A top lawmaker on Wednesday came to the defense of Siti Hartati Murdaya, a business tycoon and presidential financier under investigation for allegedly bribing an official in Central Sulawesi.
Marzuki Alie, speaker of the House of Representatives, said Hartati most likely committed the alleged bribery because she had no other choice. Companies often struggled to set up businesses in Indonesia, he said, and could not obtain business permits without bribing local officials.
“The problem in Indonesia is permit issuance,” said Marzuki, who is also the deputy chief patron of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party. “This case of Bu Hartati is like the tip of the iceberg. “You can check all the businesses — they’ve all experienced the same thing. They’re forced to [bribe] or they won’t secure a permit.”
As an example, Marzuki cited a cement producer who could not obtain a business permit from a district head in East Java, even though it was believed the country would benefit by up to Rp 4 trillion ($424 million) from the production.
“Even after the district head ended his term, and with our support, the permit has not been issued,” the House speaker said.
Marzuki added that the major autonomy of regional heads often created obstacles for companies.
“Why don’t you ask her [Hartati]? As far as I know, businesspeople are usually stingy. They wouldn’t give any money unless they really had to,” he told reporters in Jakarta.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named Hartati a suspect on Wednesday after her palm oil company, Hardaya Inti Plantation, reportedly tried to secure a land concession by paying Rp 2 billion in bribes to the head of Buol district in Central Sulawesi.
In a corruption sting on June 26, KPK investigators busted the district head, Amran Batalipu, along with Hardaya Inti Plantation’s manager, Yani Anshori, and the company’s operational director, Gondo Sudjono.
Yani and Gondo were arrested in the operation, but Amran fled the scene after his security officers slammed their car into a KPK vehicle. He was caught on July 5.
Hartati is a renowned benefactor of Yudhoyono and a member of the Democratic Party’s board of advisers.
Marzuki said he was not sure whether the party would remove her from the position, saying only active members of the party’s executive board were dismissed when named suspects in a case.