From grave digging to Koran procurement graft
Paper Edition | Page: 10
Earlier this year, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali weathered public criticism when he said that Shia Islam could be considered as heretical because it deviated from mainstream Islamic teachings. He made a similar statement last year about the Ahmadiyah, which many regarded as justification for attacks against followers of the sect.
In March this year, Suryadharma made another outrageous comment that offended feminists and champions of women’s rights by saying that women wearing skirts with hemlines above the knee could be charged with pornography.
Some observers feel the chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) has lowered the standards bar even further for an already tarnished ministry.
“Even though his [Suryadharma] predecessors were no better than him, they at least did not worsen religious conflicts within the community. I can’t recall any previous religious affairs ministers making counterproductive statements in such a way as Suryadharma,” Ismail Hasani of the Setara Institute said.
However two of Suryadharma’s predecessors created problems of their own.
Former religious affairs minister Maftuh Basyuni was responsible for the haj food fiasco in 2007, which saw 205,000 Indonesian pilgrims go without food in Mecca.
His predecessor Said Agil Hussein Al Munawwar was jailed in 2006 for embezzling Rp 625 billion (US$66.25 million) from the Haj Trust Fund.
Said Agil also had a strange pre-occupation with “otherworldly” matters. He turned the ministry into a laughing stock in 2002 when he ordered the excavation of the ancient Batutulis historical site in Bogor, West Java, in the search for buried treasure.
Although he claimed that he received instructions for the excavation from then president Megawati Soekarnoputri, Said Agil was reported to have stumbled upon the idea in a dream.
The excavation project soon prompted calls from the public for him to resign due to incompetence.
He was also chided for causing damage to the protected historical site and could have faced 10 years in jail under the law on protection of heritage sites.
No legal action was taken against Said Agil for the damage he caused but four years later he was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling the haj fund.
Many have called for similar treatment for Suryadharma.
“It’s about time for the current minister to be put in jail both for the misuse of haj funds and the graft-ridden Koran-procurement scandal. And we call on the Corruption Eradication Commission [KPK] to launch a probe of Suryadharma for his alleged role in both cases,” Fajlurrahman Jurdi, chairman of the Muhammadiyah Students Association, told The Jakarta Post.
He said that unless Suryadharma was investigated on graft charges, his ministry would lose its moral
“We will not follow the lead from a corrupt institution like the Religious Affairs Ministry nor its leader [Suryadharma],” the Muhammadiyah Student Association said in a statement made soon after Suryadharma expressed his disappointment over the absence of representatives from Muhammadiyah in a meeting to vote for the start of Ramadhan on July 19.
Fajlurrahman said the systemic corruption within the ministry, which included the misuse of the haj fund and the Rp 55 billion Koran-procurement scandal, would be impossible without the approval or knowledge of its most senior official.
The KPK has named lawmaker Zulkarnaen Djabar of the Golkar Party a suspect in the scandal, as well as his son Dendy Prasetya who is said to own PT Karya Sinergi Alam Indonesia (KSAI), the company that won the tender to be in charge of the procurement.
Fajlurrahman alleged that the ministry installed Dendy as a puppet to take the blame and that the company actually belonged to businessman Hanggoro Santoso.
An individual identifying himself only as Listan and who claimed to act as Hanggoro’s legal consultant, has confirmed the businessman did own the company and that the company had won the tender for Koran procurement three times between 2010 and 2011.
He said that his client, however, refused to take responsibility for the scandal because “PT KSAI provided the service based on a request from the Religious Affairs Ministry”.
“We don’t know why Dendy has been named as owner of the company, nor do we know the source of such misleading information. We have never had any contacts with him. We don’t even know who this person is. We therefore don’t want Dendy’s name associated with PT KSAI anymore,” Listan told
Listan, however, said that Hanggoro had yet to contact the Religious Affairs Ministry or law enforcement agencies about the “illegal” use of his company’s name.
Hanggoro himself was unavailable for comment.
And now as the KPK moves to detain Zulkarnaen and after questioning a number of officials from the Religious Affairs Ministry, it appears that high-ranking officials in the ministry remain out of reach.