Yustinus Paat, Jakarta – National Democratic Party (Nasdem) Chairman Surya Paloh said Wednesday a major corruption scandal that sees Information Technology Minister Johnny Plate as a key suspect could affect the party's performance in the general elections next year.
Johnny is also Nasdem's secretary-general.
"There will be an impact for sure," Surya told reporters at Nasdem Tower in Central Jakarta hours after the Attorney General's Office detained Johnny.
He argued that the reputation of a political party largely depends on public perception and the corruption case could trigger a negative sentiment toward Nasdem.
"Nasdem could be seen as meaningless that doesn't deserve public support. It all depends on how we build public perception," the media mogul said.
"What I'm expecting from members of the media is to remain free and responsible while holding firm professionalism and ethics that we believe," he said.
Johnny has been nominated as a House of Representatives candidate by Nasdem, but Surya said he would consult with the General Election Commission, or KPU, if the legal case effectively ends the minister's candidacy.
Nasdem broke away from the pro-government coalition last October when it nominated former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan for president.
Shortly after the AGO's announcement, Surya invited party executives for a closed-door meeting at the tower. Anies arrived later in the evening to have a private conversation with Surya.
Their meeting lasted more than two hours, after which the presidential candidate praised Surya for being persistent with his principles, although "I witnessed a sad atmosphere that we all could feel".
Anies, also a former minister in President Joko Widodo's cabinet, said: "I was briefed that nothing will change. We will continue to work for justice, equality, and unity."
AGO spokesman Ketut Sumedana said earlier that the ongoing corruption investigation against Johnny "is purely justified by the rule of law, not by any political motivation".
The AGO has been investigating alleged irregularities in internet infrastructure projects carried out by the Information and Telecommunication Accessibility Agency, or BAKTI, which is under the ministry led by Johnny.
State auditors revealed earlier this week that the graft scandal cost the state Rp 8 trillion ($538 million).
Ketut said the AGO is obliged to "safeguard strategic national projects" like the telecom infrastructure projects which aim to provide access to the internet across the sprawling archipelago.
Johnny, 66, was charged under the 1999 anti-corruption law which carries a life sentence. According to his mandatory public filing dated March 16, 2022, Johnny has Rp 191 billion worth of personal wealth of mostly lands and buildings.
His properties have been registered in Depok (West Java), South Jakarta, East Jakarta, Cilegon (Banten), and Manggarai (East Nusa Tenggara). He was appointed minister by the president in October 2019.