Indonesia's sports minister resigns amid graft probe
JAKARTA (AFP) –
Indonesia’s sports minister stepped down Friday after being named a suspect in a multi-million-dollar corruption case, in the latest scandal to hit the president’s ruling party ahead of 2014 elections.
Andi Mallarangeng is the first minister to resign on graft allegations since the country’s powerful Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) began operating in 2003 with a mandate to crack down on rampant graft.
The case is an embarrassment for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who won a landslide victory for a second term in 2009 on a corruption-fighting platform.
While the country has shown an improvement in tackling corruption over the past decade, that battle has dwindled in recent years.
This week it slid to 118th of 176 countries ranked by Transparency International’s annual index, which rates the least to the most corrupt states.
The Corruption Eradication Commission announced late Thursday that Mallarangeng was a suspect in connection with the construction of a sports centre worth 2.5 trillion rupiah ($261 million).
“In relation to the KPK’s announcement… I met with the president and handed him my resignation letter as sports minister, effective today,” Mallarangeng told reporters, while maintaining his innocence.
Yudhoyono had accepted his resignation, he added.
Mallarangeng also stepped down as secretary of the Democratic Party, the party’s third-highest position.
“I don’t want to become a burden for the president and the cabinet. The wheels of the government must keep turning, and my personal legal matters are my responsibility,” he said.
The KPK asked authorities to ban Mallarangeng from travelling pending an investigation.
The Hambalang sports centre was built on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta, in a tender process that has been publicly questioned.
“Suspicions about me and the things levelled at me in the media are not true. Since becoming minister, in my whole professional career, I’ve always tried to do things as well and straight as possible,” Mallarangeng said.
The KPK has named several members of Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party as suspects in various cases in the recent years, threatening the ruling party’s position ahead of mid-year elections in 2014.
The KPK this year prosecuted the party’s former treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin over a separate sports graft case.
Suspicions around the Hambalang case grew in July 2011, when Nazaruddin, then a fugitive, told local media by phone that the construction contracts for the project had been decided before the tender process.