'Don't fuel rumours in Freeport scandal': Minister Luhut Pandjaitan

Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan arriving for a parliamentary ethics panel hearing in Jakarta yesterday into the ongoing Setya Novanto-Freeport-McMoRan scandal.
Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan arriving for a parliamentary ethics panel hearing in Jakarta yesterday into the ongoing Setya Novanto-Freeport-McMoRan scandal.PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesian minister calls for restraint as ethics panel looks at case involving Speaker

Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan yesterday called for restraint amid rumours over the ongoing Setya Novanto- Freeport-McMoRan scandal.

Fuelling the rumours would only disrupt government operations and compromise the integrity of the House of Representatives ethics council's (MKD) proceedings against Speaker Setya Novanto.

"We should stop getting involved in this brouhaha," Mr Luhut said, as he appeared before the MKD.

"Let Parliament's board of ethics do its job, and if there is any law or ethics being breached, let the law take care of it," he added.

The debacle centres on Mr Setya, who allegedly tried to secure kickbacks from the Indonesian subsidiary of US mining firm Freeport-McMoRan during a meeting with businessman Muhammad Reza Chalid and Freeport Indonesia chief Maroef Sjamsuddin.

It was during the June 8 meeting, held to discuss Freeport's bid to extend its contract earlier than allowed under Indonesian law, that the names of President Joko Widodo and Vice-President Jusuf Kalla were also mentioned.

Mr Luhut's name was mentioned at least 66 times at the meeting, which was recorded by Mr Maroef and a transcript of which was presented at a public hearing to determine if Mr Setya had breached ethics rules.

The transcript has also revealed that Mr Reza and the Speaker had implied that Mr Luhut could help convince the President to agree on an extension for Freeport to continue its operations in Indonesia. This, in exchange for a 20 per cent stake in Freeport's local unit for Mr Joko and Mr Kalla.

The scandal came to light after Energy Minister Sudirman Said lodged a complaint against Mr Setya with the ethics committee last month, alleging that the Speaker had used the names of Mr Joko and Mr Kalla to demand a stake in Freeport's Indonesian unit.

TRUTH WILL BE OUT

I have not become insane that I would meet Lucas at midnight. But sooner or later, the truth will be revealed and law enforcement would take its course.

MR LUHUT PANDJAITAN, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, denying meeting Speaker Setya Novanto's lawyer - identified only as "Lucas" - to discuss the Speaker's problems arising from the Freeport fiasco.

Mr Luhut told the council yesterday that Mr Joko was concerned about the issue dragging on for too long and had hoped that the parties involved will not let their personal differences get in the way of resolving it.

He did not elaborate.

He refuted any involvement in the saga, saying his ministry was "busy" with other matters of the state and did not pay full attention to the case.

Mr Luhut also denied meeting Mr Setya's lawyer - identified only as "Lucas" - one midnight to discuss the Speaker's problems arising from the Freeport fiasco.

"I have not become insane that I would meet Lucas at midnight," he said in reply to a query from one of the 17 MKD members.

"But sooner or later, the truth will be revealed and law enforcement would take its course."

Among the issues Mr Luhut also tackled was the availability of Mr Maroef's recording to the MKD.

The Straits Times understands that there are at least three difference versions of the recording, of which the MKD has only one.

Mr Mareof had given the original recording to the Attorney- General's Office (AGO) but not to the MKD. The council has unsuccessfully tried to attain that original recording because Mr Mareof did not give his permission to do so, said the AGO.

Mr Luhut, however, told the hearing that in the spirit of transparency, he will try to convince the Attorney-General to release the original recording to the MKD.

This is not the first time Mr Luhut has had to address the issue.

Last Friday, he held a press conference at his ministry to disclaim any link to the Freeport scandal.

"Let us move on and do our respective jobs. We need to build our country," Mr Luhut told reporters at the end of the hearing.

"Today is the last day I will comment on this Freeport case. Going forward, I want to focus on my job. Do not ask me to comment on this any more."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline ''Don't fuel rumours in Freeport scandal''. Print Edition | Subscribe