Mon, 16 Oct 2000

Gus Dur told to comply with law on Tommy's case

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid has been reprimanded following his secret meeting with former president Soeharto's son Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, who has been convicted in a Rp 76.7 billion corruption case in a land exchange deal with the State Logistics Agency (Bulog).

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung reminded the President on Sunday that he had to be consistent in upholding the law, especially concerning Tommy.

"The meeting between the President and Tommy must not affect the legal process (of the corruption case). We have agreed to treat everybody equally before the law," Akbar told Antara prior to the opening of the 104th Inter-Parliamentary Union at the Jakarta Convention Center.

Tommy has applied for a presidential pardon after the Supreme Court sentenced him to a 18-month jail term.

Abdurrahman, better known as Gus Dur, admitted to having met Tommy at the plush Borobudur Hotel, Central Jakarta, but dismissed speculation that he had made a deal to review the sentence handed down to Tommy.

The government has in the past few months tried to secure the return of alleged ill-gotten wealth reportedly amassed by Soeharto's family during his 32 years in power.

Many suspected that the meeting with Tommy was part of the arrangement.

Separately, Soetardjo Soerjogeritno of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle expressed doubt over the fate of the legal process in the case of Tommy due to the President's intervention.

"Gus Dur has repeatedly ordered the arrest of Tommy and said he will reject his request for a pardon. But the meeting between the two will certainly affect the legal process," Soetardjo said.

Soetardjo questioned why the meeting was held in a hotel, saying it only raised speculation of collusion and breached the spirit of openness the new government is campaigning for.

"Gus Dur is inconsistent. He has secretly built close relations with the Cendana family," Soetardjo said, referring to the street where Soeharto and his family live.

Akbar also lashed out at the secrecy of the meeting.

"Such a meeting should be held at an official venue, and is not supposed to be done in a familial manner," he remarked.

But Akbar believed that President Abdurrahman would not cause a break down in the ongoing legal process of Tommy's corruption case.

"I'm sure the meeting will not change Gus Dur's stance on a pardon for Tommy. It will never happen," he said.

One of Tommy's lawyers, Nudirman Munir, said he knew nothing about the meeting.

He said Tommy's defense team was currently preparing an appeal for a review of the Supreme Court's verdict.

"We have found new evidence of our client's innocence and we will submit the appeal to the South Jakarta District Court as soon as possible," he told The Jakarta Post.

He decline to elaborate, but said the new facts had never been revealed in court. (bby)