Thu, 30 Nov 2000

Akbar warns Gus Dur over Bulog scam

JAKARTA (JP): House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung warned President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid on Wednesday that his alleged involvement in the Rp 35 billion National Logistics Agency (Bulog) scandal could be strong grounds for the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to impeach him.

"The House will call for a trial of Gus Dur if the investigation by the special committee indicates that the President is allegedly involved in the scandal.

"And it is legitimate to urge the Assembly to hold a special session if the President is found guilty," he said when asked to comment on former National Police chief Gen. Rusdihardjo's testimony here on Wednesday.

Rusdihardjo testified before the House's special committee on Tuesday, revealing that the President was allegedly involved in the scandal.

Sources close to the investigation said the President gave a Rp 5 billion check, part of the Rp 35 billion funds disbursed from the Bulog foundation, to Siti Farikha, a Semarang-based businesswoman.

The special committee is expected to complete its investigation into the scandal early in January next year.

Deputy House Speaker Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno regretted the President's alleged involvement in the scandal, saying that if Rusdihardjo's testimony was true, it was a very shameful deed for a President.

"For Gus Dur, in his capacity as President and as a Muslim cleric, such a deed is very disgraceful," he said.

He declined to elaborate, but conceded to having read the report on the former Police chief's testimony before the special committee.

In a related development, the National Awakening Party threatened to withdraw its legislators from the special committee membership because the investigation has gone beyond the House's internal rulings.

Akib, the party's deputy secretary general, said his party was considering pulling out its legislators from the special committee because the investigation's secrecy was not guaranteed.

Taufikurrahman, chairman of the PKB faction at the House, was not available for comment on Wednesday.

Separately, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, dismissed the allegation of the President's involvement in the case, saying that media reports on Gus Dur's alleged involvement in the scandal were merely speculation because the secrecy of Rusdihardjo's testimony to the special committee is guaranteed by the House's internal rulings.

"All reports about any testimonies before the committee on the Bulog scandal are only speculation. The inquiry was held behind closed doors and it's impossible that anything could come out unless it was leaked.

"And if that is so, then each committee member should be held responsible since they are prohibited from disclosing anything discussed in committee meetings. Any disclosure of the witnesses' testimonies would mean a violation of committee regulations," he told journalists at his office.

Marzuki said that the special committee's reports cannot be used as legal grounds for his office to summon Gus Dur to testify before the hearing of the main defendant Sapuan at the South Jakarta District Court on Dec. 5 as ordered by presiding judge Lalu Mariyun.

"We have decided that Gus Dur does not have to appear in the courtroom. The hearing instead will only read out his testimony before the police investigators. We will not summon the President. We hold on to that stand," he said firmly.

Meanwhile, political observer Ichlasul Amal said in Yogyakarta on Wednesday that President Abdurrahman Wahid had the constitutional right to ignore the summons of the House's special committee.

"It's inappropriate for the President to meet the House's summons because a President has immunity in this case," he told reporters.

Amal suggested that President Abdurrahman convey an indirect explanation of his alleged involvement in the Bulog scandal through video tape which could, at the same time, represent the President's accountability to the public.

"And if he gives a false information on tape, that can be used as evidence to impeach him from the Presidency," he said.

Amal said Abdurrahman's legitimate power was under threat if proven guilty. (44/bby/rms)