Fri, 09 Aug 2002

Police use dead to cover up problems

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

In attempt to wash their hands of a potentially damaging case, police announced on Thursday that they had closed the investigation into an alleged plot between security officers and convict Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra after the probe reached a dead end.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara revealed that the case was stopped as the key witness, Wiyono, a retired Army officer who was also Tommy's accomplice during the latter's escape from justice had died making it impossible to delve further into the case.

"That's the final result of our investigation," Makbul told reporters.

Wiyono reportedly died of a "heart attack" in August 2001 on his way from the Jakarta Police detention center in Central Jakarta to Kramatjati Police Hospital in East Jakarta. He was detained for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition at Apartemen Cemara in Menteng, Central Jakarta which allegedly belonged to Tommy.

The case involving security personnel became public following Tommy's acknowledgement during his trial that he was able to move freely around the city during his time on the run thanks to the help of security personnel.

However, after what appeared to be a reluctant attempt to investigate Tommy's claim, police said that Tommy was only referring to Wiyono.

"Wiyono is our only source of information and we cannot question him now that he is dead," Makbul said jokingly.

Makbul added the result would be immediately reported to National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar.

However, legal expert Luhut M.P. Pangaribuan blasted the case closure as an attempt by the police to wash their hands of the case by shifting all blame to the deceased.

"It is now a new trend here that blame is shifted to the deceased, in addition to defendants feigning illness," said Luhut.

Luhut alluded to a similar ploy used in a graft case implicating House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung in which a deceased taxi driver, named Dadi Suryadi took the brunt of the blame in the misuse of the Rp 40 billion fund belonging to State Logistics Agency (Bulog).

However, all measures, Luhut said, boiled down to the same thing, that is, dropping crucial cases for absurd reasons.

Luhut warned that such a ploy would only increase public suspicion that the police were colluding with Tommy.

"The case will show to the public that the police's vow to reform themselves was only empty words," he asserted, adding that the case would only further tarnish their already tattered image.

Police seen to be uncomfortable about settling cases implicating their officers, especially senior officers. The latest case is the smuggling of luxury cars into the country implicating former Jakarta Police chief Comr. Gen. Sofjan Jacoeb.

Sofjan has been accused of smuggling 11 Mercedes Benz sedans from Singapore into the country at the end his tenure as South Sulawesi Police chief in 2001. It has been two months, but police have yet to report any progress in the investigation into the case.