Mon, 27 Aug 2001

PDI-P fails to take action against members

JAKARTA (JP): A deputy chairman of the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) has acknowledged the wasteful overseas trips taken by the party's members on the City Council but claimed the party had no power to take any action against them.

"We can't intervene since it is the City Council's business," the PDI Perjuangan's deputy chairman Roy B.B. Janis told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

He said that long before a number city councillors left last Sunday on a controversial trip to Tokyo and Beijing, he had summoned some of its members who took a similar trip to Brazil to question the necessity of the trip.

The party had only warned the councillors and asked them to cut down on the number of overseas trips allegedly undertaken for comparative purposes, he said.

"It would be better if the money for the trips had been used in the public interest," he said.

He refused to comment on public criticism that the trips were mere junkets, and the possibility of prosecuting the councillors for misusing public funds.

He said he had not yet been given a full briefing about the latest trip by a total of 17 councillors to Tokyo and Beijing.

Last week, the 17 councillors from Commission A for administrative, security, public order and governmental affairs, left for Tokyo and Beijing for a comparative study on natural disaster management.

However, they spent most of their time at a number of tourist destinations, instead of conducting the study.

Some activists have claimed that by using city funds inappropriately, the councillors had defrauded the taxpayer.

They urged that prosecutors take legal action against the councillors for alleged corruption.

Earlier, City Council Speaker Edy Waluyo said that the council would not cancel the trips despite strong criticism from various parties.

Some Rp 12 billion (US$1.3 million) was allocated under the 2001 city budget for official domestic and foreign travel by councillors. Half of the funds have already been used up.

Meanwhile, lawyer Bara Hasibuan suggested that an ethics committee be set up which could compel the councillors to give clarification. "If the councillors are found guilty, then they should be removed from the council.

"But since an ethics committee has yet to be established, the prosecutor's office should conduct an investigation into the matter," he argued.

He said that using city funds for personal pleasure could be considered a form of corruption.

"Thus the trips could be classified as crimes. They (the councillors) claim the trips were for comparative study purposes, but in fact they were only there for the fun," Bara told the Post.

Another lawyer, Frans H. Winarta, was of the same opinion, and said the state or the public could file a lawsuit against the councillors for alleged abuse of power and misappropriation of state funds.

"The councillors could be charged with violating the criminal code or be sued under the civil code," he said. (jun/04)