Ex-governor testifies on Pelalawan corruption trial

EoF News / 24 July 2008

PEKANBARU (EoF News)--  Former governor of Riau testified Tuesday (22/7/2008) on Corruption Court, Jakarta, saying his subordinate should bear responsibility for issuing Annual Working Plan permits allowing 10 companies clearing the forest.

The trial prosecutes Pelalawan Distric Head Azmun Jaafar whom charged of misusing authority to make money by issuing logging licenses and cause the State loss of Rp1.2 trillion.

Rusli Zainal, former governor who now runs for gubernatorial election in September this year, told the court that he had no much knowledge of RKT (annual working plan) matters as he admitted that he issued 10 RKTs in 2004, Riau Terkini website reported Tuesday (22/7/2008).

His statement looked similar as he told Koran Tempo daily in an interview last week.

However, the website reported that two judges, I Made Hendra Kusuma and Andi Bachtiar, told Rusli that the governor had no authority to issue RKT as stipulated by Minister of Forestry’s Decree Number 151 year 2003. It is forestry official’s authority, they said.

Then Rusli admitted that he had no authority to sign RKT or BKT (temporary RKT), but he insisted that the approval he issued due to his position as representative of central government in the province and there is technical consideration provided by the Forestry Service.

”Yes, I have no authority. I signed [the RKTs] because there is technical consideration, and I was not informed by the Forestry Service that I have no authority to sign BKT and RKT,” he told the judges.

Despite the explanation, Riau Forestry Service at that time, Syuhada Tasman, who testified at the same trial just before Rusli, told the judges that he had informed  Rusli Zainal that the governor has no authority to issue RKT or BKT.

Azmun Jaafar, the defendant of the corruption case, was given opportunity to ask witness Rusli on the trial. “Is [Riau Governor Rusli Zainal] who signed or Head of provincial forestry service?” Azmun asked his former boss.

Tribun Pekanbaru daily (23/7/2008) reported that Rusli did not answer Azmun’s question clearly, as he only said, “It depends on which matters.” Then the presiding judge reminded Rusli of answering such a question.

Rusli answered Azmun’s question by saying that he himself is not the one who takes responsibility for the RKT issuance, but the Riau Forestry Service head, Syuhada Tasman. “The one who has to be responsible is the head of forestry service,” Rusli told the court, Riau Terkini reported. Rusli testified on the trial in 40 minutes as he looked nervous and mostly answered the questions by phrases such as “don’t know,” forgot”, or “don’t understand,” Riau Terkini said. Then judge Andi Bachtiar suggested him for not answering that way in order to ease the jury in making judgment.

“In the future, you must be careful, because you have no authority [to issue RKT]," Andi told the witness, Riau Terkini quoted as saying.

Other two suspects of Azmun’s case, former forestry service heads Syuhada Tasman and Asral Rachman, also testified on the court as well as Dominikus, executive of PT Satria Perkasa Agung (APP affiliated company).