Ezra Sihite & SP/Robertus Wardi
Officials from the country’s two oldest political parties have denied speculation of jockeying over lucrative Religious Affairs Ministry contracts following a public spat between the minister and his deputy.
Arwani Tomafi, a spokesman for the United Development Party (PPP), said on Tuesday that there was no crisis at the ministry, after Deputy Minister Nasaruddin Umar said last Friday that Suryadharma Ali, the religious affairs minister from the PPP, should be held accountable for a graft-ridden Koran procurement case.
“This has no bearing whatsoever on the PPP,” Arwani said.
“I don’t believe that a bona fide bureaucrat, and a professor to boot, like Nasaruddin, would play with politics like that.”
He was responding to speculation that the apparent rift between Suryadharma and Nasaruddin, reportedly a member of the Golkar Party, stemmed from a rivalry over which party should get a cut of the lucrative projects administered by the ministry.
A ministry source claimed that Suryadharma was upset with Nasaruddin for steering most of the projects to Golkar, and in retaliation blew the whistle on graft in a Koran procurement project for 2011 and 2012.
The main suspect named so far in that case is Zulkarnaen Djabar, a Golkar legislator who served on both House of Representatives Commission VIII, which oversees religious affairs, and the House Budget Committee.
Another suspect is his son, Dendy Prasetya, the director of the company awarded the Rp 20 billion ($2.12 million) Koran procurement contract. Both allegedly received a total of Rp 4 billion in bribes from the projects.
Both father and son are also leading members of the Mutual Assistance Families Society (MKGR), one of Golkar’s three core organizations.
Golkar has denied any involvement in the case. It also insists that Nasaruddin is not a member of the party.
“As far as I know, Nasaruddin Umar has never been registered as a Golkar member,” deputy secretary general Nurul Arifin said when asked to confirm. “It would be inaccurate to call him a party member.”
Tantowi Yahya, a Golkar spokesman, also denied the link.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of this,” he said.
He added that allegations that the apparent falling-out between Suryadharma and Nasaruddin was over party claims to project kickbacks was patently false.
“Golkar has never exploited its relations with officials for those kinds of purposes,” he said.
Signs of a fissure at the top of the ministry emerged following Nasaruddin’s questioning in the Koran case by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
Speaking to reporters on Friday, the deputy minister said that “the minister should be held responsible for everything.”