National

Poor memory and denials
plague bribery trial

Remember that time?: Former deputy senior governor Miranda S. Goeltom (left) chats with former National Planning and Development Agency head Paskah Suzetta at the Corruption Court waiting room before they stand witness at a graft hearing, on Tuesday. JP/Nurhayati

Forgetfulness, rebuttals and claimed ignorance of events seem to plague the hearing of the multimillion dollar bribery case that has implicated many former lawmakers, with witnesses tarnishing court proceedings with poor answers that have irritated the panel of judges.

Top brass Golkar politician Paskah Suzetta, also a former state minister for national development planning, repeatedly rebutted all allegations against him in Tuesday’s hearing, including denying ever having received traveler’s checks worth Rp 600 million (US$60,000) from defendant Hamka Yandhu after the election of Miranda Swaray Goeltom as a central bank deputy senior governor in 2004.

Paskah was then the chairman of the House of Representatives’ Commission IX overseeing banking and financial issues, which was responsible for the election process.

He refuted previous testimony of of an employee at a car dealer that he had bought a Honda CRV using cash and five traveler’s checks.

“The car was purchased with the money I got from selling my son’s [Suzuki] Escudo, his savings and donations from my other children,” he said in Tuesday’s trial of Hamka, a former lawmaker from the Golkar Party, at the Corruption Court.

Hamka is accused of receiving traveler’s checks worth Rp 7.35 billion from a third party to support Miranda’s election.

He allegedly kept 45 sheets of the checks he received for himself. The checks were worth Rp 2.25 billion. He distributed the remaining checks to 11 members of the commission from the Golkar faction.

The case has also implicated 19 politicians from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), four from the United Development Party (PPP) and another four from the Indonesian Military/National Police faction.

Another witness, Baharuddin Aritonang, a former Golkar legislator and former member of the Supreme Audit Agency, also refuted the earlier testimony of his staffer that he had asked the latter to cash in checks worth Rp 200 million. Baharuddin allegedly received seven sheets of checks worth a total of Rp 350 million. This, too,
he denied.

But the hearing on Tuesday was in for more confusing moments as another witness, Sumarni, a secretary of amnesiac businesswoman Nunun Nurbaeti, took to the stand.

A Corruption Court justice called Sumarni “Miss Forgetful” after she repeatedly answered questions with “I don’t remember”.

“I don’t remember if it was Ibu Nunun or another [male] director at the company that had asked me to cash in the traveler’s checks,” Sumarni said.

The secretary at Nunun’s PT Wahana Esa Sembada was referring to 20 sheets of traveler’s checks worth Rp 1 billion she cashed in 2004. Nunun allegedly arranged the delivery of the traveler’s checks worth a total of Rp 24 billion to 39 lawmakers after Miranda’s election.

Another judge asked Sumarni, “When the person instructed you to cash in the checks, was the voice a woman’s or a man’s?”

The question again resulted in another “I forgot” answer, sending a wave of laughter through the audience at the trial.

Judges, bewildered by her answers, determined to bring Nunun to testify before the court to confront the testimony from these two witnesses. Nunun, who is now in Singapore, has missed several court summons due to her illness.

A judge told the prosecutors, “One way or another, bring Nunun to this court”.

In previous hearings, Miranda, who took the stand as a witness also gave the judges “I don’t remember”  as her answer to many questions.

She said she forgot whether she was the host or the guest in a meeting at a South Jakarta hotel where she gave a presentation to several PDI-P lawmakers.

She replied in a similar vein to a question why she had meetings only with PDI-P and military/police factions but not with Golkar.

PDI-P legislator Panda Nababan, who stood witness earlier, also answered “I cannot recall” when asked whether he was a guest or host at the same meeting.

He also repeatedly replied “I don’t know” to the questions, prompting the panel of judges to order him to “contemplate” his answers.

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