Mon, 22 Mar 1999

Scholar Jeffrey Winters returns

JAKARTA (JP): Distinguished American Indonesianist Jeffrey A. Winters, who became a cause celebre last October after he was accused of slandering a minister, returned to the country on Sunday.

He passed through the immigration check at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport without incident, unlike Japanese scholar Yoshihara Kunio who was denied entry last Sunday.

"I appreciate Indonesia's hospitability," he told The Jakarta Post at the airport.

He was met by Todung Mulya Lubis, who has acted as his lawyer since the police sought him for questioning for allegedly slandering Coordinating Minister for Economy, Finance and Industry Ginandjar Kartasasmita and business associates.

As he left the terminal, Winters was met by journalists who peppered him with questions, including on whether he felt he would be able to leave the country.

"It's the reform era, of course he can," Todung responded.

Max Riberu of book publisher Pustaka Sinar Harapan which arranged his visit said the professor of political economics from Chicago-based Northwestern University would attend the launching of two of his books in Jakarta on Monday. He will travel to Yogyakarta on Tuesday and Surabaya on Wednesday.

The books are Indonesian translations of his Power In Motion and The New Order's Political Sins.

The controversy was sparked by Winters' assertion during a public forum that Ginandjar was involved in dubious dealings in the extension of the mining contract of copper and gold mining giant PT Freeport Indonesia. Ginandjar was minister of mines and energy when the extension was made in the early 1990s.

A miffed Ginandjar accused the American of slander.

The police immediately acted on Ginandjar's grievance, setting up a special investigative team to question Winters on charges of discrediting an incumbent minister.

Even Minister of Justice Muladi entered the fray, stating that Winters should be banned from entering Indonesia for violating Article 316 of the Criminal Code regarding insult and injury to the reputation of a senior official.

The furor died down after a few weeks because Winters had returned to the U.S. several days after making the allegation. (aan)