Embattled Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum has urged his followers not to be cowed by a storm of graft allegations buffeting the ruling party.
Speaking at a party event in Banda Aceh on Sunday, Anas said the party would become stronger if it could present a united front in staring down the controversies.
“As a relatively new party, we naturally hope not to be hit by storms. But if one does come, then we must face it and not run away,” he said.
“A party that is tested this way is one that is ready to take the next step. Anyone who’s not ready to be tested is therefore not ready to advance.
“We have no doubt that we will pass this test and come out stronger.”
The party has been rocked by scandal for more than a year since Muhammad Nazaruddin, the treasurer at the time, was named a suspect in a bid-rigging case.
He was convicted and jailed earlier this year, but in the course of his detention and trial he has leveled myriad allegations of graft against other Democrats, including Anas, legislator Angelina Sondakh and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng.
Antigraft officials have since named Angelina a suspect in two bid-rigging cases and are investigating Anas and Andi’s roles in another case in connection to the awarding of a contract to build a Rp 1.2 trillion ($130 million) sports center in Bogor.
Anas, however, said the allegations were false and that it was all a matter of politics.
“Because these claims aren’t true, they won’t have any effect [on the party],” he said.
“Time will reveal the truth. We just need to keep working in the interests of the people, and eventually those allegations will disappear.”
Anas’s arrival in Aceh on Saturday was met with protests by university students gathered under the group Community Against Corruptors (KaPK).
About 30 students from Banda Aceh’s Syiah Kuala University rallied in the city center brandishing posters demanding that Anas be ejected from Aceh.
“We are opposed to his visit here because he is implicated in a corruption case being investigated by the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission],” said Heri Tamliqa, the KaPK coordinator.
Heri called on the KPK to ramp up its investigation into the sports center case by naming suspects. No suspects have yet been named in the case.
“Just because Anas is the chairman of a major party, that doesn’t make him exempt from the law,” Heri said.
“That’s why we’re reminding the KPK to keep its promise to deal with this case seriously.”
The rally, which proceeded peacefully, ended an hour later.