Thu, 25 Mar 1999

Marzuki lashes out at police action against Winters

JAKARTA (JP): Leading human rights campaigner Marzuki Darusman rebuked the police on Wednesday for naming American scholar Jeffrey Winters a suspect for allegedly defaming Coordinating Minister for Economy, Finance and Industry Ginandjar Kartasasmita.

Marzuki warned that Ginandjar could be adversely affected if the case dragged on.

"It is somewhat irregular that Winters has been named a suspect because we understand that the statement that he made was merely reiterating what is already known to the public," the chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights told The Jakarta Post.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Togar M. Sianipar confirmed on Wednesday that Winters was officially a suspect and was scheduled to be questioned on Thursday at the National Police Headquarters.

Winters, an associate professor at Northwestern University in Illinois, arrived here on Sunday for a six-day visit to launch the Indonesian translations of his books Power In Motion and The New Order's Political Sins.

The controversy stems from his allegation last October that Ginandjar, while serving as minister of mines and energy, had profited handsomely from the renewal of mining giant PT Freeport Indonesia's contract of work.

"It is public knowledge based on a finding by a known institution such as Econit," Marzuki said.

Winters said earlier he based his allegations on material provided by the research group, which is headed by noted economist Rizal Ramli. Ginandjar has denied the allegations.

Marzuki said a better approach would be for the government to ask Winters to clarify his statement and reach an amicable settlement with Ginandjar.

"The way the police are handling this case now would seem to be prolonging the matter and this would be to the disadvantage of Ginandjar," he added.

"If this drags on indefinitely, it will be Ginandjar that will be affected... and it will only reinforce what the public may already believe that there may be some truth in Winters' statement. Therefore, it will only lead to a situation where Ginandjar would be the losing party."

He added that Winters' statement should not be considered a personal attack on Ginandjar.

"The government may have mistakenly taken a position which opens up a question on the part of the public."

Investigating corruption would be the right course of settling the matter, Marzuki said.

If the police insist on naming Winters a suspect, "then not only Winters would have to be requested to clarify, but the police may also have to seek clarification from Ginandjar," he added.

Winters will also be questioned by the Attorney General's Office on Friday.

Meanwhile, Minister of Justice Muladi told reporters at the House of Representatives on Wednesday that the police have yet to file a request with the ministry to impose a travel ban on Winters.

In Surabaya, Winters said he was ready to meet the police with his lawyer, Todung Mulya Lubis. He is scheduled to leave for the U.S. on Friday. (byg/emf/edt/nur)