Speculation increases over Century case

Amid mounting tension (and speculation) over the Bank Century inquiry, the Golkar Party says it will quit the coalition if any of its members are removed from ministerial posts.

“A Cabinet reshuffle is the prerogative the President. Golkar will not prevent the President from shaking up the Cabinet. At the very least, however, if any of our members is removed from Cabinet, Golkar will say goodbye to the coalition,” Golkar senior politician Priyo Budi Santoso told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The bailout, which increased 10 times to Rp 6.76 trillion (US$716 million) from the amount initially approved by the central bank, was previously rumored to have been used to fund Yudhoyono’s reelection campaign.

Following speculation that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had pressured coalition parties to produce a favorable outcome in the Bank Century inquiry, Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie insisted on maintaining his party’s integrity.

Earlier this month, Aburizal summoned all three Golkar ministers to a snap meeting, instructing them to be ready for a recall from Cabinet should coalition relations crumble.

On Tuesday, Presidential special staff Andi Arief held talks with Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) executives Pramono Anung and Puan Maharani, which sparked speculation that Yudhoyono was hoping to pull the opposition party into the coalition bloc should Golkar leave.

This was the first attempt by Yudhoyono to work more closely with PDI-P since his special envoy Hatta Rajasa tried in vain to bridge the gap between the two parties ahead of the formation of Cabinet in October last year.

Yudhoyono’s diplomacy, however, had some success as he managed to recruit PDI-P chief advise Taufik Kiemas, whose wife Megawati Soekarnoputri is the paramount leader of PDI-P.

Ties between the President and the Golkar Party, however, apparently deteriorated after he warned he would take action against tax evasion — a move that was interpreted as a threat by Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie. (Aburizal’s family businesses reportedly owe up to Rp 2.1 trillion in unpaid taxes.)

Democratic Party politician Benny Kabur Harman, also a member of the House inquiry committee into the Bank Century bailout, said Andi had been sent “to develop communication with all parties, including the PDI-P, to secure Yudhoyono’s administration”.

Benny denied speculation that the meeting was intended to serve as a warning for coalition partners, including Golkar, that had opposed the government during the bailout inquiry.

PDI-P senior politician Gayus Lumbuun on Thursday criticized the government for the visit by Yudhoyono’s aide.

“The meeting between Andi and PDI-P politicians triggered false perceptions about our stance on the Bank Century case.

“People will think that we, as the opposition, have begun to make a deal with the Democratic Party and Yudhoyono, which is not true,” Gayus told the Post.

Communications not only took place between the Democratic Party and the PDI-P, but Golkar also apparently approached parties from the opposition.