Fri, 30 Nov 2001

Why is Tommy smiling?

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Why was Tommy smiling?

"There must be something wrong. Tommy just continued grinning as if he had no fear despite being accused in a murder case," a commuter on the inner-city train was overheard saying as he and his friends discussed Thursday morning's main photo in the national headlines.

Several analysts when asked by The Jakarta Post were also quick to pose a similar question as police amorously welcomed him after his arrest.

No less than Police Chief Insp. Gen. Sofjan Jacoeb gave Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra a hug as one of Indonesia's most wanted men arrived at the Jakarta police headquarters on Wednesday night.

Analyst Imam B. Prasodjo criticized the lack of professionalism by police in treating a criminal suspect.

"A personal approach like embracing is simply not necessary," the University of Indonesia lecturer remarked.

"People might interpret it as unseriousness on the part of the police in dealing with Tommy," he added.

Despite claims by police on Thursday that Tommy was being treated like any other suspect, it is not surprising that skepticism prevails.

Munir, head of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), also questioned the apparent reception accorded to someone with such a long list of alleged criminal behavior, from corruption and theft to bombings and the murder of a top judge.

"Everyone knows Tommy is accused of being involved in a crime, but the police and lawyers, from the very beginning, have been treating him as a white-collar suspect (or very respectfully)," Munir remarked while charging that authorities have not gotten rid of their paternalistic perception of Tommy as a son of a former president.

Given this apparent attitude, Munir said he was not at all surprised that the police should embrace him in such a way, but warned that it could immediately irk the public's sense of justice.

However, political commentator Arbi Sanit brushed off these suspicions saying that special treatment was a common practice in Indonesia when police deal with important persons.

Urging the public not to make a fuss out of "such a small thing," Arbi instead stressed that it was more important to ensure that the investigations are not complicated by unnecessary impediments "since political or financial motives could halt the process."

Munir too was pessimistic about the likely outcome of the soon-to-be initiated investigations.

According to Munir, 10 days before Tommy was arrested police had already arrested a person allegedly involved in a bombing case which reportedly involves Tommy.

"This person may act as scapegoat to protect Tommy," he lamented.

Refusing to give up on the graft charges against Tommy, separately the Attorney General's Office on Thursday lodged an application with the Supreme Court to overturn the controversial October ruling of a Supreme Court review panel quashing Tommy's conviction in a land swap deal scandal that was linked to the State Logistics Agency (Bulog).

Despite the absence of legal precedent in which a Supreme Court review panel decision has been overturned, Prosecutor Fachmi was adamant that it should nevertheless take place.

"It must be annulled in the name of justice because the judges failed to stipulate the legal facts during the review," Fachmi told reporters after submitting the 20-page application to Chief Justice Bagir Manan.