Tue, 30 May 2000

Bondan resigns over Bulogate

JAKARTA (JP): Acting State Secretary Bondan Gunawan became the latest high profile casualty in the Rp 35 billion State Logistics Agency (Bulog) scandal when he resigned Monday night, saying that he was just being used as an intermediate target before the president.

In an extraordinary twist to what has become known as "Bulogate", Bondan who also holds the post of Secretary of Government Supervision, told journalists that the president has accepted the resignation.

"I resign...Because I believe that the attacks against me are merely an intermediate target towards Gus Dur," he said referring to President Abdurrahman Wahid by his popular nickname.

"I don't want to be a burden to him."

In a hurriedly called press briefing at 10:30 p.m. at his office at the palace complex, Bondan said he had met the president to hand in his resignation at 8:30 p.m.

"The president said he could understand," Bondan remarked.

But Bondan was quick to underline that his resignation was not an admission of guilt.

"I know nothing about Bulogate," he asserted.

Bondan allegedly received some part of the money. Earlier in the day he said that he already had professed his innocence and said he was ready to explain the affair at any time.

Bondan was only brought into the Cabinet in January. He becomes the sixth man to leave Abdurrahman's "resignation" plagued Cabinet.

Palace sources said Ministry of Religious Affairs' Research and Development Chief Djohan Efendi is strongly tipped as the new State Secretary, while Maj. Gen. (ret) Hari Darmawan is a strong candidate for Secretary of Government Supervision.


The scandal revolves around the disbursement of Rp 35 billion from the Bulog employees-owned foundation Yanatera involving no less than the president's masseur.

In the latest revelation, lawyers for Bulog deputy chief Sapuan, one of the main suspects in the scandal, said he agreed to disburse the funds because he believed he was acting under presidential orders.

"Sapuan met with President Abdurrahman on Jan. 7, on which date the President said he needed money totaling Rp 35 billion for humanitarian aid in Aceh," Sapuan's lawyer Isnul Tandjung said at city police headquarters on Monday.

Several days later, Isnul said Suwondo, known as the President's masseur, met Sapuan and reminded the latter about the President's request for Rp 35 billion.

Suwondo, he said, also approached Sapuan with an official letter from the State Secretariat stating that he was the "President's private assistant". The letter was signed by Suwondo.

Isnul, however, did not explanation the contents of the letter, nor why Sapuan believed the masseur.

Bulog chief Rizal Ramli suspended Sapuan, who is now in police custody, in connection with the case.

Suwondo, also a businessman, has been named one of the most wanted suspects by police.

Isnul said Sapuan asked Suwondo if a presidential decree was required from Abdurrahman as a legal document for the disbursement of such a large amount of money from the agency.

"The same request asking for the presidential decree also came from (former Bulog chief) Yusuf Kalla. But Suwondo told him that the President felt it wasn't necessary," the lawyer said.

"This is one reason why our client dared to give so much money to Suwondo."

Isnul referred to the scandal as masalah perut (money problem).

"The Bulog deputy chief did not have the authority to reject the order because -- according to Indonesian tradition -- all orders made by supervisors have to be realized by their subordinates," he said.

Separately on Monday, city police detectives for financial crimes questioned Yanatera chairman Mulyono.

One of his lawyers, Sitti Maemunal Affendy, said Mulyono disbursed the fund based on Sapuan's order.

"Sapuan is Mulyono's boss. Mulyono could have been fired if he refused to disburse the money," said Sitti, who is Mulyono's wife.

Mulyono's other lawyer, Musa Affendy, said they had enough evidence to prove the disbursement of the money was under Sapuan's order.

"The first of two memos here states that on the subject of humanitarian aid worth Rp 10 billion, the Yanatera chairman (Mulyono) can disburse up to Rp 10 billion for the deed, signed by Sapuan on Jan. 13," Musa said, quoting the memo.

The second, signed on Jan. 21, states the same except for the amount which totals Rp 25 billion.

On the same date, Suwondo signed an official stamped letter from the agency which stated that he received four checks from the Yanatera foundation.

The first two checks, each for Rp 5 billion, were issued by Bank Bukopin on Jan. 13. The other two were issued by the same bank on Jan. 20 for Rp 10 billion and Rp 15 billion, respectively.

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab on Monday also denied allegations he was involved in the scandal, saying the accusation was slanderous.

"I'm clean. It (rumor) is all lies," Alwi told reporters after a plenary session of the House of Representatives.

He said he asked former trade and industry minister Yusuf Kalla about the case after hearing his name was linked to it.

"I'm an ulema. I would never do things that would ruin my credibility," he said.(ylt/jun/bsr/prb)