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Jumat, 19 Februari 2010

Egypt: Hundreds welcome return of ex-nuclear boss

CAIRO – Hundreds of supporters greeted former U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei at the airport upon return to his native Egypt on Friday, singing songs, chanting pro-reform slogans and calling on the Nobel prize winner to run for president.
ElBaradei touched down in Cairo Friday evening for the first time since leaving his post as head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Association after 12 years in office. Supporters hope to use the publicity to boost speculation about his potential candidacy for 2011 elections.

Egypt has been ruled for nearly 30 years by Hosni Mubarak, who appears to be trying to set up a political dynasty by grooming his son to succeed him.

Respected worldwide and untouched by the corruption tainting much of Egypt's current regime, ElBaradei, who won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, could be the most credible opposition leader to emerge as this U.S.-allied country prepares for 2011 presidential elections.

And many Egyptians hope ElBaradei's international standing will make it difficult for the current government to persecute him for trying to bring reform to the country.

The crowd at the airport — made up of actors, intellectuals, opposition leaders, and regular Egyptians — broke into loud applause when word of ElBaradei's arrival spread, and then sang the Egyptian national anthem.

Many supporters carried large posters with ElBaradei's face and the word "YES!" signifying their desire to see him run for president. Bloggers and activists followed his arrival with a live stream on the Internet of what was happening on the ground at the airport.

ElBaradei tried to leave the VIP lounge at the airport shortly after his arrival, but the sheer size of the crowd blocked the exit of the lounge and prevented him. He was briefly glimpsed getting into a car and driving off, waving to his supporters through the car window.

Despite the enthusiasm his return has sparked among many Egyptians hungry for change, ElBaradei has been guarded about a potential presidential run.

In an open letter responding to an effort by young Egyptians urging him to run for president, he said he would only join the race if guaranteed that elections would be free, fully supervised by the judiciary and monitored by the international community.

He also wants the constitution amended to remove restrictions on who is eligible to run.


Kamis, 18 Februari 2010

Team yet to tie SBY to bailout money

Up the ante: A student hoists a flag at the House of Representatives’ compound in Senayan, Central Jakarta, during a demonstration Wednesday. He and fellow protesters urged lawmakers to soon complete their Bank Century bailout probe. JP/Wendra Ajistyatama

The parliamentary inquiry committee on the Bank Century bailout case has yet to find any links between bailout disbursements and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s campaign team.

This is in contrast with previous unsubstantiated speculation as to Yudhoyono’s possible connection with the controversial bailout, which had led to the raising of possible grounds for the impeachment of the President.

The bailout is considered controversial as its total cost jumped to Rp 6.76 trillion (US$716 million), about 10 times the original estimated amount.

The bailout was also initially believed to have had potentially serious implications for two of Yudhoyono’s most trusted aides — Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Vice President Boediono. Both Mulyani and Boediono had authorized the bailout decision in November 2008, when the current Vice President was still the Bank Indonesia governor.

However, rather than finding any connections between the President’s team and the bailout or concluding there were any implications of wrong decisions by Mulyani or Boediono, all of the nine parties represented in the House bailout inquiry team have concluded that the Bank Century management were the parties most responsible for the bailout saga and badly managed disbursements.

Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, the largest party at the House of Representatives, said that its investigations revealed that the management of Bank Century, later restructured as Bank Mutiara, had conducted a series of manipulation so that it could influence the disbursement of bailout funds given by the Deposit Insurance Agency (LPS).

“The management reactivated inactive accounts and opened new ones. Those accounts were then used to receive the bailout disbursements. These practices indicated criminal acts and corruption. Bank Century conducted a fraud,” Democratic Party spokesperson, Achsanul Qosasih, said at the House in Jakarta on Wednesday.

“This case must be handled by the police, the Corruption Eradication Commission [KPK] and the prosecutors’ office. In our opinion, the culprits most responsible are the management of Bank Century,” he added.

The Democratic Party’s coalition, which includes the Golkar Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Awakening Party (PKB), confirmed that their investigations unraveled indications of criminal acts by the Bank Century management and that these acts may have caused state losses.

Bambang Soesatyo, spokesman for the Golkar Party, said that his party had found indications of a conspiracy between Bank Century management and people benefiting from bailout disbursements.

“The Golkar faction also proposes a forensic audit to be conducted to fully reveal the mismanagement of the bailout disbursements. The audit could be conducted by a public accountant, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers,” he said.

Meanwhile, PPP spokesman Ahmad Yani said that after thorough cross-checks, his party concluded that there had been many irregularities and systematic manipulation of bailout data.

PKS spokesman Andi Rahmat said that, besides indications of state losses, there were signs of money laundering and transactions that could be related to drug trafficking.

Tjatur Sapto Edi from PAN said that his party had found indications of legal violations surrounding the bailout disbursements, but refused to elaborate further on the details.

“The details will be delivered in our faction’s final report,” he said.

The PKB’s position, as outlined by its spokesman Agus Sulistiyono, was similar to that of the Democratic

The opposition bloc, led by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), concluded that the responsibility for the disbursements fell not only on Bank Century management but also on the officials of Bank Indonesia and the LPS.

“The biggest responsibility at the policy making level was in the hands of Bank Indonesia’s banking monitoring department,” PDI-P’s Eva Kusuma Sundari told reporters


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