Thu, 19 Jun 2003

Batam tourism agency head declared suspect in gambling case

Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam, Riau

Head of Batam tourism agency Buralimar has been declared a suspect by Riau Police over allegations regarding the legalization of gambling at Tering Bay Resort, Nongsa district, Batam.

Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Deddy S. Komaruddin said on Wednesday that Buralimar had been declared a suspect based on the police investigation, including testimony from Batam Mayor Nyat Kadir, summoned on May 14 as a witness.

"We named Buralimar as a suspect based on our examination of the memorandum of agreement and the testimony from the mayor," he said.

The mayor issued bylaw No. 17/2001 on an exclusive integrated tourism resort, in which the mayor, through the mayoralty tourism agency, signed an agreement with PT Dewa Menara Wisata. The agreement stated that the company had the right to manage gambling, including roulette, baccarat, blackjack and poker at Tering Bay Resort.

Buralimar said he would be ready, should he be detained in the case.

"I'm ready, even if I have to go to jail, but I'll disclose who's responsible for the signing of the agreement," he said.

The Independent Anticorruption Body (Bakin), through the Bambang Wijoyanto and Sonhadji law firm, reported the mayor to Batam Police for giving a three-year license to the company to manage gambling activities at the resort.

Meanwhile, Nyat Kadir told The Jakarta Post by phone that the bylaw has been withdrawn to limit the mushrooming of gambling dens in Batam.

"I just want to minimize gambling in Batam. I don't want Batam to become notorious as an immoral city. We are ready to revise the bylaw and have also withdrawn the agreement. I'm letting the Riau Police chief continue with the investigation," he said.

Following strong protest from local non-governmental organizations and religious leaders, the mayor ordered the closure of at least 46 casinos in Batam.

The local administration, as well as the central government, has strict laws that ban gambling in whatever form, but at least five large gambling dens exist on the island, and almost all the hotels in Batam provide special gambling areas for visitors, mostly from Malaysia and Singapore.

Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno strongly warned the mayoralty that, despite regional autonomy, the central government would not allow local administrations to issue a license for gambling because it was against the Criminal Code.

Chairman of the local chapter of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) Assyari Abbas called on the police to continue the investigation process into gambling on the island.

"We warmly welcome the police decision to continue the investigation, but demand they disclose who is the mastermind in the case and take him to court," he said.

Bakin chairman Samsul Paloh urged the police not to name a municipality official as a scapegoat, simply in order to protect the Batam mayor.

"We demand the Batam mayor be named a suspect because Buralimar is just an executor of the mayor's policy," he said.