INDONESIA: Golkar lawmaker resigns over sex video scandal

Legislator caught on camera in sex scandal resigns to preserve credibility of Golkar Party and House of Representatives

The Jakarta Post
Saturday, December 9, 2006

By M. Taufiqurrahman and Ridwan Max Sijabat

Jakarta --- Yahya Zaini, the senior Golkar Party politician caught on video frolicking naked with a dangdut singer, resigned from the House of Representatives on Friday.

Yahya's resignation means he and the Golkar Party, the largest faction in the House, may escape the further embarrassment of a House Ethics Council probe of the scandal.

House Speaker and senior Golkar leader Agung Laksono said Friday Yahya had personally tendered his resignation Thursday night, during the first meeting of a Golkar team set up to investigate the video of Yahya with singer Maria Eva.

"I have received the resignation letter in my capacity as House speaker," Agung said.

He said Yahya had also apologized for the negative fallout from the scandal that undermined the credibility of the House and Golkar.

Yahya's decision was not made under duress, Agung said. "He voluntarily (resigned) to maintain the credibility of House members."

The resignation meant the ethics council should drop its probe of Yahya, he said.

The council has said it would not investigate Yahya if he resigned from Golkar, which under normal circumstances would mean the legislator would also vacate his seat in the House.

However, the head of Golkar's House faction, Andi Matalatta, has said the party had no plans to recall Yahya.

"He is not recalled but we have accepted his resignation," Andi said.

Golkar's leadership was looking for new ways to employ Yahya in the party, he said.

After the video surfaced, the Golkar leadership set up a team led by Agung to investigate the scandal.

It earlier recommended the Golkar central board dismiss Yahya from his post as the party's religious affairs head.

However, House ethics council chairman Slamet Effendy Yusuf said the body would continue its investigation until it had received and accepted Yahya's resignation.

In a related development, Yahya's family on Friday claimed the lawmaker was the victim of a blackmail attempt and said the sex video was deliberately distributed in an attempt to extort him.

The police, meanwhile, are investigating Maria's claim that Yahya had forced her to have an illegal abortion when she was two months pregnant during her relationship with the lawmaker.

Officers have summoned the singer for questioning.

On Friday, a lawyer for Maria, Ruhut Sitompul, denied a claim she had ordered a Jakarta-based production house to distribute the 42-minute video.

"Maria Eva never did that and we want those who made such an accusation to show us some proof," Ruhut said.

The lawyer recently joined the Democrat Party after working with Golkar under former leader Akbar Tandjung.