Gus Dur cracks the whip

Pledging to pursue corruption cases against Suharto and son Tommy, Abdurrahman says he will pardon the former president if he is found guilty.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, under pressure to push through the government’s reform agenda, yesterday cracked the whip harder against former President Suharto and his youngest son by vowing to pursue corruption cases against them.

He told reporters that Mr Suharto had to face a new trial in which the President was willing to pardon the 79-year-old former leader if he was found guilty.

With his case being thrown out of court last week, Mr Abdurrahman appeared less sympathetic to Mr Suharto’s children, especially Mr Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra, who has been convicted of a US$11 million (S$19 million) land scam.

Refusing him a pardon for the second time in recent days, President Abdurrahman said that Mr Hutomo had got off “lightly” on an 18-month jail sentence that the business magnate is fighting to avoid.

“I have clearly said I reject any appeal for clemency,” he said.

“He must be put in prison.”

He added: “I am not satisfied with the sentence on Tommy Suharto. Why is it that someone who steals billions gets the same punishment as someone who steals chickens?”

He said that the case could be reviewed by an appeal court. But until that happens, he should start his prison sentence in the state-run Cipinang prison.

Mr Hutomo’s lawyers told The Straits Times yesterday that they would be putting up an application for a retrial in the next few days.

“We had little hope that the President would pardon Tommy,” said Mr Nudirman Munir, one of his five lawyers.

“But asking for clemency has bought us some time to seek a review of this case.”

He maintained that Mr Hutomo was being made a victim of an “emotional President who has refused to look at the issue objectively”.

“Everything now is clouded by politics that makes it much more harder for us to defend him because legal considerations are being bypassed,” he said, without elaborating.

But he said that when push came to shove, Mr Hutomo would be prepared to go to jail if the retrial found him guilty.

“He is not afraid,” he said.

“Even if my client has a gun pointed to his head, he will smile and remain calm. He is like Mr Suharto, always smiling.” Of course, Mr Suharto has a lot to smile about now after judges let him walk free from multi-million dollar corruption charges because he was too ill to attend his trial.

Mr Abdurrahman was less so with pressure mounting on him to drag the former strongman to court. “Clearly we must uphold the law,” he said. “Mr Suharto must still be investigated and be brought to court. Don’t worry, there are a lot of charges on Mr Suharto.”

He disclosed that he had asked the head of the Supreme Court “to find a judge who is clean, honest and brave and who is not afraid of anyone” to handle Mr Suharto’s case.

On Suharto

‘We must uphold the law. Suharto must still be investigated and be brought to court. Don’t worry, there are a lot of charges on Suharto.’
– President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is under pressure to haul the former strongman back to court. He says he has instructed the Supreme Court “to find a judge who is clean, honest and brave and who is not afraid of anyone”

On Tommy

‘I am not satisfied with the sentence on Tommy Suharto. Why is it that someone who steals billions gets the same punishment as someone who steals chickens?’
– Mr Abdurrahman, on the 18-month jail sentence handed down to Suharto’s son

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