The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has officially endorsed incumbent Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, right, and Deputy Governor Djarot Syaiful Hidayat as its candidates in next year's gubernatorial election. (Antara Photo/Sigid Kurniawan)

Jakarta Governor Gathers Support in Ongoing Squabble With City Council


MARCH 05, 2015

Jakarta. The Jakarta administration on Wednesday launched its own petition ahead of a planned legislative inquiry which could see the city’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, impeached.

“This is Ahok’s version of a petition,” Basuki said, referring to himself in the third person with his popular nickname.

Hundreds of city officials signed the document, distributed at the sidelines of the governor’s meeting with the capital’s urban wards and subdistrict chiefs.

The petition serves as a symbol of support for the reform-minded governor, known for his candid and uncompromising style. It also rivals a similar appeal made by the Jakarta City Council to launch an inquiry against Basuki.

In an unprecedented move, Basuki has refused to deliver a Rp 90 trillion ($6.9 billion) budget proposal approved by the Council to the Home Affairs Ministry, submitting instead what he calls the low-cost version — at Rp 78 trillion — his administration initially proposed.

Incensed, the City Council voted overwhelmingly last Thursday to launch an inquiry into his administrative deviation— a process that could potentially lead to Basuki’s impeachment.

In response, Basuki accused the councilors of inserting unauthorized and dubious spending programs into City Hall’s budget, and just a day later filed a criminal complaint with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) over the Rp 12 trillion markup.

Basuki on Wednesday told wards and subdistrict chiefs to inspect the budget proposal revised by the council.

“Please check your respective areas in  the council’s version of the budget proposal. Did you make any of these requests? If not, then they are [unauthorized] programs,” the governor said. “What we are doing today will change the country’s in terms of budget transparency. I have put my job and life on the line so that [city] spending is managed in a transparent manner.”

Basuki assured his staff that the protracted budget deliberation, now more than two months behind schedule, will not affect their monthly pay.

“I have told the Minister of Home Affairs [Tjahjo Kumolo] to use last year’s budget should the Council refuse to back down. We are ready to stretch this out all the way to 2017,” the governor said referring to the year his term ends.

“We will bypass the Council’s [deliberation process]. What’s the point?”

Second thoughts

In the midst of wide public support for the governor, including from President Joko Widodo, some of the 106 council members who last week unanimously agreed to launch an inquiry against Basuki, began showing signs of reneging on the decision.

Deputy secretary general of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Teguh Juwarno on Wednesday revealed that his party has considered “withdrawing its support for the inquiry.”

“PAN will back efforts to unravel corrupt practices of allocating funds for unnecessary programs,” he said, adding that he is in full support of the governor’s move to reject the final version of the budget.

“This marks a starting point to end the common practice of budget manipulation [in Indonesia],” he added.

Contemplating a similar move, Hasbiallah Ilyas, the National Awakening Party’s (PKB) chief representative at the Council announced his party will decide on the matter on Friday.

“Several officials from the PKB’s national leadership board are in favor of rescinding support of an inquiry [on Basuki’s actions], but we have made no official decisions just yet,” he said.

The United Development Party (PPP) on Tuesday became the second party to withdraw support for the inquiry, after the National Democrat Party (Nasdem) reneged on its “yea” vote on Monday.

Abdul Haris Semendawai, chairman of the Witness and Victim’s Protection Agency (LPSK) considered the latest developments a positive sign, saying the show of hesitation may encourage some Councilors to step forward and reveal the methods legislators employ to distort the budget.

The LPSK, he vowed, would offer protection to those willing to speak up.

“It’s possible that those with first-hand knowledge of how these unsanctioned programs come to be will decide to collaborate with law enforcers,” he said, but conceded that fear of a backlash can also work as a deterrent.

Meet the minister

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo on Wednesday met separately with the governor and several Council members in a bid to quell tensions between both sides.

He hopes to mediate a discussion between the feuding camps today.

An unwavering Basuki, however, insisted his stance on the matter will not change and City Hall “will not compromise.”

“The minister never told us to compromise,” he said after speaking with Tjahjo on Wednesday morning.

“We will just have to wait and see [the results of Thursday’s meeting.] The final decision is in the minister’s hands.”

Tjahjo has previously said he will settle on a decision next week on how to resolve the debacle, stressing however that the budget must be finalized as soon as possible so the capital may commence its various programs.

“As minister, it is my duty to ensure that the budget is not further stalled — this would only disrupt the work of Jakarta’s civil servants,” he said, taking a diplomatic stance differs radically from Basuki’s.

The Jakarta governor has said he would only accept the implementation of City Hall’s original budget — or nothing at all.

The central government has given Tjahjo the choice of endorsing the Council or Basuki’s proposal — or using last year’s Rp 72 trillion budget.

Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, who was also present at Wednesday’s meeting, revealed the ministry aims to prevent similar fiascoes in the future by taking the entire budgeting process online.