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Indonesia's Parliament Gears Up to Decide Future of Speaker - 2002-01-08

Indonesia's parliament is gearing up to decide the future of Speaker Akbar Tandjung, following his naming as a suspect in a multi-million-dollar graft scandal.

Legislators say they will decide at the end of the month whether or not to set up a special committee to determine if Akbar Tandjung should continue as Speaker of Parliament.

Mr. Tandjung is facing allegations he took nearly $1.5 million from the state food company and used it to finance his Golkar Party in the 1999 elections. Legislative leaders say if the committee finds that Mr. Tandjung has lost his moral mandate to lead, he will be asked to resign. Some faction leaders have already urged Mr. Tandjung to resign immediately, saying he has lost his credibility. But the Golkar Party, Indonesia's second largest, says it stands behind its leader and objects to creating a special investigative committee. Mr. Tandjung has denied wrongdoing in the graft case. He claims he gave the money to a charity foundation to distribute aid to the poor. But the Attorney General's Office said it could not find any record of the money reaching its intended destination and named him a suspect on Monday.

There have several investigations involving the misappropriation of money from the state food agency. But the Tandjung probe has wider political implications for Golkar, the dominant party of former president Suharto, who ruled Indonesia for 32-years. If Mr. Tandjung is prosecuted and found guilty, the Golkar Party will be barred from participating in the 2004 presidential elections.