Thu, 30 Aug 2001

Police in hot water over detainee's sudden death

JAKARTA (JP): Legislators blamed the police on Wednesday for the death of a key witness in the case of the fugitive Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, saying it would damage the police's image unless the case was investigated thoroughly.

Some of them even urged the relatives of Sgt.Maj. (ret) Wiyono, the deceased witness, to sue the police.

"The law allows Wiyono's relatives to sue the Jakarta Police for their failure to give all necessary protection, including medical treatment, to the witness," J. Sahetapy, a legislator from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, told reporters here.

Wiyono, 60, died on his way from the Jakarta Police detention center to the Kramatjati police hospital in East Jakarta on Tuesday.

He was believed to know of Tommy's whereabouts and was also involved in the handling of guns belonging to Tommy.

The police claimed that the victim could have died of a heart attack.

Sahetapy, who is also a professor of law at Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, said the Criminal Code Procedures obliged the police to provide maximum protection for all detained witnesses.

He said that he got the impression that the police had prevented the witness from receiving medication for his heart problem.

Separately, Hamdan Zoelva, deputy chairman of the House's Commission II on home and legal affairs, said Wiyono's death had much to do with the police's failure to provide him with the medication he needed.

He said that a few days before the suspect's death, Wiyono's wife had asked the police to allow her husband to have a medical checkup but the police had ignored the request.

Yahya Zaini, secretary of the Golkar Party faction, questioned Wiyono's death. He said the case had given rise to speculation as the police had failed to properly explain it.

"Wiyono's relatives could sue the Jakarta Police if they cannot give a satisfying explanation for his death," he said.

Yasril Ananta Baharuddin, chairman of House Commission I on defense and foreign policy, called on the Police to carry out a thorough investigation into Wiyono's death to avoid speculation among the public.

"The National Commission on Human Rights should investigate the case if the police decline to do so," he said.

According to Sahetapy, the performance of the police in general was quite poor.

"Speaking frankly, I'm very disappointed with the police's poor performance because they are still similar to the way they were under the militaristic New Order regime," he said, adding that the case must be investigated thoroughly.

He said that despite the National Police's separation from the Indonesian Military, it would difficult to make the police professional and independent in performing their duties.

"Most people have been apathetic towards the police mainly because they are not professional, which is shown by their handling of the Tommy affair, the recent arrests of a number of middle-ranking police officers, and police chief Gen. Suroyo Bimantoro's recent refusal to resign.

"Bimantoro must take responsibility for Wiyono's death given that he has the gall to arrest the middle-ranking officers," he said.

A police disciplinary committee questioned on Wednesday eight middle-ranking officers who were considered to have breached internal discipline. Their hearing will resume on Thursday.

Sr. Comr. Alfons Leomau and seven other officers have been detained since July 22 for allegedly leading some 200 middle- ranking police officers to stage a revolt against Bimantoro on July 9.

Separately Jakarta Police spokesman Sr.Comr. Anton Bachrul Alam said that as of Wednesday the police had questioned 15 detainees and police personnel in connection with the death of Wiyono.

"All are still being questioned as witnesses. Death is God's mystery, we only want to make sure that his (Wiyono's) death is natural and not like what many are mistakenly saying," Anton said.(rms/emf)