Howls of protest immediately followed the appointment on Friday of Golkar Party lawmaker Idrus Marham as chairman of the House of Representatives special committee investigating the bailout of PT Bank Century.
Critics said the appointment of Idrus, an ally of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his three deputies raised serious concerns about whether the investigation would be conducted in good faith. The appointments were seen by many as a victory for the coalition of parties backing Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party.
Gayus Lumbuun from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Yahya Sacawiria from the Democratic Party, and Mahfudz Siddiq from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) were appointed Idrus’ deputies.
Idrus vowed to dispel doubts over his leadership. “I’m ready for the chairmanship,” he said. “All doubts are a challenge for me.”
“The public spotlight is really strong. If we play with the case, it would mean suicide,” he added.
Idrus is Golkar’s secretary general, and also close to Yudhoyono ally and Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie. Critics argued on Friday that his appointment would limit the effectiveness of the probe into the Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million) bailout and the subsequent flow of funds, which some alleged ended up financing Yudhoyono’s re-election campaign. He and the Democrats have denied the allegation.
Some analysts have said the House probe has now turned political, with the goal of undermining the government by unseating Vice President Boediono, who was governor of the central bank at the time of the bailout, and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati. Recordings of meetings indicate Boediono pushed for the bailout.
Gayus, one of the lawmakers who originally sought the creation of a House investigative committee, on Friday warned the public not to get its hopes too high.
He said the 30-member committee would no longer be “objective” with Idrus at the helm.
PDI-P lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari questioned Idrus’s alleged involvement in graft case involving rice imports from Vietnam in 2003. Idrus told the House he was never questioned in connection with the case.
Meanwhile, a dozen activists from a group calling itself the Petisi 28 held a protest inside the House building, demanding that lawmakers not place “a dark passenger” at the head of the committee, referring to Idrus having been against the committee from the start. They said he lacked the integrity needed to properly investigate the case. “We oppose Idrus Marham,” group spokesman Masinton Pasaribu said.
Boni Hargens, one of the protesters, said hopes for an effective investigation had been dashed as Idrus had never pushed for the team’s formation to begin with.
Sebastian Salang, chairman of Concerned Citizens for the Indonesian Parliament (Formappi), was quoted by Antara news agency as having said that the House’s “image and honor” was at stake in the Century probe.