Banten rises up against House of Atut
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
After years under the shadow of Ratu Atut Chosiyah, rivals of the powerful Banten governor have finally begun to challenge her stranglehold on the province after her brother, Tubagus Chaeri Wardana, was arrested for allegedly paying a bribe to disgraced former Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar.
On Monday, a coalition of Banten residents staged a rally at the Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) headquarters in Kuningan, South Jakarta, demanding the antigraft body arrest and prosecute Ratu Atut.
'Banten doesn't belong to Atut [...] It belongs to us!' chanted the protesters.
Ratu Atut has led Banten for nearly a decade and built what is considered one of the strongest political dynasties in the nation.
Her power grew after the introduction of direct local elections in 2004, an institution that in Banten has been riddled with corruption, according to political watchdog Untirta Movement Community (UMS) spokesman Kahfi Nusantara.
'From the first day she took office, there have been many indications that she has engaged in graft,' he said during the rally.
Such indications included an accusation by the Banten Prosecutor's Office in 2011 that she allegedly embezzled funds from the provincial budget between 2007 and 2010 to finance her gubernatorial campaign, Kahfi said.
According to him, the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) had estimated that she had embezzled up to nearly Rp 1 trillion (US$87 million), with Rp 731.36 billion in 2007, Rp 197.72 billion in 2008, Rp 13.08 billion in 2009 and Rp 16.89 billion in 2010.
Ratu Atut was also reported to the KPK in 2011 for allegedly embezzling social-aid funds from the 2011 regional budget.
Kahfi said that there were 10 institutions that had received Rp 28.9 billion in social-aid funds and that each was run by one of the governor's family members.
'The funds were channeled to institutions led by the governor's family ' her husband, brother, children, children-in-law and brothers- and sisters-in-law,' he said.
Another group that has fought against Atut's reign in Banten, the Independent Alliance Caring for Public (Alipp), which filed the 2011 embezzlement charges with the KPK, said that the anti-graft body should investigate Atut and not stop only with the bribery case involving her brother.
'Besides [the bribery case], graft is rampant in Banten. We have given data to the KPK so that it can dig deeper into the corruption in the province,' Alipp executive director Uday Suhada said on Monday.
According to Alipp, Tubagus was the family's top earner.
'Tubagus used to be a regular businessman, but after his father Chassan Sohib died, he became the most influential person managing development projects funded from the regional budget in Banten and South Tangerang,' said Uday.
He said that whoever wanted to secure projects in Banten had to go through Tubagus first, which meant paying him 30 percent of the project's budget.
The family has also been reported to hire violent enforcers to achieve its ends, including local martial arts masters known as jawara.
KPK chairman Abraham Samad said that investigators in the bribery case involving Tubagus would have no problem questioning Atut, although she was reported to be heavily guarded by jawara.
'She may be protected by jawara, but the KPK is protected by God,' Abraham told reporters in Makassar, South Sulawesi on Monday.
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