March 16, 2011

The WikiLeaks cables demand full investigation. 
THE WikiLeaks phenomenon has produced an important test for Indonesia's democracy project. The whistleblowing website has obtained United States diplomatic cables that implicate Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in corruption and abuse of power. The accusations are startling, all the more so because Dr Yudhoyono has enjoyed a reputation for personal honesty and has proven since his election in 2004 to be one of his country's most substantial pro-democracy reformers. But the sort of open and accountable democracy the former army general has proclaimed to be fashioning will be stronger if his government responds to these accusations with more rigour than it has displayed since the cables were reported last week

WikiLeaks provided the cables exclusively to The Age, and our publication of reports based on information in them has caused a furore in Indonesia, opened a new rift in Indonesia-US relations and prompted criticism of this newspaper in Jakarta. It is important to note that this is not a case of a single document containing accusations from a rogue source; rather, our reporting is based on numerous cables over several years that detail information gathered by senior US diplomats from a range of well-placed contacts.

The Age  does not presume to stand in judgment of Dr Yudhoyono on the matters raised in the previously secret cables, but nor do we apologise for exposing them and him to the harsh light of public scrutiny. Whatever else the cables show, they suggest that the so-called new Indonesia - free of the corrupt culture that poisoned the country's political, military and judicial institutions through and beyond the Suharto era - remains elusive.

The cables contain no assertion that Dr Yudhoyono has used his position for personal monetary gain - in stark contrast to some of his predecessors. But one cable reports that the President's family, particularly his wife Kristiani Herawati, has tried to ''profit financially from its political position''. Other cables suggest Dr Yudhoyono used the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency to spy on his political opponents and, on at least one occasion, a minister in his government. Perhaps most disturbing are the reports that Dr Yudhoyono personally intervened to influence prosecutors and judges to protect political cronies including Taufik Kiemas, the husband of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

A December 2004 cable shows the US embassy reporting that one of its most valued political informants, presidential confidant T. B. Silalahi, had advised that Hendarman Supandji, described as the then assistant attorney-general and who was leading the new government's anti-corruption campaign, had gathered sufficient evidence of corruption to warrant Mr Taufik's arrest. The embassy reported that Mr Silalahi told US diplomats that President Yudhoyono ''had personally instructed Hendarman not to pursue a case against Taufik''.

The accusations are vigorously contested. In response to our reporting, Indonesia's government said the allegation that Dr Yudhoyono had ordered Mr Supandji to abandon the corruption investigation against Mr Taufik did not make sense because Mr Supandji was not assistant attorney-general at the time. More generally, Dr Yudhoyono's spokesman said the cables were full of lies and their content showed ''disrespect''. The President himself declared he would be ''accountable for whatever I do''. In this context, it is disappointing that Indonesia's independent Corruption Eradication Commission has said that the unsubstantiated nature of the claims do not meet its threshold for an inquiry.

Indonesia's evolution as a democracy would be hastened by an open and comprehensive testing of these disturbing claims.

source: WA Today


  The same news: Sydney Morning Herald: The new indonesia faces a test of democracy