Fri, 18 Jul 2003

House to grill Rini Soewandi over Sukhoi deal on July 29

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives is scheduled to summon Minister of Industry and Trade Rini M.S. Soewandi on July 29 over the controversial purchase of four Sukhoi jet fighters and two assault helicopters from Russia.

The minister will have no option but to answer the summons, otherwise the legislative body would order the police to detain her for 15 days.

"She is expected to show up on July 29," said Effendi Choirie, deputy chairman of House's committee investigating the Sukhoi deal here on Thursday.

The newly endorsed bill on the composition of legislative bodies allows the House to ask the police or the attorney general to detain, for 15 days, anyone refusing to show up for questioning.

Choirie added that the House committee has checked the minister's schedule with the secretary-general of the ministry of industry and trade and found that the minister was not busy on that day.

He added there should be no reason for the minister to reject the summons.

Rini failed to show up at the House on July 8 as she was attending a meeting for the development of Indonesia's eastern region in Poso, Central Sulawesi.

Choirie, also a legislator of the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction, said he hoped the inquiry into the US$192.6 million deal could finish before the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly scheduled for August 1 through Aug. 10.

Meanwhile, committee member Rizal Djalil of the Reform Faction revealed that there were certain groups who were trying to foil the inquiry.

"But, it will not halt the investigation," Rizal said without elaborating.

The House set up a committee to probe the purchase of the Russian fighter jets and military helicopters due to alleged irregularities in the deal which violated banking regulations and defense law.

The defense ministry which was reportedly not involved in the deal should take a leading role in the deal as required by the law.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri has revealed that Rini along with the chief of the National Logistics Agency (Bulog) was behind the deal.

Defense minister Matori Abdul Djalil said his ministry was not involved in the deal while Indonesian Military Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto has confirmed that the deal was made with the consent of the ministry.

Choirie also said that the plan to summon Rini was aimed at demonstrating to the public that his committee was working despite the recess.