Assembly backing off from Suharto probe
INDONESIA IN TRANSITION
The MPR is not the right place for investigations into the ex-President’s wealth, say legislative leaders. He should instead be tried in court
LEGISLATIVE leaders yesterday began backing off from suggestions that the country’s top legislative body investigate the wealth of former President Suharto despite public clamour that it does so.
Golkar faction leader Marzuki Darusman told a news conference dominated by questions on the thorny issue that there was “ambivalence” about engaging in a “treasure hunt”, while Abri faction chief Achmad Rustandi insisted that the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) was “not the most appropriate place” for such matters.
“If his actions are deemed to be criminal, the court is the best forum to address such matters,” he said.
The secretary-general of the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP), Tosari Widjaya, agreed, adding that Mr Suharto was now an ordinary citizen and should be hauled before the courts, not Parliament.However, an opinion poll carried by The Jakarta Post yesterday showed that obtaining an accountability from the former leader topped the public’s wish list.
Forcing him to return his allegedly ill-gotten wealth is an issue that has obsessed the public from the first day of his resignation in May.
Yesterday Mr Marzuki acknowledged the public’s thirst for retribution and compensation.
The ruling party, which controls 585 of the 1,000 MPR seats, “was very much aware of the public’s feelings about the matter” and would deal with their concerns as “the first order of the day” when it examined a draft decree to curb corruption, collusion and nepotism, he said.
It was prepared to review the decree to cover the “practical problems” of past crimes.
But, he added, “we still have ambivalence about going after the ill-gotten wealth as the experience in other countries has shown that it won’t get us far”.
It would be more useful to look at the matter differently in terms of the conditions which allowed corruption, collusion and nepotism to thrive, Mr Marzuki said.
At the same time, he was aware that the government probe into the Suharto riches was “slowing down” and promised that the MPR decree would act as a spur to “get things moving again”.
But he refused to be pinned down on whether the faction would go as far as to name Mr Suharto in the decree, saying:
“We will go into the session with an open mind.”
A Golkar legislator told The Straits Times that at internal brainstorming sessions, there was “a spirit of bringing Suharto to trial and investigating his wealth”.
But Mr Marzuki also indicated that his faction, whose positions he said were in sync with the Golkar central board, would have to take soundings from the other factions, all of which met separately yesterday to finalise their party positions.
The four-day special session continues with committee deliberations today, with final decisions expected by end tomorrow.