General joins clamour for probe into Suharto wealth

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

Lt-Gen Bambang says the government must act boldly in the investigation, in what could signal a difference of opinion in the ranks over the issue.

A SENIOR Indonesian military officer has, for the first time, joined the growing public clamour for investigations into the wealth of former President Suharto.

Territorial chief, Lt-General Bambang Yudhoyono, said the recent special session of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) had given “a very clear picture” of why such action was necessary. “The decree on corruption reflects the calls of people,” the Jawa Pos yesterday quoted him as saying. “The government must be bold on the investigation of his wealth.”

He cautioned, however, that Mr Suharto – who was in power for 32 years – must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The territorial chief was speaking during a seminar at the National Defence Institute on Monday.

Analysts said that Lt-Gen Bambang’s comments could signal a difference of opinion in the ranks over the issue of investigating the former President’s wealth.

Armed forces chief Gen Wiranto, who acted as Mr Suharto’s adjutant for five years, is known to be still loyal to his one-time mentor.

Sources indicate that the military was still not united despite the ouster of maverick Lt-Gen Prabowo Subianto, a son-in-law of Mr Suharto.

Now there is a small faction of Muslim-oriented active and retired generals opposed to Gen Wiranto. There is also another group of generals, also small in number, taking a more independent stance on issues like Mr Suharto’s wealth and the pace of reforms.

Military sources told The Straits Times that a meeting would be held soon where Lt-Gen Bambang and several other senior officers known to be “pro-reform minded” would ask Gen Wiranto to “cut off his links with the old forces for good”.

“It is our last warning to him to make sure that he survives politically,” said a senior army officer.

“A lot of the problems we are facing could have been avoided if he had moved faster on some issues. The students would never have taken to the streets,” the officer added.

Yesterday, hundreds of students took to the streets of the capital again, calling on the Attorney-General to bring Mr Suharto to trial.

They demanded the resignation of Attorney-General Andi Ghalib who they charged was stalling the investigation into the former leader’s wealth.

Mr Ghalib is heading a team formed by President B.J. Habibie in September to probe the wealth of Mr Suharto, his family and former officials who served under him but critics charge that the probe has stalled.

The government responded to growing public pressure by announcing on Monday a new independent commission.

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