Corrupt Former Aceh Governor Gets Hero’s Welcome

Banda Aceh, TAG - Former Aceh governor and graft convict Abdullah Puteh received a hero’s welcome upon his return to the province on Thursday.

Abdullah was sentenced to 10 years in jail for marking up the purchase price of Russian MI-2 Rostov helicopters for the Aceh government in 2004. However, he only served a portion of the sentence and was released from Bandung’s Sukamiskin Penitentiary in November. 

Arriving at Babun Najah Islamic boarding school in Ulee Kareng, on the outskirts of Banda Aceh, Puteh and his wife, Marlinda, and daughter, Raudah, were immediately shielded from the scorching sun with umbrellas and presented with flowers. 

More than a thousand people, for the most part former government officials, Muslim scholars, community leaders and students, gathered at the boarding school. 

Puteh and his wife and daughter were treated to the peusijuek ceremony, usually reserved to welcome honored guests and accomplished dignitaries, on a stage specially erected for the event. 

Djamal Yunus, chairman of the Ulee Kareng Gathering Forum, which organized the reception, said in his remarks that the event was held to strengthen the bond between the people of Aceh and their former leader. 

“Acehnese still pray for the safety of Abdullah Puteh and are grateful for his services when he ruled in Aceh,” Djamal said. 

In his speech, Abdullah expressed his joy to find that he was still well-received by the people of Aceh. He also told of his life behind bars. 

“In my heart I always wondered if I would finally be freed from this helicopter fiasco and if I would still be accepted by the people of Aceh. At least the abus [Acehnese word for ulema] who are present here showed that I am still accepted,” Abdullah said. 

“This means a lot to me, especially for my daughter, who had to bear the stigma of being the daughter of a big corruptor. I said ‘a big corruptor’ because I received the longest sentence, 10 years in prison.” 

Askhalani, the coordinator of the Aceh Anticorruption Movement, said he was surprised that Abdullah was given such a lavish welcome, because “the stigma of a corruptor will stick until the day he dies.” 

“Abdullah’s return should have served as a lesson and cause for introspection for Aceh government officials to refrain from corrupt behavior. It is enough that someone has been heavily punished for it,” Askhalani said. 

He said that he hoped that Abdullah, having experienced prison life, would now campaign in Aceh against the dangers of corruption. 

“That way, [his return] will become a true effort on the part of a former corruptor to participate in the battle against corruption, rather than doing nothing at all,” Askhalani said.[]
Corrupt Former Aceh Governor Gets Hero’s Welcome Corrupt Former Aceh Governor Gets Hero’s Welcome Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on January 14, 2010 Rating: 5

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