Febriamy Hutapea & Antara
In his harshest comments yet on the controversial PT Bank Century bailout, former Vice President Jusuf Kalla denied claims by former Bank Indonesia officials that if the lender had been allowed to fail it would have had a systemic impact on the country’s banking system and economy.
“The Bank Century scandal is a robbery,” Kalla said during a seminar, titled “Time for the Conscience to Speak,” at Hotel Sahid Jaya in Jakarta on Friday. “Anyone who supports Bank Century, supports a robber.”
He said Bank Century, since renamed PT Bank Mutiara, got into trouble because its funds had been stolen, not because of the financial crisis, and that its failure would not have affected the rest of the banking system.
“But to this day it is still not transparent what the case is about,” the former Golkar Party chairman said in comments that appeared to be directed at the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Kalla said the scandal had inflamed the public and could have disastrous consequences, reminding his audience of the events surrounding the downfall of former President Suharto in 1998, when economic frustrations led to huge protests and riots.
Kalla said he hoped the House of Representatives special committee investigating the scandal arrived at a judicious decision that was in keeping with the people’s sense of justice.
Meanwhile, a recommendation by the special committee to suspend Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati during its inquiry has been rejected by leaders in the legislature. Deputy Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso, of the Golkar Party, said the House Consultative Body — comprised of party faction leaders in the House — had agreed in a meeting to stash the proposal “in the desks of House leaders.”
During the meeting, the Golkar Party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) voted to forward the proposal to a full House plenary session. They also supported sending an official letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono demanding he fire the vice president and finance minister.
However, all of the parties in Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party-led coalition — except for Golkar — fell into line and rejected any further action.
Priyo, speaking about the ongoing Bank Century scandal during a discussion at the House, conceded there had been a “little debate” in arriving at the decision not to proceed with the suspension request, but when House Speaker Marzuki Alie, of the Democratic Party, “banged the gavel, no one argued with it.”
The special committee has been criticized for its “malicious attempts” to oust the two professionals from their posts, while Yudhoyono rejected outright calls for dismissal. It has faced further criticism for allegedly politicizing the inquiry rather than focusing on investigating the circumstances surrounding the Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million) bailout.
Meanwhile, Sri Mulyani, who chaired the Financial Sector Stability Committee (KSSK) that decided on the Bank Century bailout, is scheduled to appear before the House inquiry committee on Wednesday.