Sat, 11 Sep 1999

Habibie 'blames' adviser in letter snafu

JAKARTA (JP): President B.J. Habibie has blamed his chief advisor, Supreme Advisory Council (DPA) head Arnold A. Baramuli, for providing him with a false statement which misled the public in the Bank Bali scandal, a lawyer said on Friday.

Habibie said Baramuli gave him the statement purportedly from former Bank Bali president Rudy Ramli which denied the existence of a widely circulated journal, Rudy's former lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution said.

The journal included entries describing the involvement of members of Habibie's inner circle.

"I believed him because he's the head of the DPA. I asked if the signature was really Rudy's signature, and he said it was real," Habibie was quoted as saying by Nasution.

Nasution, Minister of Justice/State Secretary Muladi, National Police chief Roesmanhadi and Police Intelligence Affairs chief Dai Bachtiar met with Habibie to discuss the scandal.

Nasution said he visited the President because there were rumors he made the statement, which Rudy denied authoring in a hearing with legislators on Thursday.

"When I asked from whom did Bapak obtain the statement, he answered it was from Baramuli," Nasution said.

"The President has been deceived... as if the statement did really come from Rudy Ramli."

Nasution recommended that the National Police handle the investigation into how Baramuli obtained the statement.

Asked if Habibie has issued permission for a police investigation into Baramuli's actions, Nasution said: "I see the President as quite objective. He only wants all of this to proceed according to the law."

The Habibie camp has been left red-faced by Rudy's denial because Muladi divulged the statement at a post-Cabinet meeting news conference last month.

"I didn't make the statement," Rudy told a hearing with the House of Representatives Commission VIII for banking and finance in his first public appearance since the scandal surfaced in late July.

In Thursday's session broadcast live by two private television stations, journalists and observers packing the visitors' gallery cheered and applauded Rudy's denial.

However, Rudy's appeal for the hearing to be adjourned due to ill-health was accepted and he did not confirm the contents of the journal. The journal chronicles successive meetings with various Habibie associates.

Muladi said on Thursday that he read the statement as ordered by Habibie. He said the statement came from someone he "trusted".

The scandal stems from the Rp 546 billion commission paid by the bank to PT Era Giat Prima (EGP) for its help in recouping interbank loans on closed banks.

Bank Bali was not supposed to use the service of EGP because the loans were guaranteed through the government blanket guarantee program.

Rudy said that he gave the journal to retired Maj. Gen. Suhartoyo, currently deputy head of the human resources department of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan).

Some have accused the Habibie camp of trying to raise money through the transaction to help bankroll Habibie's presidential bid in November.

Meanwhile, deputy of House Commission VIII Lili Asdjudiredja said on Friday that Rudy's lawyer Suyono visited the commission in the morning to request protection amid rumors that his client would be arrested by the police.

Rudy has been named a suspect in the Bank Bali case.

"The lawyer came to us for help," Lili said.

He said the commission would immediately issue legal protection for Rudy.

Rudy is still needed for questioning by the House special investigation team into the Bank Bali scandal, he added.

In a related development, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Togar M. Sianipar said on Friday that results of the hearing on Thursday were not of "great relevance" to the police investigation.

"The police investigation into Rudy is sticking by one thing alone: whether the suspect reported the transaction to his superiors, or put down the transaction in Bank Bali's accounts," Togar said National Police Headquarters.

"Rudy did not. That is what we need."

He added that the police would take into account that Rudy said "something to the media, something else to a particular party (PDI Perjuangan) and something else to someone else".

"If it's relevant to the police investigation, Rudy may be told to take a lie-detector test and, if possible, even a psychological test... in the clinical sense."

Sources close to the investigation said, however, that Rudy's answers on Thursday caused "extreme complications in the police investigation".

They added: "He clearly implied that government officials are involved." (rei/ylt/prb)