Indonesian President Says Opposition is Behind Anticorruption Protest

Under growing pressure over the PT Bank Century fiasco, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono alleged on Friday that opposition political forces were behind moves for an antigraft demonstration scheduled to mark International Anti-Corruption Day on Wednesday. Political experts and religious figures immediately criticized the remarks as “paranoid” and an attempt to stifle free speech. Yudhoyono, speaking during a cabinet meeting on Friday, said he had been warned that the true motives of some expected at the protest were not to rid the country of graft. “It is politically motivated, which is not always related to the effort of eradicating corruption,” Yudhoyono said. Public resentment continues to simmer over the state’s failure to adequately resolve the Bank Century and Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) scandals. A number of leading nongovernmental organizations, grouped under the Civil Society Coalition Against Corruption (Kompak), are planning to hold anticorruption marches in 33 provinces, including Jakarta, on Wednesday. Yudhoyono said the massive news coverage of the Bank Century scandal — which has implicated senior members of his cabinet and led to allegations that his re-election campaign benefited from the bailout — was also partially politically motivated. “I said that to you not to surprise you later,” he told his ministers. “But whatever happens in Jakarta, don’t let it disturb our concentration and spirit to carry out our main duties to succeed in the development [of the country] and to increase the welfare of the people.” Yudhoyono said public reaction over the past five weeks had been excessive. “It’s part of freedom of expression, part of democracy, as long as it doesn’t disturb the stability of the nation,” he said, adding that in such circumstances it would be the people who suffered. Political expert Andrinof Chaniago acknowledged the issue was prone to hijacking but said the government should not react in a way that would harm true anticorruption protesters. Fadjroel Rachman, a senior activist from Kompak, said the president should not react to the demonstration with paranoia. “We just want Indonesia to be free of corruption,” he said. “If the president has any suspicions about what we do, he should join the demonstration on Dec. 9 and see himself that it is a pure anticorruption movement.” “If he’s clean, why bother such peaceful movement,” he said. Din Syamsuddin, leader of Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, who will speak at the demonstration, said the government shouldn’t overreact to the public criticism. “Government reaction to shut off criticism is a new form of political authoritarianism and is against democracy and reform,” he said.

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