Anti-Corruption Protesters Clash during Inquiry

JAKARTA ~ Hundreds of Indonesians pelted each other with stones outside parliament on Wednesday as lawmakers grilled Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati over a controversial bank bailout.

One protester was punched and kicked by the mob as about 400 anti-graft protesters from rival groups set upon each other in the latest sign of mounting anger over pervasive corruption.

“They clashed for about half an hour outside the parliament building. The police managed to calm them,” Central Jakarta police chief Hamidin said.

The demonstrators from little-known groups called the Youth Network Movement and White Revolution were protesting against the government’s decision to pump some US$730 million into failing Bank Century in 2008.

Lawmakers have been publicly questioning ministers and central bank officials as part of a parliamentary inquiry into the rescue package, which has been linked to a string of damaging corruption allegations.

Indrawati told the inquiry the bailout in November 2008 – which was around 10 times larger than initially approved – was necessary to prevent a systemic economic meltdown at the height of a global economic crisis.

Her defence matched earlier testimony from Vice-President Boediono, who was central bank governor at the time of the bailout.

The country’s top auditor has found strong indications of “violations” in the bailout procedures and recommended a full investigation.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has denied allegations that some of the money went to his political patrons and to charitable organisations that subsequently backed his 2009 election campaign.

Filed under: The Nation

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