Suharto cronies suspected of murdering judge

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The Independent Online

A pair of motorcycle-riding assassins shot dead a Supreme Court judge yesterday who had imprisoned cronies of Indonesia's former dictator, Suharto. The killing was an ominous beginning for the new President, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Syafiuddin Kartasasmita, 61, had presided over trials involving two of the most notorious figures of Suharto's "New Order" regime.

He sentenced the ex-president's son, Hutomo "Tommy" Suharto, last September for a multimillion- pound land swindle. He also gave a six-year prison sentence for corruption to Mohamad "Bob" Hasan, a close friend and former minister of Suharto who made millions from logging concessions he was awarded by the dictator.

Hasan is serving his time, but Tommy has been on the run since last November when he was to have been taken into custody. Rumours suggest he is still in the capital, but the family of the 79-year-old Suharto, who still lives quietly in central Jakarta, insists it has had no contact with him.

Tommy Suharto is something of a bogeyman in Jakarta. Despite the absence of any firm evidence, many Indonesians hold him responsible for a series of mysterious explosions in Jakarta over the past two years. On Sunday, scores of people were injured by bombs during morning services in two Jakarta churches.

Many people will also blame him for yesterday's assassination. Police said two motorbike riders forced Mr Kartasasmita's car to the roadside in a Jakarta suburb near his home. One of them shot him several times through the window. He died on the spot from wounds to the chest and head.

An unnamed witness said: "After the car hit a street stall, one guy got off from his motorcycle and shot four times at the driver."

Drive-by assassinations are almost unknown in Indonesia, where few people except members of the armed forces have access to firearms. The killing will increase fears that the forces of the corrupt New Order are taking advantage of Mrs Megawati's election to make a comeback.

Yesterday the outgoing president, Abdurrahman Wahid, who was humiliatingly impeached by parliament on Monday, claimed that the presidency was now under the control of the military. "You can see corruption will return," he said, before he took a flight to America where he will have medical tests. "They are now dividing the spoils – Indonesia will be looted. There will be no law and human rights will be [undermined]."

Three days after the national assembly voted to replace him with Mrs Megawati, his vice-president and former friend, Mr Wahid addressed a cheering crowd of 2,000 supporters in Freedom Square in front of the palace. They sang patriotic songs and waved flags and banners denouncing the return of the New Order.

During the drawn-out process of impeachment, many people feared that Mr Wahid's removal would provoke a violent reaction from his followers, but the atmosphere yesterday was more one of celebration than anger.

"I will wage a struggle for the democratisation of Indonesia in a moral way," Mr Wahid told them. "I am proud of the fact that the territorial integrity of Indonesia was preserved."

Even before Mrs Megawati has moved into the presidential palace, she is under intense political pressure as she tries to balance the conflicting interests of the different parties that supported Mr Wahid's impeachment.

Her own Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) is a broad and divided grouping of democrats, nationalists and business associates of Mrs Megawati's husband, Taufiq Kiemas. But she is also indebted to the Muslim parties and to Golkar, the party of Suharto.

Yesterday, she won her first battle when Hamzah Haz, the leader of the biggest Muslim party, was elected as her Vice-President. In many ways they make an awkward team. A year ago, Mr Haz spoke out against her, insisting that a woman could never govern a predominantly Islamic nation such as Indonesia.

He has overcome his scruples and was regarded by the new President as preferable to the other candidate, Akbar Tandjung, a senior member of Golkar and a direct link to the New Order.

Now Mrs Megawati faces the task of choosing a cabinet, balancing the powerful figures from the past with ministers committed to reform.

"It's very hard to find clean people," said Laksamana Sukardi, a highly respected PDI-P member and a candidate for one of the economic ministries. "We've been under a corrupt regime for 32 years, and there are almost no adults who aren't corrupt."