Wed, 23 Feb 2000

Gus Dur mulls beginning of antigraft commission

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid sent out a warning to all corrupt state officials and legislators on Tuesday to be prepared to face tough action as he would appoint strict and clean enforcers to lead the charge in weeding out corruption.

Speaking at consultative meeting with House of Representatives (DPR) leaders at the State Palace, the President expressed confidence that with the assistance of new officials, the government could accelerate antigraft measures.

Abdurrahman said he would propose the Indonesian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Baharuddin Lopa, to chair a commission to examine the wealth of state officials.

He said officials would think twice before accepting bribes if they knew they had to face the former chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights.

He praised Baharuddin, who is also a former prosecutor, saying he would never hesitate to punish corruptors.

"If he were to lead the commission, I'm sure all would fear him," Abdurrahman said during the five-hour consultation meeting.

The 1999 law on clean governance sets the establishment of an independent commission with at least 25 members to audit the wealth of state officials.

Commission members must be approved by the House before being sworn in by the President. Its main duty is to investigate the wealth of state officials before and after assuming their positions.

According to House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, the House had to date short-listed 45 out of 122 candidates proposed by the government on Jan. 6.

Apparently Baharaduddin's name is not on the list.

"If you want to nominate Baharuddin Lopa, then you must send a new proposal to the House," Akbar reminded the President.

The President also repeated his intention to nominate National Commission on Human Rights member Benjamin Mangkoedilaga as new chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Benjamin made headlines in 1995 when, as judge at the Jakarta State Administrative Court, he ruled against the government's decision to revoke the publishing license of Tempo magazine.

His reputation as an honest and courageous judge remains intact even though the Supreme Court eventually overturned his decision.

If the House approves his nomination, he will succeed Air Vice Marshall (ret.) Sarwata, who has held the position since 1996.

"I hope (with Benjamin's leadership) the Supreme Court will not be like it is now," the President said.

He also hoped that Anton Sujata, former deputy attorney general of special crimes, who lost his job for his tough actions while investigating president Soeharto for alleged corruption, would soon be appointed as ombudsman.

Abdurrahman also said he wanted professor of law J.E. Sahetapy to lead the proposed National Commission of Law, the main task of which will be to evaluate the nation's legal products.

"If they are still not enough, I will also add to the list Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simajuntak, whose brashness is unimaginable," Abdurrahman said.

The President also disclosed his desire to entirely replace the 45 members of the Supreme Advisory Council (DPA), saying they were aging people who gave useless advice.

"It was a place to reward aging people who were heading toward retirement," he cynically remarked.

The consultation has become a new tradition under the new leadership and the resurgent House.

Also present during Tuesday's meeting were, among others, Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Minister of Home Affairs Surjadi Soedirdja and Minister of Finance Bambang Sudibyo.

The House delegation included deputy speaker A.M. Fatwa and Raja Kami Sembiring from the Indonesian Democratic of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and leaders of the 10 House factions.

But the five-hour proceedings were evidently sometimes physically a bit too much for Abdurrahman as he was seen slumped over several times through the various statements delivered.

Megawati was seen pinching the President in an apparent attempt to stir the slumped over Abdurrahman.

When the speeches and statements from House members finished and it was Abdurrahman's turn to respond, the President calmly replied: "Before giving my answers, I think it is better if we have lunch first."

During the meeting Akbar advised the President to refrain from making confusing statements and making too many jokes at such a serious meeting.

Abdurrahman, however, defended his humorous approach with another quip.

"Every morning I pray for Abunawas and I hope I can learn from his wisdom," he said, referring to the jesting Arabian folklore figure. He said the light approach was part of diplomacy.

Abdurrahman also brushed aside Akbar's criticism of his relentless overseas travels.

"Don't worry, my plans for overseas tours still continue," the President said and laughed. (prb)