Idul Fitri gatherings turn political gesture
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Post-fasting Idul Fitri celebrations have become a great event, not only for devout Muslims, but also for graft suspects and former convicts as they attend gatherings hosted by the nation’s top figures.
Speculation is rife that such events serve to enable political deals, as top politicians are also present at the gatherings, known as an “Open House”. One such open house was at the residence of former vice president Jusuf Kalla in Jakarta on Monday. Numerous Golkar Party politicians were present, including disgraced lawmaker Zulkarnaen Djabar, who has been named by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) as a bribery suspect in connection to a Koran procurement project at the Religious Affairs
Also present was business tycoon Murdaya Poo, the husband of Hartati Murdaya, a former member of the Democratic Party’s board of patrons and also a bribery suspect. Bachtiar Chamsyah, a former social affairs minister who was convicted of corruption, was also seen at the event. Zulkarnaen, Murdaya and Bachtiar didn’t speak to journalists at the event. When asked to comment about the presence of the graft-linked figures, Kalla said, “this is Idul Fitri; we want to gather regardless of our backgrounds”.
Separately, Anas Urbaningrum, the chairman of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, also hosted an Idul Fitri gathering. Anas is a controversial figure due to a number of high-profile corruption cases in which he is implicated. He has been accused of illicitly utilizing funds from state budget-funded projects to help him win the party chairmanship in 2010.
A number of the party’s senior members were present at Anas’ house, namely party patron and Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Syariefuddin Hasan; lawmaker Muhammad Jafar Hafsah; party deputy secretary-general Saan Mustofa; and Jakarta vice governor candidate, Nachrowi Ramli.
Anas’ alleged roles in the graft cases have reportedly triggered internal rifts within the party. The cases have also made President Yudhoyono, the party’s founder and patron head, uncomfortable with Anas’ leadership within the party.
Unexpectedly, Anas and his wife attended an open house hosted by President Yudhoyono at the State Palace on Sunday. Anas joined dozens of Cabinet members, businessmen and other high-ranking officials in shaking hands with the President at the Idul Fitri gathering. Later that day, the President also welcomed hundreds of well-wishers at the Palace, now an annual Idul Fitri event. Each guest received a package containing souvenirs and an undisclosed amount of cash.
The Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA) criticized the government for the open house, which cost Rp 1.5 billion (US$158,061) from the state budget.