Mystery woman named in graft trial causes a stir
CALL her the mysterious palace woman.
"Bunda Putri", or Mother Princess, has become a household name in Indonesia after her name surfaced in an ongoing high-profile corruption trial as a person close to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
She would apparently know beforehand who would go or stay when Dr Yudhoyono reshuffled his Cabinet, reported the Indonesian media.
But, until today, no one is certain who she is, and no one has come forward to identify her.
The speculations, which have dominated headlines in recent weeks, have prompted Dr Yudhoyono to deny that he had any connection with Bunda Putri, which the media says is an alias.
Even as her identity remains a mystery, photos supposedly of her with various members of the President's inner circle have been circulating on social and traditional media. Among the photos spreading like wildfire online are those supposedly of her with Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam and former sports and youth minister Andi Mallarangeng, who has been detained for graft.
At the centre of this brouhaha is a corruption trial involving former Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, who is accused of receiving bribes linked to the granting of government quotas for beef imports.
The Bunda Putri saga began when Luthfi told a recent court hearing that the woman was close to Dr Yudhoyono.
In a wiretapped recording of a conversation between Luthfi and the supposed Bunda Putri, played in court on Aug 28, Luthfi was heard praising her for her ability to influence key ministers' decisions.
As the case unfolded, Agriculture Minister Suswono, a PKS minister in Dr Yudhoyono's Cabinet called to the witness stand, told the court that Bunda Putri had introduced him to Ms Tuti Iswari, a sister of Vice-President Boediono.
Chatter in political circles has it that Bunda Putri is either the wife of a director-general at the agriculture ministry or the wife of Dr Yudhoyono's household chief of staff, retired Colonel Purnomo D. Rahardjo.
But coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs Djoko Suyanto said in a live TV discussion last week that the circulated photos of the supposed Bunda Putri are clearly not those of Mr Purnomo's wife.
Mr Suyanto, a former armed-forces chief, said he attended the Indonesian military academy in the same year as Mr Purnomo and knows his wife well.
He said: "This issue has (been blown) out of proportion."
THE STRAITS TIMES