Mon, 22 Aug 1994

Police told to question family of deadly Metromini bus driver

JAKARTA (JP): A noted criminologist has suggested that police question relatives and fellow drivers who allegedly helped protect Ramses Silitonga, the driver of a minibus which six months ago careened into Sunter River with its 33 passengers.

Mulyana W. Kusumah, an executive director of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), said on Saturday that if police did not take firm measures against such people it would create a precedent whereby other people would do the same to protect a fugitive.

"Police should give them a lesson," Mulyana said.

Ramses is the driver of a Metromini minibus plying the Senen- Semper route which plunged into the heavily polluted Sunter river on Jl. Yos Sudarso, North Jakarta, on March 6.

While 33 of his passengers were killed, Ramses, who survived the accident billed as one of the most serious traffic accidents in Jakarta over the past two decades, fled to his hometown of Siborong-borong in North Sumatra, where he had been hiding for less than half a year before he was apprehended earlier this month.

When asked about the six-month manhunt, Mulyana said it is possible that Ramses was extremely terrified after knowing the impact of the accident.

"It is a matter between life and death for him," he added.

"The problem got worse because people who knew his whereabouts chose to keep silent instead of handing him over to police," he said, referring to the cool reaction of the public over police appeals to reveal the driver's hideout after the accident.

Lt. Col. Heru Susanto, the chief of the North Jakarta police precinct, who is handling the case, said earlier this month that the police would investigate Ramses' relatives and fellow drivers who were suspected of assisting the fugitive.

"They could be charged for helping a fugitive and giving false information to police," Heru said, adding that Ramses could be charged with violating chapter 359 of the Criminal Code on reckless acts that cause death with a maximum of five years jail term.(09)