Sat, 21 Jun 2003

Golkar mulls bringing Sukhoi case to MPR meeting in August

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The move to debate the purchase of Russian Sukhois has not ended with the House of Representatives (DPR) defense commission setting up an inquiry team into the alleged irregularities in the deal.

At least Golkar, the second largest faction in the House, had indicated its intention to continue the debate over the issue, as party chairman Akbar Tandjung said on Friday that there was a possibility of bringing the issue to the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) scheduled for August.

"The President must give an explanation at the Annual Session. Although it will not be an accountability speech, the legislators will evaluate her explanation," Akbar told the press.

The House agreed on Thursday to set up a special team to investigate the alleged irregularities in the recent purchase of Russian-made Sukhoi fighters.

Akbar, however, said the decision to bring the issue to the Annual Session would depend on the Golkar faction's internal meeting, to be held soon.

Separately, deputy chairman of the House defense commission Effendy Choirie said the inquiry team would commence operating next week.

Choirie of the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction declined to comment on whether the Sukhoi issue would be brought to the MPR Annual Session, scheduled to be held from August 1-10.

He said the main purpose of the inquiry team was to find a solution to the Sukhoi deal, which did not comply with existing procedures.

The government signed last month the purchase agreements for two Russian Sukhoi jet fighters and helicopters worth US$192.6 million without consulting the House, as required by law.

Meanwhile, President Megawati Soekarnoputri defended the Sukhoi deal, arguing that her administration did not violate any laws for the deal.

"I have not violated the law. If there are irregularities, let us go over them together," Megawati told a press conference on Thursday night.

The purchase deal for the Russian warplanes, consisting of four Sukhoi jets, two SU-30 bombers, two SU-27 bombers and two MI-35 helicopters, was made during Megawati's visit to Russia last month.

Legislators have called the deal suspicious, saying it violated laws on defense and budget, as well as banking procedures and regulations.

Indonesia and Russia had agreed that 20 percent of the total purchasing value would be paid in cash, while the remaining 80 percent would be paid through a countertrade mechanism.

Megawati said the government had decided to buy the Russian warplanes because the Indonesian Air Force's jet fighters were already outdated, including its British-made Hawks, produced in 1942 or 1943.

"I am sad that our jet fighters are already worn out. And you know that we are not allowed to use our Hawks in a war," she said.

"I have told the British Ambassador to Indonesia that the Hawks could not be used in the war (in Aceh) because they are already outdated. What shall we do with these jet fighters?" she asked.