A major Indonesian rights group has accused the government of lacking transparency in its recent purchase of fighter jets.
“The last meeting between the government and Commission I of the House did not generate much progress in terms of transparency and accountability principles,” Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said on Wednesday.
Haris was referring to a hearing on Monday at the House of Representatives with the commission that oversees defense and international affairs.
He claimed the government failed to disclose key items to the public, including details about the purchase agreement, at the meeting. Also in attendance was Armida Alisjahbana, the minister of national development planning; Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, the deputy defense minister; and Air Marshal Eris Herryanto, the Defense Ministry’s secretary general.
“The government also did not answer in detail how involved PT Trimarga Rekatama was in the procurement,” he added.
Last week, a coalition of civil society groups, including Kontras, reported Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), citing a discrepancy between the government’s $470 million purchase of six Russian Sukhoi fighter jets and the actual price tag of $328.8 million.
Haris said that in the 2011 revised state budget, the government allocated Rp 237.5 billion [$25.8 million] for five units of Sukhoi engines. Each jet has two engines.
At the same time, he added, the ministry said it would use $470 million to purchase 12 units of engines on top of six jets.
“This means there was double budgeting,” he said.
The government has claimed it planned to use commercial credit to finance the jet deal.
On Monday, Eris said Trimarga Rekatama acted as a local support distribution system for Russian jet maker Rosoboronexport.
“The agency was not part of the Defense Ministry’s management,” he noted. “We did not buy [the jets] from Trimarga,”
As for the alleged lack of transparency, ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Hartind Asrin said the ministry was protected by the 2008 Freedom of Information Law, which exempts information on national defense and security.
“Article 17 explicitly says that information regarding defense and weaponry is not for public consumption,” he said.
Haris disagreed, saying the government could withhold information about the strategy behind the purchase but not about the purchase itself.
“Besides, if they admitted that a third party also handled the purchases, it means the details are in civilian hands,” he said. “If it [the purchase] is truly a secret, the government should do the transaction exclusively with the manufacturing company.”
Speaking separately, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, a lawmaker on Commission I, said on Wednesday that he appreciated the Defense Ministry’s transparency.
“It [the ministry] is now far better than it was in the previous government,” he said. It is “obeying procedures, including providing a detailed explanation to the House.”
Additional reporting by Markus Junianto Sihalolo & Ismira Lutfia