Fri, 22 Aug 2003

West Java councillors to face graft probe

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

Prosecutors will summon at least eight members of the West Java legislative Council for questioning next week in a graft case involving Rp 33 billion (US$3.9 million) after Minister of Home Affairs Hari Sabarno issued permission to do so.

Kolloway, assistant to the head of the West Java Prosecutor's Office, said on Thursday that the eight would include deputy council speakers Kurdi Moekri and Suyaman who have been named as suspects in the case.

The two senior councillors were officially charged on May 22, 2003, with embezzling Rp 33 billion from the province's budget, one day before the gubernatorial election.

Golkar politician Dany Setiawan won the election, defeating incumbent West Java governor Tayo Tarmadi, a retired major general backed by President Megawati Soekarnoputri and her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan).

Moekri and Suyaman are suspected of signing a letter authorizing the disbursement of the funds in the interests of all 100 council members.

"For the first stage, permission was given to question only eight of the 100 councillors in West Java," Kolloway told journalists in the provincial capital Bandung.

He said the ministerial approval was granted on Aug. 8, 2003, after more than two months of delay.

Prosecutors say the money had been distributed to all the councillors as an "incentive fund" to buy plots of land. Each received Rp 250 million, they added.

The councillors are charged with violating proper procedures in drafting the budget, which is regulated under Ministerial Decree No. 903/2001, and Article 86 (4) of Law No. 22/1999 on regional autonomy.

They are also accused of breaching Article 3 of Law No. 31/1999 on corruption, which carries up to 20 years in jail.

It remains unclear when the 92 other members of the council would be summoned.