Fri, 15 Sep 2000

MPR entreated to rule on Soeharto's political status

JAKARTA (JP): In order to prepare for a long and complicated trial of former president Soeharto and its consequences, it is necessary for the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to decide on the political status of the former ruler, an observer said on Thursday.

Arbi Sanit, of the University of Indonesia, said the MPR could issue a decree on the status of Soeharto to give the judicial institution "a clear stand-point" on which it could base its conduct of the trial.

"Legal resolution cannot be separated from political decision- making. In any country, law enforcement must receive political support," Arbi said on the sidelines of a seminar on the task sharing arrangement between the President and Vice President.

He regretted that the Assembly had failed to make any determination about Soeharto, which to some extent has hampered the high-profile trial.

"It needs a decision from a more powerful institution like the Assembly. All politicians should unite in issuing a declaration on Soeharto's status," Arbi said.

He considered that Law No. 11/1998 on good governance free from corruption, collusion and nepotism does not provide anything significant in respect of Soeharto's case, although it states that the former president's alleged graft case is among the corruption cases which top the priority list for investigation.

"The decree is unclear. The most unfortunate thing is that it hands over Soeharto's case solely to the court," Arbi remarked.

The interval between legal resolution and a political decision has allowed certain groups loyal to Soeharto to take action in support of their interests, according to Arbi.

He said the mounting violence across the country, including the bombing of the Jakarta Stock Exchange on Wednesday, should not be perceived as mere coincidences occurring around the time of Soeharto's trial.

"The bombings could have been perpetrated by Soeharto's cronies. Every time Soeharto is asked to attend a trial, there are bomb blasts," he said. "It's real although it's difficult to be prove."

A senior legislator from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) Sabam Sirait suggested that the government freeze the wealth of Soeharto and his family before conducting the trial against the former president.

"Soeharto's wealth should be sought out and frozen even though he claims he doesn't have a red cent," he added. (jun)