More than 50,000 Indonesians have signed an online petition demanding the resignation of House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto, center. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak)

Golkar Supports Setya Probe as Others Call for His Resignation


NOVEMBER 17, 2015

Jakarta. Golkar politicians have declared the party's support for the House of Representatives' Ethics Council as it launches a probe into a senior Golkar member for allegedly attempting to extort the country's biggest mining company.

“Golkar will support any move done to preserve the honor and dignity of the House of Representatives,” Bambang Soesatyo, secretary of the House's Golkar caucus, said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The Ethics Council has initiated a probe into House Speaker Setya Novanto amid allegations he demanded a 20 percent stake in Freeport Indonesia as the company's parent company, Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan, negotiates a requirement by the Indonesian government to divest its current 90.64 percent holding in Freeport Indonesia to 70 percent.

Bambang said that if the allegation was true, Setya should “immediately seek forgiveness from the people.”

Meanwhile, calls for Setya to resign as the House speaker intensified on Tuesday.

“This is an embarrassment for the House. It would be an honorable thing to do if Setya resigns. That is, if he had some decency left,” said Desmond Mahesa, a legislator with the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).

Akbar Faisal, a National Democrat Party (NasDem) politician, said the case would be a test of the Ethics Council's credibility, which recently took a hit after it failed to mete out anything harsher than an admonishment to Setya and Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon for appearing at a campaign rally for US presidential hopeful Donald Trump earlier this year.

“This is yet another embarrassment for the [House]. The Ethics Council must not be lenient [with Setya] again,” Akbar said.

Benny K. Harman of the Democratic Party joined the chorus of condemnation of Setya, saying the latest scandal had tarnished not just the reputation of the House, “but also of this nation.”

Setya admitted to meeting with executives from Freeport Indonesia, but denied soliciting a 20 percent stake in the company in exchange for parliamentary support of the firm's contract extension with the Indonesian government.

He told reporters on Tuesday that the meeting was held to forward “what the president [Joko Widodo] has said to me.” He did not reveal where the meeting was held or when, nor identified which executives he met.

The speaker also refused to divulge the subject of discussion during the meeting, saying only that it was "for the good of the people."

Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said on Monday lodged a complaint with the House Ethics Council against an unnamed legislator, including submitting wiretapped phone conversations believed to show the legislator demanding a 20 percent stake in Freeport Indonesia, the country’s single-biggest taxpayer.

Sudirman, in his complaint, alleges that the legislator approached officials from Freeport Indonesia on the pretext of representing President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

A document circulating online purportedly showing the contents of Sudirman's complaint lists Setya as the legislator in question. The same document also suggests that Setya was accompanied by businessman Muhammad Riza Chalid — one of Indonesia's richest men.

The House Ethics Council has refused to confirm the authenticity of the document, but is considering reporting the possible leak of a classified document to the police. Vice President Jusuf Kalla has also hinted that Setya was the legislator in Sudirman's complaint, saying that he had reprimanded the speaker during a private meeting at Kalla's office on Monday.