Anti-graft commission rebuts bias charges

Indonesia agency 'will not hesitate to probe even Yudhoyono's son if there is evidence' Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) says it will not hesitate to investigate anyone, even the younger son of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, provided there is enough evidence, as the agency battles accusations that it is politically biased. "What concerns the KPK is the legal domain, not proximity to the political elite or power.

Anyone can be a suspect if we find two pieces of evidence," agency spokesman Johan Budi told reporters last Friday night.

Mr Johan's comments, widely highlighted in the Indonesian media yesterday, signal that the KPK is unlikely to ease up on its efforts to unearth high-level graft, even as elections for Parliament and the presidency draw closer.

But observers say they also set the stage for greater tension between top officials and an agency respected by the public for its efforts, which Dr Yudhoyono himself backs and has brought down governors and top judges.

Mr Johan was speaking after Anas Urbaningrum, the estranged former chairman of Dr Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, was detained over a multi-billion rupiah graft scandal. Mr Johan said: "Edhie Baskoro can be examined if Anas' information is backed by evidence.

Anas has a chance to explain the situation to investigators." Anas, 44, and his supporters had charged that the arrest was politically motivated.

They have called on the KPK to also question Mr Yudhoyono, 33, who is the party's secretary-general, about the case which has dragged the Democrats down from the pedestal of clean government they touted in the past two elections. The case involves funds for the construction of a sports complex in Hambalang, West Java, allegedly being diverted to fund the party's 2010 congress.

The critical Media Indonesia daily said in a page one headline: "Ibas' fate hangs on Anas." Mr Yudhoyono is also known as Ibas. In what appeared to be an attempt to allay concerns of top-level interference, Dr Yudhoyono said on Twitter last Friday: "The fight against corruption has to carry on, seriously, without fear or favour.<--pagebreak-->

Indonesia must become cleaner." Referring to the President in a sarcastic tone later in the day, Anas said: "Hopefully this day will mean something and become a New Year's gift... When we fight for truth and justice, in the end, the truth will win."

Anas resigned as Democratic Party chairman last February, after the KPK first named him as a graft suspect amid suspicious circumstances that saw his arrest warrant leaked beforehand. Two months earlier, the KPK had indicted then Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng, who also resigned, over the Hambalang case. Andi was detained last October. The issue has seen opinion ratings for the Democratic Party plummet, and the impact of Anas' arrest last week is likely to be muted.

Anas, a former student leader, had also been regarded with suspicion in the party after he was elected chairman at the 2010 congress, defeating Dr Yudhoyono's preferred pick, Andi. And after he was first named a suspect last year, he took potshots at Dr Yudhoyono's inner circle, called Cikeas, after the President's estate in Bogor.

These drew a steady stream of visitors critical of the government to his East Jakarta home then, but the crowds had long thinned.

Many onlookers heckled him outside the KPK last Friday. One man hurled an egg at his head.

Earlier this month, a witness told a court hearing of another Hambalang graft suspect, former sports ministry official Deddy Kusnidar, that Anas had received bribes amounting to 2.2 billion rupiah (S$220,000) in stages over 2010 to help him win the Democratic Party chairmanship, Antara News Agency reported.

The money, the court heard, was given to Anas for payments at hotels, buying BlackBerry phones, renting cars for supporters and other entertainment purposes. No political leanings "What concerns the KPK is the legal domain, not proximity to the political elite or power.

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