Fri, 16 Jun 2000

Gus Dur's plan on graft probe evokes skepticism

JAKARTA (JP): There is growing skepticism among anticorruption activists over President Abdurrahman Wahid's claim that he had solicited Washington's help to combat corruption and investigate the wealth of former top Indonesian officials.

The head of the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), Teten Masduki, doubted Abdurrahman's intentions, suspecting that it may be a smokescreen to distract attention from corruption and collusion cases within the State Palace.

Teten said he found it odd that Abdurrahman's plea for U.S. assistance comes amid numerous allegations of the involvement of presidential circles in various scandals.

"In my opinion, it's just Gus Dur's way of diverting attention away from corruptive practices in the State Palace," he said, referring to the President's nickname.

After meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton on Monday, President Abdurrahman Wahid claimed that Washington had agreed to assist Jakarta in investigating corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN).

Without elaborating, Abdurrahman also specifically mentioned possible assistance from an American organization called the Center for the Study of Corruption.

Teten said any investigation must be conducted in accordance with the legal processes in the country.

It would be very difficult to trace the wealth of former officials unless the attorney general is directly involved in the investigation, he said adding that international banking laws have secrecy clauses which can only be broken by the attorney general or the court.

Teten said that basically, assistance from the United States, which monitors its currency distribution around the world, was only relevant to trace transactions in U.S. dollars.

"If an official deposits money in U.S. dollars anywhere in the world, the United States would have a record of it," he explained.

Teten further charged that while making such pleas for aid in combating corruption may look good abroad, the reality is that little is being done at home.

"Just look at the current KKN cases, all are stranded at the Attorney General's Office," he said.

Another leading government watchdog, Gempita, joined the chorus of criticism, saying any technical assistant would mean nothing without the government's political will.

"The government of President Abdurrahman Wahid has not yet proven its commitment to settling Soeharto case. Political interests have been taken into consideration in the way the government handles the case," deputy secretary Nanda Hasibuan said in a statement.

But a note of guarded optimism was sounded by the chairman of the foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI), Bambang Widjojanto, who said it would be good to receive some foreign assistance since the government does not have the means to conduct an investigation abroad.

He added that the independency and objectivity of foreign investigators were more credible than local investigators, whom he said were infected with the KKN "virus".(10)