Wed, 09 Jul 2003

TNI commander sees no violation in Sukhoi jet purchase

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said on Tuesday the defense ministry was not involved in the procurement of four Sukhoi jet fighters and two helicopters from Russia, the funds for which came from the budget of the industry and trade ministry.

Speaking before members of the House of Representatives Commission I for defense, Endriartono also insisted the US$192.6 million deal did not violate any laws.

According to existing laws, the procurement of all military equipment must be done through the defense ministry, regardless of where the money for the purchase comes from.

Defense minister Matori Abdul Djalil told the House last month that his ministry had no knowledge of the deal.

Matori's statement was supported by Maj. Gen. Sudradjat, director general for defense strategy at the defense ministry, who told a House inquiry team on Monday that he was not asked to discuss the procurement.

Endriartono said on Tuesday the industry and trade ministry took the lead in the deal, and the defense ministry was bypassed because the funds for the deal were not taken from the defense budget.

Members of Commission I said on Tuesday the deal violated standard procedures by bypassing the defense ministry.

"House Commission I and the TNI chief have different opinions. The TNI chief says the leader of the Sukhoi deal was the industry and trade ministry, while the commission insists the procurement violated existing laws," Commission I deputy chairman Effendy Choirie said after the hearing.

Legislators referred to Article 16 (6) of Law No. 3/2002 on defense, which states the minister of defense determines policy in the budgeting, procurement, recruitment and management of national resources, as well as the development of the technology needed by the Indonesian Military.

"No matter how the procurement is accomplished, be it trade or counter-purchase, the leader must be the defense ministry," said Choirie, who was accompanied by Rizal Djalil and Djoko Susilo of the Reform faction.

All of the information obtained from the TNI chief during the hearing will be given to the House's ad hoc committee of inquiry into the deal, which will make a recommendation to the House as to what action it should take on the matter.

During the hearing, Endriartono said the procurement of the Russian jet fighters had been discussed since 1996, when an Indonesia delegation visited Russia.

That visit, headed by the defense ministry's director for general planning and budget, produced a memorandum of understanding of the purchase in April 1996.

Endriartono said the memorandum of understanding was an "umbrella" for military logistics cooperation between Indonesia and Russia. It was signed by the defense ministry's then director, Maj. Gen. I Made Sadha, and Boris H. Yasipenko of Russia.

On April 24, 1997, officials from Russia's companies Knaapo and Rosvooushenei presented prototypes of the Su-27 SK and Su-30 MK jet fighters, and the Mi-71 and Mi-35 helicopters to an Indonesian delegation.

On August 29, 1997, TNI Headquarters and Russia's Rosvooroushenie agreed to the purchase of 12 Su-30 K and eight Mi-71 helicopters.

Then after years of uncertainty, Indonesia and Russia organized a meeting of senior officials in September of last year in preparation for President Megawati Soekarnoputri's visit to Russia.

On Feb. 20 the defense ministry's director of defense equipment, Maj. Gen. Aqlani Maza, and Russia's director of military technical cooperation, Maj. Gen. VK Dzirkalin, signed an agreement on military technical cooperation.

Also on Tuesday, the House commission was to hear from Minister of Industry and Trade Rini MS Soewandi, but the meeting was canceled because the minister had to attend a meeting in Central Sulawesi on the development of eastern Indonesia.

Choirie said the commission would again summon the industry and trade minister to hear her explanation of the controversial deal.