27 February 2008

Soeharto: Dead & Buried but Not Forgotten!

The civil case against Soeharto is continuing as the government ratchets up its pursuit of the Supersemar millions that were allegedly misappropriated for ventures other than those that they were intended for. By an interesting twist of fate or perhaps just a simple quirk in the Indonesian legal system, it seems Soeharto's kids do not only inherit any wealth he may have left behind but they also get the good fortune of inheriting his liabilities as well.

The public prosecutors and judges in the case seem to think that this movement of liabilities is all above board and have demanded that the kiddies appoint lawyers to represent them in the case or the case will proceed without the kiddies being represented. So five of the six have appointed lawyers. Seemingly, this is Juan Felix Tampubolon, a long-time Soeharto lawyer and presumably confidante. Tommy Soeharto in his infinite wisdom has not joined his brothers and sisters on this one and appears to be refusing to appoint any counsel! I guess only Tommy knows why this is.

Tampubolon is expected to lead expert witness testimony that Indonesian law does not permit the transfer of civil cases to the heirs. The idea of transferring a financial liability is one thing but transferring the sins of the father is a completely different kettle of fish. Even when one considers that the evidentiary burden in a civil trial is the balance of probabilities and not beyond a reasonable doubt it remains to be seen whether or not the children know anything about the foundation or its processes that may impact on the decision of the judges.

It is not an understatement to say that when Soeharto died so did the secrets that he held. But I am looking forward to the legal arguments that will undoubtedly unfold as this case progresses. It would be the ultimate irony for Soeharto to be made a national hero and for his kids to be picking up the old fella's tab in the civil case.

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