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FREEPORT-GATE: Minister Sudirman testifies at House Ethic Council over rent-seeking case, implicating House Speaker

Minister Sudirman Said appears in frontpage of major daily Kompas. The minister testifies at the House ethic council over Freeport-gate.
Minister Sudirman Said appears in frontpage of major daily Kompas. The minister testifies at the House ethic council over Freeport-gate.

JAKARTA (rambuenergy.com) – The House of Representative (DPR) Ethics Council (MKD) members on Wednesday began their hearing on alleged breaching of ethics that implicates the House Speaker Setya Novanto (SN), former treasurer of Golkar Party and controversial businessman and well-known oil trader Muhammad Riza Chalid (RC).

On Wednesday, the Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said gave his testimony to the members of MKD to clarify his report and content of the tape which secretly recorded the conversation of Freeport Indonesia Chairman Maroef Sjamsoeddin, a former top executive of state intelligence agency (BIN), House Speaker Setya Novanto and businessman RC.

House Speaker Setya Novanto has been under intense public scrutiny since middle of November for allegedly offering help to extend PT Freeport Indonesia’s contract, in return that Freeport handed over shares to them, claiming that the shares for for President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla. President Joko Widodo has silently angered about the case, while VP Jusuf Kalla made public response saying that that is “the biggest scandal.

The intense scrutiny happened after Minister Sudirman reported SN,  a prominent legislator to the House of Representatives Ethics Council (MKD) to have tried take advantage of the Freeport contract. He made the report to MKD, instead of police, as he believed the case is breaching of ethics by a Parliament member.

Setya Novanto and businessman Riza Chalid were believed to have tried to manipulate the President and VP’s name for their own personal interest.  Golkar Party is a member of Red-and-White Coalition (KMP) parties, which were battled against Joko Widodo camp during last year’s general election. Meanwhile, Riza Chalid, the owner of kids playground in Pacific Place and believed to own shares in a major budget airline, was a ‘sponsor’ of the KMP coalition. He is also believed to have a close friendship with former coordinating minister for the economy Hatta Rajasa.

Freeport’s contract will expire in 2021, meaning that the company would only be able to seek contract extension two years earlier. However, Freeport wants to be assured that the decision on contract will be extended earlier than 2019 as the company wants to make huge investment to develop underground mining in Grasberg Mining site.

During the hearing on Wednesday, the minister admitted that the transcript of discussion was between Setya Novanto, Freeport Indonesia President Director Maroef  Sjamsoedin and M. Riza Chalid.

The MKD members also on Wednesday made the recorded conversation public, while the full transcript went viral in the social media. As written in the transcript, Setya Novanto demanded Freeport to handover 11 percent of shares to President Jokowi and 9 percent to VP Jusuf Kalla as well as shares in a power plant to be built near the mining site.

The hearing at MKD became an instant hit conversation in social media such as twitter and facebook. The hastag #PertanyaanMKD became the hottest trending topic with the public funny jokes about the irrelevant questions made by the MKD members.

In general, the public at large, observers and political elites, have widely welcome the move by Minister Sudirman Said to have submitted the report to the MKD, although it may be a risky action as well as made blunt statements and answered the questions raised by MKD members firmly on Wednesday.

Minister Sudirman said he has no intention, other than to “clean up the rent-seeking” practices that have eroded the country’s economy in the past.  He said this has become his mission since he was appointed by the President and Vice President as a cabinet minister. Sudirman is a former CEO of state-owned military equipment producer PT Pindad and a former executive of Aceh Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR), which was chaired by Kuntoro Mangkusubroto.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has openly expressed his anger that his name and position was used by Setya Novanto to pressure Freeport and threatened to take legal action. President Joko Widodo, however, has yet to make public comment.

A number of legislators have called on Setya Novanto to resign from House Speaker for the best interest of the House. Initially, Minister Sudirman submitted the eleven minutes of the recorded conversation as it was the part that relevant to the Freeport case. However, since the MKD members asked him to submit the full recorded conservation, he then submitted the full recorded tape.

He also admitted that it was the Freeport chief that has recorded the conservation and that he learned from Maroef that the meeting held in a hotel in Pacific Place few months ago were attended by three people, Maroef, Novanto and Riza Chalid.

Earlier, Setya Novanto met with VP Jusuf Kalla and stated that he has no intention to manipulate the President and VP’s names for his own personal interest.

However, Jusuf Kalla disclosed that there were meetings between Setya Novanto and top executives of Freeport, which was certainly not part of the House speaker or legislator’s job to be involved in contract negotiations.

Minister Sudirman said in a report to the House Ethic Council that SN promised to help extend Freeport’s contract, in return Freeport should hand over 20 percent of shares, which he claimed to be handed to the President and Vice President. Freeport was also asked to become investor in a power plant project in Urumuka, Papua and demanded 49 percent interest in the power plant project.

Setya Novanto has been in the past mentioned in a number of high profile cases such as in the Bank Bali saga, electronic ID card and few other high profile cases. In the Bank Bali case, Novanto offered help to Bank Bali to become a broker with the central bank and the government to recover Rp540 billion of funds. He survived the Bank Saga as well as in other subsequent cases.

The public is now waiting for firm actions by the House Ethic Council as well as the President and Vice President.

Maroef Sjamsoeddin is scheduled to attend a hearing at MKD today to give his testimony over the case. However, businessman Riza Chalid is yet to confirm his attendance at the second-day hearing. (Roffie Kurniawan – editorial@rambumedia.com)

 

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