Thu, 30 Sep 1999

Politicians deplore ministers' exodus

JAKARTA (JP): Instead of praise, the recent departure of seven Cabinet members has drawn criticism among politicians who deem the move as an effort to ease pressure on President B.J. Habibie when he holds his accountability speech before the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Justice and Unity Party (PKP) figure Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, who is a former Cabinet member, said on Wednesday the exodus violated political ethics.

"Although lawful, if I were a minister, I would stay in the Cabinet to help the President take account of his administration and incoming members of the MPR General Session," he said at a seminar on corruption and human rights abuses.

Coordinating Minister for Economy, Finance and Industry Ginandjar Kartasasmita, Minister of Home Affairs Syarwan Hamid, State Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Agung Laksono, Minister of Manpower Fahmi Idris, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Marzuki Usman and State Minister of Public Housing and Settlement Theo L. Sambuaga quit their posts on Monday after being elected MPR members.

The 1999 Law on the Composition of the Assembly, House of Representatives, Provincial and Regency Legislatures says MPR membership is open to everybody, including ministers.

"However, they should bear in mind that they must fulfill their oaths to work until their terms end," he said.

Separately, Zarkasih Nur, outgoing chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) faction at the House, suspected the ministers' exit was aimed at maintaining the status quo.

"The exodus serves as evidence of those people's greed of power. They intentionally abandoned their administrative jobs for seats at the next Assembly," he said.

Lili Asdjudiredja, a legislator of the ruling Golkar Party, alleged the resigned ministers were trying to escape investigations into corruption leveled on them in the past.

"It will be ironic if the ministers changed costume to gain political immunity in case investigation into their alleged involvement in corruption cases in the past is launched," said Lili, who chaired the House special committee in charge of probes into the Bank Bali scandal.

Separately, Fahmi Idris denied accusations that he resigned to help Golkar gain more support for Habibie's presidential bid.

Fahmi, Theo and Agung are deputies to Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung and are members of a team responsible to make Habibie's presidential campaign a success.

Fahmi said he and other ministers decided to resign to enable them to focus on more important duties during the MPR General Session.

Separately, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) decided on Wednesday to dismiss Adiwarsita Adinegoro, head of the chamber's forestry and plantation division, for defying an order to decline his nomination as a People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) legislator.

Kadin's secretary-general Iman Sucipto Umar said in a statement that Adiwarsita would not represent the chamber, one of the interest groups selected to fill 65 seats in the MPR.

The General Elections Commission appointed Adiwarsita, disregarding the chamber's nomination of chairman Aburizal Bakrie.

In Yogyakarta, former minister of finance Fuad Bawazier secured a berth at the MPR as one of the province's five representatives.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) grabbed two MPR seats with the elections of Arief Nursediyanto and Katin Subiantoro, while PAN and the Golkar Party obtained one seat each with the respective appointments of Purdi Chandra and Herman Prayitno.

In Ujungpandang, South Sulawesi, hundreds of students vacated the provincial legislative council on Wednesday after a two-day sit-in. Acting chairman of the council Morra Karaeng Bilu promised to heed their demand to review Monday's election of controversial Golkar figure Arnold A. Baramuli as the province's representative to the MPR.

Baramuli, who is a close ally of Habibie, has become the target of public and legislative outrage for his alleged involvement in the Bank Bali scandal. (30/44/emf/rms/43)