Many cheered when Golkar Party appointed lawmaker Bambang Soesatyo to replace the disgraced Setya Novanto as speaker of the House of Representatives, or DPR. Bambang now faces the tough task of improving the image of the institution, tarnished by several corruption cases involving lawmakers. And while he was a key witness in a massive corruption case involving a government project for the procurement of electronic national identity cards, or e-KTP, politicians from various camps have praised his appointment, with many saying that he is the most suitable person for the job.
"He meets the expectations of many. He is a political figure who communicates well with political parties, constituents, government officials and especially the media," said M. Qodari, executive director of Indo Barometer.
The senior Golkar politician, who has been a member of the national legislature for long, is also a seasoned businessman with diversified interests.
Flamboyant and wealthy, Bambang collects luxury cars and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. His reported net worth is around Rp 62 billion ($4.3 million). "I know it's not easy to improve the poor image of the House, but at least I will have an opportunity to make it more transparent. I only have a few months left before the elections but people should know what the House is doing. This is the reason we launched the DPR Now app," Bambang said.
He admitted that he was shocked by the recent arrest of his deputy, Taufik Kurniawan, on corruption charges but added that work of the House leadership was unaffected by this.
In an interview with state-run news agency Antara, Bambang called for criticism by members of the House to be constructive and not attempts to boost their own images. He added that the House was not a stage for image-building but a place for finding solutions.
Bambang, popularly known as Bamsoet, said he expects the crucial broadcasting bill to be passed during his tenure, as there are no more remaining obstacles.
The new law will restrict nationwide broadcasts and mark the beginning of the country's switch from analog television broadcasts to digital. But pundits believe the law is unlikely to be approved before the April 2019 elections. Nationwide broadcasts, which reach more than 80 percent of Indonesia's population, play a huge role in vote gathering. It is therefore unlikely that the law would be passed anytime soon.
Aside from that, there is still squabbling over what the standard of the new digital system to be adopted. The House has mediated and proposed the use of a hybrid multiplexing system, which incorporates both the single- and multi-mux standard.
Born in Jakarta on Sept. 10, 1962, Bambang is married to Lenny Sri Mulyani and he has eight children. He served as editor-in-chief of Info Bisnis magazine and Suara Karya newspaper. He was a student activist and member of the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin). He has received numerous awards and accolades.
Bambang's stance on economic and business matters is quite advanced. He inaugurated Ardindo Mart, owned by the Indonesian Association of Distributors, Agencies and Industries (Ardindo), in a bid to empower cooperatives and small and medium enterprises.
He is of the view that it will boost entrepreneurship in the country, which in turn will support the economy. "It is a modern store, which won't kill the smaller-scale conventional stores. It has an entirely different concept called 'shopping with charity.'" Prices will be affordable, while profit will be minimal, with 2.5 percent of it going to charity," he said.
Owners of small businesses wishing to partner with Ardindo Mart will be exempt from listing fees, and the stores will cooperate with Islamic boarding schools, mosques, campuses and more.
"Like what President Joko Widodo said, Indonesians must change from being individualists to collaborators. The spirit of collaboration will accelerate the development of small businesses," he said.
Bambang is a self-made man who worked his way up to becoming a successful businessman. As the son of an ordinary soldier, he did not come from a wealthy background and he experienced a hard life. In his early years as a student, he submitted articles to the now defunct Prioritas newspaper, which belonged to tycoon Surya Paloh.
Bambang joined Vista magazine after Prioritas was disbanded for criticizing then-President Suharto and later established his own publication, Info Bisnis magazine. This was when he met Golkar stalwarts Aburizal Bakrie and Agung Laksono, later becoming editor-in-chief of Suara Karya, the party's mouthpiece.
It was during this time that Bambang took over the business of a man whose forest concessions in Papua and Kalimantan had expired. He unexpectedly discovered coal on one of the concessions, which resulted in his entry in the energy industry.
Bambang was elected as a member of the House in the 2009 legislative election. He became known as an outspoken politician who often criticized the policies of then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
His influence in the national legislature increased significantly and he occupied several important positions, including chairman of House Commission I, which oversees defense and foreign affairs, and chairman of House Commission III, which oversees law enforcement and legal affairs.
Aside from government affairs, Bambang is also chairman of the supervisory board of the Indonesian Large Motorcycle Association (MBI).