Senior Golkar politicians hailed Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie’s stance on the government coalition and the Bank Century bailout, but demanded he step down until the tax evasion allegations against him were resolved.
They said the allegations would be exploited by Golkar’s main political foe, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party.
“Aburizal’s statement rekindles my hopes for the future of the Golkar Party,” Zainal Bintang, who chairs the Clean Golkar Caucus critical of Aburizal, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Zainal said Aburizal should temporarily resign as Golkar chairman and focus on resolving the tax evasion allegations levelled at three companies belonging to the Bakrie family currently under investigation.
“Resigning is crucial so any pressure applied on Aburizal will not tarnish Golkar’s image. He is the face of Golkar,” he said.
In a closed-door meeting with Golkar Cabinet ministers, legislators and governors on Wednesday, Aburizal made it clear he was not worried about the political intrigues against Golkar and himself personally, including the tax evasion allegations.
He told Golkar cadres the party would remain critical of the President’s administration, even though the party is part of the coalition.
But in a private blog, Aburizal wrote Thursday that the media “exaggerated” his statements on Bank Century and the coalition.
He argued that the meeting was held to discuss how to help the government run the country, not just focusing on the controversial bailout.
“Let me make it clear that the stance of Golkar members in the Bank Century inquiry committee has no relation with the tax case levelled at me,” Aburizal, the former coordinating public welfare minister, said.
He added that the tax evasion allegations should be resolved in court and not in the political arena or the media.
Golkar has three ministers in the Cabinet.
Some senior Golkar officials criticized Aburizal’s decision to join the coalition, saying it could further damage the party’s image.
Senior party member Poempida Hidayatulloh praised Aburizal’s bold stand on Golkar’s position and Bank Century, saying it could improve the Party’s standing.
“His statement really inspired me as a Golkar cadre,” he said.
Poempida, who was former deputy treasury under the party chairmanship of Jusuf Kalla, warned that Aburizal should be consistent in rejecting any political deals aimed at undermining Golkar’s position in the Century saga.
“I still believe that being independent is better than being in a coalition with the government if Golkar wants to improve its image ahead of the 2014 general elections,” he said.
Inquiry committee members from Golkar, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the United Development Party (PPP), the Greater Indonesian Party and the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) said in their preliminary conclusion that the government’s decision to bail out Bank Century at a cost of Rp 6.76 trillion (US$716 million) was flawed and smacked of corruption.