Another Jakarta Courtroom Bombshell

After having endured the near destruction of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party through the revelations of the traveling party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin about internal party graft, the party could face trouble from another source that draws the scandal ever closer to the president’s own family.

That is the glamorous 2001 Miss Indonesia and Miss Universe contestant, Angelina Sondakh, who was elected to Indonesia’s House of Representatives in 2004 as a Democratic Party member. She has been suspended and embroiled for months in accusations that she took Rp12.5 billion (US$1.3 million) and US$2.3 million to steer procurement projects toward universities nationwide and to supply equipment to the sports ministry.

Mindo Rosalina Manulang, a former Nazaruddin employee and key witness in the multiple bribery scandals, testified before the Jakarta Corruption Court last week that Sondakh had visited her in a women’s prison in 2010, where Manulang had been sentenced to two and a half years for her role in the multimillion dollar scandal involving construction of an athletes’ village for the Southeast Asian Games.

During the visit, Sondakh was said to have confessed that her corrupt actions were backed by Democrat Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum. Manulang reportedly said Sondakh didn’t want to be prosecuted alone, telling Manulang that “I might create a bigger tsunami than Muhammad Nazaruddin.” Manulang added that she was asked not to implicate Sondakh in the athletes’ village case.

Responding to the testimony, a visibly emotional Sondakh confirmed that she visited Manulang in the women’s prison, but denied making any kind of threat.

Party treasurer Nazaruddin himself was convicted and jailed for five years after leading authorities on a months-long chase that finally ended in the Colombian seaside town of Cartagena. While on his flight from the law he texted and tweeted reporters, implicating a large number of Democratic Party officials in the graft case over the athletes’ village, including not only Urbaningrum but Andi Mallarengeng, the former Youth and Sports minister.

Urbaningrum has been accused of owning a shell company designed to win contracts for government work. Urbaningrum, however, has continued to deny the charges and has remained at the head of the party.

The party continues to bleed support that is increasingly certain to cut into its chances to be a major factor in 2014 presidential elections. However, the Democrats are said to be delaying removing Urbaningrum from the chairmanship and seeing him charged by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) because he has information that could cause even more trouble.

“The big fear with Angie and Nazaruddin has been that they will not only finger the other bigwigs in the Democrats but will give up the president's son, Ibas.”

That would be Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, the 32-year-old youngest son of the president. Edhie was elected a member of the House of Representatives in 2009 and was named a member of the Budget and the House of Representatives Commission I, overseeing foreign affairs, defense, and information and communication. He has long been rumored in political circles in Jakarta to have been involved in the sports complex scandal. Thus, according to political observers, what is going on now is a search for a way that would see Urbaningrum go before the KPK while ensuring that he protects unnamed higher ups. Since he is the head of the party, the implications are clear who the higher-ups might be.

"The Democrats have to take stern action to clean up the party, otherwise they will always be under attack," a veteran politician told Asia Sentinel several weeks ago. "Even before he is indicted, he should be removed. But the Democrats don’t have the courage to do this. But this is what they need to do if they are going to save the party."

Damage control from Manulang’s testimony was already underway. Marzuki Alie, the deputy chairman of Democratic Party’s board of advisers, told reporters Sondakh’s alleged vow to “create a tsunami at Senayan (the legislature)” was an empty and ill-advised threat. Sondakh, he said, shouldn‘t have made the alleged threat. He later texted reporters, saying “Don’t make any threats. People can lie in this world’s trials but nobody can lie on Judgment Day in the afterlife.”