Indonesia's controversial Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali filed a whopping Rp 1.05 trillion ($90 million) libel lawsuit against a celebrity tabloid over accusations that the minister was secretly married to model and House of Representatives member Okky Asokawati.
“[Libelous accusations] can be politically motivated, so they should not be ignored,” Suryadharma told the Indonesian news portal republika.com.
The Nov. 8 cover story of "Femme" alleged that Suryadharma, already a divisive figure in Indonesia, had secretly taken Okky as his second wife. Public officials are barred from having more than one wife under Indonesia's marriage law without the express permission of each wife, and similar scandals have sunk officials in the past.
The alleged marriage would be Okky's third. The model/celebrity/lawmaker lost her first husband to divorce and her second husband to death. The 52-year-old has remained unmarried since the death of Fajar Tyas Sasono Padmodimulyo in 2008.
This was the third article published by "Femme" to include allegedly libelous material, Suryadharma said in a press conference on Wednesday. The minister ignored the first article, responded in print to the second and filed a lawsuit after the third.
The United Development Party (PPP) called the allegations a shameless attempt to discredit Suryadharma. The Religious Affairs Minister is also the PPP chairman. Okky is a party member and lawmaker.
“The chairman has filed a civil lawsuit,” Romahurmuzy, secretary general of the PPP told the Jakarta Globe.
The lawsuit, which was filed with the South Jakarta District Court, should serve as a lesson on responsibility to the Indonesian media, Romahurmuzy said.
“Press freedom has been totally free, without control,” he said. “So we need strong action to warn the media, so that in the future they’ll become more responsible.”
The party will also file a complaint with the press council, Indonesia's media mediation body. Under Indonesian law publications must publish responses from parties identified in accusatory articles.