Thu, 11 Mar 1999

Habibie 'responsible' for Soeharto probe

JAKARTA (JP): President B.J. Habibie must give an accountability report to the People's Consultative Assembly's General Session in October and be held responsible for the outcome of an investigation into former president Soeharto's alleged wealth, a minister has said.

Minister of Justice Muladi told House of Representatives Commission I for defense and security, foreign affairs, information and legal affairs that Habibie would have no other choice but to complete the investigation as decreed by the Special Session of the Assembly last November.

"Habibie will at all costs have to be held accountable for the investigation, of whether the case will be settled through court or by a political decision," Muladi said on Wednesday.

Public pressure for Soeharto to be brought to court for alleged corruption while in power led the Assembly to issue a decree on good governance in November.

The decree instructs the government to investigate and deal firmly with former and incumbent government officials (including Soeharto), their families and friends as well as businesspeople suspected of corruption, collusion or nepotism.

"As one of his aides, I have been telling the President that he has to complete the investigation.

"(I believe) he (Habibie) also thinks hard about how to settle the investigation into Soeharto's wealth... I cannot tell you in detail, but it is clear that Habibie is a gentleman and surely he will complete the investigation in a responsible manner," Muladi said.

The probe into Soeharto's alleged wealth, led by Attorney General A.M. Ghalib, has dragged on since June. Observers have accused Ghalib of deliberate foot-dragging, pointing out that most officials in the present government were part of Soeharto's regime.

The recent publication of a scanned phone conversation Ghalib allegedly had with Habibie, the content of which indicated the two's apparent intention to go easy on Soeharto, was a further blow to the government.

Separately, the independent Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) said on Wednesday that Ghalib must resign as he did not have the nerve to "drag Soeharto and his cronies to court".

"We call on the House to propose Ghalib's dismissal to the government as he has failed in his duty," coordinator Teten Masduki announced.

The House grilled Ghalib for three hours on Tuesday in its effort to step up the investigation into Soeharto by naming him a suspect rather than only a witness.

Soeharto stepped down in May last year amid mounting public pressure after 32 years in power.


Muladi also reiterated on Wednesday a plan to negotiate an extradition agreement with Singapore, especially in view of the increasing tendency among Indonesian bankers to resolve business disputes with debtors in the Singapore High Court.

In the absence of such an agreement and legal cooperation between the two countries, any court decision in Singapore that is related to Indonesian litigants cannot be executed in Indonesia, Muladi added.

Muladi made the remarks in reply to a question from House member Rini Awaludin about a lawsuit filed by a Bank Bali subsidiary, Hong Kong-based Bali International Finance Ltd., against Bambang Sutrisno, a former shareholder of the now defunct Bank Surya.

Sutrisno was taken to court in Singapore after PT Surya Supratama Finance failed to repay US$16.5 million in debts to a syndication of Indonesian and foreign finance companies led by Bali International.

Sutrisno personally guaranteed the syndicated loan. (byg/vin)