Antasari Denies Linking SBY to Century Bailout
Arientha Primanita & Ezra Sihite
A House of Representatives committee, overseeing investigations into the controversial bailout of Bank Century was shocked on Wednesday after former anticorruption czar Antasari Azhar denied making highly publicized remarks about the president’s alleged role in the matter.
Antasari refuted media reports that he said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono led a high-level meeting in October 2008 to discuss a bailout plan for Bank Century the following month.
“I did not say a word about Bank Century or the bailout,” Antasari said before the House of Representatives. “When it appeared in the media, I asked my lawyer to correct it.”
In an aired interview on Aug. 18, Antasari told Metro TV that the president, and several other high-ranking officials, met one month before the government handed the ailing Bank Century a bailout that eventually totaled Rp 6.7 trillion (worth $669.2 million at the time).
Lawmakers critical of the bailout had hoped Antasari would shed light on the meeting, saying it could uncover the truth behind the bailout and keep the investigation alive. House deputy speaker Pramono Anung, who led the committee, expressed disappointment about Antasari’s rebuttal and asked the State Palace to submit transcripts of the meeting in question.
“It is official, we are asking for meeting minutes, both written or recording [from the palace],” the lawmaker said.
Pramono, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which has deemed the bailout to be illegal, added that the committee will summon former Vice President Jusuf Kalla and current members of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) next week.
All nine factions at the House of Representatives aired their support for the move.
Antasari’s statement was widely repeated in Indonesian media, as news outlets jumped on the implication that Yudhoyono proceeded with the bailout, despite having knowledge of its potential fallout and amid widespread opposition from legislators.
“I don’t know the technical details of Century … but I know that they were planning something about it,” Antasari told Metro TV in an interview from prison. “At the BI meeting, there was SBY, KPK chairman, attorney general. There was also the coordinating minister of police, legal and security Affairs, and Finance Minister Hatta Rajasa. SBY said, ‘There should not be a monetary crisis [in Indonesia] like 1998, like what has started to happen in other countries. To prevent it, we need a breakthrough, a global breakthrough.’ ”
But on Wednesday, the former KPK chairman denied making a direct connection between Yudhoyono and the bailout.
In Wednesday’s hearing, Antasari said the president’s only words during the meeting were, in English, “in time[s] of crisis, there must be action, [a] decision must be taken quickly.”
Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said on Wednesday that they were ready to submit all transcripts and recordings of the said meeting to the House if there was an official request.
The president said on Friday that “channeling bailout funds of around $600 million to Bank Century had a very high political cost” and if they had not taken action immediately to resolve the crisis, it would have turned into an even bigger problem.