Thu, 11 Mar 1999

Don't talk so much, Wiranto tells Ghalib

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Defense and Security/Armed Forces Commander Gen. Wiranto on Wednesday loudly asked Attorney General Lt. Gen. Andi M. Ghalib to stop talking to journalists when the latter was responding to questions about the progress of investigations into former president Soeharto.

"Ghalib, don't talk too much," Wiranto shouted to him as he was surrounded by journalists before attending a Cabinet meeting on economic affairs at the Bina Graha presidential office.

Several ministers, including Minister of Industry and Trade Rahardi Ramelan and Minister of Information Muhammad Yunus burst into laughter upon hearing Wiranto.

"They're overwhelming me, Pak," a surprised Ghalib replied and continued answering the press.

Journalists asked him about the statement of Soeharto's defense lawyers who urged him on Tuesday to stop the inquiry into their client's allegedly ill-gotten wealth.

"He has committed no offense involving criminal corruption nor has he broken any law," Juan Felix Tampubolon, one of Soeharto's lawyers had said.

"It's a lawyer's job to help free his client. Their request is natural. It is different from an attorney's job," Ghalib said when Wiranto unexpectedly interrupted him.

As soon as he arrived at the meeting hall, Ghalib sought out the journalist of the Merdeka daily.

"Are you from Merdeka?" he asked a protocol officer.

Ghalib told Minister of Communications Giri Suseno Hadihardjono that he was upset with the newspaper's headline which stated that he was 'butchered for half a day' during his hearing with the House of Representatives (DPR) on Tuesday.

In that hearing not less than 15 members of the House Commission I on political affairs and security queried him about reports of a leaked telephone conversation, supposedly between Ghalib and President B.J. Habibie. Some of the legislators even told him that he did not have the guts to probe Soeharto's alleged corruption.

"The hearing proceeded normally and I was not treated as Merdeka reported," he said to Giri.

He smiled and agreed when a journalist said Ghalib had passed the toughest test when receiving last year a chicken from Trisakti University students for his lack of guts in probing Soeharto's alleged corruption.

Wiranto himself was reluctant to talk to journalists and asked them to speak to other Cabinet members.

"Please disperse from here," he told journalists. (prb)