JAKARTA Nov 30 Indonesia's parliament on
Wednesday reappointed Setya Novanto as its speaker, reinstating
him despite a scandal last year when he was accused of trying to
extort $1.8 billion of shares from the local unit of U.S. mining
giant Freeport McMoran Inc.
Novanto resigned as speaker in December after an inquiry was
launched when the head of Freeport Indonesia Maroef Sjamsoeddin
told parliament's ethics panel he secretly recorded a meeting
with Novanto and alleged the speaker asked for a stake of 20
percent in the company.
Novanto denied the allegations.
Sjamsoeddin resigned in January for personal reasons, a
company spokesman said.
The country's attorney-general later dropped an
investigation, the constitutional court ruled in favour of
Novanto, and parliament's ethics panel has also cleared him.
Novanto's political career has continued to flourish despite
the scandal, and in May he was named chairman of Indonesia's
second-biggest political party, Golkar.
The position of speaker was set aside for Golkar because it
was previously the main opposition party, even though it has now
joined President Joko Widodo's coalition.
"A plenary session today has decided to make me the speaker
of parliament," Novanto said. "As a member of a political party,
I will take good care of this mandate and this shall be a proof
of my dedication to the nation."
Indonesia's ranking in Transparency International's
corruption perception index improved last year to 88 out of 168
nations, but the watchdog has previously cited parliament as
among the most corrupt institutions in the country.
"(Novanto) has not been formally charged in a corruption
case, but the public knows that he is problematic," said Dadang
Trisasongko, the secretary general of the group's Indonesian
office. "His appointment as the head of an institution reflects
the kind of institution he leads."
Freeport Indonesia agreed, in a 2014 memorandum of
understanding with the government, to divest a stake of 30
percent by 2019 and invest in domestic processing to win an
extension of its contract beyond 2021.
The government already has a 9.36 percent stake, and had
hoped to take another 10.64 percent stake this year, but
negotiations stalled after the company and the government
couldn't agree on a price.
(Reporting by Hidayat Setiaji and Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by