Buddhist organization urges KPK leniency toward Hartati

The Jakarta Post, August 11 2012

Jakarta, Indonesia -- The Indonesian Buddhists Association (Walubi) has called on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to be lenient with its chairwoman, Siti Hartati Murdaya, who is a suspect in a bribery case

Deputy secretary-general of Walubi, Gatot Sukarno Adi, said the antigraft body should not detain Hartati as Walubi still needed the businesswoman to run the organization.

“We need Ibu Hartati’s leadership to maintain the unity of the 12 Buddhists councils under Walubi,” he said after meeting with KPK commissioners on Friday.

The KPK named Hartati, who is also a Democratic Party patron, a suspect on charges of bribery. She was accused of bribing the regent of Buol, Amran Batalipu.

The KPK has alleged that a Rp 3 billion bribe was paid to Amran to expedite the issuance of a business permit for PT Cipta Cakra Murdaya and PT Hartati Inti Plantations, two companies controlled by Hartati. The money was paid in two parts: Rp 1 billion on June 18 and Rp 2 billion on June 26.

Gatot said that if Hartati was detained, it could humiliate Buddhists around the country and disrupt the organization’s programs.

Walubi gave a guarantee that Hartati would not flee from the investigation or take any action that would obstruct the investigation.

“We believe that Ibu [Hartati] will follow all the legal processes, even if she is not in detention,” Gatot said.

Tadisha Paramita, coordinator of the Walubi’s council of monks (Sangha), said Walubi members were convinced that Hartati was innocent, adding that she was merely a victim of extortion.

“I and other Buddhists in Indonesia are concerned about what has befallen Ibu Hartati. Businesspeople often have to deal with extortion in this country,” he said.

Separately, Amran’s lawyer, Amad Entedaim, once again maintained that his client’s innocence. “She [Hartati] willingly gave the money to Amran as a contribution to his campaign fund,” he said.

Amat said that Hartati had once asked for assistance from Amran, but that he had declined to respond.

“She still went ahead and gave him the money because she predicted that Amran would win the next regional election,” he said.

Hartati also requested Amran to secure the interests of her companies in the region.

The KPK has named four suspects in the case: Hartati; Amran; Yani Anshori, the general manager of PT Hardaya Inti Plantations; and Gondo Sujono, the firm’s operations director.

In addition to chairing Walubi, Hartati was reportedly one of the largest contributors to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2009.

KPK chairman Abraham Samad said that the KPK would soon be detaining Hartati. “If the investigators feel it necessary, when they near the end of their investigation, she can be detained like any other suspect in a graft case,” Abraham said.

KPK spokesman Johan Budi said the commission’s leadership would take the Walubi request into consideration.

“We will discuss the request further,” he told reporters.