Tycoon James Riady made it to Boston in September last year when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono delivered a speech in front of US and Indonesian businesspeople.
Riady could re-enter the US after the US State Department through the country’s embassy here, waived an eight-year ban on him.
At the same time, two Indonesian generals, Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin and Maj. Gen. Pramono Edi Wibowo, had to stay home after the embassy rejected their visas although they applied for them as
part of the President’s entourage, raising questions here and in the US on how such a contrast of treatment could occur.
There was no official statement on the reason for rejecting the visa application for the two generals, but speculation emerged that Sjafrie, today announced as deputy defense minister, was barred due to his alleged involvement in a human rights violations in Dili, East Timor, and in the bloody May 1998 riots, while Pramono, the Indonesian Army special squad Kopassus commander, was not provided a visa because of his squad’s past involvement in rights abuses.
While Sjafrie has never been charged with a crime, Riady was barred from America after pleading guilty in 2001 to a “conspiracy to defraud the United States” through illegal contributions to Bill Clinton’s campaigns and other Democrats.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Riady traveled twice to the US last year after receiving a waiver from a rule that forbids entry to foreigners guilty of “a crime involving moral turpitude”, a term that government lawyers generally interpret to include fraud.
The newspaper said that Riady’s return to the US posed a prickly question for Hillary Clinton’s State Department: hhow and why did a foreign billionaire, stained by Clinton-era scandals, receive a US visa after being denied entry for so long under the Bush administration?
Riady’s ties to the Clintons have been a source of heated controversy since the late 1990s when Riady became embroiled in one of the murkiest episodes of the Clinton presidency, a fund-raising scandal that caused a political ruckus in Washington amid Republican Party allegations, never proved, of meddling, by China intelligence in American politics.
The saga brought Riady and his family run conglomerate, Lippo Group, a US$8.6 million fine, the biggest penalty in the history of US campaign finance violations.
Riady told The Washington Post that he had not seen the Clintons during his 2009 trips to America,
but did pay $20,000 to become a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual gathering of prominent figures in politics, business and philanthropy, sponsored by Bill Clinton.
A member of the foreign affairs commission at the Indonesian House of Representatives, Guntur Sasono from Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, questioned the double standard of the US, saying the House had asked the foreign minister to address the matter.
An expert from Bandung’s Parahyangan Catholic University, Anak Agung Banyu Perwita, said it was no surprise the US applied a different standard on Riady and Sjafrie.
“The US has authority,” he said. “However, due to Sjafrie’s important position, we should ask the US about the different treatment.
“Although it has the right not to answer.”