Sat, 09 Oct 1999

Muladi confirms letter exonerating Prabowo

JAKARTA (JP): Minister/State Secretary Muladi confirmed on Friday having sent a letter to the chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights asserting there was no evidence linking Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto to the May 1998 riots which devastated parts of Jakarta.

This statement contradicted Muladi's denial on Thursday that he had sent such a letter to the commission.

"Yes, there was indeed such a letter. I have checked with my staff," Muladi said in reaction to a statement by Prabowo's younger brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo which revealed the existence of the letter.

Hashim said on Thursday evening that his family would sue the government for dismissing Prabowo from the Army, even though the government-sponsored fact-finding team established to investigate the riots found no evidence of Prabowo's involvement.

Hashim said a letter dated Sept. 13, 1999 from Muladi to the National Commission on Human Rights confirmed his brother's innocence.

Prabowo, the son-in-law of former president Soeharto, currently resides in Amman, Jordan. He was discharged from the military in August 1998 following an inquiry which implicated him in the abduction of student activists critical of Soeharto.

Muladi was perplexed as to how his letter to the commission ended up in the hands of outsiders.

"I wonder how the letter could have found its way out of the commission. There seems to be a lot of leaks here," he said.

When asked whether the government has prohibited Prabowo from returning to Indonesia, as Hashim asserted, Muladi said he would have to check that information with President B.J. Habibie.

Hashim said on Thursday his brother longed to return to Indonesia, but several "gentlemen" asked him to remain overseas because his return might stir further rumors about his alleged involvement in the riots which led to Soeharto's downfall on May 21.

Hashim demanded the Habibie administration restore Prabowo's name, in light of the letter from Muladi confirming he was not involved in the May riots.

Muladi said it was Hashim's right to pursue legal action against the government, but said it should be remembered that Prabowo was censured and dismissed from the military not by Habibie, but by the military's Honor Council of Senior Officers.

"The fact-finding team's report is one thing and the honor council is something else. The two should be separated. The honor council acts as a court of law," Muladi said.

Meanwhile, Prabowo said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post on Friday, that he had received a faxed copy of the letter which Muladi, on behalf of President Habibie, sent to the commission on Sept. 13, 1999.

"But the letter contains contradictory statements. It was first stated that there was not enough evidence to prove my involvement in the May 1998 riots. But in the next paragraph it was stated that 'irrespective of his noninvolvement, the government decided to discharge Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto from his position as the commander of the Army's Strategic Command (Kostrad) and to retire him from the Army because he was responsible for the safety and security of the state.'

Prabowo explained that within Indonesia's defense and security system the Kostrad commander is not vested with operational command power.

"In Indonesia's defense and security system, the first in the line of the mission with responsibility for the defense and security of the state is the president in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the military. Next in line is the defense and security minister and the military commander in chief," he added in refuting the point of argument used in Muladi's letter.

Prabowo hoped that the government would act firmly and quickly to set the record straight and was not instead trapped in the slanders made by certain groups in an attempt to pick innocent parties as the scapegoat. (prb/vin)