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Indonesia's Koran scandal unveils more irregularities at ministry, House

Publication Date : 06-07-2012


The graft-ridden Koran procurement at the Indonesia's Religious Affairs Ministry, totalling 55 billion rupiah (US$5.88 million), appears to be only a small chunk from trillions of rupiah allocated for community programmes last year.

It seems Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali will be expected to explain this financial matter at a hearing with lawmakers next Monday.

According to the ministry's budget, a copy of which was obtained by The Jakarta Post, the 55 billion rupiah Koran procurement is only part of 3.028 trillion rupiah ($323.99 million) allocated by the ministry for a unit working on Islamic community guidance.

The ministry also allocated much smaller amounts for issues related to other religions, namely 36.72 billion rupiah ($3.92 million) for Protestant affairs, 12.35 billion rupiah ($1.32 million) for Catholic affairs, 34.12 billion rupiah ($3.65 million) for Hinduism and only 5.6 billion rupiah ($599,200) for Buddhism.

The 55 billion rupiah spent on Koran procurement is part of 58.67 billion rupiah ($6.27 million) allocated for programmes to strengthen the faith of mosque congregations, Islamic communities and the renovation of religious affairs offices.

Part of the same funds were also used for the improvement of access and quality of Islamic schools of all levels nationwide as well as for haj pilgrimage management.

In addition, the questionable Koran procurement has also revealed other irregularities within the ministry as it is also reported to have allegedly misused 18 billion rupiah ($1.92 million) of an approximate 30 billion rupiah ($3.21 million) allotted to procure computers for laboratories at Madrasah Tsanawiyah (junior Islamic high schools) last year.

An official with the ministry's religious education division, Sastra Juanda, admitted that the ministry had planned to spend the money on upgrading all laboratories at all public Islamic high schools, adding that the ministry would arrange a similar procurement worth 50 billion rupiah ($5.35 million) this year.

"I'm not sure whether this year's procurement will be equally distributed to all [public Islamic] high schools because we are still discussing the budget with lawmakers," he said on the sidelines of a closed-door meeting with House of Representatives' Commission VIII overseeing religious and social affairs yesterday.

Juanda, however, refused to comment on the Koran scandal, arguing that he was not in charge of the matter.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has named Golkar Party lawmaker Zulkarnaen Djabar, as well as his son Dedy Prasetya, suspects in the scandal.

Djabar was named a suspect for instructing the Religious Affairs Ministry's Directorate General for Islamic Affairs to name certain companies, including his son's company PT KSAI, winners of the procurement project.

The case will likely implicate more of Djabar’s colleagues from the Commission VIII as they have admitted to accepting Korans to distribute to their constituents.

Meanwhile, the Golkar may suggest to Djabar that he resign from the party in an effort to prevent the party’s image from deteriorating.

Golkar deputy secretary-general Nurul Arifin said yesterday that even though Golkar had yet to make an official statement, most of the party's politicians had agreed to ask deputy treasurer Djabar to resign from his post, both as a member and lawmaker.

"We have decided that it's best for Djabar to temporarily leave Golkar until the case is settled. I'm not the only one who thinks so; my colleagues also agree in order to save the party's image," Arifin said.

Separately, an antigraft activist said Djabar still enjoyed privilege as a party member and lawmaker and could put the whole investigation in jeopardy.

"Even though the regulation doesn't say anything about temporary dismissal for a lawmaker who has been named a graft suspect, the political party should still be aware of it. Their graft-battling commitment is being put to the test," Febri Diansyah of watchdog Indonesian Corruption Watch said yesterday.


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