Tue, 16 Aug 1994

Police protect deadly Metromini driver

JAKARTA (JP): Police kept secret the whereabouts of Ramses Silitonga, driver of the minibus which careened into the Sunter river with 33 passengers, to prevent any reprisals from victims' families or that of Ramses' family members.

Ramses, 33, alias Honas who was flown Friday afternoon from Medan's Polonia airport to Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport, was moved to city police headquarters in the evening after a brief interrogation at the North Jakarta police precinct.

Police refused permission to the dozens of reporters who wanted to interview him.

"He's being held in a secret place to prevent any reprisals from any party, including the victims' families," Lt. Col. Latief Rabar, a spokesman for City Police, said yesterday.

Ramses was the driver of the Metromini bus plying the Senen- Semper route which careened into the Sunter river on March 6 on Jl. Yos Sudarso, North Jakarta. At least 33 passengers were killed in the incident.

Ramses survived and fled to his hometown in North Sumatra, where he had been hiding for less than half a year before he was apprehended Thursday.

The tragedy was billed as the most serious traffic accident in the country over the past decade.

Reports said that relatives of some of the victims, including a sailor who lost his wife and three young children in the accident, reportedly went to City Police headquarters yesterday to see Ramses in order to take revenge. Police turned away all visitors.

Police also refused a telephone call from Ramses' relatives, fearing they would threaten his life and therefore thwart them in their efforts to obtain information on anyone who had abetted him during his time as a fugitive.


Lt. Col. Heru Susanto, chief of the North Jakarta police, was quoted by Antara as saying over the weekend the police would investigate Ramses' relatives and fellow drivers who were suspected of having helped protect him.

"They can be charged for helping a fugitive and giving false information to police," he said.

While Ramses, Heru said, can be charged with violating the criminal code's chapter 359 on "reckless acts that cause death" and thereby could be sentenced to a maximum of five years.

Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspect was abetted by family and friends throughout his run.

Reports said that Ramses quickly left the accident scene by taxi for the Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital, where he received brief medical treatment before being driven by his relatives to the house of a friend in Cengkareng district, West Jakarta.

After ten days of hiding there he and his wife, Rusmaida Siahaan, went to Bandung before he departed for his hometown of Siborong-Borong in North Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra.

His relatives then advised him to move to Labuhan Batu, also in North Sumatra, instead of turning him in to the police.

Ramses then lived in the village of Tandjung Mulia in Kampung Rakyat district, Labuhan Batu regency, working as a worker at PT Pemudjur, a timber mill, under the name of Ucok Sitompul. (jsk)