Dahlan Visits Yudhoyono to Discuss SMS Alleging House Shakedowns
Arientha Primanita & Ezra Sihite
State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan paid an unscheduled visit to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday to discuss an allegation he recently made about legislators trying to extort bribes from directors of state-owned enterprises in exchange for funding approval.
Speaking to reporters after the half-hour meeting at the State Palace, Dahlan declined to go into detail on what was discussed, saying the meeting was just between himself and the president.
“It had something to do with my statement, with the extortion [at the House of Representatives],” he said, adding that Yudhoyono was aware of the problem. “He didn’t ask for an explanation because he already knew. His advice was consistent [with earlier calls], in that this sort of practice shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”
In a text message sent last month to Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam, which was made public by Dipo last week, Dahlan complained of House members trying to extort SOEs for kickbacks in the run-up to the finalization of the 2013 state budget.
Dipo said the report prompted him to issue a memo on Sept. 28 to ministers, ministry officials, regional heads and directors of SOEs, to warn against the practice.
The budget was passed by the House last week.
Dahlan’s claim caused a maelstrom at the House, with legislators expressing outrage and demanding that he name the individuals he suspected of shaking down the SOEs.
House Speaker Marzuki Alie, who initially responded by saying that he considered the claim a personal affront, insisted over the weekend that the minister must provide proof or retract the allegation.
“We support 1,000 percent the naming of any legislator suspected of wrongdoing, solicitation or extortion, but only if there are facts to support the claim,” Marzuki said.
“But if you can’t provide the proof, then that means that there was no corruption at the House.”
Marzuki, from Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, added that if bribes had indeed been transacted to approve the funding allocations for the various SOEs, then the legislators were only partially responsible.
“There’s no such thing as one-sided corruption. It’s called collusion,” he said.
He claimed that legislators had in the past reportedly been offered kickbacks by officials from various SOEs and ministries in exchange for approving their funding, but the legislators consistently declined the offers.
“Often it’s the government officials who try to talk us into it because they want their funding or programs to go through,” Marzuki said.