Wed, 19 Mar 2003

Police admit to failures in `Tempo' protest incident

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar admitted on Tuesday that reporters and an editor from Tempo news weekly were assaulted by a group of angry protesters inside the Central Jakarta police station, but held out no prospect of punishment for those officers who had done nothing to stop the assaults.

"I saw it on TV and I was upset when the Central Jakarta Police chief said that Tempo had to report the case to them (for further investigation). He shouldn't have said that," said Da'i, referring to Central Jakarta Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Sukrawardi Dahlan.

In a hearing on the Tempo case with the House of Representatives' media commission, Da'i claimed that he had reprimanded both Sukrawardi and Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara over the incident.

A group of more than 200 people claiming to represent Tomy Winata attacked the Tempo offices last week over a news report suggesting that the businessman was behind the fire that gutted the Tanah Abang textile market in mid-February.

The protesters also brought three Tempo journalists to the Central Jakarta police station on Jl. Keramat Raya where they were assaulted while police officers stood by watching.

Da'i told legislators on Tuesday that his subordinates had done their best to prevent further violent action on the part of the protesters.

Most legislators questioned why the police remained silent despite the fact that one of the protesters had incriminated them by saying that Tomy had bought lights and vehicles for the police.

They also pointed to the fact that one of the protesters, identified as David alias A Miauw, could easily call up Jakarta Police chief Makbul Padmanagara.

Da'i admitted that he and several police officers knew Tomy, who donated a car to the police following the Oct. 12 Bali bombing that killed 202 people and injured over 350 others.

"There have been no other donations (from Tomy), " Da'i said.

Meanwhile, Makbul admitted that he was the one who answered David's call.

"It's because I have made my cellular phone number public, something I did in a bid to make me closer to the people," he said.

David is known as a close aide of Tomy, a tycoon who has intimate relations with some state officials. One legislator described him as a mystery man. Rumors say that Tomy owns a large gambling business in Central Jakarta, but Tomy has denied this. Gambling is officially illegal here.

During the hearing, legislators Abdul Qadir Djailani disclosed that several House commission I members had secretly met with Tomy prior to the hearing with Tempo and Tomy on Monday.

Djailani asked that the secret meeting be made public, fearing that it spelled collusion between Tomy and the legislators

He did not name those who attended the secret meeting, or the time and place of the meeting.

During the hearing, most commission members defended Tommy, heaping blame on Tempo magazine for provoking the conflict.

Commission chairman Ibrahim Ambong, who presided over the hearing with Tempo and Tomy on Monday, admitted that he and some colleagues had met with Tomy but denied suggestions that any deal had been reached with the businessman.