Union files WikiLeaks lawsuit,
despite President’s call
to go on

A union filed a US$1 billion lawsuit against two Australian newspapers on Tuesday for reports that the President abused his power, a day after Yudhoyono said he would move on.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told Cabinet ministers at a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, on Monday to stop commenting on reports made by Australian newspapers The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

The newspapers, citing a US State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, reported that Yudhoyono abused his power by dropping a corruption investigation of the husband of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

“We don’t have to remain a part of this uproar because there are more important things for us to do. I do not want to become too defensive and emotional,” he said.

“Believe me, I take responsibility for what I do. God willing, I will maintain my integrity because that is my duty as the leader of this country,” Yudhoyono said.

However the case seemed to be far from over, at least for members of the United Labor Union Federation of State-Owned Enterprises (FSP BUMN Bersatu), who filed a class-action lawsuit against the newspapers .

“The reports insult the dignity of the Indonesian nation,” Habiburokhman, a lawyer representing the union, said after registering the lawsuit at the Central Jakarta District Court on Tuesday.

He claimed the union had obtained at least three supporters from each of the nation’s 33 provinces to meet eligibility requirements to file a class-action lawsuit.

Habiburokhman said he suspected that the reports were made in retaliation for recent Indonesian proposals to reduce meat imports from Australia. “Indonesia recently said it would build up the local beef supply,” he said.

The US Embassy in Jakarta was also named in the lawsuit since the Australian reports were based on US State Department diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks.

“The reports will significantly disrupt the President’s concentration in resolving various problems, including those related to the public welfare, particularly the welfare of workers,” the group said.

Amir Syamsuddin, the secretary of the patron board of Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, denied that the lawsuit was endorsed by the party.

“It was purely a natural reaction from civil society,” Amir, also a lawyer, said, adding he feared the lawsuit would worsen the situation.

“It could be counterproductive. Certain people could abuse it for political interests.”

He reiterated Yudhoyono’s call for the public to end polemics over the WikiLeaks reports.

“All necessary measures have been taken by the Foreign Ministry,” he said.

Amir said he was wary that the Australian media outlets would be offended by the lawsuit.

“Who can guarantee that the newspapers will stop publishing stories that are unfavorable to Indonesia?” Amir said.

Meanwhile, The Age on Tuesday ran a story about a cancelled telephone conversation between US President Barack Obama and Yudhoyono.

The conversation had been arranged before the WikiLeaks reports appeared, according to The Age, citing an anonymous source. “When the WikiLeaks thing broke, it didn’t happen,” the source said.

Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha denied that the cancellation was linked to the Australian reports. “Rescheduling telephone conversations between the President and the leaders of other countries is common. It happens sometimes,” Julian said.

The telephone conversation, which has yet to be rescheduled, was intended for Yudhoyono and Obama to discuss the upcoming East Asia Summit in Indonesia, according to Julian, who declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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