Editorial: Misbakhun strikes back?
Paper Edition | Page: 6
For former Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmaker Muhammad Misbakhun, the Supreme Court’s decision to clear him of forgery charges linked to the controversial Rp 6.76 trillion (US$716.56 million) Bank Century bailout last week is seen as a vindication.
But for the general public, particularly those who have followed the case, which centered on alleged falsification of a letter of credit from Bank Century (now Bank Mutiara) that made PT Selalang Prima International, which is partly owned by Misbakhun, eligible for a $22.5 million loan, the prolonged court battle showed how legal measures can be subtly pursued to silence political opponents.
Such an assertion is justified by the fact that Misbakhun was one of nine lawmakers who spearheaded in 2009 the House of Representatives’ investigation into the questionable bailout in 2008 of ailing Bank Century. The House concluded that the bailout was a violation and recommended formal investigations of state officials responsible for the policy, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s deputy Boediono, who was the Bank Indonesia governor when the bailout was made, and former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati.
The House’s move demonstrated the fragile coalition Yudhoyono had built and led to Sri Mulyani’s exit from the Cabinet, although officially she resigned to take up the post of managing director at the World Bank.
Misbakhun was embroiled in the fraud case following a report filed by presidential special staffer for disaster mitigation Andi Arief. Although there was no evidence that the President had a hand in the probe into Misbakhun, the head of state’s statement on the PKS lawmaker two weeks after the Central Jakarta district court sentenced him to one year in jail in November 2010 was perceived by many as unusual, if not an interference in the judicial process, as Misbakhun was at the time appealing the lower court’s verdict.
The Supreme Court doubled Misbakhun’s sentence in March last year, a legally binding verdict that not only extended his incarceration, but also cost him his House seat. In October that year, PKS appointed Muhammad Firdaus to fill Misbakhun’s shoes, which House leaders say will close the door to Misbakhun’s comeback despite his acquittal and rehabilitation. It will require the PKS’ fiat to bring Misbakhun back to the House, but if the reinstatement does occur many might perceive him not as a seeker of justice but merely a power hunter.
If Misbakhun really intends to seek enforcement of the law related to the Bank Century bailout, he could simply support the lawmakers from outside the House. Pushing for a further probe into the case will, however, put the country’s political stability at stake. Revival of a stand-off between the government and the House will at the end of the day do more harm than good for this nation.