21 January 2011

Bank Century, Bailouts, Quorum, and Libel: Need or Diversion?

No apologies on the long-winded nature of this post. Some will find it interesting and some will be bored to snores.

The Bank Century issue is one that has lingered and lingered, and will seemingly linger some more. It is an interesting political issue in the sense that so many are staking so much on "the case" being resolved. However, the issue, at least for some, for a long time, has been whether or not there is in fact a case to be resolved.

The previous hearings on the "scandal" presumably saw most, if not all, of the pertinent information revealed and placed onto the record. However, it would seem that Golkar, under the auspices of the one and only Aburizal Bakrie, alleged artful tax-dodger, that there is more to the Bank Century scandal than meets the eye. Therefore, Golkar is pushing hard for a full-scale inquisition to re-ignite the Bank Century case in the public arena. The cynics among us will surely not miss that Bank Century will serve as an excellent foil for the immediate aftermath of the Gayus debacle which would have seen some focus return to the Bakrie family and their business accounting practices. A diversion? To each their own.

The question then becomes: "Is there a need for the Bank Century matter to be replayed and re-tried in the court of public opinion through a long and drawn out parliamentary process?" On information currently available and the information that wended its way into the public domain the last time around, the answer is no. Any further inquisition is a waste of time and tax-payers money. Yet, perhaps another round of Bank Century frivolity can put this case to rest once and for all.

A point that must not go unnoticed is that the case has ramifications for the 2014 presidential elections. So, in no uncertain terms much of the desire to keep the Bank Century scandal running is nothing more than cynical political electioneering and an attempt to remove possible challenges to the status quo. Here is a scenario that not a lot of people are talking about yet, but they will.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the former Finance Minister and current Managing Director of the World Bank Group will undoubtedly be a target of Golkar in its inquisition. The reason is that Aburizal Bakrie has an axe to grind and she is perceived as a threat to him and his political aspirations. Indrawati has the added value of being perceived as "clean". Clean in no other sense of the word than free of the taint of corruption. The point of the Bank Century scandal is a cynical effort to taint her with the stench of corruption that has and continues to permeate to the core of Indonesian politics.

Aburizal Bakrie wants to be president and Indrawati has the credentials to stand in his way. In fact, there are many who believe that she would make a good president of the Republic of Indonesia herself.

But, Indrawati aside, there are others who can be tainted by the brush of corruption and as such "tarred and feathered" in the public eye. These include the son, Edhie Baskoro, of the current president, SBY. There has been an equal amount of 2014 presidential election talk that the democratic party are looking at cementing the Yudhoyono family political dynasty by either anointing the First Lady, Ani Yudhoyono, or Edhie as the successor and rightful heir to the big chair, RI-1.

Therefore, the current libel case being played out in the Central Jakarta District Court has much relevance to those aspirations of the Demokrat Party and Edhie Baskoro himself. Edhie along with Djoko Suyanto (Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political, and Security Affairs), Andi Mallarangeng (Minister for Sport), and Hatta Rajasa (Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs), have launched a libel action against Mustar Bonaventura and Ferdy Simawun.

Bonaventura and Simawun are from a group called Bendera (Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat / People's Defense for Democracy) (Benteng is a fort and it is used here in the Alamo sense of being the last holdout against the invaders that are all around them. Bendera is also the Indonesia word for Flag). The group is oft described as being an ultranationalist youth group whose first real moments in the public eye came with calls to destroy Malaysia.

Bonaventura and Simawun were at the forefront of claims that Edhie and the others were the recipients of almost USD 200 million in kickbacks from the Bank Century scandal. Aside from Edhie and the others, the implication was that these kickbacks were used to fund others as well and hence the corrupt monies flowed to SBY and others in his inner circle, thus tainting them all with corruption.

The Demokrat Party and some of the other members of the governing coalition have been quick to point out that they are going to try and thwart any re-opening of the Bank Century scandal. However, there are a couple of "problems" on that front. The Constitutional Court recently lowered the numbers necessary for parliamentary quorum to be achieved in order to trigger debate from 3/4 to 2/3. In simple terms, the 26% of the seats that the Demokrat Party held in the House are no longer sufficient to ward of any public pronouncements by the parliament on issues that the Demokrats find striking a little close to home.

Nevertheless, if Golkar was dead set keen to tarnish the reputations of as many political opponents as they can, then they should be channeling much of their attention to the Central Jakarta District Court in support of Banventura and Simawun. They could conceivably be doing this out of the public eye.

The first trial hearing in the libel case was a mess. It was a mess because Bonaventura and Simawun refused to enter the court until their supporters were allowed to be seated in the court for the hearing. For some reason this was permitted. Chaos was almost certain to follow. When Bonaventura and Simawun were finally brought to court and seated for the opening salvos, it was not long before the proceedings degenerated into shouting matches between supporters and witnesses with judges trying to keep order. In the end, the judges ordered the chamber cleared of Bendera supporters, at which point Bonaventura and Simawun left the building with their lawyers in toe. They left because of the inherent unfairness with which their supporters were being treated.

Seriously though, I have no problem with supporters being present, but there are rules and etiquette to be observed in a courtroom whether you like it or not. One of those rules is that there is to be civility, which means that the judges were well within the bounds of fairness to remove unruly supporters.

Nevertheless, unruly supporters aside, the case is an excellent opportunity to put on the public record all and sundry with respect to evidence of the corruption linked to the Bank Century case. In that sense, like it or not, the Bank Century scandal is not done and any dirty laundry, if it exists, can certainly be aired in a libel case like this one.

The reality for Bonaventura and Simawun is that merely getting Edhie and his cohorts up on the stand and asking them whether or not they took the kickbacks is not going to "cut the mustard". The only way that the defense will corner any of these men into confessions is to overwhelm them with the truth of the allegations that have led to the libel petition being filed in the first place. This was evident in the short proceedings of Thursday when Suyanto sat in the witness chair.

Saor Siagian for the defense asked Suyanto whether or not he had received Bank Century funds. Suyanto's simple response was he was not involved in the case. The only way that Siagian can resolve this good ol' Mexican standoff is to have a little more ammunition left in the gun. There needs to be a magic bullet that ties all these claims together and proves that kickbacks were paid. If not, then Siagian has a hard road to hoe that is going to end up with his clients being found to have committed the offense as claimed.

And, this is where Golkar and other Bank Century conspiracy theorists can help Bonaventura and Simawun. Simply, if they have anything like hard evidence as opposed to hearsay, innuendo and the odd creative thought process, then now would be the time to put it out there.

But, getting back to where we started; a need or a diversion? You be the judge!


lawbugger said...

Ive been out of town for 3 weeks. Anything going on with this case?? Sounds interesting. I can check it myself. I really wonder if the defence can prove truth. Not an easy task for this small team - the prosecution certainly have trouble coming up with evidence often enough.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Lawbugger...

Not really. It comes and goes whenever there is a lull in the news cycle (how's that for cynical?).