TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - For a long time, Setya Novanto's name has been linked to corruption cases. In 1999, he became well-known over his reported involvement in the Bank Bali scandal, along with businessman Djoko Tjandra. He was repeatedly summoned by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) over a number of cases, among them the bribery case over the Pekanbaru National Sports Week event, which also implicated Riau Governor, Rusli Zainal. The electronic ID card corruption case in the Home Affairs Ministry also involved 60-year-old Setya.
His position as treasurer of the Golkar Party has prompted Setya to be called 'Mr. Budget' or 'CEO of Budgets'. Reports describe him as good at manipulating government projects while they are discussed by the legisature (DPR). "Maybe it's because I'm an accountant, my opinion is always sought for concerning the projects," Setya told Tempo reporters Wayan Agus Purnomo and Tika Primandari last week.
Setya became the engine of the Red-White Coalition, the opposition force now dominating the DPR. Since the enactment of the Local Elections Law, he has been lobbying his way to smooth out various issues. Asked to comment on the charges against him following a session at the DPR last Friday, he said, "God forgive me, please don't keep on digging up negative stories. We're all ready to begin real work," said Setya. Excerpts:
Is it true you used money politics to bring in Golkar Party faction members to validate the Local Elections Law?
Nothing like that. As the party faction (in the DPR), I asked everyone to be present to have a quorum, and to protect the party's reputation. I contacted them one by one.
The Democrat Party was neutral at the time. Did you lobby them to join in the effort?
We communicated between the factions. That's normal. It was between the Red-White Coalition and the Democrat Party, and that was also to that party's faction chairperson, Ibu Nurhayati Assegaf, who is always accompanied by her secretary when we met.
Is it true you offered money to Democrat faction members to miss the plenary session?
I don't think so, because that's not what we do anymore. In the future, we will need to be genuine. These days we are scrutinized by everyone.
When the Democrats staged their walk-out, did they discuss it with you first?
At that time, we held a leadership consultation meeting. The Democrats wanted the third option with the 10 conditions. When they walked out, we were also shocked. No walk out plan was discussed at the meeting. Without their backing, we thought we would lose.
Is it true you entrusted the lobbying to Roem Kono and Robert Kardinal?
I am close to every one. We often meet to discuss the successes of our respective parties. We must stay united.
Is it true some Rp150 million per person was available for the entire process at the DPR?
Absolutely not. We complied with the existing regulations.
Is it true that you were not supported by the majority members in Golkar during the election for the DPR speaker position?
During the plenary session, the 200 legislators present were asked to nominate candidates. My name came up, and so did Ade Komarudin's and Fadel Muhammad's. Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie was given the prerogative to select which one among us would be the final choice. Three days later, I was elected.
What did Aburizal say?
There were conditions (to be met), such as whether we had served in the faction, whether we had experience, dedication and loyalty to the party. I was considered to have met all those criteria.
In Golkar, many seem to resent you as DPR speaker because you have been cited in so many corruption cases.
Not a single person has said anything like that. As to the cases, I comply to the supremacy of the law. The fact that I was summoned for questioning does not prove I am guilty. As I have repeatedly said, I was called as a witness, so I told my story.
In the DPR, you are known as the 'master' budget man.
It's been a while since I've done anything in the budget area. As head of the party faction, I have not been in discussions on the budget. So, I am not a 'master'. But I am trained in accounting, so I understand the issues. On important matters, I always give good advice: be cautious, do consultation, administration must be strong, don't let misuse occur. People in budgeting are in such a sensitive position. I'm being accused of all sorts of things.
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine