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New PKS members implicated

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) could likely suffer another severe blow as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has said that it would go after more individuals allegedly involved in the government-run beef importation scheme.

The KPK is now investigating more individuals implicated in the graft case while whistle-blowers within the Muslim-based party called for the antigraft body to also investigate the party’s new chairman, Anis Matta.

“I don’t want to make an early assumption but the KPK has begun questioning witnesses. Let’s see how the investigation proceeds. [...] The KPK never discriminates. If investigators find roles of other individuals, then they will also be charged,” KPK spokesperson Johan Budi said on Sunday.

On Wednesday, Luthfi’s aide, Ahmad Fathanah was arrested after accepting Rp 1 billion (US$102,965) in alleged bribes from two executives of beef importing firm PT Indoguna Utama in exchange for an import slot.

Beef importation is overseen by the Agriculture Ministry, which is led by minister Suswono, a senior PKS politician.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) analyst Apung Widadi said the KPK must open an investigation into Suswono’s role in the scandal because the policy for beef importation was made by the minister.

“It is easy to link the case to the minister. The KPK will likely grill Suswono to find out if he had asked for fees from Indoguna. One possibility is that Suswono had asked Luthfi, as his colleague from PKS, to deal with the company,” said Apung, who is also convinced that the bribery could have links to the party’s effort to collect funds ahead the 2014 elections.

Meanwhile, Yusuf Supendi, founding member of PKS, who was expelled following a clash with the party’s top brass, said that the KPK should also launch investigation into Anis and the chairman of the party’s board of patrons, Hilmi Aminuddin.

Yusuf said that the KPK probe against the two party bigwigs could also save the party from declining further.

Yusuf accused Hilmi of frequently receiving illicit fees from PKS members sitting in the House of Representatives and the Cabinet of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In 2011, Yusuf accused Luthfi of misappropriating donations from the Middle East for his personal use when serving as the party’s treasurer. He also accused Anis of embezzling Rp 10 billion from the Rp 40 billion in campaign funds donated by PKS lawmaker Adang Daradjatun to the party during the previous Jakarta gubernatorial election.

“PKS has a very slim chance of performing well in the 2014 election, particularly after it decided to appoint Anis, a decision that will further harm the party’s credibility among its members. Under Anis’ leadership, PKS faces only two options; dissolution or extinction,” Yusuf said in a discussion on Sunday.

Earlier last year, the KPK questioned Anis for his possible role in a bribery case surrounding deliberations over the 2011 Regional Infrastructure Adjustment Fund (DPID). Anis denied the allegations.

Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) predicted that the PKS would face an uphill battle in restoring its clean image following the revelation of the beef importation graft case.

“It’ll be difficult for the party to maintain its share of the vote, let alone to increase it. The beef importation graft case will particularly impact the party’s non-loyal supporters,” SMRC research director Djayadi Hanan said.

Djayadi said that PKS executives must have the courage to sack members with records of involvement in graft cases.

Responding to calls from party members for PKS to withdraw from the coalition, Anis said that no firm decision had been made.

“I am not in opposition to the KPK, but we are fighting against a tyrannical power,” Anis said. “I received numerous suggestions to withdraw our ministers from the Cabinet and leave the coalition, but the party has yet to make decision on that,” he added.

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