, claiming his car had hit a utility pole in South Jakarta.

He was arrested after KPK officials announced that his medical condition did not require hospitalization.

The Indonesian public, through social media, questioned whether the accident was staged to derail the graft investigation. The KPK had earlier failed to locate Novanto when authorities raided his home last Wednesday.

“Unexpectedly I have been in an accident,” Novanto told reporters at KPK offices on Sunday night, claiming he had injured a leg, an arm and his head.

“Still suffering from vertigo after the accident. I thought I would be given time for recovery, but I obey the law,” he said.

Novanto was among senior officials who allegedly received kickbacks from funds for a government project to issue national identification cards.

In July, the KPK announced that Novanto was suspected, along with other officials and several companies, of embezzling more than one-third of the 5.9 trillion rupiah (U.S. $443 million) allocated for the I.D. program known as e-KTP, between 2011 and 2012.

Novanto was taken to the KPK detention center following his arrest.

After he was first named as a suspect in the e-KTP case four months ago, he did not appear before the agency for questioning, saying then that he was ill and needed to undergo heart surgery.

The South Jakarta District Court annulled KPK’s action against him following a pretrial hearing in September. On Nov. 10, KPK again named him a suspect.

Novanto’s lawyer said he had filed a pretrial motion against the allegations.

“The questions asked were properly answered,” his attorney, Febri, told reporters.

On Monday, KPK investigators also questioned Deisti Astriani, Novanto’s wife. She did not respond to questions from reporters after the KPK interview that lasted eight hours.

‘Follow the legal process,’ president says

Novanto told reporters before his arrest that he had sent letters to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and other officials seeking legal protection from detention, considering his position as House speaker.

“I have told Mr. Setya Novanto to follow the legal process,” Jokowi told Kompas.com, in his response to Novanto’s request. Jokowi had promised to rid Indonesia of corruption when he campaigned for the presidency in 2014.

Many Indonesians welcomed Novanto’s arrest.

“I really appreciate the KPK’s courage to arrest Setnov,” Risna, a Central Jakarta resident, told BenarNews, using a nickname for Novanto. “This proves that nobody can interfere with the KPK.”

KPK had earlier named three other suspects in addition to two former Ministry of Home Affairs officials who have been sentenced to seven and five years in prison.

Novanto was chairman of the Golkar faction of the House when the e-I.D. card project was launched in 2011-2012. He allegedly acted as a lobbyist for other parliament members to approve the e-KTP project.

The case allegedly involved dozens of politicians, former officials and members of parliament.

More calls for resignation

In December 2015, Novanto resigned as house speaker after the head of Freeport McMoran in Indonesia, Maroef Sjamsoeddin, told a parliamentary ethics panel that he had secretly recorded a meeting during which the speaker had allegedly asked for a 20 percent-stake in the mining company. Novanto was reappointed last year.

His detention on Sunday emboldened ordinary citizens and critics to join calls for his resignation as speaker.

“The image of the House has been destroyed,” said Fazry, a resident of Bekas, West Java, referring to the House of Representatives by its Indonesian acronym. “Coupled with its chairman, the image of the DPR is getting worse.”

Donal Fariz, an activist with Indonesian Corruption Watch, agreed that Novanto needed to resign.

“This is to prevent abuse of power as a head of a state institution in fighting the legal process, so that there is no conflict of interest,” Fariz said in a statement.

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