Ezra Sihite & Rizky Amelia
Democratic Party officials are split on whether the naming on Wednesday of party patron and key financier Siti Hartati Murdaya as a corruption suspect will sully the party’s already graft-tainted image.
Melani Leimena, a member of the party’s board of patrons, on which Hartati also sits, said that although the bribery case in which the businesswoman was implicated was connected to her company, it would still reflect badly on the party.
“It will definitely affect us to some degree, especially now that people are looking more closely at our top officials,” Melani said. “Nevertheless, we have to keep on working.”
She added that it was now up to the party’s ethics council to decide whether Hartati’s legal status was grounds for suspending her.
However, Ahmad Mubarok, another member of the board of patrons, denied there would be any negative fallout for the Democrats from Hartati’s case. “The alleged bribery wasn’t a party matter. It was a business matter,” he said.
He pointed out that although she had a seat on the party, Hartati was not involved in party affairs, making it less likely that people would connect her alleged crime with the Democrats. He also pointed out that her husband, Murdaya Poo, was a former top official at the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Ahmad said the Democrats would support the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in its investigation of Hartati, despite her position in the party and the fact that she was a key financier behind President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s successful re-election bid in 2009.
“She may be a member of our board of patrons, but that doesn’t mean anything in the eyes of the law,” he said.
Hartati was named a suspect by the KPK on Wednesday over allegations that she ordered a Rp 2 billion ($212,000) bribe for Amran Batalipu, the head of Buol district in Central Sulawesi, in exchange for a palm oil plantation permit in a region immersed in a conflict over land tenure.
KPK chairman Abraham Samad said on Wednesday that Hartati would not be jailed unless the ongoing investigation or her actions warranted her detention. The antigraft office earlier imposed a travel ban to prevent her fleeing the country. The other suspects in the case are Amran, Yani Anshori and Gondo Sudjono.