When he was reelected president of Indonesia three years ago, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono vowed to combat corruption. Now a landmark corruption investigation threatens to tarnish his own political party, as his former presidential spokesman steps down over allegations of graft.
Youth and Sports Minister Andi Alfian Mallarangeng stepped down Friday after being named a suspect in an investigation centering on the construction of a $122-million sports complex in West Java, according to news reports.
He was the first sitting Cabinet member to be targeted in the inquiry and the first ever named by the Corruption Eradication Commission, which was launched nearly a decade ago.
Corruption investigators have sought to ban the minister from traveling abroad. Though Mallarangeng told reporters he was innocent and was resigning only to prevent the case from getting in the way of government business, the news is nonetheless an embarrassment for Yudhoyono, who used to rely on Mallarangeng as his spokesman.
Elections are more than a year and a half away, in mid-2014, but the court case could drag into election season, the Jakarta Post reported.
Mallarangeng stepped down the same day that the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime praised the Indonesian president for taking on corruption, lauding its national strategy to prevent and eradicate it.
Yet Indonesia ranked 118th out of 176 countries this year on the Corruption Perceptions Index created by Transparency International, lower than last year. The rankings, announced this week, are a rough measure of expert opinions of corruption in the public sector.
Other members of the ruling Democratic Party have already been targeted in other corruption cases, including former party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin, who was jailed this year on a bribery conviction. Under questioning, Nazaruddin reportedly implicated the party chairman and its secretary general – the president’s youngest son – on suspicion of corruption.
Earlier this week, the corruption commission also detained a top police official over allegations tied to purchasing driving simulators while he headed the police traffic division.
“This is one of a series of big blows to the party,” Indonesian Survey Institute executive director Kuskridho Ambardi told Agence France-Presse.