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Jakarta Post

KPK steps into AirAsia flight case

  • Haeril Halim and Nadya Natahadibrata

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, January 7, 2015   /  09:14 am
KPK steps into AirAsia flight case

Recovery: Rescue team members carry the body of a passenger of AirAsia flight QZ8501 in a basket at Iskandar Airport in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, on Tuesday. Search teams including divers took advantage of a let-up in bad weather on Tuesday to try to reach the wreckage of the AirAsia jet, which crashed nine days ago. Reuters/Beawiharta

Following the revelation that the crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 might have obtained a flying permit outside of proper procedures, the country'€™s antigraft body is offering help to probe into the possibility of bribery having been practiced in the case.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is ready to help the Transportation Ministry to curb alleged irregularities that might lead to corruption or bribery practices plaguing flying permits in the country'€™s aviation system, the agency'€™s deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto said on Tuesday.

He said the agency would establish communications with the ministry to find out whether AirAsia had eased its way to obtain flying permits by bribing state officials.

The KPK said that it encouraged the ministry to file a formal report to the antigraft body should its investigation, currently underway, find an indication that corruption or bribery took place during the permit process.

'€œThe KPK will coordinate with the Transportation Ministry to clarify the [AirAsia flying permit] matter. We need to know what it is about and whether it is subject to maladministration or subject to an indication of corruption,'€ Bambang said on Tuesday.

If later the KPK jumps in to investigate the alleged irregularities, which was described by former National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) investigator Ruth Hanna Simatupang as a jungle of irregularities, it will be the first crackdown conducted on the aviation sector.

'€œIt [the flying permit] is just one of the problems in the jungle of our aviation system. There are a lot of problems that need to be fixed in our aviation system,'€ Hanna said.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Ministry and state navigation operator AirNav Indonesia suspended three more officials allegedly involved in allowing AirAsia flight QZ8501 to take off without a permit.

Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan said that on Tuesday the ministry suspended Juanda International Airport'€™s head of safety and airworthiness, who was also in charge of the airport'€™s slot coordination.

'€œWe not only ordered the suspension of aviation officials, we also imposed sanctions on officials at the ministry. We give no tolerance.'€

AirNav president director Bambang Tjahjono said that the operator had removed two top operation officials from their positions following the order by the minister to suspend officials deemed responsible for allowing AirAsia to take off without the correct permits.

'€œThe removal was not because we found these officers guilty. This is only for the sake of the investigation,'€ Bambang said. '€œIf they are later found innocent, we will return them to their posts,'€ said the former Transportation Ministry airport director.

PT Angkasa Pura I (AP I), the operator of Juanda International Airport, had previously removed its operation manager and apron movement control supervisor from their posts following the order from the ministry on Monday.

Flight QZ8501, carrying 162 people to Singapore from Indonesia'€™s second-biggest city, Surabaya, was officially announced missing two and a half hours after it took off at 5:36 a.m. on Dec. 28. The government decided to suspend all AirAsia flights between Surabaya and Singapore, explaining that the flight lacked a permit.

AirAsia Indonesia was licensed to fly from Surabaya to Singapore every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. But in October, the airline revised its schedule to fly on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, without the required permission from the ministry.

Air Asia Indonesia safety and security director Achmad Sadikin previously denied the flight was illegal.

Jonan said that he had communicated with AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes regarding the airline'€™s Surabaya-Singapore route suspension. '€œHe admitted the misconduct and accepted our decision to suspend the route,'€ Jonan said. '€œAirAsia can reapply for the route after the investigation is done,'€ he continued.

Jonan clarified that the ministry'€™s action to immediately suspend the route was not aimed at blaming AirAsia'€™s misconduct as a reason behind the crash.

'€œWe will announce on Friday whether we found other airlines operating without proper permits.'€

Jonan said the ministry would cooperate with the National Police'€™s Criminal Investigation Division to follow up on the findings, given allegations of foul play surrounding the flight licensing.

The minister said that he would also support the KPK launching an investigation into the ministry.

The ministry also denied earlier reports that it had suspended 16 flights, including those of AirAsia and rival airline Lion Air, for allegedly lacking flying permits.

According to Jonan, the lastest suspension only involved AirAsia'€™s Palembang-Medan route.

Meanwhile, the ministry will revise tariff regulations for low-cost carriers (LCC) in order for airline operators to earn sufficient income to improve safety.

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