Sat, 13 Dec 2003

Legislators grill KPK aspirants

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Reporters could not hide their consternation on Friday when they heard a question posed by a legislator conducting a field check on a candidate of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

"Do you have a mistress?" legislator Tunggal L. Tobing of House Commission II asked aspirant M. Yamin at his residence in Pejompongan, Central Jakarta.

Yamin, who obviously did not expect to entertain such a question, replied abruptly, "I have none Pak."

Not convinced with Yamin's answer, Tobing, a legislator from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), turned to his wife, Andi Suwarni, who was sitting next to Yamin in the living room of their modest home.

"As far as I know, he has none. He is an honest person," the 50-year-old woman told the legislator, who was accompanied by fellow lawmaker Sjaiful Rachman of the United Development Party (PPP).

Tunggal, apparently catching on that Yamin, his wife and the reporters present were baffled by his arbitrary question, repeatedly stressed that his question was nothing personal and that House Commission II in charge of legal and home affairs had instructed him to raise that particular question.

Yamin, a prosecutor who has been in the civil service since 1965, is one of the 10 candidates vying for a post in the planned anticorruption body.

Tobing and Sjaiful inquired on Thursday as to Yamin's health and his relationship with his wife, children and neighbors, as well as his colleagues.

The 59-year-old man's wealth was also their concern, and Tobing walked through Yamin's house, which had flooded last year.

Yamin showed the legislator the small house, belonging to the Attorney General's Office, in which he and his family have been living since 1985.

After an hour of the scrutiny, Tobing asked the couple for a tapak dara plant, claiming he had diabetes. The plant is traditionally known for its medicinal properties to treat the disease.

The team of legislators that visited Yamin is one of five teams set up by Commission II to investigate the candidates, announced commission chairman A. Teras Narang at a press conference on Thursday.

The teams' investigation reports would be used by the House to screen the 10 candidates on Monday and Tuesday.

Sjaiful said the questions directed at Yamin were based on the Commission's guidelines.

"All teams must comply with the guidelines, but perhaps other legislators would use different ways in questioning the other candidates," he told reporters.

The four remaining teams visited the residences of Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas, Marsillam Simanjuntak, Iskandar Sonhadji, Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean, Syarifudin Rasul, Taufikurrahman Ruki and Chairul Imam.

The last two candidates, Momo Kelana and Amien Sunaryadi, would be paid a visit on Saturday.

The visit appears to be a response to the public's earlier disappointment in the nomination process run by the government's KPK selection committee, which was criticized for not being transparent.

Observers have also repeatedly raised concerns that legislators would fail to be independent and objective in selecting the candidates due to political interests.

Recently, the Attorney General's Office released the names of 180 councillors across the country who are suspects in corruption cases.

Said to be a "super body", the KPK has the authority to investigate corruption cases and prosecute suspected corrupters, which currently falls within the separate jurisdictions of the police and prosecutors.

The KPK, the establishment of which has been postponed several times since 1999, also has the power to take over corruption cases from police and prosecutors.

After the screening process, the House is to select five of the 10 candidates to form the KPK executive board. The five executive board members are to be inaugurated by the President on Dec. 27.