Hard to prove Suharto was corrupt, says A-G

But there has to be some redress in the form of compensation, he says, adding that only Suharto and Habibie would enjoy such a compromise

INDONESIA’S new Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman has conceded that it would be difficult to prove in court that former President Suharto was guilty of corruption during his 32 years in power.

Outlining the complexities of the case which he re-opened after his appointment, he told The Straits Times in an interview that “at best, Mr Suharto was only morally and ethically complicit in this whole sordid affair”.

“What I fear is that what he may have done in the past may end up as a misdemeanour, not even an act of felony,” he said.

“It will be very hard to prove that he is guilty in a legal sense. I am not even confident we can bring him to trial.” It was flawed, he said, to presume that the 77-year-old former ruler was guilty, just by issuing more than 70 presidential decrees that benefited the people around him.

He noted: “There is no legal connection between such decrees and the outright favouritism that took place at the lower levels of government. This technically absolves Mr Suharto from any direct responsibility of being corrupt.” Why then re-open a case that the former Habibie administration snuffed out, by declaring that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Suharto?

Mr Marzuki said the credibility of the new government rested on how it handled the issue. If it treated it as “business as usual”, the administration was bound to lose the “public reservoir of goodwill, if we show them we’re not serious”.

“The main reason is to assuage public demands,” he stressed. “We must allow legal supremacy to take its course.

“It is not important whether Mr Suharto goes to trial. What is more important is to put the issue and legal process on trial to educate Indonesians, who appear to have already made up their minds that he is guilty.”

He pointed out that if the former ruler “comes clean” in the legal proceedings – which could take between three and six months – then there could be a political compromise, an idea mooted by President Abdurrahman Wahid after he took office.

Said Mr Marzuki: “Deep down in the President’s heart, he feels there is something really wrong in this whole matter. If we can’t nail Mr Suharto down legally, there has to be some redress in the form of compensation.

“It has to be a win-win situation for everyone. The public has to be satisfied, the government needs to win some credibility and Mr Suharto must get his immunity.”

He did not give details of what such a financial settlement would entail, except to say that a “formula” has to be worked out by both sides after the legal process is over.

He added that only Mr Suharto and Dr B.J. Habibie would enjoy a compromise, given “the need to maintain the dignity of the presidency and also take into account what they have done for the country”.

But their family members and cronies would not be able to get off so easily, he warned.

“The mood to forgive and forget stops only at Mr Suharto and Dr Habibie. The others will face the full brunt of the law.

“We will prosecute anyone involved in corruption. There will be no immunity or deals to bail them out.”

Posted in Indonesia