Excesses Catch Up to Ratu Atut
Serang. For political analyst Gandung Ismanto, it was a miracle that no one from the family of Banten Governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah was arrested sooner on corruption charges.
Gandung, from Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa University in Serang, says reports after detailed reports have for years been filed with the authorities about the massive graft allegedly committed by the family, which occupies seats of power throughout the province, but to no effect.
So when Tubagus Chaeri Wardana, Ratu Atut’s younger brother and the husband of South Tangerang Mayor Airin Rachmi Diany, was arrested last week in connection with the bribery of the Constitutional Court’s chief justice, Gandung felt vindicated in his convictions.
“The people have long waited for the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission] to look into the allegations of corruption,” Gandung said on Tuesday.
“The arrest of Tubagus and the travel ban against Ratu Atut have given people here hope that finally all the allegations reported against the governor, her family and cronies will be investigated.”
Only an objective investigation by the likes of the KPK, he said, “can bring down Ratu Atut’s political dynasty,”
However, he warned that her support base in Banten, particularly among Islamic clerics and gangs fronting as community organizations, remained strong, which, combined with her senior position in the Golkar Party and huge personal wealth, would easily overcome a half-hearted attempt at an investigation.
“It’s inevitable that political interests will be dragged into this case, but the people of Banten must support the KPK in carrying out its probe,” Gandung said.
Ratu Atut was slapped with a travel ban last week, shortly after her brother was arrested on the night of Oct. 2 at his Jakarta home for the alleged bribery of the now-suspended chief justice, Akil Mochtar, in connection with a case the latter was hearing over the disputed election for district chief in Banten’s Lebak district on Aug. 31.
Allegations of widespread abuse of power, nepotism and graft have long dogged Ratu Atut’s family, not least because of the family’s grip on power throughout Banten and individual members’ ostentatious display of wealth.
Among the items seized from Tubagus’s home were a fleet of luxury cars, including a Rolls-Royce, two Ferraris, a Lamborghini, a Nissan GT-R and a Lexus.
Suhada, the executive director of the Alliance of Independent Public Affairs Institutes (ALIPP), said that his organization, working with Indonesia Corruption Watch, an antigraft activist group, had identified at least Rp 340 billion ($29.6 million) in grants and Rp 60 billion in social aid funds that were allegedly embezzled by the family in the province since 2011.
Ratu Tatu Chasanah, Atut’s sister, is the deputy district chief of Serang, and their step-brother, Nurjaman, is the deputy mayor of the city of Serang, the capital of both the district and the province.
Airin Rachmi Diany, Tubagus’s wife, is the mayor of South Tangerang. She is currently undertaking a state-sponsored three-week course at Harvard Business School in the United States — for anti-corruption studies.
Gandung said there would likely be a groundswell of opposition to any move to investigate the governor by exploiting residents’ religious sensibilities.
“There’s the potential for social conflict to arise, which is why the clerics must stay neutral and help keep the peace in Banten,” he said.
Ratu Atut has already played the religion card, announcing that despite the travel ban, she was going to Mecca for the hajj. On Tuesday, she held a gathering at a mosque in Serang to ask people to pray for her to have a safe trip. She was chauffered from her home to the mosque — which was right across the street.
KPK spokesman Johan Budi noted that Ratu Atut had already undertaken the pilgrimage multiple times, and that as a Muslim she was only obliged to go once, hence there was no justification for flouting the travel ban.
The KPK said it had already summoned her for questioning at its South Jakarta office on Friday.
The antigraft body has a tradition of charging and detaining witnesses after questioning them on a Friday, which has come to be dubbed “Jumat Keramat,” or “Hallowed Friday.”
This, and the imposition of the travel ban, suggesting the governor may be on the verge of facing criminal charges for corruption.