Mon, 26 Jun 2000

Anwar called on to clean BI of corrupt practices

JAKARTA (JP): Bank Indonesia senior deputy governor Anwar Nasution must act immediately to eliminate corruption from the central bank to make its monetary policy credible, according to a group of former Bank Indonesia employees.

Former Bank Indonesia deputy director Darryl Dewantoro, spokesman for the group, said on Saturday that last week's arrest and subsequent removal of Sjahril Sabirin from Bank Indonesia did not automatically make the central bank free of corrupt practices.

"Anwar must act now to clean up Bank Indonesia," Darryl told a news conference.

"He once said that Bank Indonesia was a den of thieves, so there must be concrete action from Anwar to amend the internal condition of the central bank," he added.

He said that reshuffling central bank senior staff should be a priority.

Darryl said that if housecleaning within the central bank was effectively communicated, the market would ignore the current political trouble undermining the bank.

He explained that Bank Indonesia should have been cleaned up prior to making it an independent institution to smoothen efforts to curb corruption at the bank.

Anwar was appointed to temporarily lead Bank Indonesia after the attorney general detained Governor Sjahril on Wednesday for his alleged role in the high profile Bank Bali scandal.

Sjahril has denied any involvement, and claims the move to name him a suspect and his subsequent detention are part of a political ploy by President Abdurrahman Wahid to oust him from Bank Indonesia, which according to law should be free from government intervention.

The Bank Bali scam, which emerged last year, revolves around the questionable transfer of some US$80 million from the bank to a private firm linked to the then ruling Golkar Party ahead of a crucial general election.

The detention of Sjahril has been strongly criticized by several leading political figures, including House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung and People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais.

Amien said the detention amounted to political intervention in the affairs of the central bank.

Akbar said the move would affect efforts to improve the country's economy.

The rupiah closed lower on Wednesday and Thursday, but slightly strengthened to Rp 8,685 on Friday. The local unit has been under strong pressure since early May due to a combination of political and social problems at home, and concern over slow progress in implementing economic reform programs.

Some analysts have said that Abdurrahman has been trying hard to remove high level people linked to the former authoritarian president Soeharto from the government and key state institutions including the central bank.

Sjahril was first appointed by Soeharto as Bank Indonesia Governor in 1998, and was reappointed in May 1999 for a four-year term by the House of Representatives following the approval of the new law on the independency of Bank Indonesia.

A PriceWaterhouseCoopers audit result submitted to the House says there are indications that Sjahril was involved in the Bank Bali scandal.

But Abdurrahman has faced difficulty ousting Sjahril from Bank Indonesia, particularly due to its independency status which does not allow politicians to intervene in central bank matters.

Abdurrahman drew strong criticism after Sjahril revealed to the media that the former had repeatedly offered him an ambassadorial post, implying he would not be implicated in the Bank Bali scandal if he resigned from Bank Indonesia.

Sjahril rejected the offer.

Under the new Bank Indonesia law, members of the board of governors cannot be dismissed by the president or even the House unless he or she is proven to have committed a crime or is incapacitated. (rei)