Tue, 21 Nov 2000

House allows lawyer's presence in hearing

JAKARTA (JP): All factions at the House of Representatives (DPR) agreed on Monday that witnesses to be questioned for the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) and Brunei government aid scandals could have their attorneys present.

In its plenary session, House deputy speaker A.M. Fatwa said, however, that the lawyers did not have the right to speak at the hearings.

Fatwa, who is also deputy chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), said the hearings would be closed to the public.

The deal was reached by the factions after the session was suspended for almost two hours to give faction leaders time to conduct a lobby.

The ruling on the presence of attorneys has become crucial after the lawyers for Siti Farikha, a witness, were prohibited from accompanying their client during the hearing early this month.

The upset lawyers and legislator Alex Litaay exchanged words soon after Alex said the hearing had nothing to do with the witness' human rights or legal protection.

Another witness, Teti Nursetiati, refused to testify at the hearing without her lawyers present.

Deputy treasurer of the largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Masnuh has also refused to testify for similar reasons.

The cases have drawn public attention because of the alleged involvement of President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The Bulog case erupted in April following media reports on the withdrawal of Rp 35 billion (US$3.7 million) from the Bulog's foundation Yanatera by Suwondo, the alleged masseur of the President.

Then Bulog chief Sapuan, who endorsed the withdrawal earlier, claimed that it was the President who ordered Suwondo. The money was reportedly used to fund social projects to help people in the restive province of Aceh.

Teti Nursetiati is the wife of Suwondo, and Siti Farikah is a friend of Suwondo's business partner, Aris Junaidi.

Abdurrahman has denied any involvement in the scandals, and Suwondo has stated that he did not know the President.

The President once said $2 million from the Brunei's Sultan Hasanal Bolkiah was a private donation and was received by private organizations, including the Aswaja foundation chaired by Afdhal Yasin, an executive of the Aceh chapter of National Awakening Party (PKB). Abdurrahman was a founding father of PKB.

Chairman of the House special committee for the scandals Bachtiar Chamsah said according to Article 23 of Law No. 6/1954 the witnesses' hearings should be closed to the public.

"A closed-door meeting, according to the House ruling, can only be attended by House members or invitees," Bachtiar said.

After the House plenary session on Monday, a hearing with Sapuan was held. Sapuan, who is being tried at the South Jakarta District Court for the scandal, did not request his lawyers to be present during the hearing. (jun)