Tue, 21 Jan 2003

Investigation into Sulawesi bribery allegations to go forward

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Despite recent objections from councillors, the government prosecutor's office in Kendari, capital of Southeast Sulawesi, said it would go ahead with its plan to investigate the alleged bribery in the recent gubernatorial election in the province.

The chief prosecutor, N. E. Worotikan, said here on Monday he had just received information from the Attorney General's Office that the central bank had issued permission for investigators to check the bank accounts of 43 councillors who cast their votes during the election, but the letter had yet to be delivered to Kendari.

"The checking of the councillors' bank accounts will be conducted soon after the letter reaches the government prosecutor's office," he said, adding that a team of eight senior attorneys was collecting necessary data and information to carry out the investigation.

The bribery case rose to the surface when councillor La Upe Rasyid admitted to the local press that a number of councillors, including himself, had accepted bribes to vote for Ali Mase who later gained a major victory in the gubernatorial election. But, the councillor did not have the opportunity to make this admission to law enforcers following his death in a traffic accident in Makassar, South Sulawesi on Dec. 5, 2002.

Worotikan also said that he and other prosecutors in the city accepted the Southeast Sulawesi provincial legislative council's invitation to hold a hearing to discuss the case.

"We will give a clear explanation of our investigation into the case despite the recent swearing-in of the new governor and the deputy governor," he said, explaining that the team was still questioning 17 other witnesses, including several other councillors, in connection with the bribery case.

In accordance with Law No. 25/1999 on regional autonomy, Ali Mase's victory in the gubernatorial election will be annulled and a new election will be held if Ali Mase and his deputy are found guilty of bribing the councillors.

Abidin Ramli, a councillor who many believe was not involved in the bribery case, called on investigators to do their best in their probe that has become a prolonged polemic among the local elite.

"If the investigation is not completed, the public will remain indifferent toward the local administration, including the governor," he said.

Arhab Paproeka, a senior lawyer who represented the legislators in the case, called on investigators to halt their investigation since the political process ranging from the election to the swearing-in ceremony had been completed and the new governor was already in office.

"Besides, I have made contact with the central bank and its officials confirmed that there has been no permit issued for the investigators to check the councillors' bank accounts," he said.

Ali and his deputy Yusran Silondae who won the gubernatorial election on Nov. 21, 2002, were sworn in by home minister Hari Sabarno last week, pending the result of the attorneys' investigation into the case.