Fri, 15 Dec 2000

Gus Dur refuses to meet with Sjahril

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid has ruled out meeting with Bank Indonesia Governor Sjahril Sabirin until the murky legal case against him has been resolved, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said on Thursday.

"The President is not available to meet with the BI governor until the legal process is clarified," Marzuki said on the sidelines of a graduation ceremony at Merdeka Palace for cadets from the military and police academies.

Marzuki added that pending a resolution of the case, Syahril had been advised by the government not to make any strategic decisions in his capacity as central bank governor.

"If he makes a key decision and then problems emerge later, it will make things complicated," he said.

Sjahril is a suspect in the politically charged Bank Bali scandal, which centers on a Rp 546 billion payment by Bank Bali to a well-connected private company to facilitate the recovery of Rp 904 billion in interbank loans owed to the bank.

The commission was unnecessary because the loans were guaranteed by the government.

Marzuki said Syahril was the key to the Bank Bali scandal, because the central bank was responsible for the disbursement of the money.

Syahril, who was released last week after six months of detention and has since resumed his job, has proclaimed his innocence and accused Abdurrahman of implicating him in the Bank Bali case in a bid to replace him.

He has charged that Abdurrahman and Marzuki asked him to choose between resignation and arrest.

Marzuki said on Wednesday prosecutors would bring Sjahril's case to court next week.

Sjahril has attempted to meet with Abdurrahman following his release and return to his duties at the central bank, but the President has so far refused the advances.

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung appealed to the President on Wednesday to meet with Sjahril.

"The President should agree to meet with Sjahril or risk causing further uncertainty in the financial markets," Akbar said during a media conference following a closed-door meeting with Sjahril and members of the central bank's board of governors.

Akbar also said he had total confidence in Sjahril's ability to perform his job and make important monetary decisions. "I expect him (Sjahril) to be able to execute his job properly."

"There is also no reason for the board of governors to be hesitant in making important policy," he added, referring to concerns that members of the board of governors who had recently tendered their resignations might be hesitant in taking crucial decisions.

Akbar said until their replacements were appointed, those members who had resigned last month would remain active.

Five of the eight members of the Bank Indonesia board of governors, including senior deputy governor Anwar Nasution, resigned in response to calls from the government for a reshuffle at the central bank.

The President has been demanding a cleanup of Bank Indonesia since late last year, particularly the resignation of Sjahril, who was first appointed to the central bank in 1998 during the administration of former president Soeharto. He was reappointed in May 1999 after a new central bank law was enacted guaranteeing Bank Indonesia's independence.

Under this central bank law, the members of the board of governors, including Sjahril, cannot be replaced unless they have been proven to have committed a crime, are incapacitated or voluntarily resign.

The government has proposed a bill to amend this law, thus removing the legal obstacles to the dismissal of the entire board of governors.

The House began to debate the bill, but the debate was suspended when the legislators went on their one-month recess.

The debate is expected to be completed only after the middle of January, after the House returns from recess. (byg/rei)