President Joko Widodo. (Antara Photo)

President Irked by Covid Aid Graft Allegation Involving Minister

BY :HERU ANDRIYANTO

DECEMBER 06, 2020

Jakarta. An angry President Joko Widodo rebuked Social Affairs Minister Juliari Peter Batubara on Sunday for allegedly stealing funds from the humanitarian assistance program intended for the poor during the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking in a video interview released by his office, the president said he will never intervene in the legal proceedings against the minister, who was named a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) earlier in the day.

“Since the beginning, I have warned all ministers in the cabinet: never commit to corruption! I have repeatedly said to all state officials -- be they are ministers, governors, districts heads or mayors -- to manage the regional and national budgets with very great prudence. The money belongs to the people,” the president said during the interview at his official residence in Bogor, West Java.

“Especially when it comes to social assistance program in our Covid response and the national economic recovery program. Social assistance packages are urgently needed by the people,” he said without calling the minister by name.

“I will never offer my protection to anyone committed of corruption and we all believe that the KPK is working transparently and professionally. The government consistently supports all efforts to eradicate and prevent corruption,” the president said.

Juliari is the fourth sitting minister in his cabinet to be implicated with graft charges, and the second detained by the KPK in less than two weeks.

A senior member of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Juliari is accused of illegally collecting fees from the Rp 5.9 trillion ($416 million) worth of social assistance package of the government Covid-19 response.

He turned himself in to the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, at around 03.00 a.m. on Sunday and was immediately detained.

The minister and his two accomplices were alleged to have accepted at least Rp 17 billion ($1.2 million) in illegal fees from companies who won contract to procure and distribute the packages of basic commodities for the poor in Jakarta.

On November 25, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo was arrested upon arrival from his Hawaii trip for alleged corruption related to export license of lobster larvae, which was banned by his predecessor Susi Pudjiastuti.

Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi and Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham were already convicted last year for corruption.

The latter was convicted guilty of corruption unrelated to his ministerial job, while Imam is serving a jail term for accepting bribe while in office.
 

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