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OCTOBER 20, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 41 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

'It's good to have pressure'
The trials of the attorney-general

ALSO:
Population: Family planning is threatened

As Indonesia's attorney-general, Marzuki Darusman is at the center of most of the country's political storms — from trying to bring ex-president Suharto and his cronies to trial to prosecuting those responsible for the bloodshed that followed last year's independence vote in East Timor. Darusman has many enemies, and he moves around Jakarta with a detachment of bodyguards. One bomb has already exploded outside his office; two more were found before they went off. Darusman says the threats don't much bother him but admits they have upset his wife and daughter.

Darusman, 55, has a history of taking on the establishment. As a legislator, he repeatedly crossed swords with Suharto, and later headed the Indonesian Human Rights Commission. Even though Darusman is now a senior member of the former ruling Golkar party, he has not stopped criticizing Suharto and urging Golkar to shake its authoritarian character. Appointed attorney-general by President Abdurrahman Wahid, Darusman immediately reopened an investigation into possible corruption by Suharto. The case collapsed when a district court ruled that Suharto was too ill to stand trial. Relaxing in a leather armchair in his office at the end of another long day, Darusman recently talked with Asiaweek's Warren Caragata.

So should Suharto be celebrating?

Oh no, far from that. This [ruling] is a precedent, a completely novel situation. We can do two things, go to the high court [first] or go directly to the Supreme Court.

You have been criticized for not putting enough effort into the prosecution because you are a member of Golkar.
That criticism is certainly understandable, but we are dealing with legal facts, with clear procedures. If at any point there was any compromise, it would have been instantly noticed, and we would have been challenged legally . . . It's useful to have these pressures so I am prevented from compromising with people in this office or in the government to either go slow or generally let up. I welcome the pressure.

Because some in the government would be happy if this case just went away?
Absolutely, yes.

Who?

No individual names, but there is a general mindset and inertia of individuals in the bureaucracy, including in [my] office.

You once said privately there were few people in your department you could trust.

I may have said there are people here who are incompetent and unprofessional. We are having to address really new issues for this office. It was never equipped to handle human rights, and all of a sudden they are forced to do a rush job on the East Timor violations. Another problem is the sophistication of commercial crime. It's amazing how this office has been left behind by the speed of change in terms of the techniques and practices of financial transactions.

If you say something in the office today, will it get back to the Suharto family tomorrow?

That risk has to be taken into account. But the most important thing is that we were able to get major cases under way: the East Timor violations, the Suharto case, the Bank Bali scandal and [timber tycoon] Bob Hasan, the ultimate crony. Along the way, we have taken stock of the people who helped get these cases on track and those who were obstructionist.

President Wahid called for the arrest of Suharto's son, Tommy, for the stock exchange bombing, and suggested that judges in the Suharto case were bribed. Don't such off-the-cuff remarks make your job more difficult?
In a way these statements [help]. When the president says that if Mr. Suharto is found guilty, he will be pardoned, that goes some way to calming the pro-Suharto forces out there. It's part of his leadership style to lay out for the public what he intends to do. He can't change. It's a completely different way of governing, I suppose.

Bob Hasan is now on trial. What about other Suharto cronies?

We are nearing a very crucial point. What may happen is the bringing to court of a fairly massive number of cases, all at the same time. This could happen even when negotiations are under way between the government and debtors [linked to Suharto] for the return of the money they used. We are also now undertaking investigations based on reports by the audit board, involving banks [mostly owned by the big crony conglomerates].

What about the decision to leave former military chief Gen. Wiranto off the list of suspects in the East Timor investigation?

It was not a decision. It was the result of an investigation starting with the people involved in the actions in the field. [It is possible] that this process and court proceedings later on might come up with more information, leading to further investigations of those [involved] in policy rather than in the execution of that policy.

How do you get Indonesians to respect court decisions, when the Indonesian legal system has been so corrupt?
[The graft conviction of] Tommy Suharto comes out of the very system perceived as compromised in its probity. You need to revamp the system, but you build on what you have. You win some, you lose some.

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