Supporters of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama aim to collect one million signatures in support of his candidacy for re-election. (Antara Photo/Brenda)

Jakarta City Council Pounces on Basuki With Petition

APRIL 08, 2015

Jakarta. Nearly a third of the Jakarta City Council are petitioning to have Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama impeached in relation to the controversy surrounding this year’s city budget. 

Council deputy speaker Muhammad Taufik of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), once Basuki’s political vehicle before a falling out last September, said on Wednesday that 33 out of 106 Council members have signed the petition. 

“This is more than enough to impeach [Basuki]. I am sure the number [of signatories] will increase,” Taufik said. 

The Council seeks to lodge a complaint against Basuki at the Supreme Court and ultimately unseat him.

The 33 members to have signed the petition are from Gerindra, the United Development Party (PPP), Golkar and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Taufik added.

However, the petition must first go through a floor vote at a Council plenary session before the legislature can officially lodge its motion.

A plenary session could be staged as early as next week, according to Taufik, pending an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) national congress in Bali from Friday to Sunday

A majority of the Jakarta City Council are PDI-P politicians. The council’s speaker, Prasetyo Edi Marsudi, the only person authorized to chair a plenary, is also a member of the party.

“We will wait for our friends to return from the PDI-P congress in Bali before staging  a meeting between [party] leaders. Hopefully we can hold a plenary next week in which all councilors can declare their stance [on the petition],” Taufik said. 

Political observers suspect the PDI-P might also approve of the plan, despite strong public support for the reform-minded, uncompromising governor. 

Impeachment would see deputy governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, a PDI-P man, rising as the capital’s top administrator. 

Basuki and the City Council clashed after the governor submitted to the Home Affairs Ministry a different version of the 2015 draft budget from one the Council had earlier accepted.

Discrepancies between the two versions amount to Rp 12 trillion ($920 million), a figure Basuki referred to as “stealth funds” and proof of a conspiracy among councilors to mark up the value of city several projects.

In a floor vote, the council unanimously voted to launch an inquiry against Basuki on the grounds that his move to submit the lower budget was unlawful and in contempt of the Council’s authority.

After mediation sessions with Vice President Jusuf Kalla, councilors reluctantly agreed to set a temporary budget of Rp 72.9 trillion — a significant drop from their Rp 90 trillion proposal.

However, despite a victory for the governor’s camp, the inquiry and the quest to impeach him continued. 

A committee on Monday concluded that Basuki had overstepped his authority “both in terms of the law and ethics” by bypassing a parliamentary consultation and submitting an unapproved budget proposal to the Home Ministry.

Basuki said he is willing to step down as long as the manipulation inside the city’s budgeting process — which he said occurred year after year — stops. 

“At the very least I got to implement e-budgeting and e-musrenbang for the 2016 [city budget],” he said, referring to an online Regional Development Planning Forum for residents and city officials.

“I want Jakarta to set an example on how to implement and maintain both the e-musrenbang and e-budgeting system. The processes will be more transparent —  everyone can view it,” the governor said.

“So if I’m impeached, at least my goals have been achieved.

“I’m just taking [the impeachment plan] lightly,” he added.

Coming to Basuki’s defense, Robert Endi Jaweng, executive director of the Regional Autonomy Implementation Monitoring Committee (KPPOD), said he is confident the Supreme Court will dismiss the City Council’s motion for impeachment. 

“I am sure the court will decide that Basuki has not broken any law,” Robert said, arguing that the governor has only violated proper procedures and ethics in order to prevent the far more serious crime of budget manipulation. 

Basuki has vocally accused the Council of inserting several projects not originally proposed by his administration into this year’s city budget. 

Among the “stealth” programs highlighted was the million-dollar construction of a wing at a state junior high school in East Jakarta for the school’s alumni, as well as a project to produce a three-part biography on the governor for schools across the capital. 

Similar wasteful projects were also inserted in last year’s budget, such as the procurement of uninterruptible power supply devices and state-of-the-art gym equipment the schools never asked for.  

Robert said an impeachment would trigger backlash from the public, already outraged at how their tax money was spent on wasteful and unnecessary projects, the budgets of which were also inflated. 

“The council’s public image will suffer even more because a majority of Jakarta’s residents support Basuki,” he said. 

“[Impeachment] will also be unproductive for Jakarta’s development.”