Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Indonesia - In a State of Denial

They call her Bunda Putri (Queen Mother) because she is close to the inner circle, influential and commands high respect among officials. Her name surfaced during the trial of Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, the former chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) who said that she is well connected — including with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. But the president has denied knowing Bunda Putri and called Luthfi a liar

Nobody wants to say who Bunda Putri really is. Meanwhile, on social media at least ten photographs of Bunda Putri were circulating, showing her together with Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam, Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, former Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso, chairman of the PKS party’s highest council Hilmi Aminuddin, former Youth and Sports Minister Andi Malarangeng, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, economist Faisal Basri, former Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs Agum Gumelar, Agriculture Minister Suswono and Kalimantan Governor Cornelis.

Dipo denied knowing the woman in the photo while Purnomo explained he was photographed about 10 years ago with Petronas founder Tan Sri Azizan and others whom he can’t remember. Sutiyoso also said he couldn’t remember, while Andi’s brother Choel Malarangeng admitted the family knew Bunda Putri but couldn’t recall her real name.

Hilmi, who testified as a witness in Luthfi’s trial has said that he knew Bunda Putri, describing himself as her mentor. He also said that Bunda Putri’s real name was Non Saputri — a senior and prominent West Java businesswoman with whom he talked about business, politics and even the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle. Suswono also admitted he knew Bunda Putri but couldn’t recall her real name .

Luthfi meanwhile denied that Bunda Putri is the wife of an important Agriculture Ministry official, saying that “her husband was a foreigner who died a long time ago.” But he also said that Bunda Putri is so close to the president that she knows much about the president’s reshuffle plans. That statement angered Yudhoyono, who later said that Luthfi “was 2,000 percent lying.”
Economist Fai sal Basri gave a clearer picture of this shadowy figure. He said that Bunda Putri was not mysterious at all, but a woman by the name of Non Saputri who is indeed well-connected to ministers, politicians, lawyers, businessmen and regional officials.

The University of Indonesia lecturer said it was not difficult to identify who Bunda Putri was. And he didn’t mind his photo with Bunda Putri being spread via social media.

“She has become very mysterious because SBY commented that he … didn’t know her and … because PKS officials digested raw information which they heard from Bunda Putri,” Faisal said.
Faisal also said that he has seen Andi attending Bunda Putri’s birthday in the past.

“I was in Pontianak with Bunda Putri and met with a Bank Indonesia official, Tuti Iswari who happens to be Vice President Boediono’s sister. We didn’t talk about politics but we enjoyed eating durian together,” Faisal said on social media.

During the New Order, Indonesia was a fertile ground for brokers in power and projects. Still, power is money and money is power.

Shadowy figures often play an influential role in winning huge projects, with commitment fees paid up front.

They are in fact well-connected brokers who run around lobbying officials and have all kinds of project licenses and proposals in their hands. Such practices have become rampant — as seen by the many corruption cases that are being revealed almost on daily basis.

Officialdom would rather deny a hard truth than face it. But there is no need for state intelligence to find out who Bunda Putri really is.

Social media will reveal the truth.

 By Yanto Soegiarto managing editor of Globe Asia

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