Sun, 03 Aug 2003

Factions rebuke govt over Sukhoi, BLBI

A'an Suryana and Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Most of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) factions expressed on Saturday their disappointment with the achievements of President Megawati Soekarnoputri's government over the past year, saying it did not live up to people's expectations.

The controversial purchase of Sukhoi jet fighters topped the list of criticisms, which also covered the government's policies regarding separatism, privatization of state enterprises, rampant corruption and poor law enforcement.

Only 407 lawmakers of the 700-strong MPR were present at Saturday's session to hear the factions' responses to Megawati's progress report, delivered during the opening session on Friday.

The gist of Megawati's report was that her government had brought both political and economic stability.

Megawati, Vice President Hamzah Haz and a number of Cabinet ministers who attended the session appeared calm, even when the factions launched verbal attacks on the government through their spokespersons.

The Sukhoi deal became a hot issue over the past month, after the House of Representatives set up a working committee to inquire into alleged procedural violations in their purchase. The committee had listed Megawati's son-in-law among those to be quizzed, but no date has been set for this.

The controversy centers on the US$192.6 million purchase, made during a state visit to Moscow in May, of four Sukhoi jet fighters and two assault helicopters. The combat aircraft were bought through a countertrade deal for Indonesian products and commodities.

The Golkar Party, the main rival of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), lashed out at the government over the deal, saying the purchase was not mentioned on the state budget's expenditure, so the government had violated the State Budget Law.

Golkar spokesman Amidhan said the government had also breached Law No. 3/2002 on defense for bypassing the defense ministry in the deal, which was instead administered by the trade ministry.

"The deal proves that the government has failed to understand and apply good governance," read Amidhan.

Reform faction spokesman Abdul Hakam Naja demanded a formal investigation into those allegedly involved in the deal.

PDI Perjuangan did not touch the Sukhoi deal in its response, and only said Megawati had defended the issue in her progress report as following proper administration procedures.

Joining the chorus of attack on the government, the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction focused its offensive on the government's weak law enforcement, expressing discontent that only three of about 50 officials charged with misusing the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support (BLBI) had been brought to court.

"There should have been no difficulty in dealing with the cases if the President had stuck to her promise to combat corruption down to its roots," read spokesman Amin Said Husni.

On the Aceh issue, most factions agreed that the government must push the humanitarian aspect of the integrated operation to win the hearts and minds of the people of the war-torn province.

In regards privatization, the Reform and the Crescent Star Party factions expressed various concerns over asset sales, particularly that of shares in telecommunication company Indosat to a Singapore-based holding company, saying such productive and strategic state assets must not fall into foreign hands.

Most factions also pressed that the Annual Session produce a recommendation for the Megawati government to improve their performance.