The Jakarta Post
Suspended Riau Governor Annas Maamun said on Tuesday that People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Zulkifli Hasan had encouraged him to submit land conversion applications, one of which had led Annas to be accused of corruption.
After questioning at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) headquarters, Annas told reporters that Zulkifli, who was forestry minister when the alleged misdeeds took place, had told him that any land in Riau owned by local people but still holding forest status should be converted.
'When Zulkifli visited Riau to attend the province's anniversary celebrations, he told me that any forest-listed land owned by locals should be reported to him for land conversion,' Annas said at the KPK headquarters in Kuningan, Central Jakarta.
However, he denied that Zulkifli had received any kickbacks from the land conversion, adding that he was on his way to meet the National Mandate Party (PAN) politician when he was nabbed by the anti-graft commission.
'I had planned to meet with Zulkifli, but the KPK arrested me,' the 74-year-old said.
Annas was arrested along with palm-oil businessman Gulat Manurung, who was also chairman of the Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers Association's (Apkasindo) Riau chapter, by KPK investigators in a raid on Sept. 27.
During the operation, the KPK seized S$156,000 (US$124,770) and Rp 500 million allegedly given by Gulat to Annas in exchange for a land-conversion permit for Gulat's oil palm plantation business.
The permit allowed the conversion of Gulat's 140-hectare oil palm plantation in Kuantan Singingi regency in Riau into a non-forest area or area for other use (APL).
After his arrest, Annas told KPK investigators that in his capacity as forestry minister, Zulkifli had issued a permit for the area's conversion.
Last week, the KPK questioned Zulkifli regarding the case. After the eight-hour session, he told reporters that he had nothing to do with the graft case and that he had never approved the permit.
'It's true that the governor submitted a request for a land-conversion permit to me, which I then gave to my inspector general for consideration, but he never gave me his opinion of the permit, so it did not have my approval,' Zulkifli said at that time.
On Tuesday, the KPK also summoned Muhammad 'Romy' Romahurmuziy, lawmaker and embattled chairman of the United Development Party (PPP), as a witness.
Romy, however, claimed he was unable to attend as he had to be at the House of Representatives at the same time.
'I received the summons on Sunday at 3 p.m., but at the time stipulated the House is holding its first meeting since the two warring coalitions made peace. This is a very important meeting and I have to attend it,' Romy said via text message, referring to the Great Indonesia Coalition that supports President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and the Red-and-White coalition that supported losing candidate Prabowo Subianto in the recent presidential election.
Romy added that he hoped that the KPK would reschedule the questioning for another time and emphasized that, as a law abiding citizen, he was ready to show up to the next summons.
'Two people have been arrested in this case, so I think the KPK should be given all information as soon as possible,' he said.