Sat, 03 Apr 2004

Homework from Gunawan

While many people are still wondering why some suspects in bank fraud cases have been released one after the other from police detention, we are jolted by another drama: The attempted escape of a murder suspect from a paddy wagon that was transporting him from a penitentiary to the court.

There has been no logical explanation as to how Gunawan Santoso, who is accused of the murder of a private bank director, could have fallen out of the vehicle with a pistol on his personage. After an initial body search, he was found to be also in possession of a cellular phone, three handcuffs and Rp 35.92 million (US$4,177) in cash while being transported from Salemba Penitentiary to the North Jakarta District Court on Tuesday.

Naturally, the incident, which for the police was embarrassing, stirred public interest, while law enforcers have been busy pointing the finger at each other.

Speculations arose among the public and law enforcers as to why Gunawan was not handcuffed during the trip, which was a violation of security regulations.

It is widely believed that a bigger scenario involving money and power was behind the incident. Particularly, as it generally thought that the killing of Boedyharto Angsono -- Gunawan's former father-in-law -- allegedly perpetrated by Gunawan, involved military personnel.

Gunawan allegedly received the help of marine corps members in the daylight shooting, in which Boedyharto's bodyguard, Edy Siyep, a member of the Army elite corps, Kopassus, was also killed.

In such a situation, the police must move to investigate the case, promptly and properly. The case demands serious attention, especially because of its peculiarities.

The fact that Gunawan was not handcuffed while being transported to the court was odd. The other fact that a staff member of the North Jakarta Prosecutors' Office was sitting inside the paddy wagon with the defendant was even stranger.

The door of the wagon was also unlocked, while no police officer was guarding the vehicle. The prosecutors and the police should have been aware that Gunawan was classified as a dangerous prisoner who had escaped from the Kuningan prison.

The police must find the answers to the questions raised by these oddities. They should find out how Gunawan came to be in possession of a 32-caliber Beretta pistol, the cash and a cellular phone, while he was in prison.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanegara said on Friday that Gunawan was helped by two prisoners and an outsider, who was identified as an ex-convict. The two prisoners are currently being questioned while the ex-convict is still at large, Makbul said.

It is a public secret that bribery is rampant among our law enforcers, and special treatment of detainees or prisoners of well-off or powerful families is commonplace. Everybody knows that.

But acknowledgement does not reveal what is hidden beneath the surface. The police must work hard to reveal to the public what really happened so as not to raise undue speculations. How could two prisoners and an outsider - mentioned by Makbul - provide Gunawan with a gun, a cellular phone and cash without being detected by the prison guards and the personnel from the prosecutors' office?

Legally, the institutions responsible for the security of Gunawan are the North Jakarta Prosecutors' Office and the Salemba Prison. But that does not mean the police should wash their hands of blame for the incident. The controversial police statement that Gunawan was shot with his own pistol needs explanation.

The police must also find out how Gunawan changed his shirt during transportation to the court house, and why the driver took the unusual route from the prison to the court. A mikrolet driver told the police that he saw the paddy wagon stop behind his car for minutes. The driver of the paddy wagon had told him that he was waiting for somebody.

But the key witness in this escape attempt is, of course, Gunawan himself. Unfortunately, Gunawan's mother and lawyer have claimed that Gunawan -- who is now being treated at the Sukanto Police Hospital -- cannot remember what happened.

There has been, however, no doctor's confirmation of Gunawan's "amnesia". If this were true, the investigation of this most recent escape drama would be more complicated.

If so, the police must work harder in their efforts to obtain the truth from a man who has "lost his memory". Gunawan is obviously giving the police difficult homework.