Sun, 07 Mar 1999

Budiman's father set to give thanks if son released

JAKARTA (JP): The father of jailed Democratic People's Party (PRD) leader Budiman Sudjatmiko said on Saturday he would organize charitable activities to express gratitude to God if his son was released.

Wartono Karyo Utomo said he and his wife Sri Sularsi had saved enough money to finance a mass circumcision and the slaughtering of goats for distribution of the meat to the poor, which was his son's wish.

"Alhamdulillah (Thank God), we can't wait for him to be released," Wartono told The Jakarta Post.

Minister of Justice Muladi disclosed on Thursday the government planned to release Budiman, other PRD leaders and 10 former communist rebels.

"Budiman did not say anything about the possible release when (I visited him) on Wednesday. But I do hope it will become a reality," Wartono said.

PRD activists received sentences from 18 months to 13 years. Budiman, jailed in Cipinang Prison in East Jakarta, received the stiffest verdict. PRD secretary-general Petrus Hari Haryanto was sentenced to six years. Under Soeharto's regime, PRD was declared an illegal organization.

President B.J. Habibie's administration has reversed the ban, and PRD has been selected as one of the 48 political parties to contest the June 7 general election.

During her visit here on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright urged Habibie to release the country's political prisoners, as did a rights activist from Germany earlier on the week.

From taking office in May through to last December, Habibie had released 109, including four PRD leaders, of the country's 232 political prisoners and detainees.

Former communist rebels were in jail for more than 30 years for involvement in the abortive 1965 coup, blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

"The release of the former communist prisoners is based on humanitarian reasons because most of them are old and sick," Muladi said on Friday.

Wartono said his son's release would enable PRD to consolidate to face the general election.

"In politics, Budiman is my boss," said Wartono, who was recently elected PRD chapter chairman in Bogor, West Java, where he lives.

Wartono insisted he was not elected because he was Budiman's father.

"As an anti-KKN (the Indonesian acronym for corruption, collusion and nepotism) fighter, of course my son will not tolerate such practices," said Wartono, who visits his son at least once a week.

He conceded that Budiman's colleagues had worked hard to get him elected, arguing the party needed a senior activist.

"Budiman was surprised and then burst into laughter when I reported to him about my election," Wartono recalled.

He hopes his new post will be officiated as soon as his son, 29, is released. He is ready to follow orders from the son he called "my new idol".

"My son is quite stubborn, so I have to give in to him."

Budiman and his family have suffered from alleged antigovernment activities. Budiman was initially branded the son of a communist family, and Wartono had to retire as an employee of the PT Goodyear in May 1997 because the company could not stand government pressure.

"I was caught red-handed by security apparatus when distributing PRD pamphlets on Bogor streets, calling people to boycott the 1997 elections (under Soeharto)," he recalled. (prb)