Tue, 23 May 2000

Soeharto to be put in 'secure location'

JAKARTA (JP): The Attorney General's Office announced on Monday that it would move former president Soeharto to a "secure", state-protected location to facilitate further investigations and other safety reasons.

The decision came after prosecutors cut short their fourth questioning of Soeharto earlier in the day at his residence, due to a sudden increase in his blood pressure.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said the decision to move Soeharto was prompted by escalating public pressure, sometimes bordering on lawlessness, demanding swift action against the former president.

"Given the situation, we have asked the police to remove Soeharto from his residence on Jl. Cendana and to put him in a state installation or a state house where he will be automatically protected by the state," he told journalists.

"We want to avoid any possible potential conflict between students and security officers which could cause an unnecessary loss to both parties," he added.

He revealed that the government had discovered the presence of unidentified groups protecting Soeharto and his family all this time, which were not official security units authorized to do so.

"These groups are the source triggering the conflict between students and security officers," he explained.

Marzuki would not detail when Soeharto would be moved or to which location, saying only that it would be somewhere in Jakarta.

"I will discuss the technical matters of this policy with National Police chief Lt. Gen. Rusdihardjo tonight. The results will be made public later," he added.

Soeharto, who is currently under city arrest, is suspected of abusing his power as president to issue regulations and decrees to amass funds for foundations he chaired. Marzuki has said the dossiers for the investigation would be ready by Aug. 10.

But there has been increasing public clamor, particularly through student demonstrations, that swifter action be taken.

It is these demonstrations that Marzuki feared would lead to a violent confrontation with security forces.

However, Marzuki also noted on Monday that moving Soeharto to a state-controlled location could also remove any impediments to investigations against Soeharto.

"The Attorney General's Office submitted this move to the President and the National Police chief to ensure that the investigations were not slowed down," Marzuki said.

The move could be a severe blow to 78-year-old Soeharto, who lived at his current residence throughout his 32 years as president.


Investigations into the case in the past few months have been hampered by Soeharto's medical condition, as his personal physicians initially said he was not healthy enough to face questioning.

But after several checkups by an independent health team, the questioning resumed.

On Monday, prosecutors were halted in the middle of questioning when the independent medical team from Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital (RSCM) suddenly noticed Soeharto's blood pressure rising.

Spokesman for the Attorney General's Office Yushar Yahya said that before being stopped, Soeharto was able to answer 11 of 20 questions posed during the two-and-a-half-hour session.

"The questions were still about the charity foundations, but they touched on the substance of the allegations," he told journalists.

According to Yushar, among the questions posed were if Soeharto had obtained permission or consulted with the minister of social affairs before establishing the foundations or the use of the foundations' funds.

"He was also asked whether it was true or not that he had instructed the then minister of finance to issue ministerial ruling No.333/1996 which obliged state banks to donate 5 percent of their net profit to some foundations," Yushar said.

"But Soeharto gave an unsatisfactory reply, saying that he didn't remember clearly," he added. (01)