Sun, 03 Sep 2000

Police to query Aryanti and other witnesses

JAKARTA (JP): With the public abuzz over a marital affair President Abdurrahman Wahid allegedly had with housewife Aryanti Sitepu in 1995, police will question the woman, journalists, hotel staff and others believed to have information about the case.

"Aryanti will be summoned for questioning by police detectives based on testimony collected from residents in Bekasi," National Police chief Gen. Rusdihardjo said on Saturday.

"According to the plan, she will be questioned next week," he said after attending the inauguration of the National Mandate Legal Aid Institute.

Rusdihardjo did not disclose the exact date the 38-year-old woman and other witnesses would be questioned, but said representatives from media that ran the story would be questioned after all the other witnesses had given their accounts.

The woman, who currently lives with her second husband, claimed in an interview with two weekly magazines that in 1995 she, when she was still married to her first husband, had an extramarital affair with Abdurrahman. She claimed the two met in several locations in Bali and Jakarta.

The story of the alleged affair between Abdurrahman and the housewife hit the headlines of numerous print and electronic media last week, after Aryanti revealed the alleged affair to the press on the grounds that Abdurrahman had reneged on his promise to marry her.

The public also has been debating the authenticity of a picture revealed by Aryanti that shows her dressed in a nightgown sitting on Abdurrahman's lap.

Multimedia expert RM Roy Suryo said on Saturday the photo was authentic. Aryanti claims the picture was taken by an employee of a hotel.

According to Rusdihardjo, the police will investigate the matter to ascertain whether the story is true.

"From here, we'll then head out to find possible clues of a crime, whether it be libel or blackmail against the President," he said.

For that purpose, he said police would question the woman and other witnesses and collect what evidence they could.

"There are so many versions of the story. One says (they were) staying at this hotel, but is it true?

"Other say (the President) regularly (visited Aryanti at her house) in Bekasi. Is it true he often went there? So we need quite a lot of witnesses," Rusdihardjo said.

The general said on Thursday the case was not a priority for the police. "This is not a serious crime."

Abdurrahman, who at the time of the alleged affair was the chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Muslim organization, has yet to address the allegations directly.

He insisted on Friday he would ignore rumors about his personal life and allow people to make their own judgments.

Now the calls for the President to clarify the matter have begun to grow.

Achmad Sumargono of the Crescent Star Party (PBB) and political observer Imam B. Prasodjo said on Saturday the President should clarify the matter soon.

"Otherwise, it (the case) will ruin his image, though it won't lead to his downfall," Sumargono said.

"If he remains silent, the public will say (the rumor) is true," he added. "And the problem is he's the President."

Separately, Imam expressed hope Abdurrahman would address the rumors.

Both Sumargono and Imam suggested the police take immediate action to investigate the truth behind the alleged affair. (01/bsr)