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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

TARGET: THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Andi Ghalib is himself the subject of a probe

By Dewi Loveard / Jakarta


Indonesia's Elections: History in the Making Endgame The jockeying begins as the vote count plods on

Casualty Targeting the attorney-general

Economy Getting better but still rough

Interview The IMF's Indonesian agenda

Elections Who says democracy is better?

previous stories
Decision '99 Only a slow vote can spoil Indonesia's free and triumphant elections

The Parallel View Flashback to the 1955 ballot

Money Talked, But How Loudly? Accusations fly that Golkar and others misused funds to woo voters
PEOPLE USUALLY LOOK FORWARD to receiving a gift on their birthdays. But that's not quite what Indonesia's embattled attorney-general, Andi Mohamed Ghalib, got when he turned 53 on June 3. That day, Teten Masduki, head of Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), released findings alleging that Ghalib had accumulated some 9 billion rupiah ($1.2 million) in nine bank accounts.

ICW claimed that the cash came from well-connected businessmen, many of whom are implicated in various corruption cases. Among the alleged donors are textile tycoon The Nin King and plywood baron Prayogo Pangestu; both are embroiled in banking scandals. The ICW report also alleged extravagant purchases of gold and jewelry by Ghalib's wife, raising questions over where she got the money.

"I am sure that Ghalib has received bribes," says Teten. "The money in his accounts increased dramatically between September 1998 and May 1999. We have to consider that his salary as attorney-general is 7.5 million rupiah [about $1,037] a month, and he only took up his position in the second half of last year."

Ghalib reacted angrily to the charges. "Is Teten a human being or an animal?" he said. "I will get back at him until he goes to his grave." Saying he felt "slandered," he declared: "I have dedicated my life to the country for more than 30 years; if I had wanted to be rich, I would have done it years before." The money, Ghalib insisted, was simply donations to the Indonesian Wrestling Association, which he heads. "The donations from Prayogo Pangestu and The Nin King alleged by ICW did not go to my private account. That account was under the control of the Wrestling Association's treasurer." Prayogo and The agree with Ghalib.

President B.J. Habibie has stuck by his attorney-general, even as he promised that an independent auditor would be appointed to look into the allegations. In the face of mounting public pressure, however, Ghalib announced on June 14 that he was standing down temporarily while the investigation was in progress.

The allegations come at a time when Ghalib is already struggling with a credibility problem regarding his investigation of former president Suharto's wealth. A widespread perception is that the attorney-general is undertaking only a token probe. Earlier this year, a recording of a conversation between Ghalib and Habibie came into the open. In the tape, the two discuss the length of the interview Suharto had to undergo last December; when Habibie asks why the grilling lasted three hours, Ghalib replies: "Anything less would have made the people suspicious."

Habibie himself is hurt by the unfolding events. The allegations have done little to help either his presidential ambitions or his efforts to recast himself as a reformist. Golkar vice chairman Marzuki Darusman notes that the ruling party's image has also been hit and says that Habibie should have dropped Ghalib as soon as the scandal broke, instead of standing by him. "In the middle of Golkar's image crisis, Habibie is supposed to be proactive in responding to reports from citizens, including ICW," says Marzuki, who adds that the situation may lead to a review of Habibie's suitability as Golkar's presidential candidate. "This is a negative point for Habibie's candidacy when we reevaluate our candidate."

For his part, Teten is confident that his case will stand scrutiny. The former labor activist says many similar accusations make their way to his office, but he paid special attention to the allegations against Ghalib. "To enforce the law, the institutions of justice have to be beyond reproach," he says. "This is why the case against Suharto will never be made a priority until the attorney-general's office changes." Teten claims ICW has more controversial cases lined up - not least evidence of corruption by officials of the government-run workers' social safety fund.

If the case against Ghalib is proven, the native of Ujung Pandang, South Sulawesi, faces a difficult future - in more ways than one. First, there are the court proceedings. Then there is the threat he made against Teten. As an ethnic Bugis, Ghalib is required to fight to the death whoever questions his honor. Teten, being a non-Bugis, can simply ignore Ghalib's challenge. But that option is not open to Ghalib. Should he be found guilty of the charges Teten has made against him, Buginese custom dictates that there is only one honorable way out: suicide.


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