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Confusion, infighting plague
bridge project

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono listens to a presentation regarding the engineering plan of the Sunda strait bridge during an event organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Kemayoran, North Jakarta, on April 15. The bridge is expected to be part of Yudhoyono’s legacy when his term ends in 2014.

The ambitious Sunda Strait Bridge (SSB) is supposed to be among President Susilo Bambang Yudho-yono’s legacies when his term ends in 2014. However, an apparent legal flaw in his presidential decree, which was issued to regulate the construction of the bridge, may cause the project to falter.

Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo, who has no affiliation with a political party, is struggling to get all stakeholders in the bridge’s construction to comply with the rule of law, and demands the decree be revised over concerns of not only future fiscal risks through state budget guarantee, but also the legal uncertainties for the private sector involved.

The ministry’s fiscal agency interim head Bambang Brodjonegoro said the confusion over the decree made it difficult for the ministry to achieve progress. Bambang explained that the distinctive nature of the SSB project, based on the decree, made it hard to determine what legal basis to use should the project require the government’s guarantee and involvement. Unlike other presidential decrees, the one governing the SSB project does not reference any related laws or regulations to justify its issue in regulating the project. It only states that the decree is based on Article 4 of the 1945 Constitution, which denotes the President as the highest authority in the country. The decree was drafted and signed by Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsudin, a senior politician with Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party.

With such flaws, there are suspicions among politicians that the decree is a kind of blank check to facilitate a consortium led by politically wired tycoon Tomy Winata to initiate and develop the bridge.

Tomy refused to comment on the issue. Wisnu Tjandra, the vice president director of Tomy’s Artha Graha Group, said the consortium would comply with whatever decision the government made, but in the meantime, would continue to do their job in line with the stipulations of the current decree.

The SSB fiasco has also exacerbated the already strained relationship between Agus and Hatta despite repeated denials by the two ministers over their discontentment.

Agus’ insistence to halt progress on the project until the legal flaws are settled has been perceived by fellow ministers as an act of disobedience toward the President.

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