Thu, 23 Nov 2000

Cendana family lied about Tommy, say police

JAKARTA (JP): Family members of former president Soeharto lied to investigators when they said they had no knowledge of Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra's whereabouts, senior police officers said on Wednesday.

Head of the National Police Criminal Investigation Insp. Gen. Engkesman R. Hillep said "there are indications of lies" made during the questioning of Tommy's family members over the disappearance of the country's most wanted man.

"The family made contact (with Tommy)," Engkesman told a news conference after questioning Tommy's brothers Bambang Trihatmodjo and Sigit Harjojudanto and sister Siti "Tutut" Hardijanti Rukmana.

He said the family promised at one point to hand over Tommy last Friday, an indication that they knew where he was hiding. But then they insisted they had no idea about Tommy's whereabouts, he said.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf, who accompanied Engkesman in the meeting, said: "We can say they are liars."

During the briefing, Engkesman also announced that Tommy's sister Siti "Mamiek" Hutami Endang Adiningsih had been accused of wrongful possession of a firearm.

The officer said Mamiek had failed to renew permits for two guns, one of which was a .22 caliber pistol.

However, Engkesman said Mamiek would not be arrested until she was proven guilty in court since the violation was only valid for one year as stipulated in the 1936 Gun Possession Law.

The charge is another blotch on the records of members of the former first family, following a court ruling to sentence Tommy to 18 months in jail over a land swap deal.

Tommy went missing a day after President Abdurrahman Wahid refused to grant Tommy's request for a pardon on Nov. 2. He was to serve his jail term at Cipinang Penitentiary, East Jakarta.

His wife Ardhia Pramesti Rigita Cahyani and Mamiek were questioned on Monday regarding his disappearance.

Engkesman said the family members, also known as the Cendana Family, could not be named suspects for protecting Tommy even though they may know his whereabouts.

He cited Article 222 of the Criminal Code which states that individuals directly related to the criminal are excluded from giving information to the police.

"So it's difficult to name them as suspects," Engkesman said.

But Saleh said the family could be punished morally.

He added that the police would crosscheck the family's statements with South Jakarta Prosecutor Antasari Azhar, who was handling the case to affirm the police's preliminary conclusion.

After Wednesday's questioning, Tutut said she had no knowledge of Tommy's whereabouts.

"Only on Saturday or Sunday, I don't remember exactly, he called me briefly and asked if our father was all right," the former social affairs minister said.

Their father, Tutut said, had no idea that his youngest son was a fugitive.

When asked if the family was protecting Tommy from serving his prison sentence, Tutut did not give a clear answer.

"Any family would protect (their family members) but in what way? Does it look like I'm hiding Tommy?"

During questioning at police headquarters, the family were escorted by some 20 guards, who prevented reporters from interviewing them.

The police continued their search on Wednesday to find Tommy by combing the home of his father-in-law, Bambang Sucahyo Ajie Suryobandoro in Ragunan and several houses belonging to his uncle Sudwikatmono in Pondok Indah, South Jakarta.

The officers also searched for Tommy at the house of former State Logistics Agency chief Bustanil Arifin on Jl. Hang Tuah.

As in the previous few days, all efforts were fruitless.

In Semarang, Central Java, National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro said Tommy would be hard to capture since he had a lot of money and connections.

"It's possible that Tommy is being hidden and protected by the military or even police," Bimantoro told reporters after opening a national seminar on the police.

Police so far have searched 40 residences, mostly belonging to the family's close associates and Tommy's friends. (jaw/har/21)