Thursday, September 22, 2005

Teleconference for Soeharto’s Trial


Teleconference or videoconference to be exact, could be the best solution to conduct the trial on former president Soeharto who claimed can’t stands trial in court room due to ailing health. But don’t expect that would happen soon!
Researcher and political analyst from Indonesias Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Asvi Marwan Adam said today as quoted by Detik.com that with the official use of teleconference (as implemented by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to lead cabinet meeting while he was in New York last week), there is no way that Soeharto’s trial can’t be resumed.
Soeharto trial, he said, would be a proof that this administration is serious in holding the supremacy of legal system. “That nobody could stand above the law,” Asvi argued.
In early 2001, Supreme Court (MA) ordered the South Jakarta District Court to resume trial against Soeharto who was allegedly involved in corruption case during his 32 years in power.
Four years already gone and the country’s judicial system moved nowhere while Soeharto is seen healthier than ever if we could assume from his public appearances in the last few months. He greeted a lot of guests, most of them former ministers, at his 84 birthday party in June. Late last month, he was seen visiting former vice president Sudharmono at a Jakarta hospital. Today Detik.com reported that Soeharto is about to visit his wife’s grave in Solo, Central Java prior to the holly month of Ramadhan (to be started early next month).
Last year, as reported by Suara Merdeka daily in Semarang, Soeharto managed to WALK (not with his wheelchair) up 250 meter stairway to the grave even though it cost him few days in hospital after the visit.
So, it is completely nonsense that Soeharto could avoid trial simply because doctors say he is too frail to face court after a series of strokes.
The corruption watchdog Transparency International in March 2004 listed the smiling general as the most corrupt world leader in recent history, estimating that Soeharto’s family had amassed between USD15 billion and USD35 billion during his 32-year presidency.
The South Jakarta District Court ruled in September 2000 that Soeharto was "mentally and physically unfit" to stand trial and retracted his city arrest status. Prior to the ruling he was absent from his trial twice. His lawyers said that their client, who had suffered three strokes, would not be able to face trial due to his ailing health. Soeharto was accused of stealing US$571 million from the state by funneling money from seven charitable foundations he chaired into businesses belonging to his family members and cronies. Prosecutors later lodged an appeal with the High Court, which ruled that prosecutors must present Soeharto in court if he was fit, with the approval of an independent team of doctors.
The Attorney General's Office remained unaware of Soeharto’s condition until 2002, when a reporter managed to sneak into his granddaughter's wedding ceremony. The journalist reported that Soeharto was able to stand up and welcome guests. Prosecutors later set up a team of doctors from Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital (RSCM) to examine him. The doctors later declared that Soeharto suffered from aphasia, a condition which reduces his ability to communicate with others.
Soeharto has been spotted several times in Nusakambangan, Central Java visiting Tommy, but the Office insisted that Soeharto was too ill to stand trial.
Can we expect President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration resume Soeharto’s trial using the videoconference technology?
Well, I am bit skeptical on that. Remember in February 2005 when president Yudhoyono said that the government was focusing its antigraft efforts on the prevention of corruption in the future rather than pursuing graft cases that took place in the past.
Asked to elaborate, presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng said the government was determined to prevent corruption in the future through the creation of a deterrent effect.
"The graft cases currently being handled by the authorities, such as those involving Nurdin Halid and Adrian Waworuntu, will proceed. But a case like that of Pak Harto (Soeharto) will not be pursued as it has already been taken to court," he said that time.
In May, SBY visited Soeharto at Pertamina’s hospital and was angry when journalists asked him about Soeharto’s trial. SBY claimed his visit a humanitarian mission. Soon after that, several politicians and pressure groups asked SBY to grant Soeharto a presidential pardon.So, this is not about the way to get Soeharto stands trial, but willingness to do that.

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