Protestors Call for President to Step Down

JAKARTA ~ Protesters burned photos of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and demanded his resignation this week over what they see as his complicity in a series of major corruption scandals.

Protesters slammed Yudhoyono, popularly known as SBY, over a controversial bailout of failed lender Bank Century and an alleged conspiracy among senior law enforcers to cripple the popular anti-corruption agency.

“President SBY and Vice President Boediono should step down from their positions because they’re no longer professional and there’s suspicion that they’re involved in the Bank Century case,” said a demonstrator in Makassar, where students set fire to a picture of the president.

Small protests also appeared in several parts of the capital Jakarta and nearby Bogor, where hundreds of students reportedly blocked a street and burned tyres.

Yudhoyono stunned anti-graft activists when he delivered a rambling reply to advice from his own fact-finding team to punish senior law enforcers implicated in the suspected conspiracy against the corruption watchdog.

In a nationally televised speech late on Monday, Yudhoyono insisted he could not interfere in criminal cases no matter how little faith the public had in the police and the courts.

But because of the threat the scandal posed to “social unity,” he said the “better option and solution… is for the police and prosecutors not to bring this case to court.”

Some members of the fact-finding team said this was a “clear” message to the police to drop the criminal allegations against the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputies.

Anti-graft activists however said Yudhoyono had abrogated his duty and his election promises to fight corruption. His failure to take strong action was at best a sign of impotence or, at worst, collusion, they added.

“The president’s speech was just bullshit,” Indonesia Corruption Watch activist Illian Deta Arta Sari said.

“All the promises about fighting corruption were just jargon to fish for votes to win the election. He has failed in carrying out his duties as president.”

Yudhoyono was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote in July on promises of clean government and economic growth.

A police spokesman said Yudhoyono’s speech on Monday was merely a “reference” and no decision had been made to drop allegations of bribery and abuse of power against KPK deputy heads Bibit Samad Riyanto and Chandra Hamzah.

Explosive KPK wiretaps played in court earlier this month apparently caught senior police and prosecutors conspiring to frame the KPK deputies as part of a wider scheme to bring the powerful anti-graft agency to heel.

Yudhoyono was mentioned by some of the alleged conspirators as being party to the plot, an accusation he has angrily denied.

Responding to the tapes, he vowed to wipe out what he called the “mafia” of police, judges, prosecutors and brokers who manipulate the country’s courts, but has offered no details on how he plans to do so.

Lawmakers have also demanded an investigation into the US$704-million lifeline thrown to Bank Century late last year that rescued the accounts of some of Yudhoyono’s closest political supporters.

Supreme Audit Agency head Hadi Poernomo, presenting a report on the bailout on Monday, said there were strong indications of “violations” and recommended a full investigation.

Yudhoyono welcomed a full inquiry and said the allegations of political intrigue surrounding the bank were “slander” and “very hurtful.”

The main opposition People’s Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), led by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, has warned of growing social unrest over the allegations.

“There’s a worry that there will be an accumulation of public dissatisfaction, which will lead to rallies directed against the president,” PDI-P lawmaker Aria Bima said.

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