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Gus Dur walks out of scandals hearing JAKARTA - President Abdurrahman Wahid on Monday left legislators dumbfounded as he abruptly walked out of a meeting with the House of Representatives' special committee investigating the Bulog and Brunei scandals. Abdurrahman surprised everyone as he left the meeting hall at the Jakarta Convention Center only some 45 minutes into the scheduled two-hour session.
The President refused to say anything as he left the hall but later called a snap news briefing at the presidential palace to defend his action. "I was asking for clarification whether (the committee) is a political forum or legal forum ... since no answer was given (by members of the committee), I thought it was unnecessary to continue the meeting," Abdurrahman said. "I left after it was clear that the committee could not give an answer," Abdurrahman added.
He said he had agreed to come to the meeting because he thought the special committee had realized that it was not a legal forum. The President has repeatedly questioned the legality of the special committee, contending that it was not registered at the state secretariat as required by a 1954 law. The committee is seeking to question Abdurrahman about the fraudulent withdrawal of Rp 35 billion (US$3.3 million) from the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) by his masseur and also a $2 million donation from the Sultan of Brunei which the President claims was a personal gift.
Abdurrahman said he had already answered questions regarding the cases and that further queries "should be made within a political context". "Any information (given to the committee) cannot be used as legal evidence against anyone," Abdurrahman said, adding that the scandals should be settled in a court of law. He then accused members of the committee of using the scandals "to undermine the authority of the government and the President".
"So, what's happening here is character assassination," Abdurrahman charged. Monday's hearing was conducted at the Jakarta Convention Center as it was considered a neutral alternative to the House complex or the palace.

Heated

This latest episode is sure to strain even further the already uneasy relations between the President and the legislature, particularly as the committee is set to reveal its findings on Jan. 29. Special committee chairman Bachtiar Chamsyah affirmed that the President's walkout would only worsen the already strained relations between the palace and the House.
Alvin Lie Pie Hong, deputy chairman of the special committee, questioned the President's sudden departure. "There was no reason for Gus Dur to become emotional ... the President failed to uphold mutual respect between the legislative body and the presidency," he said. But committee member Ali Masjkur Musa, from Abdurrahman's National Awakening Party, said he understood the reasons for the President's abrupt leaving.
"It was reasonable for the President to leave. The President is of the opinion that the meeting was not an investigation and, therefore, he did not see any point in answering the questions from the special committee," he said. He claimed that his faction supported an investigation into the two scandals but so far there were no sufficient grounds to establish the special committee.
Ali Masjkur also said that his faction was considering rejecting the investigation's results as it was too politicized. "From the start, the investigation has been engineered by certain groups in the special committee to come to the conclusion that the President was involved in the scandals and their main objective is to discredit the government so that a general election and a presidential election can be held again," he said.
Sources inside the closed door meeting said the President before leaving admitted that he had met former trade minister Yusuf Kalla and former Bulog deputy chief Sapuan in December 1999 to seek Rp 435 million for humanitarian aid to Aceh. House Speaker Akbar Tandjung said that despite the absence of a clarification from the President, the House's special committee would continue its investigation into the scandals.
"The House will hold a plenary session to receive the special committee's report on the results of the investigation. It will depend on the factions as to whether they will accept the report or not," he said. He hinted that the way the President left the meeting was impolite. "We have a code of ethics," Akbar remarked.



Posted in Crime @ 23 January 2001 00:03 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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