TEMPO.CO – Resigning from his job as Religious Affairs Minister after his indictment for corruption, Suryadharma Ali chose to ensconce himself at his home in South Jakarta. “At this time, I will stay home. I need to consolidate,” said Suryadharma, who is chairman of the United Development Party (PPP).
The previous week, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had charged him with misusing the haj funds during the 2012-2013 period. Since then, friends and fellow party members have come to visit him, among them PPP Deputy Chairman Lukman Hakim Saifuddin and Achmad Dimyati Natakusumah and party elder, Hamzah Haz.
He spoke briefly to Tempo reporter Indra Wijaya and other reporters waiting outside, as he escorted his guests out the door. He admitted the case had become a ‘disaster’ and upset his family life.
Is it true you invited your family and friends on the haj pilgrimage in 2012?
I’m not ready yet to explain this matter. It’s a long story. Pray that I can overcome this burden.
Are you denying the charges?
What is certain, we did not reduce the quota for people to leave (on the haj) that year. That’s essential. Yes, there are quotas reserved given by the Saudi Embassy for a number of government officials. This is intended to maintain good relations between the two countries.
Who is authorized to determine which people can use this special quota?
That’s the prerogative of the minister, as regulated by the Constitution. But the interpretation and rationale can differ.
How is the trillion-rupiah haj funds managed?
That’s why I asked Pak Anggito Abimanyu to be the director-general of haj and umroh affairs. If I had recruited from inside the ministry, many of them would not qualify because most of them were trained in religion, not economics. Pak Anggito is an economist, he would know how to manage money. When I first offered him the job, he was shocked and refused it.
Who can disburse those funds?
I have never disbursed those funds. I don’t have the competence to withdraw the money from the haj funds. Why not ask the director-general for haj and umroh affairs. (*)
Wednesday, 04 June, 2014