Arms Wrestling

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono has denied he accused DPR members of being weapons brokers.

THE story ended in an anti-climax. Following a three-hour meeting with members of the House of Representatives (DPR) from Commission I on Defense, at the offices of the Defense Department, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono publicly denied that he had ever accused DPR members of acting as brokers in the procurement of Indonesian primary defense equipment weaponry. “What is true is that all parties must keep on guard against the possibility of brokering taking place,” said Minister Juwono, accompanied by Commission I Chairman Theo Sambuaga, when speaking to the press at the Unity in Diversity Room of the Department of Defense in Jakarta, on Monday last week.

But Wednesday two weeks ago, during a halalbihalal (forgiveness-seeking) event in Jakarta, Minister Juwono spoke quite differently. “I don’t want the Department of Defense’s budget to become the target of scalpers, whether they be partners or brokers who are members of the DPR who have an interest in it,” he said.

The statement angered members of the Defense Commission. When the statement was released by the media, the majority of Commission members were conducting a working visit outside of Jakarta. “I received dozens of SMS inquiring whether I had become a broker,” said Happy Bone Zulkarnaen, Coordinator of the Defense Commission’s Budgetary Committee. He then suggested to the head of the Commission that they request a clarification from Minister Juwono.

Via SMS, Theo sent out invitations for a special meeting. Not many people came to the meeting on Monday last week because the majority of DPR members were still in recess. During the internal meeting, Defense Commission members discussed the accusation of brokering. The harshest comments came from members who also sit on the budgetary committee. “We were the most disturbed by being accused of involvement on brokering,” said an unhappy Happy. “We had to [seek] a clarification in order to maintain the Commission’s prestige,” he said.

Of course not everyone reacted so strongly. During the meeting there were also those who saw Minister Juwono’s statement as a warning. After around two hours of discussion, the meeting decided to ask for a clarification from the Defense Minister. “The Defense Minister had already invited us [to meet with him] at 5pm,” said Theo.

During the meeting with Minister Juwono, Theo was accompanied by eight Commission members. As it happened, Minister Juwono was accompanied by Department of Defense Secretary-General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, TNI (Indonesian Military) Commander in Chief Djoko Suyanto and the Defense Department’s Director-General of Defense Planning, Tedjo Edhy Pudjianto. Minister Juwono denied outright that he made any accusations against the DPR. “What I said, was that we must be on guard against brokers who approach the DPR and the Defense Department,” he clarified.

After the Defense Minister, it was Happy’s turn to speak up. He took up the efforts undertaken by his Commission to increase the Defense Department’s budget. He said that since 2005, the budget has continued to increase—from Rp24 trillion to Rp33 trillion in 2007—although this is still below the Rp100 trillion hoped for by the government.

Happy also spoke about the achievements of his Commission in negotiating the payment of outstanding monies owed by TNI to the state-owned oil company Pertamina for fuel. Next year, TNI was to have had to pay Rp500 billion, but Rp200 billion was sufficient. The remaining monies will be used to buy ammunition for weaponry. Happy also said that the Commission had fought for funds to cover the TNI’s operations in Aceh along with a supplementary budget of Rp135 billion from the Revised State Budget (APBN). “But what do we get? Instead of praise or appreciation, we just get slandered by you,” said Happy. Before finishing, members of the Golkar Party faction also asked Minister Juwono which DPR members he was referring to as brokers. “The accusation caused DPR members to suspect one another.”

But the names of the alleged brokers were not cited during the closed meeting. There were also no questions and answers. The meeting ended by formulating three points of agreement that were later conveyed to journalists. First, of course, was a clarification from the Minister that he never said that there was brokering going on in the DPR. The other two points were that the Defense Department and the DPR mutually respect each other’s tasks and a request to the media to be accurate in carrying out its journalistic duties. After the draft had been drawn up, there was one correction: the word “consultation” between the Defense Commission and the Department of Defense was replaced by the word “clarification.”

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BUT what actually took place? Sources in the Defense Department say that Minister Juwono’s statement about brokering in the DPR came up because of the large amount of lobbying being carried out by DPR politicians at the Defense Department. The modus operandi were diverse. There were those who went to the Defense Department offices, there were also those who proposed partners—after speaking out strongly in order to give the impression of being critical of the government. Muladi, Governor of the National Resilience Institute, is convinced that Minister Juwono has hard data on the problem. “Perhaps he (Juwono) was already annoyed about the issue,” he said.

According to a source at the Department of Defense, lobbying was not just being carried out by members of the DPR. There have been widespread rumors that DPR Speaker Agung Laksono once also ran into the Defense Minister during a lunch reception at the Mid-Plaza Hotel in Jakarta around six months ago and discussed a weapons procurement project with him.

Agung admits to having a number of meetings with different ministers, including Minister Juwono. “[But] there was no connection involving brokers,” he told Tempo journalists Dianing Sari and Dwi Riyanto on Friday last week. As it turned out, Minister Juwono failed to answer a question by Tempo on the issue—although in an SMS message he did answer questions relating to other matters.

A Tempo source on the Budgetary Committee said that there are several DPR members who know about the issue of weapons prices and have connections with businesspeople who usually tender partnerships—at the end of which there is a fee or commission paid. The amount varies but generally the value of the commission is determined beforehand.

Happy doesn’t deny that there are DPR members who may well act as brokers. “Where there’s sugar, of course there are ants,” he said. But he added that everything depends on the Department of Defense. “If they are firm, no matter what methods brokers try they definitely won’t get a foot in the door,” he said. “It’s like covering rice, if need be, the Defense Department could make it from steel so that it’s broker-proof,” he said.

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THE “hole” that makes it possible for DPR brokers to enter is Article 17 of Law No. 17/2004 on State Finances. According to this policy, the DPR is given the authority to examine lists of departmental purchases down to the smallest unit—usually referred to as the third degree. Paragraph 5 Article 17 of the law states that “The APBN shall be agreed to by the DPR in detail down to the organizational unit, function, program, activity and type of purchase.”

The DPR is of the opinion that supervision down to the project details is still important as a control function. Happy cites the case of the procurement of French-made armored personnel carriers that are currently being used by the TNI in Lebanon. In the quota that was submitted to the Department of Defense, the budget for around 30 APCs was Rp735 billion, more or less. After the DPR voiced concerns over the issue, the cost was trimmed to less than half of this.

But the Department of Defense believes that it is precisely because the DPR is too deeply involved in the process that the politicians in Senayan have also been given the opportunity to pry into all of the government’s plans. Instead of carrying out the function of control, the indications are that there are DPR members who are instead submitting proposals. It is this that is worrying Minister Juwono.

Unfortunately, the debate between the DPR and the Defense Department was resolved by peaceful means. Defense Department Secretary-General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin asserts that his boss was not pressured by the DPR. “If [pressure] had been used, perhaps [the meeting] would not have finished by morning,” he said. Minister Juwono himself, in an SMS sent to Tempo on Saturday last week, denied that he had changed the statement. The truth, he said, was that he challenged the inclusion of the story by two national newspapers that reported on his statement about DPR brokers.

Indonesia Corruption Watch Corruption Division Coordinator Fahmi Badoh believes that that the resolution that was reached over the suspicions of brokering was an anti-climax. “It was the result of a compromise,” he said. As a consequence the broker scandal was able to be resolved. But there are not just brokers in the DPR, but also in the Department of Defense.

Abdul Manan, Raden Rachmadi, Dianing Sari, Dwi Riyanto

Tempo Magazine, No. 10/VIII/November 06-12, 2007

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