Pertamina takes office in Sopo Del: Luhut suspected of abusing authority

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Luhut Binsar Panjaitan is with his wife during soft launching of Sopo Del Office in January 2018. (photo: IO/Dan)

IO, Jakarta – The Sopo Del Office Tower and Lifestyle Center, a property located in Mega Kuningan III Lot 10, South Jakarta, belonging to the Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, has currently come under the spotlight, since PT Pertamina has just leased space in 11 stories of the building, while already owning an office building in Medan Merdeka, Jakarta. Suspicion of the abuse of authority becomes rampant because the building Pertamina leases belongs to a minister who is close to Jokowi.

Sopo Del is a complex comprised of 3 towers constructed on 1.7 hectares of land located in a prime Jakarta business district. With the current slow economic growth, it would naturally be hard to secure tenants for such a building. As a high official, it would be easy for the Minister to suggest to State-owned Enterprises, such as Pertamina, that they might want to lease office space at Sopo Del.

This news was exposed and discussed during a meeting between House Committee VI   (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Republik Indonesia – “DPR RI”) and Pertamina in mid-July. Committee member from the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan – “PDIP”) Rieke Diah Pitaloka closely questioned Pertamina President Director Nicke Widyawati concerning the move of its offices to the Sopo Del complex. She requested clarification on the appointment and tender process, in order to ensure that there is no abuse of authority by a high official of the State who happens to own a majority stake in the complex. “We are requesting all necessary data in writing to ensure that everything is aboveboard because this involves a State-owned company. Is it urgent? Is anything odd? We need to review this data in writing,” she said.

Nicke Widyawati confirms that Pertamina offices have moved to Sopo Del. However, the move to Sopo Del is temporary. “We are temporarily moving there. Yes, we are making preparations for moving to Mandiri Tower later. The move of the employees in the Annex Building to Sopo Del is correct. That is all I want to say,” she said.

The people suspected that Pertamina is moving to Sopo Del even before the Elections were held this year. Pertamina opened a bid on its website for transporting goods. The rumor spread that employees of the State-owned company are moving their worksite to the Minister’s building.

Pertamina’s Director of Finance Pahala Mansury confirms that it is moving offices temporarily, due to renovation and rehabilitation of their building planned for the upcoming year, i.e. when all employees are to move to Mandiri Tower.  However, he refused to divulge the cost for either the move or the lease to Sopo Del. “It’s enough for you to know that we have prepared sufficient funds for it,” he said.

Pertamina’s VP of Corporate Communication Fajriyah Usman added that the move was made due to necessary revitalizing and modernizing of the old office building, which is over 40 years old. They need to make sure that the building accommodates the needs of the Company, which has been developing and requiring bigger workspace. “We have moved some of our employees from the Annex Building to Sopo Del,” she said.

Fajriyah further stated that the lease of 11 floors of Luhut’s Sopo Del is reasonable. “We have undergone the tender process and we have made due consideration of the lease price. In other words, we are not being arbitrary and the process has been going on for years. We are moving many employees – not just those working in the Annex Building, but also the ones working in the Scouts’ National Quarters. We need a great deal of space,” she said.

Object of Oligarchic Interests
Similarly to Rieke, Energy Observer Marwan Batubara requests that Pertamina as a State-owned Enterprise not be managed like a private company. “Is it really necessary to lease space? We don’t want to see that Luhut, having other buildings that nobody uses, mobilizes Pertamina to lease them,” he said.

Marwan further insists that Pertamina’s transparency concerning the lease of the building is necessary. We don’t want Pertamina to become a mere object of oligarchic interest. “We don’t want Pertamina to force itself into doing something like leasing a building belonging to Coordinating Minister Luhut,” he said.

United Pertamina Workers’ Union Federation (Federasi Serikat Pekerja Pertamina Bersatu – “FSPPB”) Chairman Arie Gumilar regrets the fact that the Pertamina office is forced to spend money to lease another building while they already have their own. Pertamina as a strategic State-owned Enterprise must be free from interference.

Meanwhile, senior economist Rizal Ramli stated in his Twitter account that he is saddened that Pertamina should lease a building owned by his fellow minister. “I am sad that a friend of mine, who used to say that he is very rich that he has no interest but to devote himself, has turned into a vulgar person who got tentacles everywhere. I hope he realizes this.”

With the suspicion of abuse of authority, the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”) is ready to investigate Pertamina’s so-called “problematic” lease of Sopo Del. However, the Commission must first await a report before they can do anything. “We will definitely launch an investigation as soon as anyone reports something we can go with,” said KPK Spokesman Febri Diansyah.

Green Building
Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affair Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan responded lightly to allegations of abuse of authority. He stated that the Sopo Del Building is a mere stopover port for Pertamina’s employees because it has won the tender process. “I don’t know how the tender process went. My building is a green building, and we just won the bid. That’s it,” he said when he attended an internal Restricted Meeting with Presiden Joko Widodo (Jokowi) at the Presidential Palace, Central Jakarta, last Friday (26/07/2019).

Sopo Del Tower is a new building complex belonging to Luhut. He inaugurated it on 19 January 2018, accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Devi Simatupang, Luhut talked a bit about the theme of the building and the philosophy behind its construction. “We are touched that we can actually do this, haveing our own office building to lease. That’s life for you – it’s a mystery of life,” he said.

Luhut stated that the name “Sopo” was taken from the Batak language meaning “home” or “shelter”, while “Del” is taken from the Yiddish word meaning “one step ahead”. The complex was built according to a Batak Toba architectural concept. Even the rooms are named using typically Batak names, such as Tahuluk, Sortali, Artia, Anggara, Ringkar, Sikkora, and Samisara.  (Dan)