02 January 2008

Soeharto + Generosity

Soeharto has always been pegged as a very generous man if you happened to be the right person, in the right place, and at the right time...there are numerous media reports of his alleged cronies becoming obscenely wealthy. Thankfully, some have done prison time.

Although it seems like the old man himself is likely to escape prison time through a combination of advancing age (the old fella will die sooner or later) and declining capacity (although some would argue that his capacity has not diminished and this is just another part of a deceitful plan). Strangely, enough he was not too senile to instruct his lawyers to commence a defamation action against Time Magazine. It is unfortunate that the allegations against the old fella will never be fully tested anywhere other than the court of public opinion!

I have written on this in a previous post. The function here is merely to update that post. The earlier judgment awarded the former dictator USD 109 million (with interest it is already up to USD 111+ apparently).

The lawyers for Time, led by Todung Mulya Lubis, are in the process of finalizing what is said to be a more than 100 page brief to the Supreme Court as part of the judicial review process of the earlier Supreme Court decision. In spite of the drama of the language being used to highlight this case, a fight between good and evil, the reality is the judicial review has the potential to impact upon the prevailing definition of 'freedom of the press' in Indonesia, particularly whether the press is free at all!

The importance of this judicial review case will be to determine whether Time complied with acceptable journalistic ethics and principles in publishing the report that it did. If the Supreme Court decides that Time did in fact comply with prevailing journalistic standards, then the decision must be overturned.

The case is to come before a judicial review panel of the Supreme Court sometime this month. What is the likely outcome? Who knows! Much will depend on who here's the case and the expertise that they bring to decision making process. Defamation is not an overly complex field but it is a little more complex than deciding that a negative article based on verifiable sources defames the subject of that article.

Generosity...if the judicial review process affirms the earlier Supreme Court decision then the old fella has stated that 65% of the damages award will be provided to the poor and the remaining 35% to the State. Seeing is believing! Also it would be interesting to see how much of a cut his lawyers are taking for their services, particularly whether it is a 'capped rate', an 'hourly rate', or a 'success fee'.

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