Tue, 06 Aug 2002

W. Java council undecided over gift

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

The West Java provincial legislature is deadlocked over the return of Rp 25 billion taken from the province's 2002 budget as two legislators from the local chapter of the Justice Party have declined to return their share of the cash.

Provincial legislative council chairman Eka Santosa said on Monday that the two legislators who first revealed the money had been disbursed were refusing to return the money which they claimed had been given to the needy.

"The legislature won't return the money in full because the two legislators declined to return their own part of the funds," he said after a plenary session to discuss the return of the money.

The legislature has been under fire since details emerged of the secret cash payouts as "gifts" to legislators. During a plenary session two weeks ago the legislature decided that all members who received Rp 250 million would return the money to avoid an investigation.

The scandal has sparked protests and criticisms from numerous quarters after Governor Nuriana confirmed that the funds were given at the request of the legislature.

Yudhi Yudhiana, one of the two legislators from the Justice Party refusing to return the money, said they would provide details of the funds' use to the provincial administration.

"We accepted the money to show our solidarity with the legislature but we did not use it on ourselves so there is no obligation for us to return the money," he said.

The scandal first emerged when the two legislators began disbursing basic commodities to the needy in the province.

United Development Party (PPP) faction chairman Kurdi Moekri slammed the two legislators for ensnaring their colleagues in a trap that could jeopardize their political careers.

"It is quite strange since the two revealed the use of the money to the press for the first time but later rejected returning the funds," he said.

Several legislators used the money to buy housing plots, new cars and business investments.